The Happy Couple

Today’s post is probably going to be the last of the “doll series,” mainly because I don’t have any more dolls. This last pair is the oldest and came to our household about 1975 as a wedding gift brought back from Mexico by one of my sisters.

They both look a little bit in shock. The impact of the meaning of the word “lifetime” has just hit them.

After 42 years, her hands are swollen from all the hard work and her feet look sore. He has obviously been tearing his hair out, putting up with her, and his hands and feet are pretty clumpy too.

But they’re still together. They must have something good going on to make them stay.

When I Am Old

Several years ago, when I retired from teaching at my elementary school, the staff got together and did a little “tea party” for me as they usually did for retiring colleagues. They gave me a doll that had a special meaning, one which I had never heard of until they explained it to me. I’ve kept that doll with my Mexican marionettes and I think of my friends at work fondly when I look at it. This poem by Jenny Joseph explains what I didn’t know about retirement at that time.

When I Am Old

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!

Jenny Joseph

I guess I now belong to the Red Hat Society. One thing I’ve learned is that retirement is the best-kept secret ever! It has been a blast.

Being Thankful

Susie Lindau has invited fellow bloggers to a hashtag party called the #Blessed Project.

Click on this link to join Susie at her party! https://susielindau.com/2016/11/22/join-the-blessed-project-and-link-up-your-blog/.

My contribution to this blog party is probably much like many other people’s, but it never hurts to say it out loud how thankful we are for our blessings.

I am thankful for:

  1. my husband and our relatively good health. Without it, all the money in the world is worthless.

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2. my wonderful family – both on my side and the Captain’s.

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3. my dogs, Emma and Ruby, who are as much a part of the family as the people are.

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4. readers of my novels. I love writing and it’s great to be able to share my stories.

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5. having enough food to eat and clean water to drink.

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6. The list could go on for miles. Besides the usual family, health, and food and shelter blessings, I am lucky to live near the ocean and yet travel to inland places I love.

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7. I am lucky to be able to see wildlife close to home, especially birds, raccoons, and squirrels. Bears, not so much, although it’s a thrill to see them occasionally.

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8. I feel blessed to have good personal friends and blogging friends.

9. I love living in Canada and visiting the United States.

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10. I should round it off at ten things, but there is too much competition for which blessing should be the last one I’ll mention.

Thank you, Susie, for this great idea. It makes us think of positive things at a time when most of us are getting stressed over the pressures of the upcoming holiday season. It should be a holiday, but someone has to make those cookies, cook those meals, buy those gifts, decorate the house, etc. So when the crush of “have to’s” is getting us down, let’s remember how truly blessed we are.

Gourmet Dining

This is a post from several years ago. It’s a bit long, but I hope you can find the time to read about this fiasco. I changed the names, but everything else is absolutely true.

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“This was a good idea of yours, George,” Carmen said. “After two weeks of camp food, I think we’re all ready for a gourmet meal.” The six friends who congregated in the entrance of the small town’s only hotel restaurant, nodded in agreement.

George craned his neck to look into the dining room. “No hostess. I guess we just go ahead.” He rushed in to claim the only available table.

Carmen looked around for a waitress. Still no one in sight to say, “Hang on a minute and we’ll clean the table for you first,” so the campers settled into their places and stared at the mess left behind by the previous diners. Bits of mashed potato and blobs of ketchup, the pepper shaker lying on its side, and leftover cutlery littered the table.

“How’re y’all doin’?” The waitress—Jackie, according to her name tag—was a friendly young woman wearing a uniform one size too small. She shoved the remaining cutlery to the center of the table and attacked the food dribbles with a stained, sour-smelling cloth. She wiped the table, leaving behind little beads of gray dishrag juice. Before it was dry she slid a water glass in front of each of them, rim side down.

Carmen glanced at her husband, Bill, and muttered, “No water for me today.”

Jackie reset the table using the cutlery from the heap in the center. No place mats. Carmen surreptitiously pushed the used pieces aside while the waitress finished the settings across from her. She noticed that Bill, George, and Millie did the same. “Could we please have new forks and knives?”

“Hnnf! Sure! No sweat.” She shrugged and turned to get more cutlery from a side counter.

“Anybody feel like a glass of wine?” George asked.

Five voices eagerly agreed. “Good idea.”

Jackie brought a tray of wineglasses already filled. Again, the six friends exchanged looks. Whatever happened to pouring the wine at the table?  Carmen sighed and wiped the rim of her glass with a napkin. The others followed her lead.

The glasses were filled to within a half inch of the top. No way you could swirl the wine or toast with your neighbour without spilling.

“I filled yer glasses right up.” The waitress beamed. Apparently wine etiquette was all about quantity. Quality was not a consideration.

