Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Spring Delights


The morning sun streams in, casting strong shadows across the room. A small vase of tete-a-tete daffodils, grape hyacinths, and delicate hellebores, picked yesterday, smiles at me from the coffee table. In the garden creamy primroses nestle in their leaf nests. I am filled with contentment.

Yes, my house is still a mess, but it's now a livable mess, unlike last week. The plasterer left two and a half hours before my parents arrived and with the help of our eldest daughter and her 10-year-old (both on spring break), we scrubbed and dusted and rearranged the furniture to a semblance of normality. There are no curtains on the windows, and the blinds have splotches of plaster on them and there is plenty of dust, but the situation is going to worsen, so I'm just ignoring things as best I can, and cleaning the bits that need it most.

I went for a walk with the daughter and granddaughter mentioned above and can say with certainty that spring is here. The wind, so sharp just the day before, had softened, and real warmth comes from the sun. In the garden, peonies reach upwards with surprising speed. 

Our family party on the weekend went well. We set up a simple photo booth with silly props and everyone was tasked with having their photo taken throughout the evening. These are my five grand darlings - four girlies and one sweet boy. There was a quick height comparison at the end - my eldest granddaughter is now taller than I am. It was inevitable, but happened much more quickly than I imagined.

edited to add: The party did not take place at our home, but at one of our daughters'. Our house is so topsy turvy that a party would be impossible. My kitchen is barely functioning!

We celebrated Tim's birthday with lots of fun and laughter. Daughter-in-law Katie made the cake - a sparkly blue ocean with jelly bean waves and a paper boat. 

The sun continues to shine and I'd love to sit here in the warm light, but there are errands to run on this beautiful spring morning. 
Spring or autumn, I hope that you delight in the season today. 

Friday, March 24, 2023

Friday Favourites: Welcome Spring!


Late daylight on golden daffodils. How beautiful they are. The sunny warm days we've enjoyed have brought out many blooms and gladden my heart. 

In the spirit of keeping it real, I confess that I am sitting on my bed writing this post at 6:30 pm. Two plates and two sets of cutlery lie at the foot of the bed. Tim and I just finished our dinner, purchased at the deli counter at the grocery store.

It's been a bit of a stressful week with tradesmen here refinishing the ceilings on the main floor, and they are still here, working much harder now than they have been all week. You would not believe the mess. Seriously. Splotches of plaster from here to there. Dust everywhere. I've been spending time with my daughters and working in the garden to avoid being in the house. The promised finish time of Wednesday has been extended until Friday morning. Grrr. That afternoon my parents arrive. I hope the work is done by then! I'm trying to be cool about it all, but it's exhausting, and I just want to get to cleaning it all up!

So let's look at beautiful spring things and practice avoidance. 

Our Persian friends brought us a beautiful platter for the new year, celebrated on March 21. Spring is such a logical time for the beginning of a year, don't you think? Everything on the tray (other than the sweets on the little plate) begins with the letter "s" in Farsi. "Haft-seen" meaning seven s' is a tradition of the season of Nowruz, celebrated for over 3000 years in the middle east. There are rich traditions in other cultures, and I love to learn about them. 

Apricot blossoms popped out this week, and I've seen bees and insects flying around, so I hope they are doing their important work that will result in lots of sweet apricots in a few months. 

A few grape hyacinths bloom in sunny spots, and there are many more to come. Hooray for early spring flowers that begin the parade of blossoms. Cooler temperatures and a bit of rain arrived today after I planted potatoes, arugula, radishes, and carrots. 

Last weekend, when I still had a functioning kitchen, I made a simple supper of polenta topped with sauteed asparagus and poached eggs. Fast and simple, and surprisingly delicious. 

The raspberry canes are leafing out. Such delicate colouring and fine shapes that glow in the evening sunlight. 

In another avoidance technique I read Charles' Todd's A Forgotten Place, featuring Bess Crawford. Reading is a stress-buster for me, as even 30 minutes with a book calms me as I lose myself in the story. 

