Saturday, July 24, 2021

One Book I Avoided Reading as a Girl



" I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!
How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! "
JANE AUSTEN


It was my plan to post this last Friday, but here it is over a week later. I hope you'll understand as I offer my lame excuse, I was too busy reading my books to finish a post about them (wink).


I never tire of books. They are a hobby, a pursuit, a lifeline. From my earliest childhood, words in books captivated my imagination in a way nothing else on this earth has ever done. Books are my heartbeat. It's a gift for which I'll never stop being grateful. So, to be honest, during the sweltering heatwave we had recently, and it felt unbearable at times without AC, I secretly grinned to myself. Expending as little energy as possible during those days, I tucked myself in a coolish corner and, without a shred of guilt or shame, I disappeared into my books and read for hours. Just like I did when I was a girl....reading on a sunny afternoon in the shade of our poplar trees or sprawled on my bed in the evening reading until sunset, squinting my eyes to etch out just a few more words before the twilight faded completely.

British novelist Doris Lessing once said people should not read a book out of its right timing for them. I agree. Out of season the words lay listless on a page, barely engaging us, but in season, they hang with promise, heavy like ripe fruit ready to nourish and delight. Sometimes we read a book and we aren't ready for it, but the experience can ruin it for future reading. 
 


THE YEARLING (children's fiction)
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings


One such book for me was Black Beauty. I don't know how old I was—maybe nine or ten—but I was totally gutted when I learned this beautiful horse had to be sold to uncaring, cruel men. I never read it again. So then, I could never bring myself to read another children's classic The Yearling, because it was about a boy and his pet deer, and I already knew it wouldn't have a good ending. And even though my younger sister loved it as a girl and highly recommended it, I still couldn't bring myself to read it. But, this summer at the, ahem, tender age of sixty-four, I felt ready for it. It has been a lovely summertime read with its storyline woven with high adventure, sadness and loss but also with many delightful threads of beauty and wonder and hope. Life in the Florida backwoods was ruthless, and Penny Baxter fought off wolves and bears, faced failure and sickness; yet there he was, instilling in his young son the ability to marvel at the beauty of the world around them.


"I do not understand how anyone can live without
one small place of enchantment to turn to."
MARJORIE KINNAN RAWLINGS


I was especially taken with one enchanting description in the book. One evening while out tromping in the woods, Penny Baxter and young Jody watch as eight pairs of whooping cranes glide into a pond and begin their mysterious ritual dances. It was like watching a dance at a grand ball. I remember naturalist author Diane Ackerman writing about the plight of whooping cranes and how these elegant birds had been nearly destroyed and are now making a slow recovery. Yet, here was this description written decades earlier, possibly drawn from Rawlings's own encounter, when whooping cranes still plentifully wild were doing their courtship dances with barely anyone to see them. Penny Baxter and his son watched and were so overcome by it, they were speechless, even when they arrived home to supper. I sat in that moment after reading the passage, and I had no words.

Reading books when the timing is right is so important in getting the best from them, even when it means reading a children's classic when one is nearly a senior citizen. I borrowed the book from the library, but I think it's one I'd like to own and have near to hand, in case I want to read my favourite lines again. The illustrations in the hardcover edition are wonderful.

I'll close with this heartfelt talk Penny Baxter had with his young son as the boy faced the grievous loss of his beloved pet. It's one of my favourite passages:
"Ever' man wants life to be a fine thing, and a easy. 'Tis fine, boy, powerful fine, but 'tain't easy. Life knocks a man down and he gits up and it knocks him down agin. I've been uneasy all my life...I've wanted life to be easy for you. Easier'n 'twas for me. A man's heart aches, seein' his young uns face the world. Knowin' they got to get their guts tore out, the way his was tore. I wanted to spare you, long as I could. I wanted you to frolic with your yearlin'. I knowed the lonesomeness he eased for you. But ever' man's lonesome. What's he to do then? What's he to do when he gits knocked down? Why, take it for his share and go on."
   
* * *

Shall we take it for our share and go on?
Wishing you beauty and heart's ease.

Brenda

Top: Image by Ina Hall from Pixabay 





Monday, July 12, 2021

Guest Post Elsewhere - Summertime Reading



" Sweet life continues in the breeze,
in the golden fields. "
JACK KEROUAC, Book of Sketches


On this beautiful Monday morning, I am delighted to be a Guest Blogger on InScribe where this month contributors explore the theme of summertime reading. You'll find my post A Summer Breeze and a Good Book HERE. I hope you'll stop by and say hello.

Wishing you a beautiful day.

Brenda

Top: Image from Pixabay 



Sunday, July 11, 2021

Sunday Afternoons



" Summer afternoon—summer afternoon;
to me those have always been the two most
beautiful words in the English language. "
HENRY JAMES


What do you do on a Sunday afternoon in summer?

