Thursday, May 02, 2019

The Simple Woman's Daybook: May Edition


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With loving thoughts,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the kitchen...
Banana Pecan Muffins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. Yes, this weather is beginning to feel like Narnia in that never-ending winter where there is no Christmas. It is somewhat alarming that you’re west of me and what is happening there may be happening here in a few short days or a week. So, in other words, no end in sight.

    It is delightful to have a kitchen bookshelf. Every gal needs a place for her cookbooks!

    Wishing you warmer, sunnier days just ahead!

  2. I've never heard that about baking soda and baking powder. I thought it had to do with the acidity of the batter or dough you are mixing it into; one of the ingredients in baking powder is baking soda...

    I found this thorough explanation: which confirms what I thought. Maybe in a particular recipe your friend has discovered the difference she refers to, which sounds to me like her cookies didn't have enough acid in other ingredients to react with the soda, so they don't rise. As the article explains, baking powder has the acid and alkaline in one powder, so it provides lift all on its own.

    So your cookbooks have escaped the pantry and now all your visitors can get a look at them! It would be fun to sit there and have you show me what you like about each one. Thank you for the muffin recipe. I rarely make muffins anymore but was proud of myself for turning out a few sheets of cookies yesterday!

  3. hi enjoyed your rambling comments and avoiding all the negative in the world. i've blogged for 11+ years now and used to do it it's only weekly. but i enjoy the record i have with photos and entries that have helped me create several books. spring and summer are fighting in our desert landscape to see who will take over, we're hoping for spring but now that a long hot summer is inevitable. thanks for sharing...

  4. I love this glimpse into your life, and your kitchen. :-). One of my favourite parts of your post today is Staci Eldredge’s quote, as I collect quotes on joy and I hadn’t seen that one before. Thank you!

  5. Lovely post. I haven't been participating in the blogging world much lately but have posted a bit on my gardening attempts. I wish you warm weather soon. We are in the 80s this week and my beans are leaping out of the ground. I have herbs and radish also. I understand about collectibles, my parents did that and they are lovely but take up space and china would be too delicate for daily use. Ah, what to do? Most of our every day dishes are either pretty plastic or corel. Still, not everything goes in the dishwasher. I hope you have a pleasant day and real spring soon.

  6. Such a joy to share your days, Brenda.
    I admire the fact that you put up the bookshelf! I'm not sure that I could. I enjoyed looking at your recipe book titles. My oldest book is my Grandma's, then I have my mum's and also mine which is the 'rattiest' of the lot!
    A Hawthorne tree...lovely. We had a dep pink one in our French garden. It gave me such pleasure.

  7. So much to chat about here today . . . but time is short. I'll choose two. :)

    1) I, too, think it rather sad that so many loved and collected items are unwanted by the next generation. My two youngest daughters do have an interest in older things and that delights me. The older two children . . . not so much. I have to remind myself that things are temporal and unimportant in the long run.

    2) I like your new cookbook shelf. I believe I see some binders among your collection. I have put a lot of recipes in binders to eliminate stacks of magazines and cookbooks that only had a recipe or two that interested me. Of course, I still have quite a few cookbooks too . . .

    Hope spring arrives soon in your world! A true spring and not that winter-BOOM-summer kind of spring.

  8. Dear Bren - I love every word, but then I always do. I will never read your post until I have time, they are too special for me to rush through them. I agree I am quite concerned over the trend to go away from lovely things, and china is certainly at the top of that list. I somehow think maybe my generation has failed these young people. It isn't just about something beautiful, it is about holding dear a treasure that someone you loved cared for and struggled to acquire. I could preach about this topic all day, but I will, like you, hope for a turn around.

    Your new bookcase in your kitchen is wonderful and I am impressed that you put it together yourself. I think it would be great to have your cookbooks handy.

    Bren, I always enjoy the books you recommend and I will definitely be looking for "The Invisible Embrace."

    Wishing you lovely spring days and soon. I can picture you with something wonderful to drink and your favorite book enjoying your new deck.

  9. Way to go with the assembled bookcase!

    I'm also hoping for a slow transition to spring. Our temperatures continue to oscillate so I haven't put my winter coat away yet (I know!).

    Friends and people at work have pased on teacups to me because none of their relatives want it and they know that I'd appreciate the pretty china. I'm wondering if lack of storage (or stable housing) contribute to the lack of interest in collecting items like china. I recently read an article about how many people are turning to Netflix, toiletries, and even groceries. This type of renting has become common...I've even seen some businesses that rent teawares!

  10. Another most lovely post, Brenda. Just loved it. You are right that you create a pleasant place to stop in the blog world. I love that concept. Actually, I try to do that, too. I avoid politics on my blog like the plague. There is so much wretchedness in the world. Why contribute more ? I prefer, as you do, to provide a gentle, happy place to visit! By the way, thanks for stopping by and commenting, too. Have you every finished your magazine? Loved the Christmas one. Hugs and wishes for a beautiful new week of life! Susan

  11. Brenda, it is so very nice to meet you! Thank you so much for dropping by my blog and commenting. Yours is lovely and I look forward to getting to know you more! I don't see a "follow" widget to click but I will definitely put your blog in my favorite reads section in my sidebar!

  12. Hello Brenda,
    Your post has been sitting in my feed for 4 days now, but I wanted to make certain that I had time to savour it and think a little before reading it. It's lovely to anticipate.
    Here where I live, the young women I know are steering far away from anything plastic, preferring natural materials such as wood, glass, and yes, bone china, often from second-hand stores, in an effort to reduce consumption and live more simply. Minimalism is a great trend here, too, with a lot of people disposing of things they don't need or use, or are no longer to their taste.
    You have probably seen our weather reports; they are very different from yours. While I'm enjoying all the blossoms and spring into summer weather, I am concerned about the lack of rain and wonder what is in store for the summer.
    I've seen a few recommendations for Book Girl and I'm adding it to my ever lengthening list of books to read/acquire.
    May spring come gently and firmly very soon!

  13. Dear Brenda - I am sorry to read that you are still having snow. We are cooler for May but everything is growing well and right now the sun is shining. Love your posting of all the things you are experiencing. Especially those yummy looking Banana Pecan Muffins. Did I tell you I will be stopping by for one :)! Have a beautiful week friend. Hugs!

  14. I very much enjoyed reading this! I know what you mean about the old China sets. I would love to have vintage china belonging to someone I love but I don't have any. We had a set of (new) plates from my Grandad and my husband was really disparaging of them and wanted something more modern but I was perfectly happy with them. It's annoying that pople want to be 'fashionable' with homeware. I don't care what it looks like if it is functional and it would be nice to have inherited china.
    I love your positive mind-set. xx


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo