Sunday, December 31, 2017

Not Only "THE HEAVENS Declare the Glory of God"...

I love to watch - and photograph - the constantly changing sky.

My intention is to someday paint lots of sky pictures!

When I admire a particularly beautiful sky, the 3,000-year-old words of Psalm 19 often come to mind:

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands..." (Psalm 19) The world out there  is truly amazing!

This past year, I've been giving a lot of thought to the world in here, as well. I've come across a few books about our amazing digestive systems.

In the book, The Mind-Gut Connection, Dr. Emeran Mayer writes:

Your gut has capabilities that surpass all your other organs and even rival your brain. It has its own nervous system... often referred to in the media as the "second brain." This second brain is made up of 50-100 million nerve cells, as many as are contained in your spinal cord.

The immune cells residing in your gut make up the largest component of your body's immune system; in other words, there are more immune cells living in the wall of your gut than circulating in the blood or residing in your brain marrow... The gut-based immune defense system is capable of identifying and destroying a single species of dangerous bacterial invaders that makes it into our digestive system when we accidentally ingest contaminated food or water. What is even more remarkable, it accomplishes this task by recognizing the small number of potentially lethal bacteria in the ocean of a trillion other benevolent microbes living in your gut... 

I try to picture this amazing scene: A trillion benevolent microbes in my gut. Among that trillion, some of these microbes have the capability of identifying and destroying potentially lethal bacteria. They recognize them...!!! A trillion different microbes...?!

When I think about the complexity of this digestive "battle" going on in the body of every person alive on the planet, I am awestruck: "The heavens declare the glory of God..." -  BUT SO DO OUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEMS!! 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Favorite Books of 2017

One of the pleasures of the past year has been discovering new books and authors I've enjoyed reading. I highly recommend the following books, many of which can be found in a public library.

Bob Dylan's memoir, Chronicles, Part 1, looks back on life - from his perspective - in the decades when when I was in my teens and 20's. It was fascinating to see how much determination is needed to make a career in music. If Dylan ever adds to his chronicles in parts 2 or 3, I'd definitely like to read them, too.

I'm so glad I've discovered Norman Doidge's two books on the brain, The Brain that Changes Itself and The Brain's Way of Healing. When I'm finished reading my copies, I'm going to encourage everyone I know to read them. There are so many practical things to learn from these two very readable books on recent brain research discoveries, not only about new ways of dealing with medical problems like strokes, but also understanding habit formation and learning disabilities, to name a few.

I've discovered a few interesting Christian writers this year. Two of these books are in our public library, where I first borrowed them, but I decided I needed my personal copies.

I look forward to reading more books by these authors in the new year:

When I was a child, books were an important part of my life. They encouraged me to think about life beyond my little world and to reach for more. All these years later, books still expand my experience and understanding.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Cold Snap

We are in the middle of our first "cold snap" of the season...

(The expression "cold snap" would have been puzzling to my immigrant students during my teaching days! I'd have explained it as a few days or even a week when the weather stays very, very cold...)

This cold snap may last almost a week. We may have to plug in the block heaters of our cars several hours before using them...

Even our modern extra-thick windows now have ice build up on the inside... Once the sun comes out, we will have to wipe them down as the ice melts in the sun.

It's at times like these that I have such respect for the early pioneers and native peoples who lived in this part of the world before houses had all our  modern conveniences.

(Really!! How did they do it?!)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Using the Library

Do others use the library as much as you? Terry asked me recently. You always seem to be getting automated phone calls from the library telling you books are in.

I think so. Books I request often have a long waiting list. But maybe most people don't use the public library exactly like I do...

I rarely go into my local branch to check the shelves. Instead I go online...

When I hear about an interesting book, I check the online catalog to see if our library has it. If they do, I put a copy on hold.

(The library has more than a dozen branches, so the book I want is rarely in my local branch.)

I can also request  books in various formats: conventional paper books, e-books I download from home on my e-reader. at. Increasingly I've been requesting audio books on CD.

From time to time, I check my account to see if any books I've requested are available. When they do come in, I get the automated phone call Terry was mentioning (above).

I see that two titles I've requested have arrived. Another is in transit. Maybe I'll wait till it arrives, too.
When I head over to my local branch, I go straight to the "on hold" shelves. There I find my books waiting with my name on them.

I take them to the checkout machine and check then out. I rarely need to talk to a librarian at all...

When it comes to returning the book,. I can drop it into an outdoor drop box at any library branch. They are accessible 24/7.

I can also drop it off indoors - again putting it into a slot where it lands on a conveyor belt and is automatically checked in.

I should add that if I've requested a downloadable book for my e-reader, which I like to do in winter when I don't want to go outdoors. I wait to hear that it's available, then download it via the internet. When I'm finished reading it, I simply delete it. No need to even go near a library building!

The library also lends movies, music CD's... and musical instruments. I'd like to borrow bongo drums sometime. I don't think you can renew instruments - there is along waiting list for each one!

(So different from the way I used the library when I was a child!)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Button Store... in Montreal

I'm on a "knitting fast" - until January, due to tendinitis in my wrists. But I hope to get back to knitting again before long. In the meantime, I still have knitting plans... and I need some dramatically large buttons for several sweaters I hope to knit for myself this winter.

Last winter I knit this orange one. I liked the pattern so much that I plan to make another in green. I thought it would look more interesting with larger buttons. But large buttons are hard to find.

On my last visit to Montreal, I hunted for some.
Checking online, I discovered that Montreal has several shops devoted to buttons.

