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.

    Two books I’m giving away

    Who doesn’t like giveaways? Who doesn’t like free books? Who still writes letters? oops, I heard a groan for that last one, I know I did.

    I am planning on giving away a couple books. Now these are not brand new, off the shelf, but they have been read and enjoyed sometimes by a few different people. I was planning on taking them to my favourite used book store to exchange for a couple other used books that I have not yet read. But then I thought, hmm I wonder if anyone might like to participate in a draw for these books. So here’s the deal. There is a tiny little cost for the books, but I do not want money; I want you to promise me you will write a letter. You’ll be on your honour here because I will have no way to know if you really did do it or not but I want you to sit down and write a letter to someone. You decide who the recipient of your letter may be. It could be a parent, a sibling, one of your children, a favourite aunt or uncle, a cousin, a friend who lives far away, anyone. So I send you the book and when you receive it, I want that letter to go out your door. Okay?

    All you have to do is leave a comment below saying you’d love to receive one of the books, and if you have a preference for one or the other. I’ll do a draw on Friday and get in touch with you by email so you can provide me with your mailing address. Next Monday, I’ll share who the two lucky “winners” are and we’ll all be sending you letter-writing vibes to be sure you hold up your end of the bargain. If you know of anyone else who might like to participate, send them over.

    Here are the first two books I plan to give away.


    1. Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay. This won the 2007 Giller Prize, 2008 Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year among a couple others, if any of that matters to you. The opening line, “Harry was in his little house on the edge of Back Bay when at half past twelve her voice came over the radio for the first time.” And the author tells us this is how she writes, “I like to write with a pen or pencil on paper. I have a rocking chair with wide arms in my second-floor study. I sit in the chair, place a piece of plywood across the arms and write on that flat surface. I got the idea from reading about Virginia Woolf, who worked the same way in the grubby back of the house where they printed the books for Hogarth Press. It gives me much more peace of mind to work this way than directly in front of a computer screen.”
    2. The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason (many have read this one) is a historical novel set in 1886 British India and Burma. The first line in this novel, “In the fleeting seconds of final memory, the image that will become Burma is the sun and a woman’s parasol.” The publisher provides this synopsis: In 1886 a shy, middle-aged piano tuner named Edgar Drake receives an unusual commission from the British War Office: to travel to the remote jungles of northeast Burma and there repair a rare piano  belonging to an eccentric army surgeon who has proven mysteriously indispensable to the imperial design. The Piano Tuner launches readers into a world of seductive, vibrantly rendered characters, and enmeshes them in an unbreakable spell of storytelling. … okay so that’s the publisher pumping it up so you’ll read it 🙂

    book spines

    So all you need to do is leave your comments below, let me know if you have a preference for either of these two giveaway books, and think about who you’re going to write to — feel free to start writing your letter now if you like. No need to wait!

    Until next Monday get your favourite pen ready, find a nice sunlit corner, and think about how delighted the recipient of your hand written letter is going to be!

    PS: Fancy paper is not required for letters — that old notepad or some lined school paper is equally useful for writing a letter. It’s the writing of the letter that is much more important than what it is written upon.


    Tweet thisFollow me on TwitterPin thisshare on Facebook
    steph - August 15, 2016 - 7:31 am

    Both sound like something I’d love. And a good reminder about the letter writing thing….I got my oldest granddaughter to be my ‘pen-pal’ and she was diligent for about a year. Long, newsy letters…nearly once a week; sometimes trying to keep up with her was a challenge. Her life is fuller than mine at the moment!! But for some reason, she stopped. So…Rachel is the one getting my letter, whether I’m a winner or not!

    Melanie Weiss - August 15, 2016 - 1:24 pm

    How lovely! The Piano Tuner, please… I write letters all the time, so I’ll certainly write one in honor of you!

    Lisa Gordon - August 16, 2016 - 11:55 am

    I love the quote from Elizabeth hay about using a piece of paper and a pencil instead of a computer. I don’t write that much, but when I do, it’d definitely paper and pencil for me.

