Saturday, September 23, 2017

And Now, Belfast

Travel not to escape life, but so life doesn't escape you. --Unknown
All of a sudden, it's autumn, and I'm in Northern Ireland. How funny it is in this modern world that we can be one place one day, and then on the other sidebar of the world the next... at least you can be there if you have no travel delays and the flights are not overbooked. Modern life is not without its challenges.

We had this trip planned months ago, and just like anything that seems so far away when you first plan it, it snuck up on me like a ghost in the shadows. This time, at least had an evening and most of the next day to go through my packing list (I had a packing list) and make sure it was all packed. I only had a small travel case and a half-empty backpack, since we were visiting the hubby's mum in Belfast and I knew I could do laundry. Even so, I kept lifting the case and pondering whether or not I had ACTUALLY remembered all that I needed.

But really, all you need when you travel is your passport, a ticket, and some money. And some knitting.

The international side of Vancouver Airport always has the most interesting installations at the gates. You can't lose with shoes, I say:




The flights were long and boring, and the trans-Atlantic flight was particularly grueling because, when you travel as the poor unwashed, you get the tiniest seats between the widest people. I could not sit back at all on that flight, and therefore only got snatches of sleep throughout. I'm glad the border agent wasn't in the mood for testing me, because my brain was on zombie-mode by the time we reached Heathrow, and I could not guarantee that I would not try to eat his brains.

Finally, though, we got to good awl' Belfast:


We had a lovely week visiting with friends and family. The weather was mostly great, but decidedly Northern Irish:



I traveled into town a couple of days, and even though I lived here for about six years, I was surprised at how much of the beautiful architecture I'd never really appreciated before, like at City Hall:


Even the Lagan Weir looked inviting to me:


The nicest thing about visiting with friends and family is that they always know the nicest places to eat:




And wee Cindy is always waiting for you when you get home. This old kitty is already 15 years old, but still runs and jumps and plays and enjoys a midnight wander. What a magical cat:


I'm sitting in Belfast City Airport right now, waiting for our next flight to Exeter in Devon, England. I am very much looking forward to some quiet days in the English countryside. And yes, I have been knitting... long, glorious hours of knitting, with limited internet access to distract me. On Wednesday, we'll board a train and ride to London, during which I'm also hoping for a bit of gentle adventure.

Oh, gentle adventure. That's the ticket. Speaking of... where'd I put my boarding pass....

Sunday, September 10, 2017

In a Bubble Wrap World

I'm going to try to play it as it's written, not the way I remember it. --Musician I listened to this afternoon
I haven't been all that productive recently with any of my creative endeavors. I've been extra weary these past couple of weeks, and I subscribe to the wise words of my friend, dkzack, who said, "Friends don't let tired friends knit."

Wise words, my girl. Wise.

Instead, I have been trying to look after myself with as much care as I can: enjoying music, watching videos that make me smile (puppy and kitten videos, in particular), resting on my yoga mat, breathing deeply... generally surrounding myself by things that feel good to me. Oh, and I also took this article to heart and stopped checking my emails at home so often. Really: there's no emergency that comes through email. If stuff is really falling apart, I'll totally know it...

... and if you've watched the news recently, there are some real emergencies out there.

So, I'm wrapping myself in a bit of bubble wrap these days. In the middle of my little bubble world, I roasted an eggplant from my veggie box to make some baba ganoush (I used this recipe). I haven't had baba ganoush in a while, so I couldn't really remember what it tasted like, but mine tasted a lot like my hummus recipe, which is a good thing because I make an awesome hummus. I was surprised at how well the eggplant roasted on my barbecue. I was sure I was going to end up with a charred mess:


Today, we made an impromptu trip to Westholme Tea Farm, which is one of my most favourite places in the world:


It was the last of the summer's "Jazzy Tea Sundays." The servers put reserved signs on the table to force people to come in to make sure they weren't ignored outside, which was an interesting tactic. So we got a "reserved" spot after all, which I thought was kind of nice, because it was like they had a spot saved just for me:


A pot of tea and a bit of cake were a great salve for my soul:


And the surroundings are always a great refreshment for my heart:


