Going Silent and Coming Back

Jar Room Wonder

Well, WordPress followers … if you’re still out there … I’ve gone silent since September 18th, 2018 with my Lady Ashburn Mustard Pickles post. What a post to go out on. By the way, those pickles are so delicious! Okay, all kidding aside, months can fly by when one is filling non-writing time with food preservation, road trips, holidays and sock knitting.

Happy feet

There are about a hundred good posts in the above activities, but this blog is supposed to be all about writing. If I come to a dry spell again, I might start an all about non-writing blog. Then again, not writing really meant not writing. I have been hard pressed to put something as short and simple as an email together.

Let’s talk writing blocks. Every author has them. Getting my last book (No Compass to Right) out in 2017 was a huge effort – faster than usual writing timeline for all stages, a rush to publication to meet certain promotion opportunities then blissful nothingness. Stepping back from the whirlwind was much needed.

Kayak & kid magic

My well-earned rest flowed right into summer at the lake, visitors and a bountiful garden to enjoy. Along comes fall and there is the imperative of fresh produce begging for preservation. Then immersion as a sideline cheerleader on our jar and freezer room project (check it out in the first pic on this post). More than satisfying to see that space completed! And suddenly it is time for a road trip. We get home, catch our breath and we are in the Christmas rush. Busy, busy, busy.

Brit, Fran and Emma at Crowsnest Pass in Alberta Nov3-2018 - bruce witzel photo

I’m not fooling any of the writers out there with my busyness excuses. When we need to write, nothing gets in the way and everything else still gets done – for the most part. Writers are efficient with their time.

Coming back is hard. I can’t deny it. The longer I stayed away from daily writing, the more of a brick wall went up. Deconstructing the wall takes time. My endurance for sustained writing is low. In the first fifteen minutes I fight down a constant stream of demanding thoughts. I need to get up for a snack, perhaps another cup of coffee, maybe I should check my email and on it goes. Then, without any fanfare, I fall into the zone and the next forty-five minutes whiz by.

In a rush of energy at the end of writing No Compass to Right, I created extensive notes for the next book. Last week, I started back to those notes and simply hanging out with the characters. Asking questions. What is on their minds, where do they want to go, what do they want to be doing in book five? And do those characters ever clamour for attention. They speak, oh man do they speak – some go so far as to yell and scream. The ideas come in front of the keyboard as I write and while I do my daily walk. I snapped this photo through the glass of our greenhouse the other day. Datura in full bloom with evergreen reflection.

January Greenhouse Datura

Once I am back to writing, the desire to send my thoughts out into the blogosphere returns. This has been my longest WordPress silence since I started blogging in 2012. Here’s to going silent and here’s to coming back. If anyone is still listening … here’s a couple of pics of me and Bruce at Emerald Lake in YoHo National Park.

Me and Bruce at Emerald Lake         Emerald Lake - Yo Ho National Park

Zucchini Soup Magic

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This is going to be a banner year for zucchini around here! You see the latest culprit creeping out from under one of the many plants scattered around our garden. Every possible use for this magical summer squash is going to be required.

I tried a zucchini soup recipe the other day that was superb and too good not to share far and wide. My daughter-in-law, Maggie, shared the recipe with me from Skinnytaste. At only sixty calories a cup, the skinny part is right on. If you find yourself in possession of a few medium zucchini, I suggest you make this soup.

Here goes:

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

3 medium zucchini cut into chunks

1 carton chicken broth

2 tbsp. of plain yogurt.

Combine onion, garlic, zucchini and broth in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender – approx. 20 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with one of those nifty hand-held blender things. I don’t have one of those, so used my food processor. Add yogurt and puree some more. Salt and pepper to taste. Presto – delicious. Serve with a smattering of fresh parmesan cheese.

Naturally, I strayed from the recipe slightly by adding ½ a small jalapeno pepper at the cooking stage and a handful of fresh basil leaves at the puree stage.

Zuchinni soup

The picture – taken on my phone so I could share with jealous friends immediately – does not do the soup justice. It was so tasty and so delightfully green.

Oh man, do you see that zucchini in the far planter on the right? Looks like we’ll be making more soup really soon.

Zucchini Magic

For the Love of Beans

Purple Peacock Beans 2

There’s an old adage about gardening that I fully subscribe to – grow what you like to eat! For us, that means lots of fresh beans.

Here are two of my new-time favourites.

