Thursday, July 31, 2014

Garden Art

I've never given much thought to adding art to my garden. (Does it detract from the beauty of the flowers?!)

But this summer, I've become more aware of garden art.

My pottery instructor, Colette Beardall, had pottery amid the flowers at her home studio.

Outside a Burnstown, Ontario gallery, I noticed ceramic chickens among the geraniums in a large flower pot...

Another pot nearby held a mix of flowers and glass ornaments.

I did like this large metal garden stork.

Is it time to think of adding art to my flower beds?

My conclusion... Only if it doesn't detract from the flowers... Flowers are works of art in themselves!

I think the stork works because he adds interest to the greenery...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Visit to Burnstown, Ontario

A few days ago, we drove out into the country - about an hour from Ottawa - to the picturesque village of Burnstown, Ontario. We had recently come across an article about Burnstown and its artists, especially the architectural potter, Richard Gill. 

Why not go for a day trip some time this summer?!  When our daughter visited us from Toronto, it seemed like an opportune time.

We dropped in at the gallery owned by Richard Gill's wife - where his work and that of other local artists are sold.

I noticed he offered 2-day workshops from time to time...


After looking around, we stopped for a delicious lunch...

... at the Blackbird Cafe.

And, of course, we couldn't resist the ice cream store nearby!

For some reason, Burnstown reminded me of a county village I had visited in England. From time to time, I had to remind myself that this was Canada!

(I'll have to visit whenever I get the urge to travel. An hour by car is a lot less money - and hassle - than a week or two away!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ocular Migraine?!?

I was enjoying my early morning cup of coffee one day last week when I noticed something moving at the edge of my field of vision to my left.

I turned my head to look at it - and it moved, too! Oh! Oh! Something is happening in my eye!

A wave of dark and light - like a spinning coil - was moving at the edge of my peripheral vision at the left side of my left eye. Slowly it moved up and around that eye - and started to spread to the top of my right eye.

That could be distracting... I remember thinking. I hope it isn't here to stay!

I closed my eyes, but I could still see it.

What was happening?! Then, after about 5 minutes, it went away.

I remember "eye" stories I had heard from friends - torn retina, silent stroke. Was something like this happening to me?!

I did a google search of my symptoms and came up with the term "ocular migraine," but I dismissed it. I never have headaches, and I still felt perfectly fine.

I called Telehealth Ontario, a 24-hour service offered by the Ontario government health plan, to speak to a nurse. He suggested I see a doctor within the next few days. Fortunately I was able to book an appointment with my ophthalmologist for later that day.

Glaucoma, vision and peripheral vision tests were done. No irregularities there.

When I saw the doctor, he informed me that I had experienced an ocular migraine - caused by a blood vessel in my brain. They were common...

I see about two people a day who have had them and I myself have had them for the past 3 years. Mine are triggered by computer use, he told me. If one happens when you are driving, pull over and wait for it to pass. 

His last about 15 minutes, he told me.

So there it is, a new medical "problem" I didn't know existed! Fortunately, not serious.

But I'm glad I had it checked out!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Down Side of Weeding!

Early in summer I spent hours trying to smother the gout weed that was overwhelming my front flower bed. I stopped before I was done - intending to get back to it.

But now I'm glad I did!

I remember thinking - as I covered the gout weed with layers of newspaper: I'm probably smothering other plants as well!

I was! Instead of the big bunches of heliopsis flowers I've had in previous years,- I see only two (in a part I hadn't weeded yet).

And only one echinacea cone flower is blooming this year - where in past summers I had half a dozen!

(I wonder what other plants I've lost as well...)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Inspiring Reminder to Live a Full Life

I came across this inspiring hanging on my latest trip to Toronto. I don't remember exactly where! But I'm glad I took a picture of it. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to...

Wake up smiling
Seize every moment
Try new things
Be bold
Amaze yourself
Take chances
Be optimistic
Embrace change
Be legendary
Live your life with abandon
Have an open mind
Be fearless
This is your time
Throw caution to the wind
You only live once

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Where Does the Time Go?

