Wednesday, December 31, 2014

If I Got Rid of a Third...

Over the years, tidying my house has usually been on the top of my "to-do" list! Years of busyness - with little time for more than the weekly basics - left its mark. Then when my mother downsized - first into a retirement residence, then into a nursing home - her things were added to ours.

Not long ago, the thought occurred to me that, if I got rid of a third of the stuff in the house, our home would not look cluttered! (I tried to picture each room with a third less stuff in it...)

Which third would I get rid of? 

The third we no longer use, seemed the logical answer...

Of course, it's never that easy... What to do with several generations of photo albums? Travel souvenirs? Books?

Slowly I have been "nibbling" at piles of clutter here and there.. in the basement, in desk drawers, in my gardening shed... One positive result is that I'm actually looking at things in a drawer or on a shelf carefully, assessing which third to toss and which two-thirds to keep.

The house may not look much different, yet. But there's more garbage and recycling to put out on collection days. Terry has noticed it.

But it's a long-term project: Getting rid of a third could become my New Year's Resolution for 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Mother's Music

My mother's nursing home is currently in quarantine - to avoid the spread of colds and flu.

The day before the lock-down began, we went over to visit.

My mother was listening to some Christmas music.

I tried to upload several video clips.

I can play them on my laptop, but they don't even show up on my ipad.

I'm not sure why...
Here is one clip of my neighbor Audrey (a frequent volunteer at the nursing home) playing her ukelele with two guitarists.

Here is another of my mother clapping and singing. She loved it! 

She knows even knows the obscure verses of Christmas carols, my youngest son commented in admiration.

Musical memories bring such joy!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Such a Treat!

Our weather warmed up about a week ago - clearing ice and snow from roads and sidewalks.

After a month of ice and snow, I can again walk around the neighborhood wearing shoes - not snow boots.

It's such a treat!

No need to wish for a winter vacation in a warmer climate ... Well, not for now anyway!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Mother's Christmas

My mother's quiet Christmas was punctuated with visits from two of her grandchildren.

The weather was so mild that we even took her outside for brief walks around her building.


I'll sleep better tonight, she told us.

She loves to be outside.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

PURRfect Cat Lover Gifts!

One cat-lover in our family got three great Christmas gifts:

A cute cat T-shirt...

Soap in the shape of a cat... (It apparently maintains its cat shape, even when used!)


And, for cool winter evenings, a warm onesie, adult sized!

Being a cat-lover, he couldn't be more pleased!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day Meltdown

It was surprising yesterday (Christmas Day) to see the sun come out and the snow disappear.

The temperature reached 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit).

How great would it be if winter continued like this!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Joy

This Christmas Day, here is a voice from the past: an excerpt from a Christmas sermon written more than 1500 years ago! I find it fascinating that the Christian faith has changed so little - when so many ideas have come and gone:

Beloved brothers and sisters: Unto us is born this day a Savior. Let us rejoice. It would be unlawful to be sad today, for today is Life's birthday, the birthday of that Life which, for us mortal creatures, takes away the sting of death and brings the bright promise of an eternal hereafter... the great reason why we are all joyful,... our Lord, who is the destroyer of sin and death, ... is come to make all free.

From a sermon of St. Leo the Great, quoted in Benedictine Daily Prayer, A Short Breviary, p. 63)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Christmas has "crept up" on me this year - does it every year?! Have I been too preoccupied with other things?

Today is the day to calm down... and relax. Family will be arriving soon from out of town.

Being together will be wonderful! The essence of Christmas is LOVE.

Merry Christmas to all - wherever you are!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cataract Surgery - 10 Days Later

A week ago last Friday, I had cataract surgery on my left eye. Several days before the surgery, the young doctor who was going to perform the surgery warned me that  my vision in that eye might not be very good after the surgery since laser vision correction skews the readings that determine which lens to put into the eye.

Don't you just calculate the difference between my vision now and what it was before my laser correction? I asked...

He didn't answer. Instead, he went to to consult with my ophthalmologist, whom I've seen for years, but who no longer performs surgeries. He came back saying: We have a plan...

The conversation left me in dismay: Why had no one told me that this would be a problem? With all the people who have had laser vision correction in the past 30 years, why had no solution yet been found?

