Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Oxford First Glimpses, Part 1

Magdalen College Tower through the cloisters | Chris Andrews Publications Ltd.

Our trip to Oxford and London -- a thrilling birthday present of a lifetime -- is now a cherished part of history. What a cache of happy memories, photos, and carefully selected mementos we squirrelled into suitcases for homeward travels. When my friend Matty asked, on our return, if the trip was all we had dreamt and more, I happily told her it really was 'and more'.

In trying to decide how to write this these posts, I thought let's give you the first glimpses of our first day ... and we'll go on from there.

After a long and (thankfully) uneventful flight over the pond and a pleasant bus trip through the English countryside, we found ourselves in front of No. 14 Holywell B & B. It was to be our home away from home for the next few days. And what a lovely 'home' it turned out to be.

Carrie, our lovely hostess, knew I wanted to see Oxford in the springtime aka that time when daffodils bloom wildly everywhere, and there by her front door she had created a sprightly collection of the spring blossoms in her garden pots. They were beautiful!

As it turns out, many fields of daffodils, being the early bloomers they are, were already spent, but there were still so many pockets around the town and countryside to satisfy the dreamer girl inside. Like the poet himself, I would be able to wander (not) lonely as a cloud ... to catch the hosts of golden daffodils beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze. And if you haven't heard Jeremy Irons recite this favourite Wordsworth poem, you'll find him here.

"Little acts of kindness that we render to each other in everyday life,
are like flowers by the way-side to the traveller;
they serve to gladden the heart and relieve the tedium of life's journey."
Eunice Bathrick

Then we got to meet Jack. Darling Jack! I can see why Carrie and her husband, Stuart, are in love with this little fellow. He's quite a character and a real dear-heart. I think he knows how to talk human, especially when he looks into your eyes with his dark brown eyes. And he certainly knows all about the in's and out's of B&B hospitality.

When we first came into the dark panelled breakfast room to get our room key and such, we could hear him making little noises off in the other room, and it wasn't until I mentioned "Can we meet Jack" that he made serious woofles. Carrie says, "Oh yes, he's waiting in the kitchen to meet you."

At first Rick thought she said, "He's reading in the kitchen." Which on second thought, Rick figured, okay, he's an Oxford dog. Ha ha.

Jack flew into the room, eager to see us -- tail in full swing and a face all happy to meet his new guests. Sweet, gentle, polite ... and sometimes just plain silly and fun.

We had a room with a view. Peering from our window out onto Holywell Street, we could see it was busy with people on foot or whizzing by on bicycles; there was no thoroughfare for vehicles. Lest you think it safe then to walk in the middle of the street, you best think again and stick to the sidewalk; those seeming benign bicycles from another era could take you down in a pedal-beat.

Across the street loomed the beautiful, centuries old New College. Founded in 1379, it is one of the 38 constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. According to the college visitor's guide, "New College, or 'the College of St Mary of Winchester in Oxford', is the second Oxford college to be named after St Mary Winton, which is why the College has been known as New College from early days."

As we visited the various colleges during our visit, it was a lot of fun to learn of the notable alumni from each college. From New College, you might be interested to know actor Hugh Grant is one, as is Lucy Worsley (English historian and a presenter of BBC television series on historical topics which show up on PBS sometimes); John Galsworthy (novelist of The Forsyte Saga); and Susan Rice (US Ambassador to the United Nations).

New College on Holywell Street

Holywell Street is a wonderful old street with so much variety in architecture and style -- all on one street. Well known as a spot for filming one television show or another, Carrie has a delightful post in which she shares the delightful scoop here (in case you missed the link in my last post).

Our first evening, we had supper at a happening pub just up the street from the B&B. The very old Turf Tavern was a place where Morse and Lewis would stop off for a pint after a hard day's sleuthing. In case you don't know Morse and Lewis, they are the fictional characters in the series of detective novels by British author Colin Dexter, which were turned into a long-running television series some years ago.

We got to chatting to an older fellow one evening who told us all about it. He got to be an 'extra' in one of the episodes, and from his countenance, I think the experience was a highlight of his life. He probably could have told us stories all evening long over a pint or two. Maybe we missed an opportunity to hear more of his Oxford stories by not just settling in, but we wanted to see a bit of the city as evening fell.
Holywell Cemetery
After supper we took an amble down the street and around the corner to visit Holywell Cemetery. A lovely old place to stroll through. The air was bracing and I was glad for the scarf round my neck, but still it seemed perfect for an evening in Spring. One of Oxford's hidden gems, the cemetery is the burial spots for some of the city's well known personages, but most well known to me was author Kenneth Grahame.

For anyone who loves Grahame's Wind in the Willows with his beloved characters Ratty, Mole, Badger, and Toad of Toad Hall--or perhaps you're one who is partial to the weasels because they really are funny--you'll understand the pleasure I had to come across a name I recognized. It was hard to make out all the words and letters, but if you peer hard, you can just make out his name on the grey stone below.

The cemetery is now a wildlife refuge for many birds and butterflies, as well as small and larger mammals, including deer and foxes. I hear tell Jack likes to take his mom for a walk through there so that he can sniff out who's been to visit during the day. You know, keep a doggie eye on things in the neighbourhood.

And so that is a peek of our first day. There is so much more to tell and show you, but your cup of tea must be getting cold by now. I'll stop for today and start working on the next post, so it should be up in a day or so.

