Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sunflower


I saw this interesting piece of art hanging in an outdoor gallery along a floating sidewalk in Genoa Bay - a small community on Vancouver Island. The artist had many more pieces there but I liked this one best. Made from old saw blades, the title is Tournesol - Sunflower in French. I like the rustiness of the blades against the rock background. This would be a great idea for some outside art.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Time for Change

The empty nest is a lonely place. Full-time mothering (which can include working outside the home) is a joy. Oh, I'm not whitewashing the frustration and the fatigue - the desire for time alone or just a good night's sleep. But, looking back over the almost 26 years that I've been a mother, it's been the best time of my life. I've loved cuddling babies, chasing squealing toddlers to sweep them up in my arms and kiss their chubby necks, spending long hours reading aloud, planning birthday parties, comforting hurts, and watching them grow into 3 lovely adults. Two girls and a boy we've raised. And now what?

Even through their university years I was busy enough at home - loving the moments when they came in from class in the middle of the day and wanted to chat over a cup of tea. I was so happy that I could be available at odd times whenever they felt like talking with Mom. And the women's ministry at church, the pursuit of writing to be published, occasional substitute teaching kept me in touch with the world outside my home.


But something changed this summer. The youngest graduated from university, went off to Europe, returned and although she's just going to be living in the basement suite, I won't be cooking for her. She won't be sitting around my dinner table. We're setting up guidelines for independent living - for all of us. Phoning before entering each other's space, paying a token rent, getting her own car, etc.

And I faced the fact that although I will always be a mother and my children will always delight my heart, I was starting to look at life through very dark glasses, wondering where my place is in all of this, feeling old and useless. I prayed, took long walks, talked to my husband...and started studying for my French degree. I started it 6 years ago, then stopped because I didn't think I wanted to have a regular teaching job. But things have changed. A regular job sounds good to me again.

So there, on the table are the books for my first three courses - I'm majoring in French and hope to minor in English. It's going to take two and a bit solid years of study. But I'm ready for it. At 51, I'm not ready to coast to old age. I feel energized and purposeful! And suddenly free!

Sewing and crafting will still be part of my life - that never changes. I've been working on some projects that I hope to show you soon.

My daughters were home for lunch on Sunday - eldest daughter and her husband left for Paris that night. We noticed that we were all wearing black and white, so we asked Gerry to take a photo of us on the black and white staircase. I'm the shortest of the three, so I insisted on being on the top stair - it makes me look taller, don't you think? Then Cristal who was planning to climb the Eiffel Tower today, and Ashley. Our son and his wife are in Nova Scotia for a couple of weeks - this is the summer of the traveling children!
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Garden Dance


Hollyhocks and daisies dance to the wind. They bow and nod, retreat and advance. Summer in all its lushness is here - warm days filled with delight, wind with just a hint of sea scent, and everywhere, flowers dancing.
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stitches


When I was 10 or 11, I asked my mom to teach me how to embroider. I read incessantly and often my heroines from long ago days sat and worked with needle and thread. Little Women, Eight Cousins, the Little House books, Anne of Green Gables - the characters in those books were my companions.

My mom gave me a piece of fabric - I wanted to make a hanky (again, the idea came from my books because we always used disposable tissue.) She had some transfers and helped me press the design onto the cloth, then showed me how to make the stem stitch, lazy daisies and french knots. I remember working on it downstairs in the cool basement during a hot summer.

When I found this little square in my sentimental trunk, I could see myself, bent over my stitching, and I felt the satisfaction I felt then at learning something new, the joy of creating.

When I was a young mom, I rarely sat down without something in my hands - cross stitch, crewel work, embroidery - but I lost that over the years. Now, I'm feeling the urge to embroider again - to thread my needle with beautiful colours, to feel the rhythm of the needle going in and out.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer on a Plate


Lettuce and basil from my garden, local tomatoes and mozzarella cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. One of my very favourite summer tastes. Mmm good.

Today is our wedding anniversary. 31 years - it doesn't seem possible! We were so young, with stars in our eyes. I'm so glad to be married to my best friend ever.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Raspberry Picking


Last week one day my daughters and I picked raspberries. Those soft red morsels are oh, so tasty. I like to freeze them in small containers for sprinkling onto cereal or eating with a bit of yogurt for breakfast. Being with my girls is always fun - there's never a lack of conversation.
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Words to Ponder


Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Psalm 36:5
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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cherry Season - Cherry Clafoutis


I do love cherries. The season is so short, which makes me eat all I can, while I can. My mom used to can cherries in sugar syrup when I was a child, but I never liked them that way - only fresh. So I was a little hesitant to try this recipe, since it involves cooking the cherries. But, oh my goodness - it's delicious. We had it for dessert last night and then I ate the rest for breakfast.

