Saturday, August 01, 2020

Six on Saturday: Views, Tarts, and Garden



On these wonderful warmer summer days, I've been walking earlier than usual to avoid the intense sun. This week I climbed up Christmas Hill for a wonderful view over the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The mountains in the distance are on the Olympic Peninsula of the USA. The band of fog lies where the land meets the sea and is a typical feature of high summer weather. 


While up on the hill I watched a hummingbird whirring from blossom to blossom. She stopped for a few seconds and I was able to get this not-so-great photo. 


Some years I like to try growing different things in the vegetable garden. This year it was onions. They took little work. A week or more ago the tops fell over, all of them, overnight, it seemed - a sign that they were done growing and could be harvested. I pulled them up and laid them on a table to dry for a week. Yesterday I braided them and hung them for further drying in the barbecue shelter. I'm rather tickled with the effect. This amount of onions should last us for a few months, at least. 


Using garden produce is the theme of meals around here. I made a zucchini tart - pastry with goat cheese spread on top (mixed with herbs and lemon zest), then thinly sliced zucchini that had been salted and left to drain for an hour. Brush the top with olive oil and bake for 50 minutes or so. Sprinkle with more fresh herbs. Lovely for a light meal. 


The figs are ripe! We don't harvest huge amounts of them - but we're learning how to prune to increase the first harvest and hope for more in the future. We will get a couple dozen this year. Mary, from A Breath of Fresh Air posted a recipe for these lovely fig tarts yesterday and I immediately pulled out some frozen puff pastry to thaw. Crispy, not-too-sweet, and a perfect dessert. 

We enjoyed them with a daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter last night. They signed up for Disney Plus over the summer and invited us to watch the musical Hamilton after the 8-year-old went to bed. We enjoyed it very much, but I've been doing some research about the historical accuracy, just to keep things straight in my head. 


A work colleague invited me for an outdoor visit this week. She clipped a beautiful rose for me as I was leaving. Orange and blue make a striking pair. And I leave you with the words of our Provincial Health Officer, who closes each update with "Be kind, be calm, be safe. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Books, Beach, Flowers, and Cool Drinks



"There are few pleasures like really burrowing one's nose into sweet peas."
Angela Thirkell

Every few days I snip another modest bouquet of these fragrant flowers. They move from the mantle to the table to the windowsill so that I can catch a sweet whiff as I move around the house. Just now they are outside on the patio and that's where I'm headed. 


Last weekend we went on a little jaunt to Sidney Island, no more than 30 minutes from the boat launch. Our local families joined us for a wonderful day of sand, sun, and sea. These littles spent all of their time in imaginative play - creating a civilization because they were stranded without adults! I loved listening in on some of their conversations. 

When we returned, the boat launch was very busy and we had to bob about for awhile. The children were thrilled when a curious seal came within a metre of the boat, looking up at the children dangling their feet over the deck. (No need to worry, one would have to have extremely long legs to be in any danger.) Then, a fat fried egg jellyfish showed up and drifted by so that the children could see tentacles pulsating. One grandchild was heard to say that the wait on the water was the best part of the trip!


Some of my recent reading material. I have just begun The Salt Path, and just finished The Beekeeper of Aleppo. I keep mulling over the story of the Beekeeper - a Syrian refugee. Such horror and tragedy, yet the human spirit finds beauty where it can. I recommend it. 

The other books are light fare, easy reading for summer. 


Shrub: - a fruit syrup preserved with vinegar and mixed with water or alcohol to make a refreshing beverage.

There was a container of blackberries leftover from last summer in the freezer, and after reading about shrubs in a magazine, I filled a jar with berries, apple cider vinegar, a cinnamon stick, and let it develop in the fridge for a week or more before straining it, and mixing it with a simple sugar syrup. I add 1-2 Tablespoons to a glass of cold water for a very delicious and different drink. 


