Friday, February 16, 2018

February Heart Stuff: Five On Friday

Photo: Brigitte Tohm |

Happy Valentine's Day to you! ♥ I know the actual date has come and gone, but perhaps there are more of us who like to celebrate it all month long. Valentine's Day has often focused on it being an occasion just for sweethearts, but surely love is shared by a much larger pocket of people than just couples or lovers. So, today I'm celebrating love in all its aspects... as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, cousins, aunties and uncles, best friends, college friends, casual friends, colleagues, not to mention our furry family friends, our kitties and doggies, who add so much love to our world.

Even though Amy from Love Made My Home no longer hosts Five on Fridays, I still like to use this format as a way to gather my moments and share some of them with you. Here, then, are my Friday five for today:


Around the house... Things have been piling up in the corners again. Such a slow process one hardly notices it until it's a bit of a mess. More than a couple of years ago now, I did a complete detailing of our house. Top to bottom. It took several weeks of persistent working away at cleaning out every drawer, cupboard, dresser, shelf, and closet in every room, including the basement and storage area. Sorting, putting things back where they belonged, discarding junk, and giving away stuff that was still good. When I was finished, every single thing had a home, and with that came such a freeing and satisfying feeling. I knew where everything belonged, and if it wasn't there, I now knew there was no chance it might be lurking anywhere else.

I'm proud to say, it stayed that way for a long time. I kept on top of myself to put things away and to keep the clutter down to zero. As I say, it stayed that way for months, but then I began to notice a gradual, almost imperceptible, slipping back into not staying on top of things on a daily basis. The top of my dresser, which I carefully cleared each evening of dropped earrings, buttons, receipts heading for the file or garbage, was displaying a small assorted pile of stuff on the side. Looking around, I realized my spare bedroom had a similar thing going on atop the bed and dresser, a sure sign that things were starting to unravel elsewhere in my house.

I must admit, I have a continual tug-o-war between my two selves: one side of me loves holding onto memorabilia and trinkets and lots of paper ... and the other side is a minimalist who yearns to be free from the claptrap and clutter and my 'need' for so many material possessions. Maybe ancestry experts would find my DNA roots are lodged in the Victorian era (they certainly were masters at clutter) as well as the Japanese culture (true masters at clean, clear spaces). For me, the challenge is finding a balance that makes both selves reasonably happy (one in her trinket-y clutter and one in her cleared away space).

Some time ago, Susan Branch wrote a post I found enjoyable and inspiring. After her very busy life of writing several books, creating new projects, travelling to see family and going on a several-week book tour, she tells of how her studio ended up as a complete disaster area and of how she was slowly putting it all to rights again. Her story inspired me to begin my own slow but steady process of dealing with the extraneous and making every room in my own house all nice again. Here is Susan's delightfully honest post, just in case you need her inspiration. 


In the kitchen... I have a lovely recipe for Sour Cream Lemon Pie. I found it years ago on a recipe card tucked inside a magazine long tossed out. I don't make it often, although I don't know why not, as it continues to be a hit whenever I do. The lemon filling and the almond flavouring in the whipping cream creates an amazing combination ... causing your mouth to 'zing and sing' as you take that first bite and s-a-v-o-u-r it.

In case you're looking for something wonderful to set before your loved ones this weekend, you might want to give this a try.


1 baked 9-inch pie shell

3/4 cup white sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup light cream
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sour cream

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, cornstarch, flour, lemon peel, lemon juice, and light cream. Bring to boil slowly, whisking constantly. Add butter and cook until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat and cool. Gently stir in sour cream and pour filling into baked pie shell. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.


1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp almond extract
Grated lemon peel
Lemon slices, to garnish, if desired

Whip cream and fold in sugar, sour cream, and almond extract. Spoon over the lemon filling. Sprinkle with grated lemon peel and garnish with lemon slices. Makes 6 to 8 servings

*Alternate 'lighter' version: If you really don't want all that whipped cream, a small dollop on top or on the side works too.


A favourite quote for today... This quote is from a letter written by E.B. White to the children in Troy, Michigan, in which he explains the benefits of visiting a library.

“A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people—people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.”

Another E.B. White saying: “Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.” And at the end of some days, that's just about all you can do, isn't it?

Photo: Josh Felise |

How we first met. Because it's Valentine's Day week, and because many of us love to hear about each other's love stories, I thought you might like to know how my sweetheart and I first met. It's a long time ago now and those sweet, shimmering memories are a little like unwrapping cherished family heirlooms ... which, in truth, is what they are.

