Monday, December 06, 2021

A Visit to Butchart Gardens

 


One of the traditions that we have enjoyed since our children moved into their own homes is attending some of the special Christmas events in our community. On a recent evening we bundled up and wandered around Butchart Gardens. Near the entrance is a photo opportunity that we took advantage of. Our Persian friends accompanied us and we took photos of each other in the wreath. 


I wonder how many lights the displays use? There are rivers of light pouring down hills and shining in the trees. The Butchart's house is beautifully lighted inside and out. The main floor is now a restaurant. 


Throughout the Gardens we look for the illustrations of The Twelve Days of Christmas song. I did a bit of research about the song in an effort to explain it to our friends. So much of what we do at Christmas has little or nothing to do with the story of Jesus' birth. I discovered that this English song was written during the time when Catholic Christians were forbidden to practice their faith traditions, during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The song has two layers of meaning - the literal, fun one we sing - but the original meaning was a way for young Catholics to learn some of the essentials of their faith. 

For example, the Three French Hens, seen above having tea near the Eiffel Tower, are said to represent the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. "My true love" represents Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated on Christmas Day. 

I thought it an interesting bit of history.



The Sunken Garden is awash with lights filling the beds where flowers bloom at other seasons. There are so many features to delight the senses and we took our time, in spite of the cold weather, to stand and enjoy. A mug of hot chocolate in the coffee shop was a great way to warm up afterwards. 

Over the weekend we drove down to Cattle Point and watched the lighted boats sail from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, another cold and beautiful sight. 

Do you enjoy seeing Christmas light displays? What is available in your area? 


Sunday, December 05, 2021

The Second Week of Advent

 


Last week went by with a whoosh, and here we are on the second Sunday in Advent. Over the past two days Tim and I decorated the Christmas tree - it's a bit earlier than normal. As I sit here the lights shine softly, reflecting on the shiny gold balls and illuminating ornaments that have hung on our trees over many years. 

December is a beautiful month, and flies by so quickly. How to slow down time? Impossible, I know, so it's important to savour the moments. 


After unusually high temperatures for November, the thermometer plummeted and we woke up to a frosty world. No snow, sadly. Tim suggested a walk before breakfast, so we bundled up with gloves and scarves and headed out. Pink tinge the sky that was soon pale blue streaked with white clouds. Small puddles cracked into shards of ice if stepped on. Cold clear air filled our lungs and filtered in through our clothing. 


Home again and I went to see how the garden fared. The rosebuds are frost-tipped, but still holding their own. I'm optimistic.


An ice-coated leaf in the woods looks as though it was dipped in sugar. By mid-morning the frost was gone and I am so glad we ventured out beforehand. We came home to a warm house and enjoyed scrambled eggs and toast, along with coffee for him and tea for me before watching our online church service. 

We ran a few errands in the early afternoon before settling in with quieter pursuits for the rest of the day. I puttered with decorations. The week ahead will be another busy one, not frantic busy, but busy enough to keep me focused. 

Here's a little quotation to take with you through the week, 

"Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most." 

Ruth Carter Stapleton 

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Welcome December

 


Here we are on the cusp of another month. I love the image above, done by Jody Bergsma. All the symbolism that points towards the birth of Christ is so beautiful. I've linked to her website, but didn't find this particular image there. It's one I saw on Facebook. 


In between all the rain I walk and in the wooded areas there is such freshness in the air. Ferns and mosses thrive in the damp. 


Holly trees are filled with berries and I've clipped a few for decorations here and there. The house is slowly taking on a festive air. It's happening more slowly than usual because of a small construction project going on in the front hallway. Tim's had a few days off and chose to putter. There will be a major renovation when he retires in a year or two, and these small projects are all part of the grand scheme. 

Tomorrow, once the dust settles, I'll tidy up and pull out more seasonal decor.


In my own back garden, there are five buds on the Secret Rose. The same system that has pulled so much moisture from the tropics and caused such havoc also brings warmer than normal temperatures. I wonder if these buds will open. Time will tell. Roses in December are very special.


Squelching along the sodden ground to the raised vegetable beds, I was surprised to see how much the broccoli, planted in September, has grown. Normally, I harvest in February or March, but this will need to be cut before too much longer. 


There is time spent each day at my sewing machine and projects are being finished. In quiet moments I enjoy looking through old issues of magazines for inspiration. Recipes, craft ideas, decor suggestions and more are interspersed with heart-warming tales and beautiful quotations. 

