Monday, November 30, 2020

Monday Notes and Giveaway Winners



" I love how the unexpected things come to us,
such 'insignificant' things in the grande scheme,
yet such a pure-in-spirit gift. "
KATHY HILLACRE


Today, on this last day of November, we have the happy pleasure of announcing the winners of our Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar Giveaway. I also want to share with you a post, brought to you by the letter "P", about how my quiet, ordinary week turned into something special. Read further to hear how a puppy, a painting, a perfumed bouquet of pink lilies, and an unexpected performance of Beethoven's Pathétique were like gifts from heaven for me. 

But first, our winners...


CONGRATULATIONS!!


MARIE
(The Marie who enjoys eating finger foods on Christmas Eve.
Please contact me today with your email as I don't have a way
to contact you. Here is my email link.)


LINDA YOUNG-GRESWELL
I'll touch base with you on FB


The Advent Calendar of your choice (Nordic or Cotswold)
will be emailed to you. 
 
A big thank you to everyone who entered the draw. 




"P" is for one sweet puppy

" Happiness is a warm puppy. "
CHARLES M. SCHULZ


A phone call from Rick's niece in the province west of us came out of the blue a week ago Sunday evening. Could we pick up her new puppy from a local breeder and then connect with the individual who will transport the wee one on its way to BC? Of course! Times and places were arranged. And, the next morning for about an hour and a half, we had the happy delight to enjoy this sweet female poodle pup as we drove to the next leg of her journey to her forever family. She shook like a leaf as the cheerful, masked young man handed her into my arms. I think he was a little sad to see her go; he said he always saved his favourites in a litter until the last. As my husband drove off, she snuggled in and even snored a few seconds, obviously feeling safe enough to doze off. I just wanted to hug her.

I ask you, is it possible to fall in love in such a short space of time with a soft fur ball? For a half a second, I wanted to dog nap her and just take her home with us. She's now with her new family, and I'm sure she's settling into her new home and life. We were with her for such a short time and for a few days I couldn't stop thinking of her. Do you think maybe God is preparing my heart for such possibility? I would never have thought such a thing—I've always been a kitty person, but one never knows, that puppy could have come straight home with us and we'd have been filled with glee.  




"P" is for our new painting giving us joy in the pandemic

"Ten Hydrangeas"
by Canadian Artist Robert Lemay


One quiet morning, Rick mentioned he'd been thinking about us acquiring a piece of art to celebrate our upcoming wedding anniversary. He'd been looking online at one gallery with paintings by a favourite Canadian artist, Robert Lemay, whose work we've been admiring ever since we first came upon him.

Rick brought the gallery site up on his iPad for me to go through the paintings. I was to pick my favourite(s). It came as a surprise to me -- buying art in the midst of a pandemic certainly wasn't on my mind. As it turns out, unbeknownst to me at the time, I picked the very painting that Rick had already selected as his favourite. So we figured it was 'meant to be', and he contacted the gallery to arrange purchase and shipping. It was delivered last week, just days before our anniversary.

Although we haven't met the artist, I met his partner, Shawna Lemay, at a couple of book events a few years ago—she is a lovely author and photographer. I had to email and tell her our exciting news and that we couldn't wait to see the painting in person, that it would certainly be a thing of glorious beauty in this strangely weird year of 2020.

 


" In this dark period, it is as if the works of art and its
protagonists remind us not to forget about beauty. "
FRANCISCO RIBEIRO, as seen on Twitter




"P" is for perfumed petals of a pink lily bouquet

" The only Commandment I ever
obeyed — 'Consider the Lilies'. "
    EMILY DICKINSON


I went out early one afternoon during the week. With our anniversary and hubby's birthday around the corner, I still needed to get cards for the occasions. Distracted, I left the house without my floral fabric mask. No worries, I'll use a disposal one in the car. Arriving at the store, I went to put on the mask and the elastic fell off. How unusual. Rats. I had to turn around and go back home—I couldn't go in without a mask. With a fresh one safely on my face, I headed back to the store, picked up the few items I had on my list including the greetings cards, got in the very long line up of socially distanced customers, when I suddenly realized I didn't have my wallet in my bag. You've got to be kidding me. I'd been shopping online at my desk earlier and guess where I'd left my wallet...on my desk. Thankfully I hadn't rung my purchases through yet. Quickly dropping off my basket at customer service explaining I'd be back, I tootled home...again.

