Monday, June 18, 2018

A Little Something On Monday

**A little something from the garden**

I had a little lesson about finding treasure in the muddy and broken. A couple of these tiny sprigs were salvaged from their mother plants when they broke off and got muddied during a heavy rainstorm a couple days ago. I plucked them up and rinsed them off. The purple salvia (which looks so much like lavender, doesn't it?) took a hit during transport from the garden centre, so I had to regretfully clip off one of the spiky blossoms.

The tiny green bottle a friend once gave me creates a very nice home for these reclaimed beauties. They now sit on top of a stack of books on my desk, with my copy of Oxford Sketchbook as their backdrop.

**A little something for dessert**

The other day I found six of these tiny glass dessert cups at the thrift store. Just what I didn't know I needed until I saw them. We currently have suitcase size ice cream bowls which really are too big for those of us trying to be a little more careful with the sugars and sweets. They take three scoops to fill. A single scoop looks lost in the bottom, which often means 'we'll just top that up, shall we'?

No, we really don't want to top it up, thank you, so these smaller bowls will do nicely. Although you can't really gauge from the photo, there's just enough room for a single scoop of ice cream or a small fruit salad. The bowl's even too small for an ordinary teaspoon to properly sit on the side--it just tips out. Which means I might need to search out some of those shorter spoons too.

What's in the bowl, you ask? Frozen vanilla yogurt topped with the last-in-the-house tiny morsel of delicious Celebration Lemon Creme cookie on a dark chocolate biscuit base. Breaking it into bits, I sprinkled it over top. A spoonful of frozen yogurt, a lemon zest bit, and a bite of chocolate -- let's just say we were content!

**A little side dish for dinner**

This is a simple summer salad using radishes fresh from the garden, or the grocery store if you don't have a garden. The twist is the delightful mix of radish, caraway, and oregano in a white wine vinaigrette. Not sure where I found this recipe, but I'm glad I did. Yum. 

Radish Salad

10 - 15 radishes, thinly sliced

2 tsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. canola or olive oil
1 tsp. caraway seed
2 tsp. fresh Greek oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. sugar
Sprinkle of salt
Dash of pepper

Serves 2

**A little something to ponder with your morning coffee**

"Great opportunities come to all, but many do not know
they have met them. The only preparations to take advantage
of them is simple fidelity to watch what each day brings."
~ Albert E. Dunning

* * *

"Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the
part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it.
Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got."
~ Steven Pressfield

* * *

"For one moment quit being sad.
Hear blessings dropping their blossoms all around you."
~ Rumi

* * *

"Do for one what you wish
you could do for everyone."
~ Andy Stanley

* * *

On that note, I'm wishing you a pleasant week ahead. I truly hope there is something scheduled in it that makes you look forward to it with delight and confidence.


Monday, June 11, 2018

How I Found My Beautiful Life: Somewhere Near the Beginning

Unknown |

"Every life is braided with luminous moments."
~ John O'Donohue, from The Invisible Embrace of Beauty

This post goes back in time to the start of my life's journey. No, not as far back as my birth date--I was thinking a little more recent than that, but still over forty years ago. It was 1977 and I was about to graduate from college. I had just turned twenty, and although turning eighteen two years earlier meant I was legally an adult, for me it was my twentieth birthday and graduation that really marked the end of my youth and childhood and ushered in my life as an adult. It was a monumental moment as I gazed into my future.

Though the future was expectedly misty in detail, I felt alive with youthful hope for all the possibilities spread out before me. Naturally I was curious about what my life would be like, but one thing I had absolutely no doubt about. It was something I'd been dreaming about since I was a little girl -- that my life would definitely include one very nice Prince Charming. And by my estimation he had already run a little late for a very important date. You see, I had secretly hoped to meet this handsome young man during my college years, to be one of the couples who studied together in the library, mooning over their books and secretly holding hands under the table. (Lorrie, was that you?) 

Alas, it was not to be. Slightly disappointed but completely confident he would appear around the next corner, I worried not. There were just so many other interesting things to fill my thoughts--like getting ready for the three-month working trip to Venezuela I would embark on shortly after grad. Life was good.

Memories are like antiques,
the older they are the more valuable they became.
~ Marinela Reka

There is something that I have to tell you about before I go any further. It was just a tiny moment in time, but it ended up playing a key role in my overall life story. It was just before graduation and everyone was clearing out their dorm rooms. My roommate, Darlene, had already moved her things out. I, too, was packed and ready to go hand in the key. The room, empty and bereft of all our college paraphernalia, echoed with memories of laughter and homesick tears, silly and fun hall parties, late night whispered confidences, life-time friendships being forged, remembrances of those crazy all-nighter stints to finish term papers, including my room detention once for skipping breakfast too many times. So many wonderful memories had been created in that room. Now it was time to go.

In that moment before the door closed for the last time, I stopped to whisper a little prayer. It was me marking the threshold moment. God, as I begin my new life, I want You to know I am willing to do whatever You have for me, and when I'm not willing, I'm willing to be made willing ... and please don't let me marry the wrong man.

Little did I know that little cry that I seemingly tacked on at the end in all earnestness was to impact my life for years to come.

* * *

When I think about my twenties and my thirties, I think of them this way: my twenties were all about finding my life as an adult, and my thirties were all about discovering how to have a beautiful life when I found myself a career girl and still single, not the wife, mother, and homemaker I once dreamed of being.

Right after grad, I traveled to Venezuela and lived there for three four months (I stayed an extra month). I loved, loved living there but that's a story for another time. When I came back home to Canada, I stayed with my family on the farm until Christmas, after which my mom and I went into the big city to hunt for an apartment, so that I could start looking for a job. What fun I had setting up housekeeping for myself, paying rent each month like a grownup, finding new friends, going shopping, and participating in a new church and young adult group. I was involved in volunteering and loved teaching Sunday School to grade five kids, singing in the choir and the annual Singing Christmas Tree, creating workshops for church education conferences, going on holidays, entertaining friends, taking community courses in flower arranging, sewing, etc.

In the middle of it all, over the years I kept my eyes peeled for that nice Prince Charming who was sure to be stepping out of the shadows any moment and who would be the one to help make my dreams come true. But, as life would have it, in all those years that nice young man never materialized. There were some possibilities, but promising starts always ended in disappointment. One young man told my roommate he thought I was beautiful, but that he wasn't ready to get married (he was engaged six months later, so much for not being ready to marry, just not to me).