Where did you first meet? In a garden. It was late afternoon on a warm, sunny September day. I had gone off to work as usual in the morning, but Jean, my housemate and best friend, really, more my sister, was on her way to begin the Master Gardener's program with the University of Alberta. A friend offered to drive her out to the Devonian Botanic Gardens where the course was being held. The plan was that I would pick her up after work; she would give me a phone call to arrange a ride when her class was done. I waited all afternoon but never heard from her (this was long before texting and cell phones), so I came home from work, all the while wondering about Jean. As I got out of the car, I heard voices in the backyard, and so I opened the garden gate and walked around the corner into our pretty little garden. Jean was showing someone around--a man I'd never met before. It turns out it was a fellow also taking the course, and somewhere in the day, he offered Jean a ride home since he happened to drive past our house to his place.

What did you first notice about him? He was someone I felt comfortable with immediately. His manner was amiable and thoughtful. He had a ready laugh. Because it was such a nice day, maybe he had his shirt sleeves rolled up, something I always loved to see on a man. Now, this might not have been the very first time we met, but I did notice at some point that he was not so tall that I would have to stand on my tiptoes to kiss or hug him (but surely we weren't thinking about that right off the bat... I don't think... no no).

Was it love at first sight? No. As romantic as I used to be, a young woman thinking that falling madly, crazily in love at first sight would be, sigh, oh so romantic, I was by then a woman deep into her 30's and not as prone to thinking 'possible partner' as soon as I met a man. I had grown some sense and realized that falling in love at first sight can make for a lousy way to know if one has met the right person or not (at least for me); it can cloud one's ability to see straight or honestly. You know what they say, love is blind, and all that... 

When did you go on your first date? It was almost a year later. And on our second date, he proposed. There was a whole lot that needed to happen first in between that has a story all of its own. I'm writing it in a memoir that I hope to finish one day not too far down the road, and share with you all.

Perhaps the sweet quote from Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery will give you a clue as to how it unfolded:
"Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; ... perhaps love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, ..."


I first came across this beautiful video on Lorrie's blog Fabric, Paper, Thread. As Lorrie said in her post, the videos by this young woman, Li Ziqi, are like poetry in motion. I couldn't agree more. I feel in a different space when I watch them: a young lady doing lovely work, in a lovely setting, all set to lovely music ... what could be more enchanting.

Sending you my best wishes for a beautiful weekend,
With love and hugs,
x  x

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Clear Off Your Desk And Other Stuff

Source: Arnel Hasanovic | Unsplash 


I woke up the other day finally ready for the New Year. I have to admit the first couple of weeks were a wash. After days of being so busy with Christmas at our house, when it was all over we collapsed in a heap. Slept in. Read books. Watched movies. Drank tea. Put puzzles together. Napped. All the while grazing our way through treats left over from the holidays -- Purdy's chocolates, coconut marshmallow roll, fruitcake, and one partially full supersize bag of Lay's Plain Potato Chips. It's been like couch potato boot camp!

With the arrival of this new year, I did not make any resolutions (a habit now of many years), didn't make any intentions or really think about possible projects. I didn't even think about finding a new inspirational word or wrapping up any thoughts about the old year -- I sort of left its threads hanging in mid-air, much like an abandoned stitching project. I neither felt like looking forward nor backward. But, with the treats eaten and decorations put away at last, I'm getting more eager to get back to normal again.

Although one part of me doesn't want the holiday feeling to end, the other part of me looks forward to picking up my routines again. There's a sort of comfort in it, I think. Leisure and holidays wouldn't be nearly as much fun if we had them every day; it would get boring pretty quick. Most of us eventually want to sink our teeth into projects and to getting jobs done, creating new art or books or developing new inventions, dreaming up new ways to help others or eradicating things like disease and poverty. It's what we're made for.


Earlier this month, on my new daily desk calendar by illustrator/artist Sandra Boynton, she had her fun-loving cartoon bear celebrating "Clear Off Your Desk" day ... whereby he lifted one end of the desk and let it all slide off the top into a heap on the floor. Too bad we couldn't do that, clearing off the extraneous from an expired year and wipe the slate clean, all in one fell swoop. It would be an easy way to start fresh. Instead, here I am going through the accumulated bits and pieces, sorting them in case something important is mixed in with the nonsense. I'm such a paper keeper, even in this digital age.