I'll leave you with one quotation, and scoot back to my sewing. 

"December offers a banquet for the senses, and many chances to lose oneself in the plain deliciousness of life - all the sights and smells of the season, from wood fires to baking." Diane Ackerman




Sunday, November 28, 2021

Celebrations

 


Although the rain fell and the skies were oh, so grey, there was laughter and warmth inside as cousins, aunties and uncles, grandparents, and her immediate family celebrated sweet Cora's first birthday. 


She didn't know quite what to do with the cupcake (made by Auntie Katie), and daintily poked one finger into the icing and licked it. Eventually the icing was eaten and the cake left. She's not had much in the way of sweets until now, and may have missed her chance to indulge. 


Christmas decorating has begun, a little at a time. The first thing to come out is the walnut, hand-carved Nativity from Ecuador. There will be greenery added to the scene, but when the sun made a brave appearance and cast sharp shadows on the figures, I snapped a quick photo. 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and we light the candle of Hope. Flood waters rise again in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver. A new coronavirus variant begins to spread. Inflation climbs. Refugees flee oppression. Crime rises. For this time we need Hope and celebrate the coming of the Messiah, the Hope of this sad old world. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Friday Favourites

 


Last winter I gathered up my scraps of red and white fabrics and stitched together a simple Four-Patch quilt. It languished at home over the summer, and a couple of months ago I took it to a very busy long-arm quilter, asking if it could be done for Christmas. I picked it up this week and am so very happy with it. Lots of swirls in the quilting that offset the geometric pattern of the piecing. All that's left is the binding, and that's a pleasant pastime for quiet evenings. 


I'm clearing away and tidying up in preparation for doing some Christmas decorating soon. This mirror is a recent addition to the fireplace mantel, and I like it more every day. It pairs well with my old brass candlesticks and jug. 

Another house project is a gallery wall on the staircase. I printed 8 x 10 photos of some of our boating images and put them into 11 x 14 gold frames with cream mats. Last night we hung them. Oh, my goodness! The measuring to get it just right! Tim worked as a carpenter for a number of years and is very precise, but even with his skill there are more holes than needed in the wall. I want to add a few more photos to the wall, but am letting it sit for now until I decide what to do. 


Someone is having her first birthday party on Sunday. Cora is such a happy baby and so full of spunk! Although she's not quite walking yet, she crawls very efficiently to get into everything that interests her, mostly things she shouldn't. 


For her birthday I made her a Tilda Giraffe. I named her Raffi and she's sitting in a corner of my chair. The light is not good for photos these days. 

Yesterday, the first of three more "atmospheric rivers" passed through, bringing lots of rain. Everyone here is a wee bit nervous about these systems - will the repaired dykes hold? Will there be more landslides? The province is preparing as best it can. 


Are you beginning to think about Christmas baking? I made these Scandinavian Almond Cookies last weekend, gave some away, and the rest are eaten. They were very good, both crisp and chewy, and would make a nice addition to a cookie plate. 

Today is a break between weather systems and I want to get out and do a little garden tidying and arranging before the next one arrives tomorrow. There's a dessert to make for a dinner party we're attending, and general housekeeping to accomplish. What are your plans for the next day or two? 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Mellow Monday

 


This scene from yesterday is very different from today's grey streaked, drizzle. We took a walk in the afternoon and even before 2 pm I noticed how low the sun was. The sprawling Garry Oak is without leaves and I like it best like this, with its intricate architecture of gnarled branches silhouetted against the sky. 


Birds of various kinds are flocking to the bird feeder - here a Chestnut-backed Chickadee. 

Since the flooding and landslides of last week, the pipeline providing fuel to our corner of the province has been taken offline until everyone is satisfied that the line wasn't damaged. As a result, we now have gas rationing - a limit of 30 litres per fill-up, on the honour system. On Saturday morning I walked to the closest grocery store for a few things, and saw long, long lineups for gasoline. Tim and his colleagues are still figuring out plans for how healthcare workers will get to their jobs. There are exemptions, but getting it all working efficiently takes time. 


The bright colour of Mr. House Finch is a joy to see on a grey morning. He looks as though he turned around to say, "What's that you said?" to someone on the other feeder. 


The Red-Breasted Nuthatches swoop in for a quick peck at the feeder and then bounce away in their characteristic up and down flight pattern. So cheerful and energetic. A large cedar hedge surrounds two sides of our garden and the birds use it as home base. When a hawk appears, every bird flees to the hedge in a flash. 