Another one was perfect (in my eyes) but when he found I was older than he was, he figured I wasn't perfect for him and was outta there. So, so disappointed. It's good to learn to trust God in those times, but oh the tears and wails along the way. One time I cried out to Him asking for something from Him that would sustain me in my heartbreak. He replied (to my astonishment). I actually heard His voice somewhere near my ear, and I knew it was Jesus speaking. I told Him that I had so much love to give and nobody wanted it. And He said, yes, he knew how that felt, he too had so much love to give and so many didn't want it either. Talk about an intersecting of my heart with the Divine One's heart. That was a living experience I held dear to my heart for a very long time. I felt cherished and honoured that he would speak to me so clearly. To think that we shared this similar 'rejection'. He knew my heart and now I knew something of His heart. I was so comforted by it.

* * *

The decade and my twenties flew by and soon I found myself turning thirty. I was established in my job working for the Premier of Alberta--a career girl just like Mary Tyler Moore--something I had not planned for at all. But I liked my job. I loved working at my own desk, and I loved the beautiful Legislature Building in which I worked. I had good friends and enjoyed fun times together. I went to Europe with my best friend-cum-sister-housemate. I joined the calligraphy guild and took water colour classes, even took a Victorian lampshade making class. I adored our two sweet kitties, Gilbert and Sullivan--they filled my life with so much joy. I was involved with a church I loved. And I was a proud auntie to three little nephews. Did I say that life was good, it was just not what I expected.

I'll have you know I did not have a melt down when I turned thirty upon coming home from yet another wedding still single in a world where everybody else seemed to be finding partners. I had meltdowns in my twenties, but I was growing up. I'd already had some inklings as I neared my new decade that I needed to shift my thinking. I had to think about what I wanted ... and after much heart searching, I knew I wanted to live a beautiful life ... show the world it was more than okay to be single. That there was life and happiness in this state of being. Oh, and though I still hoped for love and marriage, I wasn't going to wait around for it anymore.

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
~ E.M. Forster 

For the life of me, I don't know why I didn't ever clue in that I had prayed a prayer years earlier about not marrying the wrong man. Maybe I never thought God would take notice or that He would actually answer it. Yet, all along He was very faithfully closing the door on unsuitable mates, until years later, when meeting the man I would marry, that door never closed. Through it all, I was learning to trust Him. And to love Him dearly.

* * *

And so... you now have a little idea of where I started and how things unfolded in my life as a young woman. I had to learn to embrace the life I had, not the one I yearned for. I also had to learn that a beautiful life doesn't just happen, but it's something that flourishes and grows choice by choice by choice. And, by listening to the One who longs to share His wisdom and His beautiful love with anyone who wants it.

There's so much more to tell. It will come little by little ... I have to go through the memory archives much like going into an old cedar chest. Only instead of storing away treasured items, I'll be taking things out -- kind of like a hope chest in reverse. But that's all for another day. It's time to wrap this up for today. So, on that note...

I'm wishing you glimpses
of heaven in unexpected places,


Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: A Tiny Peek in the Garden

When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy,
there is always the garden.
~ Minnie Aumonier

Earth laughs in flowers.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns,
or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
~ Abraham Lincoln

The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others,
is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.
~ Gertrude Jekyll

The kiss of the sun for pardon. Song of the birds for mirth.
You’re closer to God’s heart in a garden than any place else on earth.
~ Dorothy Frances Gurney

The garden is starting to look lovely. The peonies are in full bud--a few more days and they will burst out (no pics here yet). The patterned pink petunias are happy in a big display pot. Just bought the pink geranium in a hanging basket for our back deck. Hmm...I see there seems to be a pink theme this Spring.

Mom's Peace Rose (the one we take care of for her at our house) has been sharing the love these past few days with several gorgeous blossoms. I never get tired of watching this rose send out her amazing blooms.

Can't wait to plant out the red dahlias--I bought two pots last night. And the lovely purple tulips are done for this year but they gave such a show a week or two ago, I had to show you too. I've been been tucking in annuals to fill in empty spaces around our new perennials--marigolds, alyssums, and snapdragons, to name a few. Once they get started, I'll share pictures.

Here's wishing you a beautiful day,


PS. Busy working on my first 'how I found my beautiful life' post;
hope to get it up this weekend.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Musing On A Monday

Today's post is one that's filled with a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

You will notice the tulips on my dining table are nearing the end of their life. As you see from the photo above, I've taken full advantage of their every stage and am now enjoying their papery translucence just before they completely fade off. Interestingly, I took this photo earlier this morning, but now hours later this yellow beauty has since dried up and called 'er done.

Since it's only Monday, I can't call this my Five on Friday, but you will see I've used a similar format. I hope you enjoy the moments you spend here today! And that your heart finds something peaceful, hopeful, and a little fun.  Bring your tea, it's longer than I figured it would be. 

* * *

ONE: The Garden is Coming Alive

Our region has finally shaken off its winter dullness, and now every morning there's something new to see and marvel at in our garden and neighbourhood. Even though it happens every year, once Spring arrives in earnest, it still surprises me just how quickly--and seriously--the earth begins her process of coming alive, with green shoots and leaves springing up out of nowhere, without notice.

"And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the Spring begins"
~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

Two weeks ago, most things still looked mostly 'dead'. Hardly a sign of life. But, early this morning I went out and there were my tulips in full bloom, as well as the gorgeous new day lily I brought home the other day from the garden centre. I did not plant her yet, but her eagerness to blossom reminded me of a pregnant woman desperate to release that baby inside, even if she's still in the back of the car or riding the elevator up to the maternity ward. This Venetian Fringe, still in her garden centre pot, sitting by the front step, bloomed right then and there, and she has several buds ready to follow suit. Get me in the ground, Girl!

We planted these purple-pink tulips last fall, and we couldn't wait to see them when they opened up this Spring. My, isn't that a gorgeous colour? We're hoping they will spread over the next few seasons. Now, that would be something to see.

The pink flowers in a large dark blue pot make a nice splash of colour near our front step. I thought they were a variety of petunia, but somehow I picked up a pot without a tag, so now I'm not entirely sure. Anyone recognize them? Whatever they are, I love their sassiness and that brilliant combo of deep pink with almost reddish centres.

