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 on random Mondays ... simply an online journal of an ordinary life. Come on in to enjoy a breath of West Coast air.

    10 easy tips for seating guests at a dinner party

    entertaining www.dianeschuller.com

    Are you reluctant to hold a dinner party, whether formal or very casual? Don’t be reluctant — here’s a few simple tips for seating guests that will help you as a host/hostess and will also have your guests feeling relaxed and welcome. I love dinner parties because it’s a great way to get to know acquaintances better and to form new and interesting relationships.

    Don’t let the photos of the 50th anniversary dinner party table setting scare you away either. The place settings may have been a tad more formal because of the occasion but the entire evening and seating arrangement was definitely relaxed and easy going. So whether you already have a dining table or if you need to set out a card table or two (or borrow them) to seat your guests, pick out the suggestion or suggestions that will help you with your next dinner party. The key is to bury the stress and amp up the good times.

    • First I decide where I am going to sit (usually at one end of the table, so that I can easily slip into the kitchen).
    • I seat two people on either side of me who I’m fairly confident can carry on a conversation together (since I will be up and down a bit they can carry on uninterrupted).
    • Host and hostess always sit apart, usually at opposite ends of the table to ensure guests are looked after.
    • I seldom worry about alternating men and women, though I do tend to break couples up, simply to mix things up.
    • Avoid seating good friends together; that way new connections are made and everyone feels included.
    • Whenever possible, I try to seat people with similar interests (bridge, biking, music, art, business, hobbies, etc.) either across from or next to one another.
    • People who would fall into the “silent type” may benefit by being seated between two talkers.
    • Be prepared with a few conversation starters in case there is a lull in the chat. Utilize your knowledge of your guests for this one. For example, “Darla, did you know that Gerry is also taking painting lessons?” or, {for example} “The person to your left volunteered for ______ with me. Ask her to tell you a story about how we _________.”
    • I often use place cards so there is no confusion when everyone is asked to come to the table for dinner. I usually keep it informal, however, by how the table is set and sometimes by having a meaningful quote on the reverse of the place card — this also gets people sharing their quotes, thus prompting further conversation and makes each person feel comfortable.
    • If one of your dinner guests happens to have beautiful handwriting or perhaps an artistic way, ask your friend to make the place cards (always done in advance, of course). When everyone is at the table, casually let everyone know who made the beautiful cards — again, another point of conversation can spring from showcasing the talent or gifts of your guests.

    setting table for dinner party www.dianeschuller.com

    Of course, it goes without saying, if you’re having two or three couples over who all know one another really well, place cards certainly aren’t necessary. Let people sit where they may. You can simply suggest that a certain place might be best to leave open for you since you’ll be up and down during the meal.

    Cool eh? Easy peasy, really. Just invite some friends over and have a really great time.

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    dinahmow - November 15, 2015 - 11:20 am

    I’m afraid meals Chez Dinahmow must, of necessity, be casual-cafe style.We don’t have the space for 10 seater table!Come to think of it, my cutlery and crockery is now a very mixed bag!
    But I could do jolly conversations and good food. Oh, excuse -don’t sit there, a cat has been on that cushion-here, this one is fur-free!

    Diane - November 15, 2015 - 12:04 pm

    Diane, so cute about the cats — we used to do that too! (The photos shown were for a formal 50th anniversary dinner!)
    A person can simply have two couples over and set up a card table — I think it’s more a matter of having people over, enjoying good conversation over a simple meal, and making due with what a person has. I’ve been to many a home where a card table served as the dining table and to friends who simply pulled out the collapsible TV tables for each of us. Whatever works!

    Candace - November 29, 2015 - 6:16 pm

    You have so many talents and interests, it’s amazing.

    Photo Books are easier than organizing loose photos

    Are your photos all on your phone or computer? When was the last time you had photos printed?

    I am a huge proponent of getting photos OFF the computer or phone and printed, whether it’s a beautiful canvas print for your wall, multiple prints to place in an album (to be treasured and looked at multiple times over years), or in a lovely printed book. I’ve written about it here before: Printed Photographs are Gifts and Photographs are Meant to be Printed.

    layout for photo book

    I too have fallen off the get-them-printed bandwagon lately but I plan to get right back at it again — no more procrastinating!

    Why leave your precious memories on your computer, mobile phone and memory card when you can re-live them over and over again with tangible, permanent photos or photos in photo books?

    casual pre-wedding

    As my title suggests, photo books are less work than organizing prints. I can understand if some may disagree on this point but consider my point of view before you come to a conclusion.