One of my goals in retirement is to live a stress-free life. Things, of course, happen - problems inevitably occur. But I no longer want to rush around, wondering how I will ever finish all I need to do - as I did in my working life, especially the last few years.

But I also don't want to spend my days lounging around, listless, lacking in purpose.

That is why the monastic schedule created by St. Benedict 1,600 years ago intrigues me. Time is scheduled for work, study, reading, prayer and recreation - which could mean going for a walk or simply relaxing. Work needed to be done, and everyone shared in it - but other aspects of life were viewed as essential, too.

So I found it interesting to read the comments of Canadian journalist Jane Christmas (in her book, And Then There Were Nuns) about life in a twenty-first century convent.

"In the secular world, the hours bled into one another indiscriminately, whereas in the convent, each hour had its purpose... For the first time in my life, I was taking tea breaks... Two hours was the longest block of time devoted to work... 
"As the sun drifted down to the horizon I never asked, "Where did the time go?" because I knew exactly where it had gone... I could account for every hour... and this brought a wonderful clarity and appreciation to life."

Her schedule?

6 a.m. Wake up, dress, quiet prayer
7:15 Lauds [morning prayer in the chapel]
8:00 Breakfast [in silence]/cleanup
9:00 Work
11:00 Tea
11:20 Work
12:00 Midday prayer [in chapel]
1:00 Dinner [in silence]/clean up/quiet time
2:30 Work
4:30 Tea
4:45 Work
6:00 Compline [evening pray in chapel]
7:00 Supper [in silence]/cleanup
8:00 Read/free-time
9:00 Compline [prayer in chapel at the end of the day]
9:30 Bed time

Her schedule leans more heavily into "work" than I remember St. Benedict's original schedule doing - though "work" does only add up to about 6 hours, the same as Benedict's did. In addition, she had one day "off" every week. No need to show up for any group activities on that day!

The disorganized person I am loves the idea of a schedule - a gentle schedule that reminds me that there are things to be done - but a schedule that doesn't make me a slave to work... or to anything else, for that matter!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Reading

Summers used to be the perfect time for gathering a pile of books around me and spending days on end reading! That was life in my carefree childhood! But, as I got older, summers became too busy. In fact, the concept of "summer reading" is a little foreign to me these days.

But a friend recently suggested a book I might like: a "memoir" about a Canadian woman's personal quest to see if - in retirement - she should pursue a second "career" as a nun. In the book she stays in four monastic communities for various periods of time. The first is a month-long stay in the convent of the (Anglican) Sisters of St. John the Divine in Toronto, a place I have visited for several weekend conferences.

You have been there, so I thought of you when I read it, my friend Janet told me. You might find it interesting.

Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down! It was both informative and funny.

I was nearing the end when I checked out other books the author has written. One is a "midlife misadventure on Spain's Camino de Santiago de Compostela."

A few months ago, I wouldn't have given the title a second thought, but at a recent retirement party for a former colleague, the new retiree mentioned that her retirement plans included doing this pilgrimage.

I was intrigued! So I have now bought a second Jane Christmas book. I may as well be entertained while learning more about the pilgrimage. (It's also fun to return to my childhood practice of reading everything I can find written by an author whose books I enjoy.)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Outdoor Art in Toronto

I'm always puzzled when artists - displaying their art publicly - request that no photos be taken of their works. I can understand an artist wanting to keep an unfinished piece under wraps - or a piece that may be entered into a competition.

But otherwise... Why this paranoia?!

So I find it refreshing when art is public - for all to see (and photograph) - like these sculptures I saw outside a Toronto art gallery.

When the time comes that people actually want to copy an artist's style, surely that's a compliment - a sign that artist has arrived!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Flower or...?

I was puzzled by two plants growing in my garden, so when I noticed my neighbor Rob (our resident plant expert) out walking his dog, I grabbed paper and a pen and went outside.

Rob, is this a flower or a tree?

(The last time I asked him the name of a plant, he told me it was a tree planted by squirrels!)

I won't know for sure until it blooms, but it looks like a Japanese Anemone. We have one in our yard. Come over and take a look.

(I should have blocked out the daisies behind the plant with a sheet of white paper, like we do when drawing a flower.)

