Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Beginning

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.
Ivy Baker Priest, American politician and treasurer (1905-1975)

All around the world this evening bubbles have been raising human spirits. I chose to take my celebratory bubbles in the bath rather than in the glass. Enjoying the relaxed bliss of warm water, cool vino and jazz music in the background, I tried my best to remember the significant happenings that marked each of the months of the past year -- not such an easy task as I figured that my daytimer wouldn't mix well with the water and bubbles. Nevertheless, I recalled with a smile the events that brought joy and satisfaction and I remembered with a nod of acknowledgement those events that tested my abilities to rise a little higher, a little better. All in all, it has been an amazing year to which I bid adieu. Turning from 2014 to face the new year, I am wide-eyed with anticipation that 2015 will bring new adventure and new growth.

As I will be soundly in dreamland by the time that midnight works its way around to my hometown, I wish all my kind readers a new beginning full of hope, full of joy, and full of love.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Cookies and Milk and Life

Think what a better world it would be if we all — the whole world — had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.
Robert Fulghum, American author, in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (1986)

Driving up the highway, Mom and I went back in time as we entered Jones Bakery. Today it looks pretty much the same as it did in Christmas of 1910. Children stretched themselves to see over the counter; first to point out to their dad the various baked sweets that he should buy and then to carefully select the penny candy, piece by piece, for which they held out their own money to the clerk. How many times has that scene been played out over the eons and across cultures? The child in all of us comes out in moments like this.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

♬ Joy is Now in Every Place ♬

Joy is now in every place,
Christmas lightens every face;
now be with us, in your grace,

May the star that shone that night,
making your poor stable bright,
fill our hearts with love and light,

Through the New Year let it stay,
leading us upon your way,
making Christmas every day,

Now and ever may we find
your good news to fill our minds:
peace and love to humankind,
O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.
Lyrics of hymn "Joy is now in every place", author unknown

In addition to the joy of Christmastide, there is much joy within my little abode as the quilted door hanging is now complete. It has been a work in progress for more than two years and I was determined to finish it for this Christmas. To my reckoning, I met my deadline because it graces my door before Little Christmas.

For me, the panel rings out joy with the angels and the stars in the heavens while the nobility of the camels emphasizes the glory of the occasion.

Just as the hymn urges, may the joy of Christmas fill our hearts throughout the new year so that we extend peace and love to everyone.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.
Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993), American minister and author

Let's keep Christmas in our hearts throughout the year!
Merry Christmas to one and all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Bethlehem Creche

The angel said, "Don't be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you – wonderful, joyous news for all people."
Luke 2:10

This evening I was honoured to read the Christmas story to those who gathered for family service at our church. I know the passage well but somehow it seemed all the more moving and powerful as I practiced reading it aloud at home before the service. The original Bethlehem creche is recreated in my little abode in a beautiful, hand-carved creche that Mom purchased in Bethlehem. I will treasure it.

May the hope, joy, peace and love of Christmas fill each of us tonight and shine outwards to others for all our days!

In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax list. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David's house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David's city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in the manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord's angel stood before them, the Lord's glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

The angel said, "Don't be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you – wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David's city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, "Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Casting the Hook

Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.
Ovid, Roman poet (43 BC – AD 17/18)

Mom and I presented my uncle with the fish quilt today after having a hilarious time photographing it beside the lake. This is another one of our shared works and I think it turned out beautifully. It began with the inspiration of a "loudmouth bass" (as opposed to a large-mouth bass, as I know them) pattern by Mckenna Ryan and grew from there. My uncle, an avid fisherman, appreciated that he finally caught a pickerel.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Nothing Better

There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.
Linda Grayson, author of children's books

My girlfriend indulged me during our weekend in Paris as I sought to find the best hot chocolate the city has to offer. The research required visits to three cafes famous for this sublime libation, each having its own atmosphere and different taste, but all presenting a deliciously thick and rich cup.

The experience left me doubting that I will ever be able to palate this winter favourite again as normally made from powdered cocoa, so this afternoon I tried my hand making a Le Chocolate Chaud using a recipe found on the Paris-based chef, David Lebovitz's blog. I didn't have the best-quality bittersweet chocolate on hand, but the result was quite passable. ;-)

Angelina serves its thick brew from a pitcher and with pots on cream on the side.

