Friday 31 January 2014

Longevity and Baked Salmon

Now is the time the various working parts of the body are starting to signal quitting time.  Bodies were simply not designed to last as long as we want them to last.  How long would be long enough?  My mother says seeing great-grandchildren is long enough for her; I always said to live to see grandchildren would be enough for me.  A neighbour living with cancer wanted to live till Christmas but sadly, did not make it.
I understand there are two things consistently found in people who live long lives....eating breakfast every day and taking naps.  I pick at this a little; what  exactly constitutes a breakfast?  Did they mean oatmeal or eggs or would just a slice of toast do?  I'm interested in this because I've never been able to eat soon after waking.  I can manage a small glass of juice and water or half an orange at most, then a cup of coffee.  I can't handle real food until about 10 am which coincidentally was recess in my work world. For most of my working life I would eat a Golden Delicious apple; in later years and up to now it is a Royal Gala apple. I still love my apple a day.
As for naps, sleeping in the daytime completely eludes me.  I will want to at times, even need to, but I can't.  I think I'm like a baby; I would have to be strapped into a car seat and driven around, then maybe I would nod off.
 I  seem to be out of luck with this, but then, I have lived to see my grandchildren  so....

Supper last night...This is salmon cooked my favourite way; baked in a 350 degree oven for about 15 to 18 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filet.  I used olive oil, lemon and onions and a bit of salt and pepper.  I made what I call a crunchy salad to go with it, one containing cut up broccoli and cauliflower.  I really like how easy a meal like this is to make. 

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Ruffed Grouse and Making Left Turns

                                          Ruffed grouse in a backyard tree

They arrive every day and seem to be picking and tearing at the bark on this one very old tree; what they are finding I haven't a clue.


Years ago I read a  novel about a woman who did not want to make left turns when driving.  She would circle around, up one street, down another to enable this practice.  This involved elaborate advance planning and much examination of road maps especially when she had to go somewhere new to her.  I identify with her in that I don't like left turns either and I can add another thing I don't like...changing lanes mid-traffic.  I like knowing in advance which lane to take and then sticking to it.
I read somewhere I am being true to my gender in this preference; women are much less likely to change lanes as much as men.  I've also read that this lane-changing behaviour accounts for a significant number of accidents so women are being naturally and I think wisely, more cautious.  Caution on the highways is certainly a good thing.
If I had the money or inclination, an indulgence would be to have a driver.  I much prefer being driven than having to do the driving.  I was late in life getting my license, just over 30, and have never loved it, though I do like cars.     

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Knowledge is Power or Not

Information is not knowledge..... Einstein

                                                                                                                                                                  I carry in my brain a ridiculous amount of useless information.  Odd bits and items that I read tend to stick; I couldn't tell you what I did last Thursday, but I can name the four Monkees and that one of their mothers invented White-Out, that sort of thing...yes, as I said, useless. 
Being a teacher, I felt it my role to pass along as much of this knowledge as I could.  I love the idea that someone could benefit from what I have learned or know.  It has been a learning process for me to understand not everyone wants to hear my tidbits of trivia.  In this way, I identify with the Dr. Spencer Reid character on Criminal Minds (not that I have an eidetic memory like he has); I mean  the way he gets cut off or the others say ' not now, Spence' when he is fervently wanting to share some facts or figures.  That has happened to me and I have learned to keep quiet often in social situations as a result.  I have especially had to practice staying quiet when I know someone is saying something incorrect.
 I think, like Spence, my intentions are good; I am trying to be helpful.  It is not about being boastful and there is a reason I know this.  I grew up with a younger sister who is Mensa smart and a younger brother who is multi-talented with academically gifted being just one of his talents.  I always knew what being really smart meant and I wasn't it.  As Confucius said real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance, and I have always been overwhelmingly aware of all there is yet to learn.  Sometimes when I was older, I would joke about being 'the oldest and slowest academically of three children'.  For the record, I am very proud of my sister and brother and love being in their company which is always stimulating and interesting.  Just cannot play Trivial Pursuit with them; when it's their turn, the game is over. 

Sunday 26 January 2014

Carrying Wood and Cranberry Jello

A famous Zen saying states "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."
I thought of this as the temperatures dropped again overnight and this morning the outside feels like stepping into your freezer.  While I am not chopping wood or carrying water, I am carrying wood and lots of it from the pile in the garage to the kitchen wood stove.   As for the enlightenment part, that has given me pause.  I wonder what exactly consists of enlightenment in this world.  If it can mean awareness and open-mindedness, I think I'm somewhat enlightened.  However, genuine epiphanies for me have been few and far between; and if it means sophistication or refinement, then I think I am smack out of luck.  How sophisticated or refined can you look holding an armload of wood chunks?

