Friday 31 October 2014

Three Things You Don't Know About Me


Ever since I came up with this thing about you not knowing me, I can't get Eddie Arnold's song You Don't Know Me  out of my head.  I often suffer from earworms like that but this one is particularly annoying because I don't know the other words. 

 And Just for the record here are three things you don't know about me

1.Whenever I'm alone in the house, I put on music and dance.  I've always loved music and dancing though I'm not great at it.  But when no one can see, who cares.  I just like to keep moving the old body. One of the music channels we get as part of our t.v. cable package is songs that are oldies.  Perfect for an 'oldie' like me.

2.  I read my magazines from back to front.  I've done this for years and thought I was the only one.  I couldn't believe it when I read I'm part of an army of people out there who also enjoy their magazines this way.  In fact, so many of us prefer this backwards first approach, many magazines have been reordered and reorganized to include more items starting in the back.  Just when you think you are unique...

3.  I like to try to speak in accents.  I know, lame, geeky, such a dweeb.  But I can't help it.  After watching Ray and Abs on Ray Donavon, I will use their Boston accent around the house for fun.  I can also do a fairly good Irish accent which I guess comes with the territory of being a Newfoundlander.  I also love the Australian accent; when we watched The Slap last year, I was trying out their take on words for weeks.  In particular, I just love the way they say stressed, kind of like strissed, which almost became the way I pronounced that word for a while. 

 Hubby's favourite accent is the Irish, but then he is half deaf  which once again, might be a really good thing living with me. 

Thursday 30 October 2014

Visual Imagery Tool

If you love beautiful visual imagery, you have to love Pinterest. In fact, Pinterest describes itself as a tool to access visual imagery.

Like millions of others I have a Pinterest account and for me it is because I have a strong love of visual images, ideas, and researching for such.  Signing up is easy; I signed up through my Facebook account. 
 I began looking through Pinterest several years before I began my blog and I love it.  I started out slowly with it and surprise myself when I see just how much I've managed to 'pin'.  I use pinterest in a number of ways.
Just about any topic you can think of has its own category on Pinterest.  Cars, kitchens, books, fish, animals, school work,  the arts, poetry, writing, you name it and there are pages and pages devoted to each. How to do just about anything is there...links to lessons, aps, web sites. 
 I can't say which are my favourites...there are too many to pin down. (No pun intended, :) )
If I'm feeling a little low, I go to Pinterest humour pages and read the quotes or various jokes or scroll the funny pictures, etc.  Perhaps I'm easily amused but I always end up having a laugh and feeling bettter. 
The food, well, I have lots to say about that.  The photos of the food, most with access to the recipes, are endless and marvellous.  Anything I can possibly think of to make, mix or bake is already there with accompanying photos...the word drool comes to mind. I just love scrolling through the seemingly endless array of desserts, cakes, casseroles, meats dishes, etc. etc.
 One of my favourite categories is the needlearts and in particular, hand embroidery.  I have spent so many hours looking through the beautiful work, patterns, web sites, ideas, etc. that others have taken the time to pin.  I have repinned some favourites and enjoy following up with visiting the web sites or blogs. It is always a learning experience.  I have found my way to so many wonderful international sites that I would never have found on my own. I am a pretty good researcher but I have to say Pinterest has greatly widened my information far beyond and so much quicker than I could find things scrolling browsers on my own. 
Photography is also a favourite category with me.  People have pinned such incredible photographs, breathtaking and stunning, images from all over the world, as well as their own backyard.
 I also love the watercolours category for the same reason..what a feast for the eyes these sections are, is all I can say.
A way to find patterns, how to fix, clean or cure just about anything, decorate, save money, books to read, ideas, inspiration or just a laugh, it's all there at Pinterest.
 On my opening page today just in one screens length the general feed included links to

Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash
Seashell and Starfish printables
How to sew an invisible seam
Link to an embroidery pattern book by Mary E. Waring, 1917
Bacon and Pea Macaroni and Cheese

 I'm a big fan.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

You Don't Know Me

Oh, I know all about you now, someone I know said to me recently. What do you mean, says I.  Well I read your blog every day, so I know all about you.
What an interesting thought.  That someone could know me by what I put in my daily blog.  My trail-walking with the dogs, my busy stitching fingers, my attempts to cook and bake in the kitchen, the books I'm reading, my efforts to label the bits of nature I come across.  Come to think of it, I guess that is a lot to know about me.  I reckon these things account for quite a lot of my day so yes perhaps I am 'known' by following my blog, come to think of it.
I had thought of a blog as a bit like the reference to only tell about 10% of your life with a whopping 90% still hidden.  But it seems really my life is a bit of an open book and perhaps this equation for me should be reversed.
In my blog, I prefer to talk about myself mostly with the odd reference to Hubby.  I have reassured the people around me that I won't write about anything that refers to them without checking with them first.
 Blogs can share what could be considered highly personal information that's for sure.  Some people have gained a lot of spiritual and mental support by blogging candidly about personal challenges, for instance.  Those bloggers are thankful for the avenue that a blog provides and grateful for the feedback such disclosure can elicit. I say good for them if it helps them get through.
It is an interesting thought though, in this age of personal sharing and over sharing, what is too much.  On Facebook, some of my friends share their daily movements, spats with each other, romantic encounters, political persuasions, religious beliefs, illnesses; all varying degrees of  personal information posted for their friends to follow; sometimes something will be TMI in my opinion.
 What is too much information to have "out there"; who really cares anymore anyway; I guess it's whatever your own comfort zone will allow.         