Its storefront is a sweet dream. We wished that we had tried the pastries rather than the rather bland Mont Blanc for which it is supposed to be famous. But the chocolate chaud lived up to its reputation.

Appropriately, on our Sunday in Paris we visited Un Dimanche à Paris, an elegant tea room serving heavenly morsels. The pitcher with a wooden handle and stir stick was pretty cool.

For coziness and pure comfort without any chic-chic-ness, I would return again (and again) to Mamie Gâteaux. I loved the lace curtains, the iron radiators and holding a bowl of hot chocolate in my hands. And its chestnut cake introduced me to a new taste sensation that requires further research. ;-)

Hot chocolate and Paris are a very fine pairing, as is chocolate and friends!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Afterglow

Divine fires do not blaze each day, but an artist functions in their afterglow hoping for their recurrence.
Ned Rorem, American composer and author

I continue to glow with Paris in my soul and selected my lunch from my workplace cafe to recall some of the weekend's good memories. While the repast rested on my desk and not at a tree-side table, it made me happy nonetheless.

After many attempts over the years, I finally enjoyed a tremendous steak and frites meal at Cafe des Musees. The cafe hummed -- and sometimes crashed -- with the flurry of meals coming from the kitchen and the conversations from tables upon tables of happy diners. Now that I have been once, I will be sure to return!

On the other end of the spectrum are my memories of the elegantly quiet Mon Vieil Ami with only a few tables, many of which were graced with bowls of pumpkin soup laced with chestnuts.

Perhaps I am most warmed by the memories of sitting under the trees on a glorious Fall day, wrapped in a red blanket, and watching the promenade of friends, lovers, visitors and locals all radiant in the day in Paris.

And then the waiter delivered lunch. Ah, mai oui! My memories of Paris remain very much aglow (and I hope for their recurrence).

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Good Idea

Paris is always a good idea.
Audrey Hepburn

I have just returned to my little abode after a business meeting took me to Geneva and passion took me to Paris. I love wandering her streets, indulging in her baguettes and feasting on her joie de vivre. I'll hold her in my dreams tonight . . . and present my kind readers with more photos tomorrow. ;-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Frosty Morn

Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.
Franz Kafka, Czech author (1883-1924)

The cold morning's frost on the window delighted me. Somewhere my mind was sending messages that I should be concerned about heat-loss or window sealings; but I pushed those cares aside and just enjoyed the beauty of the new day.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Catching Up

Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy (wo)man has no time to form.
Andre Maurois, French biographer, novelist and essayist (1885-1967)

It surprises me how fast the days pass. On the one hand, I know that it is a sign of growing old; but on the other hand, I know that it is a sign of a very full and rich life for which I am thankful. Although the thought of curling up in bed for a day of doing nothing is very appealing, I count my blessings that I am healthy and have nurturing friends, family and community that keep me busy with all sorts of activities that enrich body and soul.

This post attempts to catch up on all the wonderful activities that have kept me hopping over the past week. First, last weekend the three winos shared their pleasure of the Twenty Valley "Wrapped Up in the Valley" winery tour with a friend visiting from distant parts, regaling her with our stories of past pleasures. One of the new pleasures was imbibing the vista from Mike Weir's winery while quaffing Pinot Noir accompanied by herbed forest mushroom and creamed chevrai flatbreads. Life is good.

A couple of days later, my friend and I marveled at the detail of the Christmas windows of the Hudson's Bay Company in downtown Toronto.

And then yesterday, the church hosted our annual Mistletoe Bazaar with a cookie spread that looked a lot like Santa's dinner table. A heavenly scent of sugar, butter, chocolate and spice escaped from each carton that we opened. The last week or two have been busy but, oh, so sweet!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Rejoicing in Creation

Friday, November 7, 2014

There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.
John Calvin, French theologian and pastor (1509-1564)

The visit of a friend presented the opportunity for doing the out-of-the-ordinary routine. With the help of a step stool (necessary for some on us), we launched ourselves onto beautifully elegant beasts and pranced through the woods of Niagara in awe of the colours, the hawks and the sure-footed friend carrying us.

All the fresh air left us with an appetite and the lunch served by the student chefs and servers at Niagara College's Benchmark restaurant deserves at A+. We wish them well as their team represents Canada at the world culinary competition. Aside: Do try mashed potatoes with arugula. Delicious!

