Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
Burton Hillis, pseudonym for William E. Vaughan, American columnist and author (1915-1977)

From our family to yours:
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

♬ O Come All Ye Faithful ♬

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

May the Blessings of Christmas,
Peace, Love, Joy and Hope,
Be with you tonight and all your days.
Merry Christmas Everyone!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Of Ice and Candlelight

You never really know your friends from your enemies until the ice breaks.
Inuit Proverb

We awoke this morning to an icy world; a beauty to behold but also one tinged with sadness because a number of trees bore the open wounds of broken limbs. One large branch succumbed to the weight of the ice and had thudded onto our roof, so Dad and I geared up and played lumberjacks all morning, sawing and hauling a great deal of wood to the backyard.

Then the lights went out. And, surprisingly, they stayed out. Usually a power outage lasts mere minutes. The rather uninformative information provided by the electric company on its website read that power would be restored by 4pm on Tuesday . . . 48 hours away.

So we ate a supper of cheese sandwiches by candlelight and snuggled under an extra layer of covers at 6:30pm for a long winter's night sleep.

Sometime around 7pm I awoke to the sound of the furnace's purr. Power had been restored. And with it the world of ice and candlelight has evaporated into a memory. Thankfully so.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Cat

There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat.
Tay Hohoff, author of Cats And Other People (1973)

 My aunt created the purrfect Christmas card for me showing a single black kitty with a white cross on her chest looking out the window expectantly. Her artistry is remarkable and her thoughtfulness touching. Thank you, it made my day.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

♬ Deck the Halls ♬

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Don we now our gay apparel,
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Lyrics of Thomas Oliphant, Scottish musician (1799–1873) for traditional Welsh carol 

Gay apparel donned many in the audience at the Bach Elgar Choir's outstanding performance of Handel's Messiah at the church on Saturday evening. The church offered good acoustics for voices and instruments and the trumpet solo sent enjoyable shivers down my spine -- not to be confused with the other shivers from sitting in a old stone building. ;-) The yuletide season rings in my ears and heart.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Queen of the Castle

(S)he that has a house to put's head in has a good head-piece.
William Shakespeare in King Lear

Cat and I received early house-warming gifts today from my aunt and cousin. Cat is as thrilled with her toys and treats as I am with my exquisite first-Christmas tree ornament.

Work at my little abode has slowed. Handles were added to the cabinets this week and I am very happy with the result. Without exaggeration, I must have looked at more than a hundred different handles of metal, ceramic, plastic, plain, painted, ornate, knobs, pulls, and lugs. All those choices and yet just one choice. I guess that made the decision easy. ;-)

Now I await the completion of the 'odds and sods' and 'bits and bobs' -- with the biggest bob being the installation of the granite countertop. I must wait 10 more days to see that landmark. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sunbeams on a Blustery Day

The juice of the grape is the liquid quintessence of concentrated sunbeams.
Thomas Love Peacock, English novelist and poet (1785–1866)

Thank goodness we can drink sunbeams on blustery grey days! And what better accompaniment to soothe chilled body and soul than a wee bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich! An adult update for the comfort food of our childhood is a thin slice of pear embedded amidst the cheese layers. This we learned from Sue Ann Staff's mom who manages the grill as Sue Ann serves her latest vintage to Wrapped Up in the Valley passport holders. The event gets better every year. We came away with a packet of good recipes and a few cases of red and white sunbeams that should get us through the winter. Cheers!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Kind of Exercise

You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
Psalms 128:2

Mom and I participated in the "Cookie Walk" today. This is my kind of exercise, balancing choices of chocolate and vanilla in one hand with almonds and caramel in the other. Yes, it's that time of year again when the whole church community comes together to put on the Christmas bazaar. The Cookie Walk is a tradition that we have become known for. The day's event culminates six weeks of training (aka baking) for Mom and it was so successful that there was barely enough leftover for the church mice.