Now masked and wallet safely in my bag, back at the store I picked up my basket and zoomed towards the checkout. Except the fragrance and deep colour of the gorgeous pink lilies at the floral display called out to me, I had to bring them home with me. Fortunately the long lineup was gone, there was a lull, and so I was in and out with my purchases and home again for the third time. It all turned out in the end, and instead of getting agitated, I just decided to giggle about the back and forth (and replenish the mask supply in the car). All week I have considered the gift of the lilies—every time I pass them on the dining table, I stop to inhale and admire.




"P" is for Beethoven's Pathétique
Op. 13 - Adagio cantabile
As played by Igor Levit


We had just watched an online concert from Wigmore Hall in the UK. That is one gift that comes out of this pandemic, so many concerts and other events are made available online now. I was about to turn off the television when another concert began to play. I was stopped in my tracks; although I've heard and enjoyed this piece by Beethoven in the past, it was like I was hearing it for the first time. With the remote still in my hand, my soul soared as I listened to and watched as this wonderful pianist "performed it like he was giving his best gift". If you watch the five minute video, you'll notice that he is Schroeder in living colour—and one can tell he loves Beethoven. 

The music still going through my mind, I sat down in the living room a moment before turning out the tall pencil evergreen with its white lights, letting the melody play in my mind while gazing at our new painting. In the quiet peacefulness, my heart grew still and in that moment of joy, peace, and contentment, I felt as if my Covid-riven soul had been knit together in wholeness. I went to bed grateful to the core.


* * *

" A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry,
and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that
worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful
which God has implanted in the human soul. "
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE


* * *

Tomorrow, the first of December, we earnestly turn our thoughts towards Christmas.

Congratulations again to Marie and Linda!

Wishing you a beautiful week ahead. Stay safe.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



(Top) Photo credit: Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay





Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Advent Calendar Giveaway



" If today gets difficult,
remember the smell of coffee,
the way sunlight bounces off a window,
the sound of your favorite person's laugh,
the feeling when a song you love comes on,
the color of the sky at dusk, and that
we are here to take care of each other. "
NANEA HOFFMANN


Suddenly it's a month 'til Christmas and with less than a week before December 1st, I had better post my Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar **Giveaway** before it's too late! A dear blogging friend sent me the 2020 Scandinavian calendar several days ago—such a lovely surprise—and ever since I have been enjoying the games and puzzles already available for those of us who can't wait. 

Now it's my turn to pay it forward, and I'm delighted to give away TWO e-Advent Calendars. There are two choices available this year: (1) the Nordic version with the Scandinavian-style Christmas celebrations and (2) the Cotswold version with an English Christmas in the pretty hills of southern England. The winners can choose which version they prefer. To learn more about the calendars, check out Jacquie's website HERE, but don't forget to come back and leave your comment to enter the DRAW.

As we come into the darkest days of the year, I hope this daily 'light'hearted and fun activity will help to dispel the darkness and keep your spirits mirthful as you wait for Christmas.
 


To Enter the Giveaway:

1. Leave us a comment on this post (or on Facebook
if you are reading the post there).
Share a favourite holiday treat, song, tradition, or
how you are feeling about Christmas this year.

Draw will be at 8:00 am MST on Monday, Nov 30th.
--Draw is now closed--

If you are the lucky winner, do get in touch with me as soon as possible,
so I can email the calendar link to you before the first of December.
You'll find my email HERE.

Fingers and heart crossed for you—here's wishin' ! 


* * *
 
Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox





Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Wee Note On A Wednesday



Without my morning coffee,
I’m just like a dried-up piece of goat. 
J.S. BACH


I am chuckling as I try to imagine Johann Sebastian Bach, famous musician of gorgeous old music, quipping that line above to his wife one morning before he picked up his quill to compose one of his great fugues. Funny thing, there are days I totally relate!

Went searching for a coffee quote since the beverage was on my mind earlier than usual this morning—I woke in the wee hours and couldn't go back to sleep. I finally came into my study, spent time writing in my journal, made some notes for my writing project. And then around six o'clock, I decided to surprise Hubbs and baked a batch of blueberry muffins for our morning coffee. Do you know how loud a bowl and some measuring spoons and a muffin tray can clatter when you're trying to be as quiet as a mouse because someone is fast asleep?

Soon hubby was awake and the smell of freshly brewing coffee wafted through the house. It's the smell that separates night from day, asserts Japanese author Haruki Murakami. So true, although I would have to include toast and bacon as two other smells that markedly announce morning has broken.