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Snowflakes On Felt

My embroidered felt ornaments have widened to include more themes.  Besides the birds and snowmen, I have worked out a design for a simple snowflake. This took longer to figure out than you would think.  I remember well years ago learning how to fold white paper and make little cuts through the layers, then unfold, and voila, a snowflake.
 I tried that at first as a template but realized quickly that you make too many turns and openings that way.  You might be able to use such a design on fabric but the felt was too thick and stiff.  I saw a video on Youtube where someone was showing children how to draw a snowflake by starting with drawing straight lines crisscrossing.  That video and  a bit more experimenting led me me to this design.  I like how colourful they are but I'm still unsure about the spokes on the ends.  I see bird's feet when I look at them.
I'm thinking about decorating them with a few small beads and maybe then they will be more snow like. 

Monday 27 October 2014

Nature: Good as Gold

Along our trail

          "The year was in its yellowing time, and the face of Nature a study in old gold."

 I was watching an episode of The Nature of Things with David Suzuki and one section of the show tweaked my interest.  It talked about studies at the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine that are proving time spent in the outdoors, what they term 'forest bathing', is medicinally good for your body.
 It seems a little strange that we would have to be told this.  I think of the tuberculosis patients fifty years ago who were sent to the country side and made to spend a portion of each day outside in the fresh air as part of their treatment.  I hadn't known that fresh air had so fallen out of favour as a good thing that now we need studies and such to prove its usefulness as a tonic.  But I guess I can see why when I think of how the urban areas have grown and how little time people and children today are really spending out doors.  With such busy lives, it is mostly a run from the house to the car for many.
Anyway, the work in Japan proves scientifically that spending as little as ten minutes a day in a nature setting can lower your cortisol levels and help boost the all important immune system.
This is good news for us country folk.  I spend time every day outside usually walking around the property, sometimes just meandering with my camera, but often  trying to get a little exercise in.
Now if only it would help with insomnia.

Sunday 26 October 2014

My Blueberry Pie (With Thanks to Crisco)

"Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? "
 If you're old like me you can remember this song.

I've been using the same recipe for pastry as long as I can remember.  It calls for Crisco shortening and I have tried other lards at times but never had the success that I have with Crisco.  I think this recipe was found on the Crisco tub originally, come to think of it.  I used to joke that I could do a commercial for them, that's how faithful to this product over many decades I have been. I have also tried variations for pastry, recipes that call for sugar, or milk, or combinations of butter and lard, but always feel this one works out best for me.  I think pastry is a very personal thing for each baker and you learn yourself what gives you the best results.

Once this mixture is all in the bowl together, I do try to handle the dough as little as possible; that's about the only secret I have to tell you.  There has to be enough liquid to hold the dough together without having to work or knead it and that can be a little tricky.  I use a large egg always and don't skimp on the water which should be very cold, by the way.

I always use a knife to cut this big ball of dough into two balls, lightly wrap each and pop in the freezer while I prepare the berries.

Yesterday it was a blueberry pie so here is what I mixed for that:

4 cups of blueberries, 1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar(depending on how sweet the berries), 2 tbsp. flour, 1/4 tsp. salt; I combined the sugar, flour and salt and mixed it into the berries.

Again I try not to handle the dough too much and get it rolled and onto the plate as quick as I can.  This is a double crust pie so the berries are topped by another layer of dough just like this one.  I mixed half an egg and brushed it over the whole of the pie top.
It was  baked in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, the temperature lowered to 325 degrees and baked  for another 20 minutes or so.

I don't think I extended the dough to the edge of the plate like I should have; nothing is ever perfect with me!  Hubby had a big piece last night and pronounced it good, so I guess the proof is in the eating. 

Saturday 25 October 2014

Gail Marsh's Early 20th Century Embroidery Techniques

I have borrowed this book from the library several times.  It is written by Gail Marsh, who has been a design consultant for Marks and Spencer, and has published several books in the field of embroidery.  Titled Early 20th Century Embroidery Techniques, this particular book highlights the work of  a dozen or so embroiderers who were prevalent in the field from around 1900 to 1939.  It is 192 pages long and features over 330 photos so it is sure to be pleasing visually.  Included is a brief biography of each woman, followed by a discussion of their preferred methods, techniques, materials, etc. and photos of finished works. 

I was struck by how passionate these women were about their embroidery and how so many of them did truly view it as an art. The amount of work that would be devoted to even things that would be well worn such as tea cosies was surprising.  Sometimes the stitching on such items would be just exquisite. 
This is a highly readable book and the photos are lovely; the items shown provide inspiration and are well worth examining. 
One little jarring note was that some of these women were snobbish about embroidery and eschewed the kind of work many women would have been producing at the time and in fact, still do; you know using the iron-on transfers where you fill in with straight stitch or back stitch.
Other than that, this book is useful and inspirational.  It is available to buy from the Book Depository for around $23 with worldwide free shipping.  