When I was just a little girl, I remember the days when my mom would clean my bedroom, straightening out the toys, making the bed, and cleaning out the one or two drawers designated for small toys, crayons, and books. Although a little nervous about what she might consider not worth keeping (I was a little magpie for paper treasures even then), when she was finished I still remember the thrill of walking into my tidy and swept clean room. It made playing with my toys and treasures all fun again. I liked the sense of order, the cleanliness, and the now clear space in which to start new colouring projects. To this day I still experience that little throb of joy, except now I have to do the cleaning first myself.


Something else I loved as a girl was getting new books at Christmas. I don't suppose I'm the only one. As the festive season wound down and all the turkey dinners were finally eaten, then we could settle into our Christmas school holidays to play with our new toys, begin new craft projects, and spend hours like Jo March in Little Women, whiling away winter afternoons with our noses in a good book.  

Decades later, not much has changed. I still get excited about receiving books for Christmas, and gift cards from favourite book stores these days are just as thrilling. Here's what I got this year; consider it a little whetting of the appetite in case you still have gift cards to use up...

Creative Thursday
Everyday Inspiration to Grow Your Creative Practice
by Marisa Anne

"be free, be happy, be true--
be creative every day, especially Thursdays!"

"Whether you're just beginning to trust your artistic voice or you've been refining it for years, Marisa Anne is the loving guide and caring mentor you need to help you commit to moving through resistance, stepping outside of your comfort zone and making creativity a regular part of your life." from the back cover

What first caught my eye when I saw this book was the distinctive, childlike artwork of the author. It spoke to the child in me and made me want to play. The book is filled with Marisa's artwork, photography, and inspiring essays about the creative process. What started out as a way to be more creative while working a 9-to-5 job, took her on a journey that changed her life. I found the book inspiring, motivating, and just plain fun.

To Be Where You Are
by Jan Karon

This is Jan Karon's fourteenth novel in her famous Mitford series. The story "weaves together the richly comic and compelling lives of two Kavanagh families, and a cast of characters that readers around the world now love like kin." It's true, these characters really are like family to me. The first book At Home in Mitford was published in 1994. I read it for the first time in 1998 and wondered why it took me so long to find it. I was hooked and have read every book since, most of them several times. Her last book is an enjoyable read which seems to wind up a lot of loose ends, which is how I think a good book, or series, should finish.

The Remarkable Ordinary
How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life
by Frederick Buechner

This well known inspirational author's latest book is based on a series of mostly unpublished lectures, and reveals how to stop, look, and listen to your life. It's definitely a book for pondering and mulling. Here is an excerpt from Frederick Buechner's intro...
"I am haunted now as I never was before by the sense that we all of us have the mark of God's thumb upon us. We have the image of God within us. We have a holy place within us that gets messed up in a million ways. But it's there, and more and more I find myself turning inward toward that and trying to learn how to be quiet. Someone once gave me a book called Creative Silence, and I thought, Oh, that's just what I need.

So I'm writing, I suppose, hoping to get another few steps in that direction, toward turning off the eternal chatter, the endless dialogue that goes on inside most of us ... to stop those words and just to exist somehow in the fullness ... and to let whatever is down in the holy place drift up."

The sun and her flowers
by rupi kaur

This is the author's second collection of poetry. I haven't read her first book, but now I want to find it. For I was very drawn to her poems. This volume is divided into five main chapters and is adorned with simple illustrations by Ms. Kaur. Her writing is poignant and moving. She writes of life as a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming.

In my copy of the book I have pencil-lined a few spots that speak to me. Here is one: "healing is everyday work".

It's true, sometimes we think we should get healed in our bodies or minds or hearts and then all will be well, we hope, forever. But every day we can get bruised or wounded or sick, and so the author's words 'healing is everyday work' is very meaningful to me. I think of the words from the Lord's Prayer, give us this day our daily bread, and I think we ought to pray the same for our wellness, give us this day our daily portion of healing we need today. 

Here is another poem that I starred in the book... something I don't want to forget:
you have so much
but are always hungry for more
stop looking up at everything you don't have
and look around at everything you do


I recently borrowed a copy of Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten from the library. You know, I don't think I ever read his book when it first came out in 1986. I heard all about it but never felt compelled to read it. Funny thing, that is. But, even though I'm late to ride on the swirl of international bestseller fever, I have to say I've thoroughly enjoyed this quarter century classic. To laugh, to ponder, to wonder as he writes his little tales. What I found most refreshing was that feeling I got as I read something that had been written before computers and the Internet. To me, there is a marked difference in mindset and outlook. I felt a little homesick for that time in our lives which seems so very far away now, maybe even lost forever. Yet, when I hear the little ping on my iPhone, I remember I'm also a 21st century girl now. And am happy about it too.

