Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Late Winter Flight from the Cold

It has been a long, cold winter...

Finally Terry (who hates to fly) suggested I get away for a week. (My daughter was happy to come along.)

One of the fascinating aspects of flying - for me - is seeing aerial views of places I may never visit...

Like landing in Denver to change planes... I've never been here. (I didn't realize the Rocky Mountains were that far away.)

On the next leg of our journey, the pilot pointed out that we were passing over part of the Grand Canyon...

It's a place I've always wanted to visit...

But it wouldn't look like this from ground level.


Then, after flying over water for almost five hours, a strange sight appeared in the blue. What was it? An optical illusion of clouds or sea?

Soon the pilot informed us that we were seeing one of the nearby Hawaiian islands. Our destination, Honolulu, was now only a short distance away!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Carry On Luggage Dilemma

When is a airline seat sale not such a great deal?! When you have to pay $25 per checked bag!

We have a dozen travel bags in our basement, some dating back to my parents' traveling days. All work well when we travel by car. But if I take the train, I need one with wheels. I can't lug a suitcase very far.

Air travel poses yet another dilemma. These days airlines charge extra for checked bag - usually $25 each. A seat sale fare from Ottawa to Toronto goes up 50% if I check a suitcase both ways!

Time to see if any of our suitcases qualify as carry-on luggage. These three look about the right size.

My favorite is the green one on the right. The red one, a little heavier, is bulky. The grey one belongs to my son. For me its biggest disadvantage is that the handle is too tight for my hand!

I check outside and inside dimensions - then weigh the bags...

From their outside dimensions, all fit carry-on criteria (more or less), which is 22 cm by 35 cm by 56 cm (or 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches). Next I measure the inside dimensions and weigh them.

Which is the best for air travel? It's hard to say!

The green one (my favorite) weighs 9.8 pounds and holds the smallest amount: 1424.5 square inches. The red one, the heaviest at 10.2 pounds, holds the most - a volume of 1825.5 square inches. The grey one, the lightest at 7.8 pounds holds 1495 square inches in volume.

My best choice for air fare would appear to be the grey one... except that my fingers don't fit under the strap!! What about the red one? I'm not sure I could lift it - full - into the luggage compartment above my head!

Maybe I should just bring along a box of detergent and do laundry every day... Or would a box of white powder be suspicious to airline security?! (Traveling by air isn't as easy as it used to be!)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Humorous Tourists's Prayer

When my parents retired, they took trips once or twice a year, especially when one of their friends, Sig Ottenbreit, became a tour bus guide. He would tell my parents about his next planned trip - and my parents would invariably sign up to go along, together with Sig's wife, Millie.

My mother's files contain numerous brochures from trips taken, leaving me to marvel at the places they have seen.

Sig, a retired teacher, kept the tour members entertained throughout the long bus rides. In those days before the internet, he was able to find anecdotes to make them laugh. (Talking to him recently, I discovered that he still doesn't have internet - or email - though he is still active in many organizations.)

Somewhere he found a copy of humorist Art Buchwald's "Tourist Prayer." I found a copy among my mother's things. It's still funny after all these years!

The Tourist Prayer
Heavenly Father, look down on us, your humble, obedient tourist servants who are doomed to travel this Earth taking photographs, mailing postcards, buying souvenirs and walking around in drip-dry underwear.
We beseech you, oh Lord, to see that our plane is not hijacked, our luggage is not lost and our overweight baggage goes unnoticed.
Protect us from surly and unscrupulous taxi drivers, avaricious porters and unlicensed English-speaking guides.
Give us divine guidance in the selection of hotels, that we may find our reservations honored, rooms made up, and hot water running from the faucets. We pray that the telephones work, the operators speak our tongue, and that there is no mail waiting from our children which would force us to cancel the rest of our trip.
Lead us, dear Lord, to good, inexpensive restaurants where the food is superb, the waiters friendly, and the wine included in the price of the meal.
Give us the wisdom to tip correctly in currencies we do not understand. Forgive us for undertipping out of ignorance and overtipping out of fear.
Make the natives love us for what we are and not for what we can contribute to their worldly goods.
Grant us the strength to visit the museums, the cathedrals, the palaces and the castles listed as musts in the guidebooks.
And if perchance we skip a historic monument to take a nap after lunch, have mercy on us, for our flesh is weak.
Husbands: Dear God, keep our wives from reckless shopping and protect them from "bargains" they don't need and can't afford. Lead them not into temptation, for they know not what they do.
Wives: Almighty God, keep our husbands from looking at foreign women and comparing them with us. Save them from making fools of themselves in cafes and nightclubs. Above all, please do not forgive them their trespasses, for they know exactly what they do.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