With all the wind, many evergreen branches litter roads and trails. I've been collecting a few of them and spent some time yesterday afternoon poking bits and pieces into pots for Christmas decor outdoors. The little bird in the greens is a quiet, contemplative soul, making no noise nor mess. She's not as much fun to watch as the other birds, but I do enjoy seeing her outside the window. 

Sewing is at the top of my list for this week. I've not made much progress on it, and need to focus on getting things finished. What's on your list for this week?


Friday, November 19, 2021

Friday Favourites

 


Outside my window pale morning light glows along the hills I see beyond the rooftops. Grey clouds drift steadily, but slowly overhead, tinted pink where the light catches them. We filled our bird feeder again, and a host of white-crowned sparrows, chickadees, house finches, and dark-eyed juncos chattered and argued as they vied for a place at the table. The little juncos with their black hoods are such pretty birds and I am always happy to see them appear again in the autumn. 


Here's a report on the flooding. You can skip down if it doesn't interest you, or if you've been inundated (pun intended) with news. 

Yesterday, the rain fell again, but nothing like the atmospheric river we experienced last weekend. Much of my family lives in the affected area, but they are all safe, and although at least one home flooded a little, they are fine. My sister and brother-in-law went home from work early on Monday and have not been able to return because of the highway that is still flooded. My brother is up in Prince George and due to fly home this weekend. He can fly in, but won't make it home, again because of the highway closure. In an area called the Sumas Prairie, more than 1400 farms - mostly dairy and poultry - are still underwater. There have been heart-wrenching stories of farmers working round the clock to save their livestock. 

Highways are still mostly closed although one route opened for essential traffic to allow stranded motorists to return home. Some will go through the US (Washington State) to be able to return east. 

The major east-west highways remain closed, and crews are working day and night to try to open at least one of them to allow essential goods through. 

Have you ever watched the television show "Highway Through Hell"? It's about a vehicle recovery and towing company that works in BC and largely features incidents on the Coquihalla Highway, our major connector to the rest of Canada. That's the highway that has been greatly damaged, with at least five spots where the road has completely washed away, falling into deep river canyons and sweeping away bridges and rail lines. We have been told it will be months before it is repaired. The coming winter, with its heavy snow will be a severe complication. 

All said, it's a catastrophe, affecting not only our province, but much of western Canada. At least 1 fatality has been confirmed, but there are others still missing. 

Many motorists were stranded in the little town of Hope, BC. The townspeople came together and provided blankets, food, and shelter as they were able. At least one church opened its doors for people to sleep on the (fortunately) padded pews. The Salvation Army in Chilliwack prepared boxes and boxes of food that were sent in via helicopter.

Here on the Island, our highway connecting Victoria to the rest of the island was closed. There is a little ferry (about 15 vehicles) that crosses the inlet, and it added sailings throughout the night to allow people to cross. People in the village near the ferry terminal passed out cookies and snacks, along with blankets to those waiting for hours in their cars.

It's these kinds of actions that stir me to tears. People of all walks of life coming together to help each other. If we can act this way in times of crisis, surely we can treat each well all of the time. 


Here at home, life goes on as normal. I cook and sew, clean and read, but in the background there is this awareness of how the same normality has been stripped away from so many. 
When we were in Wales a number of years ago, we toured a manor house where the kitchen dresser was filled with beautiful blue and white dishes from the Burleigh Company. I have gone to the website to look at their dishes, but the cost to purchase and ship to Canada is very high, so I've admired them from afar. 

I was surprised and delighted to find the above plates and bowls at our local Home Sense store and even more surprised when I saw they were manufactured in England. They are from the Royal Wessex company, not Burleigh, but the look is similar. I purchased a variety of plates and bowls. Can anything surpass blue and white? I don't think so. 


A mug of tea (in a blue and white polka-dotted mug given to me by my daughter) along with a seasonal magazine is a lovely way to spend some quiet time in the afternoon. 

Today is another pro-D day for one of my grandchildren and we're going to visit the museum. Maybe we'll have lunch there, too. This weekend I hope to sew more, as the list of things I want to make is growing! 

I hope your weekend is beautiful. Be thankful for the little normal routines. 

A Visit to Butchart Gardens

  One of the traditions that we have enjoyed since our children moved into their own homes is attending some of the special Christmas events...