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.

    Circles of Life

    www.dianeschuller.com canning

    Recently at one of my favourite groups over at Flickr, we were given a prompt to photograph circles. I took it to heart:

    There are so many symbols that can represent circles of life. Like my mother, and her mother before, I’m carrying on the tradition of lovingly “putting food up” or “putting food by”. I love preserving whether it’s the recent marmalade I made or pickles, or relish, or jams, or whatever. It’s a process that brings me back to what is simple and important in life and always reminds me fondly of my dear mother.

    canning in Diane

    canning in Diane’s kitchen

    Fiesta Corn Relish

    Fiesta Corn Relish

    {I’ve been asked for some recipes for some of the canning, jamming, and relish-ing I do so I’ll post some in one of the upcoming posts. I’ll also include my recipe for bath salts (re: my blog post about the importance of hostess gifts.}

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    Sherry Galey - March 25, 2013 - 6:07 am

    These images are magical, Diane. I love circles in photography. That first one, especially, is just gorgeous. I look forward to your recipes…

    Kelly @ JAX does design - March 26, 2013 - 1:02 pm

    I love circles – there’s something about them that I find so appealing. Not sure if that’s on a conscious or sub-conscious level! Love the blurry backgrounds in your photos, and how the light is reflecting off the jars in your first picture 🙂

    Easy Peasy Hostess Gifts

    I love giving hostess gifts and lately I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for gifts with a homemade touch. When we’re invited to someone’s home for dinner we always bring the age-old standby of a bottle of good wine. But I always feel that isn’t enough considering the host and hostess have spent hours plus considerable planning & effort into preparing for the dinner. So I like to bring something extra besides the wine. If you have friends over for dinner or a party you know how much work is involved so you know the amount of effort your host/hostess has put into having you over  — doesn’t it follow then if a gift shows you also put a little thought into it? Here’s something I’ve been doing lately (though I hope to come up with a variety of these types of gifts).

    wine wrapping www.dianeschuller.com

    The last dinner party we were invited to, I knew the hostess doesn’t drink wine although her husband does. So bringing a good quality wine was still a must. Instead of putting the wine in one of those store-bought bottle bags I decided to buy a pretty all-linen tea towel with a springy motif. I simply folded it over the bottle, gathering the ends at the neck, and tied it with a wide ribbon. It completely elevated what could have been an ordinary bottle of wine. To be certain the hostess also received something special, I decided to make something for her. I have to tell you that both little items I made, took a matter of minutes and not a lot of money either.

    Knowing she is the type of person who writes thank you cards, I selected half a dozen of my lovely notecards/envelopes that I had made by Moo.com (here’s a post about the postcards I ordered first), put them in a larger envelope (purchased at Michael’s craft store), wrapped that with a single pink ribbon, and added a tag (the card on top is my thank you card to the hostess).


    Next I made some softening bath soak (bath salts). It truly took less time to make the bath salts — all natural — than it did to make the label I used for the container (an empty tea canister tin). I never use commercial bath salts because they are so loaded with chemicals but when made at home from all natural ingredients and quality essential oils, what a divine treat!

    Homemade Bath Salts

    I wasn’t entirely sure how these items would go over, since it was the first time I gave these as hostess gifts. As it turned out she was really pleased to receive the items I had made especially for her.

    hostess gifts

    Tell me what types of hostess gifts you have made or what your favourite hostess gift is that you have received?

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    Candace - March 22, 2013 - 9:51 pm

    Great ideas! I really like the tea towel idea. I’ve given notecards before that I made with my photos but they were ones I printed myself so I wasn’t entirely pleased with them but now that I’m into moo, too, I might have some notecards made also.

    Sherry Galey - March 24, 2013 - 6:13 am

    I think these kind of hostess gifts are so thoughtful and gracious. I have done similar with a tea towel and note cards but have not tried bath salts…Nice. Do you have a recipe? I always look forward to your posts and photos — they have a beautiful feel to them!

    Susan - March 25, 2013 - 8:10 pm

    Nothing like a homemade gift and these are so lovely! What presentation! You can come to my house for dinner anytime!

    Shirley LeMay - March 27, 2013 - 10:52 am

    Just lovely! It is a really nice touch to give a part of you like you have done. I love the colors you chose, too – very calming.

    Hope you have a great day!