No Dishwasher? No Problem!

We bought our first dishwasher when our third child was born. Terry thought it would stop the endless pile of dishes in the sink. It did do that, but now that fewer people live here, I'm wondering if we need a dishwasher at all...

I've discovered that one of the benefits of not having a dishwasher is...

You could (in theory) get by with fewer kitchen cupboards. Why? Because you don't need as many dishes.

You just wash the same few over and over again!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Seeds

I used to plant tomato seeds indoors in spring - then transplant them outdoors when the weather was warmer. I haven't done that in years. But I'm again thinking of seeding indoors... ornamental grass seed, that is.

I've had this seed-head from my neighbor Mary's garden since 2013, when I used it as a model in a botanical painting class.

Ornamental grasses don't do that well in our yard... But maybe I could try again... by seeding it indoors and, if it grows, transplanting it into the garden...

That's not a new idea, according to the February 2013 blog post that I linked to above! What kept me from doing it?!

While I'm looking at the old painting, maybe I should touch it up first! (Would a few darker shadows make the picture look more realistic?!)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Yellow Walls

When we moved into this house, the living room was painted golden yellow...

...almost the same color as the carpet.

It also matched the design in the kitchen linoleum.

I would never have chosen that color - but I liked it. It works!

We have repainted the room several times over the years we've lived here, but always the same color.

What I find interesting is how often I find yellow walls in decorating magazine photos, like this one.

There is a quiet warmth and energy in yellow.

Here is another magazine photo...

In fact, if I had to paint my whole house only one color, it would be sunny, energizing yellow!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Uncovering Memories

This has been my winter of sorting through stuff...

I was happy to uncover this photo that I had been looking for...

The year was 1948 (the year before my brother was born). My mother had taken a sewing class at the University of Alberta, planning to become a home economics teacher. After a fashion show at the end of the program, this photo was taken. We were apparently modeling clothing that had been made.

I don't remember the fashion show - but I always liked the picture of the two of us - my young mother (wearing a white blouse and bow) and me participating in university life together when I was only two!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Off Season Santa?

Look, there's Santa! a little girl told her mother, pointing to Terry.

No, that's not Santa, her mother quickly replied.

Terry smiled: Maybe I am!

(Does that mean that Santa is a New England Patriots fan?!)

A few days later, it happened again! At McDonald's, another little girl, about three, walked past him and said: Hi Santa.

(Maybe it's time to trim that beard!)

Monday, March 23, 2015

No! Not Chocolate-Dipped Potato Chips!

In my ongoing efforts to watch what I eat, I have stopped buying chocolate, my favorite indulgence. The family members I live with haven't noticed: Their favorite junk foods are soda and chips. Fortunately these have absolutely no appeal to me.

Recently one of my sons brought home a new kind of potato chip: ones dipped in chocolate!

Here, try one, he said.

Reluctantly, I did... To my surprise, they were delicious (to a chocolate lover like me)... But full of calories, salt and fat! Definitely not something I want to find in the cupboard! I would find them too hard to resist.

