Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Vision

2020 is almost over - do I hear your sighs of relief? Though the year is ending, begging for reflection, the pandemic doesn't adhere to such artificial milestones, and unfortunately continues to loom over 2021, too.

This year we faced a common biological enemy, COVID-19. Back in March, we expected maybe 3 long months of difficult seclusion, with people panic-buying supplies so they could stock up. Now, 10 months later, and with many more similar months ahead, we must try to remain steadfast in our resolve to isolate, and slow the spread of the virus into the next year. 

Having been in this so long, it's easy to become numb and blasé about exposure; taking precautions is fatiguing and intrusive. It raises our levels of anxiety, which can be draining, and unhealthy. The virus' demands on our lifestyles is soul-destroying and wearying, but dropping our vigilance will nullify all hardships and suffering we've endured up till now. 

A Reflective Reflection

Like a literal war, the pandemic affects ALL our lives. It has demanded sacrifices from each of us in different measure - it impacts all religions, cultures, genders and geographic locations - even the remote research station in Antarctica is affected; that blows my mind! Unlike a war, though, we have a certain amount of choice in how the pandemic affects our lives, and how we respond, and not everyone is willing to contribute. (This week I encountered 3 people casually pumping gas without masks on, and within less than 6 feet of each other, - what???) 

If we can't come together in fighting a common foe (mask compliance for starters), our adversary will not only continue to cut down our loved ones, but also cause more insidious, longer-lasting damage, polarizing society further in our time of need and rebuilding. Fighting amongst ourselves dooms us to failure at the front lines. 

Our continued futures are linked, and success depends on us responding as ONE. May that be the goal we carry forward into 2021.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


Well, ahrmmmm, it's been more than 5 days since I last did a structured workout, using my newfound resolve, so I guess I've lost or misplaced it again. It's not really my fault (🤣). You see, I'd been following a guided, 15 minute, gentle Pilates session diligently for a week on my phone, only to be informed on the 8th day, that my free trial was up. Dang it!

I have loads of other DVDs and sessions I could follow on YouTube ... but so many of them are 40 minutes to an hour in length, and that turns me off right away. I have loads of other things going on ...

Today, I ...
Hauled a load of firewood indoors,
Hung my laundry outside,
Swept the gritty floor,
Picked twigs up off the boardwalk,
Unpacked the dishwasher,
Went up and down the stairs multiple times for supplies and to put folded laundry away.
Walked to the mailbox and back,
Raked timber shards off the driveway,
Emptied the recycling skip

I also:
Filled the birdfeeder

I did these things today (and these are the ones I can remember), and I still have to exercise? Huh ... some days just don't belong to us!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020


The lake is in a state of flux. It looked solid, and frozen into stillness, a week ago. Then came the rain and some warm temps, and it's since morphed into streams of glittering blue amidst stationary, white segments. There are patches of ice offshore, and ice filaments around the edges.

I love the look and patterns of ice formation. I don't like how cold it makes everything feel, but I do love looking at the different forms and mini landscapes it creates. 

An icy heart:

I particularly love the fragile, lacy edges of frozen puddles and ponds - the temptation to step on them and hear them crack like glass beneath my feet thrills my inner child!

I love the agglomeration and arrangement of bubbles trapped beneath the surface

I love how stranded bits become flimsy, sinuous shapes

I love the imprint patterns left behind by surface disturbances, giving the impression of rock art (ice art?)

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Geometry of Laundry

I'm amazed at how easy it is to see beauty in the ordinary. It's my laundry again - this time as geometric shapes and patterns. I think it's awesome!


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Fun with Snowshapes



Snowshapes? Snowdrapes? Snowscapes?

These snowpiles have since been washed away by the relentless rain of Christmas day. Even 2 feet of snow can be fleeting.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Saga of Loops, Drops & Clusters

After knitting a comfort shawl recently that did not require any shaping or stitch changing (i.e. just like a scarf, but wider), I decided it was time to be more adventurous in my next pursuit. Enter YouTube, and a few searches, making sure to include the word 'beginner.' I watched a few demonstrations, and then decided on a pattern, and got going right away. 

It's always exciting to try a new pattern, and I was pleased with the look of the stitch for this quite coarse yarn (makes my fingers feel dry and rough as I work with it). I wasn't happy with the raggedy edges, though. I also had a sneaking suspicion, that this method of creating a triangular shawl was too steeply shaped (starting at the point and adding just one stitch each row), as is obvious from the photo. 