What about this? Is it a flower or a weed? I asked pointing to this mass of mauve bells.  I see them everywhere in the neighborhood. They're pretty, but I suspect they are a weed.

My mother used to call them Blue Bells of Scotland, but they're Rampant Campanula. If you pull them out, they multiply more. 
I couldn't find any online references to Rampant Campanula - but I did check out the Ontario wildflower site and came across a flower called "Creeping Bellflower" (also known as Campanula rapunculoides). That's what it looks like to me!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One Banana Muffins*

I recently had one over-ripe banana - not enough to make my favorite banana bread. I did an online search for "1 banana bread" - and was surprised to see several recipes pop up. I tried this one from serenitynowblog...

I blended all the dry ingredients together:
  • 375 ml (1 1/2) cups of flour. I used 125 ml (1/2 cup) each of unbleached white flour, spelt flour and soy flour, which increases the protein content.
  • 250 ml (1 cup) white sugar - next time I would lower that to 200 ml (3/4 cup).
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 3 ml (half a teaspoon) of cinnamon
 To this dry mixture I added the ripe banana, broken up, mixing till it resembled crumb topping.

Next I mixed together the liquid ingredients:
  • 1 egg
  • enough milk to the egg to make 250 ml (a cup) of liquid
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) of olive oil (which I used instead of butter).
(Next time, I'll use 2 eggs and less milk to see what difference that makes.) Mix the liquid into the dry.

Once blended, pour into muffin tin, making 12 muffins.

The Serenitynow blogger recommended buttering the pan liberally, but I used my silicone muffin tins - which need no buttering or greasing. I let the muffins cool completely in the pans, and they all came out fine.

* The muffins were delicious! But given the high ratio of sugar to flour in this recipe, I would think of them more as banana cupcakes than muffins, which usually have less sugar. For anyone who cares about these things, here is the nutritional breakdown of the muffins as I made them. Enjoy!

Monday, July 21, 2014

95th Birthday!

My mother is 95 today and still "kicking"...

...the ball, that is... in exercise class!

I tried to take a picture of her just before she connected with the ball - but she was too fast. All I got was a spot of light on her leg!

Exercising and singing are still two of her favorite activities.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Prayer for Retirees... and Other Free Spirits!

The beauty of retirement is that I can spend my time however I want - after years and years of living my life by the clock. But my quandary is - how to spend my time! There are so many options - and, equally disturbing (for me) is that I'm not getting to many of the projects I planned to start (or finish) in retirement.

So this prayer - that I came across recently - really spoke to me:

...grant that I may know and understand what things I ought to do, and that I may also have the grace and power faithfully to accomplish them...

... further me with your continual help; that in all my work begun, continued and ended in you, I may glorify your holy name...

It's all about priorities - setting them daily, much like my farming ancestors did. Like them, I want to "harvest" each day's opportunities, recognizing that seasons of the year - and of life - are not all the same.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

(Free) Boat Ride in Kingston

Every summer I try to take a boat ride. This year, I've already had two - so it has been a good summer!

The first was on the ferry-bus that runs between Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. For the cost of a city bus ticket we went across - and back. It runs more frequently than the Wolfe Island ferry we recently took in Kingston, Ontario. (In the picture we are passing one going in the opposite direction as we cross over to the other side, to give an idea of its size.)

Our more recent boat trip, which took a little longer, was on a ferry between Kingston, Ontario and nearby Wolfe Island, the largest of the thousand islands in the St. Lawrence River. It's home to dozens of large wind mills visible in the distance. (I just discovered that there is a summer ferry between Wolfe Island and the USA as well.)

Approximately1500 families live on the island all year long. There is no bridge, so a ferry shuttles both vehicles and people back and forth winter and summer... for FREE! Anyone can go along for the ride.


We enjoyed the half-hour boat ride (approximately15 minutes each way).

We watched with interest as the boat approached land.

Once everything was secure, the ramp was lowered so that vehicles and people could get off, and another group get on for the return trip to Kingston.


I hope a ferry ride will become part of every trip to Kingston! (Together with White Mountain ice cream!)