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Little Sacred Space

The kitchen is a sacred space.
Marc Forgione, American chef

"What is a sacred space? At its most basic, it is a place which invites the contemplation of divine mystery, and encourages an attitude of spiritual openness."* For me, the kitchen certainly fits the bill as a sacred place where I can commune with the bountiful gifts of creation, perhaps sharing the joy with loved ones or just with my inner self.

Tingles of excitement rippled through me when I stopped by my little abode and found the carpenter working to install the kitchen's cabinetry. My dream is becoming reality. Shwaya, shwaya.** Next week the appliances will be delivered and the granite people will come to measure. Just maybe I will be settled in time for Christmas. Stay tuned.

*Definition found on the website for Santa Barbara Sacred Spaces.
**There are times when the lessons learned in my beloved Egypt prove most helpful to life in Canada.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Invitation to Dinner

. . . a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
Virginia Woolf, British author in A Room of One's Own (1882-1941)

On Monday, my new chairs arrived at the flat and I can't wait to have them set around the oak dining table that a friend made for me some twenty years ago and have them occupied by friends and family sharing in good food and good chatter.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Friendship Quilt

A quilt for a friend says what words cannot.

My apologies for the scarcity of posts over the past few weeks. Besides the Monday to Friday commute and work routine, my weekends have been a blur of activity with shopping trips for necessary odds and ends to bring the flat together, ever so slowly.

But I did have the pleasure this week of meeting up with a good friend for dinner and giving her the quilt that I made to wrap her in cheery florals. Kaffe Fassett's fabrics are over the top and inspire outrageous positivity. Life blooms in technicolor even in the greys of November.

Little quotations* are scattered throughout the quilt's garden. Considering that I completed the quilt at the end of August with the intention of delivering it to its intended in early September, this quotation is particularly appropriate: True friends are never far apart . . . maybe in distance, but not in heart.

*For anyone looking for similar quotations, check out the numerous options available at Block Party Studios.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Old Mother Hubbard

I'm a New Yorker; my oven is used for storage. 
Cheyenne Jackson, American actor 

My new abode is rather small so a main principle of the renovation is effective use of every inch. The newest achievement is the installation of shelving units in all its closets. One off the living room has now been transformed into my pantry. It's as bare as old Mother Hubbard's cupboard but I fantasize about bins of grains, jars of savouries, and bottles of wine. Soon. I hope.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

In Granite Heaven

The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.
Henry David Thoreau, American essayist, poet and philosopher (1817-1862)

The Earth unveiled an incredible range of beauty in thin, 2 and 3cm sheets as Mom and I wandered multiple aisles of granite slabs. My love of stone, its colour, its texture, and its history appears in several blog posts so it won't come as a surprise to my faithful visitors that I insisted on selecting the very slab from which my kitchen countertops will emerge. I am entering into a long-term relationship here so I'm being very selective.

I am very fond of "Golden Sparkle".

But I am also enamoured with "Torrocino".

Alas, I was heart-broken at having to turn away from the most beautiful "Rain Forest", but her marble composition would not withstand the responsibilities faced in the kitchen. I sighed a sigh of regret and moved along the rows with the cupboard and flooring samples, assessing their perfect mate. All were outstanding, and some were nothing short of stunning. We fantasized many grand tables.

The final decision as to which beauty receives the rose to become my kitchen amour awaits word from the contractor on their price points. Ah, yes, financial reality is very much a part of this otherwise heartfelt decision.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day Off in Lieu

When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.
Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author (1613 - 1680)

What a wonderful day I enjoyed in taking a Monday off work to run necessary errands in the morning and revisit my quilting buddies in the afternoon. Somehow,  having the opportunity to relax on a work day, to join friends to quilt, felt more salubrious than a weekend. I am restored. So tomorrow, it's back to work. ;-)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Floor Dance

When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It's to enjoy each step along the way.
Wayne Dyer, American author and motivational speaker

My kind readers will have to take my word that the new flooring looks more beautiful in real life than in today's photo. With the dark blue carpet gone and the laminate laid on the diagonal across all rooms, my little space opens up into a mini ballroom. I just might twirl myself in a freehand waltz, leaving little curlicues in the carpenter's powdery sawdust. And at those times when I get anxious that change is not happening fast enough, I just have to remind myself to enjoy each step of the dance.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Let the Renos Begin!

