Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rainy Day Baking!

How to spend a rainy April day?

Baking! Nothing like the smell of fresh baking to cheer an otherwise dreary day.

One recent rainy day saw me in the kitchen preparing two of my favorite recipes:

Bran muffins - a recipe I posted last September - but with half a cup of frozen blueberries added...

And a family favorite - chocolate marble cake - from a recipe I posted in February 2009. I don't bake as much as I used to - so this was a really unusual day!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Teaching ... Back in the Day

When my mother began to teach in a one-room country school in 1939, she lived in a one-room house next door to the school (in the middle of a country field). She had no electricity or running water - and part of her job included starting a wood fire in the schoolhouse an hour or so before the children began to arrive - and sweeping up at the end of the day.

A 20-year-old woman living in isolation like that still boggles my mind... but she never complained! In fact, she loved her job! And I guess things could always be worse! Among her things I discovered this 1872 Rules for Teachers she picked up somewhere...

In 1872 part of a teacher's responsibilities was to fill lamps and clean chimneys. (I suppose my mother had to fill coal-oil lamps in the classroom...) A friend pointed out that the chimneys referred to here were probably the glass part of the lamp. I wonder if she had to clean those, too... or did students help with these tasks? Maintaining coal oil lamps - like bringing in buckets of water to drink - would have been part of their daily lives at home, too!

A teacher was expected to bring in a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the stove. (I think that these tasks were often given to older, bigger boys... but if she had none in her class, she might have done this, too!)

My mother never talked about whittling anything - but in 1872, teachers were expected to whittle pens... She probably did have to fill the ink-wells!

In 1872 there were a lot of social expectations that teachers, as community role models, were expected to live up to:
  • Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
  • Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
  • After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
  • Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.
There were financial expectations as well! Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

Salary? In 1939, my mother's annual salary was $300 (for 10 months - making it $30 a month or about a dollar a day). She never talked about getting raises... But at this unnamed school board in 1872, the teacher who performed his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

A 25 cent a week raise would have made my mother's salary $31 a month! (Or $310 a year...)

(The approval of the school board would probably depend on how much they wanted the teacher to stay!)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What If...?

Often my Sunday blog post is like a game of volleyball. In it I toss up ideas that come flying at me - from various sources, usually books I am reading.

One idea I have been reflecting on recently is fear, in particular the question: What would I dare to do (that I'm not doing) if I knew that everything would turn out all right?

In other words, Is fear holding me back?

So these words, that I read recently, seem particularly relevant:

"I will not fear" ... does not mean that we will never feel fear, but it does mean that we will not allow it to rule our decisions and actions... Fear causes people to bury their talents due to fear of failure, judgment or criticism." (The Confident Woman, p. 42)

Together with the reminder that the story of Abraham (in the Bible) began when Abraham was 75... (and I'm not quite there yet!)... I am wondering how I should be widening my horizons... What fears are holding me back?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Open Doors

One of my favorite annual events is beginning this weekend: Doors Open Ontario 2013.

All summer long - in different cities and villages  in Ontario - historic buildings are opened up to the public for a day or two. Different buildings participate each year. Toronto hosts the event in late May. Ottawa's weekend of open doors is June 1-2.

In previous years, I wandered into interesting buildings in both cities. I'm looking forward to visiting as many places as I can this year again, too.

The event gives me appreciation not only for the architecture - but also the history - of buildings around me.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Signs of Spring

The weather isn't all that warm yet -  but our neighborhood is showing other signs of spring...

The giant plastic dome that covers the college soccer field in winter is being removed for the summer season. The task takes a lot of helping hands.

And the seasonal exodus of small houses has begun in our neighborhood...

Some people have houses removed and relocated...

... so that they can start to build on an empty lot. Some view this as upgrading the neighborhood - but when houses I've known for years disappear, the loss makes me feel a little sad.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April Flowers

It's been a chilly spring - the only flowers blooming in my garden are three hellebore plants...

So I appreciate my indoor flowers even more!

In spite of weekly fertilizing, only two African Violets are in bloom!

And in a sunny upstairs bedroom, two pots of flowers...

... (whose names I have forgotten) are happily in bloom.

At this time of year, I appreciate them all!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Manotick in April

Terry and I recently drove to Manotick for breakfast.

This village, now officially part of Ottawa, retains its small town charm, in spite of encroaching subdivisions.

It was interesting to catch a glimpse of buildings that are usually hidden behind the leaves of trees...

