Tuesday, May 15, 2018

It Feels Like Summer!

Summer arrived this week. She might leave for awhile, but then she'll be back. Record-breaking temperatures over the weekend made our first overnight trip on the boat this season a great success. 
Mount Baker appears to be floating on clouds beyond the Salish Sea. 

Fat seals lounged on sunny rocks and looked up indifferently as we motored past. 

We took our two granddaughters for their first overnight on the boat. Port Browning was our destination, on Pender Island. There's absolutely nothing like a beach, even a rocky one, for entertaining children. 

Gulls cried and swooped across the water and we watched one pick a crab from the sea, bang it on the rocks, and devour it in front of us. 

A curious river otter (they live in the sea, too) watched the girls playing near his fishing ground. He studied them, then flipped his tail and dove, several times. He, too, caught a fish and ate his dinner there.

I spent most of my time on the beach watching the girls. How quickly one forgets the energy it takes to parent little ones. By the end of the weekend, I was exhausted. It's not that they were demanding, but that I'm no longer accustomed to that "always watchful" mode in which parents operate. 

I took a few photos of this rock just below the water level. I didn't notice that I'd caught those three tiny bubbles until I looked at it on my computer. For some reason they tickle my fancy. How perfectly round they are, and for all their transparency, look at the shadows they cast. 

Here's another one of the same scene, this time as the rushing waves receded into ripples that caught the light in beautiful patterns. 

Our summer weather is supposed to continue through the upcoming long weekend. Hooray!

Is spring warming up to summer in your corner of the globe?

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Of Gardens and Dining Rooms

What a glorious weekend. Warm sunshine beguiled us into the garden on Saturday. I planted out the tomato starters, but will leave them covered lightly until the last full moon in May which is the 29th. We can occasionally get a touch of frost this month if the skies are clear. Carrots, beets, and radishes were planted earlier and are emerging from the soil. The strawberry plants are full of blossoms and I mentally encourage the bees and other pollinators who busily move from plant to plant. 

Tablecloths or placemats? I use both, but I prefer tablecloths. I've had two pieces of printed linen in my fabric stash for a couple of years and was finally motivated to stitch them up on Saturday. I mitred the corners for a nice finish and am very happy with the way they look. 

A couple of weeks ago my daughter-in-law Katie was listening to a radio talk show about how dining room tables are passe because no one sits down to a meal together anymore. A number of callers responded in agreement. Katie called in and said that she was a millennial and she certainly used her dining room table. The talk show hosts wanted to know how she used it, and were surprised to hear that she and Travis sit down to dinner every night with their two young children. Katie told the hosts that it was an important time for the family to connect and talk about the day. 

I know that in my Foods 8 class, many students say that they don't eat together with their families and often each person heats something up in the microwave on his or her own, and no one actually cooks dinner. Is it possible that this is the future? Or the present? 

Do you have a dining room table? Do you use it? We eat at a small kitchen table when it's the two of us, but the dining room gets used if there are more than four people. I can't imagine being without tables to eat at. That said, Tim and I do eat dinner on trays while watching the news more frequently than we used to. 

I think of the meals eaten around our dining room table, and of the laughter, the discussions (sometimes heated) and the more infrequent tears that accompanied the food. I don't think those conversations could have happened anywhere else. We'll be keeping our dining room and kitchen tables. 

On the blog Delightful Repast, Jean gave the recipe for a Brown Butter Rhubarb Cake. The rhubarb is flourishing, so I went and pulled up enough stalks and made this cake. It's SO good, with a buttery taste and very tender crumb. And not too sweet. YUM! I like my cake plain, but you could certainly have yours with ice cream or whipped cream.

Lilacs are at their peak in my garden just now. I picked a big bouquet and put them into a crystal vase (after smashing the woody stems with a hammer to help with water absorption), and placed them on my dining room table. The sweet scent fills the living and dining rooms.

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

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Lilacs and Anne

This evening I'm on my own as Tim is at a meeting. Long shadows stretch across the garden, and there is just an hour or two of sunlight left in today. Earlier I heard the summer sound of a lawnmower across the street. 

Yesterday I spent time in the garden, potting up annuals. This year there are white geraniums, purple heliotrope with its sweet vanilla scent, and blue and white lobelia. Our old white lattice deck railing is no more. Tim built a new one and I love its clean lines. Soon we'll get the summer gazebo set up and enjoy sitting outdoors. It's still a bit chilly for that in the evenings. 

