Friday, June 14, 2019

Happenings Around Here

Not quite two weeks ago there was a baby shower. The mother-to-be is our youngest daughter. Her elder sister and sister-in-law and I hosted the shower. What a fun event, with good company, good food, lots of laughter, and a sunny day.

Here's the mama-to-be with the cake Katie made. We went with a loose bear-bee-honey theme.

The next day, Sunday, the parents-to-be asked me to take a few photos that they would use to announce the impending birth on social media. We had a lot of fun in our back garden.

I promised to do some simple editing and send the photos that week, but it was Thursday morning before I sent anything. The announcement was never made. 

Instead, Iris Ruth decided to make an early appearance. Three weeks early, but still a healthy 7 lbs 4 oz. I, along with the other grandmother, dashed to the ferry and arrived not too long after she was born. Oh my, what a darling she is. She's had a bit of a rough start with a prolonged hospital stay due to jaundice and losing weight. Things are on an even keel now, though, and the new little family is settling in.

You can tell that this Nana is utterly thrilled with Miss Iris. Her aunts, uncles, and cousins have yet to meet her. We're all thinking that the ferry ride is just too long!

Father, Daughter, and sweet little baby girl. Our hearts are full. 

Monday, June 03, 2019

Exploring Close to Home

On a windy, but sunny afternoon, we took our Vancouver children to the ferry and planned on a hike on the way back home. After consulting our local hiking guide, we chose to visit Butterfield Park. The guide says, "Your trip to the park takes you through a lovely pastoral landscape of rolling fields and hedgerows reminiscent of an English countryside." 

Wild daisies lined the pathways and the woods were alive with birdsong, but otherwise very quiet. I didn't see any hedgerows, though.

After exiting the woods, we walked along a roadside path and down a lane to find St. Stephen's Anglican Church - believed to be B.C.'s oldest church in continual use on its 1862 site. 

Surrounded by fields and set above the landscape that slopes gently to fields and the ocean beyond, it was a truly lovely find. We had no idea of its existence prior to reading about it in the guide. The door was open and we entered quietly, absorbing the peace of this place of worship. One stained glass window lit up the wall behind the altar. Plaques on the other walls commemorated soldiers lost in the wars that ravaged Europe in the 20th century. 

The graveyard surrounding the church contains the graves of many whose names are now remembered as streets and parks in our city. The marker above had me doing some research when I arrived home. Ted Harrison was born in England and immigrated to Canada where he lived in the Yukon for many years before spending his last decades in Victoria. He is a well-known author and illustrator. One of his children's books is on our bookshelves.

Do you see the little sparrow in front of the white cross, perched on the peak of the roof over the entrance to the church? He is singing his heart out. 

So many of the gravestones mentioned birthplaces far away - Cheshire, England, Scotland, South Africa, and more. These settlers left their homelands forever in search of a better life for themselves and their families. The graves date from the early years (1870s) to present day. 

As we walked out of the churchyard, I glanced down at a stone and was surprised to recognize the names there - names of a couple with whom Tim collaborated on a charity project in Africa for several years. We knew they had passed, but didn't know that they were buried here in this peaceful spot. 

A pair of stray poppies bloomed alongside a gate we passed on our return to the car. Are they not a bright and cheerful sight? 
It was so interesting for us to learn more about our local history. This walk and the church are a place we will likely return to in the future. 

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf.  

Monday, May 27, 2019

May Days at Home

"May and June. Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year: cool misty mornings gently burned away with a warming spring sun, followed by breezy afternoons and chilly nights." Peter Loewer

9 pm. Light lingers long. This evening, for the first time, I walked without a light sweater or jacket. It feels like summer. Beautiful days. Yesterday, Tim and I walked to the top of Christmas Hill. Butterflies flitted here and there, lots of them, chasing each other among the grasses and trees, alighting on the ground from time to time. Painted Ladies, gorgeously designed. 

Radishes are ready in the garden these days. And strawberries. I like the long French Breakfast radishes. They've become part of salads, dipped in melted cheese, and eaten plain. I like them sliced on buttered bread, too, with a bit of salt.

In my mind, a bit of pickle elevates a salad or a sandwich. On Saturday I did a quick pickle with red onions and another with radishes. Ready the next day for whatever takes my fancy. 

