Friday, July 31, 2015

What I Learned from EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES

The humorous punctuation book Eats, Shoots & Leaves made excellent bedtime reading. I finished it. But before putting it away, I'd like to summarize (partly for myself) what I learned.

First I learned that I'm a "punctuation vigilante" - or, at least, I became one in my job as an English teacher, daily correcting punctuation errors in students' writing. I learned that writers and editors often become punctuation vigilantes, too, as they strive to get it "right." And like teachers, not all editors agree on what is "right" or "wrong."

Why is it so hard to get it right?! Because punctuation isn't an exact science. It's in flux - and changes over time. The first punctuation marks were developed in the fourth century by St. Jerome. These were marks added to hand-written manuscripts to indicate when and how long readers should pause when reading aloud to others. At that time, most people couldn't read, so they had to be read aloud to. Punctuation marks as we know them were only added to text after the invention of the printing press. Two fifteenth-century printers began to add marks to clarify meaning as well as indicate pauses.

Even today, although the basics remain the same, different magazines and newspapers have their own style guides - and they don't necessarily concur, especially when it comes to apostrophes after  the letter "s": Is it Keats' poems? Or Keats's poems? Each periodical decides how they are going to do it.

Other differences include whether a period goes inside or outside quotation marks. Americans put the period inside, the British outside: "This is what I mean." (American) "This is what I mean". (British)

I learned that one of my favorite punctuation marks - ?! - a question mark followed by an exclamation mark actually has a name. It's called an "interrobang." It's a relatively new punctuation mark - invented in 1962 (when I was in high school). The Wikipedia article (linked to above) puts one on top of the other. I definitely don't write it like that, so I'm not sure if they are bother the same "interrobang" mark.

I was reminded that three dots (...) are called ellipsis. Apparently they are increasingly being used, mostly in informal writing, such as emails. I use them a lot in my blogs - together with interrobangs.

People are beginning to write words together, without spaces, thanks to texting. We now also create pictures with punctuation: Emoticons...

That's about it! Eats, Shoots & Leaves was great bedtime reading: Informative and funny. It induced no nightmares!

Now I'm about to start the next punctuation book that has landed on my desk,... Missed Periods.

I hope I enjoy it just as much!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Quilting

The hottest week of the summer is upon us...

There are a lot of things I could be doing, but I feel inspired to ... QUILT!

After finishing my last quilt, a few weeks ago (a quilt top that had been sitting for a year or more) I am excited to see what can be done with some of the other scraps I have.

Years ago, one of my quilting neighbors gave me her stash of odds and ends.

Then recently, I bought a new quilting book entitled Quilt as You Go Made Modern... and the ideas have begun to churn!

I'm starting with a quilt made of reversible squares that are joined with sashing. It's a pattern I made before - not one found in my new book, though the book reminded me of it.

I prefer working with smaller pieces. Hopefully I'll like it in the end!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Who Will Win - The Vine or the Tree?

Wild vines - wild grape and Virginia Creeper - are two pervasive weeds in our yard. If we didn't pull them down every year, they would cover the whole yard!

A few years ago, I noticed a small tree growing on our fence line, near a fence that is covered with vines.

I welcomed the prospect of a new shady spot in the yard.

Before long, however, the vines growing on the fence began to climb the tree, tying up its branches...

New branches grew - these in turn were enveloped by vines.

From time to time, we pulled down the vines ... but they grow back.

Who will win - the vine or the tree? If I were a gambler, I'd bet on the vines!

Hmmm... I notice another tree has sprouted nearby - planted no doubt by some squirrel. It has somehow managed to evade the vines so far... I wonder how long that will last!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Mother's Music Books

My parents both loved music - and laughter. They enjoyed reading the humor sections of the Reader's Digest (a magazine they subscribed to).

And they collected song books with their "old favorite" songs.

As I sort through my mother's things, I find some dating back to 1967 (Canada's Centennial) and earlier.

The oldest is this Silver Book of Songs for all grades. It was published in 1938 - the year my mother attended "Normal School" (which we now call Teachers' College) to train to become a teacher. Did she take it with her when she packed her trunk and headed up north to the Peace River country to teach in a one-room country school in Preston Lake?

I wouldn't be surprised if it was from back then!

Monday, July 27, 2015

New Flowers

Perennials usually have short blooming seasons, compared to annuals.