Sometimes we . . .

Go for a Sunday drive, windows down, in the countryside.
Stop for an ice cream cone on the way home.
Sit on the deck, smell the roses, watch the birds.

Visit with friends in the shade, sip something cool.
Read a book, mesmerized by its compelling tale.
Drift off, snooze like a cat.

Watch shadows dance on the ceiling and breezes flirt with the curtains. 
Laze on a day hazy with heat.
Slurp juicy watermelon or icy Creamsicles.

Sometimes we just sit—letting
hours slip by at a pleasant pace.
Grateful for summer afternoons and
the chance to 'just be'.

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day.

Brenda


Top photo: Image by Pezibear from Pixabay



Friday, July 02, 2021

Summer Favourites: Burgers and Mango Pepper Salad




" I always say, 'Eat clean to stay fit;
have a burger to stay sane.' "
GIGI HADID


Biting into a perfectly grilled burger makes my taste buds thankful every time. Hamburgers with all the fixings are certainly on my Top Five of summer eating favourites. I'm pretty sure I got hooked watching Wimpey all those years ago eat his way through piles of the perfectly shaped mounds - 'gladly paying Tuesday for a hamburger today'.

The standard for me includes mustard, relish, ketchup, a thin slice of sweet onion, beefsteak tomato, a lettuce leaf, all on a lightly toasted ciabatta bun. I know melted cheese and crisp bacon would take it over the top for some people. I love both but my scale says I'm okay without them. But, have you ever had a burger with a layer of crisp deep fried onion ring on it? This is only for once in a while but, oh my, that takes any burger I'm going to eat over the top-top. It's bite down delicious.

Being a curious soul, what do you like on your burgers? What is a must, what is disgust? Or, if hamburgers are not a favourite for you, what is on your summertime top five?




" Mindful eating is about awareness.
When you eat mindfully, you slow down,
pay attention to the food you're eating,
and savor every bite. "
SUSAN ALBERS


This mango and bell pepper salad is one of my favourite summer salads. It's so refreshing on a hot day, and it seems to go well with just about anything grilled. You can do the chopping ahead of time and keep ingredients in the refrigerator. Add the dressing just before serving.


Mango and Sweet Bell Pepper Salad

1 ripe mango (or 2 nectarines), peeled, cut into small chunks
1 sweet red pepper, sliced into matchstick-size pieces
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)

1/3 cup diced sweet onion
1 Tbsp lime juice (or lemon)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
dash hot pepper sauce

In a bowl, add mango, red pepper, and cilantro.
Mix onion, lime juice, vegetable oil, and hot pepper sauce.
Stir and pour over the ingredients in the bowl. Mix gently.


* * *

It's been a scorcher for us this past week. We've been mostly hibernating indoors, it being too hot to do anything outside, so what could we do but cheerfully beaver through our summertime reading stash. As they say, it's a hard job but somebody's got to do it. We only venture outside to check on plants in the pre-dawn and late into the evening to ensure they haven't croaked in the day's heat. Usually in our area we worry about frostbite for our plants, not heat stroke. Our beautiful Peace Rose is suffering especially - the buds venture open only to dry to a crisp in the winds. 😢 So grateful it's cooling down a little over the next few days. There might even be some rain. In the meantime, I'll be sure to keep my reading pile topped up.

Stay cool. Stay safe.
Here's wishing you a pleasant weekend.

Brenda
Photos are mine




Monday, June 28, 2021

A Summertime Read: The Windsor Knot



"Reading mysteries: the recreation of intelligent minds."
DONNA ANDREWS


I just finished reading this book and loved it. If you like mystery novels and if you are a fan of all things royal and queenly, you must add this to your summertime reading list.

Newly published, The Windsor Knot is a first-rate murder mystery by SJ Bennett. It's her first in hopefully a continuing series that features none other than Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who secretly solves crimes whilst carrying out her Royal duties. It's not that the Queen herself does any detective work, but she notices things that often go undetected and where she can, she alerts certain individuals who might be able pursue discrete inquiries. I am amazed at how the author has made it all quite believable which, to me, indicates her masterly skill as a writer.

As one reviewer so aptly points out, "If The Crown were crossed with Miss Marple, . . . the result would probably be something like this charming whodunit."  I have to agree - this book was a lot of fun to read. Here's an excerpt from the opening paragraph:
"It was an almost perfect spring day. The air was crisp and clear, the cornflower sky slashed with contrails. Ahead of her, above the tree line of Home Park, Windsor Castle glowed silver in the morning light. The Queen brought her pony to a standstill to admire the view. There is nothing as good for the soul as a sunny morning in the English countryside. After eighty-nine years, she still marveled at God's work. Or evolution's, to be strictly accurate. But on a day like this, it was God who came to mind."

