Thursday, August 28, 2008

Through the mountains and back again

We just returned from a week-long trip to Alberta for a family wedding. What a wonderful time of visiting, eating, laughing, eating, and more visiting and eating. The drive was long but oh, so pretty. I love the Rocky Mountains. My husband snapped a few photos while I was driving.

Our youngest daughter came with us and enjoyed visiting (and eating) with cousins she doesn't get to see very often. Here she pulls her cousin's daughter who reminds me so much of my eldest daughter.

My sister-in-law is a wonderful artist. She gave Ashley one of her paintings for graduation. She does beautiful watercolours of flowers and nature.
And then, yesterday we drove home again. We spent the night in Golden, BC since driving all the way from Red Deer to Victoria is a little much. I was so very tired when we arrived. We took turns driving again on the way home and I drove the way over the coastal mountains. Rain poured down and the road was wet and slippery. A semi-truck passed me at one point, and I was completely blinded by the wall of water he threw up. What an awful feeling it was to be moving over 100 km/hour and to not be able to see. I know it was just a second or two but it felt like longer. I thank God for safety and wonder sometimes what He thinks about the speeds we travel - not just on the roads but in our daily lives. I think there's a Russian proverb that says, "God did not invent hurry."

So I'm back home again and eager to get to my studies and to homekeeping again. I cleaned the house thoroughly before leaving and it was such a pleasure to walk in to everything ordered and in its place. I do love being at home.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Peach Blackberry Jam

Yum! I love opening a new jar of jam. The smell of summer rises and I remember the blackberry prickles and my fingers stained purple. Peaches, sweet and soft, are one of my favourite fruits. These jars, wrapped in 0ld music paper are destined for the Alberta relatives.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Summer's End

Bits of dried delphiniums and rose petals, pebbles from the beach and red anniversary roses. Memories of a beautiful summer.
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gather 'Round

When I was very young I longed for adventure and excitement, and neglected the daily rituals of life that are more satisfying. Sharing a meal and conversation with people I love is one of life's greatest pleasures. As my children leave home, marry, and one day, have children, I think that I will always treasure times around the table. Good food, smiles, tears, laughter and the ability to look into each one's eyes are what makes mealtimes together so wonderful.

Mr. Handyman made this dining table of laurel wood 22 years ago. It seats 6-8 comfortably and has three extension leaves. We've crowded 17 people around the table, elbows bumping happily, for special occasions. It's traveled with us from the jungle to the Andes highlands, and now to Canada. To me, this table represents more than just a place to eat. It holds memories of birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving feasts and Christmas dinners.

When we lived in the jungle, our main floor was the second story of our home. I would sit at the dining room table and write letters home to my family in Canada. A huge tree overshadowed the house, but it was still bright because of big windows. I felt like I was sitting in a tree-house. Often, while writing letters I would sense someone watching me. Then, looking outside I saw one or two woolly monkeys perched on a branch, heads tilted, eyes intent on this strange person they could see.

This table, and the memories it holds, are some of my heart's treasures. Around this table we've shared stories of our days, laughed until we cried, prayed, and argued. Some of us have stomped away from the table in anger, but in the end, we all come back to share life here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Going Green

I've never made an Artist Trading Card (ATC) before, although I've received a few. Recently I joined a Yahoo group (Christian Paper Artists) and decided to join an ATC swap. The cards had to include the colour green and to have something to do with the environment or recycling.

Scraps of green wallpaper, gift wrap, old photographs, and canceled postage stamps are what I used - recycled materials to create something new. And the words - verbs that describe ways to live well.

I didn't know how I would like the small size (just 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches) but I found it fun. The limits caused me to think a little more about placement of elements and just how much I wanted to include. These are simple and clean cut, but I can see myself making more in different styles.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mr. Handyman

My husband doesn't think of himself as creative. Yet he is - in so many ways. Oh, give him a paintbrush and some watercolours and he'd be lost, but give him a toy to fix, a cabinet that sticks, or a squeaky floor and he's in his element. He analyzes and comes up with solutions that are so simple and practical. He makes the physical underpinnings of our home work well.
And then he putters in his workshop and creates beautiful furniture. He created many pieces of our furniture while we lived in Ecuador. The mirror above was the last thing he made there and it hangs on our dining room wall.
Stereo cabinet, dining room table, dry sink, breakfast table, end tables, dressers, he has made many of the pieces in our home.