Next time I'll show you what we had for breakfast here at Holywell B&B. And some pics of those dreaming spires for which Oxford is so famous, not to mention a few of the books we bought at Blackwell's. We got right to shopping that first day and in a bookstore. Perfect way to start, I said.

Wishing you a beautiful rest of the day,


Sunday, April 09, 2017

April Edition: The Simple Woman's Daybook

A Bird's Eye View of  Oxford
Photo: Sidharth Bhatia / unsplash.com

OXFORD: "The city is known worldwide as the home of the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Buildings in Oxford demonstrate notable examples of every English architectural period since the late Saxon period. Oxford is known as the 'city of dreaming spires', a term coined by poet Matthew Arnold." ~ excerpt from Wikipedia

In a few short days we'll be seeing this view with our very own eyes, not just as we see it on television or movies, not just imagining the historical crooks and crannies from the books I've read. In real life. Squeee.

I'll be posting photos from the 'city of dreaming spires' on my Facebook page while we are there; you are welcome to join me on Facebook.

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Since you came to read the April Daybook edition, let me begin without further ado.


For Today...

Looking out my window... a mix of sun and cloud... with chances of blue skies. 

I am thinking... there's no time like the present to wish you a wonderful week ahead. And to tell you how much I appreciate all the really nice comments you leave here for me and all our readers to enjoy. I do hope there will be a day in heaven when we can all meet and have one big kindred party.

I am thankful... for one lovely husband who says, "Okay, let's do Oxford on a whim" and books the tickets ... all because he likes to make his wife happy. And yes, she is happy -- she likes to make him happy too.

One of my favourite things... reading in a sunny room on a Sunday afternoon. With a soft breeze blowing the curtain in a lazy manner. Something smooth and lovely to sip as the pages turn. And, a snoozing kitty cat nearby to make it perfect.

I am creating... lists as the days to Oxford count down.

I am wearing... a floral sleeveless summer dress because the sun is shining now and it feels warm.

I finished reading... The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey, the book mentioned in an earlier post. Without giving anything away here, the author puts her Scotland Yard Detective Alan Grant through his paces to uncover whether the corpse found on the train is accidental or suicidal, or maybe even murder. The plot is twisty-turny without making the reader sit too near the edge of her chair. It's a relaxing, delightful read, and I will definitely look for more of her stories. 

I am watching... Gaudy Night, the third in a detective mystery miniseries with fictional characters Lord Peter Wimsey and detective novelist Harriet Vane. Produced by the BBC in 1987, the detective series is based on novels by British author Dorothy L. Sayers. I'm watching now because Gaudy Night is a story that takes place at a fictional ladies college in Oxford, England; it was also filmed in Oxford.

Dorothy L. Sayers was born in Oxford, and as a young woman, she won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied modern languages and medieval literature. No doubt her own experience of Oxford academic life created the inspiration to write her truly wonderful book, Gaudy Night. 

I am listening... to the oh-so-welcome whistles of my first robin of the season calling from a nearby roof-top. That, dear friends, signals Spring in my corner of the world.

I am hoping... for days that aren't too rainy when we get to Oxford next week. So far, the weather report bodes well for us ... mild temperatures, cloudy skies, and no sign of any sharp showers. How convenient travellers can now Google weather stations anywhere in the world -- makes it much easier to know what to pack.

I am learning... to pack my suitcase more lightly. What's that old rule -- pack everything you want to take into your suitcase, and just before you close the lid, take half of it out. Yup, it seems about right.

In my kitchen...  for our Sunday dinner, we enjoyed a small baked ham with a buttery raisin sauce, and a garden salad with fresh dill and Catalina dressing drizzled over it.

In my garden... there are tiny signs of green poking through here and there. The very first reddish sprouts of my peonies, for one, and tiny green noses of crocuses, for another. Oh joy, oh bliss. Every year I keep being surprised just how quickly things get going when it warms up. Dormant all winter, they must be most eager to get on with their work of making our world beautiful.

A favourite blog... is Carrie's very English, totally delightful Fawlty Spires. She describes herself as a 'transplanted South Dakota/Seattle girl living in the heart of Oxford, UK', and she runs a small B&B with her husband, Stuart, and her beloved dog, Jack, who I understand is her official bacon tester. I first 'met' Carrie on Twitter -- we being mutual Twitter followers of Susan Branch. So you can imagine how exciting it is that, while we visit Oxford, we're booked to stay at Holywell B&B -- click for gorgeous photos here.

So much of my yearning to visit Oxford comes from the films and movies I've watched over the years: Shadowlands (1993) starring Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis; Brideshead Revisited, the 1981 television series with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews -- total favourite; the Morse detective series with John Thaw as Morse, the follow up series Lewis, and most recently, Endeavour, the prequel to Morse with Shaun Evans as the younger Morse. To name a few.

You will imagine my delight when I learned that Carrie lives in the heart of Oxford where so many of these well-known shows and movies are filmed. In one of her posts, she talks about it: 
"Hardly a month goes by when there isn't a film crew in Oxford. Countless movies, TV series, and documentaries have all used Oxford as a beautiful backdrop. It isn't unusual to be watching a documentary and suddenly the presenter is walking down Holywell Street or through the Radcliffe Square, or some other equally familiar spot where we walk every day. It's strange to see the place you live flash on the television screen, and it's even stranger when they film outside your front door. ..."
To read Carrie's complete post, you'll find it here.

