Saturday, January 13, 2018

January Comforts

During this rainy, dark month, I crave colour. I wear a bright scarf, perhaps pink or cobalt, and put bright oranges on a cheerful plate from Mexico. Rosemary survives the winters here, and I dash out between the raindrops to clip a sprig or two to throw into a roast chicken, or a warming beef stew.

Although it's only been a week since school started, I'm exhausted. A couple of days of filling in for another teacher turned into all week, and next as well. I came home on Thursday, completed knackered (don't you think that's a great word?), and felt the need for a little self-care. The cheese, orange, and tea were lovely, but as someone who saw the photo on FB said, "where's the chocolate?" Where, indeed? I was all out. That was remedied today!

We slept in today, then lingered over a bacon and egg breakfast. A bit of laundry, grocery shopping, and some house puttering filled the rest of the day. Puttering included repotting a couple of houseplants, and finding a home for this tiny succulent I bought. There's a hyacinth getting ready to bloom, as well. I've put it in the corner window where it will get the most of the pale, watery light.

I ventured out to the garden, too, and discovered bluebell shoots poking up through decaying leaves. There are snowdrops, tightly closed, but with pearly beads showing through translucent tissue that will soon burst. My heart filled with such joy at the life appearing in the garden. 

From my window I see the maple tree beaded with silver on every branch. The raindrops catch the faint light and softly sparkle. I couldn't catch the sparkle on my camera, but imagine every branch beaded as the one above.

This evening we're having shrimp tacos for dinner, and we'll watch a movie and/or read books. I'll light some candles and put the twinkle lights on. January is the time to practice coziness. How are you faring in this first month of the year?

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Back to Real Life

During last week's trip to the mainland, Tim and I stopped at Brae Island for a walk. The island is in the Fraser River, alongside Fort Langley, built by the Hudson Bay Trading Company in 1827. The fort itself is a National Historic Site, and there is also a small town grown up beside it. It's a fun place to wander, with cute shops and interesting buildings. But this was New Year's Day and little was open. 

The Fraser River is navigable by fairly large ships for a long ways. These abandoned pilings bear mute witness to the industry that once bustled along the shores. 

In the Garibaldi Mountain Range across the river, these peaks played peek-a-boo with the clouds. The peaks were originally named the Golden Eyries, but the name became Golden Ears, and that's how these peaks are known today. The park encompassing the mountains is popular with hikers and campers, although I wouldn't have wanted to be camping up there in January. 

Once home again, I spent some time sewing. I wanted to make another project bag to hold my embroidery. As I began pinning the pieces together, I realized that the large floral print was directional, and going sideways instead of up and down. So I cut the bag dimensions in half, turned the flowers right way up, and ended up with two smaller bags. 

One of my New Year's intentions is to use up some of the many teas I have in my cupboard. There is a large box of various kinds, and they get ignored since I usually grab a bag from the canister on my countertop. So I sorted through the individual bags and put them into a small bowl in plain view where I'm more likely to use them. I like a little honey with my tea, as well. There's been a lot of tea made during these days at home. 

I'm beginning the new year with a new journal. Starting a blank book is full of possibility, and scope for imagination, don't you think? 

I have three of Laura Calder's cookbooks, and took this one from the library. I think it will go onto my wishlist, as well. I've never had a bad recipe from Calder - her books are full of inventive, but not labour-intensive ways to prepare vegetables, soups, and main courses, with a few desserts. You won't find muffins or very many cookies in her books. 

And one more photo from the mainland - of the birds at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack. These were taken after the ice storm, and the birds were happy to crowd around the feeders. 

A squirrel was happy to clean up some of the mess made by falling birdseed. He looks quite fat and content.

School begins tomorrow, with a bang. A couple of hours ago another teacher contacted me - due to a family situation, I'm covering her morning classes. As well, a couple of visiting students from Brazil will be in my Spanish class in the afternoon. I find that I can understand Portuguese because of its similarity to Spanish, so we'll see if that works in reverse.

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.  

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Back from a Little Jaunt

On the second-to-last day of 2017, we boarded the ferry for a trip to the mainland. We spent a couple of nights in Vancouver, with our youngest daughter and her husband. I didn't take a single photo. The weather was chilly and sunny. 

We brought in the New Year with a crab dinner, watching Star Wars on Netflix, and headed to bed shortly after midnight. 

On the first we wound our way through Vancouver, crossed the Port Mann Bridge and drove along Highway 1 towards Chilliwack. As we approached Abbotsford, the scenery beside the road changed dramatically from greens and browns to crystal clear and white. 

The ice coating caused by the storm a few days earlier was preserved by the cool weather. The first photo shows a blank billboard along the highway that I decided to write in. 