There are ceramics all around the place for purchase, made by Margit, the wife of the husband-and-wife team. I love the eggs hanging in the windows of the barn. I have designs of giving myself an afternoon to myself at the tea house so I can drink tea, gaze out the window, and maybe.... MAYBE... even knit. What a wondrous thought:





Meanwhile, at home, I have a few little bargain treats that I have been lucky enough to procure. I got these jam pots (jars?) for a steal at $2 a piece. I have no idea what I'll do with them yet, but the lids have rubber stoppers in them, so I could actually put some kind of jam in them. For the moment, they are sweet enough to put a smile on my face:



And this wondrous blue pot has been hanging around in my house for a while, and I just haven't gotten around to sharing it. It was also a bargain buy. I reasoned with myself that I really didn't need another decorative trinket in the house, but this blue was far too mesmerizing for me to pass up. I think it may become a receptacle for some of my yarn or some of my supplies... not exactly sure yet. For now, it lives on the ledge along the stairs in the house, so its main purpose is to make me smile each time I walk past, which I think is a very good purpose to have:


In the meantime, my bubble wrap world, while somewhat more comfortable, is not impervious to the stresses of life, work, and family. It has not been at all an easy time, and I sure would love a monotonous life right now, but alas, that is not what has been placed before us. As such, I am securely placing myself in the world of tea and yarn and vintage goodies until some of the storm passes... or maybe until I feel a little stronger to weather it. I have realized one thing for sure: the world really is what you make of it. Sometimes, it means pushing away what you think it ought to be and to be willing to take it for what it is.

Like the musician I listened to at the Tea Farm today, "I'm going to play it as it's written, not the way I remember it."

Happy Sunday.

P.S. There is knitting happening now. It's a beautiful piece. I'll share more next time.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hanging Out in the Farmyard

What you see depends on how you view the world. To most people, this is just dirt. To a farmer, it's potential. --Doe Zantamata
I spent the weekend at a B & B on a farm just outside of Victoria this weekend. The hubby had a few things he needed to get done down there, and we decided that it would be much more relaxing to find a place to stay rather than get up at the crack of dawn to fight through the traffic. We got lucky and found this place available. I thought it would be pretty ok, but it turned out to be a nice surprise in many ways.

We were greeted by the welcome dogs, Luna (white) and Keenan (brown). They barked their heads off the first time they met us, but every other time we came in, the most we got out of them was a muffled "woof" followed by lots of head-butted requests for scratches behind their ears:



The rest of the animals largely ignored us, unless I brought over handfuls of grass for them to sample:





The ducks and the chickens were in too much of a hurry to chat much, but they were at least obliging enough for photos:



And the cats... well, they were busy being cats. They did come over and sit on our laps at breakfast time, though, which is as dutiful as a cat gets, I think:





The rest of the weekend was spent going for walks and exploring the Saanich Inlet. The peace and quiet were exactly what my soul yearned for:







What I liked the most, though, was meeting the people who worked there at the farm. Most of them were students from abroad who lived there for free room and board in exchange for work. They were only obliged to work five hours each day, but every time I passed any of them, I found them industriously painting fences, shoveling manure, clearing dishes, cooking dinner... and doing so quietly and without complaint, and largely without supervision. One of them celebrated a birthday while we were there, and even though I was tired, I didn't begrudge the laughter and music as I lay upstairs in our room.

This morning, as we sat eating breakfast, we got talking about the vegetables in the garden. One of them was trying to make zucchini chips, but she thought some of them wouldn't turn out because they were too thick. "That's ok," one of the others said. "We can always make something else with those... we could eat them roasted on the side, or make soup."

And, you know... I like people like that... folks who can just make things out of whatever is about, without too much fuss with recipes or plans. It's nice to be around people who can work without drama and without fuss. It's been a while since I've experienced that.

Not that I think farm life is easy, by the way. I know I've idealized it a bit, especially since I sat around doing mostly nothing while the others worked away.  I'm not so naive as to believe that life away from my office is easy. I just liked the change of gears and the change of atmosphere.