I've been meaning to share with you this recipe that did not quite work out for me and I share it because I really like the ingredients and it did taste good.  But I used substitutes which may have affected the outcome.
 The recipe was in O Magazine, November 2013 issue and it is Gayle King's Mother's recipe for Cranberry Jello.
You need 1 box strawberry jello, 1 can jellied cranberry sauce, 1 container frozen strawberries in sugar, defrosted, 1 or 2 apples cut into small cubes.  In a large bowl, add 2 cups boiling water to the jello, stir.  Fold in defrosted strawberries, including the syrup, and lastly, the apples.  Pour into a bowl large enough to hold it all or a Bundt pan.  Refrigerate until use. 
I substituted a number of things in this recipe.  I used the light version of the jello, the one with no calories; I also used non-sweetened strawberries and sweetened them myself.  Whatever the cause, my mixture did not set; it remained a floppy mixture that while it tasted good, it did not look that great.  I was not able to upturn it on a plate for a nice presentation.  However, maybe you could try it and stick to the original directions and hopefully, have success.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Praising Potatoes and Warm Potato Salad

With a birth name that should read "Murphy" and ancestors that hail from Ireland's County Kilkenny, I come by my love of potatoes honestly.  Spuds, taters, pradies- in all their forms taste wonderful to me.  I have had to train myself to not think they should be a part of every supper meal.

My grandparents always grew their winter supply of potatoes and housed them in a special cellar made just for wintering over their fresh vegetables.  When I visited them in the summer, they would have kept the smallest potatoes just for me.  I remember how enthralled I was by these potatoes, the size of large marbles, and would eat them up.  I also learned that the longer the potatoes were in the cellar, the sweeter they became.  Today, I like them cooked in many ways, but my favourite is baked and enjoyed with a little olive oil.

In his heartbreaking book Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt tells about the little boys' hungry yearning for potatoes.  His description of potatoes, among other passages in the book, has stayed with me.  My ancestors left Ireland during the famous potato famines so I'm thinking they had similar feelings about potatoes when they became scarce.  I was particularly struck by the fact that oldtimers could smell the air above a potato field and tell if the potatoes were going to be alright.

Health experts seem to either love potatoes or hate them. Some are more concerned with what is done to the potato...deep frying, for example, or what we put on them...namely salt and butter, that changes their view. However, I just read of research that shows eating a potato is the best thing to ward of later hunger pangs so great for diets.

Last year I planted one box of Yukon Gold seed potatoes.  It was fun to watch them grow and we enjoyed them for many meals into the fall.  And yes, I loved all the little ones like marbles that seem to trail along the end of the roots.

Last night I made a warm potato salad to go with our meat pie.

I used red fingerling potatoes and added spinach, red peppers, a carrot, an onion and some fresh cilantro. Sometimes I add bacon pieces or prosciutto.   I used a mixture of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, a little sugar, and a little Dijon mustard as a dressing.   I always find I have to do a lot of tasting to get a mixture like this right. So good though especially on a cold winter night.

Friday 24 January 2014

The Hill

Seeing grandson off to school this morning; backpack heavy but not with books.  It holds his lunch bag that contains food for two nutrition breaks (lunch and recess in the old days), bottled water and several juice boxes.  He also gets two servings of milk each day that his mother ordered and paid for.  Also in the backpack is a toy and a book for quiet time.  It all adds up.
I watch as he crosses the playground and throws the backpack onto a pile of others; a couple of boys and one girl run up to him and then they all head for the small hill the snow plow has deliberately built up for them in the middle of the playground.  Grandson loves this hill.  He has extra snow pants at school just for playing on this hill.  His mother also loves this hill because any morning he is slow to get ready she just has to remind him that he likes a few minutes to play on the hill before school starts, and this usually speeds him up.  Both of them severely lament the hill's melting every spring. 
I like the mixture of children attending this public school.  It's a small village, just over three thousand people but lately it has acquired a couple of swanky subdivisions.  However, a certain percentage of students are still bussed in from surrounding farms and smaller hamlets. So not all the kids have fancy backpacks or sport LLBean jackets or have Bogs on their feet. 
From this distance in the parking lot, I can still make out grandson, or at least I think it is him. There's a bunch of kids on the hill top, all of them mouths wide in glee as they leap and jump and roll down the sides. 
I won't let my mind think of how they could so easily get hurt.  No, I won't, not today.  I will choose to carry home with me today the looks of joy instead. 

Thursday 23 January 2014

Children and The Guilty One

I believe that children are the true miracles on this earth (and by extension I include all living creatures).  The idea of conception and birth, the whole concept of bringing forth a living being is monumental in scope and wondrous in its magic.  Children represent what is vital in the world, if gone cannot, like youth itself, be gotten back.
The whole idea of childhood, children, and other helpless creatures is an area I have to let my mind tread carefully in.  My experiences in the work world and what I read in newspapers and books have shown me the suffering and misery that some children endure.  Simply said, it is a realism that is hard for caring folks to bear.

This brings me to a book I read  prior to Christmas.  I've been meaning to tell you about it for awhile.

I enjoyed this book, The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne, very much.  In the beginning we are introduced to Daniel, a solicitor who specializes in family matters, and his latest eleven year old boy is charged with the murder of an eight year old boy.  This story is one thread throughout the novel; Daniel's life as the son of a drug user and eventual experiences in the foster care system make up the other thread.  Daniel, as a young teen, winds up with a woman named Minnie, who literally saves his life.  Their story is beautifully told, heartbreaking and made me cry. 
You can check out more about Lisa on her website,

 Ahh, children, how they deserve and, sadly so many, still need our protection.  

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Mother Earth's Quilting Book

I read all kinds of books including lots of non-fiction and reference material.  I particularly enjoy books about quilting, needlework, embroidery and the like.  I love finding inspiration in new patterns and methods, and luckily, for people like me, there is an abundance of such waiting to be discovered.  I wanted to share this particular quilting book with you because I was totally captivated by the designs.  It features the work of  German born, Sieglinde Schoen Smith, whose hand-made, hand-embroidered quilt Mother Earth and Her Children, won top prize at the International Quilt Festival.  She employs applique with batik fabrics which she favours for their vibrant colours and embroidery to fashion the faces and details of the designs.  This book contains a variety of patterns, both small and full sized and complete instructions to follow to make a number of projects.  Her faces, in particular, are beautifully embroidered and her choice of colours inspiring.  I do think you would enjoy having a look at her work either on-line or in her books. 

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Not Happy With My Stitching

I took a short course in learning how to applique about six years ago.  This hanging was what I produced as a result.
 My teacher was very skilled in this technique and brought in a bed cover that she had made that was simply magnificent.  All the Baltimore Album type motifs in pastel colours looked like something that would have graced a bed in a rich home in days gone by.

 She introduced us to batik fabrics which, these days, she favoured for her appliqued projects.  She liked how thin and easy to pin in place they were. Besides which the colours and patterns are simply beautiful.
 I was totally unfamiliar with them living under a rock as I'd been in terms of the fabric world.

I was uncomfortable with my work.  I never did think my sewing as fine and delicate yet strong enough as it should have been.  However, I enjoyed the process very much...everything from the fabric selection, pattern design choices, to the silk threads and tiny needles.

  Learning about batiks was a great benefit from that course; I keep thinking I will use them again for a wall hanging.  I love admiring them when I see them used in my blogging friends' quilts.

Someone told me I am a perfectionist when I was talking about not being happy with this work of mine.  I say I know enough to know my stitches were not as tiny and even as they should have been.  I'm sensible enough to know that I need lots more practice and that would hopefully improve my technique. 

But I do have the thought often that my interest outstrips my ability in many of my pursuits.

Monday 20 January 2014

Life Everlasting

Poinsetta Red to Please You

The sky of winter is low, cloudy.  No sun for awhile as if someone has the lights dimmed.  Outside this morning, a small breeze had shot the wind chill down to a frosty minus 24.  The chickadees are the only bird song these days, though song is maybe not the right word for their repetitive phebe notes, sounding like they are telling someone off.  I see rabbit tracks leading to one of the bird feeders, the first sighting this winter.  There is also a shallow furrow slicing through the snow  toward the bird feeder.  Unmistakably, a snake.  That I have never seen before; I've always assumed they were snug underground in the deep months of winter.  Maybe the recent warm spell enticed him out of hiding, like the houseflies spotted on the window pane last week.  Hugging the house is a line of tracks that I cat.  I follow them and sure enough they disappear into the trees that face the neighbours' property; probably one of their barn cats trying her luck at the feeder.  And it seems something has been lucky there...a few downy feathers stuck in the snow and signs the snow has been disturbed mark the spot.  Poor things, so many creatures exist on the edge of hunger, a part of nature I hate to think about, but that is life too, life everlasting.   