"By looking at our world through its gardens,
we reaffirm the simple human capacity to
create beauty on this earth..."
~ Audrey Hepburn, Gardens of the World, 1993

* * *

TWO: My Journals

Journals for me are 'pour out' places. They are tools that help assuage my inner need to put pen to paper. A question I have asked myself often, why do I write? I write so that hazy thoughts can come out into the light of day. I write to discover what I'm really thinking. I record a bit of diary to track things like the weather, facts and figures of events, special and ordinary. I journal to track my inner life, what's making me happy, what's unsettling me, what's weighing on my mind about personal matters or the world at large. My notebooks are a catch-all for anything I'm thinking about when I sit to write: goals for better health; inspirational quotes that lift me up; prayers I pray for myself or other people; ideas for new posts, my to-do lists, birthdays I don't want to miss, etc. . My journals are much like this particular post -- a little of this and a little of that.

My journals are work horses, so for me, it's not possible to keep it all pretty and in perfect penmanship and without 'typos' or crossed out words. It is what it is. Still, I do love notebooks with eye catching covers, ones that are nice to hold in my lap and will stay open when I write. The pages must be wide lined. Narrow lines give me a slightly claustrophobic feeling, like maybe the words will squish up to each other and won't be able breathe out their proper meanings.

I love to use stickers -- I like floral, vintage, or whimsical designs. I've tried three-dimensional ones, which are gorgeous, but they do leave funny humps in the pages, making it hard to write on. So when I cannot find what I'm looking for, I clip out pretty magazine pictures and use them to decorate the insides of my journals. With a snip of a scissor and the whisk of a glue stick, they create interest and give me a splash of beauty amongst all those wordy words.

The year or so around my 30th birthday, I was into reading everything I could find by and about L.M. Montgomery. I was drawn to her journals, which were gradually being edited and published for the public at the time. Having read every one of them, I had a firsthand glimpse of how this amazing woman used her journals to create a historical record of her life as a wife, mother, author. She started her first 'official' journal at age 15 and continued until her death. She wrote of her childhood and youth, using a reflective flashback style; she talked about her coming of age, marked her spiritual journey as well as her journey as a writer. She also wrote things about herself she couldn't tell anyone else.

I was inspired deeply to write in a similar fashion and so I began my own first official journal the year I turned thirty, which when I add it up, means I have been keeping ink flowing on my pages for over three decades. Before that, I used a spiral notebook to record a few events I didn't want to forget; it was hardly a diary, and certainly not a journal. And, I used big blue scrapbooks to capture glimpses of my adolescent youth, which housed birthday cards, funny notes from friends, the special corsage from Grad Night, programs of favourite concerts and events like the opera Carmen, pictures of the silly things we used to do at college... that sort of thing.

So I guess all along, I've been the recorder of my own history. What was it Sir Winston Churchill once said ... "For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself."  Indeed.

I'd be lost without my journals. Anything and everything I need to remember in the here and now, what I think I might want to remember for posterity, and all the stuff I need to get off my chest ... it all goes in there. Most of my old journals are stored up in the top shelf of one closet where I need a ladder to crawl up there. I've re-read some of them, but never all of them. I'm a little afraid of what I will find in there (haha).

It's a little like digging over old bones. And sometimes it's a revelation to find that I learned something that long ago (it seems only yesterday). And how many times do I read something indicating that I've been going round the same mulberry bush over and over and over. It's disconcerting, though enlightening, to see that familiar territory turn up, again.

Right now they come in handy when I need to reference some detail or date of something for my memoir work. It's all there, well, mostly all there. There are things I fully expect to find, but for some reason, I never recorded that particular event or idea. Truth is, we tend to see more clearly in hindsight. The little idea that didn't seem like much, when we look back, we see it was a life changer, but who was to know that then?

I don't know what I'm going to do with them down the road. Perhaps once I write the stories down that keep stirring inside me, then I will feel the freedom to let them go. Then I won't need them. I certainly don't want them hanging around for anyone else to deal with when I'm gone. Or, heaven forbid, to read them.

You probably won't be surprised when I tell you that over these last thirty years, I've filled over 160 notebooks, large and small. I do my part to keep the notebook industry alive and well.  

* * *

"I have a habit of being an archaeologist of my own past,
a sentimental collector of personal artefacts
which hold a unique significance."
~ Agnes Chew

* * *

THREE: A Startling Moment Holding A Victoria Magazine

I was stopped in my tracks the other evening when I took out the June 1989 issue of the Victoria magazine. Holding it in my hands, I was drawn to the date. June 1989. That's almost thirty years ago. Half my age. Who keeps magazines for that long? Well, I'm pretty certain I'm not the only one to hold onto those cherished magazines, created under the guidance of the truly wonderful Nancy Lindemeyer, Editor in Chief. Many a Victoria reader will be nodding her head that she, too, has held on to her now vintage copies. I have the complete set of the original Victoria magazines, published from 1987 to 2004. They are still loved and still read -- oh, there used to be such lovely articles to sink into with a cup of tea.

I had a pen pal in those days, Cindy C. and we'd write to each other and tell each other which pages were our favourites. Letters and cards were always crossing in the mail. I still have some of them in my memorabilia boxes. We were kindred spirits. We loved writing letters, we shared this love of Victoria magazine, we loved all things Anne and L.M. Montgomery, kitty cats, living beautifully, being single, gardening ... you name it. Floods of splendid old memories come as I write. Oh my!

When I first saw that magazine on the news stand that summer afternoon in 1987, I knew I had an answer to my heart's prayer. Thankfully and gratefully I took that lovely first issue home and read it from cover to cover like an old friend. It gave something to my heart which longed for Beauty. It had lovely articles, gorgeous photography, wonderful ideas for gracious living--it encouraged women to create beauty in their lives and to share it with others. To this day, I'm so grateful for Victoria and the wonderful people who created it and lovingly put together every issue. I'm glad that Phyllis Hoffman has taken up the baton and carried on the tradition as the current editor. It's not the same magazine all these years later, but it's still lovely. 

* * *

FOUR: Countryside or City Dwelling?

Susan from Writing Straight From The Heart, asked the question recently on her blog, "Do you prefer city living or countryside?" I enjoyed thinking about that question for a moment -- here is my reply:

I lived in the countryside growing up on a farm. Loved it. Loved being close to nature, the fresh air, and wide open spaces near cows and wildlife.

I now live in a small city and I like it too. I like being close to the shops when I need something. I like being closer to good quality makeup even if I'm not a big makeup girl (someone left a comment saying that and I realized I liked that too). And, I must admit, after all these years living near neighbours and having street lights, I'm not so keen on being completely isolated and in the dark on a moonless night way out where I can hear the coyotes yowling. I guess I've been away too long. I like knowing my neighbours are around and hearing the laughter when they have friends over in their backyard. I love the sound of lawn mowers off in the distance. And in the night, when I'm wide awake, I look across the way, and see a light on -- sure enough, someone else can't sleep. And that's comforting to me.