“How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble,
I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless."

"Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would
probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly.
It is the only way to eat them."

"I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all,
under the circumstances.”

OSCAR WILDE, The Importance of Being Earnest


Oscar Wilde reminds us that no matter what horrid troubles are going on around us, one should always eat muffins calmly. Good advice, and we calmly took it too.

After breakfast, I went out first thing to the post office to mail birthday cards and get a supply of holiday postage stamps. They are ready over there for the crowds of Christmas lineups, Covid social distance style. The line snakes around this corner and that one—just follow the footprints towards the service counter and keep your social distance. Being the only customer at the time, I was in and out of there in a flash.




A supply of Christmas stamps in hand, I popped over to HomeSense to scout their Christmas card selections. I used to LOVE shopping for Christmas cards early in the season. Nowadays it's not quite as much fun; they don't stock up on the variety of wonderful designs, at least not around these parts. I certainly miss the Hallmark shops in our region of the world. But I found three boxes I like and home they came with me. 

That quick errand done, I went for my wee walk around the block when just a few pleasant snowflakes were falling. The birds were in full chorus. Now, the weather outside has turned frightful. It's more serious, with intermittent tiny snow flurries, big fluffy ones, and ice pellets. And it's constant today, Sandra! It will be a pile by day's end if it keeps up, making the roads dicy with low visibility for drivers on their way home tonight. 😟

* * *

As far as I know, I have no Scottish ancestry, but you will have noted that I've adopted the use of the Scottish vernacular often using the word 'wee' which means 'little, small, minute, tiny'. With this post being a wee thing, you'll probably only need a sip or two of your favourite beverage and you'll be on your way to the rest of your day. As I wind up, the day has well begun, and for some of you, you'll be heading towards late afternoon. On that note...


Whatever you are up to,
here's wishing you a pleasant day.

And I hope you haven't minded my wee bit of blethering*!

*Definition of blethering:
"talk in a long-winded way without making very much sense"


Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox


Photo credits:
(top) Image by Monika Robak from Pixabay
(middle) Image by RitaE from Pixabay
(bottom) Image by Brenda C Leyland


 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday: Life in My Unhurried But Not So Ho-Hum Lane



"...it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing..."

MARY OLIVER



As the sun hit the snow on my neighbour's roof, thoughts of vanilla icing gliding down the sides of a layer cake spring to mind. It is a scene for a Christmas card even though it's only mid-November. Winter came with aplomb last weekend, and we're still kinda finding our way out from beneath the snow piles. Not to mention adjusting to the thermometer that has been as jumpy as any serious watcher of the recent US presidential election results—first, the temperature falls way below freezing and then surges back up into melting mode, then drops again. 

Maybe we're all a little jumpy these days, what with so many things going on that threaten to pull our minds off kilter. I woke up the other morning with a dream still fresh in my mind—I worry when current world events end up in my dreams. In the dream I found myself in a crowd of people. It all felt quite normal and fine, people going about their business. I suddenly remembered it's Covid and I don't have my mask on! What! How could I have left the house without it, and I knew there wasn't an extra one in my bag. On top of that, what I found most unsettling was that no one was wearing a mask and no one else didn't seem to notice or care. Thankfully, I woke up. 

To settle my rattled nerves (wink), in the afternoon I pulled out a recipe from my old Purity recipe book, the cookbook my mom gave me to tuck into my hope chest decades ago. I went straight to the easy one-bowl chocolate cake recipe. After gathering the ingredients and beating them together for the requisite minutes, I poured the smooth chocolate batter into my shiny new cake pan, sorely tempted to lick the wire beaters and drag my finger to catch the drips along the edge of the bowl. I tend not to do that anymore, wondering if it's safe to ingest raw eggs. Setting the timer, the minutes couldn't tick fast enough as I anticipated serving still-warm slices (with vanilla ice cream) for our afternoon tea. It fit the bill, steadied my nerves, satisfied my taste buds, and made an ordinary afternoon feel silky smooth and carefree. Although delicious, we opted not to have seconds.

* * *

A dear friend asked the other day how I was doing these days, noting I'd been quiet here online. Yes, it's true and replied that I didn't have much to say at present, not publicly anyway. Even as I keep one eye on the world events going on around us, one thing that occupies my time and imagination is a writing project—that slow as molasses memoir I started some years ago and work away at it when I get inspired. I took it out to work on during November.