So it was with trepidation that I went through the surgery. Was I doing the right thing?

Afterwards, at home, sitting in my favorite chair, staring across the room at the cross-stitch Christmas card on the shelf, I closed one eye and then the other, to compare what I saw with both eyes. Through my left eye, the nativity scene was a total blur!

Day after day, the picture became my touch-stone for comparison. After three days, it looked clearer. (Was I imagining it?!)

After five days, through both eyes, the picture looked about the same!

Yesterday, at my 10-day check up, the doctor was pleased: You don't need glasses for driving, he informed me.

I too am extremely pleased with the results.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Making Cloth Containers

There isn't a lot I can do these days. I have to take it easy for a few weeks after cataract surgery - no exercise class (Curves). No heavy lifting. Nothing strenuous. Time for knitting, reading, and... sewing!

Looking through some of my favorite things on Pinterest, I checked out the Pink Penguin blog and came across a tutorial on making little cloth containers.

It looked easy enough to do in an afternoon, so I did... out of an old jeans leg and shirting scraps. (My daughter suggested I press it more to give it a better finished look...!)

And I did use a glue stick to stick the lining and the batting together, as mentioned in a recent blog post. It worked like a charm! Just the kind of shortcut I love!

The whole project was easy and fun!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Learning Patience in Prayer

I'm basically an impatient person. So I paused when I recently came across the following admonition:

"Don't be in a bigger hurry than God..."

The words, written by Brother Lawrence - a humble French monastery cook and shoe-maker who lived more than 300 years ago - have a lot to teach me! And I wonder: Have people always been as impatient as we are today?!

I think of the seasons, changing slowly day by day. No rushing - just purposeful movement. Also of Joyce Meyer's words: God is rarely early -  but He's never late.

Sometimes I hope and pray for things for years, and it seems as if nothing is happening... I'm obviously in a bigger hurry than God... who is never late!

I found more quotes by this humble wise man, Brother Lawrence, on this website. He never set out to write a book, but his writings were collected after his death and became best sellers!

(I notice that the one that caught my eye isn't among them...)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Leaf Motif

Leaves are very appealing in crafts: we have a number of crafty "leaves" around the house.

Like this real maple leaf my mother varnished onto light press-board to make a coaster.

I pressed a hosta leaf into clay to make little dishes which I use as stove-top spoon holders when cooking.

To make these dishes, I copied the design of my mother's maple leaf (above), enlarging it a bit. They could be used to hold candies or nuts.

For my next leaf project, I'd like to try quilting some leaf-shaped mug-rugs. I've been admiring some online and have posted pictures of a few on my online "Pinterest" account.

(I'll post pictures if and when I manage to get them done!)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gluing... Instead of Basting a Quilt?!

I recently came across a quilting tutorial on using glue to fix fabric to quilt batting instead of basting it- something I've never tried. (This glue is intended for child crafts, so it is even edible!) Aother blog suggests that washable glue is much safer than spray quilters' glue, often found in quilt stores, adding that the spray should only be used in well-ventilated areas and never by pregnant women. 

I headed for my stationery drawer to see if we had any Elmer's glue. We didn't - but we did have other glues (including glue sticks) that were non-toxic and washable.

Now I'm looking forward to giving glue-basting a try!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thankful for ... Flowers!

This time of the year, when the world outside is white and somewhat bleak, I really appreciate my colorful indoor flowers.

Several pots of African violets are currently in bloom in a west-facing window.

They do better when left to dry (to the touch) between waterings. I water them once a week - or even less frequently - depending on how dry the soil feels.

My other bright floral spot is my Christmas poinsettia. It dries out more frequently and needs to be watered twice a week. Again I check to make sure that the soil feels dry. If allowed to dry too long, leaves begin to wither and fall. I see a few are withering already!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Snow "Ribbons"

A few days ago, we awoke to see snow hanging off our roof.

From inside it looked like solid packed snow...


But from outside it looked like a giant floating ribbon.

Terry decided to knock it down when he was clearing snow off the roofs of the sheds. I was sad to see our amazing snow phenomenon disappear.... It was so beautiful!

But we still have this little one hanging from the fence. Every day I admire it and wonder: How long will it last?