When I need some countryside, I go out into it and revel in it. I'll go for drives down quieter country roads and visit the national park nearby, spending the day drinking in the wildness and greenery. But, then I'm happy to come home to my house on a city street with lights.  

* * *

FIVE: Off to Ottawa

Flying off to Ottawa later in the week with my mom and youngest sister. We're off to visit my brother and his family for a few days -- they recently moved to the region. We're looking forward to seeing their new home and spending time together.

I never mind a longish plane ride. There's not much else to do so a person can really get into a book if she wants. Or just sit and think. Or visit, as I will probably do on this trip. We already pre-ordered our in-the-sky lunch (Chopped Leaf caters WestJet's food -- I like Chopped Leaf fare on the ground, so I'm anticipating a lovely grilled chicken salad as we soar through the air.) 

* * *

BONUS: Next Month

I talked in a recent post click here to read about starting a new segment on my blog. You'll recall I still want to write about living a beautiful life, but that I am looking for a new focus, something fresh to write about. There's a story I've been wanting to write out for a long time now. It's the story of how I found my beautiful life. How, when I found myself 30 years old and still single, I realized my long cherished dream of being a wife and mother by age 22 or 23, at the very latest by 25, was long past its due date.

I found myself in a season where I wanted new dreams, even as I still hoped for love and marriage one day. It became a life-enhancing inward journey of discovery. When I look back at it all, I marvel at how God directed my steps and brought me into a place of wholeness, beauty, and joy.

I'm titling this part autobiography/part memoir How I Found My Beautiful Life. There's a glimpse of it in this post -- in the sections on my journal writing and finding the Victoria magazine. I plan the next episode early in June, around the 8th. 

* * *

The day was beautiful and the evening is almost done too. I spent my day writing and working in the garden. The robins sang their evening vespers some time ago. The sun is long set. Let me wish you all a beautiful wonderful week ahead -- may you catch many glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. Grace and Mercy to you all!


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Tea Cups and Old Country Roses

As we celebrate Mother's Day this weekend, I'm dedicating this special post to my dear Mom, Evelyn.

I've been thinking about tea cups and china dishes. What set off this particular musing began when my mom recently opened her china cabinet, took her Old Country Roses tea pot and a quartet of cups and saucers from their spot, and gave them to me. She said, 'I'm giving you the teapot because you are the tea lady in the family. I want you to have it'. My feelings were mixed. I was elated to become the keeper of these beautiful pieces, honoured and humbled in fact. At the same time, I felt a tug inside. Mom's beautiful china set, an integral part of our family tradition for over five decades, will no longer be complete. Surely this transfer signaled a shift and my inner historian needed to mark the moment in some way. Not just for me, but for everyone in the family.

Will you sit and have a cup of tea with me? Your company would be most appreciated. I feel the need to revisit some childhood memories and ponder the role a few tea cups and a Royal Albert china dinner set have played in the life of my family.

Where we lived and grew up, it was the custom of the day for young women to collect items in their hope chests, in anticipation of one day setting up their own bridal homes. China tea cups were one of those cherished items to be collected and were usually given as shower gifts. As a young bride, my mom started married life with her own set of lovely tea cups from family and friends. They would sit nestled in the china cabinet and were brought out when company came to visit. She often told us, as she took them out, who had given which cup to her. If she didn't happen to mention the litany one day, I'd be there nudging her to tell the story again. I loved the little ritual -- it was like getting a tiny glimpse of my mother's history, BBC time (Before Brenda Came).

Some traditions are handed down almost unconsciously, for many years later, when I'd bring out my own shower and wedding gifts to use, I found myself rehearsing who had given what to me. It was about wanting to remember the person who had shared something of herself with me through the giving of this gift. It needed to be appreciated. Perhaps that's what Mom was doing all those years earlier.

1959. Uncle, Dad, Brenda age 2, Mom

I don't remember the first time I was given the opportunity to sip from one of these pretty company cups, but, you will notice I started young. Yes, that's me in my high chair with a tea cup. I'm surprised I was trusted to handle one, but you notice both parents are sitting nearby to keep a watchful eye. We didn't have sippy cups in those days -- as toddlers, we went straight from the baby bottle to the grownup cup or glass.

A very sad thing happened to Mom's one-of-a-kind teacup collection. No, it wasn't me. Long years ago now, she had carefully packed the delicate cups into a box as some renovations were going on. Somehow in the confusion of the time, the box of tea cups vanished. We kept hoping that one day the box with its treasure might be found, safely stored in a forgotten corner of the attic, but alas it never happened. Mom assumed it had been accidentally removed with the renovation clean up, although there were cries of protest from the reno team. Whatever happened, we still feel a lurch in our stomachs when we talk about them. Such pretty teacups with their unique shapes, patterns, and designs, lost except for the memory of them in our minds.

Over the years, Mom kept her eyes open for new china tea cups and saucers at thrift stores and garage sales. Sometimes she'd find a real treasure and bring it home. Sometimes she'd find a cup and saucer that was similar to an old one. She doesn't shop much for them anymore, except once in a while she still gets an urge to find something new and pretty. More recently, she's been selecting teacups from her regathered collection and giving them to her daughters and granddaughters as birthday and Christmas gifts. They might not be Mom's original bridal teacups, but there is still a handing down of something lovely that is sweet and filled with tradition.

The tea cups displayed above and below are two such gifts. The violet pattern cup was the most recent gift, receiving it for my birthday, just past.

* * *

Tea cups ... such tiny works of art. Treasures of beauty and grace and charm. When we take the time to pull out the pretty cups from the cupboard, an ordinary moment transforms into some extraordinary. Everyone feels it. Smiles break out as tea is poured. The British really do know that a cup of tea is much more than a few leaves steeped in hot water.

I used to have little tea parties all the time. I wonder why I don't do it as much these days. Surely in these trying times, more than ever we need to keep up the gentle regime of having a spot of tea with a friend. Perhaps with a beautiful, new teapot in my care, it's my personal signal to start up the tradition again.

A further note, I just remember that my dear friend-cum-sister Jean a short time ago gave me her beautiful blue and white Russian teapot and four gorgeous matching china mugs. That means, in recent days, I have been the beneficiary of not just one, but two teapots.

Okay, Lord, I'm getting the hint.   

