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.

    As only you can … looking for potential

    “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”~ Neil Gaimon

    forest floor fungus ©DianeMSchuller

    We spend the first day of January walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives … not looking for flaws, but for potential.” -Ellen Goodman

    Ocean horizon ©DianeMSchuller

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    Sherry Smyth - January 5, 2014 - 1:00 pm

    Happy New Year Diane. Sending wishes for a good recovery and a positive/optimistic vibe. Waiting to hear that you are back at piano and picking up the pieces as you go. xo

    dinahmow - January 5, 2014 - 1:18 pm

    Yes, echoing what Sherry said. (xx)

    lisa - January 5, 2014 - 2:22 pm

    Happy New Year, my friend!
    How perfect these quotes are for the beginning of a New Year.
    I wish you only the most wonderful things in 2014.

    Susan - January 6, 2014 - 10:36 am

    Wonderful quotes, Diane. I’m thinking of you.

    Susan - January 7, 2014 - 7:19 pm

    Oh Diane, it’s so nice to have you back, Happy New Year to you! I’ve been thinking of you and hope that you are on the road to recovery. Beautiful images and quotes..as always.

    Candace - January 11, 2014 - 8:18 pm

    Happy 2014, Diane! May it bring you all you desire. Glad to see you back.


    Sometimes in life we are required to take a pause. That happened to me lately. I’ve had a life changing health issue that forces me to pause and relearn. As I have strength and motivation I will attempt to keep this online venue in working order, even if I am relearning how to operate.

    Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and all the best of everything in 2014.

    Thank you to everyone for following me, taking time to comment, and I hope to be able to resume in this ‘neck of the online woods’.

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    lisa - December 22, 2013 - 6:54 pm

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, Diane.
    I wish you a Merry Christmas, and a bright, beautiful New Year.

    Candace - December 22, 2013 - 7:03 pm

    Gosh, Diane, I’m so sorry! Wishing you all the best and a speedy recovery. I hope your holidays will be happy.

    Sherry G. - December 22, 2013 - 7:53 pm

    Oh, I’m so very sorry to hear that, Diane. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping you will be back to health very, very soon. Also wishing you a bright and happy holiday and a return to vibrant health in 2014!

    Jessie - December 22, 2013 - 9:10 pm

    Best wishes for a healthier new year, patience for what life has brought you and Merry Christmas too!

    Susan - December 23, 2013 - 8:00 pm

    Oh Diane, I’m so sorry to hear this. I sure hope this is just a short pause and you return soon in good health. But whatever you are dealing with, I’ll be here thinking of you…sending prayers your way. Wishing you and yours a lovely Christmas and a happy healthy New Year.

    Eden - December 24, 2013 - 10:56 am

    Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, Diane. Be healthy.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    shirley lemay - December 25, 2013 - 2:15 pm

    So Sorry to hear this news. Sending positive thoughts and prayers to you and your family. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Susan - December 28, 2013 - 6:11 pm

    Diane, I am so sorry to hear of your setback. My thoughts are with you. I was walking our property today trying to choose a spot for the hollyhocks you sent me. May you and they flourish in the New Year.

    dinahmow - January 3, 2014 - 11:44 am

    Oh dear! I’m just trying to clear a mountain of stuff and was starting to write to you and realised I had not seen any recent posts…
    Diane, I am sorry to hear you’ve had an upset.All good wishes for a return to your good, bubbling health.

    Kelly @ JAX does design - January 4, 2014 - 7:42 am

    Oh Diane, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re dealing with health issues 🙁 I hope you’re feeling OK and that you make a full recovery soon.

    I’m going to miss your beautiful photos and wonderful writing. Please take good care of yourself, and come back soon if you can!

    the reward


    In life, some people chase dreams. In life, some people give up on their dreams. I’m now reaping the benefits of not giving up on a dream. All my life I wanted to learn to play piano. As many of you know, now that I’m in retirement, I bought a used piano and began taking lessons mid August. I practice every single day and often sit down to play multiple times a day. This morning, first thing I did even before my shower or getting dressed: I went to the piano. I played.

    “The end is not the reward; the path you take, the emotions that course through you as you grasp life — that is the reward.” –Jamie Magee, Embody

    Amaryllis by ©Diane M Schuller

    “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” –Coco Chanel


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    Sherry Smyth - December 6, 2013 - 9:56 am

    I’m smiling. Inside and out. First of all, I love this shot of your piano! Secondly and most importantly, I am so glad that you followed a dream you’ve had and are seeing it come to fruition. If that isn’t inspiring me today – nothing will! xo

    Jessie - December 6, 2013 - 6:43 pm

    As my grandpa would say – “Good on you!”