    I think social media has so many good points, but I truly believe there are an equal amount of bad points, and the near extinction of letter writing is surely one of those bad points.

    You have a wonderful week, my friend! xo.

    Sherry G. - August 17, 2016 - 12:47 pm

    What a lovely idea, Diane. I am a big fan of Elizabeth Hay. We shared a neighbourhood and a library in Ottawa before I moved. I remember writing so many letters as a kid then when I moved to Jamaica I wrote home long letters. Calls cost hundreds of dollars then! I admit to not having written many lately but I will send out an occasional postcard! Cheers to you…

    Winning ways » observed by Diane - August 31, 2016 - 9:20 pm

    […] those who read last week’s post, these lovely ladies had their names drawn and the only ‘cost’ for the book is to write […]

    On Agnes and other miscellany

    “The measure of your life is the amount of beauty and happiness of which you are aware.” – Agnes Martin [aside: I wonder why people don’t name their daughters Agnes anymore? It’s a lovely name and sounds so nice when you say it aloud. Agnes.]

    garlic www.dianeschuller.com

    fresh food from Qualicum Beach Farmer

    I absolutely love our farmer’s market. Since I don’t have a garden of my own, other than the herbs I grow, I’m so grateful for the local individuals and farmer’s who work so hard to produce all the healthy produce without chemicals and pesticides. I never understand those who shop at Costco or Wal-Mart where the food is trucked hundreds of miles from pesticide laden farms. It warms my heart knowing we are contributing to the local economy, something that is vitally important and has more bearing than most ever think about. Not only do I love the food we can purchase each week from the local growers but the atmosphere of the farmer’s market is so invigorating and it always makes me feel so happy simply being there wandering the street with my oversize canvas bag.


    – some of my favourites –

    I made a short video to demonstrate one of the self control games Heidi has learned. The game in the video uses no commands at all; no “leave it”; just letting her figure things out and use self control. Although the other games we’re teaching her are much more exciting and exuberant, seems that people are more impressed with this one. Let me know what you think. (As a total novice to video-making, I now realize I should have made certain the “cameraman” was down at her level for better viewing — oops.)

    And finally, a couple of recommendations for you.

    • Another columnist with whom I worked at the same newspaper tweeted about this movie and I am trying to find out if I can rent it. I saw the trailer and know it’s my kind of movie. Don’t let the title lead you astray — it’s not what you think, Captain Fantastic. For those of you who live in cities, movie theatres that bring in indy movies may be showing it right now.
    • If you’re watching or keeping track of the Olympics, this book would be a great companion, The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic PerformanceI learned about it after reading this review by Jessie over at Behind the Willows. I love her reviews.
    • Knitters, would you knit a sweater if you could get everything you need in a nice neat kit? Check out We are Knitters for their modern sweaters and the neat little kits (I love the Kinesis sweater). The kits also include a cute embroidered tag for sewing inside the finished sweater. They do more than sweaters too. I have my eye on one of the baby blanket kits. Oh and they have some handy ideas on their blog like this cool way to use up leftover yarn.

    Until next Monday wishing you awareness of what makes you happy; creativity; and inspiration.

    Tweet thisFollow me on TwitterPin thisshare on Facebook
    Jessie - August 8, 2016 - 8:55 pm

    Your stacks of favorite books are great, and thanks for linking to my review! 🙂

    Jennifer Connell - August 9, 2016 - 4:28 am

    I am a huge fan of Farmer’s Markets too! I love Everything about them- even the crazy crunch of people. And it’s no wonder that the market is so popular. If you gauged by the produce in local grocery stores you’d never know it was summer! In June all you could find were those tasteless strawberries trucked in from the States. Even the cherries and peaches in stores now often come from south of the border.
    My dogs are pretty good at self-control and will wait for the word before eating. Now if only I could get the youngest to stop chewing shoes! He even dares to parade my shoes around like a hunting trophy right in front of me!
    We share quite a few favourite books. A Fine Balance is such an incredible Canadian book, isn’t it? Rohinton Mistry is a Canadian version of Tolstoy.

    Lisa Gordon - August 9, 2016 - 4:54 am

    Diane, I absolutely LOVED the video. What a sweet girl she is.

    I really enjoy our farmers markets too. Everything is always so yummy, especially the fruit right now. Ours are on both Tuesdays and Saturdays in the summer, and then just on Saturdays in the fall.

    Wishing you a very happy day, my friend!

    Toffeeapple - August 9, 2016 - 9:47 am

    I like your pile of books.

    As to the name Agnes, are you pronouncing it the French way? If so, then I agree that it is a good name but in the English way (as Aggness) not quite so smooth.

    Sherry - August 11, 2016 - 1:12 pm

    I think Agnes is due for a comeback! You are probably ahead of the curve in your suggestion. 🙂

    Candace - August 11, 2016 - 8:34 pm

    Those veggies are so colorful and look so good. I watched Heidi’s video, she’s obviously very smart as well as darling.

    Gabriele - August 14, 2016 - 3:48 pm

    I totally get your love of the farmer’s market. This weekend we visited my daughter who is far away working as an intern on an organic farm. We toured her farm, visited the farmer’s market where they sell their vegetables, and finally had dinner in a farm to table restaurant. So amazing!

    Susan Clark - August 15, 2016 - 2:27 pm

    Diane, I’ve just watched the video. How did you begin this game so Heidi would understand leaving it got the rewards? My two practically disappear in to the bowl.

    Lately …

    The moment I stopped spending so much time chasing the big pleasure of life, I began to enjoy the little ones: like watching the stars dancing in moonlit sky, or soaking in the sunbeams of a glorious summer morning. — Robin Sharma

    Lately  …

    blue mug © Diane M Schuller

    • Learning & Training: I’ve been spending a great deal of time with my “Say Yes” dog training course and teaching multiple lessons every single day with our new gal, Heidi. Each of the multiple daily lessons is only 3-5 minutes max and she is loving the lessons so much she actually now comes and ‘asks’ for me to do some training with her. It’s not all been sweetness and light because I’ll admit to becoming frustrated by about day 3 (sooo much she needs to learn) but frustration is in the past now.
    • Entertaining: It’s been a busy week for having people over. We enjoyed a fabulous wine tasting with 12 other people out on our patio on Thursday evening and then had two couples over for an outdoor dinner party on Saturday. And I’ve also had the pleasure of three different friends popping by simply to say “hi”, meet Heidi; and stay for a nice visit.
    • Being Tested: ah yes, those darn medical tests continue but seems, so far, all is well. One more to go and we can call it a day.
    • Summer: It goes without saying, that I have been utterly in a wee bit of heaven enjoying summer. The blessedly cool mornings with the scent of sea air about them; people-watching everyone as they enjoy the beach; all day long the heady aroma from the various lilies in our yard; the spectacular shows presented near day’s end — also known as sunsets.
    • Playing: Getting reacquainted with a few tunes I previous learned on piano (and since I haven’t played them in a long while had nearly forgotten how to play them altogether). Call it a summer refresher.
    • Not Reading: You know, I have tried reading several different books — okay just three — but not one of them could I really get into. I’ve finally realized that I simply need to take a reading break, just as I’m taking a knitting break. Summer is too distracting it seems.
    • Enjoying: I loved reading every one of your comments on the previous two posts! You made my days!

    white hydrangea

    piano keys and music notes www.dianeschuller.com

    The earth has music for those who listen. Are you listening? Do you hear it?

    Now you! What have you seen, been, done, or experienced lately?

    Tweet thisFollow me on TwitterPin thisshare on Facebook
    Sherry - August 1, 2016 - 12:01 pm

    Sounds lovely, Diane. A wine tasting on your patio would rival any commercial event! I love that you got yourself a puppy. We are in the midst of planning a reno, and once it’s done we hope to get two kittens to fill the void left by the passing of our two furry friends this past year.

    Whatever medical tests you are staring down, I wish you the healthiest of results!

    DIANE J PATMORE - August 1, 2016 - 3:05 pm

    You certainly don’t slow down, do you!
    It sounds as though Heidi’s coming along nicely.Here, I’m surrounded by very bark-y dogs.It wears thin after a while.:-(
    I might find time to blogs some of last week’s beach photos…

    Lisa Gordon - August 4, 2016 - 4:23 pm

    Oh, Diane, I am so glad that Heidi (and you!) are doing well. Her “Say Yes” training sounds like a great experience for both of you! It also sounds like you are having a wonderful summer. It’s been a fantastic summer here in NY, but I am also beginning to see the changes that come at the end of the summer.

    Have a wonderful weekend, my friend!

    spices from a million flowers

    Stargazer lilies perfume the evening breeze. The soft mutterings of geese can be heard as they float along the beach below. The light is golden against the trees, pink against the horizon, and stretching shadows into thin comedies.


    Since welcoming Heidi to our home, life has become busier than that of a backyard bee, with a daily routine that includes the multiple 5-minute or less training sessions; three walks; and encouraging her to play — not to mention keeping up with everything else that fills a person’s day. She may be a bit of a project at the moment, but she’s already shining a light of joy in every part of our recent days.

    Australian Shepherd in the creek

    Australian Shepherd

    Caught in the act! It’s okay, she’s just having a drink and cooling off in our creek after a bit of playtime.

    Australian Shepherd, Heidi, in backyard in Qualicum Beach

    And I promise not to inundate you with post-after-post of photos only of her. Though I will likely share updates on her training progress. These two posts will be her introduction to you. Now I need to get busy with that practice I mentioned in re-learning how to take a decent action shot. She is constantly on the move so trying to change settings, focus, and catch her at an ideal moment seems to be something with which I’ve really lost my touch. As you can see, I’ve had to resort to those few moments I can get her to stop momentarily.

    Australian Shepherd T-n-T

    Thank you for your delightful notes on the last post. It’s been so busy I’ve had to resort to writing this late at night but I want you to know I do read your lovely messages and they are the best part for me — thank you!

    “Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” — Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine.

    Until next Monday my dear friends and family, may you seek the spices from a million flowers.


    Tweet thisFollow me on TwitterPin thisshare on Facebook
    Lisa Gordon - July 25, 2016 - 10:55 am

    What a precious face she has, Diane, and I am so glad that she is settling in so nicely.
    Please do keep us posted. I love to see here beautiful face here.
    Have a wonderful week, my friend!

    Roberta - July 27, 2016 - 6:30 pm

    I am so happy for Heidi and her new family! Lovely photos and I love the quote..

    Susan Clark - July 28, 2016 - 9:13 am

    Oh Diane, I miss a few weeks and everything changes! Sweet, sweet pup. Three weeks ago we adopted two 6 month old pups. They too have a lot to learn! In their short lives there have been many changes. The first thing is to have them realise this is their forever home. Plenty of work ahead for you and me but so worth it for a long and happy relationship with our little treasures.

    Jessie - July 29, 2016 - 4:18 pm

    Oh- you can *try* to bore us with a million pictures of her, but I’m not sure you’ll succeed!;)

    Candace - August 2, 2016 - 2:18 pm

    That last portrait of Heidi is beautiful! And I like the Bradbury quote, too.

    Gabriele - August 3, 2016 - 5:39 am

    Heidi looks adventuresome. I’m happy for you to have a budding new companion.

    Monday, Monday

    Looks like I missed two Monday posts. It’s been busy around here, I’ve been rather pre-occupied, and generally discombobulated. So here’s the scoop.

    A few months ago we agreed we couldn’t live without an Aussie in our life so began the search. Because we had some specific criteria, we didn’t jump at the first litter or Australian Shepherd that was available nor were we interested in supporting breeders who simply breed constantly and do so in an effort to make money. We began looking for a young adult but found available youngsters to be few and far between at that time so we decided we should get a puppy. It has been a long and winding road and to make a long story short, we’ve arrived full circle to a young adult when suddenly a few began ‘showing up’. We even went to see three different Aussies and passed on each one. Well yesterday, like in the story of the “Three Bears,” our search resulted in finding the ‘right one’.

    Heidi, Australian Shepherd ©D.M. Schuller

    Heidi is an 11-month-old girl who is quite friendly and her nature is quite outgoing, though she really needs a great deal of socialization and life experiences. So for the next while she is going to be gradually exposed to all sorts of people, other dogs, places, experiences, but she also has begun learning what it means to live as a well-behaved house dog. I do not believe in, nor use, any physical punishments. Rather I allow a dog to learn by making choices and getting rewarded for making good choices. I set them up for success. Bad choices get ignored and, if necessary, a dog may be diverted to something entirely different if there is a high risk of a bad choice possibly being made. So they don’t get used to making bad choices but they do get used to and love making correct choices. Punishment is not necessary. In this brief 24 hours so far, Heidi has already figured out a couple really good choices all on her own. She has a great deal to learn and catch up on but we will show her the way.


    I’m currently registered in Susan Garrett’s “Recallers” program. So our sweet Heidi is going to have the benefit over the next year to learn all kinds of wonderful behaviours, games, plus a dynamite recall, without any punishment involved along the way, just like Donna did.

    And do I ever need to brush up on my camera skills, most especially taking photos of a moving target! Heidi, it seems, is forcing me to re-learn a few things too.

    It feels so good to have an Aussie in the home again.

    Heidi looking out to sea www.dianeschuller.com

    Perhaps now I can get back on track with my regular Monday posts. Until Monday, why not share with me any kind of story or lesson-learned from a pet of yours. If you don’t have a pet, tell me a story anyway … I’ll be waiting to read them!

    Tweet thisFollow me on TwitterPin thisshare on Facebook
    DIANE J PATMORE - July 22, 2016 - 11:28 pm

    Oh! You did it.Or rather, Heidi did it.So pleased for you.Lots of positives in this! Not least pictures 🙂

    Eden - July 23, 2016 - 9:58 pm

    Congratulations on your new girl, Diane! I hope she brings you as much happiness as your previous Aussies. I look forward to reading more posts about your training adventures with Heidi. And can’t wait to see the pictures too!

    Lisa Gordon - July 24, 2016 - 5:39 am

    Oh my goodness, Diane, she is just beautiful!
    Congratulations, and I look forward to seeing lots more of Heidi here.
    Happy Sunday to you, my friend.

    Sherry G. - July 24, 2016 - 11:54 am

    Oh Diane, I’m so happy for you! What a beautiful new companion to love and care for. I love your philosophy and how lucky Heidi is that you set her up for success. I know how busy life can get with a new dog to introduce to everything. Our last Westie needed lots of time and attention and it was all exhausting at time — but it was so rewarding and we still miss him so much. I know that one day we will get another too, but not right now! I will enjoy Heidi and all the pictures to come.

    Susan - July 25, 2016 - 7:30 pm

    Oh Diane, I’m so happy for you! She is just beautiful and I do love your teaching philosophy, behavior modification works best…I brought my children up that way 🙂

    Jessie - July 29, 2016 - 4:16 pm

    Oh! She’s beautiful! And you have an Aussie again! *happy sighs*


    shawna - August 1, 2016 - 6:27 am

    So happy for you! What a beauty!!!

    Candace - August 2, 2016 - 2:14 pm

    She’s darling, Diane! I’m glad you have a new Aussie in your life.

    mink river

    “Rained gently last night, just enough to wash the town clean, and then today a clean crisp fat spring day, the air redolent, the kind of green minty succulent air you’d bottle if you could and snort greedily on bleak, wet January evenings when the streetlights hzzzt on at four in the afternoon and all existence seems hopeless and sad.” — Brian Doyle, from his book Mink River. And you can read what I had to say about this book on my Goodreads reviews.

    simple flowers

    Until next Monday may your days be as poetic as those in Mink River, or even better. And a Happy 4th of July to my friends south of the 49th.

    Tweet thisFollow me on TwitterPin thisshare on Facebook
    Gabriele - July 4, 2016 - 9:12 am

    Beautiful prose. I will have to check him out. Thanks for the holiday greetings.

    Jessie Stevens - July 29, 2016 - 4:13 pm