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful week ahead.

Brenda


REMINDER TO E-MAIL SUBSCRIBERS:
Blogger's e-mail subscription service will be discontinued in July. This means you will stop getting the automated e-mail alerts on future posts. To read new posts, please visit my blog at:  beautiful.wordfromhome.com.


Friday, June 18, 2021

Friday Chat: East of Eden, Apple Tart, Roses



" Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny
glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children;
change the season in your veins by raising glass
to lip and tilting summer in. "
RAY BRADBURY

With summer nearly in full swing, I'm all for holding summer in my hand, pouring summer in a glass, and tilting face towards a scented summer blossom newly opened. In deep contrast, however, to both quotation and photo above by Jill Wellington, it is wildly windy, rainy, and cool out as I work on this post. I ask, how much more can my plants take of these gusts? While leaves become wind-crisped on one poor clematis, I am in wonderment at the sheer tenacity of the morning glories, their fragile tendrils gripping fast to the trellis as the wind gives their pots a shake.  

It is really a day to get lost in a book somewhere deep indoors, with cups of tea at the ready instead of rosy iced lemonade. Someone mentioned on social media that she was reading John Steinbeck's East of Eden and I was compelled by her recommendation. Having never read this epic story of good and evil, I borrowed the book from the library. With a mere 601 pages in the centennial edition, my work is cut out for me these next few days. On this rain-driven day, I could make a good start on it, except ...  

A certain someone around here muses aloud of how Jacques Pépin's recipe for French Apple Tart sounds pretty easy, don't you think, and wouldn't it be nice for tea on a rainy afternoon? Having now watched the video a couple of times, I have to agree, Jacques does make it look easy, me not having honed the pie crust making skill. For a view and whetting of the appetite, you can watch the short video HERE

Before I take out apples, flour and butter, I want to share something that caught my eye in the Steinbeck novel. Set around the 1880s, as key character Adam Trask completes his service in the United States Army, he muses about army life and how time passes when so many days are filled with non-eventful routine while they wait for action:

"Time interval is a strange and contradictory matter in the mind. It would be reasonable to suppose that a routine time or an eventless time would seem interminable. It should be so, but it is not. It is the dull eventless times that have no duration whatever. A time splashed with interest, wounded with tragedy, crevassed with joy—that's the time that seems long in the memory. And this is right when you think about it. Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on. From nothing to nothing is no time at all." ch 7, p 56

This passage, especially the line I bolded, somehow speaks to that out of time sensation I have had these past Covid-shaped months. There were many days for us, living in our own space for weeks on end, when life seemed to stand still. Routines were simple, and days melted into each other. There wasn't much to separate one day's events from the next. Sometimes trying to remember what I did in the previous couple of days, I had to rack my brain to remind myself what I was about that day. Surprising too in the midst of it, I'd be flabbergasted that a week so uneventful passed so quickly, waking to find it Friday already again. Time standing still and time zooming by, all at the same time. Time is a funny thing.

Earlier this week, to quote Steinbeck, time splashed with interest and our hearts were crevassed with joy as we spotted the first roses in bloom. Around here, roses are pretty special in our garden. Most are not hardy in our zone. Thankfully rose breeders have given us a few that can now survive the hard winters, but tender tea roses must overwinter in the garage if we are to enjoy them come Spring. So imagine the great gladness that overwhelms our hearts when a single rose bud bursts open. And, there is especial cause for celebration when Peace Rose begins her season's debut.

" Won't you come into the garden?
I would like my roses to see you. "
RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN



Rosa Rugosa 'Hansa'



Hybrid tea rose, 'Peace'


Rose shrub, 'At Last'


* * *

" You blossom under kindness, don't you?
Like a rose. "
SYLVAIN REYNARD


Yes, as a matter of fact, I do blossom under kindness.
I don't believe there is a single creature on God's
green earth that doesn't blossom under kindness.
So, as Ellen used to say, be kind.

* * *

Wishing you a day that's kind and beautiful.

Brenda

PS.
Last minute addition, my first French Apple Tart.
Jacques said the original French tart would have been dotted
with butter and sugar only, but if you want cinnamon on yours,
feel free to add. We sprinkled cinnamon on ours. It was yummy!  







Monday, June 14, 2021

Important News for Email Subscribers to My Blog


" People are very open-minded about new things,
as long as they're exactly like the old ones. "
CHARLES F. KETTERING


I'm sad to report there is a change coming to Blogger. For those of you who subscribe to have my blog posts delivered to your email, please note that Blogger's email subscription widget won't be supported any longer and will stop working on July 1, 2021. This means you will no longer get my newest blog posts sent to your email inbox. 😞

There are other email subscription services out there, but it would require research, a lot of work, and maybe cash outlay to find and set up a new one. It's a learning curve I'm not prepared to engage in at this time. I won't say never, just not now. Fellow bloggers more tech savvy than I will figure out something that works for them, and hopefully some will share their experiences in the days ahead.

