observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

  • Welcome to my photo journal

    Living on Vancouver Island in B.C. Canada Diane loves the scent of forests and rain, the rhythms of the sea, and holds discoveries and stories in high regard.

    Where mornings begin with a drum roll! --Diane M Schuller

    Updated each Monday ... simply an online journal of an ordinary life. Come on in to enjoy a breath of West Coast air.

    The rich fragrance of …

    What has more personality than black pepper and is sweeter than a rose? Why cinnamon of course. The warm, somewhat spicy, yet woody aroma that some also describe as smoky is unique to all other spices in our cupboards. The sense of smell and how it evokes memories is stronger than an ox on steroids or Popeye full of spinach! Well, those may not be the best analogies but they’ll have to do for now.

    “Cinnamon: This spice was once rare and valuable — the main reason for the Portuguese occupation of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1505 was for its superior and extensive cinnamon crop. The dried bark of a tree, cinnamon comes from two sources. The commonly available cassia cinnamon is a dark red-brown and has a strong, sweet taste. Pale tan, delicate-tasting Ceylon cinnamon is grown only in Sri Lanka and is considered by many to be true cinnamon.” — Chuck Williams

    I’ve been craving cinnamon toast lately, like my mom used to make for me as a kid and like I made for my son when he was little. It begins with the yeasty aroma of hot toast, with enough butter (yes, real butter) to lightly moisten one side of the toast. Then a generous sprinkling over that piece of buttered toast, topping it off with a light dusting of white sugar. Smear it all together with a butter knife. Now take that first tantalizing bite. Oh yes, memories.

    toast, ready to be topped

    cinnamon toast n

    cinnamon toast

    It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon.” — Sarah Addison Allen, First Frost.

    I wanted to share a poem about or including cinnamon and found a particularly lovely one by Michael Ondatje. Unfortunately, his and all the others I found were all of a very strong sexual nature. I leave it to you to seek them out if you choose 😉  I did locate one lovely poem by Mary Oliver from her New and Selected Poems, Volume Onethat has a few perfect lines but I’ll share it in its entirety:

    Autumn poplars ©Diane Schuller

    In Blackwater Woods

    Look, the trees
    are turning
    their own bodies
    into pillars

    of light,
    are giving off the rich
    fragrance of cinnamon
    and fulfillment,

    the long tapers
    of cattails
    are bursting and floating away over
    the blue shoulders

    of the ponds,
    and every pond,
    no matter what its
    name is, is

    nameless now.
    Every year
    I have ever learned

    in my lifetime
    leads back to this: the fires
    and the black river of loss
    whose other side

    is salvation,
    whose meaning
    none of us will ever know.
    To live in this world

    you must be able
    to do three things:
    to love what is mortal;
    to hold it

    against your bones knowing
    your own life depends on it;
    and, when the time comes to let it go,
    to let it go.”


    Some of my favourite foods with cinnamon, besides cinnamon toast, are cinnamon buns, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and in many recipes of Middle Eastern and Chinese origin. Now you — what are some of your favourite foods with cinnamon? What is one of your strongest food aroma memories?

    homemade cinnamon buns by ©Diane M Schuller

    homemade cinnamon buns by ©Diane M Schuller

    Until next Monday, may you luxuriate in memories of your favourite food aromas.

    “Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.” — Lemony Snicket, “When Did You See Her Last?”

    apple fell to the ground ©Diane M Schuller

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    Toffeeapple - September 26, 2016 - 10:26 am

    I used to make cinnamon toat for my daughter when she was younger, though other than that, it is not a spice much in use in my kitchen.

    Roberta - September 26, 2016 - 10:33 am

    Oh yes, cinnamon is a must especially this time of the year. You can try cinnamon sugar on a buttered tortilla. It’s best if the tortilla is a bit crispy.. I heat it with cast iron…

    Lisa Gordon - September 26, 2016 - 5:08 pm

    I love anything with cinnamon in it, Diane, and seeing the cinnamon toast here, brings back so many wonderful childhood memories. We always had cinnamon toast for breakfast as the weather got chillier, and like you, I made it for my kids, so many, many times. Even now, they still love it.

