Friday, April 09, 2021

Friday Favourites


Rich morning light saturated my photos one day this week. Not today. Instead there's been drizzle and grey and a chill wind. I met with two friends for a walk and then we sat outdoors by an outdoor gas fire near a coffee shop and talked and talked. How good it is to get together with friends and catch up on each other's lives. Texts and phone calls are not the same as face to face visits. 

My eldest daughter painted this beautiful rock with the help of her friend who paints a lot of them. It's so pretty and matches the pansies very well, so I have it nestled among them for now. 

I planted kale early last autumn and it grew slowly over the winter. Some days I could see it curled up and frosty, but it always perked up again. Now it's growing vigorously and I've been harvesting it. 

Kale pucks are good to have in the freezer to toss into soup or a vegetable saute. I chopped, then steamed the kale for three minutes before packing it into muffin tins. Once frozen the pucks easily pop out and I store them in freezer bags.

Some of my recent reading material. The Kinghorn novels are very easy reading centered around the first World War and "The Founding" touched on the controversy of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. It's the start of a long series and I don't know that I will get through them all. Well-written historical fiction. "Where the Crawdads Sing" is excellent, if hard reading, touching on the vulnerability of children and women, and the beauty of natural life in the marshes of North Carolina. 

My husband brought home flowers for Easter and the lilies are opening up beautifully. It's a mixed bouquet and as the various flowers die I like to cut the better ones down and place them in different vases. 

He was out of town last night and this morning called very early to tell me the news about Prince Philip. Not unexpected, but sad, especially for the Queen who has lost her beloved husband who provided her with strength and courage throughout the years. I pray for comfort and peace for her.

I read a fun essay this week by J. F. Riordan about modern appliances that I thought you might enjoy.

Electronic Narcissism 

The weekend forecast is for sun and a warming trend. I'll be gardening, at my daughter's place and perhaps here a little, too. 

Thank you for reading and I wish you all moments of joy and happiness.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Botanical Beach


Easter Monday: I planned to work in the garden, perhaps do a little sewing. Tim looked at the tide tables and suggested a trip to Botanical Beach. No contest there. I packed a lunch while he made a thermos of tea and off we went. Botanical Beach is on the west coast of our island, just where the Strait of Juan de Fuca begins. The point of land barely visible in the above photo, across the Strait, is the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States. 

An easy 20-minute trail from the parking lot leads through quiet and deeply green forest to the beach. A strip of sand littered with driftwood logs is the perfect place to perch while watching the waves roll in from the Pacific. 

The real draw to this beach is the exposed rocks and tide pools where one can get closer to the ocean's surge and fall. 

Watching the waves build and roll in, then crash against the rocks, and throw up sheets of spray and foam never ever gets old. The beach itself is a geology lesson where all sorts of rock types and formations are found. Some are there because of glacial movement; others formed from weathering and erosion. 

In tide pools, purple sea urchins live in hollowed out sandstone, in perfect circles that fit the urchins beautifully. Granite and sandstone, igneous and metamorphic rock combine to make this a truly diverse environment.

Tim spotted this bird crouched on a rock among the millions of mussels on the beach, just resting. After checking our bird book, we are pretty sure it's a long-distance migrant American Golden Plover en route to the high Arctic where it breeds. It winters in southern South America, so it has traveled a very long ways and deserves a good rest. 

Here's yours truly on the beach changing camera lenses. 

Each time we visit this beach I find something new to enchant me. This time it was a tide pool where limpets lie like scattered and intricate gold coins on richly coloured velvet lichens. We crouched low and watched the action in this one pool for a long time. Tiny snails, ranging from 1/4 to 1 inch crawled with hairy legs in and around the limpets, doing their job of scraping algae. These pools remind me of a Klimt painting with their opulent colours and bits of gold. 

The Psalmist wrote "There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number - living things both large and small." 

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

(nearly) A Week into April


I am so glad that we had sunshine over the Easter weekend. We were able to gather together with our children and grandchildren and enjoy dinner together, and an egg hunt for the littles. 