Because you will no longer have my blog posts arriving in your inbox, it means if you want to continue reading my posts—and I really hope you do—you will have to visit the blog directly (beautiful.wordfromhome.com). Currently, I post once a week, either Friday or Saturday, occasionally I post more often.

Thank you to everyone who subscribed over the yearsI am amazed at how many of you actually signed up for my posts. I so appreciate your support in this way. I'm sorry you won't have this convenient feature available to you come July, but I hope you'll visit It's A Beautiful Life when you can.


" Change is inevitable—except
from a vending machine. "
ROBERT C GALLAGHER


* * *

Here's trusting we can adapt with grace,

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox





Saturday, June 12, 2021

Summertime Reading



" Books and summertime
go together. "
LISA SCHROEDER


Although I love to read anytime, there is something about soft hazy summer days that brings out an especial longing to drift away on a breeze and disappear into a good book. Hot summer afternoons lend a delicious idleness to them that is ideal for reading. I think about what I like to read in the summertime. For starters, I like my books to be sunshine infused, where stories remind me of childhood and summer holidays, where there's adventure, mystery, a little romance - all with plenty of twists and surprises to keep me turning the pages. I like a mix of old seasonal favourites with new to me titles, a mix of fiction and non-fiction, a mix of lighthearted alongside something more inspiring and creative in scope. Sometimes I pick up books I read as a girl and enjoy them all over again - it doesn't take much to remember those long ago moments. I like stories that remind me that the world is still beautiful, even in the midst of the haunting hard and terrible things.
 
I also like the kind of books—poetry, nature diaries, or seasonal essay collections—that allow me to dip into a few lines here, a short chapter there, gathering food for thought, that sweet ambrosia for the soul, much the way bees flit in and out of blossoms to gather nectar. Such books come to mind as The Sound of Water (Haiku) by various poets, A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively, An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter, Calm Things by Shawna Lemay, not to forget any of Susan Branch's enchanting books, to name a few.




" Today I'd like to sit and read. Forget I have a job I need.
Ignore the things I have to do. And just enjoy a book or two. "
UNKNOWN
 

If it's a novel I'm reading, I want stories that I can delve into, where I really get to know the characters. They need to be people I can care about. I want to vicariously visit places I've never been before, but I also like reading books that describe places I have visited. It adds a sense of insider knowledge, an element of fun that keeps me watching for familiar scenes. For example, I visited Venice years ago on a holiday, so when I recently read The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen, I loved encountering spots in the novel where I could say, I saw that, I was there, oh yes, I recognize that description. By the way, I really enjoyed the novel, a historical fiction of love and secrets, the tale of two women, a generation apart, set (mainly) in Venice during the pre-war years of WWII and then the months following 9/11.

One other thing when it comes to summer reads, I definitely want storylines that engage all the senses and let me sink into good writing with lovely lines that can be included in my ever increasing collection of perfected thoughts. For all the misadventures in any story, I do need to have reasonably happy endings, and if not exactly happy, well then, at least hopeful. For I can withstand a lot of trouble in the story if I can feel hope for better days ahead.




" One benefit of Summer was that each day
we had more light to read by. "
JEANNETTE WALLS


The photo above reveals the start of my reading pile for this summer, a mix of old and new to me. I'm just starting a thrift store find The Ladies' Lending Library by Canadian author Janice Kulyk Keefer. So far, it's a rather drifty tale, set in 1963, of a group of women who bring their kids to the summer cottage while husbands work in the city and meet them on the weekends.

Currently, I am waiting for a couple of books on order. One is due to arrive tomorrow and the other not until August.
 


This Beautiful Truth
How God's Goodness Breaks into Our Darkness
by Sarah Clarkson

In her new book, Sarah shares her own encounters with beauty "in the midst of her decade-long struggle with mental illness, depression, and doubt." Having read her delightful book The Book Girl (you can see what I say about it HERE) I've come to appreciate Sarah so much. She is well read and is such a thoughtful writer of beautiful words and ideas. I eagerly await the arrival of her newest.



The Madness of Crowds
by Louise Penny

I have been enthralled ever since I first met Louise Penny and her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels set in Three Pines. I'm now madly waiting for the August 24th release of her latest spellbinding novel. These books are perfect summer reads.