Satiated and glowing from the ginger pudding, we entered into a world fluttering with amazing beauty at the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory. Truly awestruck by the array of incredible colours and designs of creation. The "Gallery of Emergence" had me spellbound at the mystery of life unfolding.

After a walk along the quiet main street of Canada's prettiest little town, we drove along the darkened parkway to one of the world's natural wonders, Niagara Falls. Spectacular; and very difficult to capture on our cameras.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In Thanksgiving

Thank you!
Everything in me says “Thank you!”

I kneel in worship facing your holy temple and say it again:
“Thank you!”
Thank you for your love, thank you for your faithfulness;
Most holy is your name, most holy is your Word.
The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength.
When they hear what you have to say, God, all earth’s rulers will say “Thank you.”
They’ll sing of what you’ve done: “How great the glory of God!”
And here’s why: you, God, though mighty care for the lowly;
you humble the proud and champion those in need.
When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil.
Finish what you started in me, God;
I know that you will fulfill your purpose for me.
Your love, O God, is eternal:
Everything in me says “Thank you!”

Psalm 138 as translated by Eugene H. Peterson in  The Message (alt.)

Being sure that my face remained very close to the microphone so that the words of scripture would be heard through the church, I read Psalm 138. I felt that I was reading my own words rather than those of someone living two or three millennia ago. I figure that this shows that gratitude is deeply rooted in the human psyche.

As our minister pointed out, Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough showed that those who acknowledge gratitude experience higher levels of optimism, both physical and mental well-being, a healthier lifestyle, and are more likely to offer help and emotional support to others. An “attitude of gratitude” -- whether for family, pets, direction or dessert -- really makes a difference in our lives as well as the lives of those around us.

Thank goodness there is at least one day a year when we take stock of that for which we are thankful as well as that for which we ask for help.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sew Fun!

A day patched with quilting seldom unravels.

Mom and I enjoyed the day at the Hamilton Quilters Guild biannual quilt show, being inspired by the beautiful creations on display, the demonstrations of new techniques and, of course, the vendors with their I-don't-know-what-I-will-do-with-it-but-I-must-have-it fat quarters. A friend, who is an inspiration with her program to bring comfort to people in long-term care facilities through gifts of lap quilts, displayed one she made for herself. "Pickles" is a favourite cartoon and hers is a quilt that brought a smile to the face of every quilter.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sofa Contemplation

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and philosopher in Meditations

Returning home late tonight, I poured a glass of wine and stretched out on my new sofa. I looked up and saw the universe across my popcorn ceiling. What a splendid sight!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Be ordinary, but bring a quality of awareness to your ordinary life. Bring God to your ordinary life, introduce God into your ordinary life. Sleep, eat, love, pray, meditate, but don’t think that you are making or doing something special—and then you will be special.
Chandra Mohan Jain, known as Osho, Indian mystic, guru and spiritual teacher (1931-1990)

This morning I was cheered by the news that I am "unremarkable". While in other circumstances I undoubtedly would be disappointed by such assessment, today's evaluation came from a doctor reporting that there was nothing wrong. I am normal. Yay! I was reminded that so often we strive to be extraordinary when, in fact, we should be thankful for our ordinariness.

Tonight I received delivery of my unremarkable sofa which has made me very happy. It is not extraordinary. In fact, it's very unextraordinary. And it is exactly what I wanted. Furthermore, I take it on good (feline) authority that it is a comfortable place to curl up in.

So three cheers for ordinary!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tuneful Architecture

Architecture is music in space, as it were a frozen music.
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schellin, German philosopher (1775-1854)

Having spent most of my time over the past three weeks indoors, a walk across the park yesterday gave me a new perspective on my place of employment. Fumihiko Maki has created an architectural gem that does seem to reverberate across the surface of the reflecting pools with tuneful music.

Many have been commented on the museum. Below are a few of the news stories, in case you missed them. ;-)

Wall Street Journal

The Art Newspaper


The Toronto Star

Globe and Mail


City TV


The Guardian

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Opening Day

Guests bring good luck with them.
Turkish Proverb

What a wonderful scene to having guests lined up at the door at 10am this morning! And what a wonderful noise to hear their excited chatter in the grand corridors of the museum's atrium. We are open for business and truly a museum. Hurrah!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Building a Swing

You carry
All the ingredients
To turn your life into a nightmare-
Don’t mix them!

You have all the genius
To build a swing in your backyard
For God.