    Wedding gents

    Sure, it does take longer for a photo book to be delivered than getting a bunch of prints printed but then you’ll have a lot more work to do with those prints once you bring them home. They will have to be sorted; you’ll need to purchase an album or two; they will need labelling; and adhering to the album sheets.


    When you order a photo book you do all that work online and in less time so once you’ve got the book completed online, that’s it. The other nice thing about having your photos in a book is that, when displayed on a coffee table, guests will be drawn to open it and check it out. And don’t forget what a great gift a photo book can be for parents or grandparents as well.

    flower girl

    Getting all those momentous photos printed is important so whether you get individual prints made or put a photo book together, years from now you — and your family — will be so grateful you did one or the other. So why not check out those two blog posts linked at the top, or check out these two articles written by professional photographers making similar arguments. If I can’t convince you, perhaps they can!

    Why you need to Print your Wedding or Family Photos (this applies whether you have hired a pro or have taken photos yourself)

    “Why prints are better than digital image files”

    1952 wedding

    Photographs Never Forget! Keep memories alive with printed photographs and albums/photo books.

    The palest ink is better than the best memory.” ~Chinese proverb

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    Fall Potpourri

    Currently . . .

    Missing these two so much.

    walking Australian Shepherds along beach in Qualicum Beach

    Though still enjoying autumn.

    Japanese Maple leaves - Autumn in Qualicum Beach

    Practicing each day and filling our home with music.

    Yamaha grand piano

    Reading — some novels are really engaging; others not so much (details below).

    our living room

    Still knitting away on my Antler pullover (didn’t knit for over 2 weeks while we were away).

    Yarn Indulgences Banana fingering

    We’ve been busy with other interests and pursuits though this represents my current state today. Since I haven’t been updating with any regularity, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the most recent books I’ve read. As noted above, some have been real hits and others definitely fell short (for me). Here then are links to my Goodreads pages if you’d like to read the synopsis and below that what I had to say about the more recent books where my bookmark has kept my place:

    All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I absolutely loved this book. Use the link to read my comments.

    Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

    Shantaram: A Novel: I read this months ago but don’t believe I shared it with you yet. Loved the story, really appreciated his way with words, and it drew considerable discussion in book club.

    Although I’ve read half a dozen or more novels based in India, this one had one very distinctive difference: the author had a true love for India and his perception, even of the filth and slums, gave the reader a whole new way of seeing India through his eyes and experience. Would I recommend it? Yes, without hesitation.

    And now for a recent one that I did not enjoy. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

    Let’s finish with another real favourite. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. Although this was not one of the books read in my book club, I highly recommend it for a book club choice because of the thought-provoking discussion this one will elicit.

    Although my reading list at Goodreads is far from being anywhere near complete, I have been making an effort to record the most recent books I’ve read. Here is a link to a list of my Favourite Books from those I’ve read in recent years and a link to those that I disliked (you’ll need to click on each book individually if you want to know why I didn’t like that particular book.)

    And today I’m going to leave you with a question from out of left field (or somewhere in the ether!). I asked this on Facebook and not one person responded — though people respond to and share meaningless videos and trite sayings in multiples on Facebook 😉  The question: What is the most incredible or memorable HAND MADE gift you’ve ever received?

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    Mary - November 2, 2015 - 4:43 pm

    My most memorable handmade gift was a wrap bracelet made for me by my 14-year-old niece for my 70th birthday. It is beautiful! I wear it so often and think of her every rime I put it on. It means so much more being handmade.


    Jessie - November 2, 2015 - 8:39 pm

    My husband (with help from my cousin and dad) made me a wood strip canoe for a wedding gift!

    And while I’ve received many other wonderful gifts of quilts and paintings and all sorts that boat can’t be topped!

    I loved All the Light We Can not see as well, what did you think of Orphan Train? It was recommended to me but I haven’t tried it yet.

    SL Mills - November 3, 2015 - 11:50 am

    A large heart shaped mirror and chest of drawers my dad made before I came home from the hospital – it has been in my bedroom ever since (many, many, many years) — to know he loved me that much before he even knew me is comforting.

    dinahmow - November 5, 2015 - 1:12 am

    Goodness! Over a long lifetime, I’ve had many hand-made gifts.Not all survived (and were never intended to) and many knitted garments were outgrown And today? Well, I have several original artworks that were gifted.And I still have and wear a ring,smokey citrine, set in gold, made by a then apprentice jeweller.
    I suppose I grew up in a DIY age.