There's a party this weekend, and my parents' visit to look forward to. Anything particular happening in your world in the next couple of days? 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Five on Friday - Rituals and Routines


I was given a beautiful vaseful of flowers at Tim's retirement party a couple of weeks ago. The flowers lasted and lasted, and this week I cut them down, threw out the dead ones, and created a smaller new bouquet. 
Beginning a new phase of life - retirement - has meant a shift in routine around here. It's subtle, but things are different. I've been thinking about the routines I've established for myself that are important to me. The non-negotiables, one might say. The things that ground me and help me structure my day.

#1. Exercise: Walking is my favourite form of exercise, along with a bit of stretching and strength building. I'm happy to walk by myself, or with someone else. Often, after dinner Tim and I would walk together through our neighbourhood. Now that he's home, but working on the renovation, he likes to relax in the evenings. I've taken to walking after lunch, or when the noise of saws and drills gets to be too much. How lovely it is to walk in these brighter days, although the wind is still sharp, and mornings chilly. 

#2. Cooking. My kitchen is still functional - to a degree. I'm shifting things around, and more cabinets will disappear this week. After breakfast, Tim covers the counters with drop cloths, we close what doors we can, and I stay out until noon when we find some leftovers or soup for lunch, then the kitchen shuts down again until 5 pm. That gives me time to wipe down the dusty counters and make dinner. 
This is a definite change in routine. I never realized how much time I spend in the kitchen. 

One evening this week I baked banana muffins and granola while preparing dinner. Although I prepared ahead and have meals in the freezer, some last minute things need to be done. I'm adjusting my cooking habits and so far it's going well. I have a few months of upset and things will be back to normal.

#3. Prayer. I hem my day in prayer, beginning by saying "Good morning, God" as I come to wakefulness in my bed. Gratitude for food and health, lifting children and grandchildren to the Lord, amazement at the wonderful world we live in, and prayers for so much brokenness all around. Communication with God throughout the day. Then, at night, a prayer of thankfulness for the day. 

#4. Reading. A day without a few moments with a book just doesn't feel right. Sometimes I manage only a few pages, but I always, always read something. To me, reading is self-care. I lose myself in a story, or am challenged to think about a new concept, or find comfort in re-reading a favourite passage. My husband, to whom reading doesn't mean quite so much, once told me, "For you, reading is like breathing." I thought it a lovely thing for him to say.

The library above is one I visited in Austria, in 2019, at the St. Florian Monastery. My breath caught when I walked in - not visible in my photo are ethereal painted ceilings. It's the most beautiful library I've ever seen. Books are magical!

#5. Eating. We eat three meals each day, with our main meal in the evening. Tim snacks, I usually do not. I cook because I like to eat good food, and because I enjoy it. Meals often anchor a day. I recently enjoyed a lunch of salad greens, sliced pear, and blue cheese. Eating together or alone provides stopping points throughout the day, time to regroup and relax. 

Anne Lamott writes "Daily rituals, especially walks, even forced marches around the neighborhood, and schedules, whether work or meals with non-awful people, can be the knots you hold onto when you've run out of hope." 

What are your rituals and/or routines? Do find they provide structure to your day?

Friday, March 10, 2023

Friday Favourites


Close your eyes and do not peek
And I'll rub Spring across your cheek
Smooth as satin, soft and sleek,
Close your eyes and do not peek


While walking earlier this week, immense delight bubbled up when I saw the pussy willows along the path. Their soft catkins are impossible not to touch, and are sure harbingers of spring. The blue sky and sun had me soaking in the apricity, an old word meaning the warmth of the sun in winter. 

She turned to the sunlight 
and shook her yellow head.
And whispered to her neighbour, 
"Winter is dead."
A.A. Milne


Tightly closed daffodil buds have been popping up all over town, but the recent warmth has coaxed them out to see what's happening in the world. There are several clumps of the small tete-a-tete variety in my garden, and I wandered around looking at them this afternoon. 

Although much of the house is a mess just now and will be for several months due to the renovations happening, I'm still finding spots to bring in the outdoors - and what is more suitable just now than pussy willows and daffodils? 

Once upon a time there were four little rabbits and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter."
Beatrix Potter


I was at my youngest daughter's house last week and she said, "I have to show you something." We moved over to a window and there were four of the softest, sweetest little bunnies nibbling on the grass outside, two honey-coloured, one grey, and one a soft black. They hopped away as soon as I went outside and in subsequent visits I couldn't get close enough to take a photo. Little Cora really wants to hold one, but that's not going to happen! They are growing rapidly and I managed to capture a photo of two of them a couple of days ago. Soon they will become nuisances, but oh, how sweet they are for now. 