    Thank you for the memories, my friend.

    Jennifer Connell - September 27, 2016 - 6:14 am

    My mouth is watering thinking about buttered toast now! Cinnamon is one of those spices that you reach for it in the fall, isn’t it? It especially suits the baking one does at this time of year. I have fond childhood memories of cinnamon toast although we always made ours with brown sugar. Brown sugar has a slightly different flavour than white and compliments cinnamon perfectly. Try it next time you make cinnamon toast.

    jessie - September 27, 2016 - 1:58 pm

    I love almost everything with cinnamon and when you described the toast with cinnamon and sugar I could almost feel it melt in my mouth, that used to be what I’d have for breakfast with my Granny. Yum!

    susan - September 28, 2016 - 6:12 pm

    oh my, I can almost smell it! I love all things cinnamon. My mom used to make the best cinnamon bread every Christmas…I have her recipe but have yet to make it myself as it’s an all day activity. Maybe this year I’ll try to find the time.

    And you have paired this with another favorite – birch trees! How beautiful!

    Candace - September 29, 2016 - 1:56 pm

    How fortuitous! Just yesterday I met a friend for lunch and I ordered sweet potato fries as my side dish. They were dusted with cinnamon and were delicious! I had never experienced that before.

    I love Mary Oliver and your photos are dreamy and hunger-inducing.

    Rachel - September 29, 2016 - 3:49 pm

    Beautiful photos in this post! Funny that I haven’t eaten a cinnamon roll in a couple years and just 2 days ago, my technician brought me one from some popular shop near Muncho Lake (maybe you know of the place? I grew up on cinnamon toast as well although we ate it so much that we kept a bowl of cinnamon/sugar on hand in the kitchen at all times (instead of laying it down separately). And yes, real butter is a must! My other favorite childhood memory of cinnamon is when my mom baked pies. The leftover pie crust was rolled flat, covered with butter and cinnamon sugar and baked for about 10 minutes. I still do this every time I bake a pie. I can almost smell it…

    What matters

    golden hour

    What matters to you? A few months ago I read a book that was chock full of great quotes and thought-provoking notions. In Brian Doyle’s novel Mink River, this sentence which goes on to include a long detailed paragraph begins, “These things matter to me, Daniel, says the man with six days to live. They are sitting on the porch in the last light. These things matter to me, son.” When I read all the heartwarming things the dying man listed, it had me thinking of my own list ever since. Again, in the spirit of September, I’ll share what matters to me in this month of September.

    The way eagles cruise on autumn’s thermals. Hot, steaming comfort food on a chilly day. Holding a warm mug with both hands. The golds, rusts, oranges, reds and everything in between on leaves and grasses. The musty aroma in the forest after a heavy frost. Salty sea air. The gabble of a flock of migrating Canada geese. The tender notes as well as the bubbling exuberance of a piano well played. The peal of ancient church bells.  Sheets and towels fresh off a windy line. Sweaters. September’s golden hour. A smooth, clean wood floor. A dog’s velvety ear. A good novel cradled in my hands. The warm feeling of contentment after an engaging dinner party. The autumn blue of the sea. High tide. Morning air after a solid night’s sleep. People who walk tall. My son’s laugh. Photographs you can hold in your hand. Memories, of all kinds.


    knitting a sweater

    breakfast sweet

    Japanese Maple in autumn ©Diane M Schuller

    Japanese Maple keys in autumn morning light ©Diane M Schuller

    clothes drying on line www.dianeschuller.com

    quiet moment, Australian Shepherd ©Diane M Schuller

    If you care to share, I’d love to know what matters to you during this lovely month of September.

    Until next Monday may you revel in what matters most to you.