Jackie took out her writing pad. All but Carmen ordered steaks and were asked if they wanted gravy with their mashed potato.

“Yes,” they all said.

“White or brown?”

“White or brown what?

“Gravy! Y’all want white or brown gravy?”

Five sets of eyes rolled as they answered “brown.” Carmen imagined the cook reaching for food colouring according to the order.

After Carmen ordered her chicken parmigiana with pasta, Jackie smiled and said, “Y’all help yerself to the salad bar.”

Carmen looked around. “Bill? Do you see any plates?”

“Must be those bowls at the end of the counter.”

“I thought those were cereal bowls,” she said, “…for children.” Dish in hand, she looked over the choices in the salad bar. The huge bowl holding the main ingredient, pale iceberg lettuce, was nearly empty. Dribs and drabs of sliced mushrooms, beans, pickled beet, and other additions meant to liven up the plate, were almost gone, but the six friends managed to scrape together a tired-looking salad.

“Meager pickings, eh?” George said.

Hunger took over and the campers cleaned their plates.

“You guys were sure hungry, eh?” Jackie said. “Don’t worry. I’ll have yer orders up in a jiff.” She layered the empty salad bowls up the length of her arm, apparently oblivious to the blob of mayo that smeared yet another stain on her bespattered white blouse.

Carmen looked forlornly at her dinner. She touched the edge of her well-worn, glass plate. Ice cold. Maybe she should have had the steak too? The spaghetti was cold. She put her finger into the middle where the white chicken breast lay on the white pasta. Lukewarm. She eyed the splash of colour on the side of her plate with dismay—the contents of a can of tomato paste—and one spoonful confirmed that it, too, was only heated to lukewarm. She had opened enough cans of the stuff in making spaghetti sauce to know how it looked and tasted. But pure tomato paste as a sauce? Nothing added, nothing taken away.

“Gross!” she muttered. Bill gave her a sympathetic glance.

A piece of white Wonder bread toasted on one side and slathered in margarine—she knew that smell—teetered on the edge of the plate. “Now I know why they call it Wonder bread. You wonder how anyone can eat it.”

The group made half-hearted stabs at conversation that coincided with half-hearted stabs at their food.

“I should have had steak like you fellows did,” Carmen said to the group.

“You didn’t miss a thing,” George said. “My jaw is tired from trying to chew that flavourless piece of rawhide.”

Jackie had disappeared. Under the circumstances, Carmen thought she would have done the same.

No offers of tea or coffee. No question of dessert. Only the bill already tallied, slapped onto the table. “Y’all have a nice evenin’ now.”

Leaving the hotel, Carmen said, “Ice cream and brandy at our place?”

“Yahoo!”

“Now you’re talking.”

“I feel better already.”

Gift Giving

Oh goodie!  A present!

But wait. Is it freely given, or does it come with strings attached? And will I now be expected to reciprocate?

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For some people, gift giving is easy. They have a knack for choosing just the right thing and the right time to give the gift.They seem to know all the etiquette involved and do everything right.

With various celebrations, including Mother’s Day, coming up, I’ve been pondering the idea of gift giving. “What? When? Whether? Why?” and many other questions roiled around in my head.

I found myself thinking about why people give gifts. Sometimes the giving is done from sheer love and generosity; other times under duress and necessity. It’s a complicated custom, this gift giving. To make it even more complicated, not all gifts are tangible items. They could take the form of favours, time, free labour, or many other non-material things.

Here are a few of the reasons people give gifts:

  • to make someone happy
  • to even a perceived score
  • to ingratiate themselves with the receiver
  • to get something from the receiver
  • because duty demands that they give a gift on this occasion
  • to get rid of something they didn’t want anyway
  • to win someone’s love
  • to gain influence
  • to stay in the receiver’s good graces

I’m beginning to wonder if I like the idea of gift giving so much anymore. To my mind, the only worthwhile reason for giving a gift  is the first one – to make someone happy.

Have you ever received a gift that is obviously of no value to the giver? Does it make you wonder what they were thinking? It could be a case of “This item is no good to me but I know who would like to have it.” Or it could be, “Duty says I have to give a gift. I know, I’ll get rid of this ugly thing I’ve never liked anyway.”

The first seems acceptable to me, but the second makes me wonder what the giver thinks of the person to whom they are giving the “ugly thing.”

Have you ever received a gift that is shabby and conveys that the person thinks it’s good enough for you?

Have you ever received a gift of such value that you feel you’ll never be able to reciprocate and so you will always be beholden to the giver if you accept?

Have you ever received a gift that shows that the giver gave no thought at all to whether or not it might please you?

Gift giving can be complicated. Do you have a gift story to share with us?