The recipe is from the Chez Panisse Cookbook, by Alice Waters. The sauce that goes with it makes the dessert, in my opinion. Sweet cherry flavour with a bit of sharp lemon in contrast. So very good.

Cherry Clafoutis
1 pound sweet cherries (preferably Bing), washed and pitted ( I used about 1 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
pinch ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I substituted a splash of kirsch)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup cream
a pinch salt
powdered (confectioners') sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a baking pan large enough to hold the cherries loosely in a single layer. Prepare the cherries and arrange them in the pan. Sprinkle with with lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, and (1/3 cup) sugar. Bake until the fruit is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Butter another gratin dish large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer, or use four individual gratin dishes. Drain the cooked cherries, reserving their juice in a small saucepan. Arrange the cherries in the bottom of the baking dish. Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Beat in the flour, vanilla, almond extract, and cream. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Stir a little of the whites into the batter, and then carefully fold in the rest. Pour the batter over the fruit in the baking dish, letting a little fruit show through the top.

Bake for 20 minutes, until browned on top. The cherries will peek through. Dust it with powdered sugar and serve warm. (Or cold for breakfast!)

For the sauce, use the drained juices from roasting the cherries. If it seems too thin, reduce the sauce in a pan. The consistency was just right for me without any reduction.

Just a note - I found the recipe quite sweet and would use less sugar in the batter - maybe 1 Tablespoon, or none at all because the cherries are sweet.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stockholm Fountain

We're having such fun looking at the pictures from Ashley's trip. She said this was her favourite fountain - in Stockholm. Doesn't it just look like you could blow on it and all the wisps would fly into the air?
Do you remember sitting on damp grass in the warm sunshine, blowing on dandelions and making wishes? What did you wish for?
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Sewing Love


Check out this great list of sewing blogs. I'm a new member on the list. There is a ton of inspiration and practical help on these blogs. I'm so grateful to Suze for compiling the list.

I love sewing. And I love this machine. Although it says Electrolux as the brand, it's really a Husqvarna (as sold in Canada) or a Viking (I think that's the US brand). Why Electrolux?
I bought the machine in Quito, Ecuador, in 1983. We were living in a little town on the edge of the Amazon jungle. One of my friends had just purchased an identical machine. I'd been looking to replace my first machine. The exchange rate at the time was in our favour and so my husband and I raced up to Quito (5 hours away), with our 14-month old daughter, bought the machine, at the Electrolux store, and raced back, all in the same day. Maybe racing isn't the right word - jolting, jouncing and jiggling are more apropos.
The salesman couldn't understand why I was in such a hurry. He wanted to show me all the bells and whistles of what the machine could do. I already knew how to sew and an instruction manual came with the machine (in Spanish), and I just wanted to get going.

With the help of this machine, I've sewn maternity clothes, baby clothes, school uniforms, costumes, toys, tablecloths, more curtains than I like to think about, gifts, upholstery, quilts, pillows, graduation dresses, bridesmaid dresses, and one wedding gown. I'm actually getting choked up here, writing about all the history this machine and I have shared.

Even my husband (Mr. Handyman) has used this machine to make - get this - a sailboat cover. Yes, last fall he took the machine downstairs where there was more room to spread out and had tarps all over the family room. He stitched and stitched, cutting and shaping the tarp to fit the boat just perfectly. I thought he was nuts, but it worked. The boat was protected all winter.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

A bit of France on the West Coast


During our week on the boat, we anchored in Montague Harbour off Galiano Island. The island is long and narrow, with houses dotting the length of it. We took the dinghy ashore and wandered through the marina, which was just closing at 7:30 pm. Wanting to exercise a bit, we wandered up the road away from the harbour and watched the evening light filter through tall fir trees and lush ferns. About 5 minutes up the road we saw this sign.
"Oh, I remember reading about this place, " said Mr. Handyman. "A woman moved here from France a number of years ago and started a restaurant."
We ventured onto the property and there, tucked among the trees, we saw a wooden building with soft lights shining through the windows. The clink of silverware and glasses drifted on the air, and murmuring voices.
We walked in and saw a room full of small tables and happy diners. We'd already eaten dinner but made reservations for the following night.
What a treat. Each table was set with a vintage printed cloth overlaid with an embroidered piece. Some were tea cloths, others pillow cases or tea towels. It was so charming.
The menu is different each evening. There is a choice of two entrees - our choices were mushroom stuffed chicken breasts or halibut with a tomato ginger sauce. I had the halibut, Mr. Handyman the chicken. Included in the $31 price were soup, salad, entree and dessert.

