Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May. The Simple Woman's Daybook

As May sings her swan song at sunset, I'm sitting at my desk wrapping up the May edition of The Simple Woman's Daybook.

For Today...

Outside my window... A quiet, peaceful evening on this last day of May. The bark of a dog off in the distance. The sun filling fluffy clouds with golden light. Blissful twilight.   

I am thinking... Life is such a miracle. In particular, I'm thinking of the tiny fledglings now old enough to venture from the nest into the big world. They immediately know they should spread their tiny wings and fly, instinctively chirping the same chatter of their parents. Do you ever wonder what they think -- these brand new tiny creatures seeing for the first time green grass and tree branches and the folks staring at them? 

I am thankful... Today for the rain clouds heavy with moisture that have blessed our corner of the world with much needed moisture over the past days. This morning we woke to blue skies and sunshine -- how wonderful to feel the warmth on my face as I planted a scented geranium plant and evening scented stock in a sunny spot in the garden.

I am wearing... a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart.

I am going...
Going to die one day. But not today. And so I'm giving it my all to love the life I have, to create something beautiful with my hands, spread kindness, share love with those I meet day by day.  

I was wondering... What to include in this section. But now I know! This very pretty soft-petaled blossom of a hellebore. Isn't she exquisite?  Just the way a watercolourist might express its delicate features. This is a photo from last summer's bounty.

I've been reading... from my fresh pile of books. Some are from the library, some arrived in the mail from Amazon when I used cherished birthday gift cards:

1. Churchill & Chartwell, The Untold Story of Churchill's Houses and Gardens (in time for our garden tours on our upcoming trip to Britain). Sir Winston has been a hero of mine for many years, so I was excited to find this more personal insight into his home life and gardens.

2. I Feel Great about My Hands, And Other Unexpected Joys of Aging. The title grabbed my attention when I saw it at the library ... perhaps because some days I have not felt great about my oldish looking hands. Turns out the book is a collection of writings by Canadian women 'of a certain age' sharing their reflections about the dilemna of aging with "humour and poignancy." I am enjoying it.

3. Manna From Hades, A Cornish Mystery. While in England our travels will take us to Cornwall. So when I found this book -- new author to me -- at the library, I thought it might help me get a feel for the place. Although I can thank a favourite author, Rosamunde Pilcher, for creating a long standing longing to see Cornwall from reading her stories, including The Shell Seekers.

4. She Walks in Beauty, A Woman's Journey Through Poems. This book I first found at the library, and now when it came out in paperback, I knew I wanted to get my own copy.  This NYT bestseller is the brain child of Caroline Kennedy (yes, JFK's daughter). Some poets included in this collection are Elizabeth Bishop, Mary Oliver, W.H. Auden, Naomi Shahib Nye (one of my favourites of recent times), Christina Rossetti, Rupert Brooke, to name a few.

5. LOVE, A Keepsake Book. The first book I ever read of Susan Branch's was A Fine Romance. I was instantly smitten. Over the last couple of years, I've purchased all her recent releases, and I'm now gathering some of the older publications. I found LOVE in the used book section of Amazon for a penny plus shipping.  It arrived the other day and so I had an enchanting read of this little book first published in 1994. Every page is a feast for the eyes -- there is no mistaking Susan's creative artistry and 'heart'.

I am hoping... For the very real pleasure of meeting up with one of my blogging friends, Elizabethd while we are in England. We will be passing through Cornwall and, keeping fingers crossed, we're both hoping for the chance even of having a brief visit over a cup of tea together. In real life! Elizabethd, if you read this, I'll be in touch once we get the exact place of where we'll be stopping. 

I am learning... The best way to get things done is to begin to begin and do it one step at a time. Not look at the destination all the time, but confident in knowing every step I take on the journey to a project done or a destination won will bring me the desired result. I'm learning this as I write on my memoir. I find it works for cleaning drawers and cupboards in my house. Now it seems, it works exactly the same way as I work bar by bar on my Chopin piano piece.