    […] Easy Peasy Hostess Gifts […]

    At Table

    “One of the delights of life is eating with friends, …” ~Laurie Colwin


    Don’t you love the sight of a table set for dinner, in expectation of friends and dinner to come? I’ve always enjoyed setting a pretty table as I’m preparing for guests, whether it’s family or friends. Once the final touches of pretty glasses, flowers, and candles adorn the table-setting it looks much like a couple all dressed up for a glamorous ball. Or if it’s a more casual occasion, it can look like someone all set for a day of shopping and lunch with friends. I suppose it’s no surprise I think of a table in that way since it’s really the place where people come together to share conversation and ‘break bread’ together. I once knew someone who always kept her dining room table fully set with dishes, napkins, glass ware, candles — all set and waiting for company. She said she simply loved how good it made her feel to see a beautiful table all set for company.

    Since retirement we have been deliberately making time on a regular basis to have friends over to share either morning coffee; ‘h’appy hour; or dinner around our table. I always enjoy the conversation and laughter when we’re ‘at table’ with friends.

    A while back I wrote about hosting dinner parties and offered up a few simple tips for those who may be interested in hosting more meals with friends around your table. Since I was again writing about my pleasure in sharing times with friends around the table, I Googled “The Yellow Table” blog that I discovered a while ago to see what aspect of her yellow table she has been writing about. I’m not surprised to read that she is on the same wavelength as I have been. In fact, she has written much more eloquently about “A Return to the Table”. I love that she also sees a beautiful table setting as “all dressed up like a bride on her wedding day”. Yes, what a perfect image.

    I took a photo of our table after the last dinner party. I didn’t like how it turned out so I’ll have to try again after the next one. Why not chronicle how it all unfolded, right? I also have a lovely poem to share with you:

    Perhaps the World Ends Here
    by Joy Harjo

    “The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,
    we must eat to live.

    The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the
    table so it has been since creation, and it will go on.

    We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe
    at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

    It is here that children are given instructions on what
    it means to be human. We make men at it,
    we make women.

    At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts
    of lovers.

    Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms
    around our children. They laugh with us at our poor
    falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back
    together once again at the table.

    This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella
    in the sun.

    Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place
    to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
    the terrible victory.

    We have given birth on this table, and have prepared
    our parents for burial here.

    At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
    We pray of suffering and remorse.
    We give thanks.

    Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
    while we are laughing and crying,
    eating of the last sweet bite.”

    I’d love to know if you enjoy having friends over to share meals and conversation around your table. Tell me a story about your table. What’s your fondest memory ‘at table’?

    PS: My next blog post is already written but I’ll wait a few more days to post it — the topic is hostess gifts.

     “Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.” ~Anthony Bourdain


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    Susan - March 9, 2013 - 10:00 am

    I like your photo Diane, it’s like a preview of things to come! And that poem is just beautiful!

    Sherry Galey - March 11, 2013 - 7:51 am

    I want to thank your for that amazing poem and beautiful image. It is a wonderful phase in one’s life when you can share meals and break bread with your friend regularly. There’s nothing like it. And you being such a marvellous cook, I can imagine how delicious everything would be…Now you must share some images of your moth-watering creations… xo Sherry

    Kelly @ JAX does design - March 14, 2013 - 9:57 am

    To be honest, we rarely use our dining table and we don’t have a kitchen table. Our dining room table is currently buried under faucets for our bathroom makeover! And our dining room was blocked off and used as a puppy playroom when we were fostering John & Joey & Myles.

    When I was growing up, my family ate every single supper together at the kitchen table. It was great when we ate food I liked, but when the veggies came out, it was torture! I hated all veggies and refused to eat them. I’d slip them to the dog or hide them under my plate (that didn’t work so well!) or sneak them back into the pot when everyone else left the kitchen and I was still stuck at the table with my uneaten veggies.

    andrea - March 22, 2013 - 10:28 am

    Hi Diane. Can you enable email subscriptions for your blog? I am deleting my Google Reader today and planning to keep track via email only since so many readers are shutting down. (If you do, please let me know via email.) BTW got the lovely card and seeds. Thank you so much!