The jar holding the radishes is old - my mother used it for canning when I was a child. It has a glass lid and she used to buy rubber rings for sealing. I don't know if rubber rings like that are available any longer. The old zinc screw top still works like a charm. 

Lilacs and bluebells have given way to peonies, ruffled beauties with a delicate, sweet fragrance. There are plenty to come in the garden, and a bouquet of them is opening in the house. 

I found a spot for a new rosebush - a David Austin Gertrude Jekyll. Each evening I observe how the buds are forming and will soon open with the lovely warmth we're experiencing. 

The blueberry bushes are loaded with fruit. I'm amazed at how quickly the plants go from bare sticks to fruit. Spring and summer are so urgent in the garden after the long dormancy of autumn and winter. 

A couple of years ago a yellow poppy appeared unbidden in a corner of my garden. I let it linger and it rewards me with a spot of brightness in what is otherwise a bit bare at this time of year. A lovely bit of serendipity.

Two new little items for my kitchen - a Garlic Store by Mason Cash. It has air vents and a lid with a little hole in it for lifting. The copper oil dispenser is perfect for drizzling olive oil on vegetables for roasting, or salads. I like the shape of both items. William Morris' advice to "have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" is something I like to adhere to.

Finally, one last rose - this a John Cabot climbing rose that really climbs. I cut it way back each year and each year it rewards me with bloom after bloom. This is the first. 

I leave you with these words by Mary Berry: "Without doubt, without hesitation, I choose gardening over the gym. I can't stand going to the gym. It doesn't appeal to me at all. Give me gardening every time." Ha! Me, too. I tried a gym once, but gave it up after not very many visits. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Short Jaunt in the Boat

It's a long weekend here in Canada - Victoria Day is the unofficial start of summer. Boats, camping, barbecues - the season is short and we Canadians make the most of it. We took the boat out on her first outing for the season and enjoyed gloriously sunny weather, perfect for hiking, lounging on the boat, and reading. We didn't go far, to Bedwell Harbour off Pender Island.

We decided to come home on Sunday night and arrived around 9 pm. During the night rain began to fall and it's been drizzly all day, so a good move on our part. 

Tim went for a little ride in the dinghy, looking at other boats in the harbour. He's very conscientious about wearing his life jacket, and a hat.

On Sunday afternoon we hiked up Mount Norman. It's a hike we've done a couple of other times, but we've always wandered down some other trails and never found the peak. Not so this time. We arrived at the viewpoint and enjoyed the vast expanses to the south, west, and northwest. The freighter in the above photo is making a sharp course adjustment at Turn Point off Stuart Island where the Canada/USA border also makes a very sharp turn.

Beautiful wildflowers grow on the island, delicate and pale. Already the lack of rain is drying out the forest. I'm glad today has been wet for the ground badly needs the moisture.

I love the warm resinous scent that rises from the forest floor. Now is the time when the evergreens put forth new growth of lime green. 

We packed a little lunch and ate it perched on a rocky shore after descending the mountain. A river otter entertained us by fishing and consuming his lunch while we ate ours. He dove under the water and came up with something in his mouth that required a lot of chewing and then he threw his head back to swallow.

Evening sunset as we arrived back on our island home. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Busy Days

And the wind upon its way whispered the boughs of May
And touched the nodding peony flowers to bid them waken
Siegfried Sassoon
 This particular peony is growing in my daughter's garden. Her peonies are in full flower. One of my bushes is the same, but there are more tightly curled buds on other bushes that I'm watching carefully. Peonies are such extravagant bloomers, opening slowly until all at once they show off their frilly layers. 

A few tulips still bloom, but most are looking rather bedraggled. I'm feeling a bit bedraggled myself lately - a combination of wanting to do more than I have time to do, the approaching last 6 weeks of school, not sleeping well, and a few odd events occurring.

I was informed of one odd event through my school e-mail one afternoon, asking the owner of a certain license plate number to contact the office. A student (one of my favourite students) had backed her vehicle into mine. She felt terrible. The damage is not serious, but I've taken the car in for estimates, delivered it to the shop, and am waiting to pick it up. The girl's parents chose to pay privately rather than through insurance, and that's complicated things a bit, too.

