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Monday, January 30, 2012

Ducks Feeding

Ducks gather in the yard.

In any sort of weather, they come to be fed.

They come to socialize and see what's new.

To be alone with a quiet meal.

Perhaps to share with a special friend.

All photos are mine.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Robins After a Storm

Outside my window 
a world of ice, 
glitter hangs from the trees.

The sun touches all with light
and robins come to call.

Inside, my world brightens,
full of abundance,
watching the robins
in the rowan tree.

All photos are mine.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Head Cold Whining

“The best way to take care of yourself is to care for your Self.”  This quote is from the back cover of a book I’m reading, Self-Care for Life.

I believe this. 

All month I’ve read daily suggestions about self-care and have improved my own self-care routines.  However, this seems odd and a tad useless given that I’ve had two colds during that time.

I was miserable with my first cold which lasted for two weeks.  I became better; well again for a solid week.  This new cold began Monday past and is worse than the first one. 

My eyes feel like someone inside my head is pushing on them.  My face aches from sinus pressure.  My ears and throat are sore.  Coughing, sneezing, runny everything—you get the picture.  I’m a mess!

I’m frustrated, cranky and feeling sorry for myself.  Today, this cold prevents me from attending a pot-luck party I’ve been anticipating for weeks.  Really annoying, missing friends, food and fun!

I am at a loss about how to help myself get well.  I’ve tried lots of rest, combined with over-the-counter cold and flu remedies. I’ve stayed at home this week, gone out for essentials only, plus one class I couldn’t bear to miss.  If you've read my blog entry for January 9, 2012, you’ll remember the stack of cold remedies in the first photo.  I've managed to go through all of those "cures."

Following home remedies to care for my cold, I’ve consumed hot lemon drinks, hot ginger drinks, and herbal teas and fruit juices.  I’ve sipped chicken soups, eaten heaps of fruits and vegetables and gargled with/inhaled salted warm water.

I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.  I know that colds take time to run their course, but I am weary of a box of tissues as my best friend.

Any suggestions?

The photo is mine.  If you click on words printed in color, you will be taken to another website with additional information.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Vampire Knits

Winter means knitting and knitting means rummaging through my yarn stash, and seeking out a suitable pattern.
Knitting pattern books can be expensive so I search for free patterns on Internet sites.   Those I most often use are: http://www.knitty.com  and http://www.ravelry.com.    If a book is what I crave, my favorite source for knitting pattern books is the New Brunswick Public Library Service.
I’ve currently borrowed the intriguing title Vampire Knits, Projects to Keep You Knitting from Twilight to Dawn.  Author Genevieve Miller dedicates her book to “knitters and vampire lovers everywhere.”   Vampire Knits, which acknowledges its connection to Stephenie Meyer's “Twilight” series and to other vampire stories, includes more than 25 knitting projects designed to appeal to vampire fans.
From the section called “Protect Me”, this pattern for pulse protectors (otherwise known as scarf and fingerless gloves) vows to “keep your most tempting veins and arteries under wraps.”

This hooded cowl promises protection for the neck from bloodthirsty vampires, while helping one blend into the midnight shadows when worn as a hood.

Each pattern has a vampire theme, includes vampire lore, with an occasional quiz thrown in to test your knowledge about the historical evolution of tales of the un-dead.  You’ll discover clear knitting patterns and solid practical pointers with easy-to-follow diagrams for everything from gloves and scarves, to shawls, sweaters, capes, pillows, totes and jewellery. 
I’ve been fascinated by vampire movies since childhood, years before the current romanticized cult following of all creatures vampire-ish and werewolf-y.  For me, the book is a fun read.
Vampire Knits is available from the New Brunswick Public Library Service.  If you would rather purchase your own copy, you’ll be comforted to know that a portion of the sale proceeds is donated to the Red Cross, “who’ve been helping humans get the blood they need since before Edward Cullen was born.”
Thanks to Genevieve Miller for this sensational knitting pattern book.
Copyright belongs to Genevieve Miller, of course.
For additional information, click on words in colour to go to another website.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pheasant Love

The weather has been spring-like for the past few days.  Warm enough to fool the Ring-necked Pheasants, or at the least warm enough to fool the male pheasants wandering through our yard.

They've begun chasing the females, trying to gain their attentions.  One amorous fellow spent most of the morning pursuing a dun coloured female.  She would neither allow him to approach closely, nor would she let him wander away from her, an elaborate game of hide and seek, of  "come here-get away."