Photo: morguefile.com

A favourite author... Years ago when I first read C.S. Lewis, I was drawn to this man's gentle approach to life and life events. I wanted to learn more about the man, his life, and about Oxford, the place where he lived, worked, and studied for so many years. In truth, his writings shaped my life -- I read everything I could find by him, and about him, in bookstores and on library shelves.

I came across some notes I jotted down in an old notebook ... something I'd read from C.S. Lewis and his thoughts on what makes a literary person. I wrote his comments carefully into my now vintage common book, and looking back, I think they helped change my reading habits... I didn't want to be found lacking in this department if anyone asked or looked too closely. Up to that point I mostly read historical and romance fiction (which is fine as one item on the dinner plate, but not for the whole meal -- if you want balance, that is). My reading habits and tastes developed over time, and I think I have C.S. Lewis to thank for it, for I never really forgot his comments. Note: I typed out the short list of notes; if you are interested, you'll find them here.

A seasonal quote or two or three...
"The window is open and a warm, delicious little breeze comes wandering in. It smells of magnolias and dogwood and it whispers in our ears enticing little stories of gurgling brooks and cool woods. Yes, we have got spring fever and got it bad." ~ Country Life, June 1922

"Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again." ~ Gustav Mahler, musician 
"Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day." ~ W. Earl Hall
Have you seen this... Sometimes I really am a late bloomer, for I haven't seen this movie yet. Have you? Testament of Youth is a 2014 British drama film based on the WWI memoir of the same name written by Vera Brittain. Young independent Vera abandons her Oxford studies to be become a war nurse. Yes, I will be checking for this one, and if I can't find the movie, I'm looking for the memoir.

Closing note...
"Whoever has a heart full of love always has something to give."
~ Pope John XXIII

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Friday, April 07, 2017

April Hodgepodge

Joyce From This Side of the Pond  -- who is really on the other side of the pond from me -- has some great prompts for us again this week, so here goes:

1. April is Lawn and Garden Month. On a scale of 1-10, what's the current state of your lawn and/or garden (10 = a showpiece, 1 = send in the professionals). Tell us about any lawn or garden plans you have for this month.

Hahaha... at this point, we have no lawn and no garden. It was torn apart last spring, and we'll be working on it again this spring and summer. Worn out trees needed to make room for new healthy specimens. What is to be green lawn again is still dirt brown; once the snow is really gone for the season, we'll lay sod.

So, on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a 2 = we're working on it so please don't bring your camera. Our goal in this monumental project is to make our yard require less maintenance with simpler care, and to be more conscious of using plant material that is more adaptable to local climate changes, ie, warmer winters and less snow, less rain in spring and summer. Even though I still love flowers and gardens, I am not the enthusiastic gardener I used to be. Less is better at this stage -- I much prefer enjoying my garden's Edenese loveliness from my study window or while sitting on the patio in my lounge chair as I read or watch the birds.

2. "Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there." ~ Thomas Fuller. What does this quote mean to you?

On first thought, I take that to mean that the gardener has not deliberately sown those seeds that now grow in her garden. There are other forces at work -- some seeds blow into the garden on the winds, some are left behind in bird droppings, and yet others voluntarily spring up into willing new shoots from the mother root.

Weeds show up without prejudice in anyone's garden or lawn, and will choke out the desired plants if the gardener is not careful to tend to her treasured plants. When a lawn is kept healthy and lush, it creates a thick thatch that disallows weeds from sprouting in it.

Which reminds me to a favourite quote that comes from the 1993 film The Secret Garden, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 children's novel of the same name. "Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow." I think it was the old gardener who said it.

It seems if we want good things in our gardens, we must carefully tend the desired plants and be ruthless about tearing out those we never sowed or desired.

3. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about God? I have happy thoughts about him, and I talk to him often throughout the day. When I listen, I hear other-world thoughts in my inmost being and often I feel his love around me.

4. If we were chatting in person, how would I know if you were nervous? I might be a little fidgety and I'd probably be chattering about some inane thing.

5. Do you like the colour yellow? Would I find any in your home or wardrobe? Daffodils, tulips, roses, sunflowers, day lily, black-eyed susans ... which yellow bloom on this list is your favourite?

Oh yes, yellow is a household favourite. My house is painted in soft yellows for the walls, which actually surprised me when I first thought about it. When I was a girl, the colour yellow was never a first choice ... I'd pick from the crayon box colours of pinks, purples, and pretty blues. The yellow was reserved for the sun in the blue sky. But years later, when it came to decorating my home, I knew I wanted bright and cheerful -- yellow tends to go with the lighter moods of summer and it lends cheery notes when it's cold and grey out. Yellow also seemed my best choice to go with my favourite colour combination of blue and white. 

Yellow is not in my wardrobe, except for one creamy yellow silk scarf with a French motif on it. It's a scarf from a dear friend, and I love both the scarf and my friend.

As for flowers, I LOVE yellow daffodils, tulips, sunflowers, and black-eyed susans. Not to mention those yellow roses I saw at Chartwell, Sir Winston Churchill's former family home. I took this photo when we visited there last summer. You can find more about the visit in my post here.


6. Flip flops or bare feet?  Flip flops please ... I'm much more comfortable in shoes than barefoot these days.

7. Tell us about any Easter plans, celebrations, or traditions you'll carry out this month.  Rick and I will be in Oxford over Easter. I am so very excited about being in a city where Sunday Easter Service is celebrated with bells ringing and choirs singing. And maybe daffodils springing out from church gardens and alongside river banks.  

8. Insert your own random thought here. You may recall that, in an earlier post, I mentioned beginning a project to create a photo slideshow "60 Years in 60 Photos" to mark the milestone of my upcoming 60th birthday. I wanted to create a collage of photos, one for each year, much in the style of one I saw made for the Queen's 90th birthday.

I'm happy to report this sweet collage of memories is now complete. It was so much fun to work on, sorting through old photos, deciding which ones to select, and then eventually turning them into the photo video slideshow you see below. Not having done this before, I kept it pretty simple, but I'm pleased with the outcome, and delighted to share it with you. If you like music as you watch, you can turn up the volume.

Note: It might not be as bright or clear on this post, as Blogger may have had to adjust the high definition so it fits here. It is clearer on my Facebook here; you are welcome to friend me, if you like.



On that note, here's wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.

Many hugs,

Joining Joyce for Hodgepodge fun

Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday, Spring and Glazed Lemon Loaf

Khurt Williams / unsplash.com

There is a feeling in the air today which makes me think Spring is really here ... at least for the moment. I think we need to celebrate. Throw open the windows. Put something in the oven. Jot you a note. And, because we're still too early for songbirds yet, I found a link with some lovely bird trills and whistles to keep me company -- it's been playing all afternoon. 

I was out earlier doing some small errands around town. When I got back, I felt in need of a little rest. The window was open to catch the warm afternoon sun, and gentle breezes set the lace curtain to billowing. Do you think heaven could be any sweeter?

While I was out, I stopped at the library to pick up a book I had on hold. I've never read it, even though it's been around for decades. But it looks a delight. In the introduction, a fellow named Robert Barnard assures us that mystery readers "who have never encountered Josephine Tey are in for a delicious treat. Ms. Tey belonged to the Golden Age of British crime writing...and her place in the pantheon of mystery writers is unassailable." Sounds good to me.

Here is an excerpt from the back cover in case you, like me, are not familiar with her writing or this particular novel:
"On sick leave from Scotland Yard, Inspector Alan Grant is planning a quiet holiday with an old school chum to recover from overwork and mental fatigue. Travelling on the night train to Scotland, however, Grant stumbles upon a dead man and a cryptic poem about the stones that walk and the singing sand, which send him off on a fascinating search into the verse's meaning and the identity of the deceased. Despite his doctor's orders, Grant needs just this sort of casual inquiry to quiet his jangling nerves. But what begins as a leisurely pastime eventually turns into a full-blown investigation..." 
The Singing Sands is the sixth in a series of six mystery novels that include Scotland Yard's Inspector Alan Grant. Trust me to start from the back of the series, so I do hope it is a stand alone and doesn't need the others for it to make sense. And, poor Inspector Grant, we already know he's got nerves that need unjangling, so it will be interesting to see what kind of trouble Ms. Tey writes him into before it's all said and done.

At last it's out of the oven -- my Glazed Lemon Loaf -- and it's driving me crazy as it sits calmly on the kitchen counter cooling, while the tantalizing aromas of zesty, buttery goodness waft past my nose. The recipe is one I've had for decades now -- so it's tried and true -- and I am happy to share it with you here.

 * * * * *
“Cakes have gotten a bad rap. People equate virtue with turning down dessert. There is always one person at the table who holds up her hand when I serve the cake. No, really, I couldn’t, she says, and then gives her flat stomach a conspiratorial little pat. Everyone who is pressing a fork into that first tender layer looks at the person who declined the plate, and they all think, That person is better than I am. That person has discipline. But that isn’t a person with discipline, that is a person who has completely lost touch with joy.
A slice of cake never made anybody fat. You don’t eat the whole cake. You don’t eat a cake every day of your life. You take the cake when it is offered because the cake is delicious. You have a slice of cake and what it reminds you of is someplace that’s safe, uncomplicated, without stress. A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what’s served on the happiest days of your life.” ~ Jeanne Ray, Eat Cake

I think this Jeanne Ray is a smart woman with her very sensible thoughts on eating cake. I shall remember her fine words when we have a slice -- a thick slice -- of lemon loaf later this evening. And now, it's time for the weekend to begin. I hope it's a lovely one for you, whatever you are planning.

* * * * *

Hugs and blisses,

PS.  I forgot to mention I have a new guest post up on the
InScribe Writers blog about unfinished projects and momentum.  
I'd love for you to visit -- here is the link.  B :)


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Joining With Wednesday Hodgepodge

From this Side of the Pond

As I sit here in the early morning hours, I see our world is cloaked in heavy fog. We probably won't see a sunrise then, but never mind, I do love a good foggy morning too. Today I'm joining with the lovely Joyce at From This Side of the Pond in her Wednesday Hodgepodge. She asks great questions and we get to answer them in our own way; she does remind us to be nice or she'll have to get out the wooden spoon.

1. 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. What have you seen recently that you thought was beautiful? Yesterday, I was out taking my walk. It was a gorgeous Spring day with sunny skies and chattering chickadees in the woodsy area. As I passed along one street, I noticed a fellow getting ready to take out his vintage car ... one of those beautiful, long boats from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Perhaps he was taking it out for the first time after a long winter; when I watched him go by I caught the look of joy on his face. For me, that was a beautiful moment -- it really made my day to see this complete stranger thoroughly enjoying being out in his beautiful old car.

