Friday, September 28, 2007

Midsummer Projects - The Library/Living Room

Midsummer Projects, cont..

The Library/Living Room

As I have logged writings onto my blog here in the organizational category, today we get to move up one level onto the main floor of the home.

This is a special room to me, a favorite to most who visit us also. Imagine nine-foot ceilings, and all wall space filled with shelves spilling over with books, for a feast to any book lover’s eyes! This is the room where biblio-nuts tend to gather, relax, and curl up with a beloved book, something valued as a good read any hour of the day, easily sufficing for a bookworm's den. Truly, the room offers a euphoric splendor for any book lover, and I’m slowly converting most of my friends over to earn the same title.

"No man can be called friendless when he has
God and the companionship of good books."

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

I am very uncertain when the book virus hit my brain, truly it’s become difficult to fathom the thought of not knowing the "Aha" moment when the love of books initially arrived.

Our Great Book collection and other of
our many out of print lovelies.

I remember when I was seven and was able to tag along with my cousins while on a summer vacation in Virginia, to their library story time session. I’d never seen or experienced anything quite like it, someone reading out loud, making stories with felt on a board, and inspiring many young readers in attendance to check out books. What a concept to me, not having been introduced to this particular delight myself before now. Heck! I'd hardly even entered a children's library before, this was all new to me!

I don’t recall our family ever owning many children's books in my youth at all, but can still envision those that we did when they were in our home, along with the million “National Geographics” and Encyclopedias my parents owned. Every once in a while a giant purge took place and local families exchanged resources together, so books were the first to go I suppose. In fact, I don’t recall too many other families we knew having an extensive library in their own homes, loaning what they had to one another when able.

We have many audio books on tape, a few are here.

I recall adoring the opening of our elementary grade school’s library and the designated time slots when we were allowed to borrow one book for a two to three week period. I used to love just being in the center of an aisle and absorbing all those books appearing before me. I was usually the last to leave the room in our group, slipping my hand down glossy dustjacket covers freshly assigned to protect the books, noticing author's names alphabetically and simply loving what this library had to offer, though not much at all looking back on it now. It was a beginning for the school, sparse at best, but it was there straight across the hall from our classroom door!

Another memory I had were the times when a family friend was babysitting me while my mother worked, whose daughter and I occasionally visited the church library where my grandmother worked hard to keep the shelves there in some decent order. Those were the days when a church library was meant for its parishioners to borrow the books as “soul food”, which aren’t as likely to offer now as they used to, mostly as the books of those days slowly began to accumulate a great worth. Temptation bit at the coffers of the church purse, and dealers began to make their church circuit rounds for bringing in big bucks instead of more books to grace the shelves later on. Eventually the library closed, a true labour of love from many women in the parish who gave their talents for others. My estimate would be several thousand books once rested there at any given time, no longer though. But, I used to love to visit all those shelves in any library, making friends with authors whom I’ve come to know as an adult many years later.

"If we want the mind of a child to come alive, we feed him living ideas. Ideas reside in living books, which I think has something to do with the intermingling of story, fact, and the author’s opinion or viewpoint. Living books, unlike the compressed compilations of textbooks, are laced with emotion, saturated with ideas, and they convey information as well."

~ Karen Andreola (Charlotte Mason companion)

Books and coffee - what a concept!

Today we have bookstores, and to make any book addict’s world tougher, many box stores offer coffee centers inside so there is the temptation of sipping on a Starbucks fresh brew and browsing the stacks all at the same time. This is a whole new world to me the past dozen years or so, an outing I so cherish and yearn for when I feel the need to lose myself in yet another – book! What a tough thought – books and coffee!

It's such a shame how some folks don't understand the euphoric emotion presiding over the love of books and reading in general - for pleasure yet. Perhaps they haven't accustomed themselves to the art of the pastime, the sheer luxury of sitting for a minute to read a bit, because they must each and every day. It becomes a part of someone to rest a spell, and gulp back a few pages of yet another book. It's not a lazy hobby, and it's certainly not something I personally take for granted - ever! Some days there just isn't time, and other days I must carve the time to do so. It's a habit worthy of acquiring for life is filled with precious and good books just waiting for someone to crack open it's cover and fold over its spine to jump on in...

After this preamble, and without further ado, please allow me to introduce you to another very favorite room - my library!

To begin with, this particular area had a few renovations necessary for settling all things into it.

Former owners used this room as a school room

The formers owners used this room for a homeschooling formal classroom, complete with bookshelves, desk systems and a large church organ. It was perfect to give it a facelift and turn it into a living area, conducive to our family’s library/living room desires instead. It was perfect with actual walls all around to place bookshelves up against, and plenty of natural lighting. I could visualize spending many pleasured hours inside of it in the future.

"No entertainment is so cheap as reading,
nor any pleasure so lasting."