Since it hadn't taken me very long to get that far, I wondered if I should begin again, modifying the way I start and end the drop stitch row (Drop stitch? Who knew that was even a thing; I'm always trying NOT to drop stitches! Some smart person decided to make a feature of it!). Or maybe adding tassels will hide the loopy edges?

Well, I pulled it all out instead - the shape really wasn't going to work well in practice. I started something new and complicated instead - a pattern labeled as 'Advanced Beginner' - whew, it's difficult, but I definitely love the new challenge. I'm not sure how far I'll get ...

Oh no! This one uses Cluster Stitch, and you have to be consistent about keeping your work in the same orientation - in other words, count rows & stitches, so that the pattern stacks up consistently, and pay careful attention ... ! I'm certainly learning a lot. 😀 

I've pulled it out again! Too many errors were creeping in, and the pattern was the kind that was unforgiving, such that errors grew on each other. I started this difficult pattern once again, pulling everything out and beginning from scratch. I watched the video instructions afresh and with new insight, after having become more familiar with the sequences and new stitches, but, alas, barely 4 rows in, and the stitches don't match up to the instructions by the end of the row. Back to the drawing board! And though I pulled it out and I tried again two more times, I still couldn't get the stitches to line up according to the pattern. 

Infuriating! So, I picked out another pattern entirely, with a 2 row repeat (no clusters or drops), and not choosing one that stated, "if you're expecting to knit mindlessly in front of the TV, this is not the pattern for you." 

We live and learn ... even if it's learning that some things are too difficult for my skill level!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Ode to a Snowfall

Fluffy, wet snowflakes

Falling outside my window

Dance and float and play.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A South African Delight

What is that I'm having with my red wine? It's a South African specialty called 'droëwors' (dried sausage), made with beef and lamb. It's dried quickly and has no curing agents in it. A very nostalgic taste, and so delicious. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Tricolor Leftovers

Our leftovers made for a colorful dish last week - may I present, the Tricolor! It's said we eat with our eyes, but maybe also our minds, like 'dressing' this dish up with a fancy name!

Monday, December 21, 2020

Solstice Joy


Blue, white and silver -
Color tones of midwinter:

As daylight lengthens
Full color returns to the
World all around us.


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Motivation and Mojo


For the first time since my COVID stay at home precautions (10 months ago), I've finally begun making a concerted effort to return to formal exercising. I had been active in my yard during the wonderful summer weather, and kayaked a good deal during the fall (with lots of painful side-effects), but winter is here now, and most of my activities (reading, knitting, eating, writing, crocheting, eating, watching movies, sewing, playing Scrabble, eating) are sedentary. I lost my formalized exercising mojo some time ago, and have been struggling to find that regular slot and and desire for an exercise 'high' ever since.

I have to manage a fine line between 'just enough' and 'too much' exercise - I need just enough to keep my arthritic joints flexible, but not so much that inflammation is initiated. I'm not good at finding that sweet spot in between, and so I keep letting it slide. In my mind, I had been contemplating exercising, and considering how and when I'd start, but that didn't quite cut it as far as burning calories goes. I KNEW I'd eventually have to try again, physically, to get results. 

My daughter recently reminded me that I once LIVED for that exercise high. Prompting the exact memory of just how good it felt (which many friends have been trying to remind me of, too) finally did it! It was as if I'd been waiting for a miracle to happen to me, without acknowledging that it was up to me to initiate the miracle (or buy that lottery ticket!).

I completed a 15 minute Pilates workout that day. And the next. And the next, and the next. It's going to be a long road back to what I could once do, but as soon as I'm finished documenting this (another delay tactic?), I'm going to do another session. Maybe putting it out there and going 'public' will help keep me committed? (And I mean committed to an exercise regimen, not committed to an asylum 🤣)

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Candid about Candied Peel

I have never enjoyed the taste of candied peel, so when I read that home-made candied peel was a totally different experience from store-bought, I decided to follow that advice and make my own. This year of seclusion has inspired me to try new things that were not on my radar before, and I've become more adventurous in the kitchen. There are clearly good things to take away from slowing our lives down somewhat, if we seize that opportunity - it's ours to grasp.

And, oooh, is it good! Reminds me of Boston Fruit Slices - yum.

I chopped some up to go into a special cake ... a type I've never tackled before! Let's see how this baking adventure turns out ...

This is my first ever Dresden Stolllen - a German Christmas recipe: sweet fruit bread (needs more fruit).


