Saturday, February 27, 2021

Dirty Harey

 There's a takeaway on Main St that always has seasonal stuff hanging in their window. It's often good for a laugh. Now that Valentine's Day is behind us, they've put up the St. Patrick's Day funnies. I'm not a movie or TV watcher and I've never seen Dirty Harry, but this one made me laugh:

Friday, February 26, 2021


 Heading up to the recycle centre, hauling our broken bread machine and some glass in a shopping cart, we stopped at the house with the birds to see what was happening. There are always ducks and a goose or two, and since December, turkeys. 

On this day, one turkey was sitting in the swing:
Another turkey decided to go over and start a conversation, while the goose looked on from under the trampoline:
Turkey 2 decided to change positions, so walked behind the swing and started making loud noises through the slats. Turkey 1 answered back, standing up and getting louder:
The goose was unruffled. 😀😉

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Old Shed

 Trying my hand at mono-ku:

embraced by green--the old shed

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

What is This?

 As we were walking this morning, I saw this plant by someone's wall. I don't recall ever seeing anything like it before, but I've walked by there before, so it's almost certainly a case of me simply not noticing until today. Why it stopped me in my tracks on this day, I do not know, but I just love the colour. Since I know next to nothing about decorative plants, I have no idea what it is. Does anyone know?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Thursday Thought...

 from a wise man:

"All of us know that our beautiful green planet is in danger. Our way of walking on the Earth has a great influence on animals and plants. Yet we act as if our daily lives have nothing to do with the condition of the world. We are like sleepwalkers, not knowing what we are doing or where we are heading. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our mindful steps. We have to hear the bells of mindfulness that are sounding all across our planet. We have to start learning how to live in a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren."

—Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ridin' the Wind

 I looked out the landing window at the water this morning and it was a pretty green colour a little way from the shore. We decided to go there for a walk. By the time we'd gotten around the corner, things were different. The wind was howling. The water, now brown and grey, was rough and since it was high tide, it was slapping right up against the edge of the shore walk. The birds were having a good time riding the wind. They would soar and then dip down, just touching the water, and then pull up again. You can see one in the river right about in the centre of the photo.

We walked toward the pier, looking at the birds, noticing how the water moved and the sky changed.

We got sprayed a wee bit as we were walking when waves crashed against the edge of the lane. We opted to skip the usual walk to the end of the pier because of the wind and the high water level. The wind was strong enough that I had to catch myself a couple of times, so we decided that even walking down the centre of the pier might not be a great idea. 

It was a lovely walk--I loved the sharp wind, the chill, and watching the water. And when we got home, I put the kettle on-- a perfect time for a cuppa!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


 I had a few very small scrap balls of yarn left from other projects. One was a lovely blue colour with some metallic bits left from a skein I'd found at a charity shop. I'd made a hat with most of it, which was a Christmas gift in 2019. I had some left after that, so I used it to weave some squares on my 4-inch square pin loom. I still had a wee bit left, so I set it aside. I also had some boucle that was a deep purple with small bits of other colours running through it. I'd gotten scraps and odd balls of this from a friend who no longer wanted it. I'd combined most of it with other scraps and odd balls to make a blanket wrap. I had a few bits left. I decided to see if I had enough of these yarns combines to make a kumihimo braid long enough to wear as a necklace. I did.

As I was braiding, I thought of a brooch I made a few years ago. It combines needle felting, crochet, tatting, embroidery, and embellishment. I had found a necklace full of metal beads and flowers in a charity shop and deconstructed it. I used a small flower on top of a needle tatted motif, both attached to a needle felted circle that is backed with a crochet lace motif and has basic chain stitches embroidered on it. The stem and leaves are needle felted and there's a brooch pin securely sewn to the back. 