This armoire that hides our television set and provides storage for movies and photo albums below was his latest big project. I love it for the way it functions, more for the way it looks and most of all, I love it for what it represents to me - hours of calculating, measuring, cutting, sanding and finishing by the man I love. And he says he isn't creative....what do you think?
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rainy Night

Yesterday evening the sky darkened and rain fell. Cool breezes came in drifts through the window. What's better on a rainy evening than a cup of tea, some chocolate and an old friend - Victoria. I like to take out the old issues of the current month and peruse them. I'm so glad she's back and will add these to my collection. Victoria never goes out of style.
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Inspiration Board

Rebecca showed this great idea on her blog awhile ago. I finally got around to finishing mine. First, I couldn't find a great picture frame for a price I liked. I found this ultra-plain bulletin board and decided to work with what I had. Instead of wrapping the fabric around the back, I cut it to fit the board, sewed the buttons on, then glued the fabric to the bulletin board, applying glue around the edges and a dab at each button point.
I glued a bit of trim around the edges inside the frame to finish it off a bit better. Now it hangs above my sewing machine, just waiting for inspiration. It won't take long to fill it up with all kinds of pretty things. Right now there's a tag made by a friend and a glass bead piece made by Lilli.
More button detail and trim. I painted the frame with watered down acrylics to give a watery effect. I thought of this detail AFTER gluing on the fabric, so I was very careful with the paint application. When I find a great old frame, I'll make another one. Such a great idea!
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Saturna Island

We've been out on the boat again for a few days. My, it's beautiful out on the water. Yesterday, coming home, was a blueberry and whipped cream morning: blue, blue sky with wisps of airy, white, streaky clouds. I sat in the bow and just drank it all in, thanking God for his amazing creation.

On Monday, we ventured over to Saturna Island. Tim's guidebook highly recommended the food at a bistro run by the Saturna Island winery. We tied up to the dock at Lyall Harbour, from where the book said it was a "fair walk." We asked a local how far it was and were told, "a couple of miles." We like walking and do a lot of it, so we set off.

Well. Both the book and the local resident neglected to mention that the road took us waaaay up one side of the mountainous island and waaay down the other side. And a couple of miles turned into an hour of solid hiking. The road descending into the vineyards was the steepest I've ever seen - I'd be nervous of driving it. By the time we arrived, we were ready for lunch!

And this was the view from our table on the patio; rows of vineyards slanting down to the water, with trees and islands beyond. The only thing that marred our lunch was the thought of the walk back. Fortunately, the steepest part of the road was at the very beginning and 20 minutes of steady plodding and a few stops to catch my breath enabled us to thoroughly enjoy the rest of the walk back to the boat.

For lunch I ordered a pan-roasted sable fish in a cucumber-avocado sauce, with sea asparagus. I'd never eaten sea asparagus before and found it yummy - crunchy and salty and very good with the fish. I'm going to go searching for it in the wild. We did find it in a couple of places, in marshy tidal pools, but they were in parks and so we couldn't pick any.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rustic Plum Tart

I'm loving all the fresh fruit available now. I tried making a fruit tart the other day and mmm, it was so good, and without the fuss of fitting the crust into a pie plate, covering it, crimping it and so on. This went together in a snap. I got this recipe from Fine Cooking magazine - the August/September 2005 issue.

Use your regular pie crust dough. I make mine with whole wheat flour - I like the nutty flavour, and it makes me feel like I'm maybe eating something healthy!

Roll the dough into a 14 inch circle. It's all right if the edges are a little ragged. Fold into quarters and lift carefully onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Unfold.

Prepare the filling:
4 cups fruit - I used plums and a few apricots. Slice them thinly, no need to peel.
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Toss everything together.

Heap the fruit in the center of the dough round. Then fold the edges of the dough over some of the fruit, creating a rim about 2 inches wide. Work your way around the circle, pleating the dough as you go.
Brush the dough with light cream and sprinkle with sugar - I used gold sanding sugar since I had some in the cupboard. But any sugar will work.

Bake the tart at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes. Some of the juice is likely to escape, but that's okay. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream. Or maybe some custard sauce.

Leftovers are great for breakfast!