* * *

Changing directions slightly, my sister Kathy has taken up a new interest in sketching and painting. When I asked her if she'd consider doing a painting of Mom's teapot from her Old Country Roses dinner set for this Mother's Day post, Kathy was game to try. As you will see below, I think she's done a lovely job, don't you? She found it challenging and mentioned being glad she didn't have to paint roses on china for a living. She felt it was a little beyond her 'pay scale', but, still, we both agreed, it would be a lovely way to make a living if one was so inclined.

"Life is short -- use the fine china."

For the occasion, I asked my siblings if they'd add something to the conversation about Mom's china, something from our childhood years. They agreed.

Kathy says, "When I was growing up, the appearance of Mom's china on the table always meant that some festive occasion was about to be celebrated. Whether it was family birthdays or Christmas and Easter, or the reams of company that sat at our cozy farmhouse kitchen table, these occasions always warranted using the lovely place settings, along with the elegant teapot and dainty teacups and saucers. The lace tablecloth would be lovingly spread over the table, then the dinner plates laid just so, all in readiness for the delicious food Mom would serve. In Mom's hands, treasured plates and teacups became more than just dishes. Looking back now, it was a way for Mom (and Dad, who loved the gracefulness of a well-designed coffee mug) to honour their family and friends, to bring out the 'best' dishes for a visit around the table. 

My brother David said he had no idea of the subtleties of 'china appreciation' as a boy growing up. China patterns weren't on his mind all too often. But he does remember going to other people's houses for Sunday Dinner and recognizing that he thought his mom's china was the best. He also recalls trying to figure out if the floral pattern was exactly the same on each plate. I wonder if studying the patterns was how he amused himself when the adult conversation murmured around him. 

Youngest sister, Janet, says she has always loved Mom's Old Country Roses pattern and still thinks it’s the prettiest pattern out there. She wonders why she didn’t choose it for her own dinner set years ago. Her memories have more to do with sound -- the sound of gentle clinking as someone held a stack of 6 or 8 (12 was too heavy) dinner plates, then gently lifting the top plate off the pile and setting it on the tablecloth-covered table. It was the sound of 'special' to her -- special food, special celebrations, and special friends or new acquaintances, like missionaries or guest preachers.

Janet goes on to say, "I love that Mom made such good use of her china to make people feel welcome – and special! There was something wonderful about 'getting out the china' because it was out of the ordinary, a moment tinged with excitement. Then there was the smell of the old china cabinet. Same thing – opening the door smelled like company. A waft of wood and furniture oil and maybe scented candle. I wish sometimes we could transport back to those good times. Such lovely memories!"

"Old Country Roses was inspired by a typical English country garden with flowers in bloom and is recognized by its signature clusters of roses in deep red, bright pink and warm yellow, offset by brilliant stippled gold rims and accents. Made from pure white bone china, the pattern features a flamboyant, curvaceous fluted shape, with twisting, curling handles." ~ from the Royal Albert History page

I was just a girl when Mom started her china dinnerware. Our parents liked nice things. And that included Mom's desire for a nice china set to use for company and special family events. If you were going to invite a family over for dinner, you needed extra plates, so they might as well be nice ones.

Anyone who knows my mom will know that she loves all things roses, which is probably why her beautiful, romantic Old Country Roses china has enjoyed pride of place in her china cabinet for well over fifty years. The story goes that it was my dad who actually chose the pattern when they first went to look after they were married. Like Mom, he liked roses, red ones in particular. I can see why he was attracted to these clusters of roses in velvety deep red, soft pink, and warm yellow. Mom was fine with his choice, and over time, they collected twelve place settings, along with all the serving dishes, teapot, coffee pot, cream and sugar, etc.

This beautiful set was central to many family celebrations. Old Country Roses was as much a part of our family's history as it was Royal Albert's. Over the decades, it graced every company dinner, holidays like Christmas and Easter, as well as many other special occasions. And, we had lots of company. Mom was a gracious and welcoming hostess. I think she got that from her own dad, who was always up for inviting people home for Sunday Dinner, or inviting the traveling salesman to stop for the night and have a meal.

People often stopped at our house for a quick visit and a cup of coffee on their way home from shopping and getting the mail in town. We were on the 'flight' path, as it were. And, we all loved it when we saw a car slowing on the corner and turning into our driveway. We'd put the kettle on and start bringing out the cups, looking in the containers for a cookie or piece of cake to serve with it.

* * *

Everyone was excited about getting company. Mom, the family social convener, would decide it was time to host Uncle John and Aunt Ruth and their family one Sunday. Phone calls were made, a date agreed upon, and then Mom got into her 'getting ready for company' mode. Which included searching every recipe book in the house for possible dishes to serve, which might be her family favourite fried chicken recipe, mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables from the garden, cabbage rolls, homemade pickles, salads, both tossed and jellied, and then deciding what dessert would be served at the end: pineapple dessert, cherry delight, angel food cake with strawberries, or homemade pies and ice cream.

I loved the smells that would emanate from the kitchen, even a couple of days before as food was prepared. I especially remember the smell of the peeled cucumbers slipping into the not-quite-set lime jello for the sour cream jello salad. Don't forget this was the 1960's. Everyone used jello as salad.

The morning of the big day, Mom would begin her preparations. The girls were set to peeling potatoes and getting the creamy tossed salad ingredients together. Setting the table became our job as we got older. That really was my favourite task. Mom would give us free rein to decide which tablecloth to use--lace or linen. We'd peer into the silverware box and decide which silverware pattern to use (Mom had two sets, both wedding gifts). We'd choose which drinking glasses to set out for water, tomato juice, or pineapple juice mixed with Canada Dry ginger ale. We also liked to decorate each place setting with the big white dinner napkins folded using the fancy patterns found in the Ladies Home Journal. Although we'd set out candles at Christmas, generally we didn't put centrepieces of flowers on the table. Once the food was placed in the middle of the table to be passed around, there was no room for flowers.

When the meal was done, people would relax and sit back, as Mom and her girls would get the big pot of tea ready, cups and saucers clinking as they were distributed, and then dessert passed around. I'd be so stuffed from eating way too much but sitting around and listening to the stories the adults shared were some of the best times. These stories invariably ended in laughter and the telling of the next story, and the next...

* * *

There is so much wrapped up in a few family tea cups and an Old Country Roses dinner set. They are not just a collection of material possessions. They hold memories that we cherish and that's what we treasure. As my sister Kathy says, "For (us) now, Mom's china set has become a kind of symbol, a metaphor of sorts, for a well-lived life, served up with lots of love and laughter and celebration." As Mom passes along these treasured items, it is my hope and desire that we will carry on this tradition of sharing that love, laughter, and celebration ... around a table set with pretty tea cups and fine china.  

