Friday, September 18, 2020

Summer's Fading Charm and a Posy of Sweet Peas


" When summer gathers up her robes of glory,
And, like a dream glides away. "
SARAH HELEN WHITMAN


Autumn was always my favourite season. But in more recent years, I felt less adamant about it, for I found myself truly anticipating and appreciating each season, yes, including winter. With that, I sort of assumed they were each my favourites, by turn. But yesterday, I realized, as an unbidden joy sprung up from within, Autumn was....and still remains my most favourite season of the year. I could feel my senses alert to the moment, for I adore that contrast of crisp, cool air against the sun's warm, pleasant rays. And, that's exactly how the day felt in late afternoon.

As I drove round the traffic circle, heading down the winding street towards home, a surge of happiness welled up as I caught sight of the slanting light hitting the tops of the trees. There was a marked ambiance, heavy with a sense of relief, as if the earth, brilliant and bold and bountiful all spring and summer, could at last let go of her boundless energy, and relax—much like the relief a woman feels after holding her midriff in a fitted dress all afternoon. Oh, the joy of letting go.

The glories in the garden begin to fade, and I feel the peacefulness of that evanescent charm. And as much as I am smitten with the riotous beauty of autumn's raving russets and luminous gold-leaf, still to come in our area, I think what I really have come to appreciate is that sense of being able to come back to oneself, to center one's soul. The old Victoria magazines, in its September issues, used to focus on finding the quiet center of one's life, and writing from that to the world....to use words Sarah Orne Jewett once penned.

I found these various lines below attributed to American author Gladys Taber. She seems to have captured the feeling of summer's fading charm much better than I have. Let me share: 
September wind blows away the fatigue of summer heat, and the listlessness of August weather. It blows away, indeed, the piled up years. It makes the heart young. Going back to school, football games, dancing, falling in love, corn roasts, moonlight rides - so many such things belong to September. . . .

I have always felt that something fine is about to happen. And the fact that winter is on the way is not troubling this early in autumn. Time enough to think of that in October and November, but now it is too soon. First comes the harvest, the last ripening, the splash of zinnia color in the garden, the perfect late golden rose. Yes, a good time to be young, and to relive young days. . . .


"Notice the beauty.
See what lovely things there are for you to do
in your corner of the world."


I snipped the last of the sweet peas from the vine a couple of mornings ago. A handful of seeds tucked into the ground early in spring now towered overhead. The vines outgrew their trellises which seemed giants in May. So much joy they've provided over the summer months. Jars on the kitchen counter, fistfuls handed to neighbours and friends who stopped by.

And, on this particular morning, I had a floating feather thought to give a bouquet to the mail lady who had just pulled up at the cluster of mailboxes across the street. Nearly brushing the thought aside, I hurried inside to find a jar and add water. I crossed the street—carefully, covidly—holding out the bunch of perfumed petals, "Would you like some sweet peas?" With an instant smile and reaching out with a welcoming hand came the exclamation, "I love sweet peas. Oh, I can smell them. Are you sure?" Oh yes!

And so the days unfold in pleasant gentleness and quietude.... on my street, in my home, in my heart.



'Summer's fading charm as seen below...'










'the perfect late golden rose'


* * *


Wishing you a beautiful weekend.
Be well. Be safe.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox





Monday, September 14, 2020

The Simple Woman's Daybook: September Edition



" ...and all at once, summer collapsed into fall."
OSCAR WILDE


It's Monday morning and I'm up in the wee hours. I was still in bed when I heard a weird crash in the kitchen. Flying downstairs, I found nothing more than garden books from the kitchen shelf sprawled on the floor. A few days earlier, I'd taken out a small seasonal floral arrangement I'd been using as a bookend. Without its support, the books must have gradually slid off the shelf, causing the vitamin and pill bottles to add their quirky percussion.

Since I'm up, I'm putting the finishing touches to the September edition of The Simple Woman's Daybook. It will be sweet and simple today. I hope you all keep safe—there are so many things that are in turmoil these days—dear Lord, have mercy on us all.



TODAY

“To say it was a beautiful day would not begin to explain it.
It was that day when the end of summer intersects perfectly with the start of fall.”
ANN PATCHETT



Looking out my window...
it was green, green, green one day, but when I went for my walk the next,
overnight autumn had arrived in the neighbourhood. It's overcast and windy today.


