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,
Brenda
xox

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,
Brenda
xox


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,
Brenda
xox





   

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,
Brenda
xx





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,
Brenda
xx