Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Boutique Hotel in Downtown Montreal

I'm not sure what "Boutique Hotel" means. But recently we stayed in one in Montreal. One definition I found online is a "small hotel"... But this one wasn't small...

Another definition says a boutique hotel is a "design-led property which... gains its uniqueness through aesthetics, atmosphere..."

That would define this hotel. The lobby reminded me of a student residence!

There was even a padded swing!

The roof-top garden was attractive and more conventional.

The hotel advertises that no two guest rooms are the same!

Apparently the art in each one...

... is just a little different!

It was a lovely, quiet, central place to stay.

Monday, May 30, 2016


I haven't been out gardening much this spring... So many other things have become more important...

... like visiting our new grandchild in Toronto...

(We've driven down twice in three weeks!)

And (while we were there) we watched our son lawn bowl too! (Terry was even tempted to give lawn bowling a try.)

Now that we're home again, I'm packing for my upcoming Rideau Canal cruise, while Terry labors alone outdoors!

I asked him to get rid of some of the pine branches that were hanging over the lilac bush.

Between cutting the grass and gardening, we could both be working outdoors several hours a day... But we're not! Not this year...

(Hopefully the garden will survive!)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Work Ethic

Terry sometimes complains about what he calls my German "work ethic." (I like to keep busy, accomplish something every day. I derive satisfaction in seeing some task accomplished.) Yet I bristle every time he uses the term. Is it because it conjures up images of being a workaholic, whose only goal in life is to work, who can't enjoy life unless they are busy working?

What is a German work ethic, anyway? I wonder... Is it the same as the Protestant ethic or the Puritan work ethic which Wikipedia defines as "a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes that hard work, discipline and frugality are a result of a person's salvation ... in contrast to the focus upon religious attendance, confession, and ceremonial sacrament in the Catholic tradition."

I don't think that describes me...

I would, in fact, say that I have more of a "Benedictine" work ethic: Work is an important part of life - but so are prayer, reading, reflection and recreation. I do derive tremendous personal satisfaction from work I feel "called" to do - especially creative endeavors like quilting, pottery, knitting, gardening. All give me tremendous satisfaction. But work is only part of what I feel called to do.

To me, work is a way of participating (with God) in maintaining the earth as a safe, healthy habitat for all. In this sense, work is "stewardship" - taking care of what God has given.

Equally important, our work - how we spend our days - is our gift to ourselves and to others. It creates the world we live in... and forms us into who we become.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

New Neighborhood Construction

Summer is a busy time in our neighborhood, with renovations or new homes being built on almost every street.

This year, at the far end of our block, a new project is just beginning: a church slated to go up where a flower shop and greenhouse once stood...

The piece of property isn't large for a church, but the Romanian Orthodox community is small, we've been told.

I wonder how it will change the look of our immediate neighborhood, which is mostly homes - though the nursing home my mother lives in is at the other end of the block.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Favorite Flowers in Bloom

My flower garden changes every week, as perennials bloom and die... to return again next year.

My current favorites in bloom are these white anemones in my front flower bed.

They seem to be spreading, which is all right with me!

The purple lilacs bordering the fence are also lovely this year. Last year I cut out about a third of the stems, to promote new growth, and it seems to have worked. After they finish blooming, I plan to cut out a third of the older branches again. It keeps the lilac bush smaller, as well. I don't want its branches to get tangled with the pine branches overhead.

I'm also happy to see these large irises in bloom. There are more to come - I hope they stay a while!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dandelion Season

This (unfortunately) is dandelion season!

As I survey the fields of yellow flowers around our house and on our lawn, many of them are turning white, ready to shed their seeds...

It's hard for me to believe that dandelions are not native to North America.

In fact, this number 1 gardening pest was brought here by the early pioneers for medicinal purposes!!

(My dream solution? An enormous vacuum cleaner that could be driven all over these fields of white seeds to suck them all up!)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Well-Used Piece of Family History... Gone!

A piece of family history was recently disposed of.

The desk used by one of my sons during his school years - which Terry had used before him - was recently set out in the trash.

With several chemical stains in the drawers (left by decomposing batteries) I didn't think it was a healthy piece of furniture to keep in the house.

Looking at the desk made me wonder about my children's school years.

I encouraged them to sit upstairs in their rooms to do homework, much like I had done.

Did they enjoy doing homework on their own? Was it a time to think about life... and the future?

Was a life philosophy being developed, as seen in: "Break it down!" "Learn to fly"? Or were songs simply running through his head?

Were those school years - 1999 and 2000 exceptionally boring?!

The Nomer wuz here May 1999 
Still here November 2000

(Or was the first date on this desk simply a reminder of how long school years can be?!)

I enjoyed doing homework alone in my room, but not everybody does.

I didn't discover - until my children were much older - that studies have shown that many students do better if they work on homework at the kitchen table, surrounded by family members. This allows them to talk about assignments - and get help if needed. Wish I'd known that back then!

Would he have enjoyed school more if he had done his homework in the kitchen? (Or would one eye have been on the TV nearby?!) Would our kitchen table bear the marks his desk now bears? I guess I'll never know!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Appreciating Outdoor City "Art" In Toronto

I always enjoy photographing ...

