Friday, April 29, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Zoom Zoom

Here we Z. 

Looking back on the posts for this challenge, I have noticed two things.  One, that the list of post topics would make a great post all by itself.  I wonder if we could all write something that incorporated all 26 of our words or phrases?
The second thing that I noticed was that I have written a lot of nostalgic posts this month.  So, I'll end with some laps around Memory Lane.

This is the first new car that we ever bought.  I absolutely loved everything about the Boss 302 Mustang.  I loved the color - bright yellow.  I loved the sound of the V-8 engine.  And, most of all, I loved the power.  It felt so cool to be (not much more than) a girl and drive this amazing almost-racing car.   Have to admit that we were in debt for a while but it was worth it.  I never really did much more than drive this beauty.  But my then-husband used to race it.  Oddly enough, I don't think I ever saw him drive in a race.  Maybe that was macho territory.  OK to let the little woman drive your car around town.  Just don't give her ideas of racing, too.  
We kept that car for longer than either of us could stand.   Ironically, it became too noisy!  There were other cars but nothing ever matched that Mustang.  It became a legend from our past.  Times changed and needs changed.    I've never really lost my love of driving but that kind of car is not for today.  Now, I drive a sensible and useful station wagon in a sober shade of gray.  Suits me and my life now.

But, every once in a while, I remember I drove that beautiful yellow car. 

A - Z Challenge: Yard

I didn't think that the letter Y would be the most challenging so far.  Heck, I can think of lists a yard long filled with Y-words.  But I found that writing about them was harder than it seemed.  Finding photos even harder.   And you all know I like pictures.

The word 'yard' kept popping into my mind and just kind of stuck there.  I thought about what having a yard means to me.  When I was a young apartment dweller in the city, I longed to have a back door.  I wanted to be able to step right out onto the earth.  I needed to stand beside my open window and smell the garden growing.  I needed a back yard.

Having a yard is a lot of work,  I discovered.  I have dug and carried tons of earth over the years.  I've planted and replanted gardens.  Spent hundreds of dollars in nurseries and plant sales.  When I think about it, most of  that has gone into the front and back yards.  But, in looking at some photos, I realized that there are side yards, too.  These are the work yards - the corridors for the wheelbarrows and booted feet.  Here's where the composter  and the rain barrel quietly take care of business. 

During the winter, the side yards look a little drab.  But once spring comes, they come to life. On the south side, the wisteria and roses  bloom, the ferns grow tall and finally the raspberries ripen.  Down the north side grow bracken, poppies and cornflowers.  The path is covered in moss which only gets more lush in the summer.  It's like having a carpet laid down.  Now maybe the attraction is that long narrow shape.  I don't know.  I just like being there. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Xie Xie

A couple of years ago, I took some lessons in speaking Mandarin.   Another one of those things that I'd always wanted to do.  Today, I can remember off the top of my head only two phrases.  "Xie xie" (pronounced 'sheh sheh')  is one of them.  It means "thank you".

So today's post is a thank you to the hosts for the A - Z Challenge.  And a thank you to everyone who has visited, commented or become a follower.  I know the challenge isn't quite done yet but I wanted to say I've had a blast.  I've met so many wonderful bloggers here and I'm planning to visit with them often.  I'll make some tea.   I'm chuffed that so many visitors found something in my posts to keep them coming back.  My usual morning stroll down this village street has been enriched with so many new friends to greet. 

So, here's to you all:  XIE XIE!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Wind

Wind is like Mother Nature's spring cleaner.  It blows all the cobwebs away.  It creates a new energy.

When I was a child, I would love to stand in a strong wind and just feel the energy as it pushed me back.  Sometimes, I would turn around and let the wind amplify my own energy.  Then, I would run and run and run.  Even now, when the wind blows,  I feel the urge to run with the wind.    However, running takes more than a stiff breeze in my sails these days.

Humans have known about wind's energy for a long time and have used it effectively on a small scale.  The power generated by the wind was caught by windmills which came in a huge variety of shapes and sizes.  Recently,  we've developed the technology  to 'farm' the wind.  I  remember the first wind farm I ever saw in Alberta.  It was by today's standards small - only a few turbines.  But I found it thrilling.  I still love to see those big white towers with the arms turning high above me.