In my garden... the Toba Hawthorne is loaded with pink buds coming into full bloom. The photo at the top of this post gives a glimpse of this glorious tree right outside my office window. Do you wonder then why I daydream as I sit here?

In my kitchen... These three tips have kept me sane over the years:

1. I set the table before I start preparing a meal, so I'm not trying to stir the gravy, drain the potatoes, and get the plates and cutlery on the table all at the last minute. This simple act makes me feel ahead and not behind -- in control of the situation. Plus, should anybody poke their noses in the kitchen wondering when's supper (if it happens to be a little late), the set table gives said 'anybody' assurance that such a marvel is truly underway.

2. Early in the day, usually as hubby and I are sipping our morning coffee, we ascertain the general idea of what we're going to eat that day for lunch and supper. Sometimes it's the most important piece of conversation we have in a day. It means I can get on with other things knowing there's a plan in place. Nothing like not knowing what's for supper till the last minute to add unneeded stress.

3. I leave room in my day for meal preparations. It cannot be done on a whim, I've learned. Years ago, I realized that I kept trying to fit too much into my days, and more to the point, into my afternoons. For example, if I am to meet a friend for coffee or do errands, I now plan it for mornings or early afternoon, so that I can be home by mid-afternoon. That way there's time to unwind, start gathering ingredients, setting the table, pouring a glass of something. Of course, that doesn't always work out, but it's a general guideline that has helped keep grumpy cooks at bay for the most part.

Three favorite quotes for today...
I jotted these earlier this month into my journal so I wouldn't forget them. They speak to me even as I key them in this post. I happily share them with you:

"I open the door of my heart so the losses march out."
~ Naomi Shahid Nye

"I listen for the fragrant grace notes."
~ Naomi Shahid Nye

"Come, Spirit, who is our light
Shine among the shadows within,
Warm and transform our hearts."
~ Joyce Rupp

One of my favorite things... Dappled light streaming into a room at sunset. Doesn't that corner look cozy? It's a picture I took of my sister-in-law's living room last summer.

Post Script... Here are two lovely links I found this week and had to share with you:

1. KellyCreates -- Scrapbooking and Paper Crafting Blog. Kelly, who turns out to be a fellow Canadian, shares tutorials, free downloadable templates for brush lettering. This looks like so much fun, not to mention, totally relaxing. I felt myself sinking deep into my chair as I watched a short video where she created beautiful lettering with the strokes of a brush pen (this is new to me -- I must get me some of those).

2. Did you hear that there's a new story with Winnie the Pooh, showcasing little Prince George and his great-grandmother, the Queen? I hope this book is available for purchase when I get to England. I must have me of one of these too.

* * * * *

There ... it's done. On that note, and with a hint of flourish, we bid farewell to the beautiful month of May. And, I take this opportunity to wish you a beautiful new June ... all fresh and bridal in anticipation of summer's adornment. May the pages of your own life story be filled with many glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.

Joy for the journey,
Love and hugs,

Friday, May 20, 2016

Pour Tea First: It's A Long Letter

Here it is past the middle of May and I haven't even jotted a tittle of a post for you. It's not meant as a lament but I keep being surprised at how the weeks and months are slipping by ... the days skittering like glass beads from a broken silk thread. Just a few days ago it was January, now it's May.  Is it just me, or do you find it that way too?

Sometimes I create pressure for myself about writing a post because I want something that will be some wonderful piece of writing, as if maybe I need to impress someone. So I mull and dream and pencil chew, hoping for words that inspire, create hope, and share a little fun.

I don't need to impress anyone. I don't need to impress you, do I? I mean, you and I share similar pleasures for so many of the ordinary, simple things of life, that it makes me wonder where this strange feeling comes from and why I let it keep me from writing however 'ordinary and simple' it turns out to be.

