Sunday, July 31, 2011

Newcastle Island

Summer has arrived on the west coast. It's still cool, but the sunshine is beautiful. On Sunday Tim and I went to Newcastle Island, just off of Nanaimo. A water taxi took us, and our bicycles across the water, about a 10 minute ride. 

We biked and hiked, peered at rock formations, ate lunch overlooking the sparkling sea, and learned about pulp stones. In the mosaic you can see photos of round rocks - a circle was drilled into the the rock with a special cutter (behind me), and then a small charge of gunpowder placed underneath it to loosen it. The rocks were shipped all over North America and used to grind logs into pulp for making paper. 

Thanks again to Mary for hosting Mosaic Monday.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Postcard from Europe

Our eldest daughter and her husband are currently in Amsterdam. They flew there today after spending a week in Rome. Cristal's email this morning was so evocative of what I imagine an evening in Rome to be that I thought I'd share it with you.

On our last night in Rome we took the Metro to yet another famous piazza -- this one had a Bernini fountain depicting the four great rivers of the four known continents at the time.  We wanted to cap a wonderful week with one last really good Italian meal.  We ended up sitting at a cafe table in an alley off the piazza.  Graffiti, broken cobble stones.  

A palm reader set up table behind us.  But there was a steady stream of pedestrian traffic and the waiter was friendly and compelling.  The food was wonderful -- tomato with mozzarella and fresh basil, followed by a creamy pasta course, followed by a main course of roasted veal with herbed potatoes, followed by tiramisu.  The house wine was excellent.  We strolled home, half an hour across old Rome, through lively piazzas and cafe-lined alleys.  The city really is best at night when the air cools slightly and the monuments are lit.

Does that not make you long to be in Rome? 

Holland would be fine, too - just look at that sky. The world is full of beauty.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Answering a Question

Some days I wonder if I've reached the end of blogging. Ideas seem trite. I don't have time to sew or knit or craft in this last push to finish my studies. I feel empty, lacking inspiration. My life is so very ordinary.

Then a rush of ideas come. One piling onto another. Today is such a day.

Yesterday, Vee celebrated her 4th year of blogging. In my comment on her post I asked the question, "Have you found that thinking of fodder for your blog causes you to look at life differently?" 

Vee answered in the comments and then asked the question back to me. My initial answer is yes, but then I thought a little more. How has it changed? And why? And how can I explain it?

So I've been thinking about it for most of the day, in between working on my French Poetry and Theatre of the 19th century (Poésie et théâtre du 19e siècle) course.  

I'm finding that blogging is a lot like poetry. It's concise. It requires paying attention. What do I say and what do I leave out? Rather than providing a complete picture of my life, blogging allows me to reveal snippets, a bit at a time, as I feel comfortable. Slices of life rather than the entire loaf.

Blogging hasn't so much changed the way I view life as it has refined it. I'm more attuned to the moments of life rather than just the big picture. I pay attention. I look for beauty. I care for other people who also share snippets of their lives - most of whom I have never met. Blogging has opened up a wider world of like-minded people.

Blogging has sharpened my focus and given me another perspective. It's caused me to bend low to look at minute details and to widen my gaze to grander vistas. 

So now I'm asking YOU the question, slightly tweaked - how has blogging refined your attitude to life?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chocolate and Raspberries

It's raspberry season and while we don't have any plants of our own, I buy them and thoroughly enjoy them. I brought a flat home today, most of them will be frozen for the winter, but I saved a few to eat fresh.

While rummaging in the fridge freezer I discovered three individual tart shells. I made desserts for a group some time ago and put the leftover shells away for later. It's a lot later - probably a couple of months. 

While on Sonora Island last week, I was looking through Julia's cookbooks and came across a chocolate and fruit tart that sounded wonderful. This is an approximation, and I don't have a real recipe. But it's easy.

Bake tart shells - or a full pie crust. Pour a chocolate ganache over the bottom. (Heat cream, add chopped semi-sweet chocolate and stir until smooth.) Let cool. Top with fresh raspberries before the mixture sets up. 

Glaze it with apricot jam (heated) if you like. I skipped that step, preferring to savour the slightly tart berries. Chill until ready to serve. This would also be good with whipped cream. 

This was my haul from the garden today. I roasted the yellow squash with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a chopped red pepper. With the kale I sauteed it along with an onion, added some garlic and a lump of cream cheese along with a little chicken broth, and threw in a handful of chopped black olives at the end. 

The tiny broccoli and cauliflower will wait for another day, as will the zucchini and lettuce. What luxury to eat from the garden. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Found Art

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
 pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest, but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Prayer, by Mary Oliver

Each of the photos in today's mosaic was taken by looking down on the ground. A collection of stones, a fallen leaf, a log riddled with woodpecker holes, detritus left by wind and waves, and small plants that are easy to overlook.

I am learning to pay attention to the small things as well as the grand vistas in life. Paying attention requires effort, especially in this age of too much to do, too many devices, too little time. Paying attention makes me thank God for his attention to detail, in nature and in my own life.