2. Our culture and beauty...your thoughts? Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be beautiful like those beautiful women I saw in old movies -- Grace Kelly, Deborah Kerr, Audrey Hepburn. I know my ideal of beauty was shaped from these images seen on television; I assume many others in our western world have taken their ideals from Hollywood role models, both then and now.

As a woman of a certain age now, I still love the grace and elegance of these beautiful women, but at this stage of life, I'm also drawn to women like Mother Teresa, whose love for Jesus and the poor shone from her eyes and lit up her face into a different kind of beauty. And to Dame Judi Dench, another lovely woman I admire, who may be more beautiful in her 80's than ever before.

I think there is a shift, however small, in the way our culture envisions what is beautiful and who is beautiful. I've seen recent ads on television where young Down's syndrome children are the models. At first I found it a little jarring; after all, we're so trained, so used to seeing only the perfect portrayed. But it's changing. That is good. Those kids were beautiful.

3. Age before beauty, beauty queen, beauty mark, beauty sleep ... which beauty-ful phrase resonates with you today? Why? Beauty Sleep, to be sure. Having experienced the very real ill side effects of not getting enough sleep while working our part-time job as night cleaners a few years ago, I realized it was not just about not feeling alert when we don't get enough sleep; it truly affects the health of our body and mind, and never mind what we see when we peer into a mirror.

4. I read here a list of the top ten beasts that scare us the most -- alligators, coyotes, black bears, birds (pigeons in particular), sharks, bats, bed bugs, rats, rattlesnakes, and the black widow spider. Which beast on the list scares you the most? What is the likelihood of you having an actual encounter with that particular beast? Did a movie contribute to your fear of this creature? Have you ever had a real life encounter with any of the animals listed?

I used to be afraid of the coyotes howling at night when I was a little girl living out in the country. I'd let my imagination run away with me and imagine myself locked out of the house at night and the yowling beasts trying to get me. Nightmarish, to be sure.

Except for the birds, I wouldn't want to meet any of the beasts on the list. Yes, I watched Hitchcock's The Birds years ago, but as creepy as the movie was, it never translated into my being afraid of birds in real life. I'm more afraid of rattlesnakes. We were in the Drumheller Badlands a couple of years and our guide told us to be aware of rattlers in the area. Thankfully, we don't have them in northerly Alberta so, no, I haven't seen one up close and personal; hope I never do. 

5. Where were you when you last heard a bell ring? Was it alarming or musical? Sitting here at my computer listening to a YouTube from England, I heard bells being rung. I loved it. It's the bells that I'm really looking forward to hearing when we get to Oxford in a couple weeks time.

6. What's your favorite carb? Bread, hands down. I could easily eat it three times a day: First, toasted with jam, peanut butter, or both; as an egg, ham or grilled cheese sandwich for lunch; and as savoury garlic bread for supper. And, if I can't have bread, then let me eat cake. 

7. Let's wrap up another month of Hodgepodging and life with an acrostic. Recap your month using the word MARCH.
March still brought snow and wind
As warmer temperatures seemed to hide
Reading nice books and eating
Cake with tea
Helped to make it fine

8. Insert your own random thought here. I'm resorting to a quote I read recently by Sir Winston Churchill... because it's now morning and I smell coffee being brewed, so I have to hurry: 

"To be really happy...
one ought to have at least two or three hobbies,
and they must all be real."

For me, reading and blogging are two hobbies that are very real to me -- I feel quite happy and content when I'm engaged in my books and my blogging world. I'd be interested to know which hobbies are very real for you?

Wishing you a beautiful day,

Linking with Wednesday Hodgepodge 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday Doings

Life feels really good when one has had a good sleep. And I had a good one last night. In fact, I feel quite alive and energetic. I've been dragging my toes around for days, so it was a delight to wake up at a normal hour, instead of three in the morning, and actually feel fresh.

So what have I done with my very good day?

1. First, I wrote all kinds of nice things in my journal. I tend to write first thing before I'm quite awake. Probably a habit I picked up years ago reading Julia Cameron and her lovely idea of morning pages. It's a good habit. I don't do it religiously or with any 'must do', but at that early part of the morning, it catches those first thoughts before the day starts. As I write, I tend to gently herd my thoughts along a more positive flow; often, heart prayers pour out too as I write.

2. Later in the morning, I made a simple homemade soup for lunch. Got the chicken stock done yesterday and so today it was easy to chop vegetables, add some herbs and seasoning, include a few macaroni noodles, and simmer a while. There it was, all ready when hubby came home from the gym. He was one happy camper, since soup for him is a favourite lunch item any day of the week.