You don't see snow "ribbons" like that every day! In fact, in all my years of living in ice and snow, I don't recall ever seeing them before!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Post-Cataract-Surgery Update

Four days have passed since my cataract surgery.

I am continuing with three different kinds of eye drops, four times a day, to prevent infection. (My doctor's office provided me with this handy chart so that I won't get confused as to which to use when...!)

Two of the drops no longer sting, so I assume that the eye is healing.

I also wear this patch taped over my eye at night, to avoid accidentally rubbing it. I'm to use it for about a week.

Right after my surgery, the vision in my left eye wasn't very good. It felt as if I were seeing things through a fogged up bathroom mirror. But when I woke up the next morning, the fog had disappeared. My vision isn't 20/20, but I'm hoping it will improve. Before the surgery, I was warned that there would be problems giving me perfect vision because I'd had laser surgery done. In retrospect, if I'd realized that earlier, I probably would have delayed the surgery a while, until the cataract was seriously hampering my vision.

The surgery itself wasn't painful and I've had no pain since. The one positive difference I've noticed is that whites are much whiter when viewed through my left eye - with its clean, new lens.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Simple Solution

I have been trying to resolve my left knee pain for months. Caused by a new exercise routine (I think), I managed to make it worse before beginning physiotherapy about 6 weeks ago. Since then, I have been paying attention to movements that cause twinges of pain.

One of those movements was getting out of a chair I spend a lot of time in, a chair I relax in with a cup of coffee, a book - or my computer.

Do I need a cushion to make the seat higher? Why not give it a try?

I added a thick, hard foam cushion...To my surprise, my knee pain diminished almost immediately.

Sometimes a simple adjustment to make a chair (or table) more ergonomically comfortable makes all the difference in the world!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Appreciating the Bible

I enjoy reading the Bible. I've read it in many translations and versions. (My favorite? The chronological Bible, where passages are shifted into chronological order.)

So I was pleased to read Joyce Meyer's words (in her Trusting God Day by Day devotional):

"I'm always saddened when I encounter people who view the Bible as an outdated, irrelevant religious book. Yes, its words are centuries old, but instead of being old-fashioned or obsolete, they are ancient truths that have stood the test of time and been proven over and over and over again. The words of Scripture are alive; they are saturated with the power of God. They are as real and applicable today as they have ever been - and in our world today, we desperately need to be grounded in this kind of godly truth. The Bible is not only meant for preachers and "church people"; it is a book for everyone in every walk of life. It is spiritual, but it is also extremely practical."

I totally agree!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

(Natural) Snow Sculptures

Snow is pretty amazing!

After a day of snow - and wind - I look out the window and see... snow "sculptures":

Massive chunks of snow suspended from the roof of our house.

In all our years here, I've never seen anything like it, Terry comments. The strength must come from the layers that have formed...

All around us, similar "ribbons" of snow can be seen hanging from neighboring houses. It's pretty amazing!

I wonder if the temperature and consistency of the snow need to be just right for these hangings to form...

There's so much about snow that I don't understand! (I wonder if snow scientists even understand all the details.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cataract Surgery... Today

I'm scheduled for cataract surgery today... and I'm full of trepidation.

My mind goes back a few years to the day I drove my mother to her surgery. She looked grim... (Now I understand how she felt!)

As I recall, there were two types of people sitting in the waiting room. The first looked worried, like my mother. They were having their first eye done.

The others were smiling, even laughing. After chatting with one of these smiling woman, I discovered that she was having her second eye done. Her first surgery, several months before, had been a breeze. In fact, she could hardly wait to see better once her other eye was done!

(She's the one I want to think about today!)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Useful Pottery Project

Pottery classes are over till January. I've had a lot of fun making things, but I haven't made many really useful pieces. Some more experienced potters in my class came with the express purpose of creating one-of-a-kind items for Christmas giving.

One popular project was making ring holders - to go on a dresser or bedside table.

How practical!


I decided to use my last studio session hand-building a few, not throwing them on the wheel. Each one turned out a little different...

I might try making some on the wheel when I get back to class in January.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Preparing for Cataract Surgery

This is the week I'm scheduled to have cataract surgery in my left eye... A week ago, I met the young doctor who's scheduled to do it.