~ Lady M.W. Montague

We had the carpet originally covering the floors pulled up and removed. (If you remember it was reinstalled in my office/studio room.) The original flooring company was contacted by our hired building contractor to have a wood flooring installed to match the rest of the floors nearby. Have I mentioned before how wonderful it is to have wood floors as opposed to carpet all over? For health reasons in particular, our allergy sufferers have faired much better, and they are far easier to manage for home care maintenance.

New wood floors!

Can you tell which floor is which, the old or the new?

After a good wall paint detailing, the shelves very soon to be entered in a big way. I washed and hung the original curtains back up again, those left here as requested by us from the former owner. The room was ready to occupy and the truck was soon to arrive with all my bootie to place into this space. It was a salivating thought to know this would soon become a formal library/sitting room. Yippee. on the main floor yet and not in the basement as before, mostly for the lack of wall space to sit the shelves up against. Book stacks were very obviously prevalent surrounding the interior of the room and all over the furniture placed there with great loving care. Then, at long last, the shelves were ushered in and the room was christened into the library.

"A book which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last. A book which is not worth reading at age 50 is not worth reading at age 10."

~ C.S.Lewis

The bulk of my library contains many out-of-print children’s books, historical reads, biographies and reference books, those I would term and classify as “living books” for they capture the heart of any person, as though we are there in the midst of the story, the far away land, the time period setting descriptions, or the rhythm of the person’s life detailed within the pages of the covers. Living books are those able to stand the test of time as something both classic by nature and so deeply satisfying to read again and again, and to also behold. If a book cannot be read over and over again with the same joy it offered initially, by anyone of any age whether young or old, or able to steer the reader beyond the imaginable, it’s not considered something worth collecting to me. A book’s cover or title should invite us in, just as Mary Engelbreit’s library poster from many years ago visualizes a person trying to do. Jump on in, let’s take a journey…

"If we encounter a man of rare intellect,
we should ask him what books he reads."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before there were no shelves on this last wall.


Ikea is a great shopping venue for any sort of shelving or organizational efforts. Our original three shelves were purchased at this store. Soon afterwards they changed their mathematical sizing from using the imperial system to a metric system, thus also changing and creating a newer shelf without four inch of added width. For some, this was better. For others like us who had already begun delving into the wonderful world of biblio collectibles, it soon began to create a mishmash of future shelving sizes and those lovely glass doors are no longer an option for our library book collection environmental protection desires, mostly as they are no longer made for the early ones.

Remember these from the basement?
They're in here now.

The big move begins!

Overwhelming task ahead but these
will now have a permanent home!

More stuff to put on shelves!

The good news is; obviously we have made due, especially when we very soon realized we were in dire need of more shelving to accommodate the extra flow of books upward from the downstairs “Midsummer projects list-organizing blitz”. So, off to Ikea became the theme along side the family room video storage solution shelving, and we carted home three more shelf units for the library/living room on the same haul, bringing the total count in the Library/Living room to 13 “Billy Bookshelves”. Great! Both the family room AND this room were upside down, more work!

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body."

~ Richard Steele

To make matters more awe-inspiring was finding out we were actually able to completely fill these new shelves up with the piles hanging all about, (some carted from other rooms, some from boxes still packed and stored) and there isn’t a free spot remaining anywhere for more…unless of course we move out of this room someday and occupy a larger space, or I consider a few with values worthy of selling online. …smile.

To the left of the doorway (above)

Straight ahead - Our comfy-cozy reading chairs.

On the far right, windows on either side
of the newer three shelf units.

To the right of the doorway;
Our sunset viewpoint is out this window
and others we can see from here.

One side of the window above, the other below.

We switched the room around in preparation for our winter sunsets once the days become shorter and shorter and this is the room we can have front row seating to gather for the day's end observations, saluting the sunsets just as we did last winter. The two blue wing backed chairs are a favorite spot for a morning coffee these days, as the morning chill on the back patio is not as enticing so early in the wee hours any longer.

The couch is a favorite spot for reading aloud to the younguns, a place where three can gather and observe an illustration upon occasion while another is reading to them nearby.

The windows offer copious amounts of natural lighting into the room, but once we become veiled in darkness when evening falls, the spotlights overhead can simply become adjusted for a perfectly lit evening’s read directly below them.

All the bookshelves offer a place for everything and keeps everything in its place. Isn’t that a slogan we love to use, and love to see placed into action? Yep!

May I offer you a few of my favorite book browsing sites to view?

And these are but a few of my favorites. Enjoy!