    Gabriele - November 7, 2015 - 8:10 am

    I have on my bookshelf the two books you recommended. All The Light We Cannot See and The Orchardist. Starting one of them today, but which one? Thank-you for you book recommendations. I trust your judgement. What are you playing these days? I have been working on a Chopin Waltz that a student is slugging through. I have a few students who are pushing my boundaries. They play almost as well as I do.
    As to my favorite handmade gift? I just received a painting as a gift from a talented friend. We did some subscription art with her years ago. We would choose one of her paintings and rent it for $25 a month. Every month we borrowed another delight. One day last month she appeared on my doorstep with my favorite. “You love it, It is yours”. Melting with joy…………

    Andi - November 8, 2015 - 6:37 am

    Most amazing hand made gift was a quilt from my mother. It is still the most treasured gift and I use it everyday despite the warm temps.
    Love your potpourri of Fall images. Especially the pic of your loves on their walk.

    steph - November 8, 2015 - 2:52 pm

    a friend totally surprised me one valentine’s day with a little hooked pillow with three hearts hooked into it. what made it extra special…she used some old (OLD OLD) cashmere from some sweaters she had saved from when she was growing up that had been attacked over the years by moths. It’s beautiful…but it also has a little story…and that’s what makes it so special!!

    and thanks for the book recommendations….i’m going to suggest shantaram to our new bookclub!!! (We’re heading to Ann Patchett’s book store tomorrow to load up…hopefully she has this one in stock!)

    Is it fair?

    So, is it fair that I so sporadically post here? Some of you are so very loyal. I really should be loyal in return. I don’t get around to read other blogs as much as I perhaps should … though, I DO every once in a while. And, when I do, I tend to read several posts at a time. And, of course, I’m also so pleased friends and family pop in to see what’s up around our “campfire”. Please excuse this one not-so-positive post.

    clouds over the Salish Sea

    I’m recently home from a week-long vacation that was gifted to us. A dear dear friend knew I had been pining since the loss of yet another of our dogs. He felt it would do us good to get away. It did, in a way. But back home, I’m so close to tears all the time. And at times, I just can’t hold them back. I miss them so much. I hope I did well by them in their final days.

    near the end www.dianeschuller.com

    I also have a difficult time picking up the camera as I used to. This has been ongoing for months really, but especially since the last of our beloved canine family members has gone. So, I’ll at least leave you with a photo or two, but they will be something from before. I will attempt to post an upbeat and photo-filled post soon. Excuse this temporary (I hope) dip in enthusiasm.

    Pearl, Australian Shepherd www.dianeschuller.com

    Oh, oh … to leave you with something positive. I just read a really wonderful novel, The Orchardist. A great story, lovely writing, and definitely recommended.

    sticky toffee pudding cake by Diane Schuller


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    Gabriele - October 15, 2015 - 9:54 am

    I love reading your posts. I’m so sorry those beautiful dogs are not around.

    Bridie - October 15, 2015 - 4:04 pm

    Be gentle with yourself, Diane. Grief takes a lot out of a person, and loses such as these take a long time to heal. Be assured that this reader has no expectations of either regular or upbeat posts; I will be here to read whatever you are moved to write, whenever you are moved to write it. Take good care.

    Sherry - October 15, 2015 - 5:07 pm

    I so agree with Bridie. I totally understand why you are feeling the way that you do — and I would be too. Please let yourself grieve in the way that you need to. You have sustained major losses of loved family members and life is not the same without them. Post when you want to, take pics when you are moved to, read and knit and bake and take walks and do what makes you feel better. I have a somewhat erratic approach to posting myself and I just allow myself to do it that way. We love what you have to offer and we feel for you. xox

    Candace - October 17, 2015 - 10:04 am

    And I agree with Gabriele, Bridie, and Sherry. Don’t feel obligated to do something you’re not feeling. Animals are as much a part of our lives as people.

    Lisa Gordon - October 17, 2015 - 2:29 pm

    Diane, I know how very much this hurts. A couple of years ago, we lost all 4 of our dogs in less than a year. They become such a part of our family, and have such a big place in our hearts. It takes time. For me, a very, long time. Give yourself that time, my friend. xo.

    Mary - October 18, 2015 - 7:03 am


    I am so sorry to read about the deaths of your beloved dogs. I echo the words of the others who have left comments and send you this poem that made me feel better when I my beautiful old cat died.

    Though we need to weep your loss
    You dwell in that safe place in our hearts
    Where no storm or night or pain can reach
    You placed smiles like flowers
    On the alter of our minds
    And you found for us a new music
    That brightened every day.

    Rest in peace dear Pearl and Austin. We love you.

    Jessie - October 21, 2015 - 11:03 am

    Fairness, as usual, has nothing to do with it- any of it.

    Your posts are treasures whenever and however often they come.