I am thinking...
about how comforting the brewing coffee smells this morning.


I am thankful...
that my sweet husband cheerfully makes coffee every morning and brings us
a cup in bed. We both start the day slowly and easily. It must be a family trait, 
for I hear my brother-in-law does the same for his sweetheart.


One of my favorite things...
the scent of lemon zest baking in blueberry muffins.


I am creating...
not much with my hands these days. I used to love needlework,
scrapbooking, and painting with watercolours. But now, mostly, I love
to play with words, aiming to create lovely sentences to share with you here. 


I am wearing...
a sleeveless turquoise top with black leggings, black flop sandals, silver bracelets.


I am reading...
just starting Ann Patchett's novel State of Wonder, in which research scientist
Dr Marina Singh is sent to the Amazon to find her former mentor,
who seems to have disappeared while working on a new drug. I'm reading it because
Elizabeth Gilbert in her engaging book Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear
tells a tale of how Patchett's novel came to be.

The real state of wonder around here is that I finally bent my pride to start
asking for the Large Print copies when borrowing from the library.
My reading pleasure has increased exponentially.  


I am watching...
and enjoying—for the second time go around—Season one of New Tricks
on Prime. It's the 2003 British police procedural comedy-drama series,
where Superintendent Sandra Pullman and three retired (eccentric) police
officers try to clear up unsolved crime cases. Evenings grow dark early now.


I am hoping...
for the frost to hold off for a while yet. My roses are still budding like crazy.
I think they kinda like the cool mornings?? Or, they realize their season in nearly done.




In my kitchen...
in my thrift store ceramic bowl  
"Food for the soul"




In my garden...
The white Alyssums outdid themselves this summer.
Not only did they spill from the pots in merry abandonment,
they filled the air with sweet scent and attracted many bees. Don't
ask me what the pink flowers are, because I don't recall at the moment.


PostScript...
I'm sharing the LINK again to my recent Guest Blogger post about
shadow mentors....in case you missed it the first go around.
I'd love for you to visit.


Shared Quote...

"...Each of us needed to find just the right way to take our mind off our problems,
and it did not matter what that was—a drive in the country, an expedition to a shoe shop,
a quiet cup of tea under a cloudless sky; each of us had something that made it easier
to continue in a world that sometimes, just sometimes, was not as we might wish it to be."
ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party



* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day. Go.Be.Love. Keep safe.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Joining The Simple Woman's Daybook this week


 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

September Garden and Guest Blogging Elsewhere


"Autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible
influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season
which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some
attempt at description, or some lines of feeling. She occupied her
mind as much as possible in such like musings and quotations..."
JANE AUSTEN


I went in search of a quotation suitable for the season we're coming into, and I found this one by Jane Austen. I stopped in my tracks and imagined for a moment how several hundred years ago, the poets and novelists of that generation were marveling much like we are today about the beauty and wonder of the Autumn season—that the same things still take our breath away and that we want to write about them. For a second, I felt this uncanny kinship with Miss Austen of another century.

In my previous post, I mentioned that today I am Guest Blogging over at InScribe Writers Online. This month, we're talking about people we consider 'shadow mentors' to us. I share six authors who have been boon companions over the years on my own journey as a writer. I do hope you'll come over and say hi....you'll find the post HERE.



"Autumn shows us how beautiful
it is to let things go."
UNKNOWN

It was a lovely day out yesterday ... a mix of summer warmth with autumn crispness. I went for a walk in my neighbourhood. There is now evidence that autumn creeps nearer. Many trees are just starting to turn in our area, but I did find a spot of these lovely fallen bits of sunshine. The ash trees around here tend to drop their leaves early and quickly, so I shall assume that's what these are. 

While out, I took some photos of the front yard garden. There is still much that's lovely, as we've not had any frost yet....thankfully. Below, the Rudbeckia dazzles as we step through our front door. And you'll notice Miss Peace further down—she blooms like crazy. I found one hydrangea setting a new green and pink head. Glad they haven't given up on summer yet.

For a moment, let's pretend it's not Covid and that we can sit next to each other on the bench, enjoying the warm sunny day for a few moments. I'll bring out tea and cookies, and we can chat to our heart's content.



















"Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words
and everything in the world understands it."
FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT


This last photo is a snap of the side yard. I love how I seemed to have caught the secret garden feeling with the garden gate almost hidden at the end. It definitely has an autumnal feeling here.