Sunday 19 January 2014

Visit to a Country Store

Yesterday, being Saturday, we made a trip to the local farmer's store in a nearby town.  It has named itself the Country Store and I like going in there to poke around.  Right away, you can see what is missing; there are no grocery items or common household goods, no appliances or personal grooming stuff.  Instead it is well stocked with all the farming and animal supplies you could possibly need.
The horse aisle is larger than the bird, dog and general pet aisles put together.  There are reins of all manner, grooming products, salves and lotions, and even a card of special ribbons to dress your horse for shows.  I am interested in all this because it is completely new to me; I've never seen horse paraphernalia before.  I run my hands over the various leather straps and read the ingredients on the hair products especially the ones that promise to make hair shiny and silky. I wonder could it apply to human hair.
 Cows don't seem to engender the same needs; products for them, in comparison, are rather meager; a few items for treatment of udder problems, creams and the like; those little knitted triangles to cover their ears and prevent them from freezing during extreme frost. There are a few decorative bells and tassels available, again I think for show time at the fairs.  Hubby says the difference in the amount of selection between horses and cows is because there is big money in horses. 
Farmers can find all the special coveralls, Carhatt jackets and bibbed pants here; all the mucking-out rubber boots and steel toed boots needed for their various jobs. I'm surprised by the lack of camouflage gear, just a few vests and hats is all; that trend seems to have almost missed this store. No Duck Dynasty items.
There is a complete line of John Deere toys for the children, everything from tiny farm yards to ride around tractors.
There are no traps other than ones for live animal trapping with a picture of a raccoon on them.  Perhaps it was a badger, I can't remember.
In the spring the middle of the store is taken over with seeds of every variety, boxes of seed potatoes, bags of onions, etc. just about anything you can think of to plant.  That's my favourite time to go in there.
Yesterday I bought a 25 pound bag of sunflower seeds for my birds and hubby found a special safety helmet he'd had his eye on for awhile. We always find something in there that we 'need'.     

Saturday 18 January 2014

Loving a Labrador

There isn't a part of her that is not smooth to the touch.  I pat her head and stroke those ears that for all the world feel like silk, no velvet, okay, silky velvet.  At night, on the bed, I do not have to reach a hand to know where she is.  She presses against me and if I move, she makes a corresponding move, usually with a humph or groan because, once settled, she doesn't like to be disturbed.  Sometimes, she rests her head over my leg or foot or my shoulder; any way she can be close and comfortable she will find it.

I spoil her shamelessly with none of the guilt I reserve for treating my grandsons.  Only a talking-to by our vet made me rein in some of the little tidbits I sneak into her dish.  It is to my credit that she is more or less at a normal weight for her age and size because my natural inclination is to give her whatever she wants.  

I speak to her in the universal language of Motherese.   It is the special way we have of talking to our babies using higher pitched sounds and cooing intonations, and for some of us, the way we also talk to our pets.  Though she is a big dog, I can't help myself.  I have to tell her how good she is, what pretty brown eyes she has, how much I love her.

She is quite true to her retriever instincts.  In pursuit of a treat, play toy, or ball, she is relentless.  Using her snout to root, she is able to deftly remove a tissue from your pocket you didn't know was there.  She will spring into action whenever a ball is produced; no such thing as pacing herself, she will run herself ragged, dropping to the ground before stopping.

Such a lovable and loving dog; I am so lucky to have Miss Murphy, the black Lab, in my life.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Sudoku, Truffles and Another Somewhat Good Book

Here are two more of hubby's best Christmas gifts.  I said he liked dark chocolate and these truffles from Costco which is their own brand, Kirkland, certainly fit the bill.  They are moist, delicious and small enough to make you savour each bite.  I say delicious but only if you love dark chocolate which is not me.  Although I know that the darkest chocolate is supposedly good for you, I find it a little bitter for my tastes.  He will have no fear that I will be dipping into his stash.
He also got this wooden Sudoku game.  Since he loves completing the puzzles in the newspaper when he has a few minutes to spare, I thought he would like to have a game board to work them out on.  I found this in the Bits and Pieces catalogue which specializes in puzzles and games of all sorts and for all ages.  So far, he is enjoying having the puzzle presented in a different medium to play around with.