He would run and chase to within a foot or two of the female, then position himself so she was standing beside him.  When he could see her watching, he would puff up his wing and neck feathers and would rapidly flap his wings.  With ear tufts erect and wattles turning bright red and swelling, the male displayed himself seeking her approval.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, the quote goes.  But even though he ventured, the female pheasant isn't interested, not yet.

( A detailed description of pheasant mating rituals can be found here.)

This Mallard male watched bemused.  He knows Spring is far off and eating cracked corn is the essential need until then.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Feeding the Ducks

Gary is usually out early to feed the ducks in our yard.

As soon as the ducks notice the kitchen lights
 coming on in the morning,
they begin landing on the snow.

If Gary doesn't go outside right away,
they'll line up in front of the kitchen windows and
quack at him as he sits at the table inside.

That will usually coax him to go outside
with the containers of cracked corn to feed his ducks;
proof that nagging works...sometimes!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Knitting Book Review

Three years ago when I stopped working at paid employment, I decided to cease buying books.  It wasn’t a hard decision; I no longer had any cash to spare for purchasing books. 
Since then I have begun a growing relationship with the Public Library System in New Brunswick.  http://visions.gnb.ca   I cannot obtain every book I want, and some I can get, I have to wait a few weeks to take out.  Because of the library, I have been able to keep myself supplied with good reading materials. 
It is easy!  At the library, I applied for a library card, so they can keep track of me and the books I borrow.   I request help from the pleasant librarians, in finding authors and books I want or I can go online at  http://visions.gnb.ca  to search, to request a hold on a book and to check on the due dates for returning those I have at home now.  The library system is most cooperative; they will deliver the books to Riverview Library, the closest one to where I live.
The library provides me with a place to do research, to work on my writing, to use a computer, to attend workshops, to participate in authors’ readings, to learn about writing contests and publishers and lots more.
It is fun to take out several books by the same author, to have the luxury of reading a variety of that person’s work back to back to back.  A great learning experience about their style, as well as their evolving talent.
Currently, I have borrowed a book on knitting.  Doesn’t sound exciting?  But it is!  In addition to the practicalities of patterns, knitting how-to’s and instructions (most of which are aimed at more proficient knitters than I am); this book is full of fascinating stories and facts about global traditions, techniques and design.
Its title is Knitting On Top of the World, written by Nicky Epstein.  The book divides traditions into subsections: Far North, Windswept Isles, Old World, Around the Mediterranean, Far East and New World.  Each subsection begins with the history and techniques that are indigenous to that particular area, complete with stories of the men and women who developed these basic historical styles of knitting.
Nicky Epstein herself says that this book is “not meant to be a scholarly approach to knitting.”  Her book bounces around from Scotland to Iceland to Japan to Sweden to Russia to Latvia and around the globe exploring the history of the designs produced by different climates and cultures.  
 She then designs newer pieces to be knit based on those historical works.  And, labels them with “degrees of difficulty” (novice knitter, intermediate knitter, skilled knitter, master knitter) for those talented knitters who will use the book.  While I would love to be able to knit complicated designs, for me, knitting functions as a way to relax.  It is not relaxing for me to count stitches and to have to pay minute attention to each tiny stitch on my needles.  Perhaps I am at the pre-novice knitter category?
Having stated my bias, I still enjoy reading the information about the creative history of knitting and will be returning this book to the library soon, so that you could enjoy it too. It is an inspirational read and if you're a talented knitter, you'll really enjoy Nicky's designs and clear instructions. Happy knitting!
Photos of the book and page are mine.  Copyright belongs to Nicky Epstein, of course.  Click on links to learn more about Nicky Epstein and her many books of knitting designs.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Robins in the Mountain Ash

It is finally cold enough for the seed berries of the Mountain Ash to become sweetly full of fermented juice, ice wine for the birds.  The Robins are enjoying these, eating, singing and doing acrobatics on the branches.  Perhaps a little inebriated or just extremely happy?

A hearty Ring Neck Pheasant desiring to eat cracked corn, comes into our yard and chases the younger males and several small females away before he begins snacking.  He, who is largest, lunches first.

The cats are fascinated with this live show of robins, pheasants and ducks during their daily meal times.

Our cats are always kept indoors, so there is no danger to any birds from them.  Birdy TV is their favourite pastime; they love to watch, chattering away though the windows and to each other.

We are all lucky to have such an entertaining view!

