Monday, September 30, 2013

Simple Suggestion #179... Make time for someone special

My middle child is a quiet sort, and because she's sandwiched between two girls who are loud, relatively speaking, what she has to say sometimes goes unheard over the din of too many family supper conversations going on at once. So this weekend, well before Suzanna graduates in June and heads off into the world of adulthood, she and I went off on a mother-daughter weekend, and spent some quality time together.

Ever seen a quilted car? Me neither!
We stayed in the quiet of our own separate rooms at the Star of the North Retreat House in St. Albert, just north of Edmonton. Caught a movie on Friday night, went out for breakfast on Saturday morning, and spent some of the day walking along the Sturgeon River trails, enjoying a gorgeous autumn day, and chatting. We bought a few items at the local farmer's market, ran into an incredible quilting display, and walked the founder's trail up Mission Hill. There was a Van Gogh-decorated piano that begged us to play Star Wars duets, which we did, and mini-donuts called our name and filled us up so that we weren't hungry for supper at the usual time. So we went shopping for some music books, visited a beaver dam on the North Saskatchewan River, and drove out to Sandy Beach to watch the sun set over the lake before a late meal. Then we got a little silly, making scary iPod videos of a darkened retreat house! In other words, we had a wonderful weekend together and made some memories that will be treasured for a long time.

photo 2.JPG
Photos courtesy of Suzanna.
In the hustle and hurry of present day society, our hectic lives often mean that we don't have enough time to communicate about the things that are really important, the soul stuff that only gets discussed lazily on a bench overlooking a sunset. So this Simple Suggestion is actually meant as a challenge, especially for parents of teens, but really, for anyone, to make time to connect on a deeper level than the every day once in a while. Perhaps it doesn't require an entire weekend -- it just needs a few dedicated hours with one person and no other distractions.

To put it simply, I can't recommend it enough.

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Celebrate what's right with the world on a Sunday

If you can get past the initial feeling that this 22-minute video is a National Geographic commercial, and beyond Dewitt Jones' narration of what it's like to be a great photographer, this is a gorgeous inspirational find. Isn't nature and human nature amazing? Enjoy!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Simple Suggestion # 178... Hold hands

At work the other day, I caught a glimpse of Thomas and Harry walking down the hallway, Harry mumbling away in his usual fashion, and Thomas with his head bent towards his friend, holding his hand and listening to what Harry was saying. It touched me to watch them meandering along, a tall ungainly man and a short, somewhat unsteady one. I marveled at the beauty of that simple gesture of holding some one's hand.

When my children were small, I loved to feel little hands slide into mine, but those days are almost past as my youngest rarely thinks to hold my hand anymore, and my older girls haven't for years. In the last few years with my dizziness issues, I've spent a lot more time holding the hands of people with whom I walk. The comfort of a steady presence isn't something we're often aware of when we're young and strong, but my vertigo (worse again in these busy harvest days) has made me more appreciative of the simplicity of having a hand to hold when life gets a little topsy-turvy.

So, this week's mission? Find a hand to hold, if only for a few minutes. You might not need that kind of support, but maybe you have a friend who will appreciate knowing that you're there for them, just to listen, just to care.

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Funny what a person does in panic mode. This morning, Shadow puppy and I were out for our usual pleasant morning walk when suddenly a dog that looks like a Treeing Tennessee Brindle (I'm guessing at the breed from Google images) appeared out of nowhere and went after Shadow. He ran behind me, in terror, yelping and squalling to get away from the bigger dog, who, like your typical bully, became more aggressive as soon as his victim showed fear. As is so often the case in moments like that, I don't know exactly how I ended up on my knees on the sidewalk, scrabbling to keep the two apart and trying to grab the pup. I finally got a hold of him and yelled at the Brindle,


As if it would answer me.

It disappeared again, retreating behind a broken fence. It took me a moment to spot the dog where it stood, watching from what had to be its owner's yard. The owner's home was rather run down, and the fence was half snow fence and half wood, with several broken boards. The dog clearly knew it should be within the fence, but curiosity or something else (possum-treeing instinct?) had made it come check out my little pooch. Holding Shadow, I walked up the front sidewalk, ready to ring the doorbell and ask the owner to repair the fence so no one else's dog would be attacked, but the dogs (there were two, it turned out, the second much scarier-looking than the first) started a ruckus. Whoever was inside the house pounded on the window closest to them... and I had second thoughts about confronting anyone. Better not to get into an argument with a person who lives in a sketchy-looking house. Besides, there was no doorbell that I could find.