    And when Grandpa says that, you know you’ve really done something special!

    Sherry Galey - December 6, 2013 - 8:25 pm

    I totally get that rewards quote — and get how much following your dream is giving to your life. I have recently started following a few too — and that has made all the difference! Your images always have a serene quality that stops me in my tracks. Very inspiring.

    lisa - December 7, 2013 - 6:10 pm

    You make me smile, my friend, and you are truly an inspiration!

    Gabriele - December 8, 2013 - 5:46 am

    It is wonderful to have a practice that brings satisfaction and joy. Hurray for you.

    On Amaryllis, Dinner Parties, and Pinterest

    "amaryllis dream" by Diane M Schuller
    This is the first year I’ve been able to get my amaryllis bulbs to re-grow and reproduce for me. This white one is a real beauty, though the pink & white striped one is now pushing out of the pot as if desperate to bloom before Christmas. According to Canadian Gardening, “It’s a native of South America, where it still grows wild in some areas. Back in the 1800s, amaryllis bulbs were costly and rare. Luminaries such as Napolean’s wife Empress Josephine and former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson eagerly collected them.”

    As you can tell by my sparse blog posts, December is an incredibly busy time for me. The Christmas parties and gatherings have begun and are plentiful. Plus we have all our other activities and interests, not to mention having had company all of last week. Busy it may be, but it’s a good busy to be sure. We attended another Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner on Saturday and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. The hosts put together a raclette for the 8 of us which made for an ideal conversational evening. Speaking of conversation, I am always intrigued when meeting new people and seeing who is obviously quite adept at starting and carry on a conversation. It’s something I’ve had to re-learn since leaving the years of isolation and moving back to an urban setting. There is definitely an art to starting and maintaining conversation. So many good times occur around a dining table.

    I can get a better grasp of what is going on in the world from one good Washington dinner party than from all the background information NBC piles on my desk.
    – Barbara Walters

    I’ve been browsing around Pinterest for more Christmas decor ideas and recipes plus I’ve really found Twitter to be an interesting venue for learning more about local goings-on, not to mention my passion for news (those links take you directly to my account). I also find it interesting over at Pinterest seeing which of my “boards” or individual posts are most popular. Right now the two items that are being re-pinned the most is one cute way of decorating for Christmas using marshmallows (yes, no kidding) and the other one most popular right now is simply a photograph of a pink retro typewriter that I would dearly love to have. Do you Pinterest? What do you find of most use lately at Pinterest?

    Last month I wrote a post about buying local but I haven’t yet posted it (wanted to add some relevant photos which I still haven’t mustered up). Let me know if you’d like me to post it anyway; if not, I’ll simply post the occasional update as we butterfly our way through December’s goings-on.

    What is your favourite thing to do during December?

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    lisa - December 3, 2013 - 3:46 pm

    This photograph is really beautiful, Diane.
    I’ve never been successful in getting an amaryllis to re-bloom, but you have inspired me to give it another try.

    I have a Pinterest account, but have never used it. Always hear lots of neat stuff abut it though.

    My favorite things to do in December would be baking Christmas cookies, and decorating.

    I hope you’re having a great week.

    Kelly @ JAX does design - December 4, 2013 - 9:23 am

    I put last year’s amaryllis in the cold room after it finished blooming, and forgot all about it! I think it’s too late to revive it to bloom this year. Oh well, maybe I’ll buy a new one for this year 🙂

    I remember being so fascinated by amaryllis when I was a kid. It’s probably the only plant that you can almost see growing taller! I’m sure mine sometimes grew 1″-2″ in a day!

    I’ve mostly use Pinterest for recipes lately. Although to be honest, I don’t use it anywhere near as much now as I used to.

    My favourite thing to do in December is take two weeks off from before Christmas to after New Year’s Day!