Friday 24 October 2014

Whirlwind of Grackles

For a moment I thought I was in Hitchcock's The Birds, or some Hollywood Halloween B movie.  First there was this din, a loud racket of birds chattering that drowned out the sound of the t.v.  Then the swooping began and in the living room window I caught sight of hundreds of birds all falling to the ground on the front lawn.

I thought they looked like starlings or bronze headed cowbirds, but no, they were the common grackles but in larger numbers in one group than I had ever witnessed before.  I could not get a good panoramic view for you but there must have been several hundred or more in this flock.  I understand they, like many birds at this time of year, are swarming preparing for the trip south.  Within minutes, they were all gone, every last one.  I worried they might hang around with the feeder there full and the bird bath which they immediately discovered and took turns using, but no, within mere minutes off they flew like they were caught up in a pure whirlwind.  A Halloween sight for sure.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Where My Treasure Lies

Where your treasure lies, there does your heart lie also.
                                                 The Bible

This is one part of a quote from the Bible and I think the intention is actually a bit of a warning.  It is telling people to be very careful of what you treasure and in the expanded version it explains how material things will all come to naught in the end. Therefore your treasure should be values, morals and belief in God for that is the way to a fulfilled life and especially eternal life.
Lots of sayings mean the same thing regarding the material things of life...
you can't take it with you,
 you don't see a hearse pulling a u-haul,
there are no pockets in the shroud, and so on.

But I like this saying bare boned without the mention of moths or rust or destruction.  It makes me think about what is my treasure...Hubby, my children, grandchildren, my family all need no mention in such a list; they are givens. So what else...
 my eyesight and fingers so I can still read and stitch,
 my appetite for good food,
 the companionship of  dogs,
 the enjoyment I'm finding in all nature...
These are the things that consume me these days, that I give my hours and days to so they must be my treasure.   And  I would  hope to goodness that at my age I know where my treasure lies.
Where does your treasure lie?

and just for a little smile

"I love money.  I love everything about it.  I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks.  Got a fur sink.  An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater.  And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff too."
                                                              Steve Martin

Wednesday 22 October 2014

A Wonderful 'Read'

This is one of those books I was able to read quickly while enjoying every minute.   Titled Caught and written by Lisa Moore, it lives up to the standard that she has set for all her books.  Lisa has won an astonishing number of awards for the three books she has published so far and deservedly so. 
This book is action packed and very readable, but don't be fooled by that;  there is real literature here.
The story follows a likeable criminal who escapes from prison to undertake a last great heist.  I love heist books and movies and this one is also a very good tale.  But that is not what makes this book such a good one.  Lisa has written such a captivating main character that we relate to him and cheer him on; she makes us want him to win, criminal or not.  There is such wonderful use of language in this book, lots of examples of perfect phrases, and many insightful thoughts; it made me slow down and reread to take them all in. 
Caught has been called a literary adventure.  It has received lots of kudos already from many quarters of the book reviewing world.  All worth it, in my opinion.  I just heard that it is going to be adapted for CBC television; I will be watching for it. 

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Middle-of-the-Night Gloom and a Little Ekhart Tolle

Last night was one of those nights for me, which happen every now and again.  I woke up at 3:47 and couldn't get back to sleep.  My mind was restless and roved over familiar, joyless territory. Nothing happy or heart warming or even thinking about recent good news could dispel the mood.  I seemed compelled to think of each family member and imagine all the worst case scenarios or calamities that could befall them. For good measure last night, I added fears about ebola and Isis to the mix.  Yikes!
 I worked at getting through it though.  I practiced my deep breathing and tried several relaxation techniques; finally I gave up on it and  turned on my light and after word reading for a couple of pages, managed to lose myself in a book. 
I think this latest middle-of-the-night gloom was prompted by concern for my parents who are elderly now and facing the inevitable health situations.  It has been a sad journey to watch the changes, changes I don't think I ever really thought would happen.  These are two people who never smoked, drank or ate anything but good food.  They both believed in keeping a good body weight and worked successfully at it all their lives.   Maybe because of this attitude (which has greatly influenced me), I thought they would always be with me.  They would somehow beat the odds and live forever or at least as long as I live because selfishly I don't want to live without them
 When I opened my mail box this morning, coincidentally there was a link from to her interview with Ekhart Tolle where he speaks to the topic What Really Happens After We Die.  I watched the clip, which is short, and felt a little better.  Perhaps you can check it out if you are in the mood for a little spiritual sustenance this morning.   

Monday 20 October 2014

Wrinkled Reflection and More Embroidered Birds

Hubby has one of those faces that just can't hold any more wrinkles.  The way he tells it he woke up one morning and there they were.  Being ginger fading to blond meant the sun was always an enemy and these days he can't venture out without sunscreen.  But that is to ward off skin cancer and doesn't do anything for wrinkles. Sometimes he can't reconcile the present day 'man in the mirror' with the one who used to look back at him.  Not that he complains as such; it is all part of growing older and he well knows the truth of the old saying,' thank goodness I'm aging; if not I'd be dead.'