Some time I'd like to take the car and drive around the island, which is about 29 kilometers long and 9 kilometers wide (20 miles long and 5 miles) wide. This time we just hopped on, traveled across the water both directions without getting off. That was fun, too.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Travel with a (Quilting!) Purpose

I haven't done any quilting this summer - though I do have an idea for my next quilt...!

But I did go into the Workroom, in Toronto, recently - where Karyn, the owner, gave me a free quilting pattern - for a quilt row (or wall hanging... or table runner)...

Checking the free pattern out, I noticed that the it was designed for "Row by Row Experience Shop Hop." Hundreds of quilt shops in North America are participating - and if I am reading the web site correctly - if I visit any of them before September 1, I can get a free pattern from each one!

I think the idea is to put the various patterns together to form a quilt.

I wish I had known about this at the beginning of the summer - I would have made a point of visiting participating quilt shops in Maine on route to Nova Scotia.

I guess it's not too late to check out the ones closer to home, in Ontario and upstate New York!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My (FREE) Pattern for Knit Shawl

Last winter I knit two shawls in different colors using a pattern I developed - and loved! I ended up giving both away. But I plan to make more. In the meantime, I thought I'd share my pattern.

It is knit in three triangles, using directional knitting. Rather than sewing knit pieces together, stitches are picked up along one side of a finished triangle to begin the next triangle. The finished shawl is knit in three directions.

With variegated yarn, the effect can be quite dramatic. This shows a point where all three triangles (all knit in different directions) meet at the nape of the neck.

My pattern existed in note form on tiny pieces of paper until I typed it up a while ago when a friend asked for a copy. If anyone else would like a copy, click here to access one in PDF. (Hope it works!)

(And if you do make it, I'd love to see pictures of your finished results!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mystified by Magnetic Hill, New Brunswick

One of my favorite experiences on our recent trip to the Nova Scotia was stopping near Moncton, New Brunswick to feel our car being "pulled backwards" up Magnetic Hill!


Magnetic Hill has amazed visitors for decades! So I wanted to experience it, too!

We were instructed to drive to the bottom of the hill, stop at a white pole marker at the side of the road (which isn't too clear in the picture as it is in the shadows of the trees). Then we were to put the car in neutral, remove feet from the brakes... and steer carefully, because we would immediately be "pulled" back up the hill and we wouldn't want to land in the ditch!

We followed the instructions and, sure enough - faster than we would have liked - we found
ourselves moving back up the hill! The video clip was too big to upload to the blog, so here it is, on You Tube.

Then we watched as someone else did it.

This is weird! Can we try it again? we asked. They weren't busy, so we were permitted to repeat everything again. And again the same thing happened. A very strange experience!

Do you want me to explain what is happening? The young man who worked at the hill asked us. It's really an optical illusion. When you reach the pole at the bottom of the hill, the land formations give the illusion that you are at the bottom of a hill, but you are really at the top! When you take your foot off the brake and put the car in neutral, you are driving backwards down the hill, not up. But it looks as if you are going up, not down.

An optical illusion?!! I believe him because he works there - and because it's the only thing that makes sense! But even so, my eyes didn't want to believe it! 

Does this look like we are currently at the top or bottom of the hill?! We have just stopped rolling down the hill, so we must be at the bottom! But my eyes still tell me that the car I see in the distance, just beginning to roll, is the bottom of the hill - not the top!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fascinating Figures (and Pretty Pottery) in Saint John, New Brunswick

Taking pottery classes this past year has made me more aware of hand-made ceramics and human figures, like the ones I noticed in Saint John, New Brunswick, when we were there a few weeks ago.

I thought about buying this berry bowl (with holes) that I saw in the museum shop in a downtown Saint John mall... It would serve me well in strawberry season.

All the pottery, like these soap dishes, is made by local artists.

Outside the mall was an interesting array of figures, standing around ... waiting!

Aptly named "People Waiting," they add a friendly atmosphere to the downtown street.

All are made of wood - not clay - by local sculptor, John Hooper.

Apparently one of the carved men has a third arm! (I didn't notice at the time, so I don't know which one.)

The artist obviously had a sense of humor!