Monday, January 09, 2017

January Edition: Simple Woman's Daybook

Alexander Filonchik / unsplash.com



Happy New Year to you -- I hope it was a good holiday season for you and all your loved ones.

Since Christmas, our days have been quiet and peaceful. I must say I love this time of year. After the busyness of the holidays, I enjoy this downtime when a person is free to read, snooze, watch a movie, sip tea, eat leftover chocolates, ponder plans for the new year, visit friends ... to generally put one's feet up and take it easy for a few days. I know not everyone has that option and some might think it a little boring, but for the two of us, even though we're both retired from careers and jobs, we do appreciate this lull in our normal day-to-day schedules.

Funny, people will often ask why we don't go away on a winter holiday to the tropics. Sorry, not interested. I like winter, even the deepest, darkest days of December and January. I like snow days. I like crisp, sparkling days where tree tops glisten with Alberta sunshine. I like early evenings and late sunrises. I like frosty nights where we can be cozy by the fireplace, nestle under heavy quilts, and sneak toe warming opportunities with a nearby warm body.

In the New Year, I will carry on my tradition of monthly posting The Simple Woman's Daybook, and so I offer my January edition, with open hands and heart warm wishes that 2017 will be a very good year for you.

With love,
Brenda
xox




FOR TODAY


Looking out my window... It was gray and moody out there this early morning. Cold at -20C ( -4F ), but as I work away on my post, the sky brightens with shades of blue appearing. ... Oops, now it's back to gray and moody with hints of snow flurries.

You know the wind's been blowing in the night when snow on the roof tops slide over the edges like fondant icing on a layer cake. I love how it does that. The photo below was taken a couple of years ago, but it looks pretty much the same today. We added sparkles using the PicMonkey editor in case you're wondering.




I am thinking... that I'm turning the big 6-0 later this Spring. It isn't anything I haven't already been pondering for the past ten or twelve months. For though I have wondered in disbelief that I could have reached such a decade so quickly -- surely I'm only 37, okay then 47, but not really 60 -- I have  also been feeling an excitement about the whole thing.

I'm finally old enough to have a history of my own, to have a wealth of experience that shapes my thoughts and emotions and beliefs, to have knowledge about things I could never have known as a 20-year-old, and maybe even offer a little hard-won wisdom to anyone asking, even be a role model or mentor for a newer generation instead of feeling I still need one for myself. There is something about it all that I like, I feel happy about it.  

I read Agatha Christie's fascinating, very conversational autobiography last year. It seemed important for me to read it now, at this stage of life. Imagine my delight to learn, then, that Ms. Christie was sixty when she started this book. She once said, "So what I plan to do is to enjoy the pleasures of memory -- not hurrying myself -- writing a few pages from time to time." It took her some fifteen years to complete, but all that time she had the pleasure of reliving old memories and capturing them on paper.

I was surprised at how many of her stories and accounts I could relate to in some way, being of a completely different generation, but an idea grabbed hold and I've started gathering the bits of pieces of my own history ... for who knows if a young woman some years hence mightn't stumble upon it and find it a fascinating read about someone who grew up and lived during the 20th and 21st centuries.

* * * * *

I am so thankful... for a husband who reminds me a little of Mary Poppins ...  for like her, Rick is 'practically perfect in every way'.  He really is.

* * * * *
 

One of my favorite things... a big floral scarf in my wardrobe. It reminds me of our trip to England last summer. Lovely scarves like this were at most garden gift shops, but even though I took real pleasure in admiring and touching, I'd put them back, thinking maybe I was too short to wear swathes of fabric around my neck.

But then, upon meeting my dear blogging friend from Cornwall later in the trip, I was completely delighted to find the very scarf I'd been longing for tucked into my gift parcel from her. I realized then I would just quit being silly about worrying about my height. And, ever since I've been wearing it just about everywhere. Even in the dead of winter, it adds such colour and cheer to my otherwise sombre outfits. And, I love how it makes me feel pretty.


* * * * *

I am creating... order out of chaos on my desk today, joining National Clean Off Your Desk Day as delightfully demonstrated in the cartoon below by artist Sandra Boynton.


The Christmas miscellany is now off my desk and restored to its proper place. Paper continues to gravitate into small piles and books taken down for quick browses still await being re-shelved. There are notebooks, photos, used postage stamps too pretty to throw out, quotes written out on cardstock ... not to mention a newly minted British £5 note with Sir Winston Churchill's familiar face on it (it was sent recently to me by my friend in Cornwall).

For such a small surface, my beautiful antique table can hold a lot. Which is why it all needs a thorough shaking out on this National Clean Off Your Desk Day. After which, I hope to once again enjoy its marvelous wood grain patterns polished to a sheen ... at least for a couple hours before the new piles start all over again.