Friday, December 18, 2020


Snowfall creates a
Universe on my window
And darkens my view.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Home Remedies


My Optometrist suggested I use a microwavable heat pad to help my Dry Eye condition (the least aptly named condition ever, in my opinion, since it makes my eyes stream with fluid. Apparently the oil glands are blocked and the watery eye is an attempt to fix it. The heat is supposed to encourage the moisturizing oils to flow). I didn't fancy using my current heavy corn bag on my face. When I looked online, I saw one for $20, which seemed pretty reasonable, but the item looked exactly like something I already have a lot of at home - an assortment of eye masks from flying different airlines. So I decided to adapt one instead.

All I really needed to do, was undo the stitching around the edge, pour some uncooked rice grains in between the 2 layers (using a funnel), and sew the opening together again. I popped it into the microwave for 15-20 seconds and tah-dah, an instant soothing compress, that delivers a moist heat. This should be more effective (and less messy) than standing over a washbasin, with a hot-water-soaked washcloth that cools too quickly. 

I folded the eyemask over to show the bulk from the rice inside

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Back to Basics

Living sustainably means different things to different people. For me it's a daily practice; a mindset. It's about not buying fabricated and packaged fire starters even if I can afford them. It's about using what we have; recognizing the bounty that is around us. So when storms drop dead twigs to the ground, I collect some and use them in manageable sized pieces as fire starters during the winter months, when we rely on our wood stove for heat. It gives me a little outdoor time and activity too!

A branch ready for snapping into bundles like those in the foreground

Sustainability is also about planning to do my laundry on days when there is sunshine, instead of using my electric dryer, even though I have one. We have a natural resource that can do the work for us, the sun, so I choose to use its free and nonpolluting power. When the laundry doesn't dry fully on wintery days, I drape it on furniture once it's inside, bringing some much needed moisture to the dry air indoors. Win, win!

Using resources thoughtfully is a personal choice for me; it means using resources wisely, and being mindful of becoming swept up in 'created' consumer-mindset markets. It's about stopping and thinking about living more simply, of distinguishing between need and convenience. It's really about getting back to basics whenever you can.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020


This wasn't taken in the spring, though it certainly looks that way compared to our current white and wintery ground:

Solitary leaf
Veined, smooth, and gold in the grass
That overshadows


Monday, December 14, 2020

Dreary? Cheery?

Some days aren't as picturesque or uplifting as others, but that doesn't mean they're not worth a picture. This is a dreary picture taken before our first snowstorm hit.

It does at least inspire a haiku, so I'm cheery for its inspiration:

Drippy, dreary rain:

Drapes a leaden grey curtain,

And melts the new ice.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Dough Girl

I've been trying my hand at homemade pastry, seeing as I no longer use the pre-packaged, convenience options in the grocery store. To promote intestinal healing after my allergy diagnosis, I needed to avoid all forms of soy and I had to stop buying my once-favorite refrigerated Pillsbury pie crusts. As you can see below, nothing in their ingredients list declares soy as an ingredient, but it turns out that citric acid can be derived from soy, so this product was a 'no-no' in my initial recovery. The source isn't specified, and talking to a phone rep didn't help: best to just avoid it, they'd say.

"Enriched Flour Bleached (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Partially Hydrogenated Lard with BHA and BHT to Protect Flavor, Wheat Starch, Water. Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Rice Flour, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Propionate (preservatives), Citric Acid, Yellow 5, Red 40."

When I tried out recipes to make my own pastry, it was initially such a hassle and took extra time, but I eventually discovered that doing it often makes it easier (who knew???), and also that a good pastry only needs 4 basic ingredients: flour, water, butter and salt. What is all that other stuff in the convenience product? Even though I don't have to be quite as diligent because the flare-up inflammation is under control, I can't bring myself to go back. So, now I tend to dress up my leftovers in a pie crust when I'm not putting them on pizza, and have had to contemplate how avoiding soy contributes to weight gain ... hmm !