And, then there are the times when there is the added pressure when pangs of woe close in  -- whether these are my own personal little anxieties or those of people I care about or it comes from those sad and hurting faces I catch sight of in the media.

These are times when I feel the weight of too many words and too much information. Some people turn to their writing as a way to discover and work their way through hard times. I get quiet. I crave silence. And beauty. Petting a kitty. And connecting with creation's healing properties. Praying.  Writing is not my first go-to place for dealing with deep anxieties or sorrows. If a person ever caught sight of the inside pages of my journals, they would see the evidence: words regarding troubling situations are sparse -- details are sketchy.

So then, perhaps my lack of posts is part of feeling ...

... the weight of the world that stops me from sitting down to write these days. For right here in our own beautiful province of Alberta, eighty thousand people became displaced from their homes and community as we watched their city of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas burn with fierce and uncontrollable wildfires.

Even though I or my family are not personally involved in this devastation -- I'm hundreds of miles from that region -- yet the impact is very real to my own heart and mind. We do grieve for the sorrows and losses untold, and for lives turned upside down for so many people.

 ~ ~ Thank God For Bright Spots ~ ~

Yes, there are bright spots. Thankfully. I'm so glad for Helen Keller's thought. For, in the middle of it all, we have been proud to witness the strength, generosity, and compassion of thousands, including our amazing governments, towards the families and businesses personally impacted. 'Alberta Strong' resounds as the anthem for everyone in our province, not just the Fort McMurray evacuees. Together we share the sorrow, together we experience the overcoming of it. We are strengthened and encouraged. 

    And now for some...


Lest you think we let sorrow and suffering be the victors around here, I want to share a few things that are filling my heart with joy these days -- my 'grace note' moments that remind me we're not alone, we're in this together, and I can continually cast my cares on the Lord Jesus.

C.S. Lewis once said, 'Joy is the serious business of heaven'. Always longing for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places, I take seriously the business of filling my days with joy splashers. Susan Branch refers to these gifts as life softeners. Yes. That fits. Aren't we all grateful for such gifts to help lighten loads?


"If you've never been thrilled to the
very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom,
maybe your soul has never been in bloom."
~ Audra Foveo
Spring unfolds with not the same zip and eager freshness that is usual. Every bud and leaf must overcome a several season drought. One feels the labour of Spring's unfolding this year.

Yet... lilacs and Mayday and Plum trees blossom out and fill our neighbourhoods with fragrance of the most heady kind. The fragrance one can never quite breathe in deeply enough to get its full essence. What joy to catch a whiff on the wind or to bury our nose in the perfume drenched branches.


What with such a strangely mild, snow-less winter and warm Spring arriving much earlier than is usual, it now feels much later in the season. More like June.

Which is why I started wondering where all the summer birds were ... were we this Spring to be without moisture and our usual share of migrating birds coming to nest and sing their lovely songs? Now that would be something to lament. I would feel bereft and lost without by my little bird friends.

Especially the little Tree Swallows with their iridescent black tuxedos. Not to hear them chortle and chuckle as they 'discussed' plans and performed mating rituals? Then one day this week, a pair swooped in and laid claim to a nest box (photo from a previous year). Click to listen to their calls.

Almost on their tail feathers arrived the White-Throated Sparrows with their pretty melodies, not to mention the jolly red-winged blackbirds who will fly up to our feeders from the lake down the road. I always think it's cute the males announce their arrival when they visit, while the females slip in and out without fanfare.

Oh joy, oh bliss! Hands up with glee and me saying, Thank you, God! The world around me is coming right-side up. It's comfort as light as a feather.


 Photo from Twitter @FarmGirlGeorgie

I've been trekking with Susan Branch via Twitter as she and her Joe wend their way across the USA on her current book tour. My goodness, so many exciting things happening for this beautiful lady. After all the many months of hard work, Susan is certainly experiencing the sweet harvest of all her labour and faithfulness to sitting on the chair at her art table every morning.

