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Pottery Barn outdoor living
The skies have darkened and the weather has turned cold and rainy here in this little valley, and I find that my thoughts shift constantly to warmer, lazier days spent sipping cool drinks on the porch of my house by the river.
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Summer afternoons in the bee balm
There is something magical about a hazy summer morning by the river, watching  the sunlight sparkle on the  shifting surface while the garden flowers turn their  happy little faces toward the light for a day of sunbathing.
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My favourite riverside spot
Sadly, I can't find an inside shot of the porch here in summertime... but suffice it to say that it holds a very fond place in my memory, and I would love to spend a few hours curled up in a chair there  with a kitty in my lap, dreaming away the afternoon.
Wherever you find yourself on this rainy day, I hope your day is filled with warm thoughts and happy memories!
 
 
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Bazzy Puss
It's a cold, grey, rainy day here and the general blah-ness outside has spilled  inside--everyone's mood seems to match the weather.  On days like this I find  that time spent with the furry ones always revives my spirit, so I give you a  cat in a christmas tie.  This is Bazzy Puss in feline dress-up...
Does anyone ever really get a perfect shot of their pet?  I have a variety of   furry friends, and as gorgeous as they are in reality, it never seems to   translate true to form in photos.  It could be that they squirm about so much,   making it difficult to capture a good shot.... or maybe the true magic of the   furry ones can never be fully captured in photos and exists only in the   moment. 
Ah well... even if the photos aren't portrait quality, Basil Vince Noir Schwartz  is rockin' his Christmas tie!
 
 
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The Westerly Trench by Rover Dog on Etsy
In perusing the pages of Etsy I often run across fun items that inspire me--everything from felt owl ipod cases to amazingly creative jewellery pieces that have me rummaging through my crafting drawers for a rainy  afternoon project. 

Considering my absolute adoration of all creatures furry, my search words often include 'pet', and I've found a few beautifully made items that are both whimsical and functional for your furry friends.  Now just to clarify, I don't normally dress up all of my pets--the kitties find it particularly stressful and I respect their wishes in the matter... but Charlie Dog, he is surprisingly okay with it. 

As you can probably imagine, the weather in Florida is generally hot and humid, and doesn't lend itself to the necessity for canine couture.  There are times, however, that we get a cold front (yes, it really does happen!) and everyone goes running for sweaters and cool-weather accessories.  Quite comical really as those periods usually only last for a few days and then it's back to tank tops and shorts. 

It was during one of these cool swings that I noticed my Charlie Dog shivering on one of our neighbourhood walks.  The poor little guy is a 25 lb Schnauzer that found us when he was a hungry, dirty, frightened stray--we brought him home and he has been with us for over a year now.  We have no idea where he came from or what he had  been through, but the vet said he was around 3 or 4 years old when we found him, and I like to think that the love and care we have given him during the past 15 months has made up for his 'unknown' years. 
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I took a look online and found inspiration in a few different books, and ended up drafting my own pattern for a doggie coat.  They all have the same basic shape, so it wasn't really all that difficult to take brown paper and make a rough mock-up on Charlie to make sure I had the right dimensions.

A few scraps of fabric, some bias binding, two buttons, and lots of love... and Charlie is the cutest doggie in the neighbourhood.  He gets a lot of attention on cool mornings when walk our usual route--the security guard even leaves the gate and comes to say good morning!

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Charlie Dog ready for a walk
As I sit here in Canada four weeks to the day since my hometown flood, I miss my Charlie Dog almost as much as I miss my husband.  Charlie would love running along the trails here with me--sniffing everywhere, drinking from the little brook that runs beside the trail, watching ducks and squirrels scamper along...  and he would be too darned cute in his Scottish doggie coat--because he sure would need it here!

Happy weekend everyone! 
 
 
These are some very simple things in life that make me happy... the favourite things that don't involve a lot of expense or glamour but that give me a lot of basic enjoyment.  Everybody has them---what are yours? 