I can wear this with the brooch pinned to the braid or not. I love it and I used up the last wee bits of that yarn. Yay!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021


 In the first decade of this century, Bill and I did life story work with people. This took various forms, including interviewing groups and individuals, teaching life story classes, giving talks and presentations, helping people write their stories (me), and creating interactive computer programs which included audio, documents, and photographs (Bill). It was fascinating and I learned a lot. It was also very rewarding because one common thing among all the people was their happiness that someone was listening to them and was interested in what they were saying and in their experiences.

One interview in particular was brought to my mind by the interaction we had with our neighbour the other day. We were interviewing a 102-year-old woman and her daughter, who was in her late 70s. The mother lived in an assisted living situation and that’s where we visited with her. This would have been around 2007 or thereabouts, so her life began in the very early days of the 1900s. It was a wonderful to listen to her talk about her life. It was also sad.

The two things she kept coming back to over and over again were books and education. She remembered when the first library opened in her state. As she lived in a very rural area, this library was not near her and she could not visit on person, but they would mail books, she said, so she asked for one and got it. It was a magical day for her—and she still felt some of that magic nearly a century later! She also remembered a geology book given to her by a teacher. She was still able to talk about the contents of the book. It seemed like books had always been an important part of her life.

The other thing she kept circling back to was education. She had always loved the French language and she had gone to teacher training college. She had become a teacher. Her face lit up when she talked about this. It was evident that this was a major source of joy to her. Now comes the ‘but.’ She met a guy. They got married. He did not want her to be too tired to take care of him when he came home from work, so told her to stop teaching. She did—and apparently regretted it for over 8 decades. She repeated a few times that she wished she had never stopped teaching. 

When it was time to go, we went to our truck and headed home. I started to cry, for her and her regrets and for the students who might have been touched and enriched by having her for a teacher. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Pond

 Yesterday afternoon, we walked down to The Pond--a spot that is a bit out of town and that used to be a very popular swimming spot. It's just a sort of pull-out off the road with a couple of picnic tables and a path heading down towards the water. It was very quiet and the view was stunning.
Dungloe (and the communications tower) as seen from The Pond

stairs leading to The Pond, the enclosed area where people used to swim

After we admired the view for a little while, we headed back towards home. Twenty minutes later, we were at the shore walk where it was still beautiful, but in a different way.

I'm really grateful to have such beautiful walks on my doorstep, especially now.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Unexpected History

 We went for a walk along the river trail this morning. There were a lot of swampy parts on either side of the trail, which were quite pretty, with all of the tree branches and their reflections in the water. Some were quite large and some, like this one, very small.
The fairies were not at home--or maybe they were taking a nap.

There's a house near where we live that has a beautiful front garden. We walk by it all the time and we always enjoy looking at what is growing and for most of the year, what is blooming. We've said hello to the lady who lives there when we've seen her. Today as we were nearing home, we saw her out working with her spade. I said hello and made a comment about it being a good day for being out in the garden. She agreed and asked if I'd seen the crocuses blooming. She said her mother panted them in 1960. Then she started telling us about various family members and their stories. We were at a good distance from one another.

Her grandmother had planted some trees, she said, and they took off. As she waved her hand around in the direction of trees, she said they all came from those first few trees planted by her grandmother in 1900. She lives in the same house her grandma did. She had to have a couple of the trees cut down because they'd gotten too big for the space.

She told a story about a great uncle who, with a cousin of his, decided many decades ago to go on a cycling tour of Ireland--there were no cars then, she said. These two fellows stopped at a convent near Dublin to visit another relative and because 'the nuns always feed you.' The nun said that she had people in Kildare and if they went there, they could get clean water. When they got to Kildare, they were hesitant to go knock on the farmhouse door, but they found their courage and did so. It just so happened that there were three girls of marriageable age there. One ended up marrying the great uncle and coming to live in Dungloe, where they ran Sweeney's Hotel. They had 13 children. Another of the young women married the other guy and they ended up in South Africa. 