My grandfather once owned a raspberry field alongside the highway. I spent a summer picking berries there and always think of him, and that summer, when I drive by. It's now a blueberry field, and although the second photo is blurry, the sea of white ice covering the plants is still dramatic. Each branch appears coated in clear crystal. 

Before driving to my parents' home, we stopped at the Great Heron Reserve along the Vedder River for a short walk and some photos.

As we walked along the trail, the sharp snap of ice cracking overhead accompanied us. Small shards fell and stabbed into the snow on the ground. The beauty was breath-taking, but also treacherous. Many were without power for several days. Branches and entire trees snapped under the weight of ice. 

It's amazing to me that more trees didn't collapse. The ice is so thick compared to the delicate thin branches. 

A larger view - a winter wonderland!

I'm looking forward to a few more quiet days at home before school begins. I've not had time to reflect on the year behind and ponder the year ahead. Some time writing in my journal and updating calendars will happen. Simple cooking. A little stitching. Quiet days. 

And now a huge storm is forecast for the east coast of Canada and the USA. One of my work colleagues is stranded in the UK with his son who played for Canada in a rugby match. We're assuming it's because of the impending weather. I hope and pray that those of you affected will remain warm and safe.  

Friday, December 29, 2017

Between the Years

While the rest of Canada and much of the USA are enduring deeply cold weather, we on the "balmy" west coast watch the rain pelt down. It's very grey outside, dull and heavy. The above photo was taken from my kitchen window - you can see how leaden the background is. 

So let's cozy up by the fire with a mug of tea (I can make coffee, if you'd prefer) and some treats. The photo shows my breakfast bowl of yogurt, berries and nuts, but that's long gone and it's time to break out the cookies. 

There's some Cranberry Orange Shortbread left, and Nanaimo Bars. My daughter made the shortbread. So pretty, and tasty, too. Help yourself. Take two. There's more in the tins.

The paperwhites bloomed beautifully, but didn't seem to have much scent this year. They were starting to fall over and the blossoms dry out, so I gave them a haircut. I don't want to miss any of this bright greenness that is such a wonderful contrast to dull outdoors. Twinkle lights on the mantel help, too. 

This is a photo from Christmas Day. So pretty. 

How has your 2017 been? It's been a good year for me, mostly, although aching loss and unfulfilled deep hopes have been a part of it. For the first time there was no parcel to mail to Tim's mum. No phone calls. We miss her. The deep hopes are carried forward into another year and we trust the God who loves us. 

Several days before the snow, there was frost. This is an untouched colour photo. Monochrome morning. 

Are you doing anything for New Year's Eve? We won't be at home this year. I took a few fast photos just before the guests arrived to our party earlier in the month. I love cheese, even the smelly blue stuff. I thought the cheese board looked so pretty. But I probably will do things differently next time. The mingling of the nuts wasn't a good idea - some are allergic to tree nuts, others to one kind or the other. 

The spread in the bottom corner is easy to make, and looks festive. Layer goat cheese with chopped sundried tomatoes, pesto, and fresh herbs in a clear glass container. I used a cylindrical vase/candle holder from Michael's. The clear sides show the layers well. 

In this week between the years, I hope you are enjoying some moments of quiet reflection. I know that I am. There's not much being accomplished around here. The beef stew mentioned in my previous post was eaten last night as we went out to dinner with friends the previous night. I finished watching The Crown last night. Today I'm doing a little laundry and will head out to do some errands. Reading, some stitching. Nothing pressing. Heavenly!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Rambling Thoughts on the Second Day after Christmas

A thin layer of ice lies along the far shore of Tod Inlet. Dull skies cast a monotone light over everything. Bits of snow remain in the woods and the path is icy with compact snow. Our boots crunch.

Early morning on Boxing Day (December 26). I awake around 8 am and my mind feels curiously blank. No mental list of tasks to accomplish. Nothing on the schedule. My head feels physically lighter, somehow, as if there is room inside my skull, and my brain can rattle around freely. 

The woods are infinite shades of green and brown. Tangles of moss creep along branches.

No lessons to plan. No student management issues to think about. No marking to do. (I worked very hard the last week before Christmas to get all the papers marked and back to students.)

Abandoned dock pilings, each with their scarf of emerald and cap of white, stand stoic in the cold. A family of placid ducks swims in and around the pilings. 

No meals to plan - there are plenty of leftovers in the fridge. In the morning I drank my tea and visited with our daughter and son-in-law (who foraged for their own breakfasts). I did make my bed. 

In a clearing, one small tree holds a few ornaments, placed there by an unnamed someone who likes to delight the passersby. A silver angel blows his horn announcing the good news of Christmas to all. 