These days there isn't much time to be doing what I really long to do - work in my garden for long hours at a time or sew on a couple of projects I have. I'm fitting in bits of time here and there and the garden assures me that really, my efforts accomplish little, and it's quite happy to grow all on its own, as evidenced by the little figs forming. I planted a few vegetables and am waiting to put the more tender plants into the ground early next week. 

On Sunday, Mother's Day, we got together with the local families and grandkids for dinner. Mr. Four is sporting a painted Batman mask on his face - his mother does a great job of face painting. The girls' photos were taken on other days when they visited our place. I'm realizing how quickly these little ones grow and change and want to spend time with them now.

Tim's contribution to the dinner was to bring dessert. He offered to buy something, but I have been itching to try some new techniques, so I spent a happy Saturday morning puttering in the kitchen. Palmiers were first, easy because I used purchased puff pastry. Making my own puff pastry is a goal for another day. Earlier in the week I made shortbread mini tart shells and later filled them with orange curd and lemon curd. The chocolate brownies were from a favourite recipe, but the frosting is French Buttercream, made by adding a hot sugar syrup to egg yolks and then slowly beating in pieces of butter. I flavoured it with a strawberry puree. Oh how yummy it is! I picked rose petals from the no-name rose bush that is the first to bloom and sugared them for a decoration. Fussing in the kitchen made me happy, particularly because everything turned out reasonably well.

I'm feeling cheerier already, just for taking the time to write this post. Blogging is something that is falling off the radar, too, and I'm not posting, reading, or commenting nearly as much as I'd like to. Tis the season!

Time to do some stretching and head to bed. Things always look brighter in the morning.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Notes from Domesticity

On Friday evening we went to the boat show. It's fun seeing what's out there in the boating world. We toured a couple of fabulous boats, far beyond our taste and budget, and it was fun to see them. The great thing about our own little boat is that we see exactly the same things the bigger boats do - out on the water is very egalitarian.

After wandering the docks for an hour or more we enjoyed a casual dinner at The Rum Runner restaurant overlooking the water. 

In an effort to use up the fruit from the freezer before the new crop goes in, I made a Mixed-Fruit Platz. (link is to my recipe blog) Platz is a dish from my Mennonite roots - versatile and easy to prepare. One end of the cake has the last of the plums I froze, and the rest of the cake has rhubarb along with frozen (thawed and drained) strawberries. I love the crumbly topping best of all. 

With the juice I drained off of the frozen strawberries, I made some stewed rhubarb. Rhubarb is the first thing I harvest from my garden in the spring. It's so satisfying to pull up the stalks, whack the leaves off, and dice the pink and green stalks before placing them into a saucepan with a fair bit of sugar to gently simmer for not very long until softened and sweet.

I like stewed rhubarb with unsweetened yogurt; others like it on cake or ice cream. A friend mentioned eating it with sour cream and I plan to try that soon.

I love taking care of my home. It's a safe place for me to relax, be creative, and regain energy for the things I do outside of my home. I hope it was that way for my children, and continues to be that for my husband and others who might share our roof from time to time. 

Ursula K. LeGuin writes, "I always wondered why the makers leave housekeeping and cooking out of their tales. Isn't it what all the great wars and battles are fought for -- so that at day's end a family may eat together in a peaceful house."  

“Of all modern notions, the worst is this: that domesticity is dull. Inside the home, they say, is dead decorum and routine; outside is adventure and variety. But the truth is that the home is the only place of liberty, the only spot on earth where a man can alter arrangements suddenly, make an experiment or indulge in a whim. The home is not the one tame place in a world of adventure; it is the one wild place in a world of rules and set tasks.” 
― G.K. Chesterton

I like Chesterton's words, too, especially that he doesn't relegate the word "domesticity" to women. I'm so glad that I live in an age where I can chose what career path I will follow. 

Weekends are precious to me; I use them for doing the tasks that keep my house to my standards - cleaning, laundry, some cooking. Gardening, too, now that spring is here. New recipes are often tried. Last night I made a sheet pan dinner with chicken thighs and vegetables. Delicious, and good for more than one meal for us. The recipe is very forgiving - use vegetables you and your family enjoy.