I am wearing... a cozy long-sleeved black shirt, blue jeans, and slippers. Forgot the lipstick today.


I am reading...  An intriguing murder mystery by Argentine mathematician and writer Guillermo Martinez. The Oxford Murders is the story of a professor of logic and a graduate student who investigate a series of bizarre, mathematically-based murders in Oxford, England. So far, nothing too gruesome. Thankfully. And, I get to envision some of Oxford's streets and buildings through the narrator's eyes.


I am watching ... Season Six of Downton Abbey with hubby. We started last night as if another season was just beginning Sunday night on PBS. Haven't seen it since last January so what fun to watch it all again. Most entertaining to catch glimpses of the scenes and say, 'We saw those. We walked down that grand staircase. We saw the paintings and those red deep couches by the fireplace. We stood there and soaked in all the grandeur.' BTW, I'm working on a post about our visit last summer to Highclere Castle complete with photos. It will go up later in the month. Stay tuned.





I am hoping... to get some decluttering and sorting done this month. Time to go through the books and music CDs again to see what I can cheerfully let go. And, put order in the pantry cupboards after all the rooting in there during the holidays. Last January (post here) I did a major clean out of my house, so it's much easier this year.


I am learning... to pay more attention to those comments my mild-mannered husband says, which I sometimes assume are just comments made in passing. Maybe it's learning to better listen with the heart as well as with one's ears. For he rarely asks for something, so I need want to listen more with the heart for those little things that will add to his comfort and happiness.

For instance, we had toast the other morning for breakfast and when I mentioned all the toast crumbs in the sheets (yes, we have toast and coffee in bed most mornings), he kind of joked, 'We could have muffins tomorrow, less crumbs.'

I don't know why I suddenly heard that -- I mean, really heard it. Now, the man was a bachelor for a good many years before we met and married, so he's very good in the kitchen. But he loves it when I cook and bake treats for us to enjoy. So I happily whipped up a batch of muffins as a surprise for the next morning's breakfast.  


In my kitchen... Tea with bread and jam, anyone? I made homemade bread the other day, trying out my new Christmas present, a Kitchen Aid complete with dough hook. Oh my, how easy. And how delicious was the turnout.



* * * * *

In my garden... The snow is blooming very well this season. All the ground is covered and bare patches have been transformed into snowy mounds. I'm reminded of a few lovely lines Anne Shirley wrote to Gilbert Blythe in L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Windy Poplars.

“January so far has been a month of cold gray days, with an occasional storm whirling across the harbor and filling Spook’s Lane with drifts. But last night we had a silver thaw and today the sun shone. My maple grove was a place of unimaginable splendors. Even the commonplaces had been made lovely. Every bit of wire fencing was a wonder of crystal lace."


Shared Quote... A little more than a quote, it's a whole poem. I had a good chuckle when I read this poem by British poet Wendy Cope. I used to feel slightly irritated when people would ask me 'what's new?' I'd think to myself, what do you want from me? I haven't gone to the moon or walked the great wall of China. My days for the most part are ordinary. I do simple things; I peel an orange and relish its orange-y fragrance and savour its sweet juicy pieces. Shall I tell you that? Will it be interesting enough? ...  I enjoyed Ms. Cope's delightful response.

Being Boring

'May you live in interesting times.' Chinese curse

If you ask me "what's new?" I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it's better today.
I'm content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.

There was drama enough in my turbulent past;
Tears and passion--I've used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last,
If nothing much happens, I'm thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you're after excitement, steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.

I don't go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don't need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I've found a safe mooring,
I've just one ambition in life: I aspire
To go on and on being boring.



A moment from my day... My heart fills with the words of an old prayer by St. Francis of Assisi as this new year begins: "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. ..."


Closing Notes... The day is gone, the evening's come, This post at last is finally done. The End.


* * * * *






Friday, December 30, 2016

Five on Friday: Calendars For A New Year

Eli Dafaria / unsplash.com


Here we are at that time of year again when Hubby and I make a date to go calendar shopping. We usually go after Christmas and just before New Year's; that way determined Christmas shoppers have already come and gone, and the folks who are now out and about are much more relaxed and unhurried -- which creates an ideal ambiance for browsing.

We do realize that by now selections are much depleted, but we're perfectly fine with that -- the choosing becomes simpler, not having to sort through dozens of designs, as we try to decide what we want on our walls or desks for the coming new year. Shall it be something pretty like flowers, cute like kittens, maybe peaceful like clouds, or flamboyant like Spanish dancers? Do we want art by Monet or Cezanne? Photography of France, Singapore, or England? Do we want sayings and quotes to inspire or photos with no words? What about something to make us laugh ... like those silly cartoon characters making funny comments or pictures of dogs reading their own poetry?

Mulling between this one or that one, we eventually select something that's caught our eye or emotional state of mind, and we gleefully breeze out with our bag of treasures and pleasures.

