Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sunshine and Jelly Rolls

What is it about warm sunny mornings that sets the ambiance dial just right?

Today everything seemed perfect. Nothing poked or prodded or irritated.

I looked out and saw skies painted in that deep summery blue with lazy white clouds floating by.

Energetic breezes did that funny little whistle through the open windows and caused the curtains to billow back and forth.

How can such a simple thing as billowing lace at a window add so much pleasure to one's day? But it does, doesn't it?

Blowing in with that breeze there wafted old, old memories and I felt like I was back in the farmhouse kitchen of my girlhood.

In my mind, morning sunshine always seemed to stream into our kitchen, lighting up the cornflakes box if it was breakfast time. With warm summer days, window sashes would be lifted and gauzy curtains would waft in the draft.

Saturdays used to be very busy days in our family. The house would get cleaned within an inch of its life; furniture and floors were waxed and polished. Glorious things would be baking in the oven, and sometimes piles of homemade buns filled the counters and table as they cooled on wire racks. Never mind the cookies, cinnamon buns or pies.

There would be a general feeling of well-being about the place, even in the busyness; perhaps it was because everything was being set to rights again. And often, Saturday preparations were harbingers of Sunday dinners, when my mom would invite families home for a big dinner after church. Siblings and I always hoped it would be a family with kids our age to add to the festivities of sharing food in that inviting, sunny kitchen.

Today, I felt that sense of well-being wafting through my own windows. Birds chattered and robins splashed in the bird bath. The house filled with the fragrance of jelly roll cake baking in the oven -- it used to be one of those favourite baking staples in our house growing up. And although sunshine doesn't stream into my current kitchen till late in the afternoon, it still felt all bright and sunny this morning as I mixed the batter, whipped the egg whites and stirred the frothy lemon pudding. 

" ...nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.”
 ~ Julia Child, My Life in France

And so here it is... Lemon Jelly Roll
It's been years since I made homemade jelly roll. I forgot how quickly one has to get the wax paper off the bottom when you take it from the oven, and get it rolled up while it's hot, hot, hot; otherwise, as you can see, it cracks. Fortunately, cracked or not, the lemon didn't leak out and it was still delicious all the way.

Paired with a lovely Yorkshire black tea, it was practically perfect! So thanks, Susan Branch, for sharing your recipe with all your girlfriends and for wooing me into baking this succulent treat to enjoy on such a beautiful afternoon.

And if that isn't already enough, we're tuning this fine day into evening as we spend it with friends at a Strings Quartet classical music concert. Indeed our cup runneth over.
I'm wishing you full and overflowing cups too.

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Retreat Writing Nook


A desk, a chair and windows that open to Spring air and birdsong... (check)

A bed nice for snoozes, naps and night long rests... (check)

Books for inspiration, coffee for restoration, water for refreshment... (check)

Bars of Chocolate for consolation of mind and mouth... (check)

One first draft, lots of pens and paper... (check)
'Twas an interesting dynamic to revert to pen and paper, as I took no computer, iPad or Laptop with me on this retreat. I had just completed my first draft of 40,000 words earlier in the week, so my goal was to take the draft and begin editorial work on it, as well as do some research through old journals for details of that time period.

Photo by Strawberry Creek Lodge

One rustic log building, nestled in an idyllic woodsy area,
with walking paths, a rambly creek and beaver pond nearby... (check)

Delightful nooks and crannies inside and outside... (check)

Wonderful food, fun and fellowship... (check)

A wonderful balance of quiet solitude and stimulating conversation... (check)
And... a meeting of hearts and minds of new writing friends... (check)

photo by Mario Maier

Remained focused and worked on the goals I came with... (check)

Practically perfect in every way... (check)

Can't believe the week is gone already. I've been back from the retreat since Monday, but with Spring now in full swing around here, there's many other things that need attention.
Now... totally and completely removed from pens, writing and words, I'm going to bake a Jelly Roll for afternoon tea this weekend. Talk about making someone in this house happy, happy! I'm planning to use Susan Branch's recipe which you'll find in her entertaining newsletter here.
On that note... here's my heart wishing you a beautiful weekend... along with a little inspiration to create something that will tickle your fancy, delight your soul and encourage your spirit....maybe even your tummy!

