Sunday, May 29, 2011

Around the Yard

"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." 
Margaret Atwood

Yesterday, I smelled like dirt. After a week of rain, I couldn't resist the pull of sunny skies, and I spent Saturday weeding, transplanting, and screaming at the sight of snakes - 2 live ones and one empty skin. 

This afternoon I went around the yard with my camera, taking photos of the first flowers. How wonderful to be seeing a little color here and there amongst all the green. And although the photo doesn't show it, there was a lovely bee buzzing in the lavender.  With the collapse of bee colonies, seeing a bee is a very good thing. 

Linking to Mosaic Monday.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Delights of the Season

I try new recipes all the time. Some I make more than once, like this one. Dorothy gave me this recipe about 30 years ago. She's the wife of the physician who delivered our eldest daughter in a small jungle hospital in South America.  I remember first eating this - it was so deliciously cool and frosty - perfect for a hot and humid climate. 

I've made this recipe more times than I can count. I like having it in the freezer during the summer - to me, it's better than ice cream! 

Strawberry Squares

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Crumble the above ingredients all together, using your hands or a food processor. Place in a 9 x 13 inch glass pan. I just put all the ingredients in the pan and mix it there. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Let cool completely. Take out about 1/3 of the crumbs to use for a topping, and ensure that the remaining crumbs are scattered evenly over the pan bottom. Set aside while you make the filling.

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups partially frozen strawberries (or raspberries)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, place the egg whites, sugar, strawberries (with any juice) and lemon juice. Beat at high speed for 10 minutes. You will have a bowl full of lovely strawberry meringue. This can splatter so take precautions.

Whip the cream in a separate bowl until stiff. Fold cream into the strawberry mixture. Turn into glass pan, on top of crumbs. Smooth the top, sprinkle on reserved crumbs. Freeze for at least 6 hours. Cut into squares to serve. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rainy Days

Dull, drizzly skies this week had me craving bright color. There's nothing but green in the yard just now, so I bought a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store and de-constructed it.

Five golden gerberas stand like sentinels of spring and hopes of summer in recycled condiment bottles on my dining room table.

Their brightness reminds me that summer will come, and that God is very present.

In my comfortable home, I think of those who have lost much in the past few months - floods in Manitoba and Quebec, fires in Slave Lake, floods and tornadoes in the USA, earthquakes in Japan, wars in Africa and the Middle East. And I wonder that I even dare to complain about the rain and cold. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Making Things

I love making collages. Doing more of them is on the list of "things to do when I'm finished my degree." The list is getting longer and I'm becoming more impatient. But I'm continuing to focus on studying while doing just enough other stuff to keep me sane. I made the above collage for a friend. It didn't take long and I had such a good time playing with paint, paper and scissors.

Here's something else I made. And oh, it was too good not to share. Ultra-simple and ultra-delicious! Toasted whole grain bread topped with Nutella and fresh strawberries. I also tried it with peanut butter, but the nutella won - according to the tastebud poll. Unfortunately, the strawberries are the sort of crunchy ones from California since our berry season is at least a month away. Try it, you'll love it! 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Victoria Day Sunshine

The Monday on or before May 24th is when Canadians celebrate Victoria Day - in honor of Queen Victoria's birthday on that day in 1819, and to celebrate the reigning sovereign's birthday as well.

Traditionally, this weekend is also the weekend to plant gardens. And so I did - all my starters are in the ground, some protected still by row covers because it has been a very chilly spring.

Beguiled by the today's sunny weather, we celebrated with a barbecue, and enjoyed our meal outdoors. I'm so thankful for the fence, creating a private yard in which to enjoy ourselves without the world's eyes upon us. 

Both daughters, one son-in-law and a friend joined us for lunch. The cherry tree is full of blossoms and Gerry found great pleasure in shaking the blossoms all over Cristal, and scattering them on Ashley and even Tim. It was like pink snow! After lunch we took the dishes indoors, made tea, and played a game of Ticket to Ride. We just didn't want to miss any of the glorious sunshine!

I'm hoping this is the beginning of a long, long stretch of sunny days. An occasional drizzly Thursday would be just fine. 

Joining in with many other bloggers for Mosaic Monday.

Friday, May 20, 2011


New countertops, new sink, and now, new backsplash. Here's my talented husband in action. This weekend he hopes to begin the grouting. 

I thought about cropping out the dishes in the sink, but hey, I decided to keep it real. My kitchen is not always spotless, especially when I'm cooking in one corner and tile is being laid in another.