... interesting buildings, like old churches...

... and street art...

This mural may have been commissioned... to promote Movember...

But I'm not sure all street art is!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Spring Flowers

It's only May, but there have already been several "waves" of perennials in flower...

..that have now have disappeared. 

Unless I make a point of going out daily to enjoy the flowers in bloom...

... like the "bleeding heart" - they slip away before I notice them!

Which is why I love LARGE bunches of flowers... and why one of my goals is to have all our flower beds within window view.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Walking in Faith

I have never given much thought to the word "walk" - though I appreciate being able to walk painlessly again after injuring myself two summers ago. For about six months, every step hurt. I remember wondering if my walking days were over.

I am currently reading my first book by David Steindal-Rast, an author who analyses words in an interesting way, helping me see them in a new light.

In one chapter he talks about God telling Abraham to "walk in my sight and (so) be perfect."

He writes: ... we might have expected God to say "stand," or "kneel," or "fall down before Me. No, "walk" is the word. Walking demands more trust, more courage. Faith walks. Walking implies risk. And faith thrives on risk... 

...we lose our balance with every step [yet] we quickly regain it again... 

...unless we took the risk of falling, we couldn't make one single step. And this is the form of locomotion God demands from us on the path of faith: not riding, not swimming, not flying, but walking - a constant losing and finding of our balance...

Reading this makes me think of my grandfather, in his 90's, afraid to walk (after taking a fall) because he feared falling again. Doctors encouraged him to walk. He had the strength to walk, but he refused to take the risk.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Spring Flowers in Bloom!

Spring flowers were in bloom when I was last in Toronto's Trinity Bellwoods Park...

It's hard to overestimate the value of natural green spaces in the middle of a busy city.

What a great time - and place - to be walking about!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Early Spring Views

Terry and I often take drives into the country - especially now that warmer spring weather is here.

I recently realized why I enjoy getting out at this time of year.

Apart from the obvious facts that we have been cooped up indoors for five snowy months...

... and the weather is not too hot yet...

I realize that this time of year...

... before leaves fill in...

We are able to see more buildings -

Ones that are hidden from view once trees fill with leaves.

For all these reasons, early spring is my favorite time to get out and enjoy the world!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

New Caplanski Deli

On a recent trip to Toronto, we attended the grand opening of a new Caplanski deli in Toronto, this one located in Yorkville.

I love the borscht. Another favorite was the cream cheese and smoked salmon (lox) on dark rye bread... (the two items on the right of the counter).

Delicious! Looking forward to a return visit!

(The cute Caplanski shoes - with the store logo on them - are, unfortunately, not on the menu!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Personal Pottery Style

My pottery goal - this last studio session - was to throw cylinders that are thinner and taller. I was even hoping to begin making a few "normal" mugs.

I improved a bit - but my pots still don't look the way I had hoped.

To counter the thickness of the walls, I started to carve designs on them.

In the end, I like them... Not beautiful - but interesting.

Perhaps it's time to celebrate my flaws - and view them as my "personal style"!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Noticing... Rabbits

We often see wild rabbits in our yard.

I like to photograph them - and other animals - from different angles, to refer to when making clay sculptures.

I couldn't help but notice how much their ears resemble the pincers on an earwig... from a certain angle. It must be the coloring of the ears...

Traditional pictures of rabbit ears in drawings never look like that!

Monday, May 16, 2016

"Tetris" Afghan

I never got into playing video games with my children - but I did enjoy a Gameboy game called "Tetris" - that involves quickly finding landing spots for moving geometrical shapes.

I wasn't thinking about Tetris when I started an interesting afghan  pattern by Elizabeth Zimmermann a few months ago. Knit in four pieces using a simple garter stitch, I did think of it as an interesting puzzle-piece afghan with lots of corners.

I finally finished it a few few days ago. When I laid it on the floor, putting the pieces together, I thought it was a little bland. To brighten it up, I added a black stripe.

Now I wonder how it would have looked if I had crocheted around each piece in black. I don't want to take it apart to find out...

When knitting it, I called it my puzzle-piece afghan. When my daughter saw a picture of it, finished, she immediately exclaimed: Tetris!

I guess it will be known as the "tetris afghan"

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Understanding Our Restless Selves

Retirement offers me the gift of being able to ask daily: How do I want to spend my day? This is a luxury I haven't had since I was five, since before starting school! An opportunity not to be wasted!

In her book on the "search for a life of passion, purpose, and joy" (entitled Following the Path), Joan Chittister writes: "what we are meant to do in life never really stops biting at our heels. Our unfinished selves never stop calling to us...

"People start to search out what they're most interested in as children... It may take years for the heart to find the soul of itself, to know what that really is, but it will happen. Someday... People begin to paint when they are eighty...

"We are what we are, but the gift of self unfolds only as we go... It can take years before it becomes clear - the real gift that is hidden within us... 

"Developing the honesty it takes to unmask the self to the self is no small task..."