All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.
Philip Johnson, American architect (1906-2005) 

With a bit of trepidation caused by not knowing what I would find on the other side of the door, I entered my not-yet-home this evening to spy what my contractor has done. I was thrilled to see the old carpeting gone and the kitchen wide open thanks to the removal of a wall. Indeed, we are underway to creating a space to call home. I'm quite sure that my flat will never be called great architecture; nonetheless, I have every hope that it will contain, cuddle, exalt, and stimulate all who enter in.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Beauty in a Bag

Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
William Morris, English textile designer, artist, writer, and libertarian socialist (1834-1896)

Visiting a new quilt shop, I came away with a bag of beauty. These fabric swaths are destined to become stunning seat cushions for the dining room chairs. I am loving the creative ideas for the new flat that are bubbling over. Now, I just need to get to the sewing machine and turn some of those ideas into a beautiful reality. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Keys in Hand

There is something permanent, and something extremely profound, in owning a home.
Kenneth Carroll "Kenny" Guinn, American businessman, educator and politician (1936–2010)

Today marks a momentous occasion: I took possession of my very own mortgage for a condo in my hometown. Keys are in hand and, with luck, renovation work will begin soon as I create my very own space. Profound, indeed. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

No Escape

There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.
Pema Chödrön, American Buddhist nun, in The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World 

There is no escaping birthdays so, bathed in the light of family, I bit into a luscious strawberry and relished the moment.

Friday, August 9, 2013

California Hospitality

We all just take distinct paths in life, but no issue wherever we go, we get a little of each other almost everywhere. 

Bright, sunny, cheery, refreshing: words to describe the lemonade made straight from the tree and our welcome as eight "Felucca Friends" crossed time and space for a reunion at a lovely California home set upon a mountainside.

Far from the Nile and our trusty felucca captains, who steered our Thursday night sailings (sometimes into the reeds), we ventured aboard the Queen Mary for a glimpse into how the 1% live. The technology and history were certainly interesting, but the best part of the tour was quaffing a glass of wine with accompanying nibbles at the ship's Art Deco bar. In this we find a direct correlation between the little sailboat and the grand steamer.

A visit to the St. Gabriel Mission, built in 1771 as the fourth of a string of 21 California missions, held a contemplative element thanks to philosophic museum labels calligraphed long ago, such as:
Upon entering the Church look down
Note the worn tile smoothed by
Shuffle of leather sandels of old and
The abrasion of modern day Romans
Visitors, ponder these hallowed walls
Consecrated by Tongva hands . . .
Brick by Brick . . . Stone by Stone . . .
Rock by Rock, bonded by ground
Limestone . . . sand . . . sea-shells, hoisted
Up via rough hemp ropes, pulleys,
Torn hands . . . worn backs . . . primitive
Scaffolding, these children of the . . .
Earth labored some fifteen years . . .
Constructing this symbol of humankind's
Yearning to find comfort with God's
Enveloping embrace —
Yes . . . look down where ye stand . . .
Now . . . look up at these strong
Buttressed walls . . . .
Reaching for the stars . . . .
John E. Fantz . . . Museum Guardian

Contemplation continued during a visit to the Huntington Botanical Gardens and its newly opened Garden of Flowing Fragrance Chinese garden as various elements of architecture, horticulture and environment create beautifully spiritual zones such as the Terrace that Invites the Mountains, the Terrace of the Jade Mirror and the Pavilion of the Three Friends (aka the bamboo, the pine and plum blossoms).

