Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dealing With the Snow

Terry has a system for dealing with the snow in a major snowfall...

First shovel a path around the house - and remove snow from the deck by hand.

Then, to clear the driveway in heavy snowfalls, the snow blower is a big help.

At the same time, snow should be pulled off the roof overhang, so that it won't dam up and form ice when it melts - and so that the eaves-trough won't overflow if it warms up and the snow starts to melt.

Knocking heavy snow off tree branches is a good idea, too.

Of course, it's always nice if you have a helper - like our son - around.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Winter is here...

I was hoping for a snow-less winter...

(Not sure that's ever happened in this part of Canada, but I was still fantasizing!)

On Christmas Day, we could still walk on bare roads...

We, in fact, noticed this caterpillar on the road as we walked over to visit my mother...

(He was obviously confused by our warm December weather as well!)

But yesterday, we had our first snowstorm of the season and my personal world was transformed.

Yes, it's beautiful - but I don't expect to spend much time outdoors now until spring comes...

My indoor season has begun.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Red Sour Cherry Tea

I love to try new brands of herbal tea. My favorite these days is a mint tea from Germany.

So when I saw this package of fruit tea in a European deli, I couldn't resist buying it. I love red sour cherries! It's a product of Poland, where my father was born...

Reading the label, however, I notice that it contains eight ingredients, among them rose hip, which doesn't agree with me...

Not too bad... a little hint of rose hip... but otherwise the flavor - and color - are really lovely!

I wonder... once I've drunk the tea, am I meant to eat the dried fruit left in the infuser?!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Dividing My Snake Plant

My snake plant has been in the same pot for years now. I love it because it requires virtually no care, apart from occasional watering.

Last winter I read that snake plants are good for purifying indoor air.

The plant was looking a little crowded, so I decided to divide it into two pots. That way, I could purify the air in two rooms!

To my surprise, the new plant on the left (made up of two little shoots) looks almost as large as the "mother" plant on the right!

If I'd had enough pots, I could have made a dozen little plants - there were so many offshoots ready to break off!

I think I'll wait to see how these two plants do before dividing the "mother" plant again!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Positive Spin on Worry

My friend Janet has recently begun "doodling" prayer pictures. The idea came from a book entitled Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God.

After Janet's glowing review of the book, I hunted for it in the public library. A popular book, it had a number of "holds" on it. But recently I was able to pick it up and I'm now enjoying not only its drawing suggestions - but its wisdom... For example, I have always viewed worry as a negative thing. (Not that I don't worry!) But author (and math teacher - not art teacher!) Sybil MacBeth challenged me to view worry in a different light when I read what she has to say about it:

"As a starting place, worry is a psychophysical signal that something is wrong. Like guilt, it lets me know that something is askew or not quite right in the universe. I'm not a proponent of guilt-busting or even worry-busting. If I chase guilt and worry away too quickly, I miss the message they bring. They arrive uninvited, but I may need them to stick around for a while. They are my wake-up call, my psychic and spiritual reveille. Both guilt and worry can trumpet, 'Get off your duff, get out and do something, get your act together, get your hands off, get out of this situation...' But almost always they say, 'Get on your knees; this is more than you can handle alone.' Worry invites me into prayer.'

"As a staying place, worry can be self-indulgent, paralyzing, draining, and controlling... When I take worry into prayer, it doesn't disappear but it becomes smaller..."

Maybe instead of berating myself for worrying, I need to listen to my worries, asking myself what I can do about them. Then pray...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Series

I haven't read a novel in ages... As an adolescent, my life revolved around weekly treks to the public library to borrow novels every week. Reading them was a lovely escape...

Wouldn't it be great to come across a fun novel again?! (Nothing heavy or morbid!)

Then came a weekend of church fall fairs - and their wonderful book tables! I picked up half a dozen books - among them a few novels. I began to read the first in a series I had heard about when I was still teaching (but hadn't found time to read then): the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency - set in the African country of Botswana.

After a few chapters, I couldn't put the novel down! By evening I had finished it - and had downloaded the second in the series to my e-reader from the public library.

I finished that one and downloaded the third in the series. Next I plan to read number four, which is the second one I bought.

Happily, this light - but interesting - detective series has grown to more than a dozen books... Enough to keep me reading all winter long! I highly recommend it!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

It's so easy to get caught up with the busyness of the holiday season...

It's good to remember this message I found on an old Christmas card.

(The card dates back to the 1970s, but its message still holds true!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Songs at Starwood

A music therapist spends a morning a week at Starwood nursing home, where my mother lives.

Among other musical activities, there is a choir - which my mother still sings in...

Many love to participate.

The songs brought an air of Christmas excitement and joy in the room.
My mother doesn't see much - but music is still one of her ongoing joys.

Watching her sing, I was reminded that she had attended so many of my childhood Christmas concerts. Now I was attending hers. The cycle goes on!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Advent Smile

My daughter was given a lovely advent calendar. Some have chocolates inside... Hers had cute riddles, like - What happens to Santa if he gets stuck in a chimney?

Answer: He gets Claus-tro-phobia!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Squirrels Tearing Gifts

One day last week Terry and I came home from shopping to discover that Fedex had left a gift food box on our doorstep...

We weren't gone long, but a squirrel must have discovered it first! Perhaps he smelled the food inside!

Fortunately he left before reaching the inner packaging. Some of the plastic bubble wrap had been popped...