Much is made of wind's clean and renewable energy.  But the wind is also a cleansing and renewing agent.   The first windy day after the cold of winter, I like to have all the windows flung open to let the wind blow through the house.  It picks up all that old, dry air and carries it away.  Then I know that winter is truly over.

I also love whirligigs.  Those often eccentric pieces of folk art that are created just to catch the wind.  Our dory-man came from Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia.  He's been rowing back and forth for years now - every time the wind blows -  and he never stops smiling.  I know exactly how he feels!

* sailboat photo taken by Andrea

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Violets

Meet Freckles!

She is not your typical 'shrinking violet'.  Freckles has lived in our garden for almost 15 years.  A friend, whose garden I had never seen, offered me a root of a violet with a blue and white flower.  She thought it would be perfect for a fellow member of Girl Guides.  (At the time, we leaders were wearing blue and white blouses.)  I had always loved discovering little clumps of violets hidden under trees along our hiking trails.  How wonderful to have a violet clump all for myself.  And such an unusual variety.   The handover was made and we planted Freckles with great care under the magnolia tree.  She has been very happy there ever since.  Very happy.

I would, however, caution you against thinking that Freckles needed adopting because she was a frail and tender young thing.  Not so at all.  Freckles has proven herself to be tough and determined.  She has a root system that rivals the buttercups.  There is no part of the garden that Freckles couldn't invade if we didn't keep her in check. Now, she and her descendants cover all the ground beneath that magnolia - and beyond.

But, through it all, isn't she lovely?  Each spring, I await the first fresh little faces with their cheeky grins,  I am never disappointed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Uncle

Through no fault of theirs, these two uncles were remote men who lived on the other side of the country in a time when travel wasn't as convenient as it is today.  I knew them as characters in stories that my mother told me from when she was a girl.  And there were a few - very few - photos.  In  recent years, there have been more and more photos surfacing as estates and the old photos  are sorted. And there were, of course, letters.  My mother carried on a constant correspondence with two of her older brothers.  While they may have seemed faraway to me they did take an interest in their sister's children.

My children had a much closer relationship with their uncles.  These men were nearer, geographically, which I'm sure, made all the difference.  There were summer holiday visits and vacation trips with cousins. My kids' uncles were always a presence in their lives - and still are.

The latest generation of uncle is no less close.  I can't imagine being hugged like this by my uncles.  I never saw those photos of them as young men until I was an older adult.  They always seemed kind of starchy - probably a result of  posing for photos.  There would have been no baby-tossing for the men I saw.  And, definitely, no sitting around in the summer eating hot dogs and having burping contests with my uncles.  My sons see their nieces and nephews often.  They get down on the floor and play. It makes me smile to see them together.

I often wonder if mine would have done that if they had lived nearby.  Or would the times have dictated a certain distance for them as adult males?  Maybe they would have just cried "Uncle!" if we had attempted to rough-house the way kids do now.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Good times in the garden

Over the past three days, we've spent many hours out in the garden.  It was perfect gardening weather with bright, warm sunshine.  We tackled the layers and mats of buttercups which had filled in any bare ground they came to.  Sometimes, I had to wrestle buttercup tentacled-roots from around the roots of some hapless plant which stood in the way of their relentless march.

Yesterday, after all this bending, pulling and sifting - and many bags of garden waste - we found we have a beautiful garden again.  We can see those lovely perennials and they've been given their growing room back.  Compost has been spread out, dug in and soil raked over.  All ready for the seeds.

Yesterday I planted my pole beans - I managed to find Scarlet Runner seeds, my favorite - and a packet of bush peas we'd gotten free at a garden demo.    I added another row of spinach to the one which has already come up.  And I replaced a row of Swiss chard seeds which I think I planted to soon as they failed to germinate.  Planted a row of cilantro, some Italian parsley, rosemary and dill plants.  I admired and praised the mesclun (already growing quickly) which were released from their wire cover.  They have to go it alone now against those visiting critters who like to dig.

I planted out some crocosima 'Lucifer' corms that I found at a plant sale.  We divided the hostas and planted them.  Somehow, a pecan (we think) decided to grow into a wee tree - we saved it in a pot.  These mystery volunteers are always our favorite garden adventures.  The raised beds are all prepared for potatoes, tomatoes, squash and, we hope, some strawberries.  A shopping list for the nursery  has been drawn up. Today, the sunny blue skies turn gray and misty again.  I'm so glad to see the rain and give my muscles and aching fingers a chance to recover.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Telephone

My Dad  worked for the telephone company until he retired.  My Grampy did, too.   You would think that I'd have a better relationship with the telephone.   For me, it will never take the place of a good sit-down natter over a cup of tea.