We contemplated colourful koi and tricky turtles among the Huntington's lily ponds where I learned the origin of the hard pods sold to create tall arrangements in Canadian living rooms.

While all of our forays fascinated and inspired, for me the most outstanding must be the Getty Villa. The rarefied air on a mountainside overlooking the ocean, the exceptional art collection, the stunning Pompeiian architecture and the tinkling garden fountains take my breath away.

Every excursion concluded with our return to the most comfortable and friendly villa paradiso to toast good friends with fine wine accompanied by the tastiest nibbles. May the "Felucca Friends" gather again to share in the camaraderie formed upon the Nile's waters.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

On Retreat

Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (161-180)

Beneath the mighty oaks of a retreat centre, my friend and I paused the frenetic rhythm of life for two days to sit quietly, take walks, breathe deeply, and chill. The highlight came this morning when we were blessed with the sighting of a doe, first in the woods and later crossing the river . . .

. . . being followed by her fawn. What a precious gift.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

As Seen on TV

Fame has only the span of the day, they say. But to live in the hearts of people - that is worth something. 
Ouida (aka Maria Louise Ramé), English novelist (1839-1908) 

I clocked in another minute of my fame allotment yesterday appearing on the morning programming of our local television station in one of their 'person-on-the-street' opinion pieces. I was already on the cutting room floor by the time I returned home from work, but the News Producer at CHCH kindly sent me a link so that I could see myself. As I figure it, I have about 13 minutes remaining on the fame meter.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

High Tea

I had a little tea party
This afternoon at three.
'Twas very small-
Three guests in all-
Just I, myself and me.
Myself ate all the sandwiches,
While I drank up the tea;
'Twas also I who ate the pie
And passed the cake to me.

Jessica Nelson North, American poet and author (1891-1988) in "The Tea Party"

I, myself and me joined Cousin S for a little tea party in a lovely tea room situated in a turn of the century home in the village of Jordan. Tea and a nice chat go together so well -- not to mention how well they accompany fresh scones with preserves and cream. A wonderful tradition!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lunch with Mom in the Garden

My mother is my root, my foundation. She planted the seed that I base my life on, and that is the belief that the ability to achieve starts in your mind.
Michael Jordan, American professional basketball player and entrepreneur

As kids, it was a family tradition to go for a drive on Mother's Day to enjoy the sight of orchards blooming in pink and white. We took that drive today to the Good Earth Winery in Beamsville for a Mother's Day lunch in Nicolette's cottage garden.

The nip in the Spring air succumbed to the warming (and spicy) asparagus soup that seemed to shout, "It's Spring! Dig in and celebrate!"

Rhubarb is Spring favourite and the Good Earth's cheesecake creation with stewed rhubarb provided the perfect finish to our garden lunch of Arctic char and lemongrass marinated chicken. And I should mention that the whole meal was accompanied by "2012 Betty's Blend", the winery's new release named in honour of Nicolette's mom.

Cheers to Mom!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Making a Joyful Noise unto the Lord

Touch us, O God, through your gift of melody,
through the sounds and senses of song,
through the wordless wonder which fills our souls with heaven,
through the spirit which teaches our feet to dance
and causes our hearts to overflow.
Holy Singer of our life songs, may we be absorbed in the mystery and holiness of music,
so that, in this moment of oneness,
our lives will be bonded to each other and to you. Amen.
Music Sunday Prayer, Melrose United Church

Multiple gifts of music filled our sanctuary with adoration today, thanks to the hard work of the Music Director and Youth Chorus Co-director who orchestrated the voices of adults and children with bells, flute, cello, saxaphone, bagpipes, piano and organ. Incredible and moving.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Forest Delight

Anyone who tries to possess a flower will have to watch its beauty fading. But if you simply look at a flower in the field, you'll keep it forever.
That is what the forest taught me. That you will never be mine, and that is why I will never lose you.
Paulo Coelho, Brazilian author in Brida (1990)

I took the day off and wandered a path through the woods with the Time Traveller. What a wonderful surprise to find our path lined with trilliums. I have never seen the forest floor so covered in blossoms.

