Saturday, March 31, 2012

just the road

Do you remember learning about perspective? How two parallel lines will eventually meet at some distant point on the horizon;
Like a road going over a hill.
When someone suggests Keeping Things In Perspective, I always wonder......
Is it just that once time has created distance, a problem will seem small?
But what about now, while I am standing next to it.
It can be hard to Keep Things In Perspective when you are standing in the shadow as it looms over you.
It's not a matter of time.
It's a matter of seeing.
A few steps into the light,
"A light for my feet and a lamp for my path."
I don't need to see the end of the road.
Just the road.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

destined to increase

This is a picture of cousins perched on the sofa like birds on a wire.
Seven children.
The fact that five of them belonged to my parents is a minor detail. (hey, a pun, oh well)
My mother married long before the rest of her siblings, so she had a dreadful head start in the family department and the others never really caught up.
Our very first cousin was my age (he's dangling off my brother's lap) and was followed one year later by another cousin, also in the photo, and then it was like popping corn for a few years.
I am the little girl in the centre of the photo, sitting snugly on my sisters lap.
My distrust of photographers was already evident and destined to increase.


This is one of those timeless black and white photos;
Two little sisters, one as fair as the other is dark;
A little brother who has been pressed in to service as their "baby."
I love how my brother and sister's clothes were all made from the same fabric. Makes me think of the ill-fated curtains in Sound of Music and the super coordinated Von Trapp children.
Fa....a long long way to run
Sew....a needle pulling thread


Have you ever heard a warning note sounding in the distance?
A gong?
A tolling bell?
Some forgotten detail has finally managed to assert itself.
You may suddenly grow serious, pensive.
You may even gasp.
Such was the case this evening when a chance comment from a friend brought Sally Lunn to mind.
If you have read a previous post where in I expounded the virtues of Sally Lunn and shared a family recipe, I confess now, abjectly and with great remorse, that I had omitted instructing you about the "second rising."
Please forgive me, and try again if I steered you wrong.
And if you hadn't tried your hand at this old family's a good thing,
but you now safely can.
Fire up the oven and get out the mixing spoon!


My commute yesterday morning began so uneventfully;
Traffic steaming together toward some invisible destination.
There was road construction as always.
There were lane changes and traffic lights as usual.
The weather was blandly clear, and even the skies held no hint of the unexpected.
And that was probably why I gasped so loudly when the unexpected appeared.
right in front of me,
flying low,
were five swans.
Five huge, snowy white swans, their necks stretched out, their winds spread wide,
streaming towards some invisible destination.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

inside jokes

Don't you love inside jokes.
A word or two, and your companion knows instantly what you are remembering; an entire story compressed into a statement.
Last weekend my husband and I walked against the icy wind as it swept the beach.
"Oba Kaybe," I uttered.
He knew instantly.
He knew my face was numb.
As though I'd been to the dentist.
That I was remembering the Cosby Show.
Sometimes I say, as though to comfort myself, "There's no such disease Dave," and my husband knows instantly.
He knows that I am feeling mortal.
Morbidly mortal.
That I am remembering Stuart McLean telling the story of Dave who, fearing the worst, goes into the back yard and does the only Tai Chi move he knows to distract himself from feelings of morbid mortality. His wife Morley, upon seeing this, calls out the window, "There's no such disease Dave." An inside joke within an inside joke.


The seashore is alive;
Windswept and gray.
At first glance it seems deserted but the air rings with the voice of the gulls.
Tiny crabs scurry for cover.
Star fish glisten at the waters edge and ducks bob on the surf.
A thousand clams lie hidden.
The wind draws us out, out toward the undulating shoreline; where foam wavers and I think of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid; forever foam upon the sea; the price she paid for loving.
It doesn't seem such a sad fate to me today.
To ride the ocean currents under the great dome of sky.
Forever free.

the sea

Last Sunday the sky brightened.
The wind swept the clouds to the horizon and piled them up.
It seemed a perfect day to go down to the sea.
Pointing the car towards White Rock, we sped off.
Plenty of parking this time of year.
Sand stretched away, like a maze.
We zig-zagged toward the surf in the distance.
Wind numbed, we leaned against the cold and soon forgot everything but the sound of the gulls and the steady rush of the pebble filled waves.


The week seemed to contain more than the usual "life lessons."
Those button pushers.
It started to be funny.
"I don't think we got it, so we're going round again," I wryly confessed.
Sort of like hiking and saying to your companion, "Haven't we passed that tree before?"

lumpy rain

Lumpy rain is falling.
I hope you know what I mean by that.
Rain is usually a liquid, but sometimes it is almost snow.
We should have a word for that.
There is a myth that the Inuit have a hundred words for snow and it seems that here on the coast, we should have at least half as many for rain.
There is drizzle and drip and mist and spit.
Downpours, torrents, and rain falling in sheets.
Showers and sprinkles and streams.
Cloudbursts or drenchers and even monsoons.
But what about today?
Winter owns snow, as Spring does rain.
It is in this no mans land of seasons, this month of March that the two collide.
And the rain continues to lump down.