Warm thoughts.
Soup puts the heart at ease...
Auguste Escoffier


I love soup in any season and make a pot at least once a week. Lately, I've been making double batches and freezing them for the day when my kitchen is inaccessible. A recent soup was Broccoli Soup - filled with the goodness of vegetables and no milk or flour. I like to top it with crumbled blue cheese. 


I laughed at these dabbling ducks. They spent far more time with their tails in the air than their heads. They bobbed up for air, then down they went, tails wriggling as they found good things to eat in the shallow water of the bog. 

And one more delight - the song Blessings, by Hollow Coves. A good reminder to "hold onto the ones we love". Wishing you all a lovely weekend. 

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Finishing a Long-Term Project


Last week began with snow and this week with sunshine. All the snow melted quickly. This pot of crocus and pansies sits beside the front door and smiles at me when I come and go. 

The morning light is streaming into the living room with delightful warmth. I'm staying home from church this morning as I have a cold. Remember when we used to go out no matter what? If the pandemic was good for anything, it taught us (most of us) to think about the germs we might be spreading around to others. 

In my sewing room I have a glass bowl filled with spools of thread, including some old wooden spools. They are from Tim's grandmother. In the corner of the dining room of my grandparents' home sat a treadle sewing machine. It was used often with a family of 10 children - dresses, mending, and more. 

My mother sewed beautiful clothes for herself and for my sister and me. New dresses for Christmas and Easter every year. A pink velveteen dress with a wide lace collar, yellow linen with an embroidered daisy. Skirts and shorts and summer tops. She stopped sewing clothing a number of years ago and now sews beautiful, intricate quilts that are auctioned off or sold for charity. 

She taught me to sew - my first project was a pink floral A-line skirt when I was 11 or 12. Zipper, waistband, hand-stitched hem. Her standards were exacting. In Home Ec class I loved the sewing and the cooking equally, and learned much from Mrs. Kuhn. 

I sewed clothes for myself and later, for my children. There were always curtains to stitch up for the many houses we lived in. How I detest sewing curtains, but find myself still doing so on occasion. 

About 10 years ago, I started reading about couture methods to stitch a Chanel-style jacket. All fired up, I went out and bought some relatively inexpensive tweed to see if I could make such a jacket. I made some progress, but then began teaching again and the jacket was left to languish in the cupboard. Every so often I pulled it out and completed another step, but figuring out where I was and what to do next always took time. And there was always a critical voice in the back of my head telling me that it wouldn't turn out or wouldn't fit, so why bother finishing it. 

I put that critical voice on mute and decided that this was the year to finally finish the jacket. I had a deadline - Tim's retirement party. This is what I've been doing for the past two weeks. The recommended sewing time for this project is 70-80 hours. There is a LOT of hand-sewing, which I enjoy, but it does take time. Ashley, with her fashion degree, helped me with some of the later fittings. 

The party was Friday night - a really lovely event at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club where about 60 of Tim's colleagues joined in to wish Tim well in this new phase of life. Our children and their spouses were also invited and I was pleased that they could hear the accolades. And I wore my new jacket. It's oh, so comfortable to wear. I was glad that my cold showed up on Saturday and not on Friday, for I would have hated to miss the party. 

Trims are an important part of a Chanel-style jacket and I dithered back and forth about what to do, finally settling on stitching the fabric selvedge as a base, and topping it with the lace daisies from my wedding veil, for a bit of whimsy. I cut those off when Ashley married, and I beaded the veil with gold and silver glass beads. I want to change the jacket buttons, but it was perfectly wearable as is. Every one of those little daisies has six tiny hand stitches. 

I look forward to wearing my jacket open over jeans for a casual look, or buttoned up for more formal occasions. I learned so much while sewing this jacket and hope to make another one soon, and it won't take 10 years to complete! 

There's been little else accomplished these past two weeks, and I am looking forward to doing something else for a bit. 

Do you sew? Do you enjoy it? Clothes, quilts, curtains, or...?

Of Spare Rooms and House Guests

  If you've ever read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables , you'll remember the importance of the spare room. It was a long-...