What's on my night table...

This is my latest read, Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh.  When I first started this book, I was a little disappointed.  I thought it was dissolving into a Harlequin romance type book where the heroine is in love with the handsome, but dastardly fellow and spurning the one who truly loves her sort of thing.  But no, it retreats from that scenario somewhat and the writing is so involved and well-done that I did finish it.  The protagonist, Frances, must leave England to travel to South Africa to make a marriage she does not want. Her husband is a very disciplined doctor working hard to eradicate small pox amongst the people working in the diamond industry.  The descriptions of South Africa are wonderfully written.  In my opinion, both Frances and her husband are oddly flawed and it seems they will never get their differences worked out.  I lacked empathy for either of them but really didn't care for Frances.  She has been given an amazing opportunity to not only enjoy life and the beauty around her, but to make herself useful in the fight against a deadly disease.  I was frustrated with her frankly.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

It's Not a Hobby- It's Post-Apocalyptic Skills

Knitting:  It's not a hobby; it's a post-apocalyptic life skill.  

This was written on one of those many boards on Pinterest and the poster said that with her skills- gardening, sewing, cooking, knitting,etc. surely she would be useful if there was an apocalypse.

 I identify with her comment.  Since I can't fight, run very fast, and don't know how to use any kind of weapon, I would have to make myself useful in other ways. Fingers and toes crossed, it never comes to that!

But funny about that. For a few decades there the idea of an apocalypse never crossed our minds.  Now it seems possible even if not probable and, for many even imminent.  The world and its leaders have all seemed to have gotten less trustworthy.  The weather seems crazier; the idea of aliens seems getting closer to a reality.  The sense of something shifting is happening.

Meanwhile as I hone those post apocalyptic skills...

This is wool I bought a while back when it had a small markdown.  It is Lion Brand Homespun which you can perhaps see in the photo.  The wool is very soft and I immediately thought of making a shawl or wrap out of it.
  I have been looking  through some of my favourite web sites to find a pattern that would be easy and not too challenging for me with my beginner knitting skills. I checked out Purl Bee which I love for its photos and very nice projects.  Their retrospective on 2013 projects is inspirational.  I saw a wrap there that I absolutely loved.  It is called Amazing Seed Stitch Wrap and I know I could manage the directions fine.  However, my wool is rather loopy and I'm not sure it would show seed stitch as nicely as the wool chosen in the pattern.  I have put it in my favourites list for future ogling.

I spent a lot of time viewing the large bank of free patterns on Ravelry.  Though you have to join their site which takes just a minute, it gives you access to a wealth of patterns for both the novice knitter and the advanced.  Definitely lots of choice for me.

I decided since my wool is Lion Brand to check out their web site.  You have to sign up like with Ravelry, which again is very fast, and then you get to view all the thousands of patterns they have in storage.  I checked out what they had for my particular wool...Homespun and there it pattern.

  It is called Easy Triangle Shawl, uses three of the Homespun balls if knit on size 9mm needles and is just like it sounds.  I know that even I can do it.

Cast on 3 stitches. Row 1- Knit
Row 2- K1, yarn over, K
Repeat  Row 2 till work measures 35 inches and there are 143 stitches on the needles. 
I will look forward to beginning this project tonight.

I had written about my fear of slipping and falling on ice.  I heard on the radio today that Emergency Rooms at the local hospitals recorded over 500 patients having to receive treatment for 'slip and fall' accidents during last weeks icy weather.  So see, slipping on ice is no joke.  My case of slipitis continues.  Be careful out there.