Here are some of the spurious ways that soy gets into our food supply when we rely on conveniences from the grocery store (

The ingredients that are usually made from or contain soy:
Monosodium glutamate or MSG
Hydrolyzed plant protein or HPP
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP
Vegetable oil
Vegetable shortening (like Crisco and the other solid white shortenings in a can)
Vegetable broth
Protein concentrate
Protein isolates
Guar gum, vegetable gum, gum arabic - up to 10% soy protein can be added during manufacturing
Glycerol monostearate
Natural flavorings
Thickening agents
Liquid smoke (some brands)
Vitamin E
Citric acid (can be derived from fruit, corn, or soy)

And then there are those products containing soy as an emulsifier, a flavoring agent, additional protein, etc., etc., etc.:
Almost all commercial bakery items (breads, cakes, cookies, doughnuts)
Cake mixes, cookie mixes, pancake mixes, any baking mixes
Breakfast cereal (check label carefully… some cereals contain no soy but have a cross contamination notice)
Anything breaded
Self-basting turkeys (call the company for ingredient list)
Canned tuna (even the tuna packed in water is almost always flavored with vegetable broth)
Canned meat products unless otherwise stated
Processed and prepared sliced meats (deli meats)
Ham or smoked anything (check ingredient list)
Hot dogs, packaged cold meats, sausage
Imitation crab meat, imitation bacon bits
Canned soups, broths, or stocks
Dried soup mixes (the flavor packet)
Frozen vegetables with sauces
Almost anything labeled as vegetarian
Sauces: teriyaki, Worcestershire, soy, shoyu, tamari, sweet and sour
Gravies and marinades
Bouillon cubes
“Dairy free” products
Half and half (check ingredients)
Fresh cream (a very few heavy creams are soy free)
Dairy topping in can or packaged mix
Some yogurts
Ice cream (a few of the gourmet ice creams are OK, but most supermarket ice creams are not)
Purchased pizza
Peanut butter (look for 100% peanuts only, with or without added salt)
Baby formula, baby foods
Most seasoning blends (again, check label carefully)
Spices (some manufacturers are adding smoothing agents and anti-caking agents that contain soy… I have had problems with garlic powder, ground cinnamon, and chili powder)
Butter substitutes or anything with “butter flavor”
Salad dressings
Almost anything “diet”
Potato chips, corn chips, and just about any kind of chips… if you’re lucky, you might find some potato chips without soy
Unpopped popcorn (not all, but check the label)
Soft drinks (not all, but check the label)
Energy drinks, energy bars
Beverage mixes like hot chocolate, instant tea, or lemonade
Most candy and most chocolate (exceptions: some baking chocolate and chocolate made with cocoa butter instead of lecithin)
Chewing gum
Cooking sprays (except one 100% olive oil spray that may or may not contain soy)
Microwaveable meals
Restaurant food
Fast food
Herbal teas

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Tranquil Mist

Before the ice came:

Tranquility reigns:

A gauzy mist, like a veil,

Hangs over the lake.

Friday, December 11, 2020

A Week's Difference


Wind blows a shimmer


On the surface of the lake


Like silvery ice.

This picture is already a week old. This is what it looks like now:

The water has stilled ...

Disruptive winds can't affect

Solid, grey crystals.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Sun's Puppet

Sunshine! A glorious thing, even when temperatures are low. Coming from the subtropics, I think I am particularly susceptible to the presence or absence of sun. I'm 'up' when the sun shines, and 'down' when it's gloomy - I yo-yo back and forth, as the weather changes, the sun's puppet. Light drives my mood.

Right now, in the temperate northern hemisphere, I'm counting the days till the solstice, when daily darkness starts to recede by mere minutes each day. Just 11 days to go till we get a little more daily light, when we hit the planetary limit of how far we can tilt from the sun. It's the turning point I've come to look forward to; it's onward and upward from there (... till next year). I think my personal healthy light limit is more like the time of the equinox - it can start getting lighter for me from there!

I'm lucky enough to have a desk in a sunlit area of my home. It makes it a nice place to be. A nice place to hang out (vegetate?) or work, or read. Light shows up the dirt and dust, though, and light streaming in through my windows makes my computer screen hard to read, but I can live with that!

When there's no sun, my workspace changes character dramatically - too cold to sit at for long, too dreary to feel inspired, too grey to be a source of energy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Fun without Electricity!


We were without power for a total of 43 hours after our recent heavy snowstorm. I was determined to maintain an upbeat demeanor and not let the unfavorable situation get the better of me. Since I was spending my time knitting during the outage, I though I'd make a video of the calming, soothing activity, as a sort of Zen-experience.

So, I placed my headlamp on my head, put my phone into video mode, and slid it onto the front of my head under the headlamp strap. I picked up my knitting and began clicking my needles through the row, when Dale looked over and saw me with my phone protruding from the top of my head. I heard him exclaim, "What on earth are you doing?"

