Thursday, May 02, 2019

Simple Woman's Daybook: May Edition


Photo: pixabay.com


"The sweet small clumsy feet of April came
into the ragged meadow of my soul."
~ E.E. CUMMINGS


And then those little feet went out again! April had early signs of Spring around here and we felt so ready for it, but of late we've been waking up to snow on the ground … and it was there again this morning. Oh my! So much for any darling buds of May.

It's not for myself so much that I feel out of sorts about this -- my house is filled with jars of tulips and daffodils so it feels very spring-like inside. But I do fret for all the migrating birds and butterflies and bees coming north as daylight grows longer, only to arrive here and find Spring stalled for days on end. We've had late snow storms in past years but then they pass and it gets warm. Warm isn't happening so far. Lengthening days and warming temperatures seem out of sync, they aren't meeting up as they ought. No insects yet, few buds on the trees. And any self-respecting worm surely stays below the frost line, so what's a robin to feast on? SIGH.

Casting around for grateful thoughts... Oh, yes, I'm grateful for all the Spring beauties that other bloggers and Facebook friends post online. I feast my eyes. And I'm so grateful for the robin's sweet whistles whether it's snowing or sunny. I remember, too, to think a wider perspective, to remember that many dear folks are dealing with floods and the very real possibility of losing their homes in eastern Canada, and now I hear people in India are bracing for cyclone weather. My snow-cum-moisture in disguise is of smaller consequence, I think. Except I still worry about the wildlife and the cycle of seasons changing and ...

Let me just remind myself and reiterate my desire to keep this blog as free as possible from the woes of the world. It's not that I don't care, for I care deeply. And I know many of you do too. But it's nice to have a spot somewhere where we don't have it in our faces and we can focus on something other than bad news. Besides, we cannot keep mourning. Our hearts are not made to mourn all the time. Joy is what gives us our strength -- the joy of the Lord is our strength, for those who believe -- and I've found it to be so even when I am grieving over big or little losses. So I set aside this small place in cyberspace where you and I can go to think about happy things and everyday pleasures and learn how to carry on with our lives with as much grace and finesse as we can. We keep searching for the kindness and beauty that is everywhere, hidden sometimes except to the most earnest of searchers, and then passing it along, sharing it with others.

This morning Sarah Clarkson shared a post on Facebook that was so sweet and encouraging. A young mom learning how to live her beautiful life as she raises a little one who is also learning about what makes life sweet, even at this early age. I want to share the LINK and hope you can access it even if you are not a FB follower. (It was posted May 2nd, and it begins like this: "A much needed moment of recollection... shared. (Do you see that determined little hand?)…" 

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On a different note entirely, I haven't told you lately how much I appreciate your continued support and all the lovely comments you leave here on the blog. I read every one, and often several times over. I'm not online as much as I used to be, but I hope that will adjust again down the road. Just the other morning, I received a new comment on my previous post from a 'silent' follower, who told me that she's been following It's A Beautiful Life off and on for some time now. How lovely to learn. I'm so grateful for you. So, THANK YOU for each and every comment and for sharing glimpses of your own life here and on your own blogs and websites. Your presence here on cyberspace makes my heart remember there are many good things to be glad about!

And now, I'm offering the May edition of The Simple Woman's Daybook. I hope you have a big cup of tea. And, I hope there's something in it that makes you glad you stopped by. Here's wishing you a beautiful day.

With loving thoughts,
Brenda
xox

  


Outside my window... Spring has been most reluctant to unfold its presence this year. It started out so promising and then it retreated. Cool with biting winds and snow some mornings. Now I do prefer slow arrivals to Spring where the days unfold more delicately as if someone is unpacking fine china or a vintage wedding veil. Slowly. A blade at a time. We've had years where the last day of Winter mashes into a half day of Spring and soars straight into Summer with temperatures soaring as if it was the middle of July and it's only April. So no, we like it slower. But maybe not this slow. And maybe not the snow anymore. Since it is May. Just sayin'.