The white trillium is our provincial flower and so from a young age we are made aware of the specialness of this forest beauty. It takes six or more years for a plant to produce a flower which blooms for a short time in early May; so we were very lucky to be walking in the woods at just the right time.

While the white trilliums turned their faces towards the sunlight, the spectacular red trillium preferred to look towards the shadows. Bold colour but reserved personality.

A few other spring beauties along the path were unfamiliar. We were blessed with a warm and bright spring day that was made all the more special with the gift of this unexpected beauty.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rejoicing in Sunlight

Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.
Henri Frédéric Amiel, Swiss philosopher and poet (1821-1881)

Looking down my spirit leapt up as I realized that I was seeing sunlight on the station's platform. I've seen snow and I've seen rain. Today I finally saw the sun. Nor was I alone in celebrating: three sailboats danced on the lake, as did the ball players on the diamonds, as my train whizzed by. May everyone celebrate seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Quilts in the Gardens

Within our sitting room a table stood,
Made by my father out of cherry wood,
On which thru summer day and winter night
A basket rested full of patches bright;
And from those scraps of variegated shades
My mother planned the many quilts she made,
From muslin and cretonne by some deft spell
Forming the flowers she loved so well;
The crimson tulip and the wild rose, too,
Were fashioned, each in its own shape and hue;
The drooping lily bent its modest head,
The pink carnations' perfume seemed to shed.

Mom and I enjoyed the Halton Quilters' Guild biennial show held at the Royal Botanical Gardens. One of my favourite quilts in the show was the lovely "In Full Bloom" created by Lisa Caron in honour of her parents 50th wedding anniversary. Pictured here is but one panel of a joyful creation.

In addition to the new creations, collector Gerald Fagan exhibited a dozen or so antique quilts including one from Atwood, Ontario, and created in 1895. I thought the quotation suited both flowers and quilts: "which maketh joy abound and comforteth the weary."

Oft from the brass-bound chest her quilts I take,
And from their folds the scented herb leaves shake;
Then on her own great, square four-post bed
The cunning labor of her hands I spread;
With lingering caress I softly touch
The beauty, oddly quaint, she prized so much,
While memory brings back the homely room
Where those bright blocks of flowers flamed in bloom.

Now for long years her patient toil is o'er;
Her quilt hands create her dreams no more;
Beneath a quilt of pinks and lilies too--
The prototypes from which her patterns grew--
She rests in peace. There, while she calmly sleeps, God's mystic coverlet above her creeps.

This be my faith: That some day I shall see
Life's complex pattern growing plain to me;
That somewhere I shall clearly understand
The great design worked by the Master's hand;
And that somehow love's thread may reunite
Our broken lives into a fabric bright,
And in celestial arabesques restore
The ties that bind us here on earth no more.
"My Mother's Quilts" by Carrie O'Neal preserved in The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America (1935)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Walk of Discovery

All walking is discovery. On foot we take the time to see things whole.
Hal Borland, American journalist and author (1900-1978)

At lunchtime the Sun was shining -- for once -- and my spirit was itching to escape from the hermetically sealed office tower. A colleague pointed me in the direction of a park and I ventured out against a brisk easterly wind to find the place where she sits in the summer to watch people with their dogs. My mind pictured a little green lawn surrounded by a few benches and many office towers. So imagine my surprise, and delight, to find a wide swath of natural forest just a few blocks away from the office.

What a wonderful discovery to find a walking trail lined with "Spring Beauties" and chirping birds!

Taking a closer look at what I think are Siberian Squill, I inhaled their lovely light perfume and the beauty of Spring. My little lunchtime walk refreshed my spirit. Weather permitting, I plan to venture further and discover more along these paths of discovery.