Bush Beans

Dragon Tongue Bush Beans – a beautiful Dutch heirloom variety that is perfect to eat fresh or preserved, or even as dried beans. When the beans turn from lime green to yellow with their bright purple stripes, they are ready to go.

Three Bean Varieties

Purple Peacock Pole Beans – Twining stems, light purple flowers and dark purple pods. A striking plant that provides a wonderful garden screen. This variety handles cool conditions well. The pods keep their flavour and tenderness even when very long. Don’t get too attached to the colour though – they turn green when you cook them.

Purple Peacock Pole Beans

Purple Peacock Pole Beans 2

Scarlett Runners are the old timers in our garden. We’ve been collecting our own seeds and growing a tepee trellis full of these beans for years now. The flowers are pretty and the vines are vigorous but for an optimal taste experience, get those beans before they get too big!

Scarlett Runner Beans 2

Scarlett Runner Beans

We also grow Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans – this type of bean has been grown by gardeners since 1864. Popular due to its vigour and fine heirloom flavour. I’ve gathered the brown-seeds and dried them for planting the following year with great success. You can see them growing in the picture below on the tepee trellis at the back of our under-the-clothes-line section of the garden. Just coming into flower now, we won’t be eating these until a bit later in the season.

Kentucky Wonder Bean Trellis

For the gardening enthusiasts, we grow in zone 8 to 9 here on Northern Vancouver Island and the varieties of beans I’ve mentioned will produce from early August through late September.

Back to the garden for me. These days I am hosting grandkids, friends and family and enjoying the beauty of the summer days here at the lake. Not writing yet but all experiences nurture the storylines brewing away in my mind. Stay tuned for more on all of the above and adventures from that Crater Lake gang.

A Time for Reflection

Planets and the sun

Yesterday, Ash Wednesday kicked off the forty days of Lent. For those who follow church time, Lent is traditionally a period to clear out the excess that clutters our days to make room for the new life that will come with Easter. It is true that the new will have a hard time finding a spot to settle in with us if all the available real estate is taken.

Without a doubt, our lives get cluttered. Objects, behaviours, ideas, activities – you name it – somehow, these things start to take up way more time, energy and space that we ever thought they would. In the best sense, Lent can be the broom that sweeps clear and helps us get back to the basics. Lent can be a time when we hone in on what really matters to us and how we might find our way to doing what we can to enact change.

Peace Crane Project, Lindale park Gardens, Minneapolis MN

Here is a list of ways to make change this Lent (by no means exhaustive and only meant to prime the pump of your own imagination):

  • Spend at least an hour outdoors every day for the next forty days – fresh air and glimpses of nature (even in the city these do abound!) are restorative.
  • Look into a micro-lending agency like Kiva. Giving a hand up is a great way to make change.
  • Resolve to grow something – anything will do. Start some seeds. Nurture a house plant. Pop the end of a green onion in a glass of water. Simply pay attention to the process and enjoy the miracle of growth.
  • How about this … don’t buy anything you don’t really need for the next forty days.
  • Tackle a de-cluttering task – break it down into small pieces and resolve to finish the job before Easter. Less stuff hanging around is always conducive to a better outlook on life. And you may just find a few things to give away.
  • Heal a broken relationship even if all it involves is letting go and forgiving yourself.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose – any of the R’s will do.

“Everything in life has its own time. There is time to celebrate and there is time to mourn. This is the time for reflection and transformation. Let us look within and change into what we ought to be.” (Aaron Saul)

An angel sitting with the Buddha in our garden - photo by Bruce Witzel

Rolling Out 2018

Christmas Rose - hellebore

I am indebted to a Facebook friend who captured, in a three-letter mnemonic, exactly what I am setting out to accomplish in 2018. CCM – my first thought was a memory of how, as a teenager, having a CCM ten-speed bike was all I could think of.

CCMTDCRawFullSideRight

Anyway – my CCM of 2018 translates to Clear, Create and Move.

Morning View

After a suitable recovery time from our wonderful twelve days of Christmas, I set out on my journey. And I’ve been lucky enough to discover a few tools to tuck into my bag. I signed up for a couple of online courses on simplifying and clearing space in my life. Wow! Daily meditation and reflection pieces are widening my horizons when it comes to the word clearing. I’m addressing clutter, but it turns out clutter is much more than the mess in my cutlery drawer. Clutter has shown up in my thoughts, in the ways I view objects and past situations. Well, to be honest, it’s everywhere. A year to figure things out is a nice thought. This is the drip, drip, drip method of change.