Qualities of a Living Book;

Ageless…story is appealing to both children and adults
…characters and themes transcend time and culture
…concepts and ideas touch the heart and mind
…Well-written with a natural flow
…tells a complete story that is interesting and satisfying
…morally uplifting, providing literary models of sound moral character Creative…stimulates the imagination

~ Clay & Sally Clarkson (Educating the WholeHearted Child)

At the end of the day, this is my ever-cherished most earthly possession filled room and dearly beloved library. I am hoping to preserve and present it’s entirety as a gift for all our grandchildren someday, passing the flamed torch along for (hopefully) continued book savoring delights, so they too can sail away and drift off to other far away lands in the wonderful written and illustrated book covers each book on my shelves will entice them with, obviously inviting them into their pages. Come along with me they will say.....if you dare.

And the timeless censor of all for all books;

“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worth praise, think about these things.”

~ Philippians 4:8

I hope you have enjoyed the tour.

The gifts of the Autumn season

The gifts of the season...

The eventual realization the autumn season has quickly landed upon us has not yet been fully realized or accepted yet for our family. With high temperatures reaching proportions upwards to ninety degrees this past week, and with the exquisitely sky-filled glow of a full moon several evenings in a row, it's been such a lovely blessing to fall into our slumbers under the moonlight beams shining upon us through the window panes.

The painted back smaller porch

How great to have such wonderful sunny days, leaving us all yearning with desire to continue with the days of summer (yet it's Fall!) and the activities that season beholds. When the afternoon heat creeps the interior temperatures of the house over eighty degrees, and it’s time to switch on the air-conditioning once more, this week it’s been….off to the beach we pitter-patter and scurry to.

And to the beach we go is right on the mark this past week...

  • to sit and be
  • breathe in the scent of the sea
  • absorb ourselves in listening to the sounds of the waves
  • observe and enjoy the water toys swishing by
  • admiring the many folks still (like us) in summer mode extensions
  • shoo the pigeons away
  • collect shells
  • take a dip in the warm beach side waters
  • take a long walk along the white sandy shores
  • watch the silly farm tractors creeping into the water to fetch their water vessels
….and just love taking this time out to be still, for the sole purpose of life’s pleasures of soaking up the sun and sitting by the water's edge.


I suppose it’s time to absorb the season change for sure, however it’s days such as these we are left scratching our heads, grateful for an extension of summer play. We see all around us the leaves are rapidly changing their color hues and casting an autumn landscape for all to see, but the weather? Wow!

"Buster" stealing things from the Bluejays again

Our back birdie garden has a flurry of activity these days, signs of autumn also prevalent for a visual reminder of the autumn season upon us. Buster the squirrel is flustered when the bluejays natter at him and command him back to the land beyond where he resides and calls his home. His mouth usually has a gift or two inside, probably a nut or piece of dried friend the cardinals and bluejays are feasting on from one of the feeders filled to the brim offering them plenty of protein out there.
"Bunny Bathtime", rather swim time from high temperatures

The animals are still enjoying their swims; a small child’s pool for the dogs and the rabbits were ecstatic to jump around in their makeshift pool inside of a large Rubbermaid container.

Yes, it’s been warm.

As the girls continue with horse riding next door and "Ashes" graciously enables their daily riding sessions, they return home with wet heads from building heat inside their helmets, both dripping in sweat as it rolls down their beaming faces. After all, this has been a special time of riding bareback, thus the heat is on…sitting right upon the horse’s back that is!

Riding bareback is hotter than with a saddle!

The boys continue with their daily hockey play outdoors in the sports court with the friends from down the road, but we have to watch the temperature for the best time to keep cool out there as well. Imagine that! So, much reading indoors has been the order of the day around here in the heat of the afternoon.

How can a book be dangerous?

Yes, it’s been quite wonderful in fact to revel in such moments presented to us such as these lovely days.

Yes, we also needed some rain to fall, and this week it came accompanied by a thunder and lightning storm which we ended up in the midst of when traveling back from our sudden road trip to Toronto. We had the perfect weather to take advantage of another marvelous adventure, before the winter season thrusts us into hibernation. Admittedly the idea for the trip came on impulse at first, but with our son becoming "carded" for a travel hockey league, there won't be many available time frames to escape in the near future (YES, he made the team!!! - the Hockey Hall of Fame looked very good to him while in Toronto!)

Consequently too, I apologize for being defined as "M.I.A.", so if you haven't heard from me lately, that would more than likely be why. I owe a few emails out there, sorry.

The folks at the weather network are still predicting warm temperatures for the next fourteen-day forecast. What more can we want for optimal comfort or for something to be incredibly thankful for with Thanksgiving fast approaching.

Next week we have a family of dear friends arriving from the west to visit for a few days, while on their way to an extended family Thanksgiving reunion not too far from our home. As we prepare for their time with us, we are truly thankful for the weather forecast for sure, gratefully so. Terrific!

In all things - Give Thanks!

These are the days my friend, get out and enjoy them if you’re lucky enough not to be a duck in Vancouver! (grin)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Some like it HOT!

Some like it HOT!