I hate to say goodbye to them... until next year. (These clematis blooms are on their way out...)

But I do enjoy seeing the next wave of blooms arrive!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Secret of Happiness

Years ago I read a fascinating book entitled Celebration of Discipline.

It spoke about the benefits of integrating traditional spiritual practices into our modern lives.

I found the book so interesting because I had always viewed spiritual discipline as an ancient medieval concept abandoned by the modern church. But here a modern theologian (and a Quaker at that) was encouraging us to bring these practices back into our lives. I was faced with the question: Should I make meditation, fasting, confession (and so on) part of my life as well?

Recently I came across a reference to a new "discipline" in a different book, Strength for the Journey. Renee Miller writes about the "discipline" of gratitude: "Gratitude may flit across the canvas of our souls from time to time when we experience some unexpected moment of grace, but it does not usually flow like a steady mountain stream all through the day."

On the chapter on gratitude, the author suggests making a list of 100 things for which we are thankful. A list that long may bring us face to face, not only with all the good things we enjoy - but also with "pockets of brightness" in the midst of dark struggles.

I think of my mother - happy in the midst of dark times (blind and unable to walk in a nursing home) - daily grateful for the good food and care she daily receives. In fact, she often says: This is a good place to be when you need help. The food is good. The care is good. I don't think there is a better place than this.

Is gratitude (like a steady mountain stream) the secret to happiness? If so, it is a discipline we should all want to develop in our lives. Is regularly writing out 100 things for which we are thankful a good way to start?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Another Quilt... Finished!

If the world can be divided into two kinds of people - those who derive more pleasure from starting a project and those who enjoy finishing one, I would be among the "starters." The house is full of my unfinished projects - knitting, quilting, reading, writing... even potting! Once my first burst of enthusiasm is spent, I'm inclined to leave finishing until "later"... whenever that is!

Having realized that, I'm now consciously trying to finish things I've left lying around for a while.

So it is with great pleasure, I am finishing this quilt! It's not "perfect" - but it's done!

I'll enjoy looking at it for a bit... Then on to the next project I've put off completing...!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Catchy Titles!

Punctuation books are coming up with catchier titles these days... like this one entitled Missed Periods And Other Grammar Scares. 

I haven't read it yet, so I should probably reserve judgment!

I wonder if a man would be as likely to pick this book up as a woman - and what that says about who reads books on punctuation!

The author has written another book with a catchy title - Kiss My Asterisk: A Feisty Guide to Punctuation and Grammar.

Do these titles really induce people to read more about punctuation and grammar?!

I really wonder...!!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My Newest Favorite Food

Occasionally I try out new supermarket products...

I did a double take when I recently saw chocolate cream cheese next to the plain...

How would chocolate cream cheese taste?

(Would it be as high in sugar as Nutella - which I rarely buy any more, but which I do find delicious?!!)

After comparing the labels, I decided to try it.

Compared to regular cream cheese, the chocolate version isn't too bad, considering the factors I look at: protein, sugar and calories.

Calories: a tablespoon of the chocolate has 50 compared to 40 for the plain.
Protein: a tablespoon of each has 1 gram of protein
Sugar: a tablespoon of the chocolate has 4 grams compared to 1 gram of sugar in the plain

And taste wise, the chocolate is AMAZING!! It tastes like chocolate pudding or chocolate cheese cake. Delicious with strawberries or spread on bread!

Now that strawberry season is here, it's going fast!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Neighborhood Walks - With a Purpose

I usually carry my camera with me when I take walks around the neighborhood.

It's great for gathering reference material for my blog or for art projects...

 Also for gardening ideas.

(Though I do sometimes wonder if people mind me taking pictures of their front yards!)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

96th Birthday

Today my mother turns 96.

She's still full of life and joy... She's expecting visitors for her birthday - family members from Edmonton and from Dallas...

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Another Family Birthday!

I've been going through family photos.

It's amazing to look back and think that my now-adult son was once a one-year-old...


How much more mature he looked at two (seen here with his four-year-old brother)!

How old is he today? (My mother's carefully crafted cross-stitch holds the key!)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pray... For Doors to Close?!

I think of prayer as asking God for something... A new opportunity, wisdom, health - or some new thing I need.

To some this may sound selfish, but there are times when I realize I've reached the end of my own ability - and I need help.