When he examined my eyes and realized that I'd had laser eye vision correction, he was somewhat dismayed.

This messes up all the calculations, he said. (Apparently there is a formula that determines the strength of the corrective lens they put in the eye...) You may need glasses again...

(That doesn't sound hopeful! My 90-year-old aunt's cataract surgery corrected her vision. Now she doesn't even need reading glasses...)

So - wondering if I should have put it off for a few more years - I nontheless prepare myself:

Today I begin the regime of eye drops that precedes the surgery and continues for a month following it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Heating Problem...

Now that cold weather is here, our furnace is acting up! (It's apparently a "sequencer" issue.) Hopefully it will be fixed soon...

In the meantime, we have pulled out our space heaters, to supplement our heating!

(In this climate, you have to have a back-up plan!)

Monday, December 8, 2014

It's a Surprise!

I've been doing a little Christmas shopping for my family. It's hard to know what adult children really want - or need. But everyone likes to find surprises under the tree...

I guess they have the same dilemma when shopping for me... It's a delicate balance, letting people "choose" their gift - and surprising them.

My daughter recently called me on "Skype."

"I've bought you a Christmas gift," she said. "It's a book. I'm going to show it to you and you have to tell me if you already have it. If you do, I'll take it back..."

She held it up... It looked familiar, but I couldn't remember whether I'd read it or not.

"I'll take it back then," she said.

"No, keep it. I may not have read it!"

"No, I think I'll take it back."

"No, don't!"

(So now I don't know whether she'll be giving it to me or not! One way or another, that will make it a surprise on Christmas morning!)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Did We Have Fun?

Regret is, in some ways, a wasted emotion. I remember my mother - in her 80s - saying how she regretted leaving my three-year-old brother with our grandmother (her mother) in another city for a few months  when my mother (a teacher), couldn't find a babysitter in our neighborhood. Every weekend we would drive the 100 miles to Grandma's home to visit him. And every Sunday evening my brother would scream as we were leaving. Once we were gone, he reportedly reverted to his normal cheerful self. But the memory of those traumatic partings haunted my mother for many years.

Well you can't change it now, a much-younger-me told her as she shook her head regretfully. Now an older-me would add: You can't change it. But sometimes you have to make peace with it. And making peace involves remembering.

In the book Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, Joan Chittister comments on her early years as a nun, saying how the daily sharing of work by all, young and old, had a profound effect on her: "It is the sight of everyone taking a turn at table-waiting... and everyone at choir practice and everyone doing dishes... and everyone setting up the dining room tables for great feast days... that most makes me realize that we are all in this together... I realize with new insight that there are basics in life more important than a business schedule... those basics are love of God and fun and companionship on the long dark roads of life..."

My thoughts linger on her words "fun and companionship on the long dark roads of life." My "dark days" have been comparatively few. But her recollection makes me wonder: Did I convey a sense of  fun and togetherness in my community - the family I live in?

I often felt tired and impatient during the years when my children were young. I regret that. But there are other memories, too: My desire to involve the children in baking. So all three were given dough to roll out so that they could create their own fancy cinnamon buns and gingerbread men whenever I baked.

The family "cafe" when the three prepared dinner, set the table, then dressed up as waiters (tea towels over their arms) to serve the meal.

Many family vacations. (I'm thankful for the family photo album that reminds me of some of the things we did!)

Life was often busy - sometimes I was grumpy and tired. But we did have times of fun!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Pottery Tongue Test

Pottery is an ancient craft... And some techniques have trickled down through the ages.

For example, when I asked an experienced potter whether she thought my fish platter had been bisque fired or not, she replied: Stick your tongue on it.

Stick my tongue on it? Was she serious?! Was it even safe to lick it?! 

Seeing my disbelief, she quickly explained: After bisque firing, your tongue should stick to it.


Unless it has been fired at a very high temperature, another long-time potter added. Another test is to put your cheek against it. If it feels cold, it hasn't been fired yet.

So much to learn!!

My tongue did stick to it - and it felt rough, not cold against my cheek.

It must be ready for glazing.

I dipped it in liquid glaze. You'd never know it from its colors now, but half should come out turquoise; the other half blue!