3. When we opened the cookie tin after lunch, we realized there was only one Walker shortbread cookie left. Which raised the question, shall we buy or bake. Because we are feeling so alive and energetic today, we pulled out a recipe from the family cookbook and made Oatmeal Raisin cookies. The fragrance in the kitchen was quite delightful.
"Good cooking carries magic in it; a house, big or little, that smells good from cooking, is the place everyone wants to be." ~ Susan Branch
4. Not related to anything in the kitchen, I wanted to tell you that I've been reading Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber. I'm loving it. I forgot just how much I enjoyed it when I first read the book in 2011. Funny, this time with our Oxford trip just around the corner, I'm really noticing the places she mentions, taking note of street names and spots for a nice lunches, etc. Here is what she wrote about her first trip from the airport to Oxford on a bus (probably what we'll be doing too):
“I dozed, jolting occasionally at the driver's loud pronouncement of upcoming stops. At this early hour the bus hummed along quietly with few passengers, so the stops were infrequent. In the hazy surrealism of predawn, there really was not much to see--what I could make out was mainly countryside, though not what I would call quaint, and certainly no Shakespearean cottages or fairy folk peeping from the trees.”

5. I'm enjoyed the tulips sitting on my desk. They have been opening and add so much pleasure while I sit here at my desk.

6. Learned my brother's dear father-in-law is in critical condition after surgery. If you feel a tug to say a prayer along with me, I know it will be appreciated. Hard things. Update: Things are turning around for the better. Good news.   

7. I'm off for my exercise around the neighbourhood. Maybe with the snow mostly melted, there might be signs of spring in some sunny corner. I'll let you know if I catch any glimpses.

Here's wishing you a pleasant day,


Monday, March 13, 2017

March Assortment: The Simple Woman's Daybook

Alisa Anton / unsplash.com

While it's cold and snowy outside, and so many are happily talking of their own glimpses of Spring already unfolding in their neighbourhoods and gardens, I look for ways to add splashes of colour to my world on the inside. Though my garden lies dormant under layers upon layers of newly fallen white stuff, I buy bunches of tulips and daffodils to set in vases on my desk and tabletops, and I surround myself with artwork and pictures that sing Spring to me. The newest issues of favourite magazines with their bright seasonal covers do help as well. 

This week, I'm spending a couple of days with my mom. Between appointments and errands, I'm certain we'll find opportunities for some fun and laughter. Probably talk about family memories since we're both going through old photos these days, this time trying to peg down elusive dates for those pics that we keeping asking, "when was that again?"

Today I offer my March edition of The Simple Woman's Daybook -- don't forget to bring a cup of tea.

Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,

For Today

Looking out my window...  O Spring, Spring! Wherefore art thou Spring? Yesterday on Facebook I saw a cute picture of a red cardinal dressed in woolly hat and quilted vest holding a takeaway java in his outstretched wing. The caption: "Spring forward? How bleeping far did you move it?" Some of us around here could be asking the same question.

I am thinking... about Emily Dickinson and how she lived most of her life in self-imposed 'reclusive isolation'. I have often wondered how she could live in such confinement and yet still be so 'infused with a creative energy that produced almost 1800 poems and a profusion of vibrant letters'. A simple life lived mostly within the boundary of her family home and garden, her small social network of family and close friends. She wrote from her small world, but what she shares touches so many of us, because her themes are often universal. I take courage from that in my own writings as a quiet, simple woman in my own corner of the world. Even the smallest details -- what may seem mere crumbs of a life -- can be used as fodder to enhance our lives, change them for good, and then bless as we offer them to others.

I am thankful... for the wise old book of Proverbs. It's a favourite place where I find gentle, sometimes prodding, thoughts about how to live my life more beautifully. This morning I gravitate towards lines talking about the words we choose to speak: how good news nourishes the bones, and pleasant words are sweet to the mind and healing to the body, and how a gentle tongue with its healing power is a tree of life. Such good thoughts to mull a while. Lord, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable; let me offer good news and pleasant words and gentle responses today, so that even a listener's bones will benefit. 

One of my favourite things... is to watch kitty cats all curled up sleeping in a sunbeam. Alas, nowadays we don't have kitties, but I'm grateful for the many cat photos friends and followers share on social media; it's the next best thing to having my own sweet fur-balls. I completely relate to one woman who recently said on Twitter, on those days when she's feeling low, she only has to look at her sleeping kitties on the bed beside her to feel a quickening of joy leap within her. Even the thought of it makes me feel happy.

I am creating... a '60 years in 60 photos' project (first mentioned here) and I am happy to report all the photos have been selected, edited, and resized, everything now ready for the next step of turning the montage into a video. Through this all, there has been quite a stirring up of memories and old stories, all wanting to be heard and this time written down -- so a another new-old project in the works.

Following in the very large shoes of Dame Agatha Christie, I decided to write my own little autobiography -- to gather the bits and pieces of my life story thus far and set it down on digital paper. It's for myself first, as I sort out memories and their meaning as I ponder backwards, record lessons learned and maybe ones never quite figured out. And, if anyone else wants to read it, well, we'll see how that all unfolds down the road.

I'm taking a hint from Ms. Christie when she said as she began her autobiography at age sixty, "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 fifteen years, but since I'm not writing mysteries in between, I do hope it won't take that long. Plus, I'm also considering what the King very gravely said to Alice in Alice in Wonderland, "Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end; then stop." 

As seen on Facebook at Mid Century Fashion
I am wearing... In my imagination, a pair of slippers from this Glamour page of the 1957 Sears catalogue. Let me see, if I was feeling especially soft and feminine, I'd choose those pink mules with the pink bow, but I don't think they'd go with my slouchy pants, do you? So, I'll save those for later.