Balsamic Chicken Dinner

8 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons mustard (I used Dijon)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the balsamic vinegar, honey, mustard, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the chicken thighs and leave to marinate while preparing the vegetables.

Fill a baking tray with slices, batons, or cubes of vegetables. I used butternut squash, zucchini, onion, and rutabaga. Other options could include carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, green beans, or mushrooms. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and season with salt. 

Place the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables. Roast at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until the thighs are cooked through and the vegetables are tender. There will be some liquid on the pan that is full of flavour, so don't discard it. 

I added a handful of Marzano tomatoes, halved, and a generous sprinkling of chopped parsley when I served the dish. 

I'll leave you with some of the tulips blooming in my garden. These are in a shadier spot and bloomed later than others. Some are finished already. I potted up a few and they are still appearing. 

Wishing you a week full of gentle beauty and a quiet heart, even in the midst of busyness. 

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

At the End of April

"You are the only person in the world who loves me," said Elizabeth. "When you talk to me I smell violets."
L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars 

Whoosh - there went April in a flurry of rain, wind, sun, and lots and lots of blossoms. Under a rose bush in my garden, violets are flourishing. I know that they spread wildly, but for now they are confined to one bed and I like seeing them there with their little blossoms and heart-shaped leaves. I read that our Canadian violets are not as scented as the English ones, nor do they have the flavour that is prized for violet sweets. They are still lovely. 

Easter has come and gone - there was a hunt for treats (and while working in the garden the past couple of weeks I've found a few that were too well hidden. In my previous post I mentioned a discussion with Adria about choosing between Orange Chiffon Cake and Chocolate Mousse for Easter dessert. In the end I chose the cake, but gussied it up with an orange curd filling and whipped cream mixed with more orange curd for the frosting. I had some Hazelnut Praline White Chocolate Truffles in the freezer from another event and I used them to decorate the cake, along with candied lemon peel and some fresh violets from the garden. 

The next day Tim and I enjoyed eating the coloured eggs transformed into Deviled Eggs, always a treat. I made Paska, the traditional Easter bread recipe from my family heritage, and provided plates for the children to take some home. 

This past weekend we zipped over to the mainland on the ferry and celebrated my Dad's 85th birthday with a dinner out. After I got home I realized that I had taken no photos - that's not very good! 

In the garden, fig leaves are opening like butterfly wings ready to take off. There are quite a number of small figs forming, so I hope we get a good harvest this year. 

From the kitchen window I've been admiring the wisteria trailing across the garden shed. The vine grows through the hedge from our neighbour's garden. Its scent is intoxicating, sweetly fragrant. Although it doesn't last long as a cut flower, after Tim trimmed it from the roof vent, I clipped a few discarded blooms and brought them into the house where they fill the kitchen with sweetness. 

"Soon they were all sitting on the rocky ledge, which was still warm, watching the sun go down into the lake. It was the most beautiful evening, with the lake as blue as a cornflower and the sky flecked with rosy clouds. They held their hard-boiled eggs in one hand and a piece of bread and butter in the other, munching happily. There was a dish of salt for everyone to dip their eggs into. "I don't know why, but the meals we have on picnics always taste so much nicer than the ones we have indoors," said George."
Enid Blyton

Blue cornflowers (centaurea montana) are in bloom just now. They spread a little in the garden, but are mostly well-behaved and welcome. Sometimes I'll move a plant that has self-seeded to a place that suits me better. Their colour is the bluest of blue and I love the combination of that deep hue with their silvery green leaves. 

Bright tulips, white candy tuft, blue cornflowers, and lots of greenery make this one of the prettiest times of year for the garden around the bird bath. We are often rewarded by the abandoned splashing of birds bathing there. I just need to remember to fill it with water. Once we begin the automatic watering, it will fill on its own, but for now I'm watering as needed. I was surprised at how dry the soil is already and we think we will be turning on the watering system earlier rather than later. 

How is your garden doing? I know the eastern parts of Canada have had some heavy rains and terrible flooding and my heart goes out to those who have been forced to evacuate. 

Have a great week and enjoy each day!

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. 

Happenings Around Here

Not quite two weeks ago there was a baby shower. The mother-to-be is our youngest daughter. Her elder sister and sister-in-law and I ho...