I am thinking...  about the trend I'm seeing and hearing around here where many young women are telling their moms they don't want the cherished china, crystal, or Royal Doulton doll collections. I don't have any daughters to pass things along too, but I find this a sad-ish trend. Not that I don't understand it. Maybe our generation collected too much, and many women today are not stay-at-home moms keeping house and being fulltime caretakers of children and china treasures. Yet when I find myself shopping at places like Home Sense and find all sorts of the pretty floral dishes, including stemware, crystal salad bowls, footed cake stands, teacups that happily remind me of wares popular in my youthful days, and I see young women snapping them up, I'm happy, but it's all pretty in elegant plastic!

Why would customers prefer plastic over the 'old-fashioned' fine china, sparkling crystal, and real silverware that pings on plates over the plastic look-a-likes? My 20+ year old niece, who does like fine china teacups and dishes, gravitated to a crystal look-a-like water jug I bought recently at Home Sense. I couldn't find a glass one that day. She loved how pretty it looked and commented she was pleased it was plastic. Oh, interesting. Perhaps it's the upkeep -- it's easy to throw in the dishwasher. No maintenance to speak of. Yes, I certainly get that. But I am sad for all those lovely, well-made pieces that our mothers used to scrimp and save for, that I used to scrimp and save for, buying a piece at a time to set a pretty dining table for company and other special events. Will those items end up in landfills across the continent? Oh, I certainly hope not. I hope these quality pieces will come into vogue again before they are lost forever.




I am thankful... for family and friends who reminded me a couple of weeks ago that my presence on this planet matters to them. Flowers, presents, lunches out, not to mention all the bunches of birthday wishes from loved ones near and far. Thank you!


One of my favorite things... our morning routine of freshly brewed coffee and muffins in bed when we first wake up. And not having to get up to rush off to work. That's the very best!


One thing I'm not fond of is... writing out the letter "F" in cursive capitals. It feels awkward to shape it. It usually looks odd when I write it out. I never get a flourish when I try to shape the top and then the curve at the bottom. I have no problem and quite enjoy writing a small 'f'. I guess I could practice.


I am wearing... jeans, messy hair (haven't tamed it yet this morning), no earrings, a sleeveless tunic top with an artsy sunflower in front. Slippers.


I am watching... the team of young fellows building our new deck in our backyard. Young strapping fellows who usually bring their Tim Hortons coffees when they arrive in the morning. I was home yesterday so I made banana pecan muffins and offered them some with freshly brewed coffee for their break. When I brought out the muffins, one fellow said, you remind me of my grandma -- she's always making muffins and cookies. We all laughed. I had my own secret chagrin chuckle that he saw me as the grandma figure, not, say, his mom or his aunt, but his grandma. I think I'm laughing... hahaha. Recipe further down.


I am reading... the books I've been holding close to me since the beginning of the year, such as Book Girl (Sarah Clarkson), Beauty The Invisible Embrace (John O'Donohue), Calm Things (Shawna Lemay). I've been taking my time to read more slowly, more meditatively and thoughtfully, dipping into them page by page, occasionally flitting here and there like a bee collecting nectar. Or, to use my own metaphor preference, filling the inner well. See Julia Cameron if you need more on that.

One such companion is Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson, a 30-something woman living and studying in Oxford with her husband and young daughter. She's written the book I might have penned if I'd known how to do so thirty years ago. Her story is mine in so many ways. No, not in life experiences and opportunities, but in our inward journey of discovery of life lessons, love, loving God, finding that beauty truly matters, and so on. Her book is written as a testament of "just how powerfully books had shaped her to live her own story within the world." I have found that to be true for me as well. She offers lists of her favourite books, the books that sustained her and gave her hope through strained times. So many of the books she mentioned I read years earlier and loved learning that she found them as engaging and challenging and encouraging as I did. I also discovered books on her lists that I haven't read. Yet. I aim to pick up some of these in the weeks and months ahead. I so loved reading her story -- so much of her own memoir is entwined with her book suggestions. I'm certain if you love books, you will find this one a joy to read.