Monday 13 January 2014

Wood is Wonderful

Thoreau said when you heat with wood it will warm you twice, once when you cut it and again when you burn it. One acre of land can produce a face cord of fire wood a year indefinitely.  We have read that four acres of land can produce enough wood to heat your home for a winter.  It seems like a small amount of land for big returns.  We buy the bulk of our wood but do cut a certain amount from our land each year to supplement our supply.  Hubby tends to cut only old rotting trees and gathers any fallen limbs and branches that are large enough to be burnable.
  This little hobby of his led us on the perfect chain saw search a couple years ago.  For the record it turned out to be a Husqvarna.
A wood burning fire with its glowing embers and roiling flames is beautiful and mesmerizing.  Our house feels warm and cosy, no matter what the weather outside when our wood stove is fired up.  There are other benefits that come with heating with wood.  The ashes themselves are remarkably useful.  Just yesterday I used ashes on our icy walkway; sprinkled on the ice and snow they provide a wonderful gritty surface that enables you to safely walk.  Wood ash is a wonderful addition to the garden.  Mixed in with the soil, wood ash provides additional nutrients that help produce stronger, healthier plants.  Since reading this a few years ago I have made sure all my flower and vegetable beds get a liberal sprinkling of ashes each spring. 
I am a romantic about nature and wood is a bit of nature.  The wood gathering, hauling and stacking bring us close to nature and is a reminder of trees and forests.  Heating with wood is certainly a great choice for us living in the country...and lets not forget, our dogs would agree that beside the wood stove is their favorite place in the house to curl up.    

Sunday 12 January 2014

Projects Finished, Projects Begun

The weather is a tease today.  Mild temperatures (relatively) and intermittent rain have melted snow and water is running down the house drain spouts.  It is spring...momentarily for sure.  In the old days people thought these sudden swings in mid-winter temperatures caused colds or flu. 
It is enough to entice me outside though.  I linger over my few chores...emptying the ash can, picking up some of the doggie do in the back yard and extend my shovelling around the walkways.  The snow is mostly slushy and heavy to lift.  It is too slippery though for ball playing with the dogs...with these big dogs I am mindful of their hips and joints.  Murphy, the Labrador, puts her heart and soul into the ball retrieving and I think she would be especially susceptible.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in my sewing room.  I am making a crib quilt for the new grandson.
   Here is a picture of my quilt sandwich...
I am going to quilt it by embroidering some figures in the plain blocks.  Since there are animals in the blue fabric, I'm going to use animals shapes for this quilting.  Right now the three layers are held together by loose running stitches. 

I finally finished the granny squares afghan.  Episodes of Justified and Homeland saw me through!
I crocheted around the edge three stitch the first time, treble stitch on the second and more shell stitch on the third go round.  Though you can't tell how large it is from this photo of it on my bed, it took ages to make each trip around.  Luckily, I am pleased with the end result and the frilly look of it.  I think it suits the overall old-fashioned look of this afghan. 

Friday 10 January 2014

Blooming Geraniums

These are my geranium plants; I have three large ones that get replanted each spring into planters outside.  This is their fourth winter inside and I'm pleased by how well they do both inside and out.  One of my grandmothers grew geraniums which I remember well, and I started with one as a little sentimental memory of her.  However, I discovered I loved them too and have since expanded the group.  These have white, pink and red blossoms.  Geraniums are exceptionally sturdy and bloom almost continually during the May to October season.  Mine have always weathered the first tinges of overnight frost too in the fall. These will also provide some blooming during the winter but it is never as profuse as the summer display.
 I think they are very easy to grow if I can experience such success with them.  I read online that they like coffee so I do mix a little used coffee grinds into their soil from time to time and I also 'water' them with leftover coffee occasionally.  This seems to work well.  You do have to pinch back some leaves to force them to 'fill out', if not they will grow tall and 'leggy'.  There are many different types of geraniums with many leaf shapes and coloration, as well as a wide variety of colours in the blossoms.  I would recommend geraniums if you would like an easy-to-grow plant that provides an abundance of blooms without a lot of fussing or materials. 

Thursday 9 January 2014

Winter Bird Sightings

I was surprised to see this female cardinal enjoying a sunflower seed in the front yard.

I was doubly pleased to see two of them.  I rarely see one let alone two. They seemed to be traveling together because I later sighted them in the trees in the back yard.  No further sign of them two days later, however.  Perhaps they have moved south to warmer parts and I caught them right at the time they were flying through.

Here is a woodpecker joining the group on the ground.  I noticed he was aggressive with the mourning doves and they quickly flew away.

He took frequent breaks to peck at the old birch. 

I'm sorry about the quality of these photos.  It was far too cold to be outside standing around in the wind so I had to take them through the window pane.  The woodpecker is larger than the downy and hairy woodpeckers I see here from time to time; I'm not sure what kind he is.  He has become a frequent visitor to the feeder, and obviously, likes the sunflower seeds too.  Most of the birds tolerate each other well with very little squabbling; sometimes a little jockeying for space will occur but nothing more than that.  However, this woodpecker was keeping all the other birds including the bluejays away from his perceived area.
Luckily we are having a break from the very cold temperatures of late.  There is a promise of +9 degrees for this Saturday, absolutely balmy.  It will give my feathered friends a much needed respite from the cold as well. 