And so, I wish you a beautiful weekend.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Photo (top): Image by congerdesign from Pixabay





Tuesday, September 08, 2020

A Bit of Chocolate, A Bit of Gamache



" All you need is love. But a little chocolate
now and then doesn't hurt. "
CHARLES M. SCHULZ


The morning is cool and blustery. And while tree boughs bend and sway, laundry is swirling in its soapy cycle. I meant to have the September edition of the Woman's Daybook ready for yesterday—first Monday of the month and all—except I completely forgot about it. The blank draft stares at me with doleful eyes. My excuse, I'm in the midst of preparing a guest post on InScribe in which I share authors I consider my writing mentors. It goes up on the weekend and I'll post a link once it's available should you want to read it.

Oh, I finished Louise Penny's newest novel in which we find the Gamache family altogether in Paris, France. I loved it! All the Devils Are Heretitle based on a quote from Shakespeare's The Tempest—is full of twists and turns, with lots of opportunities for growth and consternation as characters must choose who to trust and what to believe when sorting out truth from fiction. The story was most satisfying on all fronts. 

I bought a small bag of dark chocolate covered almonds. They were meant to be tiny treats over several days. Haha -- fat chance. It did say the bag was resealable, but as my niece noted, it was put there optimistically, not realistically. With eyes glued to the book, my hand kept dipping into the bag and soon every last morsel was gone. So much for decorum and discipline. But, oh, they were so smooth and crunchy and delicious.

As I have no almond treats to offer you—I know it's no substitute, but here is an excerpt from the book:
“Life can be cruel, as you know. But it can also be kind. Filled with wonders. You need to remember that. You have your own choice to make, Armand. What’re you going to focus on? What’s unfair, or all the wonderful things that happen? Both are true, both are real. Both need to be accepted. But which carries more weight with you?” Stephen tapped the boy’s chest. “The terrible or the wonderful? The goodness or the cruelty? Your life will be decided by that choice.” ~ Louise Penny, All the Devils Are Here
  
* * *

" Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that,
as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain. "
DAVE BARRY


* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Photo (top):  Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay




Tuesday, September 01, 2020

September Blusters In: A New Novel and Chowder For Lunch



" It's a serious thing just to be alive
on this fresh morning 
in this broken world."
MARY OLIVER


A mere flip of the calendar page and the season has shifted....noticeably. The wind howls outside my window this morning, and there is a decided nip in the air. Frost warnings have been given in regions nearby, but thankfully not for us yet. I don't hanker to sit out in the garden at present. Rather, it's a day for cozying up inside, doing laundry, writing a post, making a quick and yummy soup for lunch. PLUS, I am eagerly awaiting Louise Penny's newest Inspector Gamache crime novel which is guaranteed delivery at my house any moment now. I'm following the tracking link like it's Christmas (haha).

Just in case you don't know, Louise's latest novel All the Devils Are Here—being released today—is set in Paris, where the First Family of crime fiction, as one reviewer aptly termed the Gamache family, has gathered. From all accounts, it promises to be as evocative in Paris as any of her novels that are set in cozy Three Pines.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch says, "Penny excels at creating a sense of place, and she brings Paris to life with scenes small (a favorite garden at the Rodin museum) and big (the top of the Eiffel Tower). We walk—or, when necessary, run—through the streets of Paris, taste lemon tarts and mourn the fire damage to Notre Dame.”

And, as Wall Street Journal writes, "Penny's novels unravel criminal schemes that have moral consequences... what stays with the reader are the tender passages, the human insights, the reminders of what makes life worth living.” 

Oh yes, that's it exactly! This is the very reason why I became an ardent admirer and fan of Louise's novels. They are wild stories sometimes and are often nail-biters, but in the midst of the terrible things going on, goodness is always present.

To learn more about this new novel, click HERE.




" Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the
violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the
day, and awakens and refines the appetite. "
AUGUSTE ESCOFFIER


As I anticipate my book delivery, I gather the ingredients and begin sautéing onions and bacon for a quick and easy corn chowder, based on my sister's yummy recipe. I'm making a potful to serve two, with leftovers, but the recipe is easy to double if you need a larger amount.