Our meal began with cream of cauliflower soup - delicately flavoured with a little chopped mint garnish. Then salad or artichokes - we chose the artichokes which came with a sesame oil/balsamic vinegar dipping sauce. Then the entrees - with vegetables and potatoes (with the chicken) or rice (with the halibut). For dessert, Huguette, the restaurant owner, brought us one creme caramel and a slice of cake with strawberry sauce. We had ordered a glass of wine, house French, with the meal, and I had mint tea with my dessert.


I'm pretty fussy about what I eat - we eat well at home. My husband prefers my cooking to most restaurant meals, even the expensive ones. I love to cook and experiment. I guess I'm trying to say, without bragging, that I'm a fairly good cook. This meal was superb - all the flavours were so perfectly balanced - it was like eating a poem.

We talked with Huguette Benger after the meal. She grew up in Avignon and moved to Paris as a young woman. In the 1970's, she said Paris was full of unrest. Her apartment was noisy and she wanted to get away. In her charming accent she said, "So I came to the woods."

The restaurant was not full on Sunday evening, and after she had served the dessert, I could see into the kitchen where she filled a plate with the same food we had eaten and sat down with a glass of red wine to eat her own dinner.

If you ever get a chance to visit Galiano Island, be sure to make a reservation and have dinner at La Berengerie.
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Friday, July 11, 2008

Back Home again

She's back after her European Adventure! Here she is at dinner on the deck last night, showing off her amazing Estonian cap that's a hat and scarf all in one. A little warm for the weather, but cute. She had a wonderful time and I'm loving hearing about all her experiences.


We were away for a few days on our sailboat Journey. We explored a few of the Gulf Islands (just north of the San Juan Islands). They are the same group of islands, but some belong to Canada, others to the USA. They are all incredibly beautiful.
This photo shows an underwater sandy beach off Wallace Island. I just love the textures of rocks, trees, water, grass. We hiked, ate well, read, sat and enjoyed the sunshine and thoroughly relaxed. I spent a lot of time drinking in the beauty around me in huge, quenching gulps.


Perhaps there is a Big Foot! Doesn't this rock imprint look like a footprint? It's huge compared to ours.
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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

From my Garden

One of my rose bushes (and I'm sorry I don't know the name) is just gorgeous. I'm clipping bouquets for the house and for friends. The fragrance is amazing. The bush itself is well over my head. I love looking down on it from my bedroom window.

The other night at dinner I looked at the creamy petals, soft and perfect, blushed with just a little pink and I longed for fabric of that texture and colour. I need to simply enjoy the roses for what they are, just the way God made them.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Friendly Flowers

"Daisies are the friendliest flowers." Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail." These look more like brown-eyed Susans than daisies, but they still look friendly. A page from my art journal.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Gifts from the Sea

"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea."
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Flower Thoughts

My grandma's favourite flowers were pansies - the purple ones. She said they always reminded her of delicate faces.
As the summer warms up, the pansies go dormant. They are cool weather flowers. I still have some, blooming quietly under foliage. I have to peek down to look at them and am rewarded by the play of light and shadow, colour and form.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

I hope all my American friends have a wonderful day celebrating all that is good about their country. Enjoy family, friends and freedom!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Fun Bag


I've been sewing this week. A dress that fits me oddly (or maybe I fit the dress oddly), and this bag. Using fabrics from my stash, I puttered on it for an afternoon and an evening, in between making and eating dinner, watering the garden and the other things that call me away from sewing.

Here's the pattern I used. I like the way the handle works - it's one long circle connected to the bag through four loops. Pulling the handle also closes the bag. I used it yesterday while wandering used bookstores in Sidney (BC) with my eldest daughter. I made the medium size and it was spacious enough for an extra sweater, water bottle, the two books I bought, plus my regular purse paraphernalia.

For more great sewing projects check out Sew, Mama, Sew - Always a great source of information.
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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Birthday, Canada


The flag whips in the wind behind our sailboat, Journey. I am proud to be Canadian. During the years we lived overseas, when I got homesick, I thought about the family I missed and the land I came from. And when we came for visits, my eyes pricked with tears when I saw the Canadian flags and the signs welcoming me to Canada. This is my earthly home and I am blessed.

We're spending the day at home - Mr. Handyman is installing an automatic sprinkler system. I'm finishing a dress and doing some cooking in preparation for next week's vacation. We'll grill a steak (marinating now), eat on the patio, and perhaps go downtown around 9:00 pm to watch the fireworks and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
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Exploring the Czech Countryside

Most of our time in the Czech Republic was spent in Prague. One day, however, we ventured out of the city to Krivoklat Castle, in Centr...