We dropped off our daughter and son-in-law at his parents' place around noon, then stopped for a walk along Tod Inlet. 

The woods are quiet. Not silent. Quiet with soft plops of snow, delicate rustles of birds, and one loud crack of twigs that startle me.

I realize that it's been too long since I didn't have something demanding my attention. One of my classes has been extremely challenging to teach this semester. I look forward to the switch over, and new classes at the end of January. 

My camera doesn't want to focus on this single rose hip. Tim puts his gloved hand behind it, focus happens, he moves his hand and I snap the photo. Teamwork. 

We return home and I continue to do nothing. I read a little, write a blog post, drink tea, nibble on cookies. Not much conversation.

Moss against snow. How lovely it all is growing greenly. The world is awash with beauty. 

Today is Wednesday. Tim is back at work. There's still nothing in my brain. It feels delightful. I have a hankering for beef stew, so I'll go for a walk to the grocery store. There's a library book to return, too. That will make the walk a little longer. That's okay. I have time. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Boxing Day Thoughts

Every year I wish for snow on Christmas Day. In looking back I see that 2008 was a white Christmas, and now, 2017. Light snow began on Christmas Eve. In the morning, I looked out the window to see delicate snow frosting branches and foliage, softening the lines of houses and cars, and transforming the landscape. 

It was the first gift of Christmas Day, and the gifting carried on throughout the day. 

Gifts of the day, in no particular order, included:
* little ones arriving in pajamas
* twinkle lights
* pretty, thoughtful presents
* food a-plenty
* interesting conversations observed, listened in on, and participated in
* cousin love
* creative moments
* a little snowman in the back garden
* talking to my parents via phone
* texting siblings
* cups of tea, hot cider, and homemade eggnog

Our son and his wife gave cardboard houses to the three grands. They came flat-packed and the size of each house is rather grander than first thought. We moved the furniture in the eating area/sitting room (some to the adjoining laundry room) to create space for this instant housing complex. A big pack of markers was put to good use throughout the day. 

The houses came complete with mailboxes. Once discovered, the girls ran downstairs to the playroom to create mail for each others' boxes. It was a brilliant way to keep them busy and happy throughout the day.

Before sitting down to our non-traditional Christmas lunch, we posed for a family photo. I set up the tripod and dashed in during the 10-second delay.

Since some will ask about our non-traditional lunch, here's the menu. It's based on foods we enjoyed in Ecuador. It's a little ironic, because while living far away, I always attempted the foods from home - turkey, cranberry sauce, etc. Now that we're back in Canada, we celebrate with the foods we came to know and love from Ecuador. Here's the menu,

Ceviche de camarones (shrimp ceviche - I like the Ecuadorian version because the shrimp is pre-cooked)

Locro de papas (potato soup) It's always served with slices of avocado on top and chopped or sliced hard-boiled egg

Pastel de choclo (corn casserole) This tastes much like the humitas we enjoyed, but since fresh corn husks are impossible to find at this time of year, we bake the mixture in a glass baking pan.  

Fresh bread, Green salad

For dessert I made a Pavlova with a Cherry Wine Compote, and Whipped Cream. Not an Ecuadorian dish, at all.

I hope that you are enjoying these post-Christmas days. I'm looking forward to lots of relaxation, some reading, long walks, and possibly some sewing. I'm keeping my options open and my schedule flexible. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Tree of Memories

Each year, as I pull out the two large boxes of Christmas decorations, memories flood into my mind and heart. This season of joy and celebration is also one when remembrance brings emotions of all kinds to the fore. 

When we were first married, Tim and I had a bit of a disagreement about how to decorate the Christmas tree. I wanted everything to be coordinated, with white lights and ornaments of a few, select kinds. He insisted that a Christmas tree should "smile brightly." As in many other things, we've compromised. White lights twinkle through (real) evergreen branches, and the ornaments, of many varieties, smile brightly. Each one holds a memory.

There are the ones stitched by friends, the blown glass ball from a local glassblower, the brass bells found on a trip to the mountain town of Riobamba, the angels that took years to complete, and so on. 

Our tree may never win a decorating prize, but we treasure each ornament it holds. 

These sweet teapot ornaments; there are three of them, were made by a cousin. I hang them on the china cabinet as they are quite fragile. 

Just a note about the party - it all went well - there were about 20 of us, fewer than expected because of illness. We had a lovely time and I enjoyed getting to know some of Tim's co-workers better.

A busy week is ahead and I may not post again before Christmas, so I wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas! Thank you for visiting me here. It's such a treat to read your comments. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday (the last until 2018), hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. Many thanks to Maggie!