Crater Lake Series Banner (3)

When it comes to creating, I feel like I’ve been on the right path. Five books written and self-published in five years. I will continue to write and improve my craft. It’s what I love doing. And don’t be surprised if one of the Crater Lake characters needs to clear some clutter in his or her life. It’s all fodder for the writing mill.

Kristen and the baby aligator

I couldn’t resist adding this picture of my lovely daughter, Kristen, on a Bayou tour in Louisiana. Over the month of January so many people I know have been out and about and on the move. From all-inclusive Mexican resorts to New Orleans.

So, onto the idea of moving. A few years ago, I had an awful episode with my knee. Strained beyond the beyond. The doctor suggested a recumbent, stationary bicycle to strengthen my quad muscles and hopefully keep that knee pain free. I got the bike and began my imaginary ride across Canada. Suffice to say, I’ve made my share of lengthy stops. But I am currently almost 2000 kilometers along the way, travelling between Strathmore and Drumheller, Alberta. And I walk daily – 2.5 kilometers around the trails near my home. My doctor upped the movement ante at my last visit by suggesting some gentle weight training to increase metabolic rate. To the frown on my face, she answered, “Soup cans.” I resisted the urge to burst out laughing. But hey, why not soup cans? No one is out here to collapse in a fit of hysterics as they watch me heft my tins of clam chowder. My goal is to get a couple of those bottles of Motts Clamato juice in my hands. Resistant weight training by day and yummy Caesars by night. Lake living is nothing if not innovative.

So … CCM … 2018 is going to be a great year!

Moon

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas mug

On the first day of Christmas, we were so sick with a cold and cough that all we could manage was opening our gifts and sitting by the fire. Got this nifty mug – someone knows me well!

Turkey dinner

On the second day of Christmas we recovered enough to cook our turkey. Yummy.

3rd day of Christmas - special breakfast

Third day of Christmas was greeted by a holiday breakfast – sausages and French toast with icing sugar and whipped cream. We’re getting into the swing of holiday food.

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On the fourth day of Christmas, I used my brand new gloves to load the stove. Gotta keep those home fires burning and as you can see from the first glove photo, I was due for a new pair. 

Garden Gargoyle

Making the coffee on the morning of the fifth day of Christmas, I stare out the kitchen window and wonder what this garden gargoyle is planning.

Five Generations (2)

Got busy on the sixth day of Christmas clearing out and shredding a bunch of paperwork from the settling of my dad’s estate. He died seven years ago, so it was time. Came across this photo. Five generations – me at barely twenty-one with my son Doug, my dad, his mom and her mom. Wow! The time really does fly.

Cinnamon Sugar Diffuser

The seventh day of Christmas saw me setting up my new Cinnamon-Sugar diffusor. My desk now smells like cookies all the time. Talk about inspiration.

Cabin on Christmas morning 2017 (sharpened version) - bruce witzel photo

The eighth day of Christmas and the first day of 2018. Happy New Year from our home to yours.

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Nativity set  (2)

On the ninth day of Christmas our little Wise Men approach closer to the stable. My mom made this dough-art nativity set for me way back when my kids were little. My mother was a very crafty type of person and she was constantly creating things and giving them away. Some I received with politeness and others with great joy. The nativity set was and continues to be the latter. Over the years, baby Jesus’ hands have been broken off and the donkey lost an ear but none of that seems to matter. I am inspired by my mother’s giving, creative, go-for-it spirit. Who else would have created a nativity set from dough-art?

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The tenth day of Christmas sees us enjoying green tomato mincemeat tarts. I made and froze this mincemeat in September with thoughts of New Year treats.

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On the eleventh day of Christmas I am taking some time to reacquaint myself with an ongoing project of knitting up all my scraps of yarn. What I’ll do with all the squares when I’ve emptied the craft bin, I have yet to decide.

Santa Ornament, Dec. 23-2017 - bruce witel photo

Well, the twelfth day of Christmas is upon us. We’re saying goodbye to the season. Sorry to see the end of decorations, lights, cards, gifts and yummy food. But it’s time to move on with 2018. Here’s hoping that all of you have had a joy-filled holiday. Best of everything for the new year.

Bring on the Light

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“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for a home.” Edith Sitwell

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                Holiday shortbread

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IMG_1361 (2)    Nativity set  (2)From our home to yours, we wish you a blessed holiday. Welcome the light in anyway you celebrate, enjoy quiet time on your own and the hustle and bustle of family and friends.

Glass Christmas Ornament with backlit, Dec. 23-2017 - bruce witzel photo