 My fingers have been busily stitching.  Here are some of the birds I've been sewing.  Such a simple pattern and lots of opportunities to embellish each in a unique way.  I can see now that no two I make will be alike.  I don't know what that says about me, that I just can't seem to follow along with a pattern.  I'd gain in speed that way and have more to show for my time.  But maybe it would not be as interesting to me.   

Sunday 19 October 2014

Orchid: Not Killed Yet

I am so pleased to report that I have not killed the orchid Hubby gave me last Valentine's Day.  I was afraid that I would and I very nearly did.  After a beautiful blooming period, it seemed to lapse into some kind of withering state that almost ended its existence.  I didn't know what to do but everything I read seemed to indicate the degree of light might have something to do with its slow demise.  So I moved it from the bedroom to the living room and what do you know, it went right back to producing buds which are now opening in turn and providing a beautiful little show again.  I have not given it any fertilizer and it is still just sipping daintily on its requisite three ice cubes a week. 

Here it is in the big bow window which provides lots of light but not much in the way of direct sunlight.  Beside it I have

a small sprig of coleus.  Daughter had a large coleus on her front step for the summer months two years ago and this is a remnant of that.  I am coaxing it along and would love for it to grow into a form of the beautiful plant it came from.  Beside it is something that just sprang up and I think it is some kind of weed.
The gardening focus has switched now to indoor plants; everything with its season.

Saturday 18 October 2014

My Exercise Playlist

 At the risk of really dating myself (come to think of it I think that ship has sailed), the above is part of my exercise playlist.

 My little exercise session I do each day (or more rightfully try to do each day) is very important to me.  I don't like exercising but I do like the way I feel afterwards.  I do believe it gives me energy and my body can move a little easier without having to moan and groan. 
I have discovered that music really helps with the exercising and has become essential for me.  I don't think I could really do it without the music.  Sometimes it spurs me on till the end of a song or to hear just one more.  Every little bit helps.

Friday 17 October 2014

Visiting "Unraveled"

The last two blocks of the redworked birds.  I just loved this project so much and it was such an easy, portable one too.  If only all stitching projects could be like that.
The other day I was in a very special yarn shop, Unraveled, in Merrickville, Ontario.  This shop  takes working with wool to a whole new level.  It carries a stock of wool carders and looms which I had never seen before.  I was fascinated. These were lovely looking, wooden and hand made.  They  carry in store all sorts of tools, just about everything the serious wool fibre artist and knitter could ever want or need.
 The wool section itself, somewhat cordoned and occupying floor to ceiling shelves, was simply out of this world.  I am not a great knitter but I do love the look and feel of yarn.  I think I mentioned before about coming across a soft, mohair type yarn at Michael's and giving it a good fingering.  Well, that would not do in this store because there was a sign expressly asking that you not finger or touch the wool.  So many of the wools are delicate, I suppose.  There were merinos, British wools, Irish wools, mohairs, cashmeres, silks; it just went on and on and so many beautiful colours and shades, I was drooling.  I wouldn't know where to start to actually choose from such a selection.  If I ever have a special project, I know where I will go to get the wool.  This shop has a website which will give you a little idea of what they are all about. 
What a treat to visit such a store.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Buttermilk Biscuits For a Rainy Day

Buttermilk biscuits baking, and yes I know, my oven needs cleaning...

I love scones, baking powder biscuits, raisin buns, whatever the name for them, I love them.  I usually split them and eat them with a little butter and whatever jam is in the house, with a pot of tea near at hand.  I don't indulge often, but when I do I would rather this than any cookie or square.  I grew up with two grandmothers and a mother making biscuits so I guess it is a form of comfort food for me. As I know it is for many, many people...
There are countless recipes for biscuits and it is interesting to see what gets included sometimes...coconut, dried fruit, cheese or bacon bits because that's another thing so good about biscuits.  They can be sweet or savoury depending on your mood or purpose.  One of the local coffee shops here makes them with chives and bits of ham for a savoury choice or with chopped apple and toffee bits for a sweet option.  Both yummy.
Anyway, here is my recipe for buttermilk biscuits which comes from a very old issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

Buttermilk Biscuits

3 cups flour                                 3/4 (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar                                 1 cup buttermilk
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Oven at 425 degrees.  Whisk dry ingredients, being sure not to confuse the amounts of baking powder and baking soda which I did once...not a good result!  Using pastry cutter or fingers, rub in butter till consistency of coarse meal.  Add buttermilk and mix.  I try not to overmix it.  I used a large cutter and made 10 biscuits placed on a greased pan and baked for approximately 15 minutes.  I waited till I could see the tops getting a little brown before removing them.

Growing up my mother never bought buttermilk; she would just sour a cup of milk with a teaspoon or so of vinegar, and that seemed to work just fine.  It would have been whole milk that she used; come to think of it, perhaps another reason why everything she made tasted so good.  These days I use mostly skim or almond which definitely would not be as rich tasting in the final product.