I'm listening to... robins, chickadees, the radio playing in the background, a school bus zooming by.


I am learning... Was going to say I couldn't recall anything new I've learned recently. However, in chatting with my friend Jean this afternoon, she told me the difference she sees between baking powder and baking soda. If you want the ingredient, like cookies, to spread while baking, you use baking soda. And if you want it to rise like cake, you use baking powder. There, even if I ever knew that in my earlier life, it was like brand new information to me today.



In the kitchen...
Banana Pecan Muffins

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas, approx. 3 bananas
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg (more if you like it stronger)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup pecan pieces

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and bananas. Stir in flour, nutmeg, and baking powder. Stir in vanilla and pecan pieces. Makes 10-12 regular muffins or 6 large muffins. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes for the regular size and 25 minutes for the large size, or until golden brown.


I am creating... a couple of Shutterfly photo albums. I'm finally getting our England trip photos into print coffee table books so that we can sit down, read the stories and look at the pictures. I know we live in a digital age, but some things need to be printed and then held in one's hands to go through page by page. Photo books, in my view, are one of those things.


I am hoping... for warmer weather, in case I didn't mention that earlier.


I am looking forward to... sitting on our new deck as soon as it gets warm enough. Looking forward to getting into the garden to see what survived winter. Waiting for the Hawthorne tree to finally feel it's safe to burst into pretty pink blossoms and for the Mayday trees to fill the neighbourhood with their lightheaded fragrance.




Around the house... I recently put up a bookshelf in our tiny kitchen to house my recipe books, so I could use the pantry for foodstuffs. It's not a big collection, but it includes well-used ratty looking books as well as a few pretty-pictured ones that truly are just for looking, although I do peruse always looking for possibilities, even if I don't ever make them. My one sister takes great pleasure in looking through recipe books -- it's one of her simple pleasures.




A peek into a corner of my world...
The newly installed (yes, I put it together myself) bookshelf in the kitchen.


A current favourite quote...
"Joy is not simply happiness on steroids.
It's the unyielding belief that sorrow and loss
do not have the final say. It's the stubborn
determination to be present to whatever may
come and to interpret both goodness and grief
by the light of heaven."
~ STACI ELDREDGE


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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

I Love Oxford in the Springtime


I love spring anywhere,
but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.
~ RUTH STOUT


Do you remember that old song they used to sing, I love Paris in the Springtime? Now I haven't been to Paris in the Springtime, but ever since we visited Oxford two years ago in April, I feel that way about Oxford. The last few days I've been feeling a little homesick. Spring in Oxford (well, in England generally) is something to behold -- such aliveness to the countryside, to life and love, beauty and poetry. It didn't take me long to realize that that place of 'dreaming spires' really was my soul's home, and I felt as if I'd come home when I arrived.

I'm indulging myself today by browsing through some of the garden photos we took while there. Each of the colleges in Oxford boasts lovely grounds and gardens, and they can be viewed by the public when classes are not in session. How lucky then were we to visit when term was over.

And, the Botanic Garden, that spot of quiet beauty and elegance, was such a joy to wander through on that warm Spring morning. The birds were in full chorus and the sun squeezed its warmth past barely leafed out trees onto our faces. It was like a little heaven on earth. And, I'm in this moment reminded of those lines from that poem "God's Garden" penned by Dorothy Frances Gurney (London: Country Life, 1913) . . .

"The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's Heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on Earth."

It's true, that's how I felt that day. So, I've gathered a few garden photos from our visit to Oxford in the Springtime -- I hope you enjoy.