Quick Corn Chowder

4 slices thick bacon

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 can niblets corn
1 can creamed corn
1 can mushroom soup
3 - 4 cups of milk

1 - 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Sprinkle of black pepper
Sprinkle of paprika
Chives or green onions, chopped

1. Fry the bacon, chop into bite size pieces, and set aside.
2. In a medium to large pot, saute the onion and celery.
3. Add the corn, mushroom soup, and milk.
4. Heat slowly and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes.
5. Just before serving, add Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and paprika.
6. Sprinkle the green onions and chopped bacon over top.

Serve with hot buttered toast, biscuits, or crusty bread.
 
* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day. Stay safe.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox


Top Photo: Image by congerdesign from Pixabay


PS.PS.PS.

It arrived!






Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Small Treats And Doing Something Normal In Covid



" One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous
small treats, and if some of these can be inexpensive
and quickly procured so much the better. "
IRIS MURDOCH, The Sea, The Sea



I haven't gone shopping 'just for fun' since March. It's been only for essentials and basics, so you can imagine what a real treat it was when, after picking up a book on hold at the library, I turned the car towards the Value Village before coming home. Although mainly interested in the book section, I followed the arrows up and down the other aisles along the way, browsing in case something else caught my eye. And there was! A lime green vase and a ceramic fruit bowl, plus I also found a small French-made frying pan in excellent condition, which for $5.99, plus a 30% discount, made it a bargain not to be left behind.




I came home and I was so excited, I had to phone my sister, who kindly indulged me by letting me chatter on about the books and other treats I found. The best treat, though, was to just be out doing something ordinary on a beautiful sunny day with a hint of crisp apple in the air.  It felt almost normal, even with the masks. 




" By small treats, I mean ordinary, minor indulgences that 
we don't give ourselves every single day. Small treats are a lovely
source of momentary pleasure in our everyday lives, of course,
and I think they also have a deeper role to play in happiness. "
GRETCHEN RUBIN
from GH online article 'Spoil Yourself', Aug 2012  


Well known author Gretchen Rubin once asked the question in an online article, why do small treats matter? She said when we feel depleted and drained, when we start to feel exhausted, resentful, even angry, indulging in a small treat helps refresh and energize us. I think we all find that to be true. My thirty minute snoop through the thrift store was such a treat. It boosted my creative energy just to be around other people, just to hear their chatter, just to share the small—or great—pleasure of snooping through a thrift store on the hunt for a treasure. Even if we had to social distance and wear masks, it gave me a sense of being wildly alive in my world again.  




Everything I bought was a bargain. I didn't notice until I got home that the amiable young lady at the checkout gave me a 30% seniors discount--woohoo--which truly made it bargain city indeed. Of course there is the downside, I mean, she didn't ask if I was a senior, she just gave it to me. It had to have been my eyebrows, which to my chagrin, are turning grey on me. I'd forgotten to give them a colouration before I went out. And, what with wearing my mask, all anyone sees of our faces now are the eyes and those grey straggles in my eye brows standing out. Yes, that must have been it (wink). On second thought, who cares, eh?

As the young woman cashed out my items, the pair of us had a lovely chat about the books, she looked at the Elie Wiesel book Night and remembered reading it in school and that it was a great book, even if it was a hard story about the author's experience being with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. We both agreed we should read some of these hard stories, to be witnesses to them, even if they are hard; after all, we are only hearing the story, not living through it like they had.

That tiny exchange left its mark in my mind, on my day. It was all part of the treat of a spontaneous visit to the thrift store.




On that note,  I'm off to read some books, snip a fresh fistful of sweet peas for my new vase, maybe make an omelet in that new-to-me frying pan. I'm wishing you a beautiful day....and I hope you have at least one treat to mark the day.

* * *

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox 


Friday, August 21, 2020

The Garden In August And Our Giveaway Winners



" It isn't the big pleasures that count the most;
it's making a big deal out of the little ones. "
JEAN WEBSTER, 1876-1916


We have been taking Jean Webster's advice to heart, and we have been making a big deal out of creating little posies from the garden. Sprigs of sweet peas in tiny vases are scattered around the house, for instance, and this cool container with its three pink blooms sits on our outdoor table. I do love the pink against the lime green. The container reminds me of my newly-married niece, Chiante. You see, it really belongs to her; she had to leave it behind last Christmas as she couldn't stuff one more thing into her carry on bag when she flew home after the holiday. Posting a picture of it here, she'll see that I'm taking good care of it. 