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    DIANE J PATMORE - September 19, 2016 - 12:20 pm

    Ah…the glorious autumnal Septembers. For me, not having the sharp definition of the seasons will always be the hardest thing to accept in my present latitude.
    But I do have colour and have even managed a blog post!

    Lisa Gordon - September 22, 2016 - 8:59 am

    What a lovely post and a wonderful list, Diane. I so enjoyed reading this.
    As for me, I could probably go on and on with items on my list, but probably the most important, in September and all year long is, my family.

    Happy day to you, my friend! xo.

    Rachel - September 22, 2016 - 6:27 pm

    What a beautiful post. I found myself nodding my head along to almost all the things that you listed. Right in this moment, I’d add: Conversations with friends. The way the light and shadows change with the seasons. Crystal clear night skies with stars as far as the eye can see… oh, I could go on and on. Thank you for getting me started! 😉

    I have Mink River on my ‘to be read’ list. Perhaps I need to dig that out this fall?

    Sherry G. - September 25, 2016 - 8:41 am

    You write so beautifully, Dianne. I would certainly agree with these blessed things, even though I don’t have a dog right now, nor am I near the sea. But I have been lucky enough to have had and have been. I would add the joyful laughter of children at the fair and the fulfillment of helping a child write his first words. I will look up Mink River…always find something interesting here…And your images are cosy and wonderful.

    stephanie young - September 25, 2016 - 8:55 pm

    what a lovely list…..and beautiful photos. I loved Mink River for just those kind of passages. Autumn is my favorite time of the year….yet I’m still waiting for summer to end here. Anxious to start enjoying the best that fall has to offer….soon!

    Candace - September 29, 2016 - 2:01 pm

    Beautiful words and images, Diane. What matters to me most in September is what seems to matter to most of us Arizonans…the end of summer is in sight. Although still hot in the afternoons, the mornings and nights are teasing us with what the rest of the winter and spring will be like.

    New books, erasers, chalk and such

    Sooke ©Diane M Schuller, autumn


    “The breezes taste
    Of apple peel.
    The air is full
    Of smells to feel-
    Ripe fruit, old footballs,
    Burning brush,
    New books, erasers,
    Chalk, and such.
    The bee, his hive,
    Well-honeyed hum,
    And Mother cuts
    Like plates washed clean
    With suds, the days
    Are polished with
    A morning haze.

    –   John Updike

    When we lived on the prairies, autumn was one of my favourite seasons (spring being the other). It was some of the things that John Updike mentions in his poem: those apple scented breezes, burning brush, new books & erasers, and days polished with a morning haze. Also uppermost in my memories is the scent in the air from the decaying fallen leaves; the feeling of beginning something anew; the smell of school hallways; the first calls of the Canada Geese as they made their way to warmer climes; and the changing colours of trees and shrubs announcing their inevitable hibernation. In the spirit of changing seasons and new beginnings (school especially), I’m introducing a wee blog addition or new beginning.

    ©Diane M Schuller, aspen leaves in autumn

    old rake and leaves, ©Diane M Schuller

    Geese over prairies, ©Diane M Schuller

    I still prefer blogs to Facebook yet I don’t spend anywhere near the amount of time reading and strolling through blogs that I once did. Like I alluded to in last week’s post, I’ve been too busy revelling in my numbered days on this earth. Despite all that revelling I do take time, albeit not with the greatest frequency, to check out a few favourite blogs.

    So I thought I’d occasionally share a link to a favourite blog. I’ve linked to a few of those favourite blogs in the past but I plan to point you towards some of these favourites perhaps on a once-monthly basis beginning in this lovely month of September. The themes or topics of the blogs I’ll share with you vary in their themes or subject matter like the list of supplies your school sets out for you to purchase.