The Rose Code
by Kate Quinn

Some of you were interested in my further thoughts about The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. I LOVED it. It was a page-turner thriller with some great female characters and an intriguing plot. If you are interested in the historical Bletchley Circle stories from Britain in World War II, enjoy a good love story, with a twist of mystery, this is the book. With over 600 pages, in a lovely font and layout, gentle on my older eyes, it's perfect for reading well into the night while the sun stays up late with you. I started reading on a Friday and was finished by Sunday 10:00 pm. It was a book I was quite ready to turn around and read again, savouring it now that I knew how it turned out.

A note that really caught my eye. Scanning the reviews on goodreads, someone asks about this book and says she's 180 pages in and wonders when it starts to pick up. Kate Quinn herself leaves a response: "Oh, goodness, move on! Life is too short to finish books you aren't enjoying. :) "  How eloquent!
 

* * *

So, do you have seasonal favourites when it comes to books?

Here's wishing you a pleasant weekend.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox


Top photo: Image by Brigitte from Pixabay
Second photo: Image by Innviertlerin from Pixabay


Friday, June 04, 2021

Savouring the Arrival of June



" And then, one fairy night, May became June. "
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

F. Scott Fitzgerald said it perfectly. For, with a flip of a calendar page and one fairy night, summer arrived. Just like that, the cold weather disappeared and in its stead, sunny summer days are here again. It seems we waited forever but now everything in the garden reaches towards the warmth. I reach towards the warmth, letting it soak past my skin into my heart of hearts, letting it melt ice patches left from winter's strain.

Now, there are so many moments to savour—the scent of lilacs in the air, bees buzzing in newly minted blossoms, early dawns and long summer twilights, the happy screams of children playing at the water park. We watch as two nine-year-old lads on their bikes dare to race past the neighbour's sprinkler that's overarching the sidewalk. They are either timing it so as not to get wet or, more likely, they're timing it to catch the thrill of cold water needles spraying on hot skin. Oh, the sheer joy of being a kid when it's nearly summer holidays. I love that they are savouring their own June joys.

I'm delighted to share a little glimpse of what's been making my heart lurch in crazy happiness this week.



Sage in bloom



Feathery wing-like clouds in the sky



Sprigs of fragrant lily of the valley
 


A new hydrangea settling into her place in the garden 



Glorious cerise pink petunias



Pink creeping thyme against the grey slate



Spying a strawberry in the making



Sipping lemon gin fizz on a hot afternoon, a drink new to me



A new lily plant with 14 buds getting ready to open



Anemones dancing on the breeze



Our American Highbush Cranberry, which we've always enjoyed
as a green shrub, burst into bloom this year for the first time ever.
I love the clusters of small yellowish flowers in the centre of a
wreath of showy white flowers. Not of the cranberry family,
it belongs to the Viburnum family. 
 


Showy clumps of tiny purple campanula


* * *

" What is one to say about June ‒ the time
of perfect young summer, the fulfillment
of the promise of earlier months... "
GERTRUDE JEKYLL

* * *

What have you been savouring this first week of June?
Wishing you a pleasant weekend.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox






Saturday, May 29, 2021

In the Garden: Pots of Lavender



" Everything that slows us down and forces patience,
everything that sets us back into the slow circles
of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. "
MAY SARTON 


Oh yes, gardening truly is an instrument of grace. No matter what's going on with life around me, no matter the disappointment of perennials and shrubs lost to winter's harshness, once the warm sunshine releases that evocative earthy smell, dreamy thoughts begin to percolate: what shall we plant there instead? Hope and creative notions ever blossom in a gardener's heart.  

It's early Saturday morning. The day promises sunshine which makes it ideal for planting out the annuals. Yesterday my car was overflowing, as was my soul, with happy possibilities from visits to the greenhouses. So far this year, I'm starting with pansies, marigolds, morning glories, geraniums, lobelia, bellflowers, and African daisies, to name a few. Sweet peas are already in the ground.   

I also bought pots and pots of Spanish lavender this year. They thrive in hot, dry climates (zones 8-11), so they do not overwinter here (we're in zone 3b), but as annuals they give lovely drifts of colour and fragrance throughout the summer. Not only do I want clusters of them planted in the garden to smell while walking through but also set about in pots on the back deck for when we're out there relaxing. All we need now are some hot, sunny days for everything to flourish. 
 



" The key to nature's therapy is feeling like a tiny part of it,
not a master over it. There's amazing pride in seeing a bee
land on a flower you planted - but that's not your act of
creation, it's your act of joining in. "
VICTORIA COREN MITCHELL 





* * *

I'm away to my coffee and then my plants.
Wishing you a pleasant weekend.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox




Friday, May 21, 2021

May Long Weekend



" You do not find the happy life.
You make it. "
CAMILLA EYRING KIMBALL



Many of you have posted this week about what's blooming in your gardens - lilacs and irises, bleeding hearts and peonies, and even roses. I am so glad for these cheerful reports from your various corners of the world. For we have nothing so advanced to announce from our garden. Our perennials are still shaking off the remains of the snow dump we had a few days ago. The temperatures the last few nights have gone below freezing, and I am lamenting the fate of our fruit and ornamental trees just coming into blossom. Those tender petals.