First, there is the excitement of going on tour to share her newest book Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams with fans. Then she tells us that the Movie-TV Rights for the book have been sold (so there's a possibility of a movie or TV series coming down the road -- how cool is that!). And if that isn't enough for the 'Fairy Tale Girl', she finds out Isle of Dreams is on the NYT bestseller list under Travel (a first for her books), and she's been invited for interviews on television in Kansas City.

I'm as excited for Susan as if these would be mine own 'dreams come true'. How much beauty and hope she has given her world ... and to us, her fans and Girlfriends. I'm celebrating these red letter days with you, Susan! Click HERE for her latest interview.


Before another word gets said, I want to take this moment to thank each of you for your beautiful comments on my recent posts. Although I haven't been posting or visiting much lately, I am grateful for your presence here, and I cherish the time you've taken to write such lovely things for me and our beautiful readers. Grace notes most elegant! You make my heart sing. I appreciate you so much.


We were some excited when the book The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh by Kathryn Aalto arrived in the post the other day.

I first saw it being talked about on Twitter, and when I came across a review that said it was a perfect antidote for stressed living, I knew I wanted to read it. Besides, for someone who still loves Pooh and Piglet, Tigger and Christopher Robin, this book is a lovely reminder that the Hundred Acre Wood is real and still very much alive as it gives its readers a magical behind-the-scenes visit to A.A. Milne's world.

How perfect a book indeed to stir English imaginings as we begin the serious countdown to our trip to England. We'll actually be in the area on one of our garden tours, so I'm really hoping to catch a glimpse of Pooh's stomping grounds.

Have you ever read Christopher Milne's memoir about his childhood and his father, A.A. Milne, called The Enchanted Places? It's a lovely book and I have a soft spot for it still even though I read it years ago. There was something Christopher said about his dad gave me an insight into my own dad and it helped me to understand him better. Now it's on my look-for list when I'm in England -- I hope I find a copy to add to my library.

Sometimes the smallest things
take up the most room
in your HEART.
~ A.A. Milne

It is more fun to talk with someone
who doesn’t use long, difficult words
but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’
~ A.A. Milne


Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart,
it could hold a rather large  amount of GRATITUDE.
~ A.A. Milne


So often it's the little things that add a lot of happy to our world, isn't it? And when I found this wonderful easy-on-the pocketbook shower curtain, I knew I had to bring it home with me.

Not only does it fit perfectly with the bathroom's soft aqua walls, I love it because it reminds me of a summer meadow ... and a pretty vintage dress with a soft twirly skirt. Maybe even something that Sidney's heart love, Amanda, might wear walking on a summer's eve, after Sidney and Geordie finished solving the latest mystery in Grantchester, UK.

In a meadow full of flowers,
you cannot walk through and breathe those smells and remain angry.
We have to support the BEAUTY, the poetry, of life.
~ Jonas Mekas


Little things seem nothing, but they give peace,
like those meadow flowers which individually
seem odorless but altogether PERFUME the air.
~ Georges Bernanos


Cross the meadow and the stream
and listen as the peaceful water
brings PEACE upon your soul.
~ Maximillian Dejenerez 


My ideal is to wake up in the morning
and run around the meadow naked.
~ Darryl Hannah

(haha -- it wouldn't be me doing this; don't let me stop you,
you go ahead if you want to!)

When I started working on this post a few days ago, it was so dry in our province. Tinder dry. But today, I'm so grateful to report it's raining. Nice rains ... gentle, yet frequent. My window, where I'm oft sitting to peer out into my world, is drenched in rain drops and rivulets. Lovely.

An aside ... I just learned something new today. That word above 'rivulets' -- all my life I've been thinking it was 'riverlets'. Haha! Rivulets = a very small stream. Did you know that? I hope I'm not the only one.

Well, m'dears, I best be calling this a wrap before another day goes by. Please know I'm wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places and a wonderful weekend ahead.

Sending love and hugs,
♥ ♥ ♥