A new interest of mine is dyeing fabric with natural dyes. To that end I have a collection of avocado pits in my freezer, and I dried marigolds last summer. As of yet, I've actually dyed nothing. Then I saw some naturally dyed Easter eggs, and thought, "aha!" I had already boiled 7 eggs in preparation for dyeing with food colouring, but my thinking took a hard turn toward natural dyes. I boiled some of my dried marigolds in one pot, a few avocado pits in another, and some Concord grapes from the freezer in yet another pot. Finally, I took the grounds from my husband's pour over coffee and added them to some boiling water. After simmering the dyes, I strained them and poured them into deep bowls or cups (large mugs work well), and added a tablespoon of vinegar to each mixture. I picked some botanicals from the garden and placed them against the shells, then tied some muslin around them. Into the containers they went. 

Unlike food colouring and commercial dyes, natural dyes take longer. Mine sat for most of the day - 8 hours, I would guess. What lovely soft colours. The botanical prints didn't turn out very well, but the wrapping gave some nice effects. Can you guess which botanical dye gave which colour? 

The pale peachy pink came from the avocado pits, the coffee yielded pale brown (the egg right under the flower at the top), the marigold yielded the strong yellow, almost greenish, and the concord grape dye, which looked purple as can be, yielded the blue. When I took the grape dyed eggs from the water, I watched them turn from purple to blue with some greenish spots, all due to oxidation. They also had a thin film of fine crystals on them. Fascinating! 

The egg hunt had to be organized a bit differently this year. While the older grands raced around looking in, under, and over, the 22 month old wasn't up to that. So we "hid" some treats in plain view on the block border and told the older grands they were for Iris. That worked well. Everyone was happy with their treats. Rather than all sweets, we hid granola bars, individual packages of cookies and crackers like Goldfish along with the chocolate eggs. They can take those things in their lunches to school. 

We organized tables for the couples, each with chairs, all socially distanced. The children shared a little table. It was great to be together to celebrate this special day. 

Tomato seedlings are sprouting in the dining room where I have a corner window and lots of light. They are much further along than the above photo shows, and I expect I'll be potting them up towards the end of the week when their true leaves fully form. 

Several times each day I brush my hand gently over the seedlings as I read that that mimics breezes and strengthens the plant. The distinctive scent of tomato plants is already evident. I like the smell, do you?

I've been watching Charles Dowding's Youtube videos about starting seeds and gardening, along with a site called "The Middle-Sized Garden." There is so much wonderful information available to anyone. 

Things I'm looking forward to this week:

* reading this latest issue of Country Living UK

* sowing more seeds indoors - Swiss Chard, various flowers

* spreading some compost from the bins onto the beds

* going for walks with friends and family

What are you looking forward to this week? 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A Day for Ducks and Cake, and Then the Sun Shone

On Sunday morning the rain poured down and the wind blew. It was a wild day. Not a good day for the outdoor birthday party we had planned. Instead, we met under the shelter at Goldstream Park, built a fire in the wood stove there, wore gloves, and listened to the rain drench the forest. A pair of Common Mergansers were not bothered in the least and drifted on the river.

It was a Covid birthday, second time around for my husband. Last year we held a Zoom party, this year, his 65th celebration, we managed to see family face to face. He's a star and the best husband in the galaxy! I made a mirror glaze cake and won't be doing it again. It might look pretty, but I don't like eating the texture of the glaze at all. 

Little Miss Iris showed up in her yellow boots and a matching "muddy buddy". She splashed in the puddles, enjoyed the ducks and loved the balloons we brought for the party. 

Most of the photos I took were terrible because of the gloom under the shelter. Still, we had a great time together, and Tim felt well celebrated. 

Yesterday we woke up to a frosty clear morning. In the afternoon I spent some time in the garden. Red shoots of peonies are sprouting like crazy and I look forward to the blooms in a couple of months. This year, since I have more time to spend in the garden, I'm taking control of the lemon balm and feverfew that come up throughout the beds. I love the way they fill in gaps, but they can be bullies and just take over. 

The candy tuft is blooming, such a bright white, and behind it the grape hyacinths add colour. 