Today, though, things are on the upward trend. The sun shines and it's warming up. We hope, with fingers crossed, that spring can re-commence and with that last gasp, winter will at last crawl away and hibernate.

Here in Canada, it's the start of the May Long Weekend, also known as Victoria Day weekend. The holiday that marked the old Queen's birthday now signals in our modern day the start of the summer and camping season. Although I cannot imagine going camping when the night temperatures are still hovering near freezing. Thankfully, definitely NO camping for us. To Rick's chagrin, my idea of camping is a four-star hotel, while he dreams of sitting by a lake with a fishing pole or a pair of bird-watching binoculars. It was in the fine print (wink) when we got married that I didn't do camping...or ironing. I guess he thought I was still worth marrying. In my defense I do iron on occasion, and more rarely, I have also gone camping with him, in a tent no less. 

Now, I do love day camping, that is to say, going out into nature and spending the day amongst the birds and bees and the flowers and the trees. This afternoon, we're off for a drive in the countryside with a packed picnic and a thermos of tea. The driver rarely announces a destination he has in mind, and I rarely mind not knowing where we'll end up—I love the serendipity of it all.

* * *

On a different note, I had birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, and so I finally made a quick visit to the bookstore yesterday for something new to read. A woman joined me at the table where I was browsing. Masked and safely standing at the other end, she pointed to the cover of one novel saying she had just finished and really enjoyed 'that one'. It was Kate Quinn's 621-page new novel The Rose Codean historical novel about three female code breakers at Bletchley Park during WWII, a spy they must uncover after the war, the dashing Prince Philip of Greece, and the upcoming royal wedding. Looking no further, the book came home with me. I cannot wait to crack the cover. Maybe later today.

With that, I'm away to my weekend activities (I've got plans, too, to bake a Victoria Sponge tomorrow). What have you got planned? Whatever you are up to, I hope it's filled with pleasantries and small treats.


Wishing you beauty and heart's ease.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox


Top Photo Credit: Elena Ferrer from Unsplash




Friday, May 14, 2021

Friday Chat: Flowers and Cake



" Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you... "
MAYA ANGELOU, 'On the Pulse of Morning'


We interrupt this blog post. I posted this earlier today, but for some reason B-l-o-g-g-e-r had issues with it and removed the post and comments that were attached to it. They said the post breeched content guidelines. I'm scratching my head for I cannot imagine what—it has to be a glitch of some kind. I'm now re-posting it. The text remains the same but I changed the title and lead photo. So with fingers crossed and a little prayer whispered, I press publish. Hope everything works now. (I've backed up my blog, just in case.)


Spring is still in its early stages around here, and although things are coming to life in the garden and trees are unfolding tender green leaves, there's still not much to show you yet. There are barely buds on the lilacs, and we're still not sure if our somewhat hardy roses survived the winter. With fingers crossed, we keep checking for signs of life.

The greenhouses are humming with excited gardeners. I did a curbside pickup the other day for some plants I ordered: several pots of hollyhocks 'Radiant Rose' (rose pink) and 'Las Vegas' (multi-colours) and three climbing perennials—a container of fast growing hops to screen an area, a 'Doctor Ruppel' pink and white clematis, and two 'Dropmore Scarlet' honeysuckle for climbing up the drain spouts, alongside any itsy, bitsy spiders.

Later this afternoon we're anticipating an outdoor visit with dear friends who are dropping by after some errand running. Since I knew they were coming, I baked a cake. Cinnamon Coffee Cake is a simple and easy recipe that pairs nicely with ice cream and fruit like strawberries, or pears. Or, if you are familiar with Susan Branch's vanilla cream sauce, you just know it would be a delicious combo. We'll have ours today with ice cream and strawberries. And tea. Yorkshire Blend.



Cinnamon Coffee Cake

1 3/4 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 large egg
1 cup milk, soured with 1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder,
salt, and sugar.
Cut in shortening until mixture looks like
bread crumbs.

In another bowl, beat egg, milk, and vanilla.
Make a well in the flour mixture and add liquids.
Stir until moistened.
Pour into greased 8" round or square pan.

Topping
2 Tablespoon butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Melt the butter. Mix in brown sugar and cinnamon.
Sprinkle mixture over top of batter.

Bake in preheated oven at 350°F for 20 - 25 minutes,
until golden brown or sides pull away from pan.

Serve alone or with ice cream and fruit.
Or, serve with Susan Branch's Vanilla Cream Sauce, recipe below.