    But perhaps, if it’s bothering you, you could tell us more about that cake to make up for it! 😉

    Susan - October 22, 2015 - 5:52 pm

    I’m so sorry, Diane, it’s so hard, isn’t it? Your dogs were so lucky to have you and I have not doubt you gave them both a wonderful life, filled with lots of love. Grieving is necessary and can’t be rushed. And it’s ok to cry.

    shawna - October 26, 2015 - 2:09 pm

    What lucky creatures to have had you in their lives.


    So, have you ever seen a murmuration before? If not, or if you’re simply wondering what a murmuration is, check out this video:

    I realize it’s been ages since I last post. I want to thank all my friends, family and acquaintances for your kind thoughts after I shared about the recent death of our dear Austin, so soon after Pearl’s death as well (but to us they were family members too). It’s still difficult to even bring up the topic or talk about them so I’m going to move on here as well.

    www.dianeschuller.com French Creek, BC


    Plum Kuchen ©Diane Schuller


    The photos are a silent way of sharing what I’ve been doing lately.

    Click for the recipe for the Plum Kuchen — I’ve made it 3 times and it’s fantastic! I also made it once substituting fresh peaches. If you’re a fan of the much lower levels of sugar used in genuine German Kuchen, then you’re sure to like this recipe. But if you prefer your desserts much sweeter then check out a few of my other favourites on Pinterest.

    And my third pair of socks have been done for a while and I’m quite pleased with how they turned out. For the knitters, check out my project page at Ravelry for details.

    Since this is such a voiceless post, I thought I’d leave you with a few of my favourite quotes of late:

    “I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds…” — Salvador Plascencia

    “In the sweetness of friendship; let there be laughter and the sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” –Kahlil Gibran

    There are no happy endings.
    Endings are the saddest part,
    So just give me a happy middle
    And a very happy start.
    ” — Shel Silverstein

    “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.” –Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

    “But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?” —Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

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    dinahmow - September 25, 2015 - 5:38 pm

    Lovely! All of it, especially those cosy socks.
    It’s been crazy-busy here and still is, but we can see some results.And I think my blogging mojo may be coming back.

    Andi - September 27, 2015 - 8:51 am

    Hi love!

    I could watch that video a million times and believe I have. The combination of the scene and music brings me so much peace.
    Beautiful happenings. It is okay to be quiet sometimes. We all need to turn the volume off once in a while. And look at all the amazing this you have to share. You know I love those socks! 🙂

    Toffeeapple - September 28, 2015 - 11:34 am

    We used to see Murmurations frequently when we were children but not much nowadays. I did see a very small one recently but nothing like they used to be, Starlings are not as numerous as they used to be.

    Your socks are lovely and that recipe is very timely since I have greengages to use up – thank you.

    Gabriele - September 28, 2015 - 2:12 pm

    I so enjoyed the video of the starlings. Thank-you.

    Candace - September 29, 2015 - 4:22 pm

    The kuchen looks awesome!

    Susan - September 30, 2015 - 2:18 pm

    Lovely images, Diane. That Kuchen sure looks delicious, I may try to make it this weekend and those socks came out beautifully..those can’t be easy to make! Someone’s lucky feet are going to be nice and warm and cozy. 🙂 Thank you for sharing these wonderful pleasures, my friend. xo

    Jessie - September 30, 2015 - 10:27 pm

    Oh I love that video. We would get big flocks of starlings (well not big like the video, just normal big) just across the road from our old house and I’d get nothing done for the days they were there. They are so mesmerizing, fascinating, soothing…

    Annie - October 2, 2015 - 12:41 pm

    The Doerr quote is one of my favourites too. And those socks look sooooo warm, lovely job :o)


    He came into our lives as a tawny bundle full of p___ and vinegar. He left our lives peacefully, without a whimper.

    Austin ©Diane M Schuller

    Austin was always like the pesky little brother, who had his nose where no one wanted it and had a propensity for using that nose to push his way through doors, flipping hands and arms when he expected you to get up and feed him, or simply putting it in your face to ask you to let him outside in the middle of the night. This garnered him the nickname “push-and-go”.


    He allowed the ‘girls’ to boss him around and always seemed happy to take that position in the pack. So it’s no surprise he always felt safest when someone else was ‘in charge’.  He was never as adept a hunter as Maggie, our Springer Spaniel, or Pearl, our other Australian Shepherd. But he did learn to watch their body language and to often jump in when the prey (usually an innocent vole, mouse, or nasty squirrel) would be flushed out by the girls and be the first to snatch it up.