 

Quilting at Camp Homewood

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Set on beautiful Quadra Island on Canada’s west coast, Camp Homewood was the venue for a quilting retreat last weekend.

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It’s a very old building, but it easily accommodated the 32+ quilters and guests of the Comox Valley Schoolhouse Quilters’ Guild who had signed up for a weekend of quilting fun.

The location was absolutely gorgeous. Here is the view from the sundeck of the building.

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Hard to concentrate on sewing at first, but the view wasn’t going to run away, so we got to work. It was my first time at a quilting retreat and I went along as a guest of a friend who is a seasoned quilter.

Below, you can see how we set up our sewing machines and our workspace on the “no view” side of the room.

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Towards the view side, several other quilters have set up their workspace. All have brought their own sewing machines – mostly Bernina, Janome, and Pfaff –  and they have brought their pre-cut fabric. Some brought irons and ironing boards which they shared with the group. Many arrived with extra folding tables and some even brought their own comfortable adjustable chairs, in anticipation of many hours of sitting hunched over a sewing machine.

You can see the extra round tables at the far end of the hall. This is where the group was served meals from Thursday to Sunday afternoon. The excellent food was prepared on the premises, mostly from scratch. Best of all, the guests had a whole weekend without having to wash dishes.

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A second room in the older part of the building accommodated many more quilters. See the setups in the photo below.

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Here is one lady’s workspace with fabric pieces cut out and labeled, each ready for placement in the correct spot. Some quilters are working from a pattern while others are making it up as they go along. This workspace holds more than 22 items, but each of them is necessary for the job. I was impressed by the organization of materials.

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The first afternoon and evening, I frequently thought about home. I wondered if this or that little job was being done, now that I wasn’t there to take care of it:

Were the dogs being let in or out of the house when they needed it?

Were they being fed?

Did the Captain remember how to use the dishwasher?

Did he remember to turn off the stove?

Did he remember to lock the doors before going to bed?

Did he blah, blah, blah…?  Nag, nag, nag….

Finally, I called home. Everything was fine, and I relaxed and shut these things out of my mind for the rest of the weekend. I concentrated on my sewing and listened with half an ear to the other women telling stories. After supper, many of the women had gone to their rooms and come back up to the sewing room in their pyjamas or muu-muus. Might as well be comfortable as hours of sewing still lay ahead.

At times, the whole room sounded like a hive of babbling voices, punctuated with spontaneous bursts of laughter. I chuckled to myself at some of the funny laughs that some of the women had, from high-pitched “hee-hee-hee”s to raucous “haw-haw-haw”s straight from the belly, and once in a while a red-faced silent laugh interrupted by a horsey snort started everyone laughing again. You might say the storytellers left us in stitches.

Many of the women surprised me by staying up until the wee hours of the morning, but the next day at breakfast I was always surprised by how much they had accomplished (in between behaving like teen girls at a pyjama party). These were not just a bunch of old ladies. They were a group of very talented women who were sharing techniques they had learned in their many years of experience.  As the projects were completed, the finished pieces were hung on the railing of the upper floor. Each person displayed their work and went on to the next project they had brought with them.

Here are some of the projects of the second room.

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Here are some from the first room. My friend’s snowflake quilt is third from the right, and the tote bag I made is the last one on the left.

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It was a wonderful weekend, with breaks for walks in this pristine nature setting. In the next posts I’ll tell about some of those walks.

 

Will You Be My Valentine?

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, our friend Bruce has a new puppy, an American Brittany. It seems to be an oxymoron to call it American if it’s a Brittany, but they retain the name “Brittany” because France is their origin. They are now also bred in the States and some traits of the breed have changed ever so slightly.  The American Brittany is slightly larger and tends to run further afield than the smaller French Brittany which works more closely to the gun when hunting. So says Wikipedia, but who is to say how much truth is in that statement, and of course there are always exceptions.

Here, the Captain is holding Bruce’s still nameless puppy. I’ve had to fade out the Captain because the little princess wanted to be the star of the show.

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You can see that she is well fed. The line on the bridge of her nose is not a scar, but rather just the way her hairline goes, much like a cowlick. I wonder if she’s been near any cows….064a

Well fed or not, she is still interested in eating anything that becomes available. Like my friend’s rings. The princess has an eye for jewelry.

Eating the ring

We convinced her to try a slipper instead. She showed that she has a strong retrieving instinct when she fetched the slipper and rushed to the nearest mat for security.

Slipper chewer

Inspection time!

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What’s this? A very tasty insole, with a lovely texture for her puppy teeth.

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I hated to say goodbye to her, but it was so nice to have her visit.

I mentioned that Bruce has not yet named the puppy. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment to let me know your favourite name.