I'm really liking the tile we chose in spite of the fact that the bigger tiles are not as white as I'd anticipated. I'm glad I've waited to choose the color of the cabinets until I can coordinate it with the tile. The cabinets are going to be a shade of white as well. 

When you renovate, do you make all the choices at once or as they come? I always thought designers came up with the total concept, down to the last paint chip, all at once. However, watching design shows more closely has me thinking that they don't. How something looks en masse is very different from one painted cabinet door or one ceramic tile. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eggs of Many Colors

Recently Tim put up a notice on Craigslist for free cabinets and glass shelves - things that we no longer needed and were taking up space in the garage. The woman who came for the shelves asked if I would like a dozen eggs.

She handed me a carton and drove off. What a delight to open the carton and discover this Rainbow Package of eggs, complete with a map! The eggs come from:

* Bronze Breasted Turkey
* Danish Brown Leghorn Chicken
*Ameraucana Chicken
* Barred Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island Red
* Australorpe Chickens
* Silver-Laced Wyandotte Chicken
* Bantam Silkie Chicken

They range in size from small and dainty to robustly round - that would be the brown speckled turkey egg in the foreground.

Chicken keeping seems to be all the rage. I know I've thought about it. I'm just not quite ready to make the commitment yet. But how fun it would be to gather such pretty eggs.

There are some amazing backyard chicken coops out there. Heather Bullard has one. Andrea has another. These are chicken coop palaces! 

edited to add: I don't often post about giveaways here, but there's one at Carol's site, Raised in Cotton, that I think you'll want to investigate. A gorgeous linen tablecloth, perfect for summer, from Cabbage and Roses. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

From Sea to Sky and Back Again

They say a change is as good as a rest. So I packed up my books and papers, along with my swimming suit, and accompanied my husband to a conference in Whistler. He attended the conference, I studied, swam and walked. 

The first two days poured rain. I love swimming and since the outdoor pool is heated, the cold drizzle on my head was juxtaposed with being immersed in warm water. 

Tuesday morning we awoke to no rain and faint patches of blue sky. On the banks of a creek these four very large chairs await sunnier days of contemplation.

My walk took me across the creek via this covered bridge. 

Although most of the snow is gone from town, there's still plenty of it up in the mountains. These snowboarders are off to catch the gondola lift.

Spring is coming to Whistler. Daffodils were in bloom and a few brave tulips. Whistler is the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Last year there was a dearth of snow in the hills around Vancouver. This year, there's an abundance. 

Whistler Village sits at 2214 feet (675 metres) above sea level. The difference in spring's arrival was remarkable. Few trees had green leaves. Descending to sea level was like going to another climate entirely. 

So, home again, and back to studying, without swimming breaks this time.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Words to Inspire

"What do you want me to do for you?" He asked.

Jesus ... said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Matthew 20: 32     Matthew 19:26

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lilac Time

" the perfume of the lilacs came in little puffs on the crystal air."

L. M. Montgomery

I do love lilacs. Their season is all too short. Looking over my pictures, I realize that I have no photos of the lilac bush in our yard in Victoria. The photo above was taken 2 years ago in East Sooke Park.

Tim and I decided, on the May long weekend in 2009, to hike the entire length of the Coast Trail. We had a wonderful time. Along the way I spied this lilac bush, blooming its heart out, in the middle of nowhere. It marks the site where a cabin once stood.

Yesterday, I went out and bought a lilac bush to place in our newly fenced yard. I don't know if deer eat lilacs, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did. So I'll keep it safe.

On another note, I'm so glad to see that Blogger is back. It got me to thinking. I have no way to contact some of the bloggers I consider friends, except through their blogs. I'm thinking that I should create a file of email addresses - just so I can contact them if Blogger decides to take a longer holiday. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Crispy Chocolate Almond Pastries

On Saturday I had a hankering to try out this recipe I'd found on line awhile ago. It turned out well, although I will make some changes next time. This pastry, with crispy phyllo layers touched with butter and a crunchy nutty chocolate center - all topped with a dusting of icing sugar - simple and oh, so good.

A recipe is hardly needed. I melted 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips and stirred in about 1/4 cup of slivered almonds. For each roll, I used one sheet of phyllo pastry, brushed with melted butter, then folded in half. A good tablespoon of chocolate was placed along the bottom center of the pastry, the sides folded in, more butter applied, then the pastry was rolled up, placed on a parchment lined baking sheet, brushed with more butter, and finally, baked at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Dust with sifted icing sugar and serve while slightly warm.