Maybe it would be better to let the bylaw people take care of this one, I was thinking.

I carried Shadow away from there, and when I set him down a half-block later, he was fine, back to his happy little self, sniffing every spot on the sidewalk. Me? I was shaking... and still haven't stopped. We went home, and as I cleaned up my scraped knees, I called the City and filed a complaint against the homeowner that the 311 operator promised will be acted upon in short order...

We will avoid that street for the next little while. Sad, because it's one of my favourite routes, a nice, treed lane.

A cop out, perhaps, but it's just that kind of day. Time for a soothing cup of tea.

1 p.m. A nice young peace officer was just here to take my statement before heading over to speak to the homeowner about repairing his fence. He's guessing the other dog might be a mastiff, from my description. I'm just glad both dogs didn't come after Shadow. Anyway, all shall be well again, I hope...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Moodling three years later... and a pear jam recipe

Three years on, I'm still here, moodling away. I had no way of knowing, three years ago, how much I would enjoy posting anecdotes, musings, songs, and stories for friends near and far to read.

So, the annual run down: I've posted 685 moodlings with 177 Simple Suggestions, received 452 comments (commenters are rare on many smaller blogs, I've noticed, but I do love comments and have made a few friends through them...) and had over 62,000 hits. I post these stats because every September it's fun to look back and see how things have progressed over the previous year.

Many thanks to my hubby and daughters for their patience with me and my little hobby, and to other family and friends for your comments and encouragements -- it's always nice to hear from you, though that's not why I moodle. I moodle because I enjoy it, and because there's always something interesting going on, something worth sharing. And sharing good things is always worthwhile!

* * * * * * *

Speaking of good things, making pear jam has been taking up a fair bit of my time in the past week. Our pear tree gave us more than 54 gallons of fruit (200+ litres) and we only have about ten rapidly ripening gallons (40 litres) left after baking, jamming, dehydrating or giving them away. Unfortunately, last year, the first year I'd tried making pear jam, I forgot to write down my recipe, so my first batch this year (following suggestions from other websites and the pectin package) was far too sweet. So I'm posting my tried and true-to-my-liking version here for posterity  -- and for other people who might like to attempt it! It's pretty easy...

Maria's Pear Jam

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring to a boil:

4 cups peeled and cored pears
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
a dab of butter (to keep it from foaming too much)
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon or ginger (you might be more adventurous with your spices/herbs)
1 cup apple juice

In a separate dish, stir together:

1/4 to 1/2 cup of white sugar or equivalent sweetner (1/3 is enough with our pears)
1 package of no sugar needed pectin

Add sugar/pectin to boiling pear mixture and keep at a rolling boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, mash lightly, and pour into prepared canning jars, processing the finished product in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Sunday morning walk

Days as pretty (and warm) as today won't be with us much longer now that autumn is on our doorstep. So we took a lovely walk in the river valley, a perfect Sunday pastime, if you ask me. Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Frost (ouch)

Yesterday was a very busy day. Walking the dog, connecting with a fine young L'Arche assistant while making pear muffins and otherwise dealing with pears, running to work in the afternoon to prepare for a board meeting, dealing with pears again at home, making supper, taking minutes at the board meeting, and picking my daughter up from work at 9:45 p.m. My day at the zoo report. As I crawled under the covers, I thought, "I hope it doesn't freeze tonight." If I had been a truly dedicated gardener, I would have gone out to cover just in case, but I was exhausted, and am already paying for yesterday with a dizzy day today.

Turns out that, in my busyness, I missed the frost warming. This morning, I woke to the weather girl saying the frost warning had been lifted... but when I took the dog for his walk, there was icy dew everywhere. Darn it! So when we got home, I took one last picture of my sweet peas (before they thawed). Fortunately, most of the tomatoes have already ripened on the vine and been brought in, and there's enough foliage on Suzanna's pumpkin plants to have protected her 10 pumpkins. I guess I'll see what sort of wreckage there is everywhere else once it warms up.

The rest of the day? Dealing with pears... only 25 gallons to go!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Simple Suggestion #177... Trade

In the spring, I grew more tomato plants
than I needed... so I gave some to Nicola,
who wanted to pay me for them... 
but knowing that our little apple tree probably wouldn't produce
enough apples for pies this year, 
I asked if she had any... 
and she dropped them off on Saturday night.

Sunday was pear day. 
We picked at least 54 gallons from one tree
(a few gallons have disappeared thanks to friends).

Sunday afternoon, I took a walk to the French Lady's house, 
and gave her some, as promised, for our échange fruits.