    • The first one I’m sharing is called “a life developing” and, although each of Staci’s posts, and the accompanying photographs, is really interesting and often thought-provoking, I love this particular post very much. If you check it out, I’m sure you too will enjoy how she and her family interact.
    • And to get you in the mood for this memory-filled month of September, try to remember
    • And if it’s images you’re after, I’ve posted a few at Flickr (or scroll to the bottom of this screen to see them in the tiny “Flickr badge”

    Until next Monday may your September days be mellow and filled with fondest memories.

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    Lisa Gordon - September 14, 2016 - 1:04 pm

    Beautiful photographs, Diane, and I am very much looking forward to this new feature.
    I just visited “A Life Developing,” and what a great site.
    Thank you so very much for sharing here, my friend. xo.

    Rachel - September 15, 2016 - 10:22 am

    Such beautiful photos! You’ve capture the essence of fall. I’d not heard that piece by Updike…I’m going to have to bookmark that and come back to it. For me, there is something in the air itself…part smell, part temperature and part something that I can’t explain that screams fall to me. And my mood instantly lifts.

    Thanks for the links…the blog you linked to is one I think I’ll be reading!

    Sherry G. - September 17, 2016 - 5:19 pm

    I love how you revel in your numbered days, Diane! (Great line BTW.) Your autumn images are exquisite. And I was not familiar with the Updike poem — it’s so good. I look forward to discovering new blogs through this new feature. I am the same as you and many others in choosing not to spend as much time on blogs as before, not because I don’t get a lot from them, but because time is short, as you so rightly note, and I’d rather spend it actively than passively. That said, some selective blog reading to relax is good for the soul!

    Observe and Revel

    Let’s revel in our numbered days on a turning earth.

    pond observer || www.dianeschuller.com

    I’ve always been an observer. Even as a little girl I remember paying very close attention to my environment, whether it was the details on a blanket; how threads are woven together in cloth; how raindrops seem to simply roll on smooth surfaces; how insects inhabited the earth beneath dead, fallen grasses; how smoke curls, separates, then dissipates; how adults moved or behaved; how a dog dreams.

    I grew up and one aspect of my personality never changed: I am an observer. That inclination is likely what moved me forward on the many trajectories I have embarked upon in my life. One thing that observations have done for me is to install a deep appreciation for life and all its forms. Let’s revel in our numbered days on a turning earth.

    “The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” — e.e. cummings

    Until next Monday may your week be puddle-wonderful and revel in your numbered days on this earth.

    my read shelf:
    Diane Schuller

    For any of you who may be interested in the recent books I’ve read and perhaps want to read my comments, I have added a Goodreads widget at the very bottom of the blog {where you’ll be able to read the first few lines of my comments.} If you have a Mac, simply use the “down arrow key” with the “Command” button to snap to the bottom of the screen. I’m sorry but I don’t know how to snap to the bottom if you use a PC, but scroll always works too 🙂

    With all these efficiencies going on, for a change, I already have next weeks post written and lined up in the WP scheduler. I’m sure that won’t happen often 😉

    ©Diane M Schuller || www.dianeschuller.com

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    Lisa Gordon - September 5, 2016 - 11:48 am

    What a great post, Diane, and one I can identify with.

    As a child, I too was an observer, but as I got older, I think I lost some of that (yes, it is a loss!). However, once I made the time to actively spend time with my camera once again, it came back! 🙂 For that I am truly grateful.

    Happy day to you, my friend. xo.

    Sherry - September 5, 2016 - 5:40 pm

    What a lovely read. The wonderful thing about observers is they tend to surround themselves with beauty. 🙂

    Toffeeapple - September 6, 2016 - 5:15 am

    I think that being behind a camera helps to make observations. This was a lovely post Diane, thank you.

    Gabriele - September 6, 2016 - 8:27 am

    The observer is vital in life. I bet photography honed your skills. I know making art does for me.

    Rachel - September 7, 2016 - 2:26 pm

    I can relate to your observer tendencies…which is likely why I do what I do. But I also wonder if that is why I’m detail-oriented. I like observing the details, the patterns — all the little things that make up the big thing. Love that quote…

    What would life be without home grown tomatoes?