Once again, I'm joining with others around the world and linking to Mary's Mosaic Monday.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Simple Gifts

One last post about our backwoods adventure. Casey and Julia live simply. There is no store or post office on Sonora Island. They go to Campbell River every 6 weeks or so to purchase staples, check their email, and pick up snail mail. They have no refrigeration or electricity, beyond solar power enough for a light in the evening. In the winter a neighbour with a small hydro plant, shares enough electricity so that they can have light all day and watch a movie on their laptop computer. 

Casey built this clay oven. One evening during our visit, I walked up the road and purchased a freshly killed chicken from a neighbour. Julia gets her eggs there as well. 

Julia and Casey made pizza and then we roasted the chicken, along with a few vegetables, in the oven. It was all delicious.

Tuesday was bright and sunny, so we went for a short sail in their small catamaran. It was fun to get out on the water. We've missed sailing since we sold our sailboat.

The water sparkled. Warm sun poured down. Waves lapped, and the boat movement lulled us.

On Wednesday, before we left the island, we visited the former home of one of the community. This gentleman has since sold this property and built a home on another property.

Above is the stump house - constructed around a tree stump. It's like a cave, with a dirt floor, and apparently Dave spent several years living here. The sign says, "Beware of angry hermit."

Another sign warns of "precipitous zigzag ahead" -  

The trail was indeed precipitous, but there's a sturdy handrail as well.

And at the top of the "precipitous zigzag" is a castle door.

This is the view from the top, in another direction than the one I showed previously. Can you imagine waking up every morning to this? Amazing.

And then it was time to leave. We packed up the tent, loaded everything into the bicycle cart, and Tim took it down to the dock.

Here we are, ready to leave. We really didn't carry our packs very far, but it looks impressive. I'm clutching a bag of plants that I'll add to the landscape in my yard. They will always remind me of this wonderful experience.

I'm so happy to go on adventures with my husband. Today is our wedding anniversary. It's been a wonderful 34 years. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

On the Mountain

Listening to raindrops falling on a tent while I'm cozy and dry is a wonderful delight. Rain has a most soporific effect, don't you think?

But Sunday dawned dry, if not sunny. We put a few things into a day pack and went for a wander. Behind Julia and Casey's house the mountain rises steeply. We meandered up and up, stopping to look at interesting mosses, a rough-skinned newt, various mushrooms, and other things that caught our attention. There was no hurry, just enjoyment of God's beautiful world.

Our walk took us to the spot pictured above. It's the same spot in the last post. If you look carefully, you can see the lighthouse as a tiny speck on the rocks. In the distance are the Octopus Islands, and Quadra Island, long and narrow.

It's hard to drink in so much beauty. At every turn the vista is awe-inspiring. My heart feels like it can't expand to hold any more.

I took this photo to give an idea of how high above the water we were. You can barely see the people on this sailboat. It was interesting to watch boats coming through Hole in the Wall. They waited at the east end of the passage until the tide turned slack before attempting the passage. We stayed up on the mountain for quite awhile, and one boat, quite a bit behind the others, started through then turned back as the tide turned to flood and the currents became too strong.

This tiger lily bloomed in the forest, gorgeous and intricate. Julia and I wondered how many other flowers bloom and no one looks at their beauty, but they display their gorgeousness anyway. We thought that probably God looks at them all and appreciates them.

We drank water from pure mountain streams, clear and cold and delicious.

These shelf fungi are like little stair steps up the tree - for fairies or elves, perhaps?

Here is the "Grandma Tree" - gigantic and probably 800 - 1000 years old. This part of the forest has never been logged and everything there is first growth.

After 6 hours of tramping about the woods, we returned to our little tent, happy to lie down and read a book. Here's the view we could see - a little fuzzy since I took the photo through the screen. 

Oh, and the reading didn't last long - the books soon dropped, our eyes drooped and we enjoyed a lovely nap.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

To the Back of Beyond

Last Saturday Tim and I drove north to Campbell River, hoisted our backpacks (and carried a couple of extra bags), and jumped on this water taxi to Owen Bay on Sonora Island, one of the Discovery Group of Islands.

We passed through Seymour Narrows, site of the infamous Ripple Rock planned explosion of 1958 to make navigation safer. The link takes you to a video of the actual explosion which took the tops off of two underwater mountains in the center of the passage. This explosion still stands as the largest non-nuclear explosion in the world.

And it rained. And rained. But even in the rain this is beautiful country. The mist hangs on the mountains, cloaking trees in ethereal white and blurring lines between ocean, land, and sky. 

After an hour on the water taxi we arrived at Owen Bay where Julia, Tim's nephew's wife met us with a bicycle cart. We followed her up the muddy road to their home.

When Julia and Casey first arrived here about a year ago, forest surrounded their tiny home. Since then they have cut down trees (which become wood to heat their home) and planted an amazing garden among the mossy logs and tree stumps. 

We pitched our yellow tent next to a gigantic stump. The screen tent on the other side held some of our extra gear and serves as an outdoor cooking/eating area, which we didn't use. 