Not wanting to ruin my video, I didn't respond, but instead began giggling and shaking in my chair, trying hard to keep knitting. The giggling got too much for me, so I grabbed my phone off my head and stopped the video. I played back what I had captured, and it turns out, that not only did Dale's question intrude upon the video, but I had forgotten to change the camera direction when I pressed record, so it was facing backwards: all I captured was the top of my hair and scalp, which began wobbling and shaking with my laughter.

I did try it with the camera facing forward after that, but it was pointed at the woodstove, not my knitting. In retrospect, I'm not upset that I didn't record what I intended - the process of doing it (incorrectly and unsatisfactorily) gave us a good laugh in difficult times. You're never too old to have some simple, home-made fun! Release your inner child 😂.

P.S. I deleted the video before I decided to write about it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Poems, while Powerless, Post-Storm


Icy tree baubles

Adorn the spindly branches -

Natural decor.

Snowy white outlines

Delineate cold branches -

Stark against the bark.


The water has stilled,

Frozen snow clumps suspended

Atop its surface.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Inspiration Trickles In

I'm a lazy writer!

At almost noon, I find myself lying on the couch in my dressing gown, feet up, head propped with a cushion, phone in hand, busy writing a story in the laziest way possible. 

Somehow, feeling this relaxed and comfortable makes it seem as if I'm not trying to write, and that I'm not doing anything difficult, which is what writing can be. It's as if I'm 'working' without realizing it, having fooled myself! The story is flowing because I'm feeling uninhibited, and without pressure. 

Most professional and successful writers insist that one should just sit at one's desk each day and write - get all the bad stuff out and 'dare to be terrible' (Dan Brown). When I sit at my desk to write, it can seem formal and contrived, with the expectation that words will appear on the screen if I sit there long enough. But today my informal indulgence is more productive than the accepted method. The 'flow' I'm experiencing is fantastic. I lay down without any preconceived goals or expectations that I'd be productive - -  and then inspiration trickled in, when I least expected it.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Winter's Cloak

Our first real snow event of this season began with rain, and then it became ... snowy rain ... 

Less than an hour later, it looked like this.

And then, two-and-a-half hours later, it had become:

By this time, I couldn't see out of my angled windows - they held the clumping wet snow in place, and darkened my work space, as if I'd drawn the curtains.

The next day's aftermath: the price we pay for living without electricity, going on 17 hours. But WE HAVE A GENERATOR - the best thing since sliced bread.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Resistance Training


I've just found a great resistance exercise that one can do whilst preparing baked goodies for your family - working with refrigerated dough! No kidding. I can feel an ache in my arms and shoulders (and maybe even my neck) from having 'worked' cold dough a few times yesterday. There was a lot of resistance, and I had to press hard to roll out the dough each time I got it out of the fridge!

I didn't do a very good job, presentation-wise with my pie, in my opinion (I only photographed the acceptable part!), but my taste buds approved, so I was rewarded for my efforts 😃

Anyway, my advice to you is, do your next workout in the kitchen, and get going on your resistance training. You don't even have to go to a gym and get exposed to COVID! Who needs fancy belts and stretch bands? A good old rolling pin in the comfort of your own home does the trick. And, you don't have to resist having a slice!

Friday, December 4, 2020

Basket Labyrinths


The animal baskets I crocheted with all my odd leftovers are nesting together in these photos. They're for a local Wildlife Refuge, which is licensed to rehabilitate injured, sick and orphaned animals. They are a colorful sight.

It's so satisfying to have found something useful to make with scraps and leftover yarn. Plus, I learned new skills and techniques and had a lot of fun doing it. Oh, and it's probably also good for my arthritis! Win, win, win!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Snow Ghosts

The season's first snow

Swirls about like wisps of smoke 

On road surfaces.


*   *   *   *

Phantom breaths of air 

Shift and dissipate like ghosts

Under passing cars.


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Abstraction Distraction

Abstract depiction of the lake. I was sitting on my lakeside bench in the sun, watching 5 mallards paddling about, when I noticed these beautiful patterns on the surface, from their activity. It distracted me from watching them. 


There were reports of juvenile tundra swans passing through our area just before Thanksgiving, and some were spotted on Lake Arrowhead, so we visited different beaches and lakefront access points, as well as our own cove, to see if we could hit the jackpot (it would be a 'lifer' for us to 'grip' this species - from Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book, which covers 'The misery, the scandal, the heartbreak of bird-watching' -

No luck so far.