Spring has returned.
The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
~ RAINER MARIA RILKE



Holywell Cemetery


"The first blooms of spring always
make my heart sing."
~ S. BROWN





April hath put a spirit of youth
in everything.
~ WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE




Spring comes:
the flowers learn their colored shapes.
~ MARIA KONOPNICKA





"Spring's greatest joy beyond a doubt
is when it brings the children out."
~ EDGAR GUEST


The Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum, Oxford


"Despite the forecast,
live like it's Spring."
~ LILY PULITZER






"Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and
sunshine are hard to beat."
~ LAURA INGALLS WILDER





"Can words describe the fragrance
of the very breath of spring?"
~ NELTJE BLANCHAN



Magdalen College Tower as viewed from the Botanic Garden


"To plant a garden is to
believe in tomorrow."
~ AUDREY HEPBURN 




"Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer!
I must get out and breathe the air deeply again."
~ GUSTAV MAHLER




"No matter how chaotic it is,
wildflowers will still spring up in the middle of nowhere."
~ SHERYL CROW





"Let us dance in the sun,
wearing wild flowers in our hair."
~ SUSAN POLIS SCHUTZ




"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers.
Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul."
~ LUTHER BURBANK


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There -- I feel much better. I've love to know if you have a favourite photo or if one of those lovely quotes popped out as you went along.

Don't forget to carry something beautiful in your heart today. It really does help keep the uglies at bay. And so now, beautiful friends, here's wishing you a wonderful day. Sending love and


Hugs,
Brenda
xox




Monday, March 25, 2019

Simple Woman's Daybook: March



"Spring: the music of open windows."
TERRI GUILLMETS


It's Monday morning and we have no new blog post for you. What with going to an art show with friends and getting on with our Spring ritual of cleaning, which includes rearranging furniture, d├ęcor and dust bunnies, the weekend flew by. Oh yes, and in between all that, I have been working away at my digital-to-print photo albums of our 2016 holiday to England -- oh the memories that flutter up as I sort through the photos. It's such a fun project. 

Today I shall rely on the ready-made prompts from Simple Woman's Daybook and see where that takes me. If I don't linger too long on each point, I might have this ready by late morning.


FOR TODAY

Outside my window... it's still dark and the neighbourhood is shrouded in deep shadow. It's only six in the morning and no self-respecting sun rises that early at this time of year. Although I can't see it, I know the snow is nearly gone from our yard. Yah! As the ground begins to thaw, soon there will be signs of life. The appearance of those first shoots of greenery always comes as a surprise to me. The earth's been frozen for so long, it feels as if it will take forever for them to poke through, but it only needs a touch of warmth from the sun to encourage them to rise up to new life.

I am thinking... about something I read in a book of essays Calm Things by Shawna Lemay. She talks about the bounty of gifts we receive in our lifetime … smiles, compliments, the joy of watching a robin make a nest in the front tree … offerings of all kinds. She mentions the reproductions of Vincent Van Gogh's bird nest paintings. She says, "Van Gogh took the gift of these nests that he received from nature and later stacked in his cupboard, thirty or so of them, and sent them back into the world in the form of paint -- earthy, muddy, mossy colours, dark and whirling, fragrant and sublime."

That phrase 'sent them back into the world in the form of paint' has been playing on my mind ever since I first read it. It really speaks to me. In what form could the many gifts I have received be sent back into the world? Like Shawna, I think about the thousands of gifts I have been given over my lifetime -- handmade cards, bouquets of flowers, sunsets and rainy days, kind words from readers, compliments on a new top and earrings, proffered plates of muffins and homemade buns, presents in paper and ribbon -- it overwhelms me as I think about the generosity of God and people and nature. And I ask the same question that Shawna asks: "What to do with our riches, but to attempt to send them out again in the form of our work? Words and paint." What form shall I, Brenda, send these gifts back out into the world to bless others ? What form shall your gifts take?

I am thankful... for the arrival of Spring. Truly thankful. And, I'm grateful to have survived the winter. I'm glad for the arrival of the Canada Geese -- they are often one of the first to appear from the south, eager to find their summer homes beside ponds and lakes.


In the kitchen... I made Irish Pub Salad with Creamy Tarragon Dressing for supper the other evening. It was yummy. I found the recipe in the March/April issue of Victoria magazine. As you can see from my photo, the ingredients include Irish cheddar cheese, hard cooked eggs, and a medley of vegetables: bibb lettuce (as the base) and layered over top with shredded red cabbage, pickled beets, sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, and pickled beans.