It was such an unexpected conversation and so interesting. I am so happy that it happened. As we were chatting, I had the impulse to ask her if we could take her to tea sometime and listen to more of her stories, learning a bit about Dungloe in the process. Then I remembered that I couldn't do that. Maybe one day. I'd love to hear more.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Ravioli and Peaches

 This afternoon I was looking at an old thumb drive to see what was on it. I found an old file that was a sort of journal. The entries were sporadic but reading through some of them, I was reminded of things I had completely forgotten about. One of these forgotten things was an essay I wrote about my Nana in 2007 and that was published in Oregon Humanities Magazine. I then went in search of the essay so I could read it again. It was not where I thought it might be and I thought for a while that I didn't have it anymore, but I looked again in a different folder and there it was. I saved it again and am posting it here. I'm glad I found it!

 “Do you want some peaches?” Nana asked after the lunch dishes had been cleared away.  “Yup,” I replied.  She opened the refrigerator and took out the canning jar.  She put a few peach halves in my bowl and then sat down with the jar, spearing peaches with “her” fork—the one with the short handle and the bent tines with wide spaces in between.
That’s how I remember Nana, my maternal grandmother—through food.  She was always in her garden or in her kitchen.  The fruit, vegetables, and jam we ate at her house came out of her garden or glass canning jars, not metal cans.  Nana was the producer of most of the food we ate there.  Cherry, peach and apple trees provided the raw materials for jam, applesauce and our lunchtime dessert.  Her large garden served up salads, green beans, marinara sauce, and our Halloween pumpkins.  And that wasn’t the half of it.  The ravioli we ate—my favorite food—came out of her freezer, but each one was made and bagged by Nana herself.  First she made the pasta dough and she rolled it out to be laid in the ravioli form.  A small spoonful of filling was placed in each space and then another sheet of dough laid on top.  She pressed down on the whole thing so that the form cut through the dough and separated the individual ravioli.  Over and over she repeated the process, making eight or ten at a time to put in the freezer so that one day she’d be able to wonder aloud what she should make for dinner that night before turning and asking me whether she should make “raviools,” as she called them.
Why did she go to so much trouble?  She could have just gone to the store and bought a bag of ravioli.  There are many reasons for her ideas about food and producing it herself instead of buying it, but I think the biggest reason she did these things was that she cared about the people she was feeding.  This was her way of showing the love she had for all of us around the table.  I learned early on how valuable this kind of work could be.  I also saw how little respect she got for this work.  It was just expected that she would have breakfast on the table at 6, lunch at noon, and dinner at 5.  I could see that everyone just came in and sat down without so much as one word of gratitude.  They thought what she did was unimportant women’s work, but to me she made the world go around.  At a time when women were being urged to leave the kitchen, I was learning how powerful a place the kitchen could be.
Because of Nana, I came to understand how important and life-affirming some domestic labor could be.  I saw how food could be many things—a way to commune with nature, an artist’s medium, and an expression of love and care.  I knew early in my life that the work we do each day at home is what is truly important for the planet, our communities, families, and ourselves.  Growing up in a society and family where money was god and used in an attempt to buy security, prestige, and the illusion of happiness, I understood early on that I did not fit in.  The usual pursuits were utterly meaningless to me.  And so, as an adult, I set out not to gather as much cash as I could, but rather to create a peaceful and loving home in which the daily work of living went on.  And mostly, it seems to have worked.  I’ve had more than one person tell me what a peaceful home I have.  I’ve done plenty of other things in my life and even wrote a Master’s thesis on the subject of motherhood and women’s domestic labor.  But no matter what I have been involved in, I always look forward to coming home.  I don’t can peaches or make ravioli, but I do make bread.  When I give someone some rolls or muffins that I’ve made for them and I watch their face light up, I feel the hope that just maybe they feel like I did when I heard, “Do you want some peaches?”   