Sad to say that something like wolverines must have gotten into my files when I wasn't looking, for what had been, I was certain, well organized notes and proper first drafts back when I stopped working on it were now in some unholy mess. Surely I hadn't left it in that condition back then! It took me days to sort everything out again, getting familiar with the working table of contents, deleting all the duplicate material found in various documents—oi vey—how many times did I start that same chapter? Eventually I got it all sorted and organized..... and now we're down to some actual writing. Progress is slow but moving onward. Sometimes I'm inspired and other times, well I carry on, for my writing buddy reminds me of something author Nora Roberts is attributed to saying, "I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank page."

* * *

In the midst of that, with the garden now wrapped in its winter thermals, Rick has turned his attention indoors and has been painting our living/dining room. We've had a cheerful yellow for years and have always loved the colour. But we've purchased a gorgeous new painting to celebrate our upcoming wedding anniversary, and it requires a fresh new background. Moss green was our choice for this wall in our dining room area. The painting is by Edmonton artist Robert Lemay. We love his work and are excited for the day our painting is delivered and hanging in its new home. We'll be sure to share pictures. In the meantime, here is a peek at what we are working on:





Feature wall in Moss Green with Queen Anne's Lace White
for the rest of the walls



Hydrangeas by Robert Lemay (4' x 6')
photo from gallery website


* * *

I pulled out my Mary Oliver poetry this week because someone I follow on Twitter, John Blase, suggested reading her work and to do so "while listening to Ava Maria as the sun also rises slowly and ever so surely". His words felt like a breath of fresh air, and so I took him up on his recommendation. Here are links to the Bach/Gounod Ava Maria version (voice) and the Schubert Ava Maria (violin), should you wish to take your own moment of slowly b.r.e.a.t.h.i.n.g in something fresh and lovely on a Friday morning. And if you don't have any Mary Oliver, read what makes you come alive. 

Something else I'm very much enjoying for my bedtime reading is Patrick Taylor's novel An Irish Country Christmas. It's still some weeks before Christmas in the wonderful, slightly looney community of Ballybucklebo, so the novel's timing fits rather well in our real time as our own build up begins. I can't help thinking of James Herriot's crowd on All Creatures Great and Small. And for some reason actor Christopher Timothy, who played Herriot in the original series, springs to mind when young Doctor Barry Laverty, family doctor not veterinarian, tends his patients alongside his flamboyant senior partner, Doctor Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly. Together, the two good doctors encounter country folk who entertain, irritate, and cause them, and us the readers, to appreciate them for their quirky, beautiful humanness. It's one of my favourite stories, among several, to read at this time of year. 


" Maybe the desire to make
something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us. "
MARY OLIVER, Devotions
  

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful weekend. Stay safe.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox





Tuesday, November 03, 2020

The Simple Woman's Daybook: November Edition



"...let there be light, let there be beauty..."
AS SEEN ON FACEBOOK


American naturalist and author Hal Borland once said, "People seldom think of November in terms of beauty or any other specially satisfying tribute. November is simply that interval between colorful (October) and dark December." And yes, compared to September and October's riotous beauty, November certainly appears dull in her muted grey and brown wardrobe. But then we get weather like we are having this week—warm as late summer with sunrises so rich and vibrant it rivals any autumn flurry. Grey, cold days will come, of that we can be certain, but for today I'm reveling in this reprieve. And marveling at the play of light with shadow. Watching the sunset come earlier in the evening. No matter what else is going on in the world around us this week—and there's a lot—I'm letting these moments dance and play in my mind's eye.

It's been a delight to weave a few thoughts together for the November edition of The Simple Woman's Daybook. I hope they create a pleasant interlude before you get on with your day.





FOR TODAY



In November, the trees are standing all sticks and bones.
Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms
like dancers. They know it is time to be still.
CYNTHIA RYLANT


Outside my window...
The snow melted and we're back to autumn this week. With mild, sunny
temperatures, it is such a joy to go for my walks. The sunrises have been spectacular.


I am thinking...
about the name of this blog "It's A Beautiful Life".... because the truth is, we all know
life is not always beautiful. Sometimes there is downright ugly, horrible stuff
that assaults our minds and bodies on every front. Yet, in the midst, there is still so much in
life that remains beautiful. And that is what I try to focus on. Not only do I look for
the beauty in the world around me, but I look for what's good and beautiful in people.
One day I might update (or not) the name of my blog, because for all the ugly that happens,
"It's Still A Beautiful Life". 