Fortunately the true chip lovers in my family found the chocolate too distracting from the salty chip-taste they loved.  So hopefully chocolate-covered potato chips won't find their way back!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Accepting Change

"Life is a constant change" my mother says quite often, sometimes with a sigh. This little motto of hers has helped her take life's changes in stride.

Another inspirational thought she loved was found in the Serenity Prayer.

She liked it so much she created this embroidered wall hanging of it.

We all have different ways of accepting the hard things in life.

Reminding herself that "it takes both rain and sunshine to make a rainbow" is one friend's way of reconciling herself to these times.

I'm a little simpler! The only change I'm looking for these days is the end to our seemingly endless cold weather! There's nothing like a long, cold winter to make me appreciate spring.

Maybe there's a metaphor in that, too.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Good-Bye, Old Friend

I haven't used this old computer in years! But it still works... an IBM PS1 that I replaced in 1999 - fearing this 20th century computer would crash in the new millennium!

It still works, though I haven't used it in years...

Time to pack it up for recycling! (I really hate to toss things that still work!)

Wow! It's really heavy! They made things well back in the day!

Friday, March 20, 2015

"Cut the Scraps!"

I've borrowed a quilting book from the library. It's called "Scraptherapy: Cut the Scraps!"

It caught my eye a few weeks ago, after I had started cutting up my fabric scraps into three inch strips, both long and short, for a multicolor diagonal quilt top design resembling a photo I saw online.

This book's approach is to cut fabric scraps into either 5 inch squares, 3 1/2 inch squares or 2 inch squares, and throwing away anything less than 2 inches. (There is a rationale behind the sizes and how they fit together.) The book then provides patterns using the squares or triangles made from the squares.

I like patterns that use long, narrow strips of fabric where corners don't need to be carefully matched. So I've decided to use some of her ideas, only with strips.

The author (Joan Ford) suggests sorting the squares, not only by size but also by color density: darks, lights, and everything else. Fabric contrasts create sharp patterns.

If the scraps are presorted into darks and lights, an important step is already done.I can do that with my strips, too. At the moment they are a bit of a mess! Presorting colors that look good together is a useful step.

I'm looking forward to reading about creating quilt "themes" and color schemes.

But for now I'm simply cut up my fabric scraps - another step in my ongoing goal of organizing my stuff.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Library e-Books

I don't use the public library much anymore. I prefer to buy books - no due back date! After our public library stopped stamping the "date due" in the backs of books, I was constantly paying overdue fees - five dollars here and there! Eventually I concluded it wouldn't cost much more to buy the book!

But I may have found a perfect solution to my library dilemma - downloadable e-books and audio books that are automatically "returned": they disappear from the e-reader on the due back date.

One of my kids gave me an e-reader a few Christmases ago. I rarely use it - so I've been working on figuring out this e-library-thing out.

A few days ago, I downloaded an audiobook, which I now listen to while I knit. Next I hope to find an e-book I want to read (though it is nice to be read to)....

But for now I'd better get just one book at a time. That way I may be finished by the due back date - when the "book" will conveniently "return itself" to the library and disappear.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Starting a Striped Quilt

I have had my eye on this diagonal quilt for a while now.

 It's "pinned" on my Pinterest quilting board.

I've started cutting three inch fabric strips to make it, using scraps I have lying around...

But I was puzzled. With the wide range of colors in the quilt, how does it maintain a bluish hue? I photographed the photo, then printed it up. Studying it, I realized that solid blue strips are interspersed irregularly throughout the quilt - every three to five rows!

As I cut my multi-colored strips, I wonder - what background color should I add to bring it all together?

I'm not sure... I haven't decided yet!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another Sorting Treasure

The past few months have been "sorting season" for me as I try to get rid of lots of things we no longer need.

Going through old cards and mementos, I came across an old wedding invitation. I didn't remember attending the wedding... Why not?!

I see... It happened around the time we were expecting our first child!

But we did see the couple a few times since and even met their children. But we hadn't been in touch for at least a dozen years.

Where might they live now? There must be an internet link... So I googled ... and "struck gold"!