Friday, March 16, 2012


My mother-in-law was so short.
Less than five feet.
Even when her hair was curled.
Even in slippers.

She laughed.
Until she cried.

And she had no lap.
She was short and round and jolly.

Hard working, resourceful, gentle.

She could take the most ordinary things and turn them into mouth watering morsels.
She had a knack with food.

Her home was warm and lovely, filled with beauty.
A reflection of her.

that gentle man

I only knew my father-in-law for a hand full of years.
I married in 1978 and he passed away in early 1983, yet, I can still hear his gentle lisp, his accent softly spoken.
He and Annie were a team in their old age, their daily rituals entwined.
She worked at the stove while he set the table, his slightly bent figure passing back and forth carrying the woven basket filled with  rich brown bread and white slices studded with fruit.
Theirs was a life filled with meaningful structure.
Prayer and church, quilting, gardening, music, reading, cooking, visiting.
He had learned to weave wicker as a boy on the sugar beet farms of Europe and bowls and trays were deftly turned out.
He loved plants of all kinds and his gnarled hands were gentle and wise.
He sang as he worked, his voice rising higher and higher....
He was my husbands father, my girls grandpa, my kind father-in-law.
It will be thirty years next spring since I saw him last, that gentle man.

nice cup of

There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.
Bernard-Paul Heroux

serenity and pleasure

Serenity is a solitary cup of tea; Pleasure is sharing it with another.

toast and tea

Bread and water can so easily become toast and tea.
Author unknown

Thursday, March 15, 2012

sally lunn

I made a Sally Lunn tonight.
I have always thought of this as my grandmothers very own bread and was rather taken aback to see that Google knew all about Sally Lunn.
It's a wonderful bread, a batter bread, no kneading required.
It bakes in a tube pan and looks more like cake than bread.
It is low in sugar and fat and studded with sweet, dried currants; practically health food.
It's a family heirloom, a gift from some long ago twig of my family tree no doubt.

A cup of steaming, fragrant tea and an ample slice of Sally Lunn is one of life's great pleasures.

Take a mixing bowl and pour half a cup of lukewarm water into it.
The temperature of the water is important because yeast may look dry as dust, but it is actually alive. Hot water will kill it dead as a door nail, and cold water will stun it into inactivity.
Sprinkle about two teaspoons of yeast over the water as well as a pinch of sugar. The sugar is food for the yeast. Apparently, when it awakens in the warm water, food is on its mind.
Let the yeast soak in the warm, sweetened water for a few minutes.
Five is usually plenty.
You will see the yeast rise to the surface of the water and look abit frothy.
This is a good sign.

I used to put one quarter of a cup of water, half a cup of milk, half a cup of butter, one third of a cup of sugar and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and heat just enough to melt the butter.
Of course, then I had wait until the mixture was cooled slightly so as not to wipe out the happy yeast in the mixing bowl.
Now I often use olive oil instead of butter and just add the liquids, the oil, the sugar and the salt into the mixing bowl and get on with my life.
You can add half the oil and it will still work. And less sugar too for that matter. I love recipes like that because I don't really like to measure.

Anyway, add the quarter cup of water and half cup of milk and quarter to half cup of oil and up to one third cup of sugar and a pinch of salt.
Then add three eggs or less, one or two will still work, and add one and a half cups of flour.
You can beat this batter with a spoon or an electric mixer until it is smooth as satin.
Then add another two cups of flour give or take a smidge.
You want a stiff batter.
I usually cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let the batter rise for an hour.
Then I stir the batter and add a generous amount of currents, half a cup at least. Citrus zest could be good and so could finely sliced, dried apricots, but currents are traditional.
The batter gets scooped into a greased 10 inch tube pan, but loaf pans would work too.
The batter is probably going to hold together in the bowl like a big blob and you'll have to encourage it to spread out in the tube pan. It's kind of clingy that way.
Let rise for about an hour or at least half an hour if you are rushed and desperate.
Double in bulk is a good goal, but it will rise more in the oven anyway.

Bake at 325 for about 45-50 minutes.