That sounds
Like a hell of a lot more fun.
Let’s start laughing, drawing blueprints,
Gathering our talented friends.

I will help you
With my divine lyre and drum.

Will sing a thousand words
You can take into your hands,
Like golden saws,
Sliver hammers,

Polished teakwood,
Strong silk rope.

You carry all the ingredients
To turn your existence into joy,
Mix them, mix

Hafiz, Persian mystic and poet (1325/26–1389/90) in “To Build a Swing” translated by Daniel Ladinsky

The silence on this blog stands in inverse relationship to the activity over the past weeks as staff rallied to prepare for the opening of the museum by His Highness the Aga Khan on Friday.

This grand event was followed by the launch of the museum's performing arts program with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble under the auditorium's stunning muqarna-inspired dome. The ensemble's fusion of western and eastern musical traditions achieved through listening, empathy, respect and friendship among the diversity of musicians, lifted the spirits of everyone in the audience with its incredible positive energy.

Everyone, including those exhausted by the intense activity over the past weeks, felt the meaning of the words of Hafiz that introduced the evening:

We carry all the ingredients to turn our lives into joy, mix them!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Interpretation of the Truth

Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish.
Mark Twain, American author (1835–1910)

Further to my last post, I now present my very own original creation, entitled "Rainbow Trout". While working on this applique, I often thought back to the fish sculpted on the tombs at Saqqara and the artists' accuracy that enabled scholars to identify the numerous species that graced Pharaonic dinner plates. While I take heed of Mark Twain's wise truisms and hope that there are not a lot of fishers among my kind readers who might question the veracity of my depiction, I am satisfied with my fabric interpretation. So undaunted I dive into deeper waters. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Applique Anodyne

I am certain that a Sewing Machine would relieve as much human suffering as a hundred Lunatic Asylums, and possibly a good deal more.
Margaret Atwood, Canadian author in Alias Grace

When I can, I enjoy sewing after dinner. I find it very relaxing to concentrate on the stitches. The cares and stresses of the day are forgotten. A new project that Mom and I have undertaken has me learning how to applique. While there is room for improvement (always), I am quite happy with the results of this first attempt. The bass, completed this evening, arises from a pattern by McKenna Ryan called "Something Fishy". Beautiful batik fabrics provide such a lovely palette and now I am going to try my hand at 'painting' my very own applique fish. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Birth of a Museum

Throughout history, and sadly even today, fear of “the other” has torn apart communities along racial, religious, linguistic and ethnic lines. Understanding “the other” requires a level of dialogue and knowledge which institutions such as museums can foster. Museums have a strong educational impact: they present evidence of material cultures, without intermediaries, in a direct way that appeals to people both on emotional and intellectual levels. The need to bridge the growing divide of misunderstanding between East and West is pressing and, therefore, I have chosen to establish a museum of Islamic art, the Aga Khan Museum, in Toronto, Canada.
His Highness The Aga Khan

Today there was much jubilation at work with the announcement of the opening of the Aga Khan Museum on 18 September and I was among the first to sign up for a membership. To see spectacular images of the collection and upcoming programs, visit the newly launched website. I am honoured to be a part of this creation that I sincerely hope will build more accepting relationships between people of different backgrounds.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Blowing Bubbles

In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.
Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher and poet (1844-1900)

Bubbles epitomize all that's magical and wondrous in our lives, bringing raptures of glee even to an old heart if but for a moment. They pop or simply evaporate so quickly, yet hearts remain cheered by their brief presence. Ah, how good it feels to feel as a child once again.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Rainy Afternoon in the Vineyard

Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.
Benjamin Franklin, American writer, inventor, scientist and statesman (1705-1790)

In your mind's eye, imagine a gaggle of black umbrellas huddled in the midst of row upon row of vines that arch over a small hill that descends into the watery distance. This was the view shared this afternoon with my cousin over a lunch at the Ravine Vineyard in Niagara. The rainy day did not deter visitors; the restaurant buzzed with animated voices. So as the rain descended from heaven onto the stunning landscape of vines, we enjoyed the view, the food and the chat. The suggested pairing for my lunch of mussels was the Chardonnay from their Sand and Gravel line. It was certainly unique to find sparkling sand at the bottom of my glass. As I came to learn, in generations past the family sold these earthly commodities before the production of Niagara grapes and their vintages realized their value.