    Do any of you remember that song? Though I didn’t grow tomatoes this year, my next door neighbour did and in abundance. Lucky for us, she shares!

    This basket of tomatoes was sitting on our fence last Friday morning (6:30am) — a gift from our neighbour.

    home grown tomatoes ©Diane M Schuller

    On Monday I invited two of the neighbour ladies over for coffee and cake. One is new to the neighbourhood so I thought she’d like to meet the lady on the other side of the fence. I made them a nice warm apple coffee cake to go with coffee, which we enjoyed on the deck. S brought me more home grown tomatoes and J brought me a lovely art card and naturally scented candle. But the best part of all, was the lovely time we enjoyed in one another’s company.

    leftover apple coffee cake || www.dianeschuller.com

    home grown tomatoes ©Diane M Schuller

    candle and notecard || www.dianeschuller.com

    On Wednesday we invited neighbours over for al fresco ‘happy hour’. I kept the appetizers for the four of us simple but delicious and only made three different ones which, like in the Three Bears story, was “just right!” The sunset later that evening was utterly spectacular, like none I’ve ever seen. The entire sky was pink, not confined to the horizon, and because the full sky was painted like a giant canvas it reflected the entire surface of the sea into a glistening mirror of pink! As I was standing admiring the intense beauty, the same two neighbours went scooting by in their swimsuits, headed down to the beach. S called to me over the fence and said, “I’ve never gone swimming in a pink ocean before — not going to miss this!”

    We also enjoyed a lovely gathering on Thursday evening with our wine group. The hosts chose a lovely selection of wines; everyone brought delicious appetizers; and best of all was the wonderful vibe and conversations all evening long. We lingered in their back patio until long after dark with a canopy of stars and the comforting sweet breath of a summer’s night.

    terracotta and wine glasses

    Although I didn’t grab my camera to capture that spectacular sunset the other evening, I did grab my camera at 6:35 am the other morning for this subtle view from our bedroom.

    sunrise overlooking Lasqueti and Texada islands at 6:30 am August 2016

    “Whenever you entertain the Bunch,
    Always plan to have a punch.”  — Mary Jane Remole

    Until next Monday may you find the beauty and calm in Nature and moments with friends.

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    steph - August 29, 2016 - 6:31 am

    oh! I have the excess cucumbers to go with those tomatoes!!! 🙂

    Sherry - August 29, 2016 - 12:01 pm

    I just want to give a big sigh of contentment imagining sitting on your deck watching the pink sky. You painted a lovely picture–thank you. 🙂

    Lisa Gordon - August 29, 2016 - 12:20 pm

    What a great week for you, Diane.
    A perfect way to enjoy these last weeks of summer.
    Have a wonderful week, my friend! xo

    Jennifer Connell - August 31, 2016 - 12:14 pm

    I wish I could have been there for a little friendly conversation and a warm slice of apple cake. Your entertaining and evening of wine with friends makes me want to be more social. My life is far too quiet.

    Toffeeapple - September 1, 2016 - 10:28 am

    You seem to have some very entertaining evenings there!

    Bridie - September 2, 2016 - 8:53 pm

    I’m with Jennifer: My life is far too quiet. I enjoy it as is (for the most part), but friendly conversation and good food with good wine is something I don’t get quite enough of. This wee glimpse of your life is inspirational.

    Winning ways

    We have winners. The odds were incredibly elevated for the book draw. Winners of the two books are Steph Y and Melanie W. Your books will be on their way this afternoon.

    For those who read last week’s post, these lovely ladies had their names drawn and the only ‘cost’ for the book is to write a letter — to anyone at all. Simple. Thanks for participating Steph and Melanie. Enjoy.