Put on the kettle and get out your favourite mug.

power of the primrose

I used to rush to buy primroses in the spring when they first appeared in the stores. Their vibrant petals wooed my color starved self after the gray weeks of winter. This rash behaviour seemed always to be followed by several weeks of wretched weather; winter with a mood swing. I finally put two and two together and began to eye the early primroses sceptically. They were a plot, a trick.
Years have passed with my resolve firmly in place.
Step away from the primroses!
This year, as March began, I weakened and brought home a small planter bursting with spring color, a burnt orange primrose front and center.
We have had hail and thunder, swirling flakes of snow falling from blue skies, howling winds and rain falling in sheets.
Such is the power of the primrose.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

sorting and polishing

It is not unusual for me to go back to a post and tweak it;
A little adjustment to the spelling or grammar.
Sometimes a word or phrase trips me as I re-read.
Occasionally even the title gets scrapped and redone
Usually, the ending just happens and I know I am finished with the telling but sometimes I go back later and re-write it. It's fun to do that.
I like to think of this as sorting and polishing although I originally thought of the name Sort and Polish as a reference to memories, that they are something we sort and polish like a collection of stones.
I have loved doing both the sorting and the polishing.

Friday, March 9, 2012

in fact, it is

Children observe with an eye for detail that would put Sherlock Holmes to shame.
I remember when my grandson was a tiny toddler, and infatuated with hockey.
When he stood, shifting his weight from foot to foot and sang, "Oh Can-na-naa..." we knew that he was imagining himself a Canuck.
We understood the national anthem, but what was the shuffling about.
Then it dawned on us all.
Hockey players shift their weight from foot to foot in an effort to dispel pre-game nerves while waiting for the opening formalities to end. It is hard to stand still on skates.
My grandson had observed this restlessness and thought it part of the ritual of hockey, which I suppose in fact, it is.

knee high happiness

My leather shoes have heaved a collective sigh of relief.
I have purchased gum boots at last.
Three decades of damp feet are already a distant memory.
What can compare with the pleasure of stalking through sodden fields clad in ruby plaid boots.
Knee high in happiness.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

armed and dangerous

Our hellebore is a thing of beauty.
If it is true that perennials crawl the first year, walk the second and run the third, ours is leaping over hurdles and high fiving its companions.
It has been growing in our garden for more than ten years but was adopted without a birth certificate so I have no idea how old it really is. I am guessing close to twenty.
It is one of the few plants that we simply couldn't leave behind when we made the move from Walnut Grove to Aldergrove seven years ago.
We dug it out of the ground in fall and found a place for it near the entry at our new home. We hoped it wouldn't be homesick.
It didn't bat an eye.
Each year it has increased in size and will soon be visible on Google Earth.
I remember the first time I saw this old friend; our hellebore.
Walnut Grove was intersected with old trails that seemed to start in the middle of nowhere and go to about the same sort of place. I suppose this is what happens when an area that has been rural, sells off by bits and bites as a community develops.
Old homes disappear and in time, property is subdivided and sold.
Being a frugal gardener, I often approached developers to see if plants could be rescued. The answer was always yes, and our garden was soon bulging at the seams with vintage roses, Four O'clocks, spring bulbs and evergreen shrubs.
When I spotted the hellebore, it was living on borrowed time. I dashed home for a shovel and pail and returned to size up the project.
I tromped in a circle around the plant a few times and took a tentative stab at the ground with the shovel.
Grass had grown in around the plant years before and it would be tough going to dig it out.
I lined up the blade of the shovel and stepped down.
I moved around the plant, stomping and chiseling away.
I leapt on the edge of the shovel with both feet and jumped awkwardly backwards.
A movement to the side caught my eye.
I was suddenly aware that I was being watched rather closely.
My flailings had been monitored with some fascination by a very large, striped garden snake.
Finally concluding that I was armed and dangerous, it hastened homeward.
I rather shakily plucked the hellebore from the ground and hastened home myself.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

breaking the bank

I had several piggy banks in my childhood and they all had one thing in common.
Something sort of ominous.
The money could enter, but never exit.
Unless you smashed the china pig or decapitated the plastic soldier of course.
The money was as secure as Fort Knox.
Now that was saving at its finest.
Well, it was hoarding at its finest too I guess.
Breaking the bank, literally, never seemed worth it somehow and so we saved on.
Those quarters and dimes added up.
Became weighty.
Registered on the richter scale of our conscious mind until some "thing" was eventually deemed worthy of slaying the pig.
I can still feel the ambivalence.
Is a bird in the hand worth two in the bush? I wonder.

free willy

I remember when I was so short that I couldn't reach the light switch in the bathroom.
Undaunted, and in an amazing feat of eye and hand coordination, not to mention independent thinking, I would nudge the switch upwards with the broom handle.
We had a claw foot tub and I remember standing beside it, staring in wonder at a trout as it swam in an ever dwindling circle, sort of like pacing in a small room.
My brother had rescued a fish.
It had a tongue or lip piercing and lived to tell the tale it seemed.
I'm not sure how he got it home from the lake or who the unlucky fisherman was.
We never ate it for supper so I guess it was eventually deemed fit enough to travel.
To take the plunge.
To take to the lake.
Free Willy.