Wednesday 8 January 2014

Wild Turkey Chase

I in the woods in winter trying to straddle a snow-covered mound that I hope is a rock...I'd glanced out at the front bird feeder and there was a group of wild turkeys standing around as if they had called a turkey meeting or something.  It was a bit of a shock to see such huge birds in the place of my usual tiny bird friends, the chickadees and juncos. I scrambled to get my coat, mitts, boots, camera and rush out the door to get a photo.  This is the closest to wild turkeys I have ever been.  I round the corner of the house and they immediately take off for the woods, their feet acting like snowshoes as they hightail it across the snow.  I follow but can't keep up as my feet are not acting like snowshoes and I sink to my shins with every step. I am determined to get a photo though and trail my little flock into the woods.  They are always just a little ahead of me, completely silent and moving in single file led by this fellow.
He is much larger than the others and his feathers are raven black.  I'm guessing he is a male.  While I watch from my mound, they disappear completely in a dip in the woods.  I'm still watching when first one, then the others, lift on great wings and fly deeper into the forest away from me. 
Most of the photos I took were blurred, probably because operating the camera in mitts was not easy. Back in the house with wet socks and now damp to my knees with clammy cold ...and like I said before, clammy cold is the worst  cold. 

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Lace Making Tools and Vintage Scissors

I wanted to share with you another gift.  This was given to me by my son-in-law who enjoys frequenting auctions and antique sales.  When he saw this item, he thought of me even though he wasn't sure exactly what it was.  He knew it must have had something to do with sewing.
I was happy to receive this and also, of course, it is nice to know he is thinking about me as he goes about his treasure hunting.  I believe this little kit contains tools for lace making and it includes many small well-carved items.  We think it is very old; the bobbins are made of wood and have a well-used look to them.  There is a tiny pin cushion with it but it doesn't fit in the little woven container.
The scissors are perhaps the most interesting item here.  They are old-fashioned and have a very special design; they measure about six inches long with just under two inches being the blades.  One of the blades has a lip as if these scissors were designed with a special purpose in mind.  I had to do some digging to find out what.  In Philip R. Pankiewicz' s book American Scissors and Shears: An Antique and Vintage Collectors' Guide, I found a pair that looked very similar to mine.  They were designed to trim lamp wicks and the like. Though mine are quite rusty, they are very sharp still and work quite well.  They feel comfortable but a trifle heavy.  I'm not sure how to clean them; a good cleaning might reveal a name or date of manufacture.  The scissors in Mr. Pankiewicz's book were vintage made around 1910.  

Monday 6 January 2014

In-Head Babbling

The weather changed during the night.  It went from very cold and snow flurries to warmer and freezing rain.  Rex, the Shepherd, had a restless night perhaps because there was wind baffling around the windows and eaves.  I didn't sleep well either and was up several times peering out the windows; it was strangely light outside and all the trees were illuminated.  I didn't see a thing moving.
It was one of those nights, rare for me these days, when I couldn't stop my in-head babbling, as I think of it. One of those nights when everyone I knew marched through my head.  I thought of all the things I'd said to people that may have hurt them, regret this very much, of course, and then compounded it by thinking of all the hurtful things said to me.  You don't survive a working world and live to my age without hurtful words sometimes given and received, but why this would come back to haunt me I don't really know.  Maybe it is with me because for the most part, it was a rare occurrence so they stand out, as it were.  Maybe because my basic nature is one that likes everything copasetic and all in harmony to feel okay.  Who knows. On the up side, I did manage to read 30 pages of my latest novel in between the babbling. 

On to other things...
    Here is my afghan.  I wanted to show you the edging I am working.  It is a simple shell stitch and I am going to continue with another row and make it wider.  I have lots of the brown wool so may as well use it.  It takes quite a while to get round it once.  Last night episodes of Vera and Inspector George Gently did not see me finish a round, so it's rather slow going. 