Hugs and blisses,


Friday, May 16, 2014

Away on a Writing Retreat

Just a wee note to let you know I'm away this weekend on a writers' retreat.

It's about two hours out into the country and I sure hope to catch glimpses of Spring unfurling her loveliness while I am out there. On second thought, forget the glimpses, I want full-fledged vistas of Spring in every corner, every nook, every pathway.

I'm told there are lots of trails for rambling (that'll be where I go to ponder out the next scene in my love story memoir.... or maybe I'll just go ramble and forget the pondering.)

Whenever I've read about some author who's taken time away from the usual business of life in some quiet corner to write, I've felt a little 'sigh' of desire.  To be able to actually carve out space and time, and not have to worry about cooking or laundry or grocery shopping even for just a few days...well, I never thought in a million years I'd be the one to do just that... but here I am. In the words that Susan Branch likes to often use, "If you can dream it, you can make it so."  Even little dreams like this one.

Now, it's not a go-away-and-be-by-myself retreat. That could prove too lonely.  There will be eight or nine of us lugging our equipment and writing projects to this lovely spot.

I'm hoping for coziness in my room, the sunshine warm on my back when I need a breath of fresh air, not to mention the inspiring camaraderie with the other participants. As one writer once put it, I'm looking for just the right balance between the availability of conversation and the availability of solitude.

I follow the creative road into the Light.

  I walk...wait...write...

On that note, I best go finishing my packing.
Wishing you a beautiful weekend with hugs,

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Good Morning, Merry Sunshine!

Mom, Little Sis, Me holding Teddy

"Good morning, Merry Sunshine!"

It's a greeting that echoes down through the decades of my life, still spilling warmth and light into my soul.

It was one I hadn’t thought of in years, but when it wiggled its way out from some dusty corner one day a few years ago, I stopped to take notice.

For with those little words came such a sweet flood of happy and cozy feelings. And, for a fleeting moment I was back in the old farm kitchen. I would have been around five or six years old at the time.

I remember padding my sleepy-eyed self down the short hallway into the sun flooded kitchen, where Mommy was probably making breakfast. She stopped whatever she was doing to welcome me into the day with her cheery, “Good morning, Merry Sunshine.”

I don’t recall if Mom used that little nickname on a regular basis, or just that one time, but even after all these years, just remembering it again makes me feel all warm and safe. Her words, spoken so long ago, poured out something precious – like costly ointment -- over me. They are a reminder that Mom’s love for me over my lifetime has been like sunshine…warming, cheering, brightening.

Words a mother speaks over her children can echo over a lifetime. The use of nicknames, whether pretty, cute, funny or gently teasing of a special personality trait, when spoken with love and kindness, can give a child a sense of belonging and of being well loved. That’s exactly what “Merry Sunshine” did for me all those years ago.

Today I want to say thanks to my dear beautiful mom for speaking words of love over my life in those early formative years, and all through the decades. She has been that bright spot of my life...knowing her constant love was always there for me brought me through many a tight spot.

Happy Mother's Day

 "Her children rise up and call her blessed."
from the book of Proverbs

With loving thoughts to you, Mom, and everyone reading this,


Piece originally published in 2009

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring Weather, Happy Music, Fleurs for Celebrating

Adding spring to the corners in my house, 2014
Any self-respecting perennial in my garden should be weighing her options about sticking her little green shoots out just yet -- even if the Victoria Day long weekend is around the corner. Victoria Day in Canada (third Monday in May) is well known for gardeners in these parts to be out in their gardens enthusiastically planting and getting them ready for summer. Alas, we are not much nearer Spring in full bloom around here than we were several weeks ago.

Yes, there are bright blue, sunny skies that look promising when you peer through the window. They beguile you to step out expecting warmth, but in truth the days are quite chilly and temperatures still plummet below freezing most nights. It was sleeting the other morning. Sigh. Surely this week....

Need some happy music
It's been busy at work. We're getting up at one o'clock in the morning (two hours earlier than usual) so we can get our cleaning and polishing done before the Dance Festival troops start pouring in shortly after 6:00 a.m. at our local performing arts centre. Which means the body of this ma'am is starting to feel the weariness well into her bones.

