Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Poppies at my gate, and in my kitchen

I don't think I ever saw a real live poppy until my husband and I visited Belgium one June early in our marriage. We stayed with friends, and when I saw the famous Flanders poppies growing in the ditches, I begged our friend, Gaby, to stop his car so I could go see them up close.

Little did I know that the ditch between me and my objective was wider and deeper than it looked. I tried to jump across, misjudged the distance, and ended up disappearing into the poppies. Gaby jumped out of the car, worried, but of course, I came up laughing, and gathered a handful of poppies to bring back. It was too early to collect seed pods.

So that September, Gaby sent me a small packet of seed that he collected some time after our visit, and two springs later, when Lee and I bought our first home, I planted Belgian poppies at my back door. They grew abundantly, and I was delighted to remember Flanders Fields and my friends who live there. Unfortunately, when we bought our second home, I forgot to take any seed away with me.

Gaby to the rescue once again -- shortly after we moved, a little housewarming package of Belgian chocolate and poppy seeds arrived, and the red flowers have proliferated in our neighbourhood, even appearing in the yards of friends and neighbours who have collected seed pods from us.

Poppies are a bittersweet flower, thanks to their association with the many young lives lost in the great wars, and with one personal loss -- that of Gaby's grandson, Dimitri, a paracommando who died during a training run three years ago on the very day that Belgian poppies began to bloom in our yard for the season. Dimitri's mom, Brigitte, like me, has fondness for poppies, and she has pictures of them on the walls of her home to remind her of her son.

Gaby gave me a copy of one of Brigitte's pictures, and it hangs in my kitchen, a colourful reminder of the bittersweetness of life, just as the poppies at my gate cheerfully greet me -- and remind me of certain sadnesses in our world -- of war and loss.

Sometimes I wonder if poppies put themselves forth as little prayers. And perhaps that's another reason I'm so fond of them.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday Reflection: Abundance

Today's reflection is brought to you by Psalm 145:16 and John 6:1-15.

The little one had five loaves and two fish,
and he heard the master ask Phillip
where to buy bread.

"You can have mine,"
the boy said,
and my fish,
because Mom
always packs me too much!"

"Perfect," Jesus thinks,
"this one understands."

God always packs us too much lunch.
God's goodness to us
is superabundant,
but our primitive fears
cause us to hoard what we have
until others go hungry
and abundance rots
from disuse.

Your world,
O God,
suffers from its abundance
and our greed.

"You open your hand to feed us, Lord,
you satisfy all our needs,"
sings the psalmist.

There are so many raspberries,
they fall to the ground for want of picking.

There is an abundance of food to go around,
but no free access to it.

Our lives and homes are full to overflowing
and too often,
we can't find
a sense of meaning or purpose.

The fact that
we have extra loaves in our freezer
while the poor have none
should wake us up
to what we need to do.

What if we could trust in your abundance,
in your love for us,
and let the resources allotted to us
flow through our hands
as delicious dishes
are passed from one to another
at your great banquet table?

Quiet our sense of scarcity,
O God,
and let the abundance of your love
allow us to give away
our five loaves and two fish
for the good of all.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A simple kitchen reno -- finally finished!

Our house is finally back to normal after a lot of hard work. Yes, we started a long-dreaded kitchen renovation back in April, and we are very pleased with the results. (Click here for my previous moodling on the topic, and a picture of the day my old counter tops disappeared.)

Allow me to mention that there's something about renovations that flies in the face of our life goals. Voluntary Simplicity is about living simply, sustainably, and in solidarity with the poor and all of creation, so the frivolous spending of money to fix up a kitchen feels wrong when there are so many people in the world who don't have the simple basics they need to survive. The only way to combat this feeling is to avoid the frivolous and the trendy. In our renos, we did our best to reduce waste, reuse or recycle what we had, and go for simple beauty and practicality. And I hope to find ways to use my kitchen in service to those less fortunate.

I wish I had before and after pictures so you could see the difference, but somehow before pictures never got taken, and if you watch home reno shows at all, it would seem like we didn't change very much anyway. HGTV seems to concentrate on trendy and over the top designs and colour schemes that soon go out of style, but we chose a classic plan and will stick with it for years to come so as not to create a lot of waste now or in the future. For example, rather than get the latest in cupboards, we kept our old ones (gasp!) because they are nice solid oak -- just wait a few years and they'll be the next trend! Not that it matters a whit to us.