Sunday 5 January 2014

Basement Bouquet

I enter the house stamping snow off my boots.  I've been out to refill the feeders and play ball with the dogs...long enough to get wet socks, cold feet and cold fingers.  Clammy cold like this is the worst cold. 
The house smells differently every time I re-enter.  Hubby is long inured to the more unpleasant scents our house can create.  I blame most of them on the basement which is unfinished and home to decades of memorabilia.  You will have a better idea of what I'm talking about when I tell you what is down there.
 First of all, Mitzy the cat, is living just at the bottom of the steps with her litter box close by and we all know no matter how often that is emptied or changed, it does have a certain odour.  All of hubby's dead files going back four decades are down there...boxes and boxes of paper, neatly stacked in one of the rooms.  Many boxes of paperbacks, some dating from hubby's high school days, plus all of his textbooks from Queen's occupy many shelves in another room.  There are even books from hubby's deceased parents.  I open a copy of Westward Ho! and find a dedication for distinguished work on the inside; it was presented to my father-in-law in 1924 at Westminster City School in England.  Sadly, the cover is mouldering and very smelly.  The same is true of another group of classics, Shakespeare, Homer, Dickens, the Brontes, Plato and so on, all decaying slowly together reeking the nearby air. 
I open one of hubby's tech books and find it neatly hollowed out in the middle...a perfect little house for a mouse.  In fact, many of the books have been chewed at the edges and have sections reduced to rubble.  Who knows how many mice have been through here, nibbling on those words of wisdom. 
Lots of old gardening supplies, aquarium paraphernalia, hubby's work bench, his various collections of odds and ends for fixing things, paint cans, old boots and shoes, old coats, and suitcases all occupy another corner of the basement.  Here too is the usual small appliance graveyard  kept for any useful working parts.
These smells waft upstairs any time, but are actually circulated when the air conditioning in summer is on or the odd time the heat pump cuts in during the winter. Combine that with our "big dogs in the house all the time" smells and you can understand why, like the joke going around, I fear the Febreeze people showing up at my door to do a commercial. I do use lots of Febreeze, by the way, and that is no joke.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Deer Over Headlights

Deer are abundant here in the Ottawa Valley and our roads are dotted with signs warning of their presence.  There are often stories of deer/car collisions; in fact,  just this week there was a very scary incident on one of the main roads where a deer glanced off one car only to land on another car's windshield.  Tragically, a person was killed.
One of the  local newspapers is keeping track of vehicle/deer collisions in each county.  Our area is 'winning' so I am conscious too of meeting them on my outings. My son-in-law attached two small devices called deer whistles to the front bumper of my car; the idea is that as you are driving, the wind through these whistles emits a loud sound that would be heard by deer and supposedly keep them away from the road.  I really don't know if these work or not.
 I have encountered deer several times.  I've been told there is never just one deer; you should slow down and wait because there are sure to be more deer behind it.  Sure enough one day, I came around a corner as a deer was crossing and there trailing behind was a tiny herd.  A little unnerving because a minute later and I would have been in amongst them!  Another time I saw a deer on the side of the road and as I passed I spotted two fawns beside her. 
The closest I have come to a true deer mishap though happened right in my own laneway on our property.  I was nearing the gate when suddenly a huge deer leaped over the bonnet of the car.  It was sporting a wonderful rack of antlers so I know it was a buck or maybe a stag?? I'm not sure of the difference.  It passed close enough to my face that I had a view of the way the grayish brown of its fur met its white underbelly.  In the moment, I felt awed by its litheness and magnificent jumping; however, it disappeared so swiftly I was left wondering if it really happened, did a deer just leap over my car?
I think deer are beautiful, gentle looking creatures.  But then I only have Bambi to go on and she was pretty sweet. 

My heart's in the highlands,
My heart is not here,
My heart's in the highlands
A-chasing the deer.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

My First Resolution

                                                  Happy New Year!

For last year's words

belong to last year's language,

and next year's words

await another voice.

               T.S. Eliot

I have never written new year's resolutions, as intriguing as it might be to believe so much of everything is within our personal control. Perhaps the dismal statistics on the longevity of most of these resolutions was enough to put me off.  Maybe I doubted my own staying power too especially as it pertains to matters of weight or exercise, the most common things that people resolve to improve. Maybe I was forestalling what I was sure would be a failure. 
 A brand new year is certainly good timing for a new beginning.  It offers the perfect opportunity to try to shed old habits and start new ones.  Easier said than done, for sure.  Nowadays experts say it is more effective to set specific goals that represent baby steps while focussing on the positive.  I really like The Original Credo of Al-Anon which is always published in the Dear Abby column at this time of year.  It is made up of eight resolutions each representing small steps and prefaced by "Just For Today". 
If I wrote a "Just For Today" resolution for myself it would have to be not to obsess or worry so much about the future.  And with that I may have just written my first new year's resolution.