* * * * *

As you can see, I am one of those people who still likes a physical calendar. It's a reasonable way to display artsy works, and every month I get to turn the page and enjoy something fresh and new. My iPhone and desktop computer calendars compare not in providing that sensory experience of snooping out that perfect bit of art in the form of a calendar that will serve me for a whole year.

And, now for a little parade of our 2017 calendar purchases. Oh yes, not just one calendar, we have calendars in various rooms in the house. Little ones to pin by the bathroom sink, large ones for the kitchen wall, something for our bedroom, and a couple for our two office-studies. Sometimes we even have something fun to post out in the garage or basement (usually the freebies).


*** ONE ***
"Present Moment"
Published in partnership with Sounds True

Thought this calendar, filled with inspirational photography of flowers, branches, even someone holding a bird nest, would work in my office/study ... as a reminder to live my days in the present moment ... not holding onto the past, not fretting about the future, but being mindful of where I am in this moment. And being grateful for it.



*** TWO ***
Ireland by National Geographic

We enjoy calendars displaying wonderful places we'd like to visit in the world. This year we picked an Ireland calendar. Perhaps I was drawn to it because I'm currently reading the latest novel by Canadian-Irish author, Patrick Taylor, The Irish Country Love Story. I love his stories; they are peppered with colourful characters set in the equally colourful Irish village of Ballybucklebo.
"It’s the winter of 1967 and snow is on the ground ... but the chilly weather can’t stop love from warming hearts all over the county. Not just the love between a man and woman, as with young doctor, Barry Laverty, and his fiancee Sue Nolan, who are making plans to start a new life together, but also the love of an ailing pensioner for a faithful dog that's gone missing, the love of the local gentry for the great estate they are on verge of losing, or Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly’s deep and abiding love for his long-time home and practice. ...

An Irish Country Love Story is a new and heartwarming installment in Patrick Taylor's beloved bestselling Irish Country series." ~ Description excerpt from amazon.ca



*** THREE ***
 Canada by Wyman Publishing

As much as we like seeing what the rest of the world looks like, we also know there is no place like home, and home for us is Canada. You can't tell from the photo, but this is the mini-calendar that will be pinned by our bathroom sink -- providing a glimpse of something local and lovely to look at while brushing one's teeth.



*** FOUR ***
The Group of Seven 2017 by Firefly Books

I don't know a lot about the Canadian artists known as the Group of Seven. So when I saw this calendar, I decided it was time to learn more. Having it on our kitchen wall should help me recognize them when I see the originals displayed somewhere ... as well as remind me to go find out something of who these men were as artists and what motivated them. In case you are not familiar with their works either, here's a bit of info:
In the early 20th century, a group of men began to formulate as they discovered they shared a common artistic interest. Together, these men would embark on weekend sketching trips or socialize at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto. They were in search for a distinct painting style that would not only reflect the unique character of the Canadian landscape, but would break from European tradition.
These were Tom Thomson, J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren Harris, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston and Franklin Carmichael.

Although Tom Thomson died in 1917, he had a significant influence on the group and his painting style was representative of the Canadian landscape and experience. In May 1920, Harris, MacDonald, Lismer, Varley, Johnston, Carmichael and Jackson decided, for the first time, to exhibit as the Group of Seven at the Art Gallery of Toronto. This marks the founding of the Group and a historic point in Canada's art history, for which Harris is largely credited. Johnston resigned from the group shortly after. Info from Northern Ontario travel website.



*** FIVE ***
 Great Gardens by National Trust, UK

“The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don't want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don't have a soul.” ~ Thomas More

This attractive calendar comes straight from England. We bought several while we were there -- I don't know how many we mailed home to share with loved ones.

Did I ever tell you that I love gardens? Although I confess I'm not as keen on the actual act of gardening, I do love the beauty of a well stocked and plotted out, and don't forget an abundantly fragrant, bit of earthly paradise.

So when we spent twelve days in Kent, renowned as the Garden of England, during our visit to Great Britain, I knew I was experiencing a long time dream come true. Walking on pathways that swept past vibrant perennial borders, through allΓ©es bordered by majestic trees and shrubberies, and winding their way under rose-laden trellises ... I remember thinking, "Drink this in, Girl, you're really here; you're really standing here in an English country garden. Let it soak into your soul so you never forget."



*** BONUS ***
Cornish Riviera by Salmon Calendars

Oh my goodness, Elizabethd, it had totally slipped my mind until this moment when I read your lovely comment below that I, too, was the recipient of a beautiful Cornish calendar ... the one you gave me when we met in Cornwall this past summer. It was tucked away for safe keeping until the New Year arrived.

I'm so excited ... it's like Christmas all over. I had to come in and adjust my post to give this calendar its rightful place in my 2017 calendar parade.