 Susan's Vanilla Cream Sauce

1" piece vanilla bean
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Slit vanilla bean in half lengthwise and
scrape seeds into a small saucepan.
Stir in cream, bring to a boil.
Add sugar, stir, and remove from heat. Chill well.

Place cake slices in a puddle of sauce on a dish,
or pour sauce over slices, whichever you prefer.


* * *

On that sweet note, I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Heart hugs,
Brenda
xox



Photo (top): Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay



Chit Chat: Flowers and Cake



" Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you..."
MAYA ANGELOU, 'On the Pulse of Morning'


Spring is still in its early stages around here, and although things are coming to life in the garden and trees are unfolding tender green leaves, there's still not much to show you yet. There are barely buds on the lilacs, and we're still not sure if our somewhat hardy roses survived the winter. With fingers crossed, we keep checking for signs of life.

The greenhouses are humming with excited gardeners. I did a curbside pickup the other day for some plants I ordered: several pots of hollyhocks 'Radiant Rose' and 'Las Vegas' and three climbing perennials—a container of fast growing hops to screen an area, a 'Doctor Ruppel' pink and white clematis, and two 'Dropmore Scarlet' honeysuckle for climbing up the drain spots, along with any itsy, bitsy spiders.

Later this afternoon we're anticipating an outdoor visit with dear friends who are dropping by after some errand running. Since I knew they were coming, I baked a cake. Cinnamon Coffee Cake is a simple and easy recipe that pairs nicely with ice cream and fruit like strawberries, or pears. Or, if you are familiar with Susan Branch's vanilla pod cream sauce, you'll know that it would be a delicious combo. We'll have ours with ice cream and strawberries. And tea. Yorkshire Blend.



Cinnamon Coffee Cake

1 3/4 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 large egg
1 cup milk, soured with 1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. 
Cut in shortening until mixture looks like bread crumbs.

In another bowl, beat egg, milk and vanilla.
Make a well in the flour mixture and add liquids.
Stir until moistened.
Pour into greased 8" round or square pan.

Topping
2 Tablespoons butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Melt the butter. Mix in brown sugar and cinnamon.
Sprinkle mixture over top of batter. 

Bake in preheated oven at 350°F for 20 - 25 minutes,
until golden brown or sides pull away from pan. 

Serve alone or with ice cream and fruit.
Or, serve with Susan Branch's Vanilla Cream Sauce, recipe below.


Susan's Vanilla Cream Sauce*

1" piece vanilla bean
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Slit vanilla bean in half lengthwise and
scrape seeds into a small saucepan.
Stir in cream, bring to a boil.
Add sugar, stir, and remove from heat. Chill well.

Place cake slices in a puddle of sauce on a plate,
or pour sauce over slices, whichever you prefer.

*recipe from A Fine Romance

* * *


On that sweet note, I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox

Photo (top): Image by Anja from Pixabay


Saturday, May 08, 2021

"Half-Moments of Intense Joy"



" As we get older we realise that the days are more precious
and half-moments of intense joy are more valuable than jewels. "
MONTY DON, The Jewel Garden



If you have followed along here for any length of time, you know that I'm usually on the look out for the beauty in every day life—ever watching for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. Beauty is everywhere, but sometimes it takes real looking, you know? Sometimes there's a lot of ugly trying to cover up what's lovely and graceful, true and kind. Sometimes there are things going on in the world that, as my mom used say when I was a girl, can take the joy right out of living. Which is why we have to be smart and remember the trick of not giving up or giving in to the ugly stuff. To earnestly look for the good, because in this upside down world of ours, so often treasure is hidden and only those who seek shall find.

I've been trying to find words for this post all week. Everything seemed dull, including my heart which felt chipped around the edges. Nothing seemed to come together until late Thursday, and when I read that line above from Monty Don (lead presenter of BBC's television series Gardeners' World), I was bowled over by his phrase "half-moments of intense joy". It encapsulated what I was trying to write about.

We long for a life of joy, but so often joy come in fleeting half moments, with barely time to notice before they wisp away and darkness folds back in. So brief, yet in the end they become the treasured memories that make all the rest of life worth living. We revel in something so incredibly beautiful that our hearts are pierced and we never forget it. Most often we don't know when that moment will come. And we shudder to think that we could so easily miss it. Those little joy moments that are often known to pounce like playful kittens make up for a lot of ordinary, underwhelming days. It's part of our job as beauty seekers, not to just let it come whenever it wants, but to deliberately seek them out.

As I said, my world felt so utterly ordinary this last week. I couldn't imagine what on earth I could possible share with you that would be any worth to you. Yet, today, I sit here happily with a handful of lovely moments where joy bubbled up and life grew bright again. It's my heart wish that you find yourself glad to have stopped at It's A Beautiful Life before moving to your own day of beauty chasing.