    Sherry at Still and All - December 5, 2013 - 8:11 am

    Beautiful image, Diane, and it sure sounds like a fun December has started for you! I love participatory meals like raclette and fondue and such around this time of year. Having gone down south early this year, December is a bit non-traditional for me — no baking, no decorating and not much shopping! But time for getting the boat ready to launch and capturing the loveliness of the simple things around me. I’m really enjoying the Simplicity Project that Kim Manley Ort has started. I’m trying to strip down my images to the essentials as a reflection of life…I am on Twitter and Pinterest too and find them both useful for different things, but I am focusing on other social media this month, otherwise I would spread myself way too thin! Wishing you a joyful lead up to Christmas. Oh yes, my sister launched a neat concept called 5H Giving last year, one of which is to buy local (From Here) and she even has downloadable, adorable gift tags now.

    Sherry Smyth - December 6, 2013 - 10:00 am

    I am terrible at pinterest…I rarely go there. Even though it’s filled with eye candy and I love me some eye candy…I’m busy elsewhere on the web..sometimes, too much so.

    I love this amaryllis shot — it’s magical…it makes me think of fairies and I could see one curled up in that petal…a tiny bed to dream on!

    As for conversation starters…that one has never been difficult for me. I was a shy child but I was also very conscious of the fact that until someone breaks the ice, all those “shy” people will just sit there or stand there. So I’ve made it a point to be the ice breaker. And over the years I’ve learned to love this role…opening a conversation and then asking people about themselves. It’s fascinating, it’s interesting and it makes people feel included and cared about. I think of it as one of my gifts. What more could you ask for?

    Christine - December 14, 2013 - 6:42 pm

    I had fun catching up on your blog tonight ~ so much beauty. I love all of the potluck gift ideas 🙂

    Host-Hostess Gift Etiquette

    {NOTE: In this particular blog post, the photos included are not my own, with the exception of just one. I have given credit for each of the sources.}

    It’s the time of year when we begin receiving more invitations to dinner parties, cocktail parties, and open houses. No matter how well we know the person/couple inviting us, I feel we should always bring a token of appreciation along with us to the gathering. And, although the ubiquitous bottle of wine is a good idea, we can be far more creative than that (and if giving a bottle of wine it should not be a cheap wine — don’t forget how much time, effort, and expense the hosts have gone to in preparing for the evening.) You don’t need to break the bank on a bottle but we certainly should not cheap-out. The best gifts are items the host can set aside and enjoy later. The more time and thought you put into the gesture, the more meaningful the gift. I’ll share a few things I feel will help to ensure your gift is well received:

    If You Are Invited to a Potluck Dinner

    Even if you are contributing to the meal, you should still bring something to show the host/hostess your appreciation for them hosting the dinner. A bottle of wine is quite acceptable, a box of chocolates, or something you have made, for example. It needn’t be anything extravagant.

    wine wrapping www.dianeschuller.com

    If You Do Bring a Bottle Try This

    If you really do want to bring a bottle why not bring a good bottle of Proseco or perhaps a nice Champagne? Or consider an after dinner liqueur such as brandy, port, kahlua, etc. And to make it even more special, wrap it up with a beautiful tea towel tied with a ribbon. I make my own labels that I print out on card stock and hang on the neck of a bottle so they know who it came from, plus it simply looks more like a gift that I gave thought to assembling. Or simply wrap the bottle with a wide velvet ribbon — that looks so luxe! Wouldn’t your host feel special knowing you put such thought into it? Oh and if your host asks you to bring your own refreshment, sure do that, but still bring a second bottle of wine for them to enjoy after the party. Whenever we’re invited to a gathering and we are asked to bring our own refreshment, we always bring two bottles: one for us, unwrapped and one for the host nicely wrapped and sporting a gift tag.

    Gifts are Not Intended for Use at the Party

    We should never arrive with a gift of food or alcohol and expect it to be used for the party (unless the host/hostess has specifically asked you to contribute to the meal — but that is NOT a hostess gift).  If you are arriving with alcohol or food it should be with the intention that it’s  for the host/hostess to enjoy after the party and if you label it or include a notecard with it, you won’t be putting them on the spot. For instance, you could gift them with breakfast for the next day (fresh scones, homemade jar of marmalade, banana bread or such). Or perhaps you could bring a nice bottle of port with some local cheeses and loaf of artisan bread they can enjoy the next day/evening.

    That said, the host/hostess may choose to serve your wine or food to the guests (that you intended for them for future) — if so, that’s their choice, and consider it a compliment. I have attended dinner parties where a guest had brought desserts she intended for and wanted everyone to try — it was awkward for the hostess and incompatible to the meal the hostess had put together. Don’t do it.