Jalapeños - One or three for you?

Call it a husband/wife project, but somehow we set off this weekend by making homemade salsa. We’ve not actually made it before, but with a recipe called “Busy person salsa recipe”, how could we not become a great motivation to attempt to make this type of food, mostly as we here in this family all love salsa so much!

Oh - so pretty!

With recipe in hand, the chopping blocks and knifes on the counter, we were ready to begin. Soon children folded into the project as it all proceeded smoothly and quickly. We were surprised how easy this recipe really was to work with, and how wonderful it is to have our large supply on hand to eat now.

Chop, chop, chop!

Here’s what you need to proceed if you care to mimic us in our kitchen endeavors;

Busy Person’s Salsa Recipe!

  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 large green pepper
  • 1 head of garlic
  • Approximately 2 quarts of (Roma)tomatoes
  • 3 Jalapeños and 1 Hungarian wax pepper, as you like it – mild, medium, or HOT!

(We added all but one jalapeño, but feel we’ll add it in now for a better bite to the spiciness, but next time we'll add more yet for even better spicyness.)

Chop all the tomatoes, onion, garlic, green pepper and place into a bowl. Mix together; add a bit of salt and a ½ cup of white vinegar. Adjust the hotness as you like it (wink).

This recipe makes approximately 5-7 pints of salsa. Yummy yum!

Finely chop those tomatoes up!

Two work faster than one!

To preserve; boil in kettle to desired thickness and immediately pour into clean canning jars and seal tightly

To freeze; place 2 cup portions into freezer bags (or more depending on your family’s needs) and stack the bags horizontally, laying them flat to freeze. It may be a bit liquidy, and/or more mushy when unthawing, but simply drain a bit of the liquid before consuming and mash the consistency up a bit more if necessary.

If you’re like our family and consume rather large portions of the spicy stuff, or if you’re making this for a large upcoming Thanksgiving family gathering, why not place several portions into nice canning jars to give others as a harvest blessing?

All blended together looking just so very tempting!
We ate some right away.

Nacho chips and fresh salsa.

Renee's Fast and Easy Fajitas;

While we were on a Mexican flair theme, and while the chopping blocks were already out, I proceeded with dinner plans, deciding upon “fajitas”. My fajitas fixings are also very easy (!), and it’s a nutritious and healthy meal for the family, whipped up in no time at all. The secret is to have cooked strips of fresh chicken (cooled in the fridge ahead of time, a day or two is just fine, great for leftovers!) ready to go.

I gathered and cut;

  • One large red pepper into long strips (we aren’t BIG green pepper people here, so red is good!)
  • One white onion into long strips (you know, stand the onion root end up, cut long strips down the length of the onion, followed by chopping the root off. Voila, easy cutting!)
  • 4-5 cups of precooked chicken breast strips, or whatever you have on hand.

Place an extra large frying pan on the stove, and turn the heat to high. Add a little butter, or olive oil to the center of the pan and quickly roll it around the cover the entire bottom area. Add the onion to one area, the red pepper to another and finally, add the chicken to the last, dividing the pan into three sections. Stir each section a bit at a time, mostly to to rotate the heat and keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Within a few seconds, turn the heat down to simmer, place a lid on top of the pan, and allow all to cook as necessary. Saute the onions and red pepper until al dente (clear, not mushy) and take care to continually heat the chicken as well, browning it as you go.

  • Shred cheddar cheese and place in a bowl.
  • Shred lettuce strips and place in a bowl.
  • Have some soft tortilla wraps at hand for assembling the dinner finale.
  • Condiments of your selection - salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc.

Place the plates on the counter or table and allow everyone to “make their own dinner” fajitas. Easy! The kids love it! Mom loves it too!

A variation of the above;

Renee's Fast and Easy Quesadillas;

Place soft tortillas on the countertop. Fill the entire area of the flat tortilla with the chicken/onion/red pepper mixture. Place some shredded cheese over top offering a light sprinkled coating. Place another soft tortilla on top of the ensemble. Heat a frying pan on the stove (use two or three if you have a lot to make for a larger family), add a big of non stick coating or light olive oil first, then carefully pull over your two filled tortillas (looks like a tortilla sandwich by now), and heat up in the frying pan, one side at a time until the cheddar cheese has melted inside, acting like glue to keep the two tortillas sealed. Using a steel spatula, scoop out and place onto a chopping block, cutting it with a French cook knife into four pieces (MATH!) Serve with a green salad. Not hungry right now? Cook this quick meal up, cool and freeze for another day. Freezes well!

Ta da!


P.S. Yes, my family is used to having photos snapped during our kitchen times. NO, they aren't allowed to eat until mom snaps that last photo of the final product, but behind me is always another sample to get something into their mouths FAST, mostly as a reward for a job well done...snicker, snicker, and just for YOU Denise!!!