Our case numbers are rising dramatically and we have further restrictions for the next three weeks. Fortunately, our provincial guidelines have always been looser than other places in the country - hair salons and stores have been open since last spring after the initial shut down. However, now restaurants may not serve food indoors (takeout and patios are still permitted), gyms are closed (mostly), and the ski resort town at Whistler has been closed. High time for the latter, I say, for people from across Canada were coming to ski. 

But let us think of happier things, like tiny purple blooms on the rosemary bush and bright sunny days. This morning I'm going for a walk with my daughter along with Iris and Cora. This afternoon I'll sew and perhaps work in the garden for a time. 

Wishing you a day filled with beautiful moments.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday Favourites and What I've Read Online


Are you familiar with Wendell Berry's "The Peace of Wild Things"? 

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

It's a good poem for our time, and one I thought of yesterday when I walked beside the pond with my grandchildren. A number of wood ducks swam amongst the much greater hordes of mallards, all quacking and splashing and diving with no care beyond who on the shore might have a bag of bird seed and thus become their new best friend. 

Spending time with these dear little people (grandchildren, not ducks) drove home to me again some of the loss of this pandemic. Felix started Grade One in September and I've spent no real time with him since last summer. So I was very surprised when I heard him reading out loud in the living room, smoothly, with confidence. When did that happen? While I sense the loss, there is great reassurance that the children have continued to grow and learn and even thrive in the midst of the world's chaos. 

I love the longer evenings when we can walk after dinner in the light. Garry Oak trees are slow to leaf out and I don't mind for I find their twisted branches more interesting in silhouette than in leaf. 

It looks to me as if the branch is reaching out with bony fingers to pat the moon on the head. Not a planned photo, but fun to see when I looked at it later. 

The next full moon is Sunday, but according to the weather forecast we won't be seeing much of it. Rain and wind are on the way for that day. We had planned an outdoor family birthday party, but have had to revise our plans considerably. I will be so happy when we can gather indoors and all sit around the dining room table. It's been far too long. 

Besides spending time with the grands, I've planted seeds both indoors and out. The tomato plants are up (indoors) and every day I check them and brush them gently with my hands as I've read that helps to strengthen them. I took a load of books and a few clothes to the thrift store and am slowly working on spring cleaning. 

I've linked below to some things that I've read online recently and thought you might find them interesting, too. 

Wool and moths - I ordered the moth prevention product mentioned in the comments (kritterkill1 on e-bay), and they've just arrived from the UK. Let's hope they work! I've done some mending of cashmere this winter!

Drinking cocoa - Apparently, sales of drinking chocolate have skyrocketed during the past year. Recipe included.

Be inspired - Agatha Christie's everyday inspirations

Have a good weekend everyone! Enjoy this last week of March. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

A Bit of This and That on a Sunny Tuesday


First of all, thank you for your many kind thoughts and wishes regarding my last post. My voice is back and my throat healed. I'm still careful not to speak too much, but that's not too difficult when I'm home alone most days. Best of all, I'm sleeping through the night - isn't sleep such a wonderful gift? After a solid 6-8 hours I wake up with energy and a bright outlook on the day. 

On a grey and somewhat drizzly Sunday we took a walk. Curving pathways and overarching growth create an air of mystery and anticipation. Although the woods look dull and lifeless, a closer look reveals that much is happening. 

The yellow flowers of mahonia aquifolium (Oregon grape) are some of the first to add colour and cheer to the woods. In summer, dark blue berries form. The First Nations peoples used the roots, bark, and berries of the shrub for medicinal purposes. Although the berries are extremely tart, they make a delicious tasting jam. 
The plant is native to North America, and the botanist David Douglas took plants to Europe to use in English gardens as shady ground cover. Plants have certainly traveled around the world, sometimes for the good, other times not so much. 

Another early bloomer is the June Plum (oemleria cerasiformas), also called the Oso Berry. The leaves emerge from the stem tips and often stand at attention, while the blooms droop downwards in clusters of creamy white and green. Small fruits appear, but although edible, they are quite bitter. Like the mahonia, many parts of this plant are used by the First Nations for medicinal purposes. 