    Breakfast for tomorrow. Photo: Anna Williams

    Breakfast for tomorrow. Photo: Anna Williams

    Please Do Not Insist or Suggest the Gift be Opened Right Away

    Whether it’s a wrapped gift or not, this can be very awkward both for the hostess as well as other guests. What if other guests didn’t bring a gift, for instance, this could be quite embarrassing. Either discreetly hand the gift to your host or hostess or, if there is a console table near the entry, simply leave it and the card there for the hostess to find and open after the guests have gone home.

    Flowers are Not Always Appropriate

    I know, many people consider flowers as their go-to hostess gift. Take these points into consideration:

    • If you bring cut flowers your host/hostess then has to take time away from last minute prep in the kitchen and/or greeting people at the door to locate a suitable sized vase, arrange the flowers, and find a place for them.
    • INSTEAD 1: Bring flowers already in a vase or in an arrangement but immediately let the hostess know they are intended for his/her pleasure after the party and that it’s not necessary to put them out tonight. Flowers from your garden are perfect, but bring them already arranged in a vase or other container (even a mason jar is cute). Or, better yet, bring a beautiful long lasting potted plant such as an orchid and your host/hostess will remember you long after the party for leaving them with such a pleasurable gift.
    • INSTEAD 2:  Bring a gift certificate from a nearby florist tucked inside a notecard. This way the host/hostess can go out and choose exactly what they want after the party and will take great pleasure in your thoughtful gesture.
    Image: rubybeets.com

    Image: rubybeets.com

    Spiced nuts - image ©marthastewart

    Spiced nuts – image ©marthastewart

    Be Mindful in Selecting a Gift

    It’s wonderful if you are thinking of bringing a more personal gift of something useful. Be careful in not assuming they appreciate the same things you do —  you may be gifting them with something they have no use for or simply do not like. It will either sit in a cupboard somewhere, eventually ending up being re-gifted or in their next garage sale. If you know them well then select a gift you know they either need or will appreciate. If you don’t know them well then consider things such as: a gift certificate (florist, local bakery, restaurant); set of linen napkins; wine glass charms; napkin rings; stationery; coffee table book, or celebrity cookbook; rosemary ‘tree’; a trio of live herbs in pots; gourmet snacks (gourmet nuts or popcorn, gourmet spreads) or something you have made yourself that anyone would enjoy (quick bread, box of homemade cookies; marmalade or pickles; anything that you may make that everyone always enjoys!). Keep in mind when selecting a gift to consider what gift would make their life easier or would be a treat they may not necessarily buy for themselves (which is why thoughtful gift cards work so well).

    Wrap it Up

    Whatever gift you bring, be sure to take some time to wrap it up. This is a gift after all and you want to show your host or hostess you too have taken some time to make this special for them. Gifts become special with small touches like unique packaging and handwritten tags or labels. Besides, if it’s wrapped up with a tag, the host will realize immediately that it is truly a gift.

    Avoid giving: gag gifts, scented anything, cheap wine, homemade wine (unless they’ve consumed it before and love it), food for the party (as already stated), knick knacks, anything that may need assembly.

    Image ©marthastewart

    Image ©marthastewart


    I keep a little box filled with a variety of gift items. This way if we receive an invitation and I don’t have time to make something or buy something, I have a few things on hand that can be used in those circumstances. Since I have a variety of items, hopefully there will be something suitable whether it’s someone we know well or not. I tend to pick things up when I’m out and about and happen to see something that I immediately know will make an ideal hostess gift. It’s also a great way to take advantage of sales when buying in advance. Right now in my hostess gift stash are things such as: I have a set of cocktail napkins; a couple sets of dinner napkins; a cookbook (one of my favourites); a coffee table book; a couple good quality bottles of wine; my own photographic art notecards; a set of white condiment dishes; recipe cards; a hand woven tea towel made by a local artisan; gourmet balsamic crema (local); and a variety of ready-made packaging for food items in case I give some homemade baking, spiced nuts, or other goodies from my kitchen.

    With just a little bit of thought and a wee bit more effort, we can all be guests who every host/hostess will enjoy having over during the holidays (or anytime of year).

    Also on this topic:

    Made by Hand for Giving as Hostess Gifts

    Easy Peasy Hostess Gifts


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    Sherry at Still and All - November 25, 2013 - 6:12 am

    A lovely, thoughtful post, Diane, with a plethora of great ideas for the holidays. I love your idea about keeping a little box handy with small gifts. And the bottle wrapped in a pretty tea towel is wonderful. I liked your ideas too some posts back about giving some of your photo note cards. I started doing that this year, along with a nice bottle of wine, and they were very well received. I also find that special jars of honey and jams and chutney are appreciated as well. Here’s to enjoying all your holiday gatherings!