When lilacs bloom here, I am reminded of Anne of Green Gables and of our visit to Prince Edward Island several summers ago. The lilacs bloomed at while we were there. L. M. Montgomery created such a full picture of Anne in her books; an Anne who changed and grew as any child does.

Anne's imagination took her to wonderful places - "But I just went to work and imagined that I had on the most beautiful pale blue silk dress - because when you are imagining you might as well imagine something worth while..."  

Old lilac bushes still surround Green Gables. They are grown tall as trees and when the wind blows, sweet fragrance floats through the air.

In my own garden the lilacs are not so well established. One bush is almost 16 years old, and from it we've planted two others in other places. The newer ones have just a few flowering branches, but will have more each year. All of them are taller than I am. Lilacs can last for over 100 years, and often remain as silent witnesses to places where homes once stood. I think of women from years past who planted a lilac bush and stood under it, breathing in the scent on a spring day.  

On days like today, full of blue skies, warmth, and promise, I say along with Anne, "dear old world, you are very lovely and I am glad to be alive in you."

Do you have lilacs in your garden? Are they blooming yet?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Place of Harmony - Sointula

Utopia: an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect

Sir Thomas More, who coined the word utopia, and wrote a novel by the same name, very likely never imagined how many communities would be formed in hope of achieving a perfect society. 

In the late 1800s, Finnish immigrants came to Vancouver Island in search of a better life. Many of them worked in the coal mines. One of them, a man by the name of Kurrika, dreamed of a place where Finns could live an ideal life. He the Kalevan Kansa Colonization Company Limited to encourage more Finns to immigrate to Canada. 

He traveled up and down the coast, looking for land suitable for building such a community. In 1901, the provincial government granted the Kalevan Kansa Company ownership of Malcom Island. The island was promptly renamed Sointula, which means "harmony." 

Here a few hardy souls attempted to create paradise from the wilderness. The task was unending. The colony was soon in debt for they discovered that making a living in this rough environment was an arduous business. Logging, fishing and agriculture proved insufficient. A disastrous fire combined with debt and disillusionment led to the dissolution of the colony within 10 years of its inception. Most of the Finnish immigrants left, but a few stayed, and other settlers joined them. 

Today, Sointula is a small community whose members continue to struggle to make ends meet. Our neighbours grew up on the island and left for economic reasons about 20 years ago. 

The houses are neat and most are painted in colours that bring brightness to the many grey, rainy days of the area. It's a gorgeous island. We drove out to Bere Point Campground. 

Someone created this unique bench that has a view over the water. 
The sun shone while we were there, and the air was very fresh and cold.

Orca whales come to these beaches to rub their tummies on the rocks. Here's a link to a youtube video showing the whales. We didn't see any whales during our visit to the beach.

While we were on the beach, a bald eagle lifted off from a tree just above us. I pointed my camera straight up to get this shot. 

Enormous trees with tangles of roots lie on the beaches, thrown up as if they were toothpicks by the power of the waves.

We visited Sointula in late March during our road trip to the north island. Each island has its own culture and history, all fascinating. 

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Five Favourites: A Taste of Summer

It happens each year. Each green shoot poking upwards is oohed and aahed over. When the first flower appears, perhaps a yellow crocus, my heart sings. Little by little more flowers show up and each one is admired. 

Then the first warm days arrive and the blooms rush one upon the other so that it's impossible to keep track of them all. I liken it to when my children were very young and I knew each word they could say. Then, from one day to the next, they began speaking words I hadn't taught them and couldn't possibly count. 

This morning, while putting my bags in the car, this flower-laden rhododendron smacked me with its showy beauty. Last year, it bloomed not at all. This year, it's making up for it by being covered with perfect blooms.  

I took a few pictures with my phone this morning, and went out again this evening for more with my camera. Pink rhodos are first on this post of five favourites. 

Second is cauliflower rice. I'd read about it and thought that it couldn't be very good. When we were in the Cotswolds two summers ago (can it be that long?) I picked up a BBC Easy Cook magazine with a recipe for Cauliflower Pilaf. I tried it last week and was very pleasantly surprised. Have you ever tried cauliflower rice? 

Third are the bleeding hearts. I think they need to be moved elsewhere in the garden because they aren't flourishing. There are just a couple of stems with blooms, but they dangle like charms.