    Making Marmalade

    marmalade collage1-1
    It’s that time of year again — the Seville oranges are in so as soon as I returned from a fabulous visit with my son (best son in the whole world) and grand daughters, I got the canning supplies out, bought some oranges, and spent hours making marmalade. Marmalade is one of those things that you do only because you love the result so much you’re willing to give up oh say 5 or 6 hours. I must be slow though because I don’t think it takes others that long (or does it?). I can do jam in a jiffy but marmalade is very labour intensive. Anyway, I got it done!

    It’s also that time of year outside our window — the herring season has begun so there is a parade of fishing boats sliding past with hundreds of gulls and a scattering of eagles eagerly awaiting a meal.

    While I’m doing all the washing, peeling, slicing, juicing, sterilizing, boiling, stirring, testing for doneness, etc. I actually really do enjoy the contemplative time. I watch the goings on through the window, daydream a bit, consider the world’s problems, ponder my next creative task, make a list of some hostess gifts I could make, all the while being intoxicated by the springy citrus aroma of oranges. What a beautiful way to spend a day.

    You’ll see that my marmalade is much darker than the batch I made last year. That’s because last year I made marmalade with navel oranges and this year it was with the Seville oranges (with a few navels thrown in to complete the batch). Seville oranges do result in a darker and more tart marmalade. If interested, I used this Seville Orange Marmalade recipe from Simply Recipes. After spending the day making my citrusy delight, I learned today is actually the first day of National Marmalade Week (March 2-9) — who would have thought there was a week dedicated to marmalade!? Tomorrow morning I plan on having a biscuit with some cream cheese and my homemade marmalade — I can hardly wait.

    So while I’ve been busy living life and visiting my amazing son, what have you been up to? Any irons in the fire? Have you made some marmalade — do you enjoy the process?

    Making marmalade2 collage-1

    PS: I have also signed up at Pinterest. As most of you know I choose not to participate and spend time on Facebook or Twitter but Pinterest seems like a good way to save some ideas or recipes. I’ll see how it goes — if I end up spending a bunch of time with it, then it too will be down the road. I’m one of those weird people who actually prefers living life and doing my social networking in person :~)

    Seville Marmalade

    Marmalade and jams make great hostess or neighbour gifts too!

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    Gabriele - March 3, 2013 - 6:00 am

    But, if we didn’t find you here once in a while we wouldn’t know you exist. Your marmalade looks wonderous. I spent a week with my son and granddaughters as well. It is a blessing to have good sons.

    Susan - March 3, 2013 - 11:22 am

    Oh Diane, this looks fabulous! I have my Bonne Maman orange marmalade on an English muffin for breakfast every morning. I can’t imagine how good your homemade is!

    Sherry Galey - March 3, 2013 - 3:53 pm

    Happy Marmalade Week! I’ve missed your posts, but I’m so happy to hear you had a great week visiting your loved ones. I haven’t made any marmalade – no – but I did buy some homemade Meyer lemon marmalade at a farmer’s market. Haven’t tried it yet. I did make some blueberry conserves to serve for dessert to a guest as blueberry shortcake and they worked out very well. That’s as fancy as I can get on a boat with one burner! I wish I could taste your marmalade; my mouth is watering at the thought. And I really enjoy the pics of you making it.

    Kelly @ JAX does design - March 3, 2013 - 6:24 pm

    I can imagine how citrusy-good your kitchen must smell while you’re making marmalade 🙂

    My grandma used to make all sorts of jams and jellies. Unfortunately, I was never really interested in learning how to make it myself, and now that she’s gone, I have to rely on store-bought jam. I did make a batch of red pepper jelly a couple of years ago, but it came out liquidy and never set properly.

    lisa - March 5, 2013 - 6:52 am

    My goodness, this looks delicious!

    Susan - March 7, 2013 - 8:48 am

    After living in England, where marmalade was an annual ritual, we moved to Texas. Not a Seville orange in sight, ever. Now I think of it, marmalade wasn’t a big item either. I think I had to go to a specialty store to purchase it. Qualicum sounds like a very civilised place. What other wonders can be purchased there?

    Candace - March 7, 2013 - 2:35 pm

    Those photos are so attractive.

    […] Making Marmalade […]

    A Month of Letter Writing

    If you’re a writer, or wanna-be writer you likely already know all about NaNoWriMo. That stands for National Novel Writing Month. Writers around the globe sit down at their computers or typewriters and bang out an entire novel during the month of November. Sure, it’s only a draft, but it’s a huge accomplishment and great exercise for those wanting to write a novel. Well, thanks to two different people who  shared something with me in recent days, I have learned about something that anyone can do: Lettermo — a month of letters.