Here's another photo of the garden. It's been cool and rainy all spring and summer, so the plants are not quite as far along as normal. 

In the evening, the rain stopped and we walked out to view Hole in the Wall, another one of BC's narrow water passages. Tidal currents are tremendously strong here and navigating the passages is a tricky business for sailboats.

But oh, the beauty and peace of this place. I'll share more tomorrow.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I lift up my eyes to the hills - 
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip - 
he who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you - 
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm - 
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Indoors

We've had so much rain and cool weather that summer seems like a magic trick gone wrong. 

I wrote the above sentiment on my chalkboard and set it on the mantel as a means of inspiring myself. 

Several years ago Deborah gifted me with some vintage paper. She had it all organized and dated - some sheets from pre-1850. 

I've been storing it all this time, and decided that no one can appreciate it in the closet, so I took some of it, rolled it up and tied it with vintage blue seam binding and placed it in the tall glass container. I like the look of old paper a lot. And the sea shells under glass remind me that surely the sun will shine again and I'll get to the beach. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pink Sweetness

For our camping trip a couple of weeks ago, I made some chocolate cheerio pops - for the grownups. But this little one's mother decided to let her have a go at it too. I think she liked the sprinkles best of all. It's a little hard to bite anything without teeth. 

She was the cutest little camper I ever saw - that hat, and a pink fleece vest. 

After turning in two big assignments, I rewarded myself with a little time on Picnik. In honour of the Space Shuttle's last flight, they have some Space textures to try out. This is one of them. 

I'm joining Beverly's Pink Saturday for the first time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

O Summer, where art Thou?

I know that many people are experiencing extremely hot temperatures. And I sympathize with you. Somewhat. Because hot is not what's happening around here. 

Early Wednesday morning I awoke to lightning flashing in our room followed by thunder rolling and booming in the hills. We rarely get thunderstorms and the sound took me back to Ecuador where they occurred frequently. And then the rain began. And it rained all day. Sometimes hard, sometimes just a drizzle. 

You can see my poor roses are beaten down with the rain. This morning is cloudy, but brightening and I have high hopes for a more summery day.

This cooler weather is great for some things, though. My squash plants are enormous - and under those leaves are many zucchini growing their little hearts out.

The brassicas are doing well, too. I planted my vegetables wherever there was a little space, and this is the view from my office window. It's the first time I've grown brassicas and I'm quite liking it.

Looking more on the bright side of things, this is the first dahlia. Isn't she a beauty? She looks like she's been crying a little, but I think those tears will dry up soon. 

Meanwhile, I'll make myself a cup of tea, put on a sweater and keep plodding away - another essay is in the works, this one in French. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

To Market, To Market

...To buy a fat pig. Home again, home again, jiggety jig. 

We didn't buy a fat pig, although I did purchase a pork roast at the Qualicum Beach Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, along with fresh strawberries, tomatoes, snow peas and other veggies.

We went by bicycle, about a 35 minute ride. Come along with us on our route home, past quiet country houses, 

through sun-dappled woods,

past quietly grazing llamas,

and over a small bridge where we stopped to gaze into the stream.

Seeing the golf course meant we were getting closer, 

and after passing this mini field of lavender, we knew we were almost home.

Joining in Mosaic Monday at the Little Red House. Come on over and see more mosaics of life in various places around the world.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Rewards of Summer

I've said it before and I'll probably say it again - I'm so happy with my fenced yard! It means I can grow things both pretty and useful. These roses are in the pretty category. Roses give wonderfully immediate rewards. Unlike planting a lilac or rhododendron or peony plant, roses bloom the first year. I currently have two bushes. This one is called Bolero - and reminds me of the ruffles of a flamenco dancer's costume. Intricate layers folding in and over. Delicately scented - gorgeously beautiful.

This rose's name is Secret. And I have a suspicion that it's the same rose I had in Victoria - I'll check next time I'm down there. I have been lax at keeping track of the names of my roses, but other bloggers who toss off names have shamed inspired me to do better.

I love the pink edges that bleed into white, and the scent is reminiscent of apples and roses. Just delicious. 

We're enjoying strawberries as well as roses around here. They are from the same botanical family - rosaceae, as are apples and other tree fruits. Maybe that explains the apple scent from the Secret rose. 

This recipe was inspired by my daughter, who came up with a list of favorite ways to enjoy fresh strawberries.
Unfortunately my avocado was not the best. But I'm definitely planning to make this again, with a better avocado next time. The finely chopped candied ginger makes for a nice bit of spice. 

This is not a recipe, per se, more of a guideline. 

Avocado Strawberry Salad

fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced if large
avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
candied ginger, finely chopped ( I used 2 teaspoons of this to one avocado)
freshly chopped parsley

Combine all and gently toss with raspberry vinaigrette. (Mine has a hint of mustard in it.) Serve over lettuce, or on its own. Simple, and oh, so delicious.

Days at Home

  Last night after dinner the sunshine illuminating the bouquet of peonies prompted me to grab my camera. I love the frilly elegance of the ...