I recently came across the suggestion that people should also pray for God to close doors, not to give them what they are asking for - if it is not for their own good.

I don't remember doing that very often.

The idea of taking my hands off the steering wheel of my life and letting God decide is, for some reason, hard. And humbling. It's an admission that I don't really know it all... which, of course, is true.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Home Grown Chamomile?

I haven't used my garden boxes in years. (I have three.)

I initially planned to plant vegetables and herbs in these mini-gardens. But I soon realized that I'd need to install some serious animal netting to ever get these little gardens to work... So I have left them fallow.

Last year, after pulling "weeds" out of them, I discovered (in an article on growing chamomile for tea) that some of the "weeds" I had discarded were actually chamomile.

This year the flowers are back - and I hope to harvest them to make my first home-grown chamomile tea.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Mid-July Flowers

Mid-July is my favorite time of the summer - it's when our garden is at its brightest.

Early spring flowers are gone, though this mass of low-lying purple geraniums, that began to bloom in spring, is still blooming near the white daisies.

I'm thinking of dividing them and adding them to other parts of the yard.

I love it when flowers last that long!

In shadier parts of the yard, the hostas have filled out and are beginning to flower.

Masses of yellow coreopsis, white daisies and orange lilies brighten the yard.

Less showy are the red knautia, also in bloom.

There are a few brown-eyed Susans here and there in the yard. They resemble the white daisies, but I'm not sure if they're part of the same botanical "family."

At this time of the summer, my favorite garden view is driving down the street, welcomed by the giant "bouquets" of orange lilies and white daisies that flank the driveway. I look forward to their arrival ... and miss them when they're gone.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Garbage Day Construction!

Last week, on garbage day, the city started to tear up our street to repave it.

I'm not sure how the garbage collectors managed to drive their trucks through the construction chaos.

It took three days for the five blocks to be torn up. Then the construction stopped - once the crushed rock was packed down.

Then it sat for four days, untouched...
Then, this week... on garbage day (!) the paving crew arrived with heavy equipment and dozens of dump trucks full of hot asphalt...

Over the course of the day, somehow both paving and waste collection eventually were done - but it couldn't have been easy!

(Hmmm. Do city planners do this on purpose - just to make life more difficult?!!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ottawa Summer Temperatures... a Lot Like ... LA?!!

A few weeks ago, one of my sons was vacationing in Los Angeles, so I added LA weather to my weather ap.

I was surprised to see that their June temperatures were about the same as ours. In fact, some days, Ottawa was even hotter...

A month later, I'm still surprised to see that our daytime highs and our night time lows are still almost identical!

Their winters certainly aren't like ours... So when do our weather patterns move apart?!

Until I find out, I'll keep comparing Ottawa's daily weather to LA's!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Gardening Update

A few days ago I cleared the weeds from a corner of the yard...

It looked better... but had lots of bare spots.

A few days later, I transplanted a few plants from other overgrown beds...

Doesn't look too good yet - but hopefully next year, it'll look better.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Rushing to Finish...

I'm rushing to finish a quilt I started a few years back...

I wanted to get it done before my newest inspiration arrived in the mail...

... a new quilting book entitled Quilt as You Go Made Modern...

(It beat me!)

I'm always looking for quilting shortcuts...

But - as I peruse projects I want to try - I'm determined not to start another until my current one is done first!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Keep the Goal Low!

There are several areas in our yard that need attention.

One is this front corner that was overrun with weeds and grass. (Out of sight, out of mind!)

Every time I walked by, I wanted to get in there - but do I have the stamina to finish the job once I start?!


Finally, the other day, I got on my gardening gear and headed out. Where to begin?

I remembered a comment I read a while back in an article on forming habits: 

Make your goal very small so that you will never be discouraged, one expert advised, adding that his daily goal was to do one push-up in the morning. Just one. Sometimes he did more, but his goal never changed. It was so low that he invariably did at least one.
So your goal is to pull out one weed? my son commented when he saw me outside.

Actually it's one garbage can full, I answered.

(In the end I managed to fill three.)

But the work isn't done yet... It looks better - but I still haven't touched the back, near the fence.

And once the weeds are gone, I want to add some plants... like this purple one that needs to be divided.

Once I get started with a major makeover like that, it's hard to have a really small daily goal.

(Maybe my goal should just be to get out there with my gardening gloves on and see where that takes me!)