Monday, August 11, 2008

So soft

Lamb's Ears in my garden. I love picking a leaf and stroking it along my cheek. Children love the soft texture. And it grows so easily. I clip off the flowers as I don't find them particularly attractive.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Unending flowers

When we moved into our home six years ago, I planted cosmos. I love the feathery green and the bright pink flowers. They are so cheerful. Well, I've not had to purchase seeds since. Cosmos reseed themselves wonderfully. They come up nilly-willy in the vegetable patch, the flower beds, even the pots. I let them grow wherever, then transplant them to where I want them. So accommodating.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Stitching Bits and Pieces

I've been inspired by the work of Rebecca Sower and have wanted to stitch a collage for some time. Sunday afternoon seemed just right. The house was quiet and cool. I gathered scraps, needle and thread, a few buttons and embellishments and had the most fun time. I wondered how to make the lettering on fabric - an old typewriter would work well, but I don't have one.
I had the brilliant (to me at least) idea to stamp letters on fabric using an archival stamp pad. Voila! I'm very pleased with the results.
I'm so thankful that God's love never changes - it's constant no matter how I feel. That thought ran through my mind as I stitched.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Day Tripping

The morning sparkled with potential. Light danced across the water like thousands of diamonds. We headed out past Sidney Spit into Haro Strait.
Fighting currents for the last hour, we arrived in Roche Harbor. Only the captain is allowed to disembark until customs is cleared - here at this cute building on the marina.

Then off to explore. Readers of Victoria magazine will recognize this building featured in the May/June issue. Former President Theodore Roosevelt stayed here on two occasions.

All that fresh air made us hungry. We ate lunch here at the Madrona Grill. While there a film crew from the Food Network was filming. I heard someone ask for which show and something about Rachael's travels. We sat down just as the filming finished, so we won't be included. Great food - I had fish and chips - delicately battered cod with crispy shoestring potato fries and a wonderful coleslaw that included red peppers and cilantro.

This amazing dresser is painted and then decorated with buttons. How unique! The effect was beautiful. What a stunning piece this would make for the right room.

This is the store where we saw the dresser - full of lovely home accent pieces and a friendly proprietor. I love the large containers with the wispy green fronds and the colourful flowers below.

We strolled past the chapel, "Our Lady of Good Voyage."

A view from the hill above the harbor. The mountains in the distance are on Saltspring Island, part of Canada's Gulf Islands.

Decorative carving on a wooden bench. These benches were situated throughout the harbor and provided a great place for us to enjoy an afternoon ice cream cone.

Sailing home again, into the setting sun. Actually, there was no wind so we didn't sail - we motored. Not as romantic but more reliable.

Roche Harbor has an interesting history as a company town. You can read more about it here.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Out on the Water

Today is a holiday Monday in Canada. Our province is celebrating its 150th birthday. Rather than face the crowds downtown at the free concert, Mr. Handyman and I are going sailing with some friends.
We'll be heading over to Roche Harbor in the San Juan Islands so I guess I'd better dig out my passport. I'll be sure to take some photos to share with you.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

August Afternoon

Nothing quenches my thirst like water. Cold and clear, I can feel its coolness trickle down my throat and into my tummy. We keep jugs in the fridge all the time, and unlike our American friends, we rarely serve ice with our water. On really hot days, yes, but it's the exception rather than the rule.

I love flavouring the water with herbs from my garden. I just pick a bunch and plop them into the pitcher. Over a day or so the water takes on the delicate taste of lemon balm or mint, even rosemary.

The piece of lace in the picture is one that my daughter brought back from Estonia. It's of knitted lace - not crocheted. Probably 24 inches long and oval-shaped, Ashley said the lady who sold her the piece said that she makes 3 or 4 of these in a day.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

A Little Housekeeping

I've been looking for a metal bucket in which to put my laundry soap. The biodegradable stuff I use comes in a rather flimsy bag, which is fine by me, but tends to spill all over. And I didn't want a plastic bucket. I found this one yesterday and it fits perfectly in the cupboard above the washer. I made a little label for it (well, a rather big label) using a graphic from Karen at the Graphics Fairy blog. I have a black and white printer but if you've got colour - well, the things you could do with all the beautiful graphics on her site...the mind boggles.

I made some sachets, not too strong. These are just squares of leftover fabrics. For the filling, I dried mint, rosemary, roses and lavender, then mixed them with flax seed to plump up the sachets. Tied in threes with some pretty ribbon and an old millinery flower, I think they'll make nice gifts.
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A Bit of This and That

  Off in the distance Mount Baker, in the USA, gleams in the sunlight. My best guess is that it's about 100 km away as the crow flies. T...