I did not brush the tops with egg or milk but I think they look okay anyway.  Notice the one on the right that is totally irregular; I call that the cook's and it is made of the last bits of dough.  Beside it is a bowl of pancake mix.  Since I had the buttermilk I thought I would use it up and put together a batch of pancakes. 

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Mouse Solution...Maybe

Recently I wrote about the conundrum of being an animal lover and yet not liking the idea of mice crawling around my pots and pans.  I had been using the old Victory mouse traps with some success which meant loss of mice life from time to time.  While at Princess Auto lately I looked at all the various mouse traps they offered and decided to try this one for a change.  It is a simple catch and release type and seems like a humane option, a solution to my dilemma, if it worked.  I am happy to report that it has been working. I baited it with a cookie covered in peanut butter and so far one mouse has crawled into the contraption and then been unable to get out.  I guess it must be something like a lobster trap which works on a similar principle.  Hubby has released the mouse far away from the house across the road and we hope it means it won't be trespassing our property again.  But who knows.  Fingers crossed.

Murphy lounging on the guest bed and eyeing me; humouring me while I take her picture.  It is raining today and she is missing her walk; if she could talk she would be begging to go anyway. Maybe later.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Multiplying Mice, But Oh So Cute

Another mouse in a trap under the kitchen sink this morning.  With the overnight temperatures dropping, this is the season when they venture inside for warmth.  They are turning up in lots of odd little places this year.  I put my foot into my rubber boot the other morning and felt something; I'd been warned to check boots left in the garage because snakes had been surprised in them before, but forgot that warning.  When I dumped out the boot, it contained the familiar chewed up paper towel and lots of sunflower seed shells; it had housed a mouse at some point during the summer.  I have a little mouse caught on camera.  I was refilling the front bird feeder when this little guy caught my eye in the grass...

 It was a tiny mouse  chewing away unconcerned that I was standing above him.

A little better picture of him. Enough that I could see he doesn't look like the mice I have caught in the kitchen.  They are usually white with brown colouring.  This little guy is a very soft shade of gray.

Eventually he sensed my presence and decided to leave, here scrambling across the bottom of the birch tree.  I got a good look at his ears and have been using this photo to make a couple of sketches for possible embroidery use.  Also I was amazed by how the birch looked up close in this photo; beautiful.

Now thinking he was completely hidden I suppose.

I was concerned for him because he didn't seem to be as aware of a possible predator as he should have been.  He eventually disappeared into a hole between the concrete steps and the house, a hole I've seen a chipmunk use.  If they were to meet, I wonder what would happen.
Hubby once again pointed out my conflict of interest in all of this, to be concerned about a mouse's well being while putting down traps in the kitchen.  Yes, I guess it is complicated at that.

Monday 13 October 2014

What We Can Be Truly Thankful For

 The second Monday of October is the Canadian day to celebrate Thanksgiving. I have been trying to think of what to write for this Thanksgiving.  I could write the usual litany of things I am thankful, shelter and food of course, being the obvious of all the big and small blessings I have in my life.  But I thought I would show you something else that I am thankful for and that is our safety and survival as a nation from the tyranny of Hitler.  Yes, I know it is a dark and gloomy topic and one that affected our family in a personal way in that my grandfather died in that war.  But there are always lessons we need not so much to be told but to be reminded of ....
 I and many others have always been curious about how much the ordinary citizens of Germany knew of the Holocaust during the war years.  This book, that I read recently, takes a look at this question and attempts an answer in novel form.

  I've been trying to think if I have read a novel before that is written from the point of view of people who are not Jewish and living in Nazi Germany.  I don't think so; therefore this is a first for me.
 I have been giving a lot of thought to this novel, Motherland, by Maria Hummel.  It was carefully well researched and, while dealing with horrible subject matter,  is wonderfully written.  Much of the story is from the point of view of Liesl, a young wife who suddenly has sole charge of three young children throughout the war years in Nazi Germany.  This family is presented as non political and we in fact, get the idea that they are not impressed with Hitler.
We follow Liesl's journey as she tries to be a good mother, keep her family fed and clothed all the while the world around her is literally coming apart at the seams.  Her paranoia, fears, and terror slowly and steadily mount as the story unfolds.  She has to cope with so much, the death of a child, fear for her husband's safety, the slow starvation that she and her children are enduring as the war drags on. Interwoven into all this is the infighting and fear of  neighbours; even old friends become suspicious and might even be dangerous. Trust disappears completely and with no one she can rely on, Liesl is alone and terrified, coping as best she can. Overriding all the domestic troubles is the constant threat of the party and in fact, anyone in authority.
When at the end of  the book, the American soldier, who Liesl is also terrified of, is interviewing her and asks what did she know (he's implying the Holocaust).  Liesl,  now in a daze, starved and grief-stricken, answers, I know nothing.  At this point I, the reader, has taken this horrible journey with her and think when she says this that it may be true. I hope against hope it is true.  I want it to be true.
 I think this was a very good author to make me feel like that. 

Sunday 12 October 2014

Alice Walker's Grace

It is getting on late in the year.