In addition to producing some tasty vintages, their restaurant produces some fine vittles. Dessert is a must in our family, even if we don't finish our lunch. ;-) I have it on good authority that the Strawberry Pistachio Cobbler with a spoonful of buttermilk ice cream was delicious.

And the presentation of my Coffee Crinkle Caramel Ice Cream Sammy was outstanding.

So on some future rainy afternoon, I will meander through a vineyard in my mind's eye, as I sit in my rocking chair quaffing something sparkly -- like rain on sunshine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Secret Garden Philosophy of Life

"What is Spring like?"
It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine.
Frances Hodgson Burnett, English playwright and author, in The Secret Garden (1911)

Opening the little square door on my mailbox usually reveals an empty hole; if not that, then a bill. What a surprise to find it today stuffed with a package that was brimming with love. The package contained beautiful fabric, needles and instructions for a type of quilting that poses a new learning challenge for me and was selected as an appropriate project for working on during long commutes to and from work. This incredibly thoughtful gift also contains what I will now call my "Secret Garden philosophy of life". How beautiful! Thank you!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Home-Cooked Celebration

Instead of going out to dinner, buy good food. Cooking at home shows such affection.
Ina Garten, the "Barefoot Contessa"

My brother and sister-in-law cooked up a lovely meal this evening to celebrate my birthday. I enjoy going out to restaurants but it is a wonderful feeling to sit back and appreciate family gathered comfortably around the table relishing a home-cooked meal and conversation.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dolled Up

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
Coco Chanel, French fashion designer (1883 – 1971)

I received this touching photo today taken during a fabulous 90th birthday event last weekend that had guests dressed in 1920s flare. It's so much fun having an opportunity to get dolled up and blow bubbles!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I'm Back

The ideal of calm exists in a sitting cat.
Jules Reynard, French author (1864–1910)

And it was a wonderful vacation!

Ford, Farm and Friends

Friends and quilts are great
No matter how they are put together.

I had a wonderful vacation with friends at their farm set among the rolling hills of central Alberta. I brought along a quilt that I had made. The small 'windows', framed by barn-board fencing fabric, contain chickens, cows, horses, pigs, and a house that is strikingly similar to their home.

I spotted the Ford and barn panel at a stitchery show two years ago and knew immediately who would enjoy it. (His truck is a GMC not a Ford, but he'll forgive me.) I hadn't worked on it since things like a job and home renovations filled my spare time so when the opportunity arose to visit the farm, I  worked a little frantically to complete the project with help from Mom, who stepped in to sew the binding. May it bring warmth and comfort for years to come.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Smile, breathe and go slowly.
Thích Nhất Hạnh, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, poet and peace activist

As I sat waiting for the departure of my night train, I was astounded to look outside the window and read the message, "Remember to breathe", emblazoned across an iconic image of an Alberta landscape. Here was a moment of synchronicity when unrelated events are meaningfully related: I have not seen these wrapping advertisements on wheels until this ride home at the end of a workday that marked the beginning of my vacation . . . in Alberta. I have been longing for Alberta's wide open spaces and big skies that stretch one's spirit from one horizon to the other. Looking out the window, I let out a deep sigh. As Carla Melucci Ardito writes, "Learn how to exhale, the inhale will take care of itself."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Gifting Roses

The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.
Chinese proverb

A dear neighbour shared with me her tea set and memories of her late husband nurturing fragrant roses in their garden. I look forward to hosting afternoon teas with, perhaps, a small posy on the table to accompany the lovely china set.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Creativity in a Barrel

The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.
Pablo Picasso, Spanish artist (1881-1973)

On today's road trip in search of the perfect sofa (a successful one, I should add), Mom and I admired people's creativity with their flower potting. First we spotted a bright yellow bicycle in the midst of green shrubbery with a sunny bouquet standing tall in its basket. A few miles along, scarlet begonias overflowed from an old wheelbarrow. Later, stopping at a roadside diner for lunch, we found a very creative way to recycle old wringer-washing machines as planters. Who would have thought!

It was a cheery sight made all the more joyful because I can remember "helping" my mom with the laundry beside a similar machine when I could only just peek over the top of the barrel at the swishing, sudsy water. My job was to "catch" the clothes as they descended from the wringer and to make sure that they landed in the laundry basket rather than on the floor. I probably only "helped" once or twice, but those times are inscribed among the leaves of my memory.