I am thankful...
For these lines I recently found by Eric Liddell, a Scottish man
made famous through the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire.
"Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God's plans,
but God is not helpless among the ruins."
These words give me courage today. 


One of my favourite (happy) things...
is watching the Twitter feed of a dapper doggie named Bertie.
His human dad tells us that Bertie is a very happy Lakeland Terrier
who lives in Cheltenham (UK). He loves everybody and he tries everyday
to be a good boy but it doesn't always quite work out. 
He loves to run and lives life to the full.
He charms his followers with his exuberance.
Bertie always makes my day, and now Rick always asks,
so what's Bertie up to today?
His Twitter tag is @bertie_lakeland 


I am wearing...
black pants, long-sleeved tee-shirt, warm socks, and a dab of lipstick.
Yes, I still wear lipstick even when I wear a mask to do errands and shopping.


I am creating...
space in my day to write, read, listen to music, go for a walk, be quiet, listen, pray.


 I am watching...



I am reading...
One of my recent Value Village book finds
Words I Wish I Wrote by Robert Fulghum. He writes:

"In traditional Japanese houses, the walls are not cluttered with
bric-a-brac or paintings, because the Japanese think the art becomes
wallpaper after a while—unseen except as background. There is a
single place set aside on a single wall for a single work of art that is changed
from time to time according to the seasons. It's called a tokonoma. By placing
something of beauty in the tokonoma, the art gets noticed and
appreciated—purposely attended to. ..."

What a lovely way to keep the treasures in our home fresh and alive to our senses.

 
I am listening to...
my doctor's advice to get in at least 150 minutes of
exercise a week. I like to walk but injured my knee some time ago. I'm
slowly getting back to it. For now it's once around the block twice a day.
It's been lovely to watch how the season has been changing day by day.
And my knee is getting better.


I was hoping...
there would be left over Hallowe'en treats after the kids came on the weekend.
I was especially hoping to find extra Cheetos Crunchy Cheesies. Alas,
they were popular amongst the kiddies, so there weren't any left. No matter,
I admit I had sampled them earlier in the week (wink). They were my little
treat as I watched Poirot movies in the afternoon.
 

I have been learning...
to barber my husband's hair in these Covid days. He didn't want to go
to the barber, so I invested in a hair clipper and shears, and watched 
dozens of YouTube videos on cutting men's hair. He hasn't fired
me yet. But I have begun to wonder why he wears his hat so often.
 


In the kitchen...
Rick made a gorgeous Greek Salad for supper last evening,
using the Joy of Cooking recipes for the salad and dressing.

Greek Salad
1. Rub a salad bowl with garlic.
2. Add lettuce or spinach leaves,
chopped, pitted ripe olives,
sliced radishes,
sliced hard-cooked eggs,
shredded Swiss cheese,
bits of sautéed bacon.
3. Add sliced cucumbers,
cubes of feta cheese, and
a sprinkling of oregano
4. Toss salad with....

French Dressing
In a jar, add:
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Put lid on, shake until ingredients are blended.
Then, gradually add
3/4 cup olive oil
shaking between additions.
Shake well before using.

 


In the garden...
The peony leaves turned purple after the frost. I have never noticed
that happening before—perhaps I never paid proper attention. I'm loving
this unexpected glimpse of nature's fading beauty.


A favourite link...
To visit is Lorrie's beautiful blog Fabric Paper Thread. It took a long
time for the two of us to discover when we met online, that years earlier our paths
had crossed in real life. She recognized the college dorm when I posted a photo once.
It turned out we both attended the same college at the same time—we were
in different years—our rooms were located on the same floor in Whittaker Hall.
We both dug out our yearbooks and racked our brains to see if we remembered each other.
How's that for that old saying "what a small world!"
I'm so glad our paths crossed again.



A moment from my day... (photo of dailyness)
Photos from my walk at sunset around 4:45 yesterday afternoon.
I hardly minded such an early dusk when I could watch the sun playing
in the treetops and reflecting in the empty lake. 
It caught my breath!

 

Closing notes...
"...the full November twilight had fallen around Green Gables,
and the only light in the kitchen came from the dancing
red flames in the stove. Anne was...gazing into that joyous
flow where the sunshine of a hundred summers was being 
distilled from the maple cordwood."
L.M. MONTGOMERY

* * *

Yes, Virginia, it's still a beautiful life...
From the deep region of my heart, I am wishing you a safe and cozy November.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
💓



Photo credits for:
(Top) Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay
(Olive jar) Image by ArtTower from Pixabay