Appreciate

Probably the same as gratitude, which I have written about many times before. But somehow, last night, when I was deep into the witching hour, I could not summon the tiniest bit of appreciation or gratitude. (The witching hour is what we call 5pm to about 7:30pm – the dinner hour when the whole day can seem to unravel at your feet. Leaves one in charge of children feeling very frustrated and hopeless).

So I’ve come up with a few things to appreciate on this fine morning.

  • The sound of the rain, heavy and nourishing to my garden. A rhythmic pitter – patter that has been absent for some time. Warm, summer rain, nice.
  • A break in the heat. While I love the summer and prefer it to any season by far, but we needed to take a breath. The dog days were at the height and everything was drooping.
  • My coffee cup. Small thing, I know. It is a signal that the day will at least start with a predictable pace. A beacon of hope.
  • These few minutes to myself. Making the coffee, preparing my morning smoothie, sitting for a bit. Waking up early to allow for this can set such a great tone for the day ahead.
  • My husband telling me he has my back. Even though I may have over reacted with the kids last night, (hormones may be a little to blame), he supported me and helped bring me back up.

Some people may wake up and see gloomy rain. I might have done the same thing, in a different mood. But not today. Your mood is 100% in your control. I know this. But it took a lot of comedy movie trailers to lift my spirits last night. A huge waste of time, but necessary therapy.

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The Hawaii of Europe

The UK immigration officer scoffed at me when I repeated a slogan I had seen a few hours before, when departing Malta. I had just spent 12 days in the tiny island country. What kind of scorn could he have for Malta? Or why did he think so highly of Hawaii? Having now been to both places, I couldn’t really say which one was better. They are, for me, completely different.

At first glance, Malta seems desolate. The land is one color. The buildings blend into the rock they are built on. There is little to differentiate the natural spaces from the man-made ones. You can tell right away that fresh water is at a premium.

Grand Harbour from Valletta

Grand Harbour from Valletta

Hawaii on the other hand is lush. There is greenery and flowers and moisture on every surface. Even on the driest parts of the islands, there is plenty of natural life. You have a sense of plenty.

These are postcard images we carry around with us. A synopsis of a place is not reality. You don’t know much until you spend some time with your eyes open. Sipping umbrella drinks poolside, (which I enjoy thoroughly), is not the way to get the sense of a place. You have to get out of the deck chair and explore. Talk to some people, experience the lifestyle a bit.

As with all my posts, I am only going to focus on the good of a topic. Malta was my last trip and there are many good things to report, including:

  • Warmth – the weather is very pleasant and the water is perfect for spending quite some time in.
  • Historical – Malta has played a significant role throughout the ages and boasts some of the oldest man-made structures in the world.
  • Diversity – so many people have walked in your steps before, from around the world, they have left a mark on the land and in the residents.
  • Charm – friendly and welcoming, where are you from? Are you having a nice time? Do you like Malta? It is like a code of conduct from a bygone era.
  • Beauty – fantastic vistas, neon colored blue water and skies, impressive architecture, people with a quick smile that light up your day.

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Hawaii has its own list of attributes, good qualities that make it a special place. But it is different from Malta. I think when the comparison is made it is for how you feel when you visit. You get a desire that you want to move there. Surely these people are living a better life than you do back home, if for nothing else than the wonderful weather. Then you quickly realize that your boss won’t have it, snap back to reality, you live somewhere else for a whole other set of good reasons. So the dream of the next vacation starts all over again…you’ll be back.

First Frost

It is official at my house. The warm days are gone for 2013. We had our first frost on Thursday night.

Every day up until this point, I like to fantasize that we can still get some decent heat. It would be great to get more than brief moments. A burst of sun on a patio, but the angle is wrong. The light is there, but the effect is not the same, we have tilted away.

The signs are all around me, no matter how I wish to blink my eyes and be back in the long lazy days of 2 months ago.

  • The central heating has been turned on. My husband broke down in the first week of October. My daughter thinks she needs even more heat down in her room.
  • The rug colors have changed from the bright greens of Summer to the reds of Winter. (That changes up the whole look of the house every 6 months).
  • My garden is almost tucked in for the winter. A bit more trimming to do.
  • The patio furniture is ready for a big tarp, the cushions are in storage.
  • The deck will get a long runner of carpet to allow a trail of safe passage through the frost.
  • My kids have fallen back into the routine of school. The field trips have started. First one on Thursday to go skating. (Indoor rinks here on the Coast).
  • Evening family movies start-up again. With the long days of summer, we spent all our time outside, doing stuff.
  • Knitting big chunky wooly things doesn’t seem crazy anymore. I knit all summer too, looks a bit strange at the beach.
  • Nature puts on a fantastic show before heading into the long slumber.
  • The “V” formations of birds heading South are tracking overhead.
  • The last days of the Farmer’s markets, offering so many kinds of squash!
  • We start to feel more introspective. We read, we learn.