I was a telephone-using teenager - remember the hours we all spent on the phone?  Our home had a private line by then and there no impatient neighbors picking up the phone and yelling at us to get off.   Sometimes we didn't even talk, we'd be listening to one of our radios turned up loud so we could each hear our favorite song.  Yeah, I definitely used the phone a lot.

Now, I'm uncomfortable talking on the phone for more than five minutes.  Once email entered my life, I abandoned the telephone as a communication device.  I know that it's sometimes difficult to get the feeling of your conversation with email but I sure like it better than the telephone.  I can do it any time.  This is a great help to brains on the senior side of 50.  I don't need to remember a bit of gossip until I see someone - I can share it right now.  At 2 am even.  In my jammies.

If you call me on the telephone, I'm taken by surprise.  Not always pleasantly.  Cue the telemarketers.  Is there any body of workers who are considered as loathsome?  I do  know they're just doing this to pay the bills but somehow that doesn't help.  And, having to have a real-time conversation can be dangerous when dealing with my volunteer colleagues.  I find it's best to have everything in writing.  Others find that that 'snap decision' telephone conversation is the best way for them to operate.  Most of my snap decisions are wrong - guess I'm a slow thinker. 

So, I prefer not to answer the telephone.  There's a perfectly good answering machine - albeit with the funny pre-recorded message that came with the phone because I'm too lazy/challenged to make another. I know that many people can't stand a ringing phone and must instantly answer it.  Not me.

A while ago, you all heard about my adventures with the iPhone4 and it's subsequent return-to-dealer episode.  That was another T-word (time) throwing a spanner (very low-tech) in the works - not the telephone itself.  Typically, I haven't managed to activate either one of the two free cell phones that are sitting on my desk at the moment.   I love the techno-toys but I think they're better when oriented to writing.

In an interesting twist, my Dad also preferred email when he got the hang of it. The telephone was his emergency lifeline where help was only a speed dial away.  And, for me, too.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Summer

Yesterday I was complaining about the cold, cold spring.  Then I went out to play in the garden. 

These were the summer pictures I had in my head as I pulled out the rampant buttercups.

And as we dug in the earth to plant our newest climbing rose. It will be, I hope, a bright red and climb happily over the carport. 

The sun was so warm I could work in shirtsleeves - a first for this year.  The dandelions shone a fringe-y yellow in the bright warmth.  It seemed we all slowly stretched and came alive.  At last I could believe that we will be seeing the kids play their summer games before long.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Ranunculus

Or, as it's better known to most of us:  buttercup.

Our much-colder-than-usual spring has delayed getting out in the garden.  Usually by this time, I've either thrown in the garden glove or I've won a few battles.  But this year, they have been able to "live long and prosper".  And when buttercups are happy, they know how to show it.

Come the first really sunny day (today) and they make little yellow happy faces wherever they've decided to homestead.  Buttercups spread underground in a very sneaky, yet effective manner.  So unlike my friend, the danedelion, which is upfront and honest in its propogation habits. 

Right now, the buttercups have made little leafy mats everywhere they could find bare ground.  These plants dig their roots in deeply and hold on tenaciously when I try to pull them up.  The only solution is to dig over the ground and try to get as many as possible.  Along with their sneaky roots. 

Today, I'm determined to get the upper hand :  Let the Ranunculus Wars begin!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Quiet or Quietude?

I woke up this morning thinking about Q.  The sun had risen not long before and the birds were in full song.  A car's tires swished softly in the distance.  It was quiet.  That's it!   That's my word for today: Quiet.

I like quiet.  Yesterday was a long day full of human interaction and concentrated thought.  I chaired our AGM and we had a happy day of thanking our volunteers and making a fuss over some very special people.  But today?  Today, I want to be quiet.

Quiet doesn't mean silence.  It means a noticeable lack of chatter.  It means reading a book - not watching TV or listening to music. The reality is, silence would be hard to come by in our world.  Might even be disturbing.  Imagine if the birds didn't sing.  Or the trees didn't swish in the wind.  Today the squirrels chatter and clatter as they race along the back fence.  Only the crows are silent as they stealthily pick up twigs for their nests.  In a few weeks, their raucous cawing will fill the air in a warning to the hapless who stray under their tree.  But for now, the only sounds are soft. 