COOL, CRISP PILLOWCASES

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Set of owl pillowcases by Boy-Girl Tees on Etsy
There is nothing more appealing than settling into bed and laying your cheek on a cool, crisp pillowcase.  The bliss is doubled if it's fresh off the clothesline and still bears traces of the smell of sunshine and summer breezes.


SUMMER BREEZES THROUGH AN OPEN WINDOW

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Notecard by Lindsay Parks Photography on Etsy
The smell of lilacs, honeysuckle, and roses wafting in through an open window on a summer's morning.  This is wonderful when experienced in combination with the above-mentioned crisp pillowcase...

FRESHLY CUT GRASS

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FRESH CUT GRASS Scent 100% Soy Wax Break Away Melts by Scents of Humor on Etsy
The smell of freshly cut grass... is there anything like it?  The hum of nectar-filled bees drunkenly perusing the garden's lush summertime offerings while the neighbor's mower drones on in the distance. 

SOFT PAWS

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Cat Paws I Black and White Photograph by Long World Photography on Etsy
The deliciousness of kitty paws--kneading on your tummy when they want comfort, touching your face when they want attention, with toes  spread as they go about their ablutions, softly padding across the kitchen floor... there is no end to the deceptive softness of cat paws--so furry and appealing, yet hiding some very dangerous weaponry!

SEA GLASS

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Bonfire Sea Glass Necklace by Tidal Creations on Etsy
The unexpected delight of walking barefoot along the beach, enjoying the feeling of wet sand between your toes as the waves lap at your ankles.... and you look down to spot the most perfect piece of sea glass just peeking above the sand.  Wonderful memories of days out by the sea in Scotland with windswept hair, salt-kissed skin, and a pocketful of sea glass and pottery with grains of sand still clinging obstinately to their frosty surfaces.  Pure heaven.

SWEATER WEATHER

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Handknitted Cabled A Line coat sweater by Pilland on Etsy
A cool crisp day spent in  favourite worn jeans, wrapped up in a cozy wool coat sweater, and accessorized with a steaming mug of fragrant black coffee and a well-loved book...  how lovely to embrace the non-summer weather!

SUN-KISSED FLOWERS

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Original Fine Art Photograph entitled 'Dream, dream' by Marisa Kestel on Etsy
The unexpected pleasure of a patch of peonies kissed by intense sunshine--their heavy heads full and fragrant, filled with a microcosm of little ants going about their daily duties with single-minded devotion.  During my childhood years, my Gram's garden displayed a variety of peonies from the palest pink to the most garish fuschia... all were voluptuous and inviting, all smelled spicy and floral in the sun, and each of my overly-exuberant smelling encounters resulted in an ant up my nose.  Oh to spend an hour back in that garden...

EVENING LIGHT

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Mustard Flowers in Evening Light Fine Art Print by Gina Kelley on Etsy
Evening light.  Nothing is more forgiving, more flattering, more enchanting than the golden-tinged rays that fall as the sun is setting, sending long dark shadows racing behind trees, spilling an inky, intricate lacework along the dewy grass.  My favorite time of the day is during the last half hour before the sun says goodnight and the stars come out to play... it is a time when the world seems to slow a little, when all nature is draped and gilded as scenes of El Dorado play out across normally pale walls and bird calls trail off as silence settles into the coming darkness for a few hours of repose. 
All of the above items are for sale at Etsy--if you're interested, click on the photo to take a look.
 
 
It never ceases to amaze me how the Japanese manage to take every day objects and translate them into something beautiful and functional.  No, I don't just mean Hello Kitty, although I love the little character and have very fond memories of childhood plastic purses and pencils sporting Hello Kitty and friends' lovely little faces.... There is a company called JEWEL Japan that I absolutely adore--their pottery designs inspire me in my creation of graphic arts and draw me into a world of coloured kitties and flying goldfish that can be enjoyed every morning with my cup of coffee. 
Sadly, their Japanese website has the most mouth-watering product photos and it makes me want to go out buy a set of every single one of their creations--but I have no idea where to find any of them for retail  sale in North America.
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I do however own a Colored Lucky Cat mug (number 5 in the photo on the left)!  I bought it in the Japanese pavillion at Disney's Epcot last summer, long before I discovered Jewel Japan.  It brightens my mornings with every sip of Costa Rican Crack Coffee as the happy little lucky kitties wave their tiny paws at me... or maybe that's the coffee talking.  I love that the Japanese have the same affinity for felines that I do--and I adore the Maneki Neko (lucky cat) icon. 

