Monday, September 30, 2013

Who'd Have Thought?!

Years ago, when our families vacationed together at Old Orchard Beach in Maine...

Who'd have imagined that these two little boys, here playing together, would get married the same summer... twenty-five years later?!

One got married a month ago today!

 The other, two weeks later!

Best wishes to both happy couples!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Recurrent Invitations of Grace

Living out one's religious faith is a struggle at times. I am comforted by Esther de Waal's comments that our progress is not "simple" or "rectilinear." She writes that we are offered "the chance to move from slavery to freedom, the freedom of the life of the new person in Christ. This is never going to be a simple, rectilinear progress, in life or in prayer. It is a matter of many invitations of grace, some accepted, some ignored, some accepted half-heartedly, some later nullified by inconstancy. It is not easy... to accept the invitation to freedom in the risen Christ, to walk freely in the Spirit. This invitation opens up vistas too big for us, and we feel safer clinging to our prison bars, where at least we know where we are..."

Change is never easy!

(A Life-Giving Way, p. 11)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cold Relief?!

I have my first cold of the season. Time to bring out the honey wine I bought in England!


I have no idea whether it helps with colds - but I thought I'd give it a try. After all it's made from honey and water - the basic ingredients in tea with honey. That usually helps with a cold!

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Gift of Memories

On their recent visit, friends from Germany gave us a lovely gift of memories...

A photo book with pictures taken the year one of our son's studied in Germany...

 ... together with photos they took on visits to Canada.

One year, Terry and I drove with them to Quebec City and the Gaspe Peninsula.

It's such a treasure - bringing back memories of good times.

Such a good idea to do!

I created a photo book once - why don't I take the time to make one after each long vacation? (Or each year - chronicling the events that took place?!) Because it takes a lot of thought... and time!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Toronto Traffic

On a recent trip to Toronto, we stayed at a hotel overlooking one of the busiest stretches of highway in North America that runs between Toronto and Detroit.

Non-stop traffic passes night and day - even on Sunday, when we were there!

Planes were also flying overhead, en route to Toronto's Pearson airport. Hearing the constant hum made me appreciate our quiet home, where the loudest noise we hear in summer is the sound of crickets! And in winter - the sound of silence - unless snow plows are out clearing snow off the streets!

(Oh the irony of it all! Today of all days, we were wakened at 6 am by the barking of a neighbor's dog...!)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Changing Colors

It's that time of year again...

Leaves are beginning to turn red and yellow.

In our yard the only leaves that have changed color are the invasive Virginia creeper vines that climb on the cedar hedge.

Now that they are finally visible, it will be easier to pull them down before they cover everything!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Interesting Fire Hydrant

We have driven to Toronto quite a few times this summer - a five hour drive each way. To make our trips more interesting, we sometimes take different routes.

One led us through Tweed, a town known for its interesting fire hydrants! Each one is painted differently. Here is a sampling of online photos.

I wish we could have taken the time to go street by street and take pictures of more.

Here in Ottawa, we aren't allowed to be that playful. Our fire hydrants are all a standard (boring) bright yellow!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Where are the Bees?!

From time to time I hear that there are fewer bees around than there used to be...

I find that hard to believe!

Maybe they're making a last-ditch effort to stock up on food before winter comes... But they are all over my sedum flowers...

And my neighbor Mary's colorful heleniums! In fact, our neighborhood is swarming with bees! (And wasps!)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Be Yourself!

I am constantly amazed by the diversity of life: No two days the same, no two trees the same, no two people the same...

But so often we waste time wishing we were someone else!

It's good to remind ourselves to celebrate - and enjoy - who we are! "God will never help you be some other person. He wants you to be you!" (The Confident Woman, p. 5)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Protecting Food Outdoors

I usually avoid baking in summer, preferring to serve ice cream cakes at summer birthday parties. But one memorable birthday I decided to bake a cake - and cool it outdoors, to avoid heating up the house. I'd keep my eye on the cake, bringing it in before any outdoor critters noticed it... or so I thought.

I was gone for only a few minutes, when I returned to see a squirrel sitting IN the still-steaming cake... gobbling it up as quickly it as he could! That day I learned my lesson!