From my window perch...

Yesterday morning, immature male red-winged blackbirds—their red patches on the wings much paler than on the mature males—flew into the backyard in a fell swoop from the lake to feed at the feeders and chill out. The air was alive as they practiced their calls so recognizable in wetland areas, click here to have a listen. I felt the thrill at hearing the familiar conk-la-ree conk-la-ree. It brings back thoughts of warm summer days of childhood when we used to hear them calling from the creek on the farm. I loved that sound. 




A jewel of a book...

I just finished reading a wonderful little book by Monty and Sarah Don that nicely coincides with the new gardening season. Optimistic and autobiographical, they tell the frank story of how they built a garden around their Tudor farmhouse as they emerged from the despair of their failed jewelry design business back in the 1980s and 90s. It is a testament to the healing nature of gardens. I was especially drawn to Monty's comment of how he works all season—all year really, living in England—towards that one day or week or two when a certain flower or corner of the garden blooms into its perfection and how all the work towards that one fleeting moment was totally worth it. Any gardener will nod her head in recognition. Those half-moments of intense joy are such treasures.

Here is a video clip of their gorgeous garden as it is this very day as seen on my Twitter feed. 




Around the house...

On the dining room table a vase of tulips are singing their 'swan song'. Mauve or lavender coloured flowers in the beginning, I love how the colour has intensified to an amethyst as the petals curl and dry. 





My current favourite salad...

I love all the textures and tastes in this Combination Salad, Greek version, from the classic Joy of Cooking. With lots of ingredients, it takes a little time to put together, but it is so satisfying, even as a main dish. In the cookbook, there are no amounts given, just a list of ingredients and the dressing. I've added my own measurements to serve two.


Joy of Cooking's Greek Salad

In a bowl rubbed with garlic, place the following: 
lettuce or spinach leaves 
chopped, pitted olives (3-4)
sliced radishes (2-3)
sliced hard-cooked eggs (1-2)
shredded Swiss cheese
sautéed bacon (1-2 slices)
sliced cucumber
cubes of feta cheese
a sprinkling of oregano

French Dressing or Sauce Vinaigrette

In a jar with lid, place the following:
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard

Lid and shake the jar until ingredients are blended.

Gradually add and then shake
3/4 cup olive oil

Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. Shake before using.

Garnish with peeled wedges of tomato

 



Joy in a bag of lavender...

It was an unexpected gift that landed in my mailbox last month for my birthday. A large sachet of dried lavender from my SIL that I nestle amongst my pillows on the bed. What a treat! How my heart lurches when I catch a whiff on the air. It makes my heart happy when I lay down. I remember buying sachets at the Exhibition as a girl. Packaged in mauve tulle and tied with ribbon, just like in the photo, I'd happily tuck them into my dresser drawers. Lavender has been a favourite scent ever since.





Quotes that pulled me up...

It was a week of sun and cloud, both outdoors and on the inside of my heart. Small things irritated me. I was tired of having to look so earnestly for the Beauty, why is there so much ugliness? But then I read some lines by lovely writers that lifted me out of the miry clay. There are so many who strive to keep beauty and kindness in their own lives, I want to be one of them, filling a most necessary role in our old world.

"...because I understand that I am filled and driven by the Holy Spirit and empowered as an image-bearer...to follow Jesus in ordering the world, I can see my monotonous acts of cleaning (after my toddler) for the sacramental acts they are. I'm creating, ordering, claiming my own place on earth as a corner of the world where God's spirit rules and the kingdom (of heaven) comes." Sarah Clarkson, a young mom, as seen on Facebook

"Cultivating beauty, creating order, crafting a life that celebrates goodness and innocence is not frivolous. It gives a living picture, a tangible reminder in the dark, difficult world that God is present. He is with us. He brings light. Beauty heralds hope." Sally Clarkson, author and mom of Sarah Clarkson

"The world needs people who walk the path of enchantment. Who speak in songs. Who live in wonder, with eyes fixed on heaven." Author Unknown 





Let it be...

Yesterday I woke up from a dream where I had been in a shop looking at lovely books about England. A fellow working there hummed a song as he went about his tasks. The tune was familiar as I tried to place it. When I woke, I recognized it was the old Beatles classic Let It Be. I once heard Paul McCartney tell the story of how he dreamt that his mom came to him and spoke those words at a time when he was worrying about things. Mmm... now those same words come to me in a dream.

On this lovely rainy May morning that wraps up a week of soul unsettling news in the world around us, I am happy to take the message of that old classic and 'let it be'. I take joy in the good things around me. My hope is that you will too.
 

* * *

Wishing you beauty and heart's ease.

With love,
Brenda
xox


Photo Credits:
Book cover and tulip pics are Brenda's
Other photos are from pixabay.com