Steve Sabol wrote this poem called, “The Autumn Wind”. A humorous look at the weather which can either beat down your mood or cause a stiffening of resolve to soldier on.

The Autumn Wind is a pirate,
Blustering in from sea,
With a rollocking song, he sweeps along,
Swaggering boisterously.

His face is weather beaten.
He wears a hooded sash,
With a silver hat about his head,
And a bristling black mustache.

He growls as he storms the country,
A villain big and bold.
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake,
As he robs them of their gold.

The Autumn Wind is a raider,
Pillaging just for fun.
He’ll knock you ’round and upside down,
And laugh when he’s conquered and won.

Rainy day fun

I grew up on the prairies of Canada where there was a good chance you would be “snowed-in”, for a number of days every winter. Sometimes it was just the school being closed, other times it was already a weekend or vacation day and the snow and cold left us house bound. So our winter routines included lots of inside activities to hold us over until better weather returned.

We did go outside and take advantage of the snow, (not so much the cold). Once the wind chill was down to minus 20 C, my parents would let us stay in. And that is what I loved. Doing stuff inside.

As expected, “old habits die-hard”. I still really enjoy working on projects and activities inside the house. (However it is now the heavy rain that drives us inside, not snow and freezing temperatures.) My list includes:

  • cooking big batches of stew in the slow cooker, the house taking on the fragrance of my creation, (currently we are deep in Mexico with a double batch of salsa)
  • reading, having that perfect spot to curl up in with perfect light, where the hours can slip by
  • organizing – I know how weird this sounds, but I like to spend time getting papers in order, taking care of my personal inbox, which is otherwise badly neglected by too much focus on my work inbox
  • knitting, so many things to knit, so little time as I knit slowly and with limited skills
  • sewing, much easier to do and has been a standby for me since I was a child
  • photo albums, used to be the actual touching paper photo’s but has been replaced by iPhoto, just as fun
  • writing – too many projects on the go
  • Spanish lessons
  • watching movies and TV, netflix and iTunes have been amazing

Then there are the things I want to do, but either don’t know how and/or don’t have the space to work on:

  • stamp collection, started as a child and is packed away
  • coin/money collection, same as above
  • beading – actually adding beads to knitted projects
  • quilting
  • crochet
  • paper crafts, my daughter would love this, but we need more supplies, more space to lay everything out, more time

There is more, I’m sure, but these come to mind right now.

In my dream house by the water and in the woods at the same time, I have a studio. All my creative pursuits will be set up and easy to work on any time. Once inspiration strikes, I will be ready to create. For now, I share every corner of this house with 3 other people and 2 of the smallest ones take up so much space wherever they are. Their little voices, the barrage of questions and problems or a scraped knee which needs a kiss.

Before I know it the little ones will be bigger, grown up and gone. I’ll miss their presence and count the days for their return. I’ll miss the way they could fill a room. They made the house feel alive, that is how I will remember these days.

So for now, I steal moments of creativity when I can. I pull out a project from a bag that has been tucked into a corner. I knit a few rows, or pull my computer off the shelf and write a few words. This is how I feed that part of my soul while my children still need so much from me.

It is all about balance, not too heavy to either side.

Web_rain collage

May flowers

March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.   English proverb 1886

Flower_web

It has always been difficult to plan activities based on the weather forecasts, here in Canada. Even old English proverbs only serve to remind us of the conditions to expect and then Mother nature will give us a show. And if you read about the history of this proverb, there could also be hail, sleet and snow.

The nice thing about Spring is the time frame. All bursts of weather are short-lived, but the general trend is warming. If you have a blanket of snow in May, it will be melted away in no time. Then to counteract that, as we saw this year, a super warm Easter in March. Patio furniture was out, BBQ’s were fired up and the clothing of winter dropped away. There were even a number of sunburns walking around town.

The only thing to do is take advantage of the place you find yourself. Rain jackets and umbrella’s, a sweater, a warm coat and warm boots are just some of the choices. On the other hand, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and sun screen are not to be forgotten as the sun shines more seriously.