Now, as for those turquoise shoes with the smart buckle, they would fit perfectly with my mostly blue/green/turquiose wardrobe. But I must admit, those bold red slip-ons with the bold flower buckle do catch my eye this morning. They would certainly give a girl a reason to step lively -- even when she's working in her little office on a sometimes-dim, sometimes-sunny March morning. So, in your fertile imagination, which shoes would you be wearing today?

I just read... Poirot and Me by David Suchet and enjoyed it very much. In it, Suchet shares his story of how he came to perform the well known role of Hercule Poirot not just for one or two seasons, but for a total of 13 series over a 25-year span. I didn't realize he received the endorsement of Agatha Christie's daughter, Rosamund Hicks, and at that point, he made the commitment to present 'the most authentic Poirot that had ever been filmed.' Here is a favourite excerpt from the book:
“This is one of the great charms of Poirot’s investigations, for they reveal a world where manners and morals are quite different from today. There are no overt and unnecessary sex scenes, no alcoholic, haunted detectives in Poirot’s world. He lives in a simpler, some would say more human, era: a lost England, seen through the admiring eyes of this foreigner, this little Belgian detective. For me, that makes the stories all the more appealing, for although the days he lives in seem far away, they are all the more enchanting because of it."
"In those first days after the series had begun on ITV, I realised for the first time that Poirot touches people’s hearts in a way that I had never anticipated when I started to play him. I cannot put my finger on precisely how he does it, but somehow he makes those who watch him feel secure. People see him and feel better. I don’t know exactly why that is, but there is something about him. My performance had touched that nerve."

Want to read this month... Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber. A beautiful memoir of her life as she studied and lived in Oxford, UK, some years ago. From the note inside the cover, I first read this delightful story in 2011 -- it's certainly time to read again.

I am hoping... the weatherman is right about his prediction that more Spring-like weather begins today! The sun is shining ... that's a good start, isn't it? 

I am recognizing... that sometimes when I ask for someone's opinion or advice, it's not so much to get their input, but it's more to clarify what I am actually thinking or wanting. The juxtaposition of her ideas alongside my own soon makes it clear what I'm really desiring. Same goes for tossing a coin -- heads or tails -- when undecided about two choices. As the tossed coin descends, in that split second I know which way I want it to land. 

Did I happen to mention... We're going to Oxford later this Spring for my birthday? We didn't get to see this lovely city last summer, but I've been dreaming of visiting for years now. I want to see for myself those famous spires and steeples, and to snoop out haunts of old scholars and writers like C.S. Lewis. I want to catch glimpses of sprightly daffodils dancing in fields and alongside headstones in old church yards. I want to take in Choral Evensong at Magdalen College and listen for the church bells pealing on a Sunday morning; maybe go punting on the river in the afternoon. They say Oxford is a walking city, so taking in some walking tours are a must. It's all a birthday treat from handsome husband. Isn't he grand? I'm so grateful and so happy.

In my kitchen... After an afternoon of aromatic simmering, it's finally time for supper. Every spoonful is flavourful and generous with meat and vegetables. So worth the effort. Found this winner recipe here.

Post Script...  Sharing a link to a new-to-me fellow blogger. Accompanied by lovely photos, JES creates a delightful post about Jane Austen and the lovely homemaking hints gleaned from Jane's writings.
Shared Quote... 
"The beautiful spring came;
and when Nature resumes
 her loveliness, the human
soul is apt to revive also."
~ Harriet Ann Jacobs

A moment from my day... Here sits a simple vase of tulips at dusk. The striking pose of yellow petals against the indigo sky has me grabbing for my camera before the moment is blink gone.


Saturday, March 04, 2017

No Sign of Spring Today

Alisa Anton / unsplash.com

This afternoon I'm tucked up here in my little office working on a couple of desk projects. It's been snowing all day. Now it may be winter on the outside but it's spring in my heart as I gaze at my vase of sprightly tulips on my desk -- although not quite as luxurious as that huge bouquet in the photo above, it's still most cheering.   

Once in a while I go behind the scenes to look at my blog Stats, to find out what kind of traffic is coming to visit. When there's an indication someone's clicked on a post in the archive, I check it out to see if the post needs any tweaking. Once upon a time, Blogger updated their templates (or whatever) and all my posts to that date never transferred properly -- the fonts and formats got wonky. Ever since, I've been slowly, slowly going back to fix those posts so they looked decent, and while I'm there, I might add pictures to posts with text only, or delete some old stuff that just isn't worth keeping, that sort of thing.

I found these two posts from 2013. The first post is about a childhood memory of my very first encounter with cooked spinach -- I'll tell you right now we were not impressed. And the second post offers ways I deal with some of life's other green messes to make it all more palatable. I hope you don't mind the revisit.

Ahhh... I see it stopped snowing and the sun burst out -- it's looking all sparkly and pretty. Perhaps it's time to go whip up something toothsome in the kitchen to celebrate. I'm off...

Sending hugs and wishes for a beautiful weekend,

Friday, February 24, 2017

They Flew Out Like Butterflies

Photo: Pinterest | Uploaded by skinnydreaming

I am snooping through old photo albums this week. Memories that have lain dormant, some for decades, floated up from yellowed pages like butterflies on the move. Some pictures I remember the moments well. Others, not so much -- it's a little like looking at a stranger in a magazine, except she feels familiar.