 ... among them the home of a former neighbor.

The river was running high...

 ... and the Mill was undergoing renovations...

But down the street, at the Miller's Oven - a cafe run by seniors - all was normal!

We enjoyed a leisurely brunch - mushroom omlette and a home-made scone - served by student volunteers.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Retaining the Power of Possibility

A few years ago, I met the mother of a colleague. A little older than me, she had - at the age of 60 - decided she wanted to become a nurse (like one of her daughters)... So she went back to school, graduating with a nursing degree at the age of 65! I met her five years later. In those five years, she had worked as a nurse in a retirement residence in the southern USA, then returned to Canada, where she was working - at age 70 - as a visiting nurse, driving around to help the sick in their homes.

I was 50 at the time, wondering if I should go back to school to become a journalist ... (a career goal in high school). I ended up doing a brief summer internship at our local newspaper, and in the end, deciding against a career change... fearing that the learning curve was too challenging for me at that stage of life.

Sometimes, even now, I wonder: What if?!

But I continue to be inspired by women who refuse to give up - who have retained the power of possibility in their lives, the sense that they are still able to get out there and fulfill their dreams!

Like a 94-year-old steno-typist from my church who still helps out her boss of 40 years from time to time, working part-time in his office when he isn't playing golf in Florida. (They send a taxi to pick her up these days, as the daily bus commute is taxing!)

I love to get dressed up and go to work when they need me, she tells me. Her beaming face reveals how invigorating the challenge still is... at 94!

Or this woman (above) whose popular newspaper column - about birdwatching - I read for years. She started to write it at age 59 - and finally stopped - about a month ago - at age 98!

(I wonder what made her finally quit!)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Reversible Table Runner

I haven't made quilted table runners in years - though I did make a few in my first quilting course, "Quilted Gifts." Most of those have a Christmas theme.

After seeing the lovely one my daughter's friend Karyn made (called "Learning Curves Table Runner," which she posted on her blog), I was inspired to make one again.

I found some leftover squares from a quilt I made a few years ago and sewed them together.

Then I looked for some interesting backing in my fabric stash that could made a reversible side...

There it is... Done! Because the squares were already made up, it didn't take long at all!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Re-thinking Work

One mistake I made when raising my children was not letting them "help" me enough. As pre-schoolers, they were so willing to "work"!

But they were young - and I was in a hurry. It was faster and less messy for me to do it myself!  Would I now be more willing to let a two-year-old stand on a chair and wash dishes (after I had removed all sharp or delicate objects)? Would I now let a three-year-old vacuum to his or her heart's content? I'd like to think I would... But at the time I put them off: "When you're older," I would tell them... (The only problem was that when they got older, their desire to help was gone!)

When does work stop being "fun" and turn into drudgery?!  When we learn how to do it, so that the challenge is gone?

I must confess that for too many years my "work" - things I had to do - had lost its fun. I don't want to live like that anymore. So I am re-thinking my concept of work... and I have been challenged by these words by Joan Chittister:

'Work - every kind of work: manual, intellectual, spiritual - is meant to be the human being's contribution to the development of the human race... We work, as well, to complete ourselves. We become more skilled, more creative, more effective. When we work we discover that we really are "good for something." ...

'Work is our gift to the future, ... and if we do it well,... it will be needed, and when we are not there to do it, it will be missed.'*

*Introduction to Deeper Wisdom, Holy Struggle, p. 27

Saturday, April 20, 2013


One of the sad aspects of modern life, for me, is the fast pace that electronics become obsolete and have to be discarded.

I don't know if I'm a "frugalista" - as some of my friends call themselves.

But I definitely don't like to see perfectly good - but now inoperable - machines fill garbage dumps!

It was with some sadness - and some relief - that I uncluttered a shelf this week by taking two now-obsolete printers back to the store I bought them at. (In our area, stores that sell electronics are obliged to take them back and have them safely re-cycled.)

At the same time, I dropped off some clothing we no longer wear at my neighborhood "Nearly New" shop. Hopefully they can be used by others. In an ideal world, the same would be true of used electronics as well!

Friday, April 19, 2013

First Flowers of Spring

It's that time of the year when the snow shovel and the rake stand next to each other in our shed - I'm never sure which I'll need next!

But in spite of the uncertain weather, it felt more like spring than winter yesterday - and I saw my first spring flowers... in a neighbor's yard!

In our yard, the hellebores are on the verge of blooming, and the tulips are mere stalks pushing out of the ground.