And, so we come to the end. A few things have been mulled and thought out for me. I so appreciate you staying the course through my ramblings -- we must have had a whole pot of tea by now.

* * *

Happy Mother's Day!
Mom, I love you!

With love and hugs to everyone,

Here are two links with some interesting historical information
about Royal Albert and the Old Country Roses china pattern.
 Royal Albert History | Royal

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Breathing New Life And Blogging A New Book

Still round the corner there may wait,
A new road or a secret gate.
~ J. R. R. Tolkien

My blogging has almost come to a standstill, as you well know. From posting every day in the beginning, to several times a week, to once a month, it has the look of a writer gasping her last breaths.

At first, I thought posting less often was a result of working offline on other writing projects, and that I didn't have energy or inspiration for both. Yes, that was true, but I also realized I was running out of fresh new things about which to write. It was not that I stopped seeing those 'glimpses of heaven' in my world around me. But, I did start asking myself, how many flower photos can I show you, how many times shall I tell you that I'm enjoying the view from my study window as I watch the birds at the feeders, the squirrel chasing down the back fence, and the neighbourhood bunny having another nibble from my rosebushes? What if my posts were getting a bit stale?

Since those early blogging days my life has changed. I'm not involved in the many outside activities I used to be. For the most part, my daily life is simple and quiet, pleasant and enjoyable for someone who loves her solitude and quiet space. But when it comes to blogging about what's going on, well, there's just not a lot new to chat about. I don't have kids or grandkids to talk about. I don't go to Oxford every year for my birthday (see previous post). I even read less these days, slowing my pace down so I can savour and ponder more. Which means less books to talk about too.

* * *

Originally I started blogging to establish the habit of writing more regularly. I wanted to share 'the breathings of my heart' further afield. From the very beginning, I loved the whole process: designing it, learning how to create posts, and finally, by pressing publish, bravely sending my words out into the world.

From the start, blogging gave me a small audience. Even a dozen readers was more than I had before. I wasn't looking for hundreds, certainly not thousands, to read the blog; in fact, I felt a little nervous about that kind of exposure. But I knew I wanted to connect with kindred spirits, those individuals who shared similar interests and then wrote about it on their own blogs. I appreciated the immediacy of connection in Blogland. I certainly loved the beautiful feedback and affirmation that began to show up in my comment boxes. The truth of it, that's what I looked forward to the most after hitting the publish button -- finding a comment from someone who resonated with something I wrote. That's what moved me, continues to move me.

The truth is, I don't want to park my blog like an old used car. It's still my favourite way to write and connect with kindred readers. And what I've been finding out recently, this blog continues to have value and meaning for many of you. You've told me so, some even saying, you wished I would write more often, as you'd love to read more. Trust me, those comments are like music to my ears.

* * *

So, I thought about what to do. I waited, listened, prayed. All the while thinking about how I still wanted to write about living a beautiful life, but that I needed a new focus, a new direction for the blog.

And, finally it came to me. There's a story I've been wanting to write out for a long time now. And, I found out, too, that I really like writing blog posts much better than trying to write a manuscript for a book. So I'm going to post what I've been trying to write in a book. It's the story of how I found my beautiful life. How, when I found myself 30 years old and still single, I had to set aside the long cherished dream of being a wife and mother by age 22 or 23, and by 25, at the very latest. It was the life-changing inward journey of discovery. When I look back at it all, I marvel at how God directed my steps and brought me into a place of wholeness, beauty, and joy.
“It has always been on the written page that the world has come into focus for me. If I can piece all these bits of memory together with the diaries and letters and the scribbled thoughts that clutter my mind and bookshelves, then maybe I can explain what happened. ... Maybe I can tell my story in a way that is useful to someone else.” ~ Nancy Horan, Loving Frank
Some people I know have blogged their story and then later turned it into a book. Depending on how it all turns out, perhaps that's what I will do down the road, but for now, I just need to write it down. And, to share it with you, my friends.

I'm not sure how often I'll post about it. I'd love once a week, but it takes me ages to sort out what I need to say, so I'll aim for once a month for right now. Plus, I will continue to post the occasional 'letter from home' or a Friday Five collection to fill you in on what's happening in the garden, what the birds are doing, not to mention the silly squirrel, and all the other good stuff called life.
"When a book (post) leaves your hand, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God's business."  ~Flannery O'Connor
So often we like to signal a new season in our lives with a marker of some kind. Like getting a new hairdo or writing a new poem, or reading a new-to-us author. It's a signal to the world that something has changed in us -- something old has passed away, something new is about to spring forth. In that vein, you might find some little changes to the blog when you next visit.

On that note, I'm wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.

With love and hugs,

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Birthday Treats, Past and Present!

Photo Kelly Neil |

This week's my birthday. Cards are arriving in the mail, I've been treated to lunch out, and had surprises in beribboned packages handed to me across the table. I feel like a child ... a little giddy even if I am turning 61. The feeling of being loved never gets old, does it?

I just love how after twenty years of being married to my wonderful guy, Rick still knows how to surprise me with lovely treats for my birthday. This year he's taking me to see Mozart's opera Don Giovanni. We've only heard the opera music on the radio. Rick's never been to an opera and it's been years since I've been to one myself. So we are looking forward to this evening of operatic splendour and grandness. And who knows, this might spark a new interest for both of us to pursue in the future.

For a wonderful rendition of the Overture (about six minutes), click here for the link. And, below is the 60-second trailer for the production we'll be seeing later tonight.

"He’s sly, arrogant, and takes pride in breaking women’s hearts — opera’s most notorious bad boy Don Giovanni is back in all his seductive glory! Often regarded as the crowning masterpiece of Mozart’s Italian repertoire, Don Giovanni combines elements of comedy, tragedy, and the supernatural in a riveting opera experience." ~ from their website
* * * * *

"When I'm in London, Claridge's is a great place.
I'm a great fan of art deco architecture and the
rooms are extraordinary." ~ Roman Coppola 

It's now a year since that extra, extra special birthday treat from hubby last year. As you may recall, we took a little trip to Oxford to celebrate my 60th, posts here. We stayed several wonderful days at the Holywell Bed and Breakfast with our hospitable hosts and now friends Carrie, Stuart, and Jack, their most adorable doggie.