The creamy tarragon dressing is 1/2 cup of mayo, 1/3 cup malt vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 cup olive oil. In a bowl, whisk everything except the olive oil. Keep whisking and gradually add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. Drizzle over the salad and serve.

I am wearing... a black tank top and capri bottoms, silver bracelets, pink lipstick, and a spritz of British Rose Body Shoppe fragrance.

I am creating... new arrangements in my house this week. My study is upside down today. First, I took the vintage dropleaf desk out to be placed in our bedroom. Because I took out the bookshelf that reminds me of a mantlepiece from the bedroom and now resides in the living room. The new arrangement of one item suddenly opened the door to new possibilities and vignettes. The short shelf that had been mooshed into the corner of the study behind the credenza where the printer sits was now hauled out and set where the dropleaf desk used to be. Oh my, it feels lighter in here already. I think that little shelf is feeling freer too.

I am going... for a walk. It has been so wonderful to step out into the days and feel the warmth of the sun instead of the excruciating bite of the north winds. Ice and snow are mostly gone, so limbs are less at risk of falling.

"In every walk with nature one
receives far more than he seeks."
JOHN MUIR



I am reading... through the collection of souvenir garden guidebooks I bought when we were in England. For such lovely places as Churchill's Chartwell, Ann Boleyn's Hever Castle, Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst Castle, and Penshurst Place (one of the filming sites for PBS's mini-series Wolf Hall). Some memories begin to blur together and the guidebooks help sort out forgotten details. We say, oh yes, now I remember.

I am hoping... to lose three to five pounds before my birthday. It might be easier if I were considering losing five pounds of books. But with getting back into the swing of daily walks now that it's warmer, that will certainly help. I've already cut down (but not out) the cookies -- that helps too.

I am looking forward to... a family celebration that is already being planned for my nephew's university convocation coming up in June. My sister's family lives in a very beautiful part of this province, out in the countryside, near enough to see the Rocky Mountains in the distance while sitting on the deck. We always have a wonderful time together when we visit.

I am learning... not much new these days. No new crafts or skills at the moment. I am interested to better my photography skills and work away at it.

Around the house... we've got laundry on the go, the radio is playing classical music, the table is set for lunch when hubby comes home from the gym.

I am pondering... why I have curtains at the windows of my house. For me it's not so much to close out the world. I would not 'need' curtains for that. But I have come to see that I need curtains because they 'so faithfully translate the language of wind.' Yes, yes, that's why! Not sure who to attribute that phrase to -- I saw it online and it leaped out at me.

A favourite quote for today... "Make progress every day on one thing that matters to you." ~ Unknown.

One of my (new) favourite things... is Dvorak's Symphony No 9, Op 95 "New World". I've heard it played numerous times over the years, but this past week, Rick and I listened to one concert we found on YouTube that blew us away at its perfection. I sat almost motionless as we listened, I was so taken by the music, feeling like I was inside the very notes themselves. It was magical to watch the conductor, Sergiu Celibidache, work with the orchestra and bring this beautiful piece of music to life. The concert was recorded in 1991. It's 55 minutes in length, so if you plan to listen, I recommend making it an event for yourself "a concert in a sitting room". And, if you like it, you might become so enraptured that you won't even think you need tea -- we didn't. You can find the link HERE.


A peek into my journal... My journal is usually a stream of consciousness of this and that. And I'm always adding passages from books I'm reading that I want to remember. Most of my journaling happens in the wee hours (either late at night or early in the morning, depending). So it's kinda messy, but I try to add bits of something pretty between the scribblings. For me, sketching is too much effort and I'm not deft at painting, so I include something easier like adding clippings that catch my eye from old magazines. I always feel a jolt of joy when I open my journal to find something lovely to 'fill my well' and colour my world in that moment.

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That's it for prompts for today. I think we've got ourselves a post. Will do an edit and an out-loud proofread and hit Publish. Hope there's something in it worth your visit. 


Here's wishing you a beautiful day
and a week ahead filled with things that are splendid and good.

Sending hugs,
Brenda
xox