So, I'm lying there thinking about Q and counting the sounds of morning.  It is peaceful.  I realized that the state I'm really enjoying is Quietude which the Oxford Dictionary defines as " a state of stillness, calmness and quiet in a person or place".  That's more like the word I want:  Quietude.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Paper

Mmmm...I love paper!  There are so many different kinds of paper and so many different uses.  It's a truly awesome fabric. 

Obviously, I most enjoy the kind of paper that I can write on or read from.  Here I am  at the keyboard and monitor but my heart is back with the morning newspaper on the table.  Where I can hold the pages, fold the pages or sit down with a pen and write on those same pages.  I can carry it with me wherever I go.  I can give sections to others or I can cut pieces out and share them.

But paper has so many other applications.  I can wrap gifts in thin tissue or wrap meat in heavy butcher paper.  I can use freezer paper as a temporary fixer for appliques.  Paper is soft enough to make a wearable fabric yet strong enough to withstand the sewing process.  I can wipe up a child's tear  or mop a puddle on the kitchen floor.  There is furniture made of paper as well as the wall covering behind it. 

Artists use paper in another whole range of ways.  It can be folded into the most intricate of origami shapes.  Or be the foundation for a delicate watercolor.   Where would photographers be without paper to print their amazing and imaginative ways of looking at our world?  Children of all ages enjoy a chance to smear paint on paper with their hands. Masking tape can be a helpful tool if you do the big kind of painting. And  I almost forgot about coloring books which have their own way of encouraging creativity.

Paper boxes hold everything from rings to the contents of your closet.  We have sticky notes to remind us - and others - of chores to finish.  An envelope can bring money or a request for payment.  Greeting cards are created and sent to invite, thank, share good news or console. A paper calendar (or two), an address book  and a little notebook keep me well organized. 

I've worn paper shoes, paper hats and carried paper flowers.  I have used paper dishes at a picnic and thrown paper airplanes.  Paper dolls were a favorite pastime when I was a little girl.  We greet each with business cards and hold a cut closed with paper tape.  My groceries used to come home in paper bags and the kids' lunches went to school in smaller versions.

Paper use has changed over my lifetime but I doubt that it will disappear altogether as some used to predict.  I still have a pile of paper on my desk.  It still cascades through my mailbox.  And the bathroom cupboard hasn't seen much downsizing.  The shredder doesn't work as hard as it once did but that may say more about my retirement than my paper use. 

The new e-books are still not getting my attention although I can see their practical side.  But for me, practical doesn't always carry the day.  I like the feel of paper.  I like the smell of a new book.  And a stack of new books holds promise as well as immediate pleasure for the senses. Somehow I can't see computers eliminating paper from our lives.  If anything, we seem to be creating more uses for it.  Maybe the paper manufacturers creating new applications to make up for the lost revenue from printing on paper?

What do you think?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Ocean

This is my ocean. My piece of the Pacific can take on many different looks. 
Stormy sea

A sunny spring day

Taking a walk in the morning

Always hunting

Old docks for fishing boats

The working ocean

A home for tide pool creatures

Floating hotels

Waiting for a handout

My ocean is never still, never boring and having it close by makes me happy.  I think it would be hard to live away from the sea.  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In the park

Yesterday, I spent the morning pulling out invasive plants from a local park.  Sponsored by the community association and the seniors,  we had about 25 volunteers come out to help with the clean-up.  Our mission was to pull up the horse chestnut seedlings, as well as to eliminate sycamore maples, blackberry and holly.

The youngest was about three and his big brother (all of 5) were very good at stomping down big piles and dragging branches.  They even brought their own little gardening gloves.  There were high school kids, families and retired folks - all out to help.

Even Mr Walter Draycott, a pioneer of this area, gets handed a shovel.

We found lots more than we bargained for.  As usual, there were many non-natural treasures to be found.  People seem to think throwing stuff in a creek is OK as a disposal method.  Are they hoping the current will drag this out to the ocean?  I can tell them that it never works. 

My papparazza came late to the party so I'm packing up ready to go.  I did put in my time - honest!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Numbers

We have a love-hate relationship, numbers and I.  I think the best kinds of numbers are most like words.  Since words are really what I love.  Sort of like saying that the best kind of dogs are like cats - it's not a very useful comparison.