    The challenge is to mail one type of written correspondence such as a letter, postcard, or notecard six out of the seven days of the week during the month of February. For those who sign up on the website and actually receive letters or postcards, the rest of the challenge is to respond back to the letter writer as well. But you don’t have to do it formally by signing up although I can see how a person could strike up some great correspondence or penpals (remember those!) by signing up. I’ve already begun doing the month of letter writing though I won’t be signing up on the website.

    When I read Mary Kowal’s thoughts on letter writing I related completely and knew I had to do this. For years, decades really, I used to be a regular letter writer even though hardly anyone other than a couple of aunts and a few penpals from earlier years, ever sent me letters. It didn’t matter, I loved the act of writing a letter. It slows a person’s thoughts down and really causes you to consider what you’re writing so that it’s still relevant when the recipient receives the letter. Just as Mary relates in her blog, I too always read the letters I received twice. The first time, the moment they arrived; the second time I read the letter would be when I sat down to write a response. And I have to admit there were times, simply for the sheer pleasure of it, I’d read the letter a third time just to take it all in.


    So, as I mentioned, I’ve taken on her challenge even though we’re already into February. Yesterday I wrote a postcard to a postmistress in Rupert, Vermont because she’s desperately trying to save her small post office. Today I wrote a postcard to one of the members of the Canadian Armed Forces (to be sent to Afghanistan). Tomorrow’s postcard is going to my son to let him know what I’m most looking forward to when I see him in a couple weeks. I plan to write a few letters; I’ll begin sending off the letters with the hollyhock seeds I’ve promised to people; I’ll definitely send more postcards to the troops; and I’m  sure there will be all kinds of other reasons or people to send letters or postcards. A letter to the editor; birthday, anniversary, get well cards; and thank you notes qualify too. Any form of correspondence will work. I’m excited about doing this. It’s really not that daunting either — think of how little time a postcard takes to write!

    What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters.  You can’t reread a phone call.  ~Liz Carpenter

    While I still have your attention, I’d like to let you know that, like Mary Kowal, I too limit my Internet time. For that reason, I won’t always be able to reciprocate a visit to your blog or ‘web home’, though I will try from time to time. What you can always be assured of, for every single comment left here for me, I will ALWAYS send you a personal response by email (even if it sometimes may take a few days to do so). Since I make a point of spending as little time on the Internet / computer as possible, instead spending more time living life and being outdoors, I felt you should know I genuinely appreciate your visits and especially love reading your thoughtful comments.



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    dinahmow - February 11, 2013 - 4:33 pm

    Yes, I know what you mean. And I’m noticing that many these days, don’t even answer emails! So, despite their being the electronic form of a quickie, many of us are still craving a line or two. Especially at a “certain age” when more and more are falling off the perch!
    And this has reminded me that I need to buy more stamps…;-)

    Kelly @ JAX does design - February 12, 2013 - 11:46 am

    I used to have a few penpals when I was growing up. It was always so exciting to get a letter in the mail! My cousin and I kept writing longer and longer letters over the course of a few days that turned into little novels 🙂 And sometimes I would do art on the envelopes – I can’t remember everything I drew, but I know one envelope had a bubblegum machine and one had Bryan Adams 🙂 I wonder if my cousin still has them – she told me she saved them, so maybe!

    Good for you for stepping away from the computer. I need to do that too – I hate always being in front of computer screen.

    Shawna - February 12, 2013 - 6:43 pm

    I miss writing letters. What a beautiful thing to do. And good for you for limiting internet time – so SANE!! 🙂

    Michele Jack - February 16, 2013 - 10:22 am

    Parallel lives again. I introduced post card writing to one of my students trying to learn her address. She was fascinated by the whole concept of sending the card, addressing it and stamping it. She was thrilled. I have sent quite a number of Valentine’s and letters the past couple of weeks.I have spent my time on the ferry writing notes addressing them and take great pleasure in popping them in a mailbox.

    Shauna Marie MacDonald - February 18, 2013 - 8:37 am

    Dear Diane,

    I’m new to writing and while researching the writers guild of alberta, I was drawn to your name. No idea why, or if it was actually you that served on the board, however after reading your blog it’s clear while I felt drawn to your name.