We aimed for practical, so all that really changed structurally speaking is that our fridge and dishwasher traded places, and we added the two nearest counter pieces with cupboards made to match the ones we already had. What a difference the changes have made to the way our kitchen functions! We're not bumping into each other nearly so much as we put meals on the table or empty the dishwasher, and I'm thrilled to have enough cupboard space so that running to the basement to get bread bowl or food processor isn't necessary any more! (I run enough river valley steps when I walk the dog!)

There are some nice aesthetic changes, too. The new cupboards match the old ones (thank you, Delton Cabinets!), and we found better door pulls that don't bite my fingers. The fridge no longer blocks the window, and I love the sunshine that crosses our new counter space on the right. All the counter tops are a fresh arborite that actually wipes clean. A new back splash means grout isn't falling out every time I wipe it. And for a nature lover like me, it's nice to have a leafy-patterned lino underfoot, and spacious skies blue on the walls. (Who names these paint colours?? Our dining/living room is whispering waterfall pale green. I'm not kidding.)

Of course, it all cost a pretty penny, but it would have been a lot more expensive if we hadn't kept the existing cupboards, subcontracted a lot of the work, and done the really time consuming stuff ourselves (like scraping off the previous tiles' glue and re-painting the insides of the old cupboards). Net result: a simple, spacious, and more functional kitchen that is already making this year's garden produce easier to handle. Not to mention less waste of renovation resources!

I've heard a lot of kitchen reno horror stories -- usually from people who rip everything out because they want a complete update. But keeping it simple makes a lot more sense -- not just for the homeowners' pocketbook and sanity, but also for the sake of the planet. And of course, we are known for trying to keep things simple around here!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sunday Reflection: Oneness

Today's reflection is brought to you by Ephesians 2:13-18

You are our peace,
when we see that we are all created
to be one harmonious family in you.

Walls of division will fall
when we recognize you
in each other.

Hostilities will die
when we find compassion for all who suffer
because suffering comes to us all.

Your peace is clear and present
when we focus on what unites us
rather than what divides us --
when we reconcile and love.

In listening to our loving Shepherd's voice
rather than arguing about what you say,
we find peace.

Help us,
O God,
to hear you
in all things,
but especially,
in each other.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Ralph's squash -- an update

Remember back in May when my 93-year-old neighbour, Ralph, gave me a squash plant? Well, I thought you might like to see how it's grown.

Because I was on vacation for the past 3 weeks, I wasn't sure what I'd find when I got back. But as I expected, Ralph's plant grew like crazy, and was a mass of tangles that my kids weren't sure how to handle. So the day before yesterday, I untangled it and tied one arm of it to our birdhouse support. The longer arm is wrapped with jute and tied up to the weather vane on top of our greenhouse. There are three or four dangling squashes that will hopefully continue to grow... but with high humidity and severe storm watches in the forecast, I'm wondering if I should maybe come up with another system to hold up the vines. I can imagine the winds possibly ripping them down. Ralph winds his vines around a pole attached to the roof of his greenhouse, but we don't have that sort of setup here.

On another note, the garden is really looking great. We've eaten a few tomatoes, the raspberries, snap and snow peas are really coming in, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the weather allows everything else to mature. I don't expect that I'll be able to grow six- or seven-foot squash like Ralph's, but I'd be happy if one manages to mature so I have seeds to share with other interested gardeners...

Happy gardening, my friends, from a happy gardener! Time to go pick more raspberries...

Thursday, July 19, 2018

I'm back -- after a wonderful trip

Did you miss me?

I've never abandoned Simple Moodlings for so long. Usually, other times that I've been on vacation, I took time to pre-schedule posts for the time I was away from my loyal readers. But this time, what with kitchen renovations and too many June events, there was no way to get everything done, and  moodlings lost out. No big deal. Nobody noticed, right?