But for now, it is still Spring. I like to dash out into the sun when she shines and catch a few of her rays whenever I can. Even if it is just for a 15 minute walk, read the newspaper or just sit and relax. Last evening I did just that and here are a few of the images from my journey through the yard.

Artichoke, (actually a flower)

Artichoke, (actually a flower)

Chives....almost a weed

Chives….almost a weed

Thyme - couldn't live without it

Thyme – couldn’t live without it

Pansies - the most reliable beauty in the garden

Pansies – the most reliable beauty in the garden

White Lilac, (her scent is fantastic, too bad I have a cold right now, too hopped up on medication to smell anything)

White Lilac, (her scent is fantastic, too bad I have a cold right now, too hopped up on medication to smell anything)

Buttercup, (don't be fooled by her - invasive weed that she is - parading around my backyard like a tramp)

Buttercup, (don’t be fooled by her – invasive weed that she is – parading around my backyard like a tramp)

110 days to go

A sunny afternoon, 110 days before the summer solstice, sure seems better than the same conditions, 110 days after. There is promise in the air. The light is casting hope over everything in the garden. Green is growing new from the brown soil, rather than fading back into it.

Today was a gift. The sun was shining first thing when I got up. The sky was blue and the wind was calm. Temperatures were very pleasant.

I dressed for cooler weather and was rewarded with feeling a bit over heated as I weeded some of the front garden. The ultimate treasure will be on our plates for dinner – a forgotten hill of fingerling potatoes. Enough fresh chives are up to make a tasty garnish.

We don’t get many days like this, so early in the year, that I get to take advantage of. With only Saturdays and Sundays available, the saying usually goes, “What if the first day of sun after 2 days of rain?” Answer: “Monday”.

Walking around the yard this afternoon, it is a welcome sight to see something that I planted and want to be growing, rather than just weeds. If there was a contest, I grow the BEST weeds around.

Heather_web

Heather is always out early. This low growing evergreen shrub will spread easily. Mine has to be dealt with this year. After 10 years, she is out of control.

Snowdrops_web

The snowdrops are of course a lovely first bulb. Easy to grow, multiply on their own without any help. Transplant so well, that I have never bought these. Got a gift one year from my mother in law and just keep letting them do their thing.

Crocus_web

My Mom helped me plant these crocus bulbs when my baby girl was still to be contained in a bouncy seat. Her 10th birthday was last month, so it is time. This fall, I need to plant again and plan a bit better, where I want to see that colour, early in the Spring. It is such a welcome sight, I surely need 10 times as many as I have today.

Bergenia_web

I think this perennial is called Bergenia. It was an expensive thing, bought many years ago, so the tag is long gone. It was the only flower blooming in February at the garden centre. So I had to have it.

Rose_web

Finally, a little tea rose. She is a hardy soul that is hanging on from a bud formed last year.

The little things

As we slide through day 6 here in La Paz, Mexico, we begin to notice some of the little things that are different and surprisingly important to us.

One of those little things is recycling. Probably doesn’t sound like much. But a family of 6 people create a huge amount of garbage and waste, if it is all meant for the landfill. Where we are renting a house, there are no recycling facilities and the owner had us throw away beer bottles. That practice dates back to before I was born in the Canadian Province of Alberta. Fast forward to today, it seems shocking. During previous stays, here in the Baja, we collected our bottles and left them for the housekeeping staff to return and get the refund. Now I am beginning to suspect that there are no refunds to be had and that our mountain of bottles just highlights how much we drank.

recycling_web

So given the lack of recycling, it is a bit strange to see 2 different art exhibits in the city, made of plastic bottles. It is a creative use of what would otherwise be thrown away, but for what reason? To bring something to public attention and not have the plan in place, seems strange. But it was not the first time I have not understood the culture and customs here in Mexico.

My husband has been extremely patient about finding a place to buy a micro SIM card for his iPhone. Today, after the second attempt at waiting in the very long line, he had the card and phone number in hand, then the computer system went down. At this point, he has been to countless stores, there are no other options. So, he has to wait some more. Come back later when the computers are working again. No choices, no point in getting angry, it is just one of those things that happens sometimes.

The weather forecast each day shows clouds with sunny breaks. Back home, (in the summer time), that means the clouds will almost completely block the sun and the resulting shade will leave you feeling cold. Not here. It is one of those things, that the high, thin clouds are reported as such, but are only there to relieve the heat slightly. For this little thing, I am eternally grateful. This is just what I had in mind for a proper vacation.