When doldrums hit in the midst of lingering winter grayness and frigid nights, when the news media is filled with dismaying stories about what some people do to other people, what do you do to revive your soul's dismay and distress?

Dear Mr. Robert Fulghum says he listens to Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; it reminds him about the goodness in life in spite of life's chaos and hardships. Beethoven was nearly deaf when he wrote that magnificent piece, and for Fulghum, that piece of music testifies to him that there is something that transcends the hard things in life and trumpets out hope to us and our world.

I thought I would go listen to this piece of music as these thoughts ruminate in my mind. I found a wonderful performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by well known Ricardo Muti on YouTube... you can find it HERE. And, in case you are wondering, the gorgeous Ode to Joy that many of us know and love comes from the Ninth.

* * * * *

And, so there's a glimpse into my life as the new year begins. We started out rather slow but the momentum is gathering, and I look forward to the weeks and months ahead with their promise of possibility. We've got books to write, people to see, places to visit. Maybe you've got kitties to pet and grandbaby cheeks to kiss, and together we can dream of new ventures unfolding as mornings bring us new days filled with mercy and grace. Some of our projects may take all year to finish. But that's okay, it gives us a very good reason to wake up in the morning.

On that note, I'm wishing you
glimpses of heaven in unexpected places
and a very Happy New Year!

With love,

Thursday, December 14, 2017

O Christmas Tree

Lionello Delpiccolo | unsplash

"...freshly cut Christmas trees smelling
of stars and snow and pine resin - inhale deeply
and fill your soul with wintry night...”
~ John Geddes, A Familiar Rain 

Do you ever get a little thrill up your back when you happen to hear the date of your birthday mentioned in a conversation or on the radio? For example, I just have to hear the words April 17th and I feel a zip of joy -- for that date is well sprinkled with happy memories which flood into my consciousness with no prior thought.

I tell you this for that is the same kind of happy thrill I feel when I hear the date December 20th mentioned. Those warm tingly feelings come from childhood for it was often the date Mom gave the okay to bring in the Christmas Tree. I still recall coming home from school just days before December 25th and we'd find a newly cut spruce tree from some woodsy nook propped near the back step. Waiting, like we were, for the big day. And, if we weren't already antsy with excitement, it just made it soar at least twenty notches. We could hardly stand it for excitement. Sometimes I thought the top of my head would blow off; I felt as if I wanted to jump right out of my skin, I could hardly contain the joy.

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.
In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.
~ Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

It's true, when you are five or six or seven, every tree seems thirty feet tall, but in truth, looking at some old family photos, our trees weren't those towering specimens at all. All green and prickly, smelling of pungent spruce resin--I didn't like how it made my fingers stick together when it got on my hands--sometimes it was a little scraggly or sparse on branches, even a little crooked, but in our eyes it was practically perfect.

Around December 20th, Dad would drag the frozen tree into the porch where it would thaw and the snow on its branches could melt. Which meant that probably the next day when we got home from school, it might be sitting in its wooden stand in the corner of the living room where Dad had secured it with clear fishing line to the door jam. Cats and kids were prone to examining tree branches rather closely.

Aaron Burden | unsplash

"You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things:
a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. ~ Maya Angelou

Once it was safely up, we started begging to go find the decoration boxes that were in the upstairs crawl space. There was always the untangling of tree lights -- not a job for the kids, thankfully -- and taking off the box tops with the little cellophane windows. As we got older, we were allowed to put on the delicate glass ornaments, hanging them next to the proud display of the current year's Christmas artwork from school. One by one, we'd pick an ornament and carefully hang it from a bare branch. Selecting was so much fun, and pondering which branch on which to hang it was a very studied business. Garlands of coloured circles made from construction paper and brightly coloured tinsel garlands were added. We'd be firmly instructed not to throw bunches of tinsel on the tree, but to take each strand and drape it one by one -- even I had the patience to do that. Then came the moment when we'd turn out all the overhead lights, put on our Christmas record, and gaze in wonder at our bee-u-ti-ful tree all bedecked and sparkling.

With the tree decorated, we were ready for Christmas. Life couldn't feel any more perfect than in that moment. With so much to look forward to and so few cares of the world intruding on our little family, at least for a few days, we felt safe as we nestled against the storms of winter and life. We were happy.

Circa 1964, Little Sis and Me

Here's wishing you a beautiful day, dear friends!