Nana--photo by Bill Burke

Nana in her garden--photo by Bill Burke

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

January Books: Fiction

 I had fun with fiction in January, immersing myself in the following books:

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
I had started this at the end of December, set it aside partway through, then picked it up again and got stuck in. It's all about timing! I enjoyed this book a lot. I did think at first that I might not like the second part, but after getting further into it, I found I did!
Voices: An Open Door Book of Stories, Patricia Scanlan, ed
Someone gave me this collection of short stories. The proceeds from the sale of the book go to the National Adult Literacy Association. It’s a nice collection and very current—several stories had the current pandemic as a theme. This book contains both fiction and nonfiction stories. I like the cover art, too.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (audiobook read by Casey Mulligan)
I clicked on this title when scrolling through the e-audiobook section of the library website. I had read a book by this author and really enjoyed it, and this one seemed intriguing, so I borrowed it. It was great! The reader was quite good and I loved the book. The ending was not a surprise, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.

The main character is Nora Seed, a woman in her mid-30s who is having a rough time. Her parents have both died (her father when she was still a kid), her brother isn’t speaking to her, she has a job at a music store, but is let go, her best friend is in Australia (Nora lives in the UK), and then her cat dies. She decides there is no reason for her to live, so she tries to kill herself. Instead of dying, she finds herself in The Midnight Library, which is staffed by Mrs Elm, her childhood school librarian who was extremely important to her when she was young. Mrs Elm tells her that between life and death there is a library. The library contains an infinite number of books, each one a different life that Nora is living. She gets to choose any of these lives and try them out, but at the first sign of dissatisfaction, she will find herself back at the Midnight Library. She proceeds to try to do over the things that caused her regret. She learns a lot along the way.

When I came across this book, I was able to borrow it right away—there was no queue. That was about a week ago. I don’t know what happened, but now if someone wanted to borrow it, they would have to reserve it and wait for it to become available—in September 2034! Glad to return it so the next person can start listening!

Humans: An A-Z by Matt Haig
A few years ago, I read the author’s novel The Humans and laughed and laughed. That book is apparently something of a sequel to this one, fleshing out the experiences of the main character, an alien who has come to earth to put on the persona of a professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. It’s about his attempts to understand what is going on and to learn the culture—I’m a big fan of culture shock/adaptation stories. This is more of a glossary, providing words and funny definitions from the point of view of a newcomer to the planet as a way to inform his fellow non-earthlings. This is from the description on the site:
‘... this user-guide to the human race will help you translate their sayings, understand exotic concepts such as 'democracy' and 'sofas', and make sense of their habits and bizarre customs.
A phrase book, a dictionary and a survival guide, this book unravels all the oddness, idiosyncrasies and wonder of the species, allowing everyone to make the most of their time on Earth.'
Like the novel, this one made me laugh out loud.

And now, to proceed into a fabulous fiction-filled February!

Monday, February 1, 2021

January Books: Mysteries

 Not sure a month ever goes by without me reading at least a mystery or two. Here are the ones I read in January:

I Give It to You by Valerie Martin
I had not heard of this author before coming across this title in the e-book section of the library website. I was intrigued by the blurb:
‘Jan Vidor seems like the ideal houseguest for a long summer holiday in a Tuscan villa. Unobtrusive but not antisocial, the quiet American academic can be relied upon to entertain herself - but her aristocratic hostess Beatrice has made a terrible mistake. An offhand remark about a violent death at Villa Chiara one night during the War piques Jan's writerly interest and sends her digging into the tragic past of the Salviati family.

Does it matter if Jan just fills in the gaps? After all, Beatrice told Jan she could have the story to do as she liked with, she even said 'I give it to you'...

I Give It To You is a riveting novel about who owns a story, whether we have a right to what we inherit and what a gift really means.’

I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it, but decided to give it a try. I was hooked from the beginning. The story weaves its way between Jan’s story, and Beatrice’s (pronounced bee-uh-tree-chay), moving back and forth between the present (Jan and Beatrice) and the past, as we learn about Beatrice’s family history. Both Beatrice and Jan are academics working in the US, so the story moves between there and Italy, with most of it taking place in Italy. 