Had the squirrel been frightened away by the popping sound?!

I don't know - but I'm glad the contents had remained untouched!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Upper Canada Village is "Alight at Night"

Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, about an hour south of Ottawa, offers an "Alight at Night" experience from early December to early January...

Many village buildings are lit up from 4 to 9 pm on weekends during these longest nights of winter. Visitors can wander through the old-time village, enjoying a horse-drawn wagon ride, or a train ride - in the dark. But it's important to dress warmly as these activities are all outdoors!

Several restaurants on site serve meals. We stopped for turkey dinner at an old-time inn... It was a dimly lit reminder of what life must have been like when homes were lit with candles.  Next time we'd try the Barn-cafeteria, which is modern and more brightly lit!

Lots of families were out... though we enjoyed it as well, and we had no little ones with us.

There was an old-time carol sing at the old Anglican church...

At the bakery, we watched the baker take loaves of freshly baked bread out of an enormous stone oven. (Later we bought one to take home.)

We enjoyed the wagon ride, even if an open wagon is a bit chillier than walking. We didn't do the train ride this time. We did stop in at the thoroughly modern gift shop to look around.

It was a fun evening, if a bit chilly at times.

(If you go: Dress for walking, sitting and standing outdoors! The village is located on the edge of the St. Lawrence River, so the air at night is damp and chilly. )

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Weather Surprise...

Just when we (in Ottawa) had come to the conclusion that we wouldn't have a white Christmas this year...

It snowed (a bit) overnight! Yesterday we woke up to this...

The mystery of weather - so full of surprises!

Will we have a while Christmas?! It's possible!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Back to Acrylic Painting

A week ago, I signed up for a one-day poinsettia painting class, which, unfortunately, had too few participants to run... I was disappointed, as I had been looking forward to getting back into acrylic painting again. A dozen tubes of acrylic paint in the basement (from a winter class I took a few years ago) were a constant reminder that they do dry out over time...

What to do? Perhaps YouTube had lessons in acrylic flower painting... And, of course, they do! I found this tutorial by Angela Anderson on painting a Gerbera Daisy in acrylics - for beginners... Perfect!

To get another perspective on the project, I photographed some close-ups of potted Gerbera Daisies at my local  supermarket and printed them them up for reference photos.


It has been fun... running downstairs to paint in the basement... then back upstairs to do something else  while the paint dried...

The painting has gone through a lot of transformations.

Looking back at these photos, I wonder if I haven't worked it too much...

Some of the earlier ones look better than what I have now! Now it's too dark, I think.

I need some highlights - but they will have to be strategically placed... I'm almost afraid to risk ruining the picture! One of the disadvantages of YouTube instruction is that I have no instructor to ask what to do now!

Maybe there's a lesson for me in this - that I do my best work quickly... So I should leave "well-enough" alone!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Quilted Pillows, Perhaps?!

The beauty of "modern" quilting is that very little pre-planning was involved. As a result, I've ended up with some extra blocks...

What to do with them?

Make quilted pillows to match the quilt, perhaps?!

I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with these fabric leftovers!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Trying to Finish the Quilt...

I started this quilt at a workshop on November 9 - in Toronto...

My goal is to finish it before Christmas. If I put it away now, I'm afraid it'll be forgotten... I'm planning to do pottery two days a week from January to April. That won't leave me a lot of free time. Sometimes April is spring raking season. All the more reason to try to get this one done!

On the topic of unfinished quilts, Cheryl Arkison (the quilting instructor whose workshop I attended in Toronto) mentioned that she had 43 unfinished quilts at home!

I'm not sure how many unfinished ones I have. From past experience, I abandon them for a while if I'm dissatisfied with the way they are turning out. I wonder if I could aim to finish them all by my next birthday. Probably not... First I'd have to dig them out and see how many there are!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Visiting Montreal's Fine Arts Museum

This December, admission is free to Montreal's Museum of Fine Art...

The museum is only a few blocks from where we were staying, so we decided to visit - and see what was on display.

The first exhibit we entered was about unique furniture and household items from different countries.

Terry and I were taken by the interesting display of chairs!

Some, like this double-decker chair, were fun - but totally impractical!

The museum was full of students sketching unusual pieces...

We just wandered around looking at whatever caught our eyes - like this large sculpture made entirely of Lego pieces...

This watering can display from Sweden looked vaguely familiar...

I know why! I have the very same watering can... purchased at Ikea! (I have never thought of it as "fine art" before!

I was inspired by these pottery pieces from around the world.

They are all containers with lids.

In a few weeks, I may be checking these pictures again, as I wonder what to make when my pottery studio sessions resume in the new year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Walking in Montreal

If this warm weather lasts, we should go to Montreal for a day, I suggested to Terry last week.
Temperatures remained warm - so we made the two and a half hour trip, arriving early Thursday afternoon.

After checking into a downtown hotel, we headed out to wander around our old neighborhood...

We had lived in downtown Montreal in the late 1970s.

It was perfect walking weather!
We passed the hotel where John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent a week in bed in 1969 - one of their two "bed-in" demonstrations...

Wandering around seemed - in some ways - like a homecoming!

When he saw an open house in a condominium high-rise near the old Forum (pictured here), Terry was ready to go in and check the place out. Usually I'm the impulsive one - but this time I was the one to hold him back!

Some things had changed...

But we still felt at home.

The following morning, we walked down to Old Montreal...

It was wonderful to be back..

... even if just for a day!