Our Iranian friends celebrated the Persian New Year (Nowruz) on the weekend, at the time of the Spring Equinox. They brought us a traditional decoration of a plate of sprouted greens, along with delicious candies and a bottle of rose water. In the weeks leading to the celebration, it's customary to do a "house shaking" - a thorough cleaning of all corners of the home. 

For Christmas, one of our granddaughters asked for bits and pieces of fabric, lace, and ribbon - "not big pieces, just small ones", she said - along with peg dolls. I had so much fun going through my stash to present a box of materials to give to her. Now during Spring Break, she created a Castle of Love and a set of characters to live there - King, Queen, Princess, and the Queen's twin sisters. Boxes, toilet paper and kitchen paper rolls, tissue paper, and a lot of imagination went into this creation. My daughter sent me the photos. 

Yesterday afternoon I was just about ready to pull on my wellies and do some gardening when the heavens opened and a very cold rain doused my enthusiasm. Later, I wandered around looking at the emerging plants and making all kinds of plans in my head. I stopped to admire these primroses, so perky in spite of the rain. 

Today I'll be baking a cake for a birthday later in the week, and doing a little shopping. Two grandchildren will be coming over for the next two days - although it's Spring Break for them, their parents need to work. I'm so looking forward to some concentrated time with them, something I haven't had since summer. I am weary of this pandemic and will be so very glad when we can gather together indoors as an extended family.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Five on Friday: A Castle, Blooms, and some Stitching


The other day I watched five fat robins in a tree from my bedroom window. They flitted from branch to branch with lots of cheerful chirping. A pot of spring bulbs beside the front door is filling out nicely. Hyacinths, daffodils, and scilla are in bloom just now, with tulips leafing nicely. Sunny, but cool days have been the norm until a few light showers fell overnight. 

This week I arranged to meet my eldest daughter and her daughter, Sadie for a walk around the gardens at Hatley Park. It was the day I usually take Iris, so along she came, too. Unfortunately, we were there in the morning, but were told the gardens didn't open until noon. There have been a lot of schedule changes due to the pandemic. However, there were plenty of paths to wander along, and we will visit the gardens another day. 

The girls are having a snack on a bench in front of Hatley Castle, home of Robert Dunsmuir, heir to his family's coal fortune. About the building of the castle he said, "Money doesn't matter, just build what I want." The lavish construction was completed in 1908 with an exterior of local stone and an interior with oak and rosewood paneled rooms, huge fireplaces, specially made light fixtures, and teak floors. The extensive gardens employed 100 gardeners. 

Dunsmuir was not a pleasant man, from the sounds of things - he ruled his empire with brute force, fiercely stamping out any attempts to unionize, and neglecting safety for his employees. For every million tons of BC coal produced, 23 men died, at a time when the North American average was 6 men per million tons. 

The castle and grounds are now home to Royal Roads University, and previously served as a military college. 

I've been out pottering in the garden, tidying beds, pruning rosebushes, and thinking about changes to be made. Tim built a new L-shaped raised bed in a corner of the garden that I hope to fill with flowers for a cutting garden. The apricot tree displays a few flowers; I hope the pollinators show up in time!

I'm taking part in a scrap challenge for the month of March. Very informal, it's just to deliberately sew with scraps or small bits of fabric leftover from other projects. I'm making a few mini quilts for the grandchildren to use as doll or stuffed animal blankets. There is something very satisfying about sewing these little projects. Tim often has to do email in the evenings, and since I no longer have marking or planning to do, I stitch. 

On a personal note, I damaged my vocal chords and throat when I choked on a miniscule piece of food this week. It's quite painful, and my voice is mostly gone. The doctor assures me that the inflammation will all settle down on its own, so I'm avoiding irritating foods and trying not to speak too much. I overdid the talking yesterday and am paying for it today. 

This weekend I hope to work outside again, clearing out garden beds and clipping all the dried hydrangea blossoms to make way for the new growth. Spring is such a hopeful time of year. Wishing you a wonderful weekend. 

Friday Favourites

  Rich morning light saturated my photos one day this week. Not today. Instead there's been drizzle and grey and a chill wind. I met wit...