The book won the Women’s Prize for Fiction. I found it to be a page-turner that addressed interesting issues, although I wasn’t in love with the ending. It was still worth reading in spite of that.

 Testament to Murder by Vivian Conroy
This is book one in a cosy mystery series set in the 1920s. This one took place in France, but the cast of characters was British, with one Usian. I don’t read as many cosy mysteries as I used to, because I am still nor familiar with what’s available here. In the US there was an abundance of stitching mystery series revolving around groups of people who crocheted, knitted, quilted, embroidered, did many or all of these things. There were series revolving around bookshop owners, mystery bookshop owners, tea shop owners, and coffee shop owners. The ones I followed along with were predictable in their publishing dates once a year, so I knew when to look at the library for the next one. These often got slightly stale as the series went on and the mysteries were predictable, but it was still a fun way to spend a couple of hours, reading about how the characters evolved. Now, when these are not so readily available at the library, even when it was open, I have just read the ones that are when I come across them and they seem interesting enough to give them a try. So it was with this one. There are four books in the series and the first two were available in the e-book section of the library website, so I borrowed them. I liked this one a lot, started on number two, and got in the queue for number three. It’s an interesting plot. Malcolm is an older guy who is alone after having his first wife die and his second wife leave him for his former business partner. He has no children. He calls his nephew, a failed artist and writer, his new wife, his second wife, her husband and their son, his former secretary, and a few others to his French estate. There he announces that he is dying and he was going to play a game with them. Every night at midnight, he would make someone else his sole heir. If he died during the day, the person listed would get all his money. But if he died under suspicious circumstances, the heir would automatically fall under suspicion, could be tried and convicted, then hung. Needless to say, this sets off a whole train of events. A retired Scotland Yard inspector happens to own the neighbouring estate, so he is ready when people start dying.

There was one fairly glaring error right at the beginning that I was surprised to see—I’d have thought that an editor would have spotted it. When the nephew and his wife are heading towards the estate, she is dreaming of what she would do with the rich uncle’s money. She thinks that High will no longer have to go begging his father for money every once in a while. This was on page 7 of the e-book. On page 10, we learn that Hugh’s father died when he was 17. Hmmm. In spite of that, it was an enjoyable read and a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

Honeymoon With Death by Vivian Conroy
This is the second book in the author’s ‘Murder Will Follow’ series, set in the 1920s and featuring retired Scotland Yard man. Jasper (and his dog, Red). He is only ever called Jasper, so we don’t know whether that’s his first name or his last. In this book, he arrives on a Greek island that is a little bit off the beaten path and finds trouble brewing. Damaris Ramsforth is on her honeymoon. She had never been able to travel before because she barely made ends meet on her salary as a typist, so why does she feel like she has been there before and why is her new husband acting so strangely?

This was a pleasant cosy mystery with an interesting, if somewhat convoluted, plot. The author is an Agatha Christie fan and in her acknowledgements says that she feels that of all the series she writes, this one shows the most evidence of that. 

Under the Guise of Death by Vivian Conroy
This is the third book (of four currently in the series) of the Murder Will Follow series, featuring retired Scotland Yard man Jasper. Each book has a different setting. In this one, it’s Venice, where Jasper is visiting an old friend who is a member of the local police force. There is a big masquerade ball, which Jasper does not really want to attend, but does to be polite to his host. At midnight, when everyone takes off their masks, a woman appears on a balcony, much to the shock of the assembled guests. The woman was one believed to have died in a car crash in London three years earlier following a party much like this one. The woman is even wearing the same costume she wore then. She runs away and some guests give chase. When she is found dead on a bridge, Jasper’s friend brings him along to the crime scene, because Jasper investigated the car crash in London where it was thought this woman died. This personal interest spurs him on to find out what happened then and who killed her now.