An email followed, then a quick response. A few minutes later, a very surprized Carol and I were "chatting" - typing messages back and forth.

Hopefully we'll be in touch again soon.

Another internet success story: Facebook and email reconnecting old friends!

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Mom's Business Cards

My mother had a hard time throwing things away... And so do I! But this is my (indoor) season of sorting... and tossing.

Going through the bundle of business cards my mother kept, I found one of a long-lost relative. I have memories of staying at his parents' farm in summer, and when I was 10, of attending his wedding there.

He was apparently an electrical engineer. (I didn't know that.) The last time I saw him was when he and his wife visited my parents in Kelowna. They must have loved it, as they eventually retired in Vernon, just up the road.

I discovered this detail from the death announcement I that came up when I googled his name.

Of course, this doesn't make throwing the business card away any easier!

(Amazing what one can discover online!)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Some Thoughts on Change...

This past winter has been a season of change. I have finally (after 7 years of retirement) spent time seriously sorting through things we rarely use anymore, giving - or throwing - them away. Slowly the house is feeling a little airier.

I'm getting ready for a new season in my life, as well. I need to make time - and space - for new hobbies and interests. Our house is overflowing with things from the past.  I want to look ahead.

Time to say goodbye to some dreams (and files in my filing cabinet). One dream (and file) was "teaching overseas." I'm not sure I want to teach anymore. Instead, I'd like to continue learning art. Perhaps write a little more, too - though this blog keeps me writing every day.

I recently came across a quote by George Bernard Shaw, a Victorian writer whose humor I love: The only man I know who behaves sensibly, Shaw writes, is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.

It's easy to forget that we all change - and grow - every day! (Even in retirement!)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Missed Steak?!!

I stopped to read this sign outside an Ottawa market butcher shop recently:

"Becoming a vegetarian is a huge missed steak."

Even my daughter - a vegetarian - couldn't disagree!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Never Seen That Before...

Can't say I've ever seen this before in Ottawa...

... a woman walking down the street carrying a bag of clothing on her head!

In my teens, I practiced walking gracefully by trying to hold a book on my head, and it's hard!

Maybe I should have started with a bag of clothing!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Better Safe than Sorry

Our spring thaw has finally come...

It's a welcome sight!

(I wonder how long it will take for all the snow to melt...)

It's slowly dripping off our roof.

We have never had water in our basement, but Terry doesn't want to take any chances. He has lined up a row of garbage cans to catch dripping water along one side of the house...

Better safe than sorry!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Quilting Generation Gap

Toss any fabric scrap that is smaller than the palm of your hand, my daughter's quilting instructor tells her students...

Of course, I disagree... (Raised by parents whose earliest memories were the hungry depression years, I find it hard to throw anything away!)

What about crumb quilting? I respond. Look at all the interesting fabric designs I make with small bits of leftover fabric. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with these squares yet, but I like them...

(What I don't mention is the time it takes to sew together these tiny bits of fabric. Do I value my time enough?... The saver in me kicks in.) 

Collect all the small pieces, I tell her. Give them to me - I can use them...

Mom, really! I don't plan to do that!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Potholes: Another Sign of Spring!

Spring thaws reveal one of the adverse effects of extreme cold: Potholes!

Pieces of pavement pop out of the ground as it freezes and thaws. The resulting holes are difficult to see when filled with water!

This one, near the pottery studio, must be really bad to be cordoned off!

Another challenge of winter and spring driving!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Small Sign of Spring

These days, our weather is cold, though the days are sunny (a winter paradox)...

Our street is still snow-covered and roofs are laden with snow. But slowly the warmth of the sun on the driveway is melting the ice...

A few days later, roofs remain snow-covered but the driveway is almost bare: Our first encouraging sign of spring!

I'm not very steady on ice, so these small spring changes are encouraging for me. I'm looking forward to the day when I can walk all around the block again, visiting my mother on foot, rather than by car.