The reason I'm poking in these old photos is to collect images that represent the seasons and times of this little life of mine. You see, I'm turning the big 6-0 later this spring and, after watching two lovely photo videos created in honour of Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday, I thought I would like to try that same idea. It should be easier as I only need to gather sixty instead of ninety pics, and I won't have quite as many crowns or fancy ball gowns to capture, so I should be able to pull it off. For the Queen's 90 Years in 90 Photos, click here and here.

It's not so easy to choose just one picture to represent a year from dozens. And, yet, some years are scantily represented with not much more than the obligatory Christmas and birthday poses. Surely lives were fuller than that, but we didn't take pictures of everything in those years, the way we do now. We may think, too bad, but any childhood remnants that remain can tell us enough of the story to jog our own memory and be taken to places photos alone could not fully encapsulate.

After all, these old pics brim with details of tales clamouring to be revisited. The air charges with emotion as suddenly a dozen connecting stories are ignited from the glimpses of former hairdos and eyeglasses and dresses, not to mention thoughts of 'do you remember when...'. You laugh out loud at silly photos where you are caught red-handed in a big pillow fight with old dorm college chums, the teddy bears we girls collected at the time as watchful souvenirs of fading childhoods. Oh yes, there arises the occasional wail of 'what was I thinking' when you catch sight of your grade seven class photo where you are wearing a pastel green top with light blue pants shored up by geranium red socks. You can read all about that tale here.

When such memories are triggered, you feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole -- you could be gone a long time before you emerge back into the sunlight of day. Which is exactly what has been happening to me this week.

Since I'm linking to Five on Friday today, I'm sharing only five of those sweet, old photos... you'll have to wait for my birthday to catch sight of the finished project '60 Years in 60 Photos'.


Here I am almost three years old staying with my dad's mother while my mom is in hospital having my little sister. My aunty, still a young lady herself at home with her parents, lets me play with her bead necklaces and I get to sleep in her bed at night. Alas, I repay that kindness by peeing in her bed one night; the memory of that is considerably faded, thankfully.

My grandma apparently was a good cook and baker. I have no recollection of anything she baked, although I do remember that her kitchen was often fragrant with the warm spicy aroma of cloves. And, decades later, I only have to catch a whiff of the spice to remember Grandma's nice city kitchen. 

My dad, Grandma, and me


As you can see, I was quite taken with my aunty's beads -- I wore them with everything. My dad would stop to see me when he'd come into the city to visit my mom and my new little sister at the hospital. I had no idea what a little sister was, but I was soon to find out.

In the meantime, Grandma's house was an interesting place to visit. There was tall, narrow door off the kitchen porch, which opened to the outside to the clothesline. And, I just now remember the little nook at the backdoor where the milkman dropped off the bottles of milk every morning. What fun to open and peer in and close that little door, it being the right size for me. This would have been all new to me, living out on the farm and getting milk straight from the cows. Oh, and there was the little girl I could play with sometimes; she lived across the street and I was allowed to walk across the quiet residential street by myself ... of which I felt very proud.

I loved my Grandpa as he would set me on his knee and ask me to show him my teeth. I'd smile widely and he'd admire immensely. He wore wire sleeve garters which totally intrigued me and I was allowed to play with them. According to Wikipedia, sleeve garters came into wide use in the late 19th century "when men's ready made shirts came in a single (extra long) sleeve length. Sleeve garters allowed men to customize sleeve lengths and keep their cuffs from becoming soiled while working or at the correct length when worn under a jacket".

Mom, little sister, and me (with teddy)


Here we are with our beautiful mom. Funny, my recollections of this little sister are vague at this early age. I would have watched my mom bath her and gently run water over her hair. I would have watched her being changed and maybe running to fetch the needed flannel cloth diaper. I must have loved this little sister dearly for I love her dearly still.

I still have vague impressions of our cozy farm living room. I certainly remember that green bouclĂ© couch with crocheted doilies everywhere. I loved doilies and as I grew I loved to watch my mom work the cotton threads into pretty patterns. Notice the orange pillow and zinnias? I could put those into my own living room and be right in fashion.

Dad, little sis, and me


My dad, handsome fellow that he was, has a grandson now who tries to get his hair cut to emulate his grandpa's jaunty look. Apparently that 1950's look is quite chic these days with young men.

After my dad passed away a number of years ago, it was looking at these wonderful old photos that gave me so much comfort. A part of me wanted to go back there where we were all so happy and he was still my daddy, here with us, strong and good.

Me and Little Sister testing out the new tricycle


Sis and I think we're all dressed up in our pretty dresses because it's her birthday. Somewhere in the family there is a cake photo where she's having great fun picking at the icing. But here we share a little pose on my new trike ... it was my own new birthday present ... for we two sisters have the happy fortune to share the same birthday month.

* * * * *

"Golden threads of imagination will always be found woven into the fabric of a human life, and it affords one of the sweetest pastimes to old(er) age to sit down and slowly unravel them, recalling the hours when first they were spun." ~ James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

"Back on its golden hinges The gate of Memory swings, And my heart goes into the garden And walks with the olden things." ~ Unknown

"A happy memory is a hiding place for 'unforgotten treasures.' " ~ Paul L. Powers

* * * * *

On that note, I wish you a most pleasant weekend. And, if you go in search of your own old photo albums, I recommend bringing a bag lunch and tea, you might be down the rabbit hole in a jiffy, enjoying yourself all afternoon.

Hugs and blisses,
x x