We headed over to the closest one...
A large button sign above the door assured me that I was at the right spot!

I ended up buying three sets of three large buttons (seen in the picture above).

You should really bring in the sweater, the owner said when I told her what I was looking for...

Yes... But I didn't know I'd have time to shop for buttons... And the sweater isn't finished yet!

On my way out the door, buttons in hand, I noticed a collection of vintage wooden hat forms...

Are they for sale too? I asked.

They were!

Hats! Another hobby I'd like to try sometime...

(But not right now!)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mauve Quilt... Done!

I have been working on this mauve quilt for a few months now.

Finally, it's done!

After having second thoughts about it, I like it again! The white squares light up the quilt - like lights on a Christmas tree.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Dinner at the Miller's Oven

Two weeks ago, Terry and I had our second turkey dinner of the season... in Manotick's Miller's Oven!

It was delicious!

(Our first one was at Upper Canada Village in early December.)

Terry's favorite - lemon meringue pie - was served for dessert.

Later we enjoyed the white winter scenery at the nearby mill...

Long winter shadows... but perfect Christmas postcard weather!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

"Marshmallow World"??

I remember a conversation I once had with my sister-in-law, a Texan.

When it snows in Texas, we put bowls outside to catch the snow. When the bowls are full, we add cream and make ice cream. Do ya'll do that in Canada? she asked.

I've never heard of that, I replied. We think about the speck of dust that every snowflake is built on, and the polluted air that it floats through. It doesn't seem all that clean to us - though children sometimes open their mouths to catch falling snow on our tongues.

That conversation comes to mind when I hear the winter feel-good song, "Marshmallow World"!

Whenever I hear it, I think: Some people have obviously never experienced snow... except in a picture!

But on second thought, winter might be more bearable for me if every snowfall meant more ice cream - preferably Ben and Jerry's!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Iphone (Problem) Update

A while ago, I mentioned that my iPhone screen was acting up. Halfway down, the screen had developed a pinkish hue. At times, this film turned into noticeable dark vertical bars that blocked the view even more. Unfortunately, the warranty date had passed.

I decided to put up with the inconvenience until I qualified for a new free phone in March - though it was annoying.

But then I had second thoughts. The discoloration was very distracting... Maybe I should just pay the extra and get a new phone now?!

I was on the verge of doing that when the problem cleared up. Or almost... That pinkish discoloration in the bottom left may not be normal. But the screen is clear when I read my emails.

The phone may not be perfect - but I'm happy that I didn't spend the $160 Apple wanted to fix it! I'm in no rush to replace it now either.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Quilt Progress

My mauve quilt is slowly coming along. I like to do a little every day while listening to an audio book...

I'm machine quilting it - which gets more awkward the bigger it gets. My sewing table isn't all that large - but I have a chair next to  it to help support the quilt while I sew.

Whenever I work on a quilt - I inevitably go through stages of not liking it! (I'm currently at that stage with this one...)

It would be easy to put it away unfinished at this point. But these days I'm trying to  finish everything I start...

(This is what the quilt back looks like.)

One of my quilting goals is to use up my stash, without adding to it.

(I wonder how many quilts I'll be able to make.)
Once this quilt is done, I'll be checking out my bins of fabric and all the quilt photos I've saved on Pinterest.

(There are so many nice ones!)

Then I'll start planning my next project!

(Or maybe I should finish one I started - then abandoned - years ago?!)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter's Shortest Day

Winter is here - the snow that fell two weeks ago is here to stay.

You'd think that today - the shortest day of the year, as far as sunlight hours are concerned - would be our halfway point in winter...

Every day will have a few more minutes of sunlight now - until June 21 arrives.

But, in reality,  winter has just arrived. The  coldest, stormiest weather is still to come.!

I can't get too excited. It will take several months before lengthening sunlight hours have their desired impact!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Delighted! And Surprised!

I recently came across an article about a best-selling music CD - featuring Christmas music sung by a group of young nuns from Ann Arbor, Michigan...

I ordered it... It's lovely! The voices remind me of the boys' choir my daughter and I heard daily while attending a conference at Canterbury Cathedral in England.

The nuns in the picture accompanying the newspaper article look young...

According to the article, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, is a religious order only 20 years old - but it is growing. It began with 4 sisters and now has 130.

Many religious orders are dwindling. To find one that is young and growing is a happy surprise!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Hat for the "Modern Man"

When we were in Prince  Edward Island last May, Terry bought a hand-knit toque at Northern Watters Knitwear  - a shop where yarn as well as hand-knit clothing are sold.

At the back of the shop, we saw hand-knitters hard at work, on their hand-knitting machines.

Now that winter is here, Terry often wears his new hat. It's cozy and warm!

But I was recently surprised that one like it featured in a Simon's ad - as fashionable for the "modern man"!

(Rarely does Terry find himself wearing the latest style!)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Winter Art

I avoid looking at winter snow paintings in summer...

I don't want to be reminded of my least favorite season once the snow is gone!

This winter scene was completed in my first acrylics class.

Here is another winter scene: a laminated post card of Terry's hometown church, in Lennoxville, Quebec.

I bring it out in winter.

And here is a framed print Terry was given in appreciation of his many years of work, before he retired. It's shows skaters on the canal.

My most recent painting - of cardinals in winter - will only be out as long as there's snow on the ground!
Like art on display at the Miller's Oven tea house in Manotickpaintings should be seasonal!

Once the snow melts, I put this warm throw away, too.

Who wants to be reminded of white snowflakes when they're gone?!