So what's been happening in the past month or so? Plenty. Lee and I went off on our own, no kids, and had a wonderful holiday. We spent almost a week near Jasper, then headed for Vancouver, the Seattle area, and Vancouver Island. Our furthest point from home was Port Alice, 1637 km (1017 miles) away, according to Google maps. It was a wonderful three weeks, but rather than tell you, I'll show you with some pictures...

Our first campsite was a short walk from this wonderful tree
overlooking the Athabasca River... my favourite sitting spot...

We visited the Athabasca Falls...

and the Athabasca Glacier on a sunny afternoon. 
It's shocking how much the glaciers are receding...
take note, climate change deniers!

Another day, we had a good hike to the far end of Jasper's Pyramid Lake...

And I fell in love with this amazing stand of poplars...

In Vancouver, we toured UBC's 
Nitobe Japanese Garden (above) and Botanical Gardens...

where the cedars were massive
and sometimes covered with equally huge climbing vines!

And the UBC rose garden had some pretty showy flowers!

Canada Day found us in Langley, BC, 
visiting with my uncle and aunt, 
going for a gorgeous walk 
and picking Saskatoon berries!
Auntie Lucy is an artist, and we visited her studio
and brought home this lovely painting for our dining room.

We drove to Issaquah, Washington, on July 2nd
to visit my longtime friend, Julie, and her family, 
and she took us for a hike up to Rattlesnake Ledge 
for some gorgeous views...

At Marymoor Park, we were entertained 
by Great Blue Herons nesting in the trees...

(but the best part of the visit was chatting with Julie into the wee hours!)

Back in Canada, we made our way to Vancouver Island
and set up camp at Goldstream Provincial Park,
which holds my favourite campground in the world
(I have a thing for big trees and shady waterfalls...)

Goldstream Provincial Park has plenty of hiking trails, 
a large picnic area, and an impressive interpretive cabin. 
It is also home to the other Niagara Falls, 
which is just a trickle compared to her sister in Ontario...

We also visited the Kinsol Trestle Bridge, 
an engineering marvel near Cowichan Lake.
It was built between 1914 and 1920, and was recently restored
to its former glory as part of the Trans-Canada trail system.
The trestles fit together like a big puzzle.

Lee's brother lives and works in Saanich, 
so we spent some time in and around the area
with Louis and his wife, Sarah, including at Butchart Gardens,
a favourite spot you may have seen in my moodlings many times!

The rose gardens were at their peak, I'd say,
and it was a very busy day (with an excellent fireworks display)!

We spent some time at the ocean near Parksville
with my best friend, Cathy -- swimming with seals 
and building silly little castles for the tide to wash away...

She also took me on a tour of Duncan, BC's many totem poles, 
and shared a lot of fascinating Salish folklore 
about thunderbirds, orcas and other creatures...

Cathy's husband, Jim, gave us his gorgeous painting of Lake Minnewanka,
which is perfect for our living room. We're just fixing up the frame.
We had no idea this vacation would be an art collector's trip!

It turns out our Edmonton neighbours, Richard and Bridget,
were also on the Island at their summer place in Port Alice,
so Lee and I decided to make an eleven hour drive 
(both ways) to see them. We weren't sorry...

Port Alice is a gorgeous place, and we really enjoyed 
our morning out on the inlet with two excellent fisher people.

Richard and Bridget spend their summers catching prawns, crabs, and local fish.

Here's Richard letting out a crab trap...

We ate a lot of rock cod in our 27 hours at Port Alice 
-- Bridget makes it taste so delicious! --
but my favourite thing was watching the eagles 
(there were three besides this one) 
taking fish right out of the water!

(Plus it was great to get to know our neighbours better!)

We caught the Duke Point ferry and stopped overnight near Merritt, BC,
then drove through the Okanagan (where we supported a local winery)...

 and drove through the always gorgeous Rogers Pass...

We drove on to Lethbridge to see Lee's parents (950 km in one day!)
Dad took us out to Coaldale to check out the farm...

and we had a good, if short, visit with both Mom and Dad.

We arrived home nearly 6000 km later and three weeks to the day we left to find that our kids held the fort pretty well while we were away. It was a wonderful holiday.

And I'm back, with more moodlings in store... just in case you missed me, heehee!