For those of you who have heard of Japan's Cat Cafes, you may be interested to know that there are new laws going into effect that will change the way these feline-cuddling cafes are regulated.  Proper regulation of any business associated with animals is essential, and I am glad that there are laws in place that take into account that these kitties are living creatures who should be treated with kindness and respect.

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Looks like it's story time in this Tokyo cat cafe!
At the moment my lucky cat mug is languishing in the cupboard in Florida while I am sitting in my Mum's kitchen in the Maritimes, but that's just fine.  I have been enjoying a reunion with my four cats here--and really, who needs the mug when you can hang out with the real thing?! 
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Bazzy Puss
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Bella Wella Bing Bang aka Bingy
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Yoshimoto
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Dante
 
 
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The calm after the fury...
Well, here I am. 

It's been three weeks to the day since the  flood that tried its darnedest to destroy my hometown.  During the past 21 days I've made a breakneck voyage back to Canada to assess the damage to my own flood-damaged property  and to help my family with their two flooded properties, and have been through  every emotion you could possibly imagine--from the sadness and despair that come  with the realization that life in this little village will never be the same again to  the hope that it can be rebuilt even though it will never look the same. 

The widespread destruction of property and landscape is overwhelming, but it is equalled in scale by the outpouring of compassion and assistance from all corners of the province, the country, and the continent.  Countless volunteers have worked tirelessly not only to help with cleanup in the aftermath of the flood, but also to feed hundreds of people displaced from their homes, to round up donations of clothing and essential items, and to organize a variety of committees for fundraising and victims' advocacy. 

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Salvation Army Food Truck
I cannot say enough about the countless organizations that have helped us  throughout this ordeal--everyone from the Red Cross who provided meals and clean  drinking water for the victims and volunteers to the volunteer firemen who journeyed here from  all over the province to help clear out victims' homes and businesses. 

A special thanks to the  minister driving along the streets in a Salvation Army van handing out  sandwiches and fruit to the residents whose homes had been essentially  destroyed--a sandwich may not seem like much, but when you've lost everything  and don't know what you're going to eat that day, it means the world.  I thank  God for every time I walked out of a store during the holidays and put a few  dollars in the Salvation Army red pot.  You never know when you're going to be  the one needing the help of an organization like them, and they have proven to  be a bright spot in a very dark time.

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Gram's pink flamingoes--they survived the flood!
The cleaning up process is a dirty, disheartening one--in the first week after the flood I helped my family clear out generations of keepsakes from what was the basement of my Grandmother's house.  My Great-Grandmother's trunk containing her jewellery and photos, my Grandfather's old railroad trunk that held his pipe and tool box, my Grandmother's vast collection of owls that she left to me when she passed away....  all in a soggy, dirty, smelly mess that we picked through to see if any small item could be salvaged, and mostly threw out to the curb where massive trucks collected the debris left behind from generations of lives lived.   

I was surprised and elated to be able to salvage a couple of items from Gram's owl collection, as well as a couple of pink flamingoes that I had posted about just prior to the disaster.  One of those handsome lads is eventually making his way back to Florida with me to hang out with Mr Flamingo in the back garden! 

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Motivational Fire Department Sign
Although I am profoundly saddened walking along the streets of my hometown, I am simultaneously thankful that no lives were lost during the disaster, and that the town seems to be hopeful--hopeful that life will eventually return to normal, that the hospital will re-open, that businesses will rebuilt and be prosperous, and that residents will somehow salvage what is left of their homes and continue on with life.  The village will never be 'normal' again in the sense that it was before the morning of Friday, March 23rd 2012.... but it will eventually reach a new normal with the perserverence and drive that its residents have always shown.  I was particularly moved by the sign on the riverbank across from the local firehall...

TOGETHER WE WILL PREVAIL

And we will.