One hydrangea bush branches through the patio railing in a friendly manner. Sitting so close to it, I noticed the golden tipped stamens and delicate blue veins. Such intricacy of creation. 

I had another close encounter the other day. While working in my garden I heard a loud buzzing sound. Not ten inches away from my hands, a pretty Anna's Hummingbird fed on a pink zinnia flower. I stayed very still and watched her circle the bloom with her long pointed beak. She then moved to the next flower. I could see her heart beating furiously and hear the buzz of her wings. Amazing!

These are beautiful summer days. I hope that you are enjoying them, as well (or autumn days if you live in the southern hemisphere). Let's enjoy the seasons as they come, for they change all too quickly. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

On a Still Summer Afternoon



"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."
John Lubbock

The quiet stillness of a warm summer afternoon settles around me as I sit on the patio. I see a white butterfly in the flowers across the garden, and bees are busy in the roses and oregano that has come into flower. I wandered around the garden with my camera this afternoon at 4:30, a time not recommended for photography because of the harsh light at this time of year. Come along with me anyway. 

The first dahlia is opening - a Sweet Violet. I lost most of my dahlias last winter and when I went to purchase new ones there was little available. 



I am always surprised at the pure whiteness of the phlox that springs up each summer, and I would love to see an all-white garden one day. Purple coneflowers are a relatively new addition to my garden and I'm pleased with their performance. I'm looking forward to dividing them in a season or two and multiplying their effect. 


Tim built a climbing trellis for the squash plants this year. I'm not convinced of its success yet - time will tell. 


Here is one of the Hubbard squashes hanging from the trellis. I'm concerned about the weight and wonder if I should create a bit of support for it - a mesh bag or something. Have any of you grown squash this way? 

I do like the way the trellis provides a bit of shade for the cucumbers and zucchini underneath. 


Oregano is in flower now and the bees are loving it. I counted three types of bees just this afternoon, all so very busy flitting from blossom to blossom. What amazing creatures they are, and so important to our food supply. 


The first sunflower. I wondered if any sunflowers would survive the onslaught of the bunnies earlier in the spring. I replanted several times and netted the tiny plants to foil those pesky critters. Four of the sunflower plants survived and are doing well. 

We are shrinking our bubble again. After being Covid-19 free for a couple of months, cases are now popping up on our Island, likely due to increased travel as people get out to enjoy the summer weather. It's disheartening to read of some people who put their individual desires above the safety of others. We are in this together and it's by acting together and thinking of others that we can get through this. 

I find great solace in my garden. The natural world of God's creation offers space away from the problems of the world, and plenty of work to keep me occupied. Where do you find respite from the hurly-burly of the world these days?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Days of Zucchini and Roses



"What a lovely thing a rose is!"
Arthur Conan Doyle

Outside my window clouds cover the sun and a light breeze stirs the leaves and ripples through the garden. A couple of cooler days are here before the temperatures warm up to summer weather on the weekend. The first flush of rose blooms is over, but some, like Boscobel, are producing more beautiful blossoms the second time round. This soft pink colour is such a delight and the scent simply amazing. 


From my garden I pick a several slender, dark green zucchini two or three times a week. I spent a couple of mellow hours one morning making ratatouille. Each vegetable is sauteed separately, then combined at the end with fresh basil and a bit of lemon juice. We enjoyed it with a grating of Parmesan as part of our dinner. I froze three containers of it for a quick hit of summer when it's raining and cold outside in a few months. 


When we were in Wales four years ago, we enjoyed a delicious Courgette, Garlic and Stilton Soup in the tea room at Newton House. I found the recipe on the National Trust website and made it exactly as it reads for a simple tasty meal. I hope we'll be able to return to the UK one day. For now, I'm finding contentment in reading my travel journals and reliving some of the wonderful trips we've taken. I'm enjoying this quieter summer and have been spending more time in the garden. 


To serve alongside the soup I made a sourdough focaccia bread that turned out well. There is really nothing like fresh bread and soup for satisfying the tummy. 