I'll have to begin to sprinkle them with hot pepper - to keep the squirrels from eating them - or they won't bloom for long!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Set of Mug Rugs

I invariably make mug rugs out of fabric scraps - so no two look alike...

But I recently received this set of mug rugs made from two fat quarters, with a layer of thin batting in between.

They were hand-quilted on a lap frame in one big piece - then cut apart.

I particularly like the way they were finished off.

The binding seam ended on the side, not at a corner. (I'm going to try this next time!)

The circular quilting pattern is easier to see in a dark, contrasting colored thread.

A beautiful gift from my daughter, whose quilting style is very different from mine!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Identity Theft: A Normal Part of Life?

I'll never forget the first time I was blatantly robbed. Walking down a quiet residential street at twilight, I heard a motor cycle slowly approach. Its lights were off. Suddenly I felt a tug on the bag I was casually swinging at my side. My first thought was: My bag has accidentally caught the motorcycle's handle bars! But when the motorcycle quickly sped away, I realized that there had been nothing accidental about the loss of my bag.

I have experienced identity theft three times now - and each time, I feel as shocked and vulnerable as that time my purse was snatched.

I wrote a blog post about my other brush with identity theft - when someone applied for a credit card in my name - and left an unpaid debt behind. I am now amazed that this debt was associated with my credit rating. So much on the credit card application was not me: different address, maiden name, social insurance number, to name a few. Yet my credit rating was downgraded and I was in default. There are others with the same name. (Any google search will determine that.) Yet it took an uncomfortable week or so - and a lot of calls - to get everything sorted out again.)

My second brush with identity theft occurred when one of the stores I shop at had a security breach. My credit card company called to say that, to protect me, my card had been canceled but a new one would be issued.

Then a few weeks ago it happened again! Someone hacked my account at Apple - purchasing a music download which I was billed for. I discovered this when I received an email from Apple saying that changes had been made to my account: If I hadn't made these changes, I should change my password, which I promptly did. Nonetheless, a few hours later, I received a "receipt" for music purchased and downloaded. I quickly emailed the Itunes store to say that I had not made these purchases. Several hours later the money was refunded. But when I went onto my online account, I noticed that my answers to the security questions had been changed.

I was going to call this blog post: My Love-Hate Relationship With Apple... because the one thing I HATE about my ipod was that in order to use it (even to download free apps)  I had to provide Apple with credit card information. I tried to get around this - and, in fact, the most recent Apple rep I spoke to on the phone denies this is necessary. But I remember the frustrating week when I first got my ipod and was unsuccessfully trying to download free apps without it. I am again in a similar dilemma: In disabling anyone from purchasing from my account (a condition I agreed to) I now find I am unable to download free apps too, or make updates to free apps I do have. So I have to get that changed again!

The annoying thing about identity theft is the amount of time I've had to waste to clear up the problems and feel comfortable again. Most recently I spent half a day dealing with the problem when it first occurred. Then, a week later, a few more hours trying to get my security information "secure" again. Now trying to have my account set so that I can get free apps and updates.

I have also been told that Apple has disabled my credit card - but I would really like to be able to delete all record of it from their computer system. I've had a hard time doing that, too, but I think I've finally succeeded

(It would probably be wise to get credit card dedicated to internet purchases, so that if problems arose, one could simply cancel that card.)

I don't know if identity theft has become a normal part of everyday life for everyone these days -  but for me it definitely has! Fortunately I have always dealt with reputable companies - so they have been helpful in getting the problems sorted out. I would definitely avoid internet dealings with companies that have no reputation to protect.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Ton of Scraps

I finally finished the scrappy quilt top I started more than a week ago. There are a ton of scraps in it!

Okay, maybe not a ton!

But 1.2 kilos of scraps (or 2 pounds 10.5 ounces), according to my kitchen scale! That must have put a dent in my bins of scraps - but none of them is empty yet!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Reno Memories

Our next door neighbor is beginning a major renovation...

As I watch them take down their garage, I am reminded of our major reno project 13 years ago...

... when we removed our carport...

... and back deck...

... adding two rooms plus a bathroom and laundry (and more basement)...

... as well as enlarging our side porch.

We started in May...

... and were finally done by September .

We watched new walls being added, old ones broken down - all the while living in the chaos! It was a summer I will never forget!

In the end, it was definitely worth it!

(Even if it meant more driveway to shovel!)