    Sherry Smyth - November 25, 2013 - 7:12 am

    This is wonderful Diane. You’ve shared ideas I’d never have thought of (breakfast for the next day!) and even putting a simple velvet bow on a great bottle of wine…luxe!

    The whole “let’s drink your bottle of wine” with dinner always bums me out — I bring it for the host/hostess to enjoy later and don’t always want to consume it myself. The thought is great and I never argue other than to say — I’m fine with you keeping it for yourself you know — in case they think I expect them to open it then and there. Adding the gift tag would remove that awkward moment! So thank you for that. I think I shall share this post…it’s well worth repeating! xo

    Susan - November 25, 2013 - 12:09 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful post! I’m usually at a loss when it comes to creative hostess gifts and you have some excellent ideas here…and the correct etiquette to boot!

    lisa - November 26, 2013 - 1:59 pm

    What great tips, Diane, and thank you so very much for sharing them here.
    I wish you a wonderful week!

    Candace - November 29, 2013 - 5:43 pm

    Great ideas, Diane. I do normally take a small gift but I don’t often wrap it or add those little touches that make it extra special so I will do that in the future.

    Art: If no birds sang

    “Use the talents you possess — for the woods would be silent if no birds sang but the best.” ~Henry Jackson Van Dyke
    heron fine art ©Diane M Schuller


    "trio" ©Diane M Schuller

     “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” ~Pablo Picasso
    “One can do such lovely things with so little.” ~Camille Pissarro

    I have been making art out of some of my photographs lately. But after I finished, I was wishing you (plural) were sitting alongside me, doing your art, and while we worked away at our art-making we could chat, embrace the natural silences, and pick up again with conversation. It wouldn’t matter what the subject may be (of our art or our conversation), but it would be pleasurable don’t you think?



     “To me the purpose of art is to produce something alive, … and of course one hopes, with an everlasting life of its own.” ~Henry Green

    autumn equine ©Diane M Schuller


    the old Customs Building in Victoria, BC

    the old Customs Building in Victoria, BC

    “Use the talents you possess — for the woods would be silent if no birds sang but the best.” ~Henry Jackson Van Dyke


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    Susan - November 15, 2013 - 11:49 am

    Now that to me would be a perfect day, chatting with you while making art! And wow, you’ve certainly produced some magnificent works here! I especially love the last one…I have a thing for windows!

    dinahmow - November 15, 2013 - 2:53 pm

    I love the old, shuttered window.

    lisa - November 15, 2013 - 5:23 pm

    It truly would be wonderful, Diane, and these images are so beautiful.
    Really, really magnificent work.
    Have a great weekend!

    Candace - November 15, 2013 - 9:24 pm

    They are all so gorgeous and the textures are stunning and well-done. Very fortuitous to catch a bird on each lamp.

    Laurie MacBride - November 16, 2013 - 9:47 am

    Gorgeous images! I especially love the two bird photos, and the Customs building window.

    Sherry Smyth - November 16, 2013 - 2:11 pm

    Oh my gosh — the amazing art you have created from your photography. Photography is stand alone art. But using textures and filters to take it beyond what the eye saw originally to what it can become? Amazing. And yes, it would be such joy to sit side by side with tea or coffee, to talk, to create art and to be in that same time/space.

    Michele at Sweet Leaf - November 17, 2013 - 8:21 am

    Thanks for this posting, Diane. I used to be part of a wonderful Fiber Arts Group (Google Conversations in Cloth) that met monthly. I looked forward to the companionship,creativity, support, sharing, and new ideas. Another great thing about it was the problem-solving aspect. Everyone did such different things–quilters, surface design, weavers, doll-makers, art quilters, mixed media, beaders … If I was ever stuck on a certain step of a project, these ladies had 10 different ideas for how to proceed and get unstuck. Oh, how I miss that community … I haven’t quite found the equivalent online. But this post reminds me that it’s possible. Thanks!

    Sherry at Still and All - November 20, 2013 - 5:06 am

    Art can be such a solitary activity…wouldn’t it be so much fun to do it together, like you say? Your textured creations are so very beautiful. That horse has my heart! And Pearl too. Oh, all of them!