"...it's a blessed thing to love, and to feel loved in return."
E. A. Buchhianeri

Who are these kids? They thought they were all grown up 43 years ago. I'm so thankful to God for my husband and for the life we've spent together. We're venturing out to a restaurant to celebrate this anniversary. 

Last year we celebrated in Leonding (Linz), Austria. How the world has changed for all of us since then. Still we live and love, and try to make the most of each day. 

The days pass, a mixture of the sublime and the mundane. Beauty exists in both. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Summer Along the Coast



I am so pleased to announce that summer has finally arrived in our corner. Temperatures this week will be between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius (70-77 F), with sunshine everyday. The good weather began over the weekend, while we were out for a short jaunt on Solitude. 

As we slip away from shore we leave behind the cares of land and focus on the moments. We're in our own world, an enormous expanse of sea, our small boat bobbing on the waves, with rocks and forest still visible. 


We normally prefer anchoring out in a small inlet or cove away from civilization, but for this trip we visited Ladysmith, a small town on Vancouver Island, and stayed in the marina there. It was very quiet.

One of the delights of boating is that there is nothing to call one's attention away from the main business at hand - relaxing and observing. On both evenings, as the light softened, a heron picked its way along the logs for a little preening and fishing. Doesn't he have amazing balance?


Solitude is a slow boat - we go about 7 knots - leaving plenty of time for conversation and silence, for wandering through my mazy mind. I noticed a large crevice in the rocks and I fancy it looks like a silhouette of a bird, beak pointing right, carved there on the hill. Do you see it? 


Lately, people have been recommending podcasts to me. I signed up for a couple, but can't bring myself to listen to them. I'm sure they are most interesting, but I'm quite content with the interior monologue that goes on inside my head. Do you listen to podcasts? With earbuds or headphones or broadcast from a computer? I also hate things in my ears. 

The heron in the photo above looks not at all concerned about the slug-like seals nearby. 


The coast of Vancouver Island is very much a working one. Pulp mills along this coast have ramped up their production of  medical grade soft red cedar pulp for use in masks and other personal protective equipment during the pandemic.


I always enjoy watching the tugboats at work. They are so mobile and can turn on a dime. Not visible in this photo is the worker who stepped off the tug and made his way along the log boom, looking as if he was walking on the sidewalk on land. 


For dinner one night we walked up the hill into town and ate at the Fox and Hounds, touted as the place to go for British pub fare. Outside, a red telephone box clearly indicates the British vibe. Inside, dark wood floors, Tudor-style beams, a long wooden bar, and lots of British knickknacks lining shelves and windowsills contributed to the traditional pub feel. The food was great - I had a seafood pot pie that was scrumptious, and Tim enjoyed a burger with fat chips, as hot as can be. Fewer tables and other procedures let us know that care was taken regarding the pandemic. 


Next to the marina was a sawmill with log booms where seagulls hung out, mostly keeping social distance. 

Home again now. Tim's off to work and the laundry is churning away. As for me, a little gardening, some cooking, and some sewing today. There will be time for reading, too. A perfect summer day! I wish the same for you!


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sunday Afternoon




Outside my window the trees wave in the wind. It's not warm, but at least it's not raining. I clipped a bouquet of all the sweet peas in bloom for the kitchen windowsill. I'm hoping that my fearless clipping will result in a profusion of blooms. 

Our wedding cake was a towering three layers of my mother's fruitcake covered with royal icing. I dislike fruitcake, but that was the tradition. At least Tim liked it. I digress. The royal icing decorations were of sweet peas, made by my Auntie Ruth. It was a beautiful cake for looking at. All to say, I do love sweet peas.