 Funny that because I still think of it as a new year, this 2014.  It seems I  am just becoming accustomed to one year's number, when another is here.  Just as each week starts and before I know it, it is the weekend again.
 Trying to make the most of the time each day affords, I guess, is the goal, now that the work commitments are over.  Though it all may seem mundane, I find myself loving my bit of babysitting, reading, writing, cooking, stitching, walking, and so on.

 I came across this poem by Alice Walker and found the words meaningful to me, especially for this stage of life.

                          Gives me a day
                          Too beautiful
                           I had thought
                          To stay indoors
                           &  yet
                           Washing my dishes
                           My shelves
                           Throwing out
                           The wilted
                           Shrunken garlic
                            I discover
                           I am happy
                           To be inside looking out.
                           This, I think,
                           Is wealth.
                           Just this choosing
                           Of how
                           A beautiful day
                           Is spent.

Perhaps the joy in all the simple things is yours as well. 

Saturday 11 October 2014

Me, the Eccentric

I will admit to a narrow but very deep seam of eccentricity in my make-up.  My love of tights, which I've worn all my life, headbands ( which you either wear or you don't, no in-between I've discovered), blouses tucked into plaid skirts, cardigans, over the shoulder purses, my need to use only certain pens that only write with black ink, my love of anything quaint,  the list goes on.  But mostly I think it comes through in the way I pepper my speech with old sayings or odd bits of poetry or some lyric from a song. These references are very much with me and it seems I can't stop myself from saying them out loud, even when I know it will make me sound nerdy or sad.  
Hubby adds to this list the way I will drone (my word not his) on about some oddball topic like creatures that metamorphasize or why insects will eventually rule the planet or what it was like for Jackie, Rosalyn, or Nancy in the White House, and especially anything to do with health matters.  I seem to be especially passionate about sharing my knowledge about anything to do with medicine, he says. 
Yes, it seems I could give a short speech on many topics, most of them off-the-wall ones with a very limited interested audience. Poor hubby, he gets to be my audience most of the time, willing or not.  But then he is quite deaf and does not wear his hearing aids around the house so maybe that's another thing that makes us a good match. 
 This tree was brilliant  yellow while everything else was still very green. It stood out so beautifully and I wish I could have photographed it to show that....

Friday 10 October 2014

Fairy Rings and Fungi

I know nothing about mushrooms.  Well, I do know the ones presented to me on trays in the supermarket and I have broadened my slim knowledge to include in my diet the large portebellos  from time to time.  So many different kinds of mushrooms have sprouted seemingly overnight around the property that I couldn't help notice and wonder about them.  After taking a few photos but not picking any samples, I am still at sea about their names.  I found a book in the hall bookcase called Mushrooms of North America by Orson K. Miller, Jr.  and attempted to pin names but found it very complicated.  This book's fly leaf, by the way, contains a recommendation from the New York Times that actually includes this sentence "I can't find any fault with it at all" which seems an odd choice of words to get people to buy the book.

I was able (I think) to rightfully name this one, mostly because it had formed a characteristic fairy ring under the old pine tree.  It is a molybite and common and poisonous.  I know now why Murphy hasn't eaten it when she seems to nibble on most things.

This one was easier to spot because at first I thought I had found one of the dog's balls we play with each day.  We use the hard white balls used for lacrosse because it is the only ball we found that Rex's teeth can't penetrate and destroy.

A close up of Calvatia Gigantea which my book says is actually a delicious edible.  I am very tempted to try it.  There were three of them near each other, enough for a meal, I'm thinking.
The book, like most written material about mushrooms, contains warnings about eating any mushroom you are unsure of.  There is a possibility that even a small amount of certain ones will cause visual hallucinations (think  LSD).  I have never had such an experience.  I wonder what it would be like; what form would my hallucinations take.  I'm not afraid of spiders.

This small foray into the mushroom world makes me appreciate them and understand better why people would want to make them their field of study.
 Their simplicity of form belies the power they contain.

Thursday 9 October 2014

'On the Water'

I have always loved boats and being on the water.  Perhaps it is because I am from a group of people who made their living on the sea.  Sir Winston Churchill once called Newfoundlanders the best small boatsmen in the world.  So maybe I come by my love of boats naturally.  Any chance to get a boat ride is one I will gladly take.
 Recently, while squiring our visitor around Ottawa, we did the boat ride where you are taken up the Ottawa River.  This is one of the tourist outings offered here in the capital that is well worth the money as you are on the water for about an hour and half all told.  It is true everything looks different from the river view.  Of the Parliament Buildings, you get a good view of the library which is a wonderful piece of architecture in and of itself.  You get to see the far side of the many embassy homes that have estates backing on the river.  These are really mansions, some very modernistic and elaborate in design and I imagine the river views from those windows would be spectacular.
 As well you get a good look at the back side of 24 Sussex Drive which is the home of the Canadian Prime Minister.  That particular house looks more like an English country manor with a number of dormer windows and small peaked roofs.  I imagine many tiny rooms under the eaves probably built and intended for the live in maids who in the old days would have kept the place ship shape.  Nowadays I don't think any help lives in.  What was once the gardener's home which is a modest but large house quite nearby, has had to be taken over for security details, the most ever assigned to a prime minister.  What a sad sign of our times that is. 
I kept an eye out for animals or birds.  A few sea gulls but nothing else spotted on the journey.  Not long into the trip and as we chugged further downstream, the wind increased and the warm day became quite cool.  I was happy to have my melton jacket and scarf as I didn't want to go inside and miss out on a minute of the experience.
We passed under several bridges that connect Ottawa to Quebec.  At one point several people on the boat were taking pictures of the bridge just as several people on the bridge were taking photos of us.  Incidentally, among the tourists was a group of Tibetan monks all decked out in flamboyant orange tunics that also included leggings; I was interested to see that even their tote bags were made of the same orange material so they matched head to toe.  They all had cameras and were taking many photos of everything they saw.  At one point, one of them took a photo of us; I can imagine our faces being looked at in some faraway country into the future.  How strange.
Heading back inland I was sorry the trip was ending.  Walking back up the drive to the street,  we felt a little uncoordinated; yes, we definitely knew we'd been 'on the water'. 