All photos are mine.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ducks Have Returned

It snowed 5 inches, just enough to make
ground foraging a challenge.  
Gary went outside with the old snow blower
to clean the driveway
of the first snow accumulation this year. 

 suddenly ducks started landing
in the neighbour's yard
and waddling through the gaps
in the fences
into our yard. 
We hadn't seen them before this.

They milled around in the yard,
digging into the snow
and looking up the yard at Gary,
until he stopped blowing the driveway
and fetched them some cracked corn.

Is it possible...

that these are the same ducks as last year?

And that they recognized Gary, in his old blue yard-jacket,
as the same friendly fellow who fed them all last winter?

All photos are mine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thank You

Long ago, when I was young, very young, perhaps 10 years old, I learned that it is important to write thank you notes.  I had always known that it is important to say “Thank-you”, but Christmas time in our childhood home taught me and my four siblings the importance of writing notes to say “Thank-you.”

We lived in a home that survived because of my mother’s and my grandparents’ frugality and resourcefulness.   My parents had parted and my grandparents took my mother and the five of us into their home.  A major undertaking and an amazing act of love and generosity, especially in those long ago days of no social services and no laws to ensure that absentee parents paid any child support.  Making ends meet required imagination and creativity.

I remember Christmas as a lovely busy family time.  We didn’t have anything in excess but felt warmly loved with our gifts of homemade clothes and handmade toys from our grandparents.  Occasionally, there would be a “store-bought” gift or more rarely a gift of money from a more affluent auntie or uncle. 

We were raised to appreciate any gift, any thoughtfulness, any kindness and learned early the art of writing “Thank-you” notes.  After Christmas was over and before the school holidays were finished, my mother would sit all five of us down with paper and pencils to write notes.  For my younger siblings, she would help them by printing out what they wanted to say, so they could then copy it out in their own careful handwriting or printing.  Older children were expected to compose their own notes, with helpful questions, suggestions or guidelines from Mum. When each of us had finished, Mum would gather the notes (some worn thin from many erasures, some with tiny drawings, each expressing individual emotions) and pop them into a large white envelope and post them to the appropriate person.

Over the years during which we lived in our grandparents’ home, this ritual held.  Every holiday, every year, during the school breaks, we wrote the letters of appreciation for the remembrances of that Christmas.  It became part of our Christmas.  Part of our family’s rituals.

I still remember the wood and graphite smell of pencil shavings and the crumbly feel of eraser rubbings, the rough texture of the vellum paper we were allowed to use for special notes, the shaking of the wobbly-legged card table where we sat earnestly writing and the sense of accomplishment when Mum took all five letters and finally sealed them into the fat white envelope.

For me, Christmas still means writing “Thank-you” notes.  I wrote letters today, sitting with Christmas memories for company, amidst piles of note cards and stamps, address labels and pens, honouring a family tradition.  Saying “Thank-you.”

Monday, January 9, 2012

Self-Care, a Gift

It's been days since my last post, 11 in fact.  I've been ill with a thoroughly nasty head cold during most of that time.  Amazing to me that so much mucus can be produced inside one's head.  I've begun to wonder if I am hollow, save for snot.  Certainly, there hasn't been much brain activity during the sick time, among chills and fevers and fuzzy dreams, I have floated and slept and sneezed and blown.  Too much detail?

The last few days of December were wondrous times spent with family, some company staying here.  A party to celebrate Melanie's and Kelly's wedding with 35 close family and friends was a delight. 

Gary made a huge fragrant pot of his signature spaghetti sauce, his homemade caesar salad dressing and hand done croutons and bacon bits.  We fed everyone full to the brim, with decadent spaghetti, flavourful caesar salad, fresh garlic bread, rich Christmas sweets, and cakes (chocolate and carrot), attended with wines and holiday beverages. 

Tim gave a speech and we all welcomed Kelly to the family.  It was fun!  It was yummy!  And it was work!  It was a warm and boisterous family party.

And well worth the time and energy and love that went into it!

Over the holiday, we had times of smaller get-togethers with children living here and from away, and with much loved grandchildren: all treasured and appreciated and held now in fond memory.

I've written myself some notes.  Things to remember for next Christmas.  Ways to simplify and to relax and to spread out the work.  Will I remember?  Will I make changes?  Will I put a higher priority on self-care?  I hope so.  We'll see next holiday season if lessons have been learned.

Perhaps I will finally open the present I can give to myself,
the gift of better self-care!

All photos are mine.