    To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.  –Phyllis Theroux

    writing postcards || www.dianeschuller.com

    Now on to the Heidi updates. Last Monday was one more breakthrough with Heidi: I wish I had a video to share of this. Monday was recycling day in our neighbourhood so my husband was gathering all the various containers for setting out for curb side collection. Heidi was following him and watching all the gathering. One of the items we save for recycling is a waxed paper “bowl” in the freezer which we fill with food items that are not green (includes things like bones, bits of fat, fat drippings, bits of leftovers, etc). That container smells pretty darn good to a dog even if it is fresh out of the freezer. My husband had it sitting on the floor beside the other containers and was about to shuttle them away. Heidi went right up to the yummy frozen bones, etc., gave it a quick whiff and instead of grabbing for what was easily grab-able right on the top, she backed up a step, sat, and looked up at my husband! IYC (her Its Your Choice training)!! I told her “yes” and quickly grabbed a treat for her. I’m so proud of her.

    Don not copy ©Diane M Schuller -- Heidi, Australian Shepherd

    And since then we’ve had more progress. What a difference training and building confidence makes. You can see how calm she is now — her stress has melted away like a spring thaw. I’ve been doing 2 or 3 training sessions per day with Heidi since we got her (5 weeks ago) plus we’ve been doing some very specific confidence building, as well as some much-needed socialization with dogs and people. Friday night on our bedtime walk and Saturday at the beach we saw a huge difference in her demeanour and overall behaviour. She’s even beginning to walk on leash (don’t forget that was something she didn’t do when we got her) and it’s mostly loose leash walking. She still has issues to work through and much more work on that loose leash walking, but I’m concentrating on the positives. Building her confidence has been the most vital part of her adjustment — she’s not the same dog she was when she first arrived. She’s greatly improved. Quite proud of the changes and how eagerly she faces all the challenges she’s had to overcome. The only thing I’d really love to get behind us is the potty training.

    Australian Shepherd headshot of Heidi ©Diane M Schuller

    I’ve had two people ask if I still post over at Flickr — you bet.

    If any of you have some interesting book recommendations, or perhaps a lovely story to share about anything at all (dog related, a great summer experience, a breakthrough of any sort) why not share it? I’d love to read about it.

    Until next Monday may you read a fine book, receive a surprise letter (or write one), and may the sun shine on your heart & home from the inside out.

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    Elizabeth - August 22, 2016 - 6:49 am

    Hi– I pop in occasionally to read your blog. Loved this latest post about Heidi (tho since I didn’t read earlier posts, I am not sure how she was when she arrived– I am guessing she must have been a rescue dog?)

    Anyway, you asked for book suggestions. One that is dog related and that I really liked is “Following Atticus” by Tom Ryan. Non-fiction. I hope you might like it too.


    Melanie - August 22, 2016 - 12:57 pm

    I’m looking forward to reading my book – and writing letters to my friends about it. Thank you so much!

    Lisa Gordon - August 22, 2016 - 5:16 pm

    It sounds like Heidi is doing beautifully, Diane!
    I think it’s just amazing that she did not touch the wax paper bowl.
    That’s impressive!
    You bare so fortunate to have each other.

    Wishing you a wonderful week, my friend.

    Gabriele - August 24, 2016 - 10:53 am

    Congratulations on the success Heidi is having. Louise Penny is about to release another Gamche mystery. I so look forward to her books.

    Sherry - August 25, 2016 - 8:38 pm

    Her eyes!!! I want to hug her. 🙂

    steph - August 26, 2016 - 8:05 pm

    way to go Heidi!!!! (btw….Freddy says ‘hi’!!!)

    andi - August 28, 2016 - 11:55 am

    Well done Heidi!! She deserves a treat.
    Oh those eyes melt me. 🙂

    Candace - August 28, 2016 - 12:04 pm

    What a smart girl Heidi is! I’ve been using bookbub.com and freebooksy.com, as well as my local library, to get free or very cheap books on Kindle. I just finished A Drop in the Ocean by Jenni Ogden, it was quite good. Right now I’m reading Weaving the Unraveling by Heidi Eckert but I don’t have an opinion yet.