Next time, I'll add some cream to the chocolate mixture to make more of a ganache. I found that the chocolate chips hardened fairly quickly. Adding some candied orange peel or candied ginger would add a little zip as well. And I'd toast the nuts. 

I'm linking to White Wednesday at Faded Charm. 

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Weekend Potpourri

It was a lovely weekend. Skype calls from my daughters, pink roses from my husband, and a visit from the grandbaby and her parents. 

In between Saturday's rainstorms we wandered through the Fire and Ice Festival in Qualicum Beach. Ice sculptures created works of art from blocks of ice using power and hand tools. The Fire element came from the chili tasting. Three dollars bought a paper cup with a spoon and a tasting experience of up to 25 different chilis. I think I may have tried about 6 of them - all different, some spicy, some not. Lots of street entertainment filled the air with music. I took the photo of our son tying his wife's shoe in the street - such a sweet thing to do.

After the baby went to bed in the evening we played Mexican Train - from double zero to double 12s in spite of Tim's glances at the clock after every round. Sunday morning we went out for brunch. Adria wore the outfit I made for her at Eastertime. It's a little big, but she looks so adorable in pink (and any other color.)

The sun shone in the afternoon after they left for Victoria, so Tim and I went for a walk on the beach. Spring is definitely here to stay and we're hoping for summer's soon arrival.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, celebrating spring, Mother's Day, or just being alive. For more mosaics, please visit Mary at the Little Red House.

Happy Mother's Day

I love this photo of my mom and me. It was taken almost two years ago, at a concert we attended in Vienna. My mom is a beautiful woman, inside and out. I owe so much to her - I love to cook and sew because she taught me. Homemaking is something she excels at. My children used to joke that if I was cleaning the oven, Grandma must be coming. Not quite true, but almost.

My mom has a strong faith, is a peacemaker, prays for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, loves her husband and is loved by us all.  

"Her children arise and call her blessed..."

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Friday, May 06, 2011

It's been one of those weeks. A couple of major disappointments put me into a bit of a funk. On the positive side, I finished another course (the dreadful Political Science), and received some lovely mail two days in a row.

The fabric above is from Cloud 9, and I won it in a giveaway on Noodlehead's blog. Along with the fabric she included a download of her 241 Bag pattern. I hope to be making the bag soonish. The fabric is organic cotton and has a lovely feel to it. Thank you, Anna.

Yesterday this parcel arrived. French scent and soaps, oooh la la! The scent is Rose Eternelle and smells like the flowers from one of my rosebushes in our garden in Victoria. Sweet and light. Love it. This giveaway was hosted by Slavica from Seductively French. Thank you, Slavica.

And although the week has not been the best, I'm looking forward to the weekend. Our son and his wife are coming up (with the grandbaby, of course). So today I'm fluffing the house, shopping for groceries, and cooking - with a spritz of rose scent to make me feel elegant.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Kitchen Progress Report

This was the wall dividing the kitchen from the dining room - in February. A temporary plywood top, and note the ugly-to-me countertop.

Beginning of April. The wooden shelf is finished and nicely complements the floor and the stair railing. I love the way the light streams into this house.

And here is the new counter top. Tim finished it on Monday, and I'm so glad to be done with the green/orange stuff. Now I think all the green is banished. Not that I'm opposed to green, but the colors in the house were quite atrocious. This photo highlights the browns in the counter top, whereas the next photo highlights the grays. It's definitely more gray than brown. Amazing what light can do.

And a close-up of the counter top, where it meets the slide-in stove. Tim put a Corian edge on the counter and I like the way it finishes it off. Next, the tile backsplash. The materials should be in early next week. And after that, painting the cabinets - the last job. It's been a long project, but progress is definitely being made.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Playing with Clematis

I took some more photos of the clematis seen in my last post. Then I spent a happy hour playing with the color settings, the saturation and other options in Picasa. The original photo is the one at top left. 

Looking at photos on various blogs, I've noticed that many are filled with light. Tracy Ayton is one photographer who has a lot of white in many photos. Jill is another.

Then, I've recently noticed another trend, of more saturation and contrast, giving almost a "wandering on the Bronte moors" look to photos. Alicia does this beautifully. 

I'm a strictly amateur photographer. Someday, I'd like to take some courses, or spend some time studying all the wonderful tutorials on the Internet. People are so generous with their knowledge. In the meantime, I'll play with Picasa a little and enjoy my clematis.

How about you? Where do you learn about photography? 

Speaking of photography, Mary, the hostess of Mosaic Monday, is a superb photographer, and many of the blogs that link to the site are filled with equally wonderful photos. Click on over and take a look!

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