Of course, I thought I could bring a bit of it home with me. One of the girls gave me an enormous zucchini to take home. I ignored the worry in the hubby's eyes when I accepted it (I'm forever taking home veggies that we have to work hard to get through):


When I got it home, I made a stuffing with some onions and tomatoes from my weekly veggie box, as well as some beef and rice and stock. I should have known my plans were going to go awry when I had to lean hard on the knife to cut the zucchini open:


I also pulled out some leftover croissants to make a bread pudding with some of the strawberries and blueberries from our garden:


The stuffed zucchini was a bit of a bust (a bit tough, even after I roasted it on the barbecue for nearly 45 minutes), but the bread pudding was much more impressive:


Anyway, I do have a yarn project on the go, but I can't share it because I'm making it as a rare favour for someone I know who wants to give it as a gift. So, I guess I'll finish by saying that a weekend on the farm gave me some good perspective on things: life need not be complicated. I guess I just need to figure out what that means for me.

E-I-E-I-OOOOOOOOOOOO....


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Good and Not-So-Good

Live in the shadow of the moon until you're bright enough to give birth to your own suns. --Curtis Tyrone Jones
Short post today. It's been a time of goods and not-so-goods. Work is still very, very hard. I'm taking stands and setting my limits and pushing back while having good cries when I can. That's pretty ok for now.

Today, I went to a workshop I signed up for at a local yoga studio called Mantra and Mandala. We met at the studio and gathered for a group mantra chant. I've been so tired and weary that I don't get too worried about doing stuff absolutely right. I sat on my mat on my bolster and just joined in and enjoyed the vibration in my chest and the peace around me. That was good.

The next part of the workshop was to walk to the park in silence, noticing as many colours along the way. Before we left, I happened to remark that I had been stung by a wasp a couple of weeks ago for the first time ever. The area got hot and swollen and itchy for a couple of days, and then it settled down after I took an antihistamine. Heh. One of those things.

And then, we all wandered to the park, looking at all the colours around us without speaking, and when we got there, we sat down on blankets on the grass to talk about painting mandalas onto round stones. A mandala, simply put, is a circular pattern that is often used in Buddhist or Hindu practices that assist with meditative practice, both during its creation and afterward. Really, it was a little craft workshop with like-minded people. It was exactly what I wanted to do.

We crouched together and looked at the samples and paints and patterns. And... wouldn't you know it... while I was crouched forward, I felt a poke and some pain, and welp, there was my second wasp sting of my life. That was no-so-good.

Luckily, one of the others lent me this handy thing that help to slow down the swelling. She let me hang onto it to apply it every so often. While I still needed an antihistamine when I got home, the sting site was almost healed by the time I left. That was good.

As was all the painting. I can't tell you how wonderful it was just to sit and smile with the others and contemplate colours all afternoon. That was very, very good:





When we finished, we said our goodbyes, and I walked back to the parking lot where I'd left my car. When I got in, I started the engine and reached for a drink I had with me... some kombucha I wanted to try. Turns out, when kombucha is left to get warm in the sun for a while, it builds up pressure... and I summarily ended up with a huge spray gun of kombucha in my car. It covered me, the steering wheel, the driver side door... pretty much everything in front of me. I sat there in shock for a moment. Not-so-good.

I ended up taking a deep breath and just driving home. I appeared at our front door with a sad, sad face, and the hubby helped me clean up the car while I got into the shower fully clothed to wash the sticky drink off my body. So much for that.

Later this evening, I pulled out my rocks to look at them. It is surprising how they turned out: I tried to plan what I was going to do, but the rocks seemed to dictate for itself what they were going to look like:



This one keeps surprising me with its beauty every time I glance at it:


This one just seemed to want to remain as asymmetrical as possible... and it totally worked. What a nice reminder that not everything need be perfect to be beautiful:



Tonight, I'm getting ready for another week. It's no secret that I am very unhappy these days. It's to the point where I don't really care who knows. I am realizing, though, that even through the wasp stings and kombucha showers of life, I am fortunate still to have my health and my family with me. I am keeping those things close to my heart these days. They are good to have... and I am grateful for all that is good.

Have a good week.