I like numbers that  have a concrete meaning.  I can weigh, measure or count and have a visual.  I think I see numbers in mind's eye like those fridge magnets for kids.  So far, so good.  I was pretty good at arithmetic in school because it's just memory anyway.  I had no trouble with that and I still don't.  Those times tables were pretty much drilled into my brain.

The trouble started in junior high school when numbers started to change.  Arithmetic turned into mathematics.  Now, we're in the world of theory and I'm still at touchy-feely.  I admit that I struggled all through high school with algebra.  I needed to have university level maths to get through my first year and that was probably what tipped me over the edge.  I could understand the formula.  I could do the calculations.  But what I couldn't figure out was when to do it.  I know that for those of you who aren't number-challenged this seems like easy stuff but it was not for me.

Naturally, being an English major, I could drop those pesky numbers as soon as I got stuck in to the right courses.  And drop them I did.  But, the arithmetic stayed with me and, just as my teachers had predicted, fractions and long division did come in handy along the road of life.  Like for doubling a recipe or altering a knitting pattern  You are getting that my life is mostly pre-calculator, right? 

And, now the world is crazy about sudoku puzzles.  I have tried  and find it too taxing for my mind.  I can do it but I have to think SO much just to figure out one line.  Only to discover that it's probably wrong anyway.  'Cuz now I've got a bunch of other lines to figure out - and oops! there's that number I already used. Trying to do these puzzles has given me more empathy with non-crossword folks, though.  I understand their frustration with the interlocking words now.

Last thought:  I wonder which came first -  the word 'numb' or the word 'number'?

Friday, April 15, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Mess

My name is Stephanie and I'm a messy person.  There.  I've said it and I'm not taking it back.

In one of those conflicted quirks of my mind, I love to look at neat orderly rooms.   My favorite style of furniture is Shaker with its simplicity and spare beauty.

But could I really live this way?   No, I could not.  I look at a tidy room as unused.  It's just a starting point for real life to get started.  And real life, for me, is a messy place.  My desk is a jumble of papers - horizontal storage, it has been called.  My sewing/everything else room is piled with veritable archaological digs of stuff.  My keyboard lives there with stacks of music books.  Rug hooking wool that won't fit into the neatly organized cupboards is in huge Ziploc bags.  The quilt frame is in the middle of the floor.  Projects and patterns are everywhere. 

At least this is how it looks to the untrained eye.  Me?  I can usually put my hand right on whatever I need.  You see, I'm one of those people who forgets where things are if they're put away.  I think I carry a mental snapshot of the mess in question and can probably describe everything accurately.  AS LONG AS NO ONE MOVES IT!!! 

Inertia is the secret to operating in a messy environment.  That and a messy mind to begin with.  I like variety so I do a whole bunch of different things.  My desk is a perfect example.  If you look carefully, you will see a ball of yarn, a rughooking book and a book on sock knitting.  There are bills to be paid - who doesn't have those piled somewhere? - and my voter card.  Pens, pencils and a flashlight.  Are these not important accessories?  A mug of tea is a necessity and passes without question.  Piles of computer paper - natch!  Little frog friends make me smile and Miss Piggy reminds me to relax.  It's all here, trust me.

The other secret to this way of work is being able to cram everything into a small space.  It's an art form.  Yet, I am spatially challenged so I can't do those organizer things because I don't see how everything can fit.  I just push it all in, pile it all up, spread it all out. There's something so comforting about having the walls close in.  No, wait!  I am not a hoarder.  Just messy.

Happy, happy.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Love

Ah, love!  It's springtime, when,  according to Tennyson, a young man's "fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love".

I found this little wood carving at the sale last weekend.  It was just so sweet and tender, I had to get a photo.  I especially liked the little 'acorn' cap on the baby.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A - Z Challenge: Knitting

My earliest existing project: a Carnaby Street 'mod' when I was 17.  About 6 inches tall

Keeping my hands busy,
Needles and fingers flicking
In tune with my heartbeats.  I have knit
Trunks full of yarn and many
Thousands of stitches
In rows enough to reach to the moon.  It's as
Natural and necessary as breathing. A need that ties me with yarn to
Generations of past and future knitters. 

Afghan with appliqued 'sweaters': hand-spun yarn, hand-dyed and knit with love a few years ago


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