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Hosting a Visitor

If it weren't for overnight visitors, certain parts of the house would never get a  good cleaning.  I'm thinking of the back bedroom that houses my elliptical trainer, various craft boxes, several overstuffed bookcases,the ironing board, and other varied household items that have to be housed on this floor.  It also has a double bed for visitors and sometimes one of the dogs enjoys a daytime nap there. It is a shame this room is not used more for people as it has a beautiful large almost floor to ceiling window plus a smaller very long side window with the up shot being you can lie in the bed and have a lovely view of woods and trees from both windows.
Recently we hosted a young family member from England for almost a week and he enjoyed the room very much.  Of course I had my work cut out for me clearing it out beforehand and making a path from the bed to the door for him.  Being fresh from university or uni as he called it, he was easy to please in both the accommodation and food departments which made my job an enjoyable one. 
The days that he was here became a busy time for us as we wanted to show him the best of Ottawa and he came with his own list of things he wanted to do as well.  There was an outing every day and some days a second one.
It was a treat to return to the Parliament Buildings, in particular.  Viewing the Senate hall gave me mixed emotions; it is very stately and beautiful with all the royal reds and the throne for the Queen.  It made me angry to think that people would abuse the privilege of  being a Canadian Senator which some have done in recent years.  The audacity, the greed of it all is such a sad thing. I don't know why, but I always think people will be better behaved and feel disappointed when they don't measure up.   I wonder how they cope after being 'found out';  I know I beat myself up enough over my shortcomings which I suppose are quite miniscule in comparison.  What is the quality of their sleep, I wonder. 

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Plant It and They Will Come

There are so many of these familiar little guys around this year, we both wondered what was going on. We usually see a couple each fall in the garage around the wood pile but this year they seem to be everywhere.  This Woolly Bear caterpillar is usually a favourite of all the caterpillars we get to see up close; I guess it is its fuzzy look and cozy name that helps.  Yes, cuteness counts even in the insect world.  I hate how they seem to have this spell of wandering before bedding down to hibernate for the winter.  I often see them trying to cross the road and really what are the chances they will make it.
I think I've figured out why we seem to have more of these this year.  I just read that they enjoy munching sunflower plants and this is the first year we grew a stand of sunflowers along the driveway fence. Not such a mystery after all.

 This little guy is the Milkweed Tiger Moth in caterpillar form and here it is sitting on a milkweed leaf.  It seems milkweed is host to many caterpillars not just the beautiful Monarchs.  Unlike the beauty of the Monarch though, this fellow will become a very drab, dark gray moth as an adult.  I don't know a lot about them but I know he will soon spin a cocoon of silk and emerge in the spring, unlike the Woolly Bear who hibernates all winter and then spins a cocoon in the spring. 
It seems every time I walk  around the property, nature has something else to show me.  I just love that about living here.

Monday 6 October 2014

Summer's Signposts Slipping Past

All the signposts of summer have slipped past, the blooms, the bees, many of the birds, the heat of the sun, all so quickly replaced by autumn and its hallmarks...
Most notably the trees which are starting to show these lovely yellows and oranges.

 The Trees to the Left of the House


A close up of the maple leaves trailing along the path today...a little pale sun seemed to illuminate them.  There is an abundance of maple trees on this property, all turning colours and beginning to drop leaves.
At the little roadside market stands, trolleys of pumpkins have arrived.  I just can't help it but they make me feel cheerier; I love pumpkins. We are ankle deep in leaves the minute we step off the driveway.  And on our woods trail, it looks like this... 

                                       A gorgeous carpet, albeit, a noisy, crinkly, crunchy one.

Study nature, love nature,
Stay close to nature.
It will never fail you.