* * * * *


And, so these lovely beauties wait, like me, for the New Year. With such pleasant items to surround me all year long, how can I not go into 2017 envisioning a brighter, better world? Calendars are not just a time piece for me, I use even them, like gifts to cheer my soul when certain life events hand out the ugly.



On that note, I'm wishing you a hopeful and happy New Year ~
May your days be magical gatherers of those glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.

With love,
Brenda
xox


PS: With the New Year around the corner, I'm looking forward to sharing some of my great store of photos from our marvelous trip to England and Scotland. So many lovely things yet to show you -- I invite you to stay tuned. xox



Thursday, December 22, 2016

THREE More Sleeps!

ONE
πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„

So, Christmas Lovers, are you ready? It really is hard to believe there are only three more sleeps, but ready or not, here we are. When a person gets closer to the big day, especially if one is hosting the festivities and family gatherings, it is suddenly very easy to cross things off the list that were really only hopefuls anyway. At this late stage, only essentials need apply. 

But we're not hosting this year, so for me, it's been a gentle rhythm of getting into the Christmas spirit. A little baking, a little cleaning, some decorating when the whim inspires, a little shopping, a concert or two. Enjoying the rustle of tissue paper, not to mention the sampling of chocolates and baking. All with cheerful cups of tea and Christmas music in the air ... and, since there's no pressure, there's also time for being quiet with one's thoughts and for being in wonder all over again as we prepare for this beautiful and sacred time of year.

TWO
πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„

Over the last couple of weeks my desk has become quite the happy mess of Christmas miscellany: pretty greetings cards and postage stamps, stashes of coloured ribbons, tissue paper, scissors, and pens. With the added string of cheery lights, it has become a favourite cozy nook as evening shadows lengthen.

We've been writing out cards, making lists, dreaming up something nice for you to read here. Even composing a note with some hard-to-say things to someone dear. Yet I feel comforted as I sit here at my antique table in the warm glow.


THREE
πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„

Beribboned packages are beginning to show up in various corners of the house. Oh, what fun! I love presents and I love surprises of a good kind. I used to be the kid under the tree rattling all the boxes to see if they shook. We have presents under the tree, but they seem to be gathering elsewhere as well.

Surprise Santa parcels are arriving in the mailbox which we then add to the growing pile. There's more parcels inside that gorgeous box with the gold dots. I thought the elegant ceramic birds perched on top--both a gift from a dear friend earlier this month--lend a certain je ne sais quoi to this little vignette.



FOUR
πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„

Now, who can talk about Christmas baking without providing some eye candy and maybe a recipe to go with it. This Chocolate Marshmallow Roll was a favourite at Christmas when we were kids growing up. It was especially yummy, stolen and eaten straight from the freezer. With a texture that's soft and crunchy, sweet and chocolate-y -- what is there not to love?

The other evening I happened to say to Rick, "I think I'm getting addicted to those marshmallow pieces.

"No getting addicted, you already are," said he, with a grin.

Haha ... indeed, she is already obsessed. Quite.

I promised Facebook friends I'd share the recipe. So here it is. Quite simple. A tad messy, which just means you'll have to lick your fingers, not just the bowl, when it's all done.
.

 πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„
CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOW ROLL

1/2 cup butter
1 450g (16oz) package milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 450g (16oz) package coloured miniature marshmallows
1 cup broken walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup or so flaked coconut

Melt butter and chocolate chips in heavy saucepan on low heat;
stir until smooth and creamy.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
Fold in marshmallows and walnuts; mix till everything is coated.

Sprinkle a generous sheet of wax paper with the coconut.
Spoon out marshmallow mix onto coconut.
Form into two logs using the wax paper to shape.
Finish rolling the logs in coconut.
Refrigerate at least one hour
before indulging slicing into 3/4 inch slices.

 


FIVE
πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„

As a way to close out this old year, as this may well be my last post for 2016, I decided to post one of our holiday photos taken this past summer. Rick and I are standing at the entry of the Glasgow Botanic Garden on a cloudy afternoon. 'Twas a wee bit rainy, which meant I finally had a chance to wear my new red raincoat; the weather had been so lovely we hardly needed it.

Looking ahead to the new year, I still have photos I want to share of our holiday to England ... I never did show you pictures of our visit to Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey was filmed. We had a wonderful tour of the house and gardens, and it really did feel special walking down that grand staircase in the main hall, even though we were wearing our heavy duty walking shoes... no sign of dance slippers or elegant Lady Mary shoes that day.

And so, dear beautiful friends, before I go I want to wish each of you a very special Christmas. May you catch glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. May you experience tidings of comfort and joy. And for those with light, merry hearts, may there be much laughter and celebration.

God bless us everyone!
Love,
Brenda
xox


Linking with Five on Friday