The house is so quiet. We've had a fun and busy week with our Vancouver family staying with us. Miss Iris is a busy, busy 13-month-old who is an absolute delight. Today, after they left, I wandered around the house and garden, hardly knowing what to do with myself. So I cut some daisies and put them on the table on the patio. They are pretty flowers, but they stink. Our outdoor carpet is always covered with rose petals blown in on the wind. It's barely warm enough to sit outside, and if I do, I have a blanket and a sweater handy. 



Once Iris figured out that the piano made noise, she frequently crawled over, pulled herself up, and looked pleadingly at someone to open it. Not content to stand and play the keys, she was happiest when I pulled out the bench and sat with her on my knee. She banged away while I played simple tunes with one hand. 


I love soup at any time of the year. In summer, I love to add freshly snipped basil or other herbs to my bowl. Vegetable soup is a favourite. 


A couple of weeks ago Tim and I visited our son and his family while they were out camping. We enjoyed making smores over the campfire. Rather than graham crackers and chocolate (which rarely melts), Katie had McVitie's Hobnobs. I had never heard of them, and found them delicious! Yesterday I tried making some and they turned out quite well. I used this recipe from Bon Appetit. , and added chocolate to the bottoms. Oh, and I had Lyle's Golden Syrup in the cupboard and used that in place of honey. They are faintly sweet and slightly salty. Most delicious. Apparently they are a British classic. 


I think this poppy is an anomaly - it's growing along with the peony poppies that come up in my garden. I never planted any like this, but I like it a lot. I've marked the plant with a twist tie to collect the seeds later. 


Poppies spring up everywhere. They are easy to pull if I don't want them, but I rather enjoy their spontaneous appearance amongst the vegetables - here the squashes. I plant marigolds at the ends of the garden beds, for looks and because they deter some insects. 



During this week of Iris visiting, we often took tours around the garden. She curls her little nose and sniffs the flowers. The lavender is full of bees and she moves her little finger in circles and buzzes along with them. She is the sweetest thing in my garden.


The sun is shining and I've pulled a 5-story volume of Agatha Christie off my bookshelf. I'll make a cup of tea, accompany it with a Hobnob, and read outdoors for awhile, where the hydrangeas grow through the railing.

Wishing you a peaceful beginning to a new week.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Little Things




It's often the little things in life that contribute to well-being. Some nights I lie down in my bed and think (or say), "I love this bed." My pillow is just how I like it. The cool air from the window blows across my face. The blankets are the perfect weight. All those little things add up. It's good to take the time and notice them.

Just now the frilly poppies bloom in odd spots in my garden. They self-seed and don't take too kindly to transplanting (although I've had pretty good luck doing so), and I let them bloom among the strawberries and onions as they like. That one snapdragon in the photo is a gorgeous colour, don't you think?


There was a family gathering on Sunday. Our Vancouver contingent is here for the week and we celebrated with a barbecue. Books were passed from one family to another, and here part of the donating family enjoyed reading a favourite story to the receiving cousin. 


The sweet peas have put out their first blossoms. I collected a small fragrant posy from the garden today - cutting sweet peas without compunction as the plants will make an effort to produce more, a Bolero rose and bud, a few cornflowers, and some lemon balm for green. 


Today, our 6-year-old grandson spent the day with me. We baked cupcakes. As he iced his he said, "When I'm finished icing this cupcake it will be glorious." 

Isn't that a delightful turn of phrase for a young man? I'm tickled every time I think of it. 


I am not a fan of orange in the garden, or in my house. However, a clump of bright day lilies has settled in next to a hydrangea bush in the front garden, and I have to applaud the pairing. 

More little things that have delighted me lately...

Lockdown sketches  - a charming way to remember these days

A video of how women got dressed in 18th century England (I'm delighted that clothing is much simpler now)

Tilda's World - fabric and quilts designed by a talented Norwegian, Tone Finnanger

I'd love to hear what little things are making a difference in your world these days. 





Six on Saturday: Views, Tarts, and Garden

On these wonderful warmer summer days, I've been walking earlier than usual to avoid the intense sun. This week I climbed up Christmas H...