We've had a delightful taste of summer this week, with above average temperatures. I've enjoyed every minute of it. The apple trees obviously like it, too, with pale pink blossoms opening to the sun.  

The stars of the garden just now, for me, are the bluebells. I pick them by fistfuls and plunk them into short vases in the house. I love their faint sweet fragrance, and of course, their colour. So pretty. 

Our little bit of summer is set to disappear over the weekend. I know it will return and I've enjoyed this appetizer of the season to come. It wasn't difficult to find five favourites to share with you today. I hope spring has arrived in your corner (or fall if you're below the equator), bringing with it all the delights of the changing seasons. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sweet Spring Sunday

I awaken in the morning to birdsong outside my window. Drawing back the curtains, I see blue sky, with a hint of frost in the deep angles on the roofs of my neighbours. Clear, cold skies overnight signify a warmer day ahead.

After morning church, we head downtown. First, to buy a new waterproof jacket for me, then to Fisherman's Wharf for our first al fresco meal of the year - fish tacos eaten in the sunshine while watching sailboat masts sway at their slips. 

After lunch we walk along the Inner Harbour. A heron, framed by reflections from a kayak on a float house, slowly turns his head back and forth.

The new Johnson Street bridge is in place and in use. The old blue bridge is partially dismantled and the remainder will disappear in a few weeks. I am not fond of the new bridge, but perhaps it will grow on me.

We wander by the Legislature, and I admire the copper domes against the blue sky. The golden figure of Captain George Vancouver, a British naval officer who charted many of the waters around the islands in the late 18th century, tops the main dome. 

In the gardens around the government buildings, the blowsy tulips are almost finished, but still so pretty.

We walk back to our car under arches of ruffled pink petals. Hundreds of these trees grow downtown to be admired by locals and tourists alike. Home again, I am replete with sunshine. Such a beautiful day.

Thank you for your kind comments on my last post. Yes, blue days come and we get through them. I'm glad that I finished my latest batch of report cards, and spent some time with friends, and walked in the sunshine this weekend. 

Linking with Maggie of Normandy Life for Mosaic Monday

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Every Year is More Beautiful

Spring has shown her sweet side in the past two days. Sun mixed with cloud, no wind to speak of, and gentle warmth that pours like honey onto my head.

We walk, late afternoon or early evening, through house-lined streets where tulips and daffodils nod their pretty heads and airy riots of pink cover bare branches. 

Along the path through the woods creamy fawn lilies (Erythronium) shine like stars. Only by crouching low do we see the details of stamens and pistils. She's a shy flower that charms and entices the passerby to take a closer look. 

Miner's Lettuce (Montia Perfoliata) grows in these woods, too. An edible plant, its crunchy sweet leaves and stems make a fine salad. I pick just one round leaf from a plant growing on a steep bank, tucked into a tree stump where I know a dog wouldn't have graced with his presence. 

We stop to admire the magnificence of a magnolia tree in bloom for a few moments. 

"Everything is blooming most recklessly, if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of night," wrote Rainer Maria Rilke. Rather than shrieking, I rather think it would be music, a harmony of richness, tentative at first, then swelling into fullness. 

Returning home, I notice the rhododendron in the front garden that bloomed not at all last year is getting ready to put on a show.

How quickly the days and weeks and months pass. Term three is ended; one more to go. I love my job and interacting with students, but I'm pulled homewards, too. When I arrive home there's never enough time or energy to do the things I'd like to do. I know it's a matter of adjusting expectations, but I want it all.

John Burroughs wrote "I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see." I'd like to teach for two more years and then retire. Again. 

In my garden the blueberries are forming flowers, each one, if pollinated, and watered, will grow into a round fat berry that will roll into my bucket with a little tug of my fingers.

A little patch, very small, of violets has seeded itself under a rosebush. I hope it spreads a little more each year. 

I feel a little blue just now, for no reason in particular. I've been thinking about people I love who are hurting, and of the uncertainty of life. I find some comfort in Tolkien's words, 

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." 

Rosemary in bloom in the late afternoon sunshine. 

I've always found the book of Psalms comforting. David wrote so honestly about his feelings. He whined, complained, grouched, despaired, and then turned towards his God. "All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you" he writes. How comforting to be known.  

What a rambling post this has turned out to be. It's like a rather aimless walk. I'll close here with a question for you. When blue days come, what do you do?