Our spirits flag a little when we get so tired. Even my eyelids seemed too tired to close one morning when we sought sleep on our return. (Lest I wander off into some whine without cheese, I went in search of a little h-a-p-p-y violin music... you can catch some here and here and this one is fun too. If you ain't happy or at least tapping your toes by the time you listen to these, you's got problems, honey.)
Celebrating goal met

We've got news to share. Remember the writing challenge I gave myself in April to write 750 words minimum -- every single day -- for 30 days? With a goal to have 30,000 words at the end of it?
 Well... WE DID IT! We were on such a roll once we sat our little self down every single day that we even exceeded the goal and topped 40,000 words... of my very first draft of my very first book project -- a memoir of the heroine's days as single woman.

Needless to say we whirled around in our chair with glee. We enjoyed this gorgeous bouquet of flowers that came from someone very near and dear (she's been listening to me for years talk about writing a book). We chortled. We grinned. And, we whistled. No, we didn't actually whistle, but maybe we should do that too.

A dream unfolds here that started forming several decades ago as a young woman. Dreaming on the back step of the little house I lived in, enjoying the twilight of a summer's evening and trying to capture in words something of the beauty of the world around me. As Lisa Dale Norton said to me yesterday when we spoke... It's not about taking so long to get started. Stories from our hearts, our lives cannot be hurried. They must emerge when they are ready.

"Because nothing happens unless first we dream."  ~  Carl Sandburg

I saw on the news the other evening, a 90-year-old man finally achieve his high school diploma. He was one happy man! It was a dream he had all his life. With that under his belt, he was now thinking about studying a new language and maybe taking up music lessons. How's that for inspiration!

On that note, I wish you each a beautiful day... and a wee bit o' time for dreamin' something lovely. For it seems it's never too late if we just begin.

Friday, May 02, 2014

A Little Housekeeping...A Little Mozart...

This morning we're tackling one little task...sorting through the binder that houses all the instruction manuals for our appliances and other home equipment. Isn't that fun? I bet you wanna run and do that too now...haha.

I'm not saying this out loud, but I went into the proverbial junk drawer in my kitchen to find those manuals from our latest purchases that never made it into the binder (why put them there in there in the first place, I ask you?)

Well, what a junk drawer indeed. A dog's breakfast! Besides a half a dozen pamphlets and booklets, there were assorted rubber bands, little white candles for emergencies, boxes of matches for said candles, BBQ lighters by the handful, washers and screws and a few phone outlet thing-ies, e-cloths... recipe cards, the nice velvet cover for the wine enhancer thing-y that adds air (sorry, my nouns have gone south today) name it, it was probably in there.

So while the binder upstairs in my office waited to be finished, we sorted, threw out, restored items to their rightful place.... and yes, we eventually got back to the binder. It's done too.

And now we're soooo exhausted :) from all that exertion, we're ready for a nice, restorative cuppa tea in my lovely teacup that says A cup of tea solves everything.

Through all this, we're enjoying a little Mozart. His music always makes me feel h-a-p-p-y. He's one of my top favorite composers... I can never quite decide who's number one for me: Mozart, Bach or Handel. Today it's Mozart.

The morning, which is almost noon as I finish this post, is bright with sunshine and blue skies, although there's this northerly biting wind blustering its unwelcome self into the picture.

However, with Herr Mozart humming something gloriously cheerful, who shall worry about the hint of more white stuff for the weekend. To ward off any feeling sorry about that, I'm offering this little bit of musical sunshine should you care to hum along with me.

I'd love to know if on the first few notes you, too, don't feel a rise in your 'happy' temperature. Let me know by leaving a comment here?

Oh yes, we're still on track with writing every day on my 30-day challenge (we're at Day 27). The rough draft has been slowing piling... and I now have 115 double-spaced pages. We are delighted to report that we've outstripped the original goal of 30,000 words in 30 days.  We're now happily sitting at 36,500 and we haven't even sat down to write today's quota. I'm now aiming for 40,000.  For me this is HUGE!

Anyways, that's my day so far...what's on your agenda? Whatever you're up to, I hope you add a spice of something nice to the mix.

"Oh, the joy of routing woodworm from the back-bedroom bureau! (What a recharging of the female batteries at discovering enough dirt under the sofa to plant pansies!)"
From her novel The Spring Cleaning Murders

On that note, here's wishing you a beautiful day,

Photo sources from the top:,,