August has been just so beautiful this summer. We have enjoyed warm, sunny days with a sprinkling of cloudy, rainy ones. In my particular neck of the woods, we have not experienced any of the horrid weather some places have had, including those dog days of summer with that insane heat and dragging humidity.

Dog days are rare for us in our northerly climate, but this week we had what we call hot weather—yikes, it even climbed one day as high as 32°C, that's 89°F for you dear American friends. To us, that's hot, and I can't even imagine when people say they are experiencing 100°F and beyond. Fortunately for us, it rarely lasts more than a few days, and you can bet we sigh with relief when it drops back to our more comfortable mid-20° Celsius normal range (70° Fahrenheit). 

The garden continues to surprise us with fragrance and showy blossoms. And we are taking especial delight in our late bloomers, like the Echinacea, Rudbeckia, and Joe Pye Weed—I certainly would have given this spectacular plant a better name. These perennials first come into their own in mid-August around here, and they'll sweep us into the autumn season, blooming till freeze up, which we hope is a long way off.

I have pictures, but first, let's announce our three Giveaway Winners....
  


THREE WINNERS!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter our giveaway for three $20 Amazon online gift cards, celebrating It's A Beautiful Life's 12th blogging anniversary. Your kind and lovely comments here and on Facebook were a real treat to read—gifts to my heart—and I thank you for each one. And now, without further ado, I'm delighted to announce our winners:


FlowerLady Lorraine


Madame La-Bas


Diane at Lavender Dreamer



Congratulations, Ladies! Please contact me (my email link is in the blog sidebar) within the next 24 hours with your email, so that I can send along your e-gift card to you. Thank you for celebrating with me.
 


FROM THE GARDEN THIS WEEK

" A late summer garden has a tranquility found
no other time of the year. "
WILLIAM F. LONGGOOD



Hansa Rose


 

Peace Rose 



'Bella Anna' Hydrangea




" Everything on earth has its own time and its own season. "
ECCLESIASTES 3:1

We love to sit in this cozy nook in front of the bay window. The tall yellow Rudbeckia is one of my favourite late blooming perennials. Late bloomers in the garden have a special place in my heart, and you can read why in a guest post I wrote last September HERE.



Yarrow and Echinacea
 
I do like our little patch of Echinacea, especially those variegated ones. The bees are loving the pin cushion centres.



Pink Echinacea



Joe Pye Weed



Joe Pye Weed by the garage

The Joe Pye Weed perennial, after being buried in a mile of snow over winter, grows every spring from the ground up. Taking all season to mature, it then bursts into pink blooms in August. I'm amazed every single year when it gets 'as high as an elephant's eye' and grazes the overhang on the garage. It obviously likes where it lives. 



Sweet Peas make people happy

As you know, giving gifts from one's garden creates a special connection between friends and neighbours. We don't grow vegetables (well, we have a tomato plant), but we love to share roses and peonies and sweet peas with our neighbours and friends. The other day, there were enough sweet peas on the vines to cut two large jars of blossoms to give away. Our neighbour across the street was thrilled when I rang the doorbell, leaving the jar at the door. He said the scent reminded him of his childhood, when his dad used to grow sweet peas along the side of their house. 



Purple Monkshood


OTHER AUGUST GIFTS




A knock on the door and in walks my girlfriend, Jean, holding a huge bundle of pink and white roses. To celebrate your 12th blogging anniversary, she says. Awwww - my heart is tickled. There are roses everywhere. Like in the movies. WHAT A RED LETTER DAY! Or maybe it's a PINK AND WHITE letter day.




" A rose is a rose is a rose. "
GERTRUDE STEIN




" When the sun is setting, leave whatever
you are doing and watch it. "
MEHMET MURAT ILDAN


I almost missed this spectacular sunset the other evening. The sun was drawing its curtain on the day, and I was on the deck reading. A glance upward told me something was going on. I had the presence of mind to walk to the end of the deck to peek around our mountain ash, past the neighbour's roof. It was as if the sky was on fire. Oh my! Moments later, only dark clouds remained. Sunsets wait for no one—be in tune with its timing, or miss it altogether.
 


" Don’t forget: Beautiful sunsets need cloudy skies…"
PAULO COELHO


* * *

Enough for one day. On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend.
Keep safe, dear friends.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox