Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Romance of Peonies



They're blooming now, heavy, many-petaled heads that fall forwards. They should be tied up - perhaps over the weekend. These deep pink peonies are of the no-name variety; they were here on the property when we moved in. I've moved them and divided them and they have rewarded me with more blooms each year. 



The paler version is (I think) Sarah Bernhardt. How I love these. They remind me of romance - delicate, exuberant, full of careless joy. 



Since I knew we would be away last weekend, on Friday morning I cut a blossom that was just about to open into ruffled glory, put it into a glass of water and placed it in the fridge. What joy to return home to a peony blossom that seemed to have not aged a whit over 3 days. Here it is now, impossibly lush.



There's a promise of more to come. Fat buds of possibility nestle into pale petals.



Because peony plants can bloom for up to 100 years, they are symbols of marriage, but also of royalty and honour. Whatever their meaning, I'll enjoy their all-too-short season in the sun, or as the case is today, in the rain. 

edited to add: Things are a little rough in our extended family just now. Tim's mother is not doing well at all, and there are serious health issues in so many directions that it's hard to keep them all straight. It's a bit overwhelming, to tell the truth. My garden calms me and turns my thoughts to prayer. I'd appreciate prayers for Tim's mother, and for others I've not mentioned specifically. Thanks.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Excursion to a Small Island




The waters between the west coast of Canada (the mainland) and our own Vancouver Island (comparable to Th Netherlands in size) are dotted with many islands of various sizes. Most of them have been, or are inhabited. This past weekend, Tim and I took a short boat excursion to Thetis Island. It's very rural, with no town to speak of, but it's only a short ferry ride to a village with most services. On Saturday mornings there are 2 farmer's markets on Thetis. We purchased a loaf of freshly made bread and a cinnamon bun for Tim. 

There's a small red schoolhouse with one room. The student population fluctuates from year to year - this year there are 12 students. We peeked in the windows and counted the desks. High school students take the ferry across to a larger school.


Roads wind along the shoreline and across the interior of the island. Walking trails lead to abandoned barns and rocky inlets. 


On Saturday we walked south to north, covering about half of the length of the island - 5 miles there and back. Tall grasses waved at us as we passed and the daisies nodded with friendly smiles. 


Abandoned outbuildings reminded us of years past when hardy souls made a living from the sea and the soil. 



From a quiet shelter in the trees, a deer watched us pass by. He didn't seem startled or frightened, merely attentive. 



In the evening, long shadows fell across limpid water. A belted kingfisher flew from one tree to another, patrolling the shoreline, chattering at each stop. It moved much too quickly for me to capture on camera. 



In a narrow passage between two islands a white house perches on a wooded point. It looks idyllic, doesn't it? 



Here's a closer look. Would you like to live in such a remote place? I like the idea of it, but I wouldn't want to live too far from family and friends. The peace of this place is appealing, but perhaps it would become lonely.



Daisies and ferns lined the pathways and roads. I picked a small bouquet for the boat, thinking of Kathleen in the movie "You've Got Mail" who said, "Daisies are the friendliest flowers." 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Friday, June 09, 2017

Rambling on a Friday




I visited Butterfly World with my daughter and granddaughter last week. I caught Shadow, the blue macaw, trying to nap, his head resting on one branch, his body suspended, and his feet and tail resting on another branch. As he relaxed, I watched his feathers slowly fold together, dropping one at a time before his eyes closed. Every so often he would jerk, as one does in such an uncomfortable sleeping position. I wanted to go straighten him out and tuck him in properly.


He didn't seem to mind the discomfort and woke up looking quite perky. "Ah, that's better," he says, standing once again on his perch.



In my kitchen a modest (some call it more than modest) collection of cookbooks collected over the years sits on shelves. Lately, I've been perusing some of the older ones. I find it interesting the way food trends come and go. What drives food trends? I know that we eat differently than we used to. I make fewer casseroles and less starchy foods. This week I made lasagna for the first time in several years, and very delicious it was. 

We had company last weekend and I wanted something simple for dessert. In the 70s and 80s a group of Canadian Women published a series of cookbooks whose titles are based on the game of bridge. The Best of Bridge is the first one and others that followed included Grand Slam, That's Trump and other bridge-related names. I've used many recipes from these books over the years. 

For Saturday dinner I made a Sensational Lemon Roll - a sponge cake filled with a tart lemon and whipped cream filling. Our strawberry plants are loaded with berries and so I decorated the top with a few, along with some sprigs of mint. Our guests enjoyed it, and then we enjoyed the leftovers during the week. 



I wish you could see the roses in my garden. They began blooming in earnest. Winchester Cathedral, above, is fragrantly ruffled. See the white spider making herself at home there? I flicked away part of her dinner - a fly she'd caught and brought home. 

It tickles my fancy to think that some distant relative of this rose also blooms in the Queen's Rose Garden at Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe where we spent some time last summer. 


More of Winchester Cathedral getting ready to bloom. 


I've been reading the Rhys Bowen Royal Spyness mysteries. I've read most of them now, but out of order, and I hadn't read the first one. That's my current book. They are light and full of fun details about life in England during the 1930s.


I immortalized this unwelcome, but bright and valiant, buttercup with a photo before yanking it out. We have several neighbours who do not care for their gardens very well and as a result, buttercups are rampant. I dig them out when I see them, but this one bloomed up against the fence, so I'm giving it its time to shine.


With all the turmoil in the world, St. Paul's words keep coming to mind. These days, I'm thinking about delightful things like pretty pink poppies, fragrant roses, the scent of freshly cut grass, cool air rushing over my face through the wide open window at night, blue and white china, how my grandchildren make me laugh, and a host of other lovely things. 

How are you handling the doom and gloom of the world these days? What's delightful in your world?


Sunday, June 04, 2017

Royal Fashion Rules




While going through my photos of our trip last summer, I realized that I hadn't shown you the display of royal clothing at Kensington Palace. This post has been in the planning for a week or more. The news of yet another horrific attack in London this weekend had me wondering whether or not to post this.

I decided to go ahead and post what I was planning because normal life is what these terrorists want to disrupt, and I think it important to carry on as normally as possible. Let's be loving and kind to each other. The people of London, particularly those directly affected by the attacks, along with their families, are in my prayers and thoughts.  


The exhibit Fashion Rules Restyled was a fascinating look at the wardrobes of three royal women: HM Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales. 

The rules of royal fashion are: High impact, Bold Accessories, On Trend, Diplomatic Dressing, and Attention to Detail. Above is an example of High Impact - a stunning embroidered gown that The Queen wore to a state function in France in 1957. It's difficult to capture the sheen of the fabric and the sumptuous effect of that hand embroidery in a photo. Trust me, it is magnificent. 

The designer, Sir Norman Hartnell, said, "I despise simplicity. It is the negation of all that is beautiful." I have to disagree with him on that, for simplicity can be utterly beautiful, but he did know how to add details that enhanced rather than detracted. 



This red and white striped dress is an example of On Trend, worn by Princess Margaret in 1949. After the war, fabric rationing ended and designer Christian Dior introduced the New Look that incorporated yards and yards of fabric. 

Can't you imagine how wonderful it would be to swish those skirts around?



Diana, Princess of Wales, wore the dress above while on a royal tour to Japan in 1986. I never realized how much taller she was than The Queen or Princess Margaret, but her dresses were significantly longer. 

The dress is artfully designed to echo the cherry blossoms beloved to Japanese people which were in bloom at the time of the royal visit. The details of this dress are exquisite. I would have loved the opportunity to examine the clothing more closely, inside and out. 

Other than High Impact, I'd say these royal rules for fashion could be ones I could follow as well. Dressing appropriately for the occasion, paying attention to detail, being at least somewhat on trend, and accessorizing wisely make a lot of sense. Do you agree? 


I leave you with a garden view from London last July. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Time in the Garden



In the evening, after dinner and dishes, I pull on my gardening clothes and head outdoors for an hour or more. It's easy for time to get away from me there.


The Unknown rose bush is loaded is blooms that open in a deep pink that fades to paleness in a few short days. I took these photos before deadheading the bush. It will bloom all summer if I keep at the deadheading. It smells a wee bit like apple blossom, fragrantly sweet.


The first hydrangea blooms are opening, paler than I remember, but they, unlike the roses, will darken with time. 


On the floribunda rose, a green beetle makes himself at home. I don't see many of these beetles and although I think they are a type of "june bug" or scarab beetle, I don't know anything about them. 


We've eaten a couple of sweet red strawberries and more are ripening. Our warm weather went away this week and we're hoping it soon returns. The berries will appreciate the sun and respond with juicy sweetness. We try to eat seasonally, and I don't buy the imported crunchy, white centered strawberries that come from countries to the south of us. I'd sooner wait for these. We eat them fresh for as long as possible, and I freeze a flat or two of them (purchased from a local farmer). They make tasty sauces in the dead of winter. 


The David Austin Winchester Cathedral that I purchased last year is flourishing, almost ready to open. I look at it here in my own garden and remember seeing it in England, in the Queen's Rose Garden at Sudeley Castle. It's hard to believe that's almost a year ago.


I'm part of a Soup Club at school. Each Monday, one member brings soup and bread for the other members of the club. It's a fun way to start the week, and also to taste soups that others enjoy. This past Monday was my last turn, and since it was hot (the last day before a cool front), I made Gazpacho, a cold soup with tomatoes, cucumber, a bit of onion and garlic. It was delicious with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of feta cheese, a handful of croutons, and a scattering of fresh basil. Wonderfully refreshing on a hot day. 


I planted a few bulbs of Siberian Iris (I think) quite a few years ago. I'd forgotten all about them, but this year, they decided to bloom. Unfortunately, they are right up against a rose bush, so I'll move them after they bloom, and hope they won't take another however many years before blooming again. I love their frilliness and deep blue colour. They are neater than the Bearded Irises I used to have. 



Faithfully, General Sikorski blooms each summer along the deck railing. This year, he's tangled up in the lilac bush, too. I think I'll let him stay there until fall and then coax him back where he belongs. 

Plants don't always do what I expect or plan in the garden. Do yours? Perhaps I'm a little too permissive in letting them trail around wherever they like. This evening, however, I seriously trimmed back the rosemary bush that was sprawling most ungracefully against the peonies and crowding out the lavender. Sometimes, one must be severe. 

How's your garden growing?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Hawthorns, Purple Martins, and Foxglove



Hawthorn trees are in bloom, with a white and green loveliness that seems bridal. I think Anne of Green Gables would loved them. 



On docks throughout our region, conservationists have been encouraging purple martins to rebuild their population by providing houses for them. The program seems to be successful. When we were out on Sidney Island, pairs of martins chattered, swooped in and out, and seemed very at home on their perches. 


In my garden the foxglove is blooming. She stands taller in the morning freshness than in late afternoon. We've had some very warm weather, but I'm not going to complain at all.


Thyme is blooming, and how the bees flock round. There's a steady buzzing as they fly from the rosemary to the chives to the thyme and back again. 


One more hawthorn photo. So dreamy. They are so delicate and soft looking now, and equally striking in the fall with their rich red berries. A tree for all seasons!

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ramblings from my Mazy Mind



I'm so glad that after lurking in the shadows for far too long, Summer decided to show herself last weekend. She not only showed up, she showed off! It appears that she is sticking around for awhile since she received such an enthusiastic welcome. 

We celebrated Victoria Day last Monday by staying home, working in the garden, and enjoying a dinner full of summer flavours - barbecued steak, radish salad, BLT salad, and some roasted tomatoes from last year, tucked away into the freezer for the winter. 


I'm keeping a close watch on the peony buds - there are many of them, and I love their ruffled blooms. Tim got the irrigation system working, and caught me unawares a couple of times by turning it on "just to check." I can move very quickly if needed! 


In the vegetable garden we're harvesting lettuce (need some?), radishes, and lots of herbs. I saw the first red on a strawberry this morning and am looking forward to their juicy sweetness. 


I'm keeping a jug of water and mint leaves in the fridge for a refreshing thirst-quencher. I only drink water, tea, and wine, (occasionally hot chocolate) and there's nothing like cold water for assuaging thirst. A square of dark chocolate and a few nuts fill the need for a little sweetness and crunch. 


I'm thinking that I should harvest some of this mint, and the oregano behind the tray in the previous picture. The herbs are the first things I harvest, then they flower, get cut back, and grow again throughout the summer and fall. I like hot mint tea, do you? I also like fresh mint in salads. 


I smile when I look at our little "vineyard" - two vines of eating grapes, purple Concords, and a green variety that I'm too lazy to go and check. They remind me of little soldiers all in a row, growing straight up to catch the next support. Garden experts here tell us that our growing season is about one month behind normal years. It's been a long, chilly season. I think, though, that the heat and sun is causing everything to work hard at catching up. 


I planted squash seeds rather late, in pots in the house because of the cool weather. On Sunday I set the box out into the garden. They were still plain dirt. On Monday morning I noticed the first faint curl of palest green beginning to push up through the brown dirt. Throughout the day I checked on the pots and could almost see the progress. By the end of the day most of the plants had their seed leaves. Now I'll wait until the true leaves appear before planting them out. 

Before I do, though, I have the hard job of choosing just one of those plants from each pot to grow. I really hate doing that. Those seeds are all miracles and here I am, playing God and deciding which one of them will live. I feel the same way about thinning carrots, beets, and radishes.


I'm admiring the prettiness of radishes, and we're eating them by the handfuls. I inter-plant them with carrot seeds and by the time the radishes are finished, the carrots are almost ready to thin. But that's made easier by the growing of the radishes between them. I don't have to kill off so many carrots. Win, win. 


I'm pondering technology and its effect on my life. I think it is important for me to be intentional about how I spend my time. I've noticed that podcasts seem to be more popular. I've tried listening, but it takes so.much.time and I would much rather read than listen and watch. Do you listen to/watch podcasts?

I've joined Instagram and I'm not entirely sure about it. I see that a lot of the bloggers I follow are also there, and that's perhaps why blogging isn't as strong. I understand the instant appeal, but I'm finding it rather demanding. What's your experience with Instagram? 

Four more weeks of classes, then a final week week of assessment, report cards, and cleaning out the classrooms. Is it fully summer, (or winter) where you live? Any plans?