Then I walked to Ralph and Lidia's house. 
I have been admiring the fruit on their plum tree for weeks.
Lidia invited me in for a glass of orange juice and a visit, 
and Ralph gave me these beauties in exchange for another pail of our pears.

He says he'll give me some grape shoots in the spring, 
a trade for a graft from our pear tree.

Trading things is a great way to get things we otherwise wouldn't have
without taxing the planet through consumerism and materialism.
It can also have the added benefit of reducing our waste stream, 
and it puts us in touch with others in our communities,
building relationships and networks of friends.
And there are so many things and services we can trade! 
Right now I'd like to figure out a trade of some sort
in exchange for someone's tree pruning talents. 
I'm sure we could come up with something good...

I love the idea of trade, barter, and straight-out share.

Not to mention plum jam, 
snacks for my family, 
and apple pies!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A church for my girls... and everyone else

An open letter:

Dear Pope Francis and all you other bishops of the world,

I have been a baptized Catholic for all but the first seven days of my life. I grew up in a devout Catholic family, and earned my first few dollars in their Catholic church supplies store, surrounded by Catholic people when I worked there, and when I attended Catholic summer camps and Catholic youth retreats as a teen. As a young adult, I took university courses at a Catholic college, taught in a Catholic school, and eventually ended up with a Religious Education degree, going so far as to start my Masters before having a family. The long and the short of it is that you might be hard-pressed to find many lay people as steeped in Catholicism from the get-go as I am. Of late, I'm thinking I've overdone it!

Growing up just after the Second Vatican Council, I lived in a time of hope. It seemed that the church was renewing itself, broadening its point of view, becoming more up-to-date. Ecumenism! Liberation Theology! Inclusive language! Expanding roles for women, for lay people! So when my Catholic husband and I had our own family, I mistakenly thought that I could pass all this Catholic enthusiasm on to my own children by taking them to church from the time they were newborns, bundling them along to weekday mass when they were too young for school, teaching them and their peers at children's liturgy on Sundays, buying them Catholic books (from the aforementioned church supplies store), involving them in music at mass by leading a Junior Youth Choir for ages 4 to 12, helping them through their sacramental preparation for first communion, reconciliation and confirmation, and discussing all things Catholic with them whenever possible. If faith is caught, not taught, I was throwing everything I had into helping them catch it, even as the church changed tactics, reverting from a welcoming expansiveness to a more narrow exclusivity.

My girls caught the faith, but now it seems that they are rejecting Catholicism for reasons far beyond all my efforts to share its richness and beauty. The richness and beauty has paled because of a certain overzealous religion teacher who insists on emphasizing Catholic dogma and doctrine over Jesus' teachings about loving and serving one another, sharing our gifts, and being like him. The richness and beauty are being drowned out by a world that doesn't accept outdated teachings from a patriarchal hierarchy that science and common sense have proven wrong over time. My girls see a church that pays lip-service to women's participation. They see an institution that says "Pay, pray and obey," more than a community that is "justice, mercy, compassion, and mutual aid in the maintenance of life for one another," as female theologian Ivone Gebara puts it.

My daughters have faith, but they can't stomach the Church, so my husband and I are going to mass alone these days. And sometimes I wonder why we bother, because there is much there that I can't stomach either, like pompous and exclusive language, lay people being kept away from the altar, a re-emphasis on the rules and regulations that govern the celebration over Jesus' simplicity in sharing a meal, and a narrow view of who is worthy to receive. When I look around my church on a Sunday, I see the elderly, and young families, and a huge gap in the middle where families like mine should be. They've lost interest for many reasons. I am losing interest because I don't want to be part of a narrower church.

I read recently of another theologian, Victor Codina of Bolivia, who sees that the only way the Catholic Church will recover from a long downward slide is if it moves away from the ancient hierarchichal church model that dominated most of the past two millennia, beyond the Post-Vatican model of church as the People of God, straight back to Jesus' model of being church with the poor and marginalized until all are equal and all are welcomed to the table of community.

And when I look at my family, I know in the marrow of my bones that he's right. The hierarchy doesn't speak to them at all, and has definitely missed the boat with the multitude of Catholics who have left the church in my lifetime. The church as merely the worshipping People of God isn't working for my daughters either, who have never really felt connected to the community because there aren't many young people -- most of their Catholic school friends aren't churchgoers. Up until recently, our family's mass attendance was an exception to what seems like the rule -- we've always known more Catholic families who choose Sunday sports/shopping/sleep-ins than families willing to attend wordy Sunday liturgies that often don't seem to connect with life on the other six days of the week.