From there, we traveled up to London where we were booked for two days at the very nice (understatement) Claridge's Hotel. Rick had roses and champagne ordered ahead which arrived in our room shortly after we checked in. The lobby was spectacular. Every corner was polished. An elegantly attired elder gentleman invited us to step inside the opulent lift to whisk us up to our room, which was beautifully decorated and plush. I wished I had packed all my diamonds and a tiara (wink) when I saw what we'd stepped into. In spite of being tiara-less, we were treated royally. Did I mention that hubby did not tell me about this part of the trip ahead of time? It was all a big secret to be revealed once we arrived by London taxi at the impressive front entrance of Claridge's Hotel.   

First, we visited the amazing Victoria and Albert Museum, where Rick had searched out the Beatrix Potter exhibit for my great pleasure. We walked through some of galleries filled with art of some of my favourite painters. Such a thrill to see their work in person. We snooped in their delightful gift shop with all sorts of treasures to bring home. There was just so much to see -- a person really needed several days to see even just a few of the great exhibits.

Back at our hotel, a doorman was at the ready to open the taxi door and help us out. We swept into the great lobby as if we'd always done it that way (just like in the movies). Soon we were enjoying Afternoon Tea and, in my view, it really was afternoon tea at its ultimate best. And I've had lots of elegant afternoon teas in my life. We had polite and friendly, not to mention handsome, young waiters to wait on us and pour our cups of tea. We could select different varieties of interesting teas to try with each 'course'.

Photos on the walls indicated well-known people had visited this fine establishment over the decades, including Audrey Hepburn. I understand Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and The Queen Mother herself enjoyed taking afternoon tea there. And, apparently, Spencer Tracy once said he'd rather go to Claridge's than to heaven when he died.  We understood, we felt quite spoiled amongst all this poshness and glamour, sitting on chairs where maybe someone more famous than I once sat to drink tea and eat cucumber sandwiches. Believe me, we soaked it all up, and loved every minute!

I've included the link to a short video with some footage of the inside of Claridge's. It's from their website. You really do want to take a moment to watch it. Oh my goodness, it's a stunning peek into this beautiful and glamorous 5-star hotel. They gently advised not taking photos in the public areas to protect the privacy of all their guests. We felt a little sad about that, we're so used to in this day and age snapping pics at every turn. It reminded us that we were not at a tourist venue, but the real deal. So, thank goodness for memories.

And now, just to prove we really were there, here are a few pics of our fairy tale stay at Claridge's in London. 

* * * * *

* * * * *

"The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose."
~ George Gissing

On that note, I'm off to get ready for our outing tonight. To my favourite Thai restaurant for dinner and then off to za opera.  

Here's wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,
not to mention some proper Spring sightings in your part of the world.

With hugs and love,

PS. Aren't these take away boxes elegant?

"Take away boxes"

For the little desserts we just didn't have room for...
to be enjoyed later in the evening

* * *

PSS. Oh, I just remembered the birthday note
I received from our waiters

* * *

PSS  More mementos for the scrapbook

Just remembering it all again makes me feel happy!

* * * 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Spring And A Potpourri of Ponderings

"One swallow does not make a summer,
but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of March thaw, is the Spring."
~Aldo Leopold

I am a letter writer at heart. That is my genre of choice. It's comfortable, consoling, inspiring, and it seems to be the place where my words feel most at home. Every time I come to write a new post, I think about writing a 'proper' post -- you know, one that follows normal rules of writing: take one theme, one idea and explore it through to a logical conclusion. But, so often, when I try that, it comes out dry as toast.

American Artist Anne Truitt once said that matter is stubborn. I would agree, and so are words. Like a piece of sculpture, words must be wrestled into a form the writer sees in her creative imagination, giving it outward shape so that others, too, may see it.

So I let my posts be more like letters from home, which takes less wrestling for me--though it still takes a lot of work--in which I share glimpses of my life inward and outward: what I'm thinking, who I'm listening to or reading, what I'm doing to create sunshine and beauty in my every day life. Bits and pieces. This and that.

Sometimes I go to Oxford for inspiration (it's been almost a year now since we were there, I'm homesick, posts here). Sometimes I sit at my desk and stare out the window into my backyard, which is often alive with birds and the odd bunny munching on a rosebush. I sure hope he left something to catch hold again for Spring.

Makes me feel a little like Emily Dickinson when I say that -- I like my little worldview from my study window. It's a place where my scattered thoughts can settle like fallen petals on a window sill. I gather them up, place them in a bowl or journal or even a blog post ... and hopefully they make up a nice potpourri. Something for someone to enjoy for a moment or two. 

"If your daily life seems poor,
do not blame it; blame yourself
that you are not poet enough to
call forth its riches; for the
Creator there is no poverty."
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Here's a bit of poetry I copied into my journal a few weeks ago. I keep it near to hand as a reminder. For, even though we manage to stay positive on grey, socked-in overcast days, the malaise of winter begins to nestle across our shoulders, and all feelings of richness and creativity of life seems hidden behind a fog.

Yes, it's time for Spring. The winter weather and the early darkness make me want to hibernate into small cozy places where life is simply lived without too much effort: a little cooking, a little cleaning, a little baking, a little reading, cups of tea, and not too much visiting too far afield. I love winter and dull winter days. I love their beauty. I love cold and snowy days. I admit, I'm quite content to observe most of it from within the confines of a warm and secure place in the heart of the home. But, now with Spring sending messages of hope for a new season, I find myself waking up and stretching like those old bears feeling ready in body and soul to reach out to the outer world and connect with people and life again.

Today I wish to be poet enough to call forth the day's riches of grace and mercy and creativity and happy thoughts, and shake from my shoulders all vestiges of winter past.

* * * * *

I still have quite a feast of books on my bedside table which I'm enjoying. And, yes, I tend to have more than one book on the go; it's a lot like eating a well balanced meal, finding refreshment and nourishment from an assortment of interesting authors and genres. So here's what I'm reading as the days are getting longer and warmer...

In the Frame, My Life in Words and Pictures (2007)
by Helen Mirren

"An illustrated first-person account of the life and career of the esteemed actress...honored for her Academy Award-winning title role in The Queen traces her Russian ancestry and early life through her numerous achievements in a variety of performance venues." excerpt from

It's a delightful glimpse into Helen Mirren's life story. In her Introduction, she talks about having started numerous diaries over her lifetime but all were invariably abandoned after only a few entries. She came to see that she had more interest in living the life rather than recording it.

I certainly admire and appreciate her great zest for life and living (love her acting), but I realize the opposite for myself:  if I could not stop to record both my outer and inner life along the way, I would be at a great loss. I would feel bereft. Of course, I want to go out and live my life, but I also have great need to record it; it's how I process what's going on around me, it's how I make my little mark in the sand that says I was here.