          Frank Lloyd Wright

Even when it gives you an allergic reaction, smile.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Resting My Head and More Embroidered Ornaments

I woke early this morning with a headache, a very rare occurance for me.  My immediate thought was brain tumour and that for two reasons.  I know they start with a pain out of nowhere just out of the blue, as it were, and I know they are more common  in people who live ( or  in my case) have lived in far northern regions of the world.  So I qualified, but no, an advil later and I am feeling okay though there is still a little inkling of ache on the side of my head.  Hubby failed to take this seriously at all and just smiled one of his very indulgent type older man smiles.
I had a thought that maybe it has to do with the allergy thing I mentioned before.  I was up on the trail for quite a while late afternoon yesterday looking about and taking photos.  There was a light rain at times and lots of dank, woodsy smells.  I came home with cold fingers and damp toes.  Perhaps I should think about not venturing into the woods till the season is done changing. But I would hate having to do that. So...
On the up side, this has given me an excuse to lounge around in fleece wear, binge watch the Duggars,  and think about leftovers for supper.  I had bought buttermilk to make a batch of scones today but I will wait and see how I am feeling later on. 
Meanwhile, my little production of felt ornaments continues.  I am having so much fun with them because you can let your imagination go and experiment with the stitches and embellishments.  I, who always have trouble adhering totally to any pattern, can be as creative as I want with these little works.

Once I'd sorted out needles, embroidering on felt is no problem and in fact, I am enjoying that part of the project. I am stitching in the afternoons to take advantage of the light, and cutting the patterns in the evenings.  So far, I've got myself into a good routine with this.  Fingers crossed my enthusiasm won't diminish before I have used up my supply of felt. 

Saturday 4 October 2014

The Usefulness of Rainy Days

My two scamps here at the patio door.  They are happy enough outside till they hear me banging around pans in the kitchen, then they want back in.  This is prompted by pure greed as they are after any thing that I might drop on the floor.  And they now seem to know that when I'm in the kitchen there is bound to be something dropping their way.  The only food item they are not too fussy about is lettuce; just about anything else will be gobbled up.

                             The rainy day view from my living room window. 

Rainy days have their usefulness too as they provide great excuses to stay inside and make some real headway on stitching.  Today I got a stew on the go in the slow cooker first thing, did a quick vacuum, fed the fish, fed hubby, changed the bed, then sat and stitched.  I didn't have to feel guilty about missing out on great temperatures or sunshine outside.  Both of which are probably coming to an end soon so have to be savoured.

Friday 3 October 2014

A Little Natural Medicine For What Ails Me

I've been having the identical reaction to something awakening in the woods and remembered this post with a mixture that seemed to help.  Thought I'd repost this one for all to see.

I've been nursing an allergic reaction to something I smelled in the woods one day.  After a long tramp about, I felt a little congested and then suffered violent sneezing.  I've been going through a pattern of runny nose alternating with congestion for a week now but thankfully it has not developed into anything else.  I'm always afraid of a sinus infection which I've had to endure a couple of times and they are not pleasant. I try never to take any over the counter drugs especially not for this which is more of a nuisance than anything else.  

 Here is what I've been sipping and I do think it is helping:-
                                into a large mug of hot water, I mix together

                                2 tsp. honey
                                2 tbsp. vinegar
                                2 tbsp. lemon juice
                                a dash of cinnamon

And here is what I think gave me my reaction:

A form of milkweed and pretty to look at as the large pod opens and the fluffy white seeds begin to disperse. Lots and lots of this white fluff was blowing all around the day I was out and about.  Of course, I have no real way of knowing it is this stuff that I reacted to because the woods are full of smells this time of year.

The wonderful nest builder, the robin in redwork

Thursday 2 October 2014

Bird Bath

The front yard bird bath got a lot of use this summer.  At times it was comical to see how many birds of different kinds would be politely lined up wanting to take a dip.  I took many photos but none of them worked; just as I would click a bird would fly off or in and spoil the shot.  The placid morning doves are easy to photograph, though.  I notice the blue jays are still using it for a drink or two. I loved watching them 'have a bath' and kept one pair of binoculars in the living room with the settings permanently trained on the bird bath just for that purpose.  For me, it meant the daily water changings well worth the effort.    

Our Northern Flicker was spotted in the front yard off and on all summer.  And I was pleased to see it too use the bird bath to get a drink several times.  It was much too quick to get a photo though.  How do I know it is the same bird?  I took photos at the start of the season and when I look back, the markings appear identical so I like to think  he is the same one and therefore, ours. 

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Beautiful Bluejays

Bluejays always attract a lot of attention because of their most beautiful blue colour and distinctive markings.  They also are one of the noisiest birds I have around here.  I've watched how they approach the feeder, always a number of them together and they arrive in a commotion of flurry and noise.  The other birds scatter but don't stay away long and in fact, quickly return and comfortably continue pecking around each other on the ground.

To prove that point, here you can see the bluejay and a scavenging chipmunk not bothering each other.  I was a little surprised to see a mourning dove give a small rush at a bluejay one morning and even more surprised to see the bluejay leave.
The bluejay is another monogamous bird and I like how the males not only help to build the nest, but stay to feed the female while she incubates the eggs.
I'm not sure about their migration; we seem to have them around here all winter but in fewer numbers.  I do know they love sunflower seeds; they can clean out a feeder in no time. 

Because bluejays love acorns, they are credited with helping to spread oak trees around the world after the last ice age; a wonderful fact about them.