Dear Pope Francis and friends, since the change in the papacy last March, you have been throwing threads of hope to people like me. Now I ask, why not come up with a new version of church that is relevant to what ordinary people are actually living? How about rebuilding a church that actively invests every baptized believer with the same importance as its clergy, more like the way Jesus sent out his disciples? Could we try having a church that calls everyone to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly in the way Jesus did, without so much emphasis on all the rules and regulations associated with its structure, and with more stress on reaching out, getting to know, and being with and for the ones our church and our society shun? Can we come up with a liturgy that speaks to peoples' hearts, rather than using ancient prayer formulas that only the theologically-trained can readily understand? Can we recall that the early church was about gathering the people, telling the stories, breaking the bread and caring for each other in a much less formal way, and which was directly connected to the rest of life?

Jesus knew that we all need to be called to serve causes greater than ourselves. Lately the institutional church seems to be focused on increasing its numbers by bringing back the lapsed Catholics, but lapsed Catholics need a solid reason to return, a reason that awakens their passion for their faith, and I'm not seeing it being presented anywhere.

What is clear is that my girls -- and the rest of us -- need the kind of church that sets everybody's hearts on fire, a church that takes people past paying, praying and obeying to actually living Jesus' radical call to discipleship in the world, working and living for peace and justice in a community where everyone is valued and their gifts are celebrated and fully utilized. Jesus cared for the poor in their many guises in his corner of the world, the early Christians did the same, and so can we, if we step out of our comfort zones.

So, my brothers in the hierarchy, what can you do to build a new church to set our hearts on fire? What can we do together? I think it is time to call a New Council, invoke the Holy Spirit, and invite not mainly theologians and clergy this time, but everyone and anyone who wants to follow Christ (including those who have been turned off by the overzealous). Allow everyone to brainstorm, but most especially our youth, and let us all work together to chart a new path that will bring us all back to Jesus' way of being one with God, creation, and each other.

I keep you all in my prayers.

With hope,
Your sister in Christ,
Maria K.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Thursday morning walk

Join me for a lovely early morning walk?

The sun is just coming over the houses...

and our shadows are very long.

At the park, the flowers are waiting for the sun...

and it won't be long before the canna lilies feel the warmth.

Here's a perfect park bench...

and autumn's gold beginning to show.

The playground is empty of children who have to go to school...

and the mountain ash is full of berries.

Here's a pretty maple...

and someone else's roses.

The puppy catches a feather as it tumbles across the pavement...

and walks across the wooden overpass 
(his feet are big enough now that they don't fall through the cracks).

The city looks pretty under a blue September sky

and the bikepath is quiet...

except for the noise of distant traffic

it's quiet everywhere.

We head home past a front yard brook

and down the road to our own little area park.

Shadow finds a patch of his favourite kind of sandy soil to scratch for a minute...

and we meander up the path that leads to home.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September glory

We're having another gorgeous September day here... full sun, crisp morning air, and a yard full of produce for me to deal with. Today, beets, tomorrow, pears. They're almost ripe, so I'll have a busy two weeks ahead of me... but it's all good. And here are the lovely gladioli that I bought on Friday. I've decided that I need to grow more of my own next year! I planted ten bulbs this year, and because Suzanna's pumpkins took over that part of the yard, only two actually bloomed. But we have nine pumpkins on the vines!

On Saturday, Lee worked on the inside of our greenhouse, pulling up the floor, and removing a layer of tar paper and styrofoam insulation. The cracks were filled with tiny particles of -- what? -- we're not sure, but he picked up a hazmat suit in case of asbestos (which we're pretty sure it wasn't, but it doesn't hurt to play it safe) and the best HEPA filter he could buy for his shop vac. He vacuumed off all those little particles, and removed the wood bracing that was holding up the floor, and now it's just a big dirt patch.

The next step is to have the soil tested to make sure it's clear of chemicals, and then, perhaps we can use it to grow things. Oh, the joys of discovering other people's construction practices! One way or the other, Lee has plans for a humidity sink under the soil, and we're looking into phase change materials to hold the heat. He's working on the building, and I'm reading up on how to operate a three-season greenhouse. Can't wait to see how it all works!

Friday, September 6, 2013

A prayer for Syria

Consider this my Sunday moodling, posted two days early. This weekend we will be praying for peace in Syria at A Taste of Taize Prayer on Sunday, 7 p.m. at Assumption Catholic Church, 9040 95 Avenue, Edmonton.