    He was a born clown and had the cutest way of twisting himself into the most unusual contortions to get attention. His claim to fame was his almost obsessive desire for food of any sort, even if only crumbs. He’d do anything for food and would often try turning himself inside out in the hopes he’d receive a reward for his antics. He was the best vacuum I’ve ever had.

    A very handsome lad he was. He even made it into a picture book in 2010 for Paws for Charity. And he was on the local news September 18, 2012.

    In his final weeks he was desperate not to be out of my sight, quite literally. I knew the reason for that.

    Of course there was so much more to him than that, but I’m trying to keep it together to share with you what a delight he was in our lives for the past eleven years.

    Rest in Peace dear Austin July 18, 2004 – August 27, 2015.


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    andrea - August 28, 2015 - 12:18 pm

    11 is too young. I am so sorry, Diane. It’s a hard loss and he was a beauty. (I still crave a red merle.)

    Susan - August 28, 2015 - 2:46 pm

    oh no..another great loss 🙁 I’m so sorry, Diane. This is such a beautiful tribute to your sweet boy. Sending love and hugs. xo

    Susan - August 28, 2015 - 2:47 pm

    I haven’t been keeping up with other blogs this summer but something made me look at yours today. Beautiful memorial to your beloved dog. I am always grateful for the gifts dogs give us. No wonder we miss them so much.

    Gabriele - August 28, 2015 - 3:18 pm

    You have my deepest condolences. It must have been hard to write this memorial but thank-you for sharing.

    Lisa Gordon - August 28, 2015 - 4:18 pm

    I am so very sorry, Diane. I know how much this hurts. They become such an important part of our families.

    Fly high, sweet Austin. xo.

    Anita - August 28, 2015 - 5:26 pm

    Oh, Diane. I am so sorry. Pearl, and now, Austin. Both beautiful friends. They do leave a big empty spot when they go. I will be thinking of you.

    Sue Halloran - August 29, 2015 - 3:58 am

    Diane, your gallery tribute to Austin is beautiful. Your words and pictures brings tears to my eyes. You have honored him well. I am so sorry for this profound loss and the big hole in your heart. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.
    Sue Halloran

    Connie Hull - August 29, 2015 - 5:37 am

    Diane, I am so sorry for your loss. But he is STILL with you…and knows how much you loved him… God bless !

    kathy - August 29, 2015 - 10:12 am

    So sorry for your loss. A beautiful tribute to a beloved family member.

    Candace - August 29, 2015 - 3:21 pm

    Diane, I’m so sorry. I was dreading to see this post. So soon after Pearl, take care of yourself. He was very handsome.

    Aaron & Mark - August 29, 2015 - 8:04 pm

    Diane and John,
    We are so sad to hear that Austin has also made his way over the rainbow bridge. You have written a touching tribute to a beautiful dog. We have no doubt that he will greatly missed. Please know that you are welcome to walk Tim anytime you like. Sending you much love, Aaron and Mark

    Annie - August 31, 2015 - 12:58 pm

    I’m so sorry to read this … Kipling was right, they tear our hearts when they go xxx

    Nancy - September 1, 2015 - 3:39 pm

    Oh Diane, this is a most loving tribute to such a beautiful boy. I understand your sorrow & have shared a love likes yours! How blessed we were to have had such amazing creatures to care for & enjoy for their beginning & in their end, Prayers for Austin & loads of live for you! ???

    Bridie - September 2, 2015 - 2:03 pm

    Oh, Diane. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your sweet friend. Austin was clearly well loved; your tribute to him here is a testament to that. What a hard loss.

    Lionel Daneault - September 18, 2015 - 6:15 am

    I shall miss seeing Austin and John on my morning walks. He was such a handsome dog.

    Sherry - September 19, 2015 - 12:24 pm

    Oh, Diane, I did not see this until just now. My heart aches for you. What a beautiful and happy boy he was and how much joy he brought — and companionship and love. Why do their lives have to be so short? Big hugs to you…xo

    Eden - September 27, 2015 - 9:12 am

    Diane, I am so sorry for your loss.

    Deborah Carr - October 14, 2015 - 2:17 pm

    Oh Diane…I am so sorry to hear about Austin. I always loved the ways in which you captured his character in your photos…and those beautiful blue eyes. How well I know the pain of goodbyes. And knowing that the time is coming…it’s like a tidal wave that you are helpless to stop, isn’t it? My dog heart to yours.

    Murmuration » observed by Diane - January 6, 2016 - 4:28 pm

    […] family and acquaintances for your kind thoughts after I shared about the recent death of our dear Austin, so soon after Pearl’s death as well (but to us they were family members too). It’s […]