Sunday, 24 January 2016

Be Odd If It Makes You Happy

You know it has been the best of Sundays if you find yourself smiling at nothing in particular. ~

I can honestly say I never thought, at the age of 64, I'd be hanging out with chickens. It certainly wasn't any part of my life plan. But, hanging out with those girls does make me happy.

Today I cleaned the ashes out of the woodstove ~

and took them out to the coop to add to the dirt bath the girls have made under the quarantine coop. Clever girls to find a place that will stay dry all year!

It made me happy to see they had a great time fluffing their feathers in the ashes. ~

If you have a fireplace or woodstove, put your ashes out for the wild birds to bathe in. As long as there is nothing but clean firewood that has been burned, it's good for them to be able to clean their feathers in the winter.

It was a cold day and, in the afternoon, I made some oatmeal for the girls.

Who wouldn't be happy to see them all lined up, making little hops of excitement when they know I am coming? ~

I didn't even mind staying out in the cold to see if they liked their treat and to make sure old Vivian gets her fair share. ~

I know it is odd to prefer watching chickens to shopping or travelling or fine dining but I've done all those things. They were fine for their time. For the present time, hanging with chickens is what makes me smile.

The sun was setting and I looked at the tracks crisscrossing my yard. Tracks from my feet and the two-year-old girl who is so excited about being able to identify her prints, mine, a squirrel, a raccoon, a cat and a rabbit. They are the prints of life going on all around me.  They are my life.

I take my fair share of ribbing over being a Chicken Lady. I really don't care if I'm a little to the left of centre. Orrrr - even a lot to the left.

Be as weird as you like this week and soak up all the happiness you can! Sing marching songs at the bus stop, wear your hair in pigtails, dance down the hall at the office, eat chocolate cake for breakfast; whatever sets your sails, just do it.

I'll be here, hanging with a cool bunch of chicks!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Collecting Vintage Napkin Rings

Napkin rings are ideal to begin collecting. They don't take up much display room, are functional, plentiful, affordable, useful and the design variations are endless.

They first appeared on the dining tables of the upper crust sometime in the 1830's, probably in France. Throughout the Victorian era, they were widely in use on all but the poorest dining tables.

The beauty of collecting rings is they don't have to be matched sets. The original purpose was to identify who the napkin itself belonged to. Each member of the family had their own ring, with a distinct design or engraved with their initial.

At the end of the meal, the napkin was folded and put back inside the ring. Table linens were only washed with the once weekly laundry and you used the same napkin all week.

Place setting purists only use napkin rings for informal dinners, the theory being that the ring denotes a used napkin and that's probably not going to make your guest feel all that comfortable. I take the liberty of assuming my guests know I gave them a clean napkin and go against the purist rule.

My rings are silver plate but you can find them spanning all eras from the 1830's on, and in a wonderful range of materials. From the Victorian era to Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts era to the 21st century, they have been made in everything from sterling silver to glass, bakelite, French Ivory and wood.

Foral designs were popular with the Victorians and in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras.

I've picked up most of my napkin rings for around $5 each. Figural rings are more expensive unless you find one like my horse ring that has had a tragic tail bobbing.

Some appeal to me because of the shape.

Some commemorate a special event, such as a world fair or coronation. I snapped up this one from the 1937 coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth for $6.

My favourite ring has the crest of the SS Duchess Of York set with enamel. The ship was part of the Canadian Pacific Steamship Co. fleet. She was one of three sister ships named after duchesses and nicknamed The Drunken Duchesses for the rather rambunctious handling of the ocean waves. Someone brought this napkin ring home as a souvenir before WWII saw the Duchess Of York pressed into service. She made two trips from Britain bringing evacuated children to safety in Canada.  Then, she ferried Canadian troops overseas, brought injured service personnel and German POWs back to Canada. Sadly, the Duchess of York came under enemy fire and sank off the coast of Spain in 1943.

If you are my guest and I give you that napkin ring, you will know you have a favoured spot at the dining table.

I just realized all the napkins are in the rings upside down in these photos. The pointed end of the napkin goes toward the guest. We're already breaking one etiquette rule by using rings at a formal dinner so let's not compound our offence!

I have eight vintage, silver plate rings so far and on the hunt for many more just to seat my immediate family.

Each one will come with its own story and I hope our happy gatherings around the table will add much more to their history.

Happy collecting!

I'm sharing this with: Show & Share

Saturday, 16 January 2016

My Simple Life Got A Whole Lot Simpler

There I was all geared up with all kinds of Christmas projects completed, photographed and ready to blog about when two things happened to take my deliberately simple life and turn it positively pioneer.

The first thing that happened was I blew the brake lines out on my car. It's an old car and not really worth putting any significant money into repairs. Since I opted for semi-retirement last year and discovered I didn't have nearly enough money to get by on comfortably, I had to go without a vehicle until I could find a good deal on another used car. Have I mentioned I LIVE IN THE COUNTRY! That freed up a whole lot of time I would have used for last minute Christmas shopping.

The second life altering event was getting caught between internet providers. I cancelled the original service only to discover that the new provider was at capacity for customers and I would have to wait and wait and wait until they could determine whether they could get me enough signal, send someone out to test and set up an appointment for installation. Did I have any options to waiting weeks for service? No, because I LIVE IN THE COUNTRY!

I decided to zen out about it all and assume this was a sign that I should slow down and reassess my daily life. What did I want to keep and what did I want to let go? What did I enjoy and what did I do out of habit? What makes me happy and what has become a burden?

I discovered things I had no idea were going on in the house. The mystery of why the onions I planted weren't growing was explained by seeing where Clara Jane chooses to take her afternoon nap.

 The unseasonably warm weather we've had here in Ontario gave me a third harvest of lavender on the 23rd. of December! ~ 

Now, there was time to take the lavender buds off all the bundles I had drying and the fragrant stems are in a basket by the woodstove to add a little something special to the evening fire. ~

I'm minding two little girls, one and two years old, each Monday for a friend. Their regular babysitter can't take them that day for awhile. I'm sure it was a shock to them to discover they were in a house with no cable TV. But, the age old things that have entertained children for generations still work.

We baked Christmas cookies. ~

They taught me there is no such thing as too many sparkles. ~

Clara Jane learned that the safest place in a house with two toddlers is the top of the fridge. The one-year-old learned to say, "Tzee tzee (kitty) is high! ~

Serves Clara Jane right for killing my onions!

There was time to devote to a grandson that chose to come for a five-day visit. This is a big step for him for, although he is a teenager, he has many developmental and emotional issues and has not stayed away from home before. It was quiet here and no car meant no running around to entertain him and that stopped any chance of sensory overload for him. We did fine together and he was making plans for a month-long summer visit before he left. In fact, he decided it would be best if I left the house to him in my will and he could move in and take care of my cats and chickens. I kind of like that plan. He's an old hand at chicken keeping and the cats love him.

They say nothing ever really happens by accident. I think I had this enforced slow down so I could spend some time on things that matter a little more than what I was doing.

I'm glad I've had this time to gather my thoughts together and begin the new year in a more conscious way. One thing I know for sure is I'll block out lots of time for whatever kids need me.

And, I know you'll still get lots of chicken posts because slowing down reminded me of how much I like to go out into the dusk and see the trees silhouetted against the sky as I put my girls to bed for the night.

Nothing calms the soul more than the cooing of happy chickens as they settle down for the night.

I think this past month I have been cooing in the evening myself!