I have been praying for Syria for quite a while, as I have two friends in L'Arche who are from that beautiful but embattled country, and who are very worried about friends and family that they haven't heard from for too long. Cell phones don't work when there is no power grid... or when everything is left behind in an attempt to flee the country. Those who stay likely don't have enough with regards to food and shelter. It is a dire situation for far too many, and the dangers are constant.

Please consider adding your voice to ours as we ask God for a better solution to the conflict than more aggression. Everyone is welcome -- bring a friend or two with you if you can.

O God,
source of faithfulness and truth,
guide your people
in the ways of love and justice.
Open our hearts and help us
to work and pray together
so that oppression and poverty are eliminated, 
and so that people of all faiths
have enough of what they need
to live in harmony and joy.
Bless, especially, the people of Syria,
and bring them peace.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

It's a dog's life

Shadow the puppy and I have been walking the girls to the bus in the mornings for the past two days. This morning I was still in my pajamas when they left a little earlier than usual, and he went ballistic, whimpering and whining as if he'd lost his best friends.

He clearly needed a walk, so I dressed and took him out a few minutes later than usual. He proceeded to yank me all the way to the bus stop, and, amazingly, the girls were still there. So he got his loving from them, and then away he went, on for the rest of our walk. I guess he's determined to play his part in their morning routine. The rest of the day, he lounges around near the back door, waiting for them to return.

On warm days like today, with plenty of harvest to put away, a messy desk to clean, and preparations to make for company coming, it would be nice to be in his place.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fruitfulness encore

I didn't make it back to the French-lady-with-the-plums' house last night, so the dog and I went this morning. She was in her back yard, and was delighted to see me. She told me I should have brought un plus grand panier instead of my little icecream pail, and invited me to pick from her tree.

It took me a minute to figure out how to turn off her sprinkler, which had made the tree very wet. I was dripping by the time I had a pail full of plums fantastiques, but oh, it was worth it! I thanked her again, promising to bring her a pailful of pears la prochaine semaine, when they are ripe. After trying to explain about one of her other trees, she brought me four little Mirabelles, as she called them -- tiny, very sweet golden plums, and wished me une bonne journée.

The fruitfulness of autumn can sometimes lead to fruitful friendships. Don't you just love it??

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


September the third. School has started and routine has returned once again. Shadow the puppy knew something was "wrong" this morning -- it has been months since everyone converged in the kitchen at 7 a.m. Husband drove off in the car, eldest daughter hopped her bike to get to her new job (coffee barista in the mornings, university in the afternoons) and our other two daughters raced out the door to get to high school and junior high. Shadow and I caught a glimpse of them turning the corner to the bus stop, and he got hung up on his leash in his hurry to catch up.

We said good bye at the bus stop and walked past three more neighbourhood schools on our first early morning walk in weeks. We also passed the yard of a woman whose plum tree was dropping some of its fruit on the ground. "Those are beautiful plums," I told her, and she turned, apologizing that she speaks only French, so I told her I understood French, and she told me the plums make delicious confiture. I asked if I could taste one, and she gave me five, asking where I lived and if I could take more. I thanked her and walked on, the plums cold in my pocket. Then I thought, why not taste one now?

It was cool as the morning dew, juicy, sweet, et fantastique! I turned back to tell her so, but she had gone back into her house. No matter. I have a plan... this evening, I will take a small pear (not quite ripe) from my tree, and an icecream pail, and return to her house to ask if we can make une échange fruits. I would love to bake some Italian Prune and Nut Loaf this week, and next week I can take her a pail of ripe pears. I love it!

Here's Henri Nouwen, one of my favourite spiritual writers, whose reference to abundance certainly fits this time of year:
The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundancy mentality.  With an abundancy mentality we say:  "There is enough for everyone, more than enough:  food, knowledge, love ... everything."  With this mind-set we give away whatever we have, to whomever we meet.  When we see hungry people we give them food.  When we meet ignorant people we share our knowledge; when we encounter people in need of love, we offer them friendship and affection and hospitality and introduce them to our family and friends.
When we live with this mind-set, we will see the miracle that what we give away multiplies:  food, knowledge, love ... everything.  There will even be many leftovers. 
-- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, May 7
God bless all students and teachers, and give them an abundantly fruitful school year. AMEN!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A little Debussy for a Sunday

My daughter shares her birthday with Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918), a French composer whose music I have always enjoyed. I didn't know about their common birthday until recently (thanks to the August 22nd Google Doodle). It made me pull out my Debussy music for a listen. Here's his Reverie, a gorgeous piece for this Sunday, played by Aldo Ciccolini. Oh, to be able to make music like this! Four and a half minutes of a very lovely dream... enjoy!