Since then, I avoid cooling food outdoors! If I absolutely need to, I cover it and put it in the trunk of the car! But recently I needed to quickly cool some poached salmon I had cooked. (Terry is allergic to fish, and even the smell of fish can make him sick, so I didn't want the smell to penetrate the car either.)

I put the fish and broth on the picnic table - covering them well. But I didn't leave the containers there for long! Raccoons are strong enough to knock over even the heaviest cover!

(At times like these, I feel like I live in the woods!)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Close to Home

Ottawa is a big city - with a small-town feel. Our metropolitan area, including the communities on the Quebec side of the river, is around a million people. Yet it's not surprising to see people we know on the street, wherever we go in our community.

So when we turned on the TV two days ago to find out more about a local bus and train crash and discovered it had happened just a few miles from where we live, I commented: No Curves today. The place I do circuit training three times a week is just around the corner from where the accident occurred.

At first we didn't realize how bad it was.

As we watched live coverage and saw the severity of the crash that left six people dead, we wondered if anyone we know might have been on that bus. Terry thinks of someone and calls his cell phone number, leaving a message when no one answers the phone.

A while later, my neighbor Mary runs over to say that someone she knows is unaccounted for. His mother has just called Mary's daughter to find out if she had seen him at university. She hadn't. He didn't show up at class.

Family members have been told to get information at the Sportsplex, I tell Mary. (The Sportsplex, just down the street from the crash site, is where she and I take art classes.)

As we watch eye witnesses interviewed on TV, we hear Amanda, a girl whose family we know, tell how the bus she was riding on had crashed into the train. Amanda's grandmother lives at the same nursing home my mother does. Fortunately Amanda is a survivor of the crash.

How many others we know may have been on the bus?

The following day's paper gives the names of the six who were killed: Conor, Mary's daughter's friend, is among them.

A few survivors are still in the hospital. Do we know any of them? We don't know. Terry is still waiting to hear from his friend.

A few days later: Terry's friend, Scott, finally got back to him. The day of the crash, he had accidentally left his cell phone off. (His wife had also frantically been trying to call him.) He didn't take the bus that day. Instead, he drove his son to school, then continued in his car to work.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Alpacas... and Yarn

Recently our favorite Farmer's Market had "Alpaca Day": there was a visit by three young alpacas and their owner.

They were so cute!

They didn't pay much attention to people - but were fascinated by passing dogs.

I looked at some knitwear made with alpaca yarn and then couldn't resist buying a skein of mixed color chunky. The colors are natural, taken from the wool of different colored animals.

One skein isn't a lot - but it is probably enough for another cowl!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finishing Up Two Paintings

In the next few weeks I plan to begin art classes again. I haven't painted much all summer. (Gardening is my summer "art"!)

In late summer I did finish up several watercolor portraits on canvas that I had started last winter. The one above started out a little different. I added two cats to personalize it. (My son loves cats.)

When a visiting family member recognized the individual in this portrait, I decided to call it finished, too, and spray it with fixative.

The final step in both these portraits was to take them outside and spray six coats of a varnish-like fixative on them. Otherwise, in this medium (watercolor on canvas) the paint could easily wash off. Even a drop of water could destroy the work. Now that they are both sprayed, they are officially done!

(Time to find a new face to paint!)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Loud and Soft... Quilts?!

I have been reading a new quilting book that discusses color.

All the quilts in the book have a gentle beauty - which the author describes as soft (the opposite of loud) as in loud and soft music.

They speak in a "whisper" - not a "shout" - unlike my bold-colored quilts, like the one below.

Her secret for creating this sense of softness is to use only fabrics with white or light-colored backgrounds.

I'm intrigued. Now I'm anxious to try her technique and make a "soft"-colored quilt...

(But that will have to wait till winter. It's still too nice out to spend my days indoors!)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Do African Violets Have a Blooming Season?!

I have a lot of African violets in the house, but only three are currently in bloom. All are next to north-facing windows, away from direct sunlight until late afternoon.

The purple one has been blooming all summer! The pink one below stated blooming when I moved it to the window sill a few weeks ago.

This third one on the shelf next to the window has just started blooming. I have to be careful not to water it too much. It's in a small pot. I've discovered that if African violets are wet all the time, they rot and die. To succeed, they have to be allowed to dry out.