    I’ve been intending to write more letters, and cards. Now I have the push I required to get on with it!!! I understand you did not start this, however you did think it important enough to post it on your blog!

    For this I send a heartfelt Thank you, I’ll go right now and start my month of writing Feb/March works for me!!!


    UP FOR A CHALLENGE? | italianliving1 - February 18, 2013 - 2:22 pm

    […] was snooping around the internet today and found this Blog by Diane Jarvis-Schuller. Diane was inspired to write A Letter A Day in the month of February by well know author; Mary […]

    andrea - February 21, 2013 - 7:06 pm

    I often think how much I’d like to step back to a time when I wrote letters all the time and waited expectantly for the sound of the mail being pushed through the slot. Maybe I’ll get back there when my life is simpler. (And reading Di’s comment above reminds me that I’ve been meaning to send her something via snail mail for, oh, ages. Years actually. Don’t tell. 🙂 0

    andrea - February 21, 2013 - 7:06 pm

    (Dinahmow that is…)

    hula~la - May 6, 2013 - 3:38 pm

    Yes, letter writing is a dying art! That’s why I make my children join me in sending postcards and notes to friends and relatives via the good old USPS! And Mail Art is the absolute best surprise in any mailbox! My children, thankfully have letters written by their grandmothers, now deceased that they can re-read as they happen upon them in their dresser drawers. Nothing like real mail correspondence! DO IT…IT’S GREAT FUN!

    Liberate Your Art

    I’m still excited about participating in Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap so I’m hoping to twist a few arms convince some of you to participate as well (or spread the word to others). If you make art, you can participate. All you have to do is take photos of what you create so your art can be made into a postcard or, if you create photograhic art, then you’re set to go. It’s such a simple thing to do and you won’t believe some of the unique and creative postcards that will be exchanged. Wouldn’t you love to liberate some of your art? Sure you would. Don’t you love to get real mail? Well if you participate you will receive 6 postcards works of art from 6 different artists. Here’s the thing.


    Although Kat already has 232 creative souls signed up she would like to get at least 300 participating. If you want to know more please visit Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap 2013. I’ll let Kat do the convincing since I’ve written about it at least twice before in recent weeks! Kat explains it and also has a really cool video at the bottom that showcases the amazing art from last year’s swap. Don’t miss watching that video — it’s sure to inspire you.

    Now about getting the postcards made, I have a great solution for you with a discount to boot! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am totally enamoured with the postcards I’ve had made by Moo.com. You can get small runs printed (as few as 25) and every one can have a different image or they may all be the same, whatever you choose. No printing company does that. Use this link to take advantage of getting 10% off your first purchase at Moo if you decide to use them. Kat also has other suggestions for getting postcards made which is explained at her link.

    The other reason I’m talking yet again about Liberate Your Art is because Kat wants the word spread about her project. So please let others know either by sending them here or direct to her postcard swap site. Spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or email. Help get the word out to others who might also like to join in on the postcard swap.

    I was going to show some of the NEW postcards I ordered for this swap but I think I’ll keep them a surprise until the mail out has begun. Don’t miss the deadline — check it out and participate if you can!

    PS: If you have an extra postcard, why not help save this darling little post office in Vermont. I just filled out one of my postcards and will send it off right away.

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    Kat Sloma - February 10, 2013 - 6:48 am

    Yay! Thanks for your help in getting the word out. I can’t wait to see this year’s liberated art!

    Susan - February 10, 2013 - 8:35 am

    Dear Diane, I have just spent almost an hour devouring your lovely blog. I do so love reading other opinions on things dear to my heart. I too am exploring a new life having moved from Calgary to Powell River in Nov 2012. I would love to keep in touch. Do you have some hollyhocks left? It would give me immense pleasure to have some heritage ones growing in my garden. I’m one of those dotty types who not only talks to my plants but caress and kiss them, so be assured they would be in a good home. If you are still wanting to spread the love (seeds) I would love to do a post. Also love the little roadside stall you wrote about. May I do a link to that and use the photograph to entice people? Have a beautiful day. Sue

    Candace - February 10, 2013 - 11:55 am

    I’ve orderd my moo postcards and I used your 10% off coupon. Thanks!