Dorothy Day, The World Will Be Saved by Beauty
An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother (2017)
by Kate Hennessy

“Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was a prominent Catholic, writer, social activist, and co-founder of a movement dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor. Her life has been documented through her own writings as well as the work of historians, theologians, and academics. What has been missing until now is a more personal account from the point of view of someone who knew her well. Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty is a frank and reflective, heartfelt and humorous portrayal written by her granddaughter, Kate Hennessy." excerpt from

I know nothing of the author or her grandmother, although the names are familiar. I signed it out from the library as the book title caught my attention. Haven't gotten very far yet, but I can't wait to get into it ... I was captivated by the opening lines in the Preface:

"In the last years of her life, my grandmother often woke up hearing in her mind the words from her beloved Dostoyevsky: The world will be saved by beauty. // Of all the words she wrote, of all the quotes she loved to repeat, of all the advice and comfort she gave to countless people...this is what has come to give me the most hope. For if, after years of struggle, weariness, and a sense of deep and abiding failure, she believed in salvation through beauty, then how can we not listen?"

Beauty is healing. Perhaps it's the spots of beauty, no matter how sparse sometimes, that keep our souls from giving up entirely when the world around us seems so bleak. A friend recently traveled to Mexico with a group of Grade 12 students to help build housing for families living there. She said in one post what she saw around her was ugly, yet families living in this harsh part of the world sought to bring a measure of beauty by keeping a few flowering plants by their home, watering them by hand from leftover dish or bath water. As I read her post, I thought, such tiny glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. Yes, Beauty is a healing balm. And, I look forward to reading more about what Dorothy Day has to say to us about it.

Glass Houses (2017) by Louise Penny

A new-to-me author. Canadian. From Quebec. She has, I believe, thirteen Inspector Gamache crime mystery novels. Glass Houses is the latest -- I started with it and I'm working my way through the rest. Louise Penny is an excellent storyteller. Each book combines a riveting mystery with wonderful characters and interesting historical references, all set in or connected to a delightful village called Three Pines, a little village near Montreal. Although the books follow an overall time line, I'm happy to learn each novel can be read as a stand alone, until I can find all the copies and read them in order.

Ms. Penny says the themes of her books are inspired by two lines from a poem by W.H. Auden in his elegy to Melville:

"Goodness existed, that was the new knowledge
his terror had to blow itself quite out to let him see it."

She goes on ... "My books are about terror. That brooding terror curled deep down inside us. But more than that, more than murder, more than all the rancid emotions and actions, my books are about goodness. And kindness. About choices. About friendship and belonging. And love. Enduring love. // If you take only one thing away from any of my books, I'd like it to be this:  Goodness exists."

It was that last line that convinced me it was 'safe' to read. I don't like to read books that, as someone else put it, leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed. For me, I find these books have been a source of light and inspiration, and I now consider Louise Penny my new favourite author. To know more about the author, you can check out her website.

Sensitive Reader Discretion: Some characters are prone to using cuss words and these words are scattered throughout the book.

Feeding My Mother, Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss (2017)
by Jann Arden

"The many people who are dealing with a loved one who is losing touch with the world will find inspiration and strength in Jann's wholehearted response and her take on the upside-down world of a daughter mothering her mother. Feeding My Mother is one heck of an affirmation that life keeps on keeping on--and a wonderful example of how you have to roll with it." from the inside cover

I've been on the waiting list for several weeks to read this book from the library. I finally got it -- I've only browsed through it but it looks a thoughtful read. Jann Arden writes it as journal entries, interspersed with lots of photos, recipes, and artwork.

PS. Since writing this post, I have now had the opportunity to read the book. In spite of its too-terrible topic, it is:  Delightful. Poignant. Humorous. Insightful. Hopeful. Honest. I wish Jann and her mom lots of grace for the journey in the days and months ahead.

* * * * *

We've been watching an old, but lovely BBC series on YouTube called The Victorian Flower Garden. The old head gardener talks about how things were done in the Victorian era. The series, filmed in the early 1990's, follows the old gardener around as he potters in the greenhouses and digs in perennial beds. Watching it makes me feel peaceful -- I can see why the world moved more slowly in those days.

So if you are looking for something of a slower pace, you might enjoy The Victorian Flower Garden. Lovely music. Some lovely photography too.

* * * * *

Writing in the night hours helps me find my beautiful life. Laying in the dark often puts my thoughts to spinning into useless or anxious ones, but as soon as I turn on the light, they scatter into the corners, and I feel more peaceful in my mind.

Jesus once said He is the light of the world. Sometimes I have to come and sit in the light of his presence to scatter those useless and anxious thoughts. Sometimes turning on a lamp in the middle of a dark winter night helps. Sometimes writing about it helps. Sometimes praying about it helps. And, once the useless thoughts are stilled, then sleep can come again.

A calm and undisturbed mind and heart
are the life and health of the body.
The Book of Proverbs

 Photo: Irina Kostenich |

I'm a memoirist in the making, and so I cannot leave this post without sharing a childhood memory that comes to mind.

As kids we couldn't wait for Spring when the pussy willows would be out, usually right around the time of my little sister's birthday -- late March, early April.

It would be such fun to tromp through the woodsy area and down to the swollen creek running through the corner of our farm. All the while ignoring the Voice that warned, "And don’t go by the creek." Oh no, we had no such intentions, we affirmed out loud, but we knew in our hearts that's exactly where we would end up eventually. For we were on the hunt for pussy willows. Spotting branches in 'bloom' just out of reach over the water, we'd suddenly find our rubber boots swamped. Yuch, now we had sopping socks to squish home in. Still, we had our prize in our hands -- sprigs of those soft fluffy silvery catkins that were so nice to touch and rub against our cheeks.

Umm, we never stopped to realize that Mom would know we'd been to the creek when we came home with branches of pussy willows. I wouldn't be surprised if she remembered her own carefree childhood, doing her own wanderings on a farm where creeks ran.

There have been times in more recent years when I find fresh pussy willows branches at the green house for sale, and I buy up a bunch for old time's sake. Although they are a delight to see them arranged on my dining table, I must admit, it's not quite the same as hunting for them yourself, is it? They bring back the memories though, for which I'm most grateful.

* * * * *

"Believe there is a great power
silently working all things for good,
behave yourself and never mind the rest."
~ Beatrix Potter

On that note, I'm wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.