A few years ago, I had so many African violets in bloom in February I thought that was their flowering season. But now I wonder: Do they even have a specific blooming season?! Or will they bloom any time of the year?!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dispenser of Blessing

All work has the potential to be a blessing... even handing out pills (at my mother's nursing home, for example) and greeting customers at a store.

When the evening nurse gives me my pills and my "milk shake" [aka nutritional supplement], my mother tells me, "he always says 'God bless you.'" 

She smiles. His words of blessing mean a lot.

I think of him as I head into a department store and overhear a little girl's conversation with the store greeter.

Do you have any stickers? she asks.

Sure I do, he answers, taking a roll of happy faces out of his pocket and putting one into her outstretched hand.

Thank you, she says, beaming.

God bless you, he replies.

All this leaves me wondering: Who have I blessed today?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Arab-Style Tomato and Garlic Salad

At this time of year, when tomatoes are in season, I am reminded of a tomato salad I used to make in Israel. The recipe was taught to me by an Arab friend... but unfortunately I didn't write down. (I thought it was so easy I'd never forget!)

If memory serves me correctly, the only ingredients were:
  • several cloves of garlic crushed in a bowl with salt - to make a fresh garlic puree
  • several tomatoes - sliced, and 
  • olive oil
I loved it! (But the tomatoes have to be just right!)

I couldn't remember if lemon juice was added, so I did an online search for a similar recipe. The closest one I found is this one which uses chopped spearmint, but no lemon juice or vinegar. I don't think I used mint in the salads I made.

I don't usually have fresh garlic on hand. Nowadays I buy garlic pre-chopped (in a jar). I try pureeing a generous teaspoon (6 ml) of that with about half a teaspoon (3 ml) of salt, using a flat-bottom glass as a pestle to crush the garlic. (In the process, I discover that chopped garlic doesn't crush as well as fresh cloves do.)

Add sliced tomatoes. (I like large chunks.) Mix in about 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) of olive oil. Add a little more salt, if desired.

The online recipe says to refrigerate for about 15 minutes to let the flavors mix. Delicious with bread!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Another Knit Cowl

A cowl is a perfect knitting project to travel with. It's small and portable. My last one was knit on a circular needle on trips to Toronto and England. (I chose plastic knitting needles to avoid hassles at airport security!)

Having finished my first one, I've now begun another - using a different pattern from the same knitting blog as the first. The blog is called [knit and bake]. I'm using tweed-textured yarn - but the same knitting needles. It's knitting up quickly with chunky yarn.

I love small, useful knitting projects that can be finished up in several evenings! Hopefully it will be done before cold weather comes!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Childhood Memories... and Guilt!

A teacher can teach anything, my mother used to say - spouting, a maxim taught at "Normal School" (the name for "Teachers' College" back in the 1930s when she was there).

In the days of rural one-room schools - where she did her early teaching - a teacher did have to teach everything on the grade one to eight curriculum - with the aid of a text book and an answer key! Believing that they could teach anything undoubtedly gave them the confidence to face a dozen children of different ages, abilities and grades in one classroom, every day.

By the time I entered the teaching profession thirty years later, I knew for certain that I wasn't able to teach "everything"! In fact, the math curriculum had gone through a number of reforms, and now math text books were incomprehensible to me. And I would never have been able to teach sports.

But I do find it interesting that this past summer, both my brother and my son  reminded me that I (the most unathletic person in my family) apparently took it upon myself to teach them both - at different times - how to hit a baseball! I did enjoy playing soft ball when I was young, but I would never have agreed to teach it. I do remember pitching to my son when he was about five years old, until he got the hang of it. But I don't remember pitching to my brother when he was a child.

And then, my brother said, the first time I managed to hit the ball, it hit you smack in the middle of the forehead! I'll never forget that! I felt so bad.

You'd think I'd remember that - but, in truth, I'd forgotten until he reminded me.

I have a few of those childhood memories that make me wince... times when I hurt someone accidentally, or lied to get out of trouble. But it amazes me that those guilty memories haunt us for so long. Why do we remember the awful things we did - when so many good memories fade from our minds?!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Party Time

One of my mother's favorite events is the monthly birthday party at the nursing home where she lives.

There is music...

Often provided by "Jack" (a retired teacher)...

... who regularly plays at many senior residences in our area.

As I watched the enjoyment of those sitting there, I thought:

What a wonderful way to spend one's retirement - making others happy with music and song!