Friday, September 30, 2011

The Last Day of September

There are still a few dahlias in my garden. I cut five of them yesterday and plunked them into a soup tureen, along with clippings from the yard (including lots of sage) and one bunch of purchased dark mums. It looks fall-ish to me, as does the gray sky.

Last weekend, when I cooked an early Thanksgiving dinner for our traveling children, I brought out my thankfulness rocks. 

I made these a couple of years ago, when life looked rather bleak, as a reminder to myself of the many, many things for which I could give thanks.

I put them into a hand-carved wooden leaf-shaped bowl from Ecuador and remember that I am blessed.

And I realized that there was one big blessing who arrived this past year, for whom there was no rock.

I promptly remedied that!

This weekend's lineup - overnight guests (2 sets!),
 a little studying,
 a little cooking,
- other than that, things are rather mellow around here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seizing the Day

Tis the season for apples. Via Pinterest I found this recipe for an Apple Upside-Down Cake. I made it last night for dinner, and took a picture, using a flash, which means it's not the greatest photo. The cake was good, not spectacular, but good, slightly spicy, juicy with apples. The sauce definitely made it. Here's a link to the King Arthur Flour site where the recipe originated.

I recently won a giveaway at the Hostess of the Humble Bungalow. It arrived yesterday, prettily packaged and accompanied by a lovely card.

As I contemplate going back to work, this book will definitely be useful. Time to ditch my usual uniform of jeans/cords plus knit top plus sweater/vest. Thank you, Hostess!

As I turned on my computer this morning, I glanced out the window and saw the lovely play of morning light on the Virginia Creeper outside my window. I enjoyed it for a few seconds, then sat down and looked at the screen.

The colours, shadows and textures drew me back, so I seized my camera and went outside (brrr) so that I could share this beauty with you. 

What's beautiful in your world today?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Mantel

I've been itching to get at some fall decorating. We left on our vacation the first week of September when it was still summery and warm. Since our return we've had rain, wind and chilly temperatures. Today, however, the sky is bright and clear, with lovely autumn light that has a special pureness.

I turned in my final essay today. Final. I have an exam on Tuesday and then - I'm done my degree. I'm not certain what the future will hold, but I'm know that God will reveal it all in time. 

To celebrate that essay I indulged in a little creativity. When I use old book covers for my handstitched journals, the guts of the book are left behind. I use individual pages for various things, but have a lot of coverless books lying about. I saw these pumpkins at Craftberry Bush and thought, "aha! just the ticket!" They were fast and easy to do. Keen eyes will note that one pumpkin's words are upside down. It wasn't intentional, but it gives a rather whimsical appearance, I think. 

You can see I'm not really into orange, and very little yellow. I'd like to find a nice big red maple leaf to press and dry - but they are still green around here.

The twig wreath in the top picture was another crafty effort, but didn't turn out the way I'd hoped. I had it marked on Pinterest, from The Bungalow Blog. Then I saw Vee's wreath. And so I went out in the dark one night looking for sticks. Obviously, mine are too small. I want to do another one with a little more heft, but in the meantime, I propped this one up with a couple of feathers and a dried leaf. A corner mantel has a lot of space to fill.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Banff Stopover

On our way home from Alberta last week, we spent a couple of days in Banff National Park. The mornings were cool and crisp, frost covered the rooftops and made us glad we'd thrown in our gloves. 

When the Canadian Pacific Railway was being built, this stopover was known as Siding 29. Three railway workers discovered mineral hot springs nearby and in 1885 about 10 square miles was set aside by the government of Canada as a reserve. The land reserve was soon increased and formed the first national park of Canada. 

I am so very glad that someone had the foresight to protect these lands. The beauty is astounding. People come from all over the world to see the Canadian Rocky Mountains and towns such as Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. 

The railway magnate William Cornelius Van Horne envisioned a series of luxury hotels along the railway to entice visitors. One of these is the Banff Springs Hotel. Set in the shadow of Mount Rundle, at the meeting of the Spray and Bow Rivers, the hotel is enormous, yet dwarfed by its setting. 

We spent most of our time walking and hiking, in town and in the surrounding areas, around lakes, along streams, admiring the superlative beauty of God's creation.

As a treat, we enjoyed afternoon tea in the Rundle Lodge of the Banff Springs Hotel. Our window table looked out onto truly magnificent scenery. Our waiter brought us the tea cart, from which we sniffed and chose our teas. I started with Vanilla Orchid Black tea - it was wonderful. I don't usually drink caffeine and after several cups I felt like I was vibrating, so I switched to peppermint. 

Accompanying the tea was a tiered server with dainty sandwiches (smoked salmon, watercress, egg salad and ham), fresh scones with Devonshire cream and strawberry jam, crème brulée, and a variety of sweets. We lingered long, soaking in the view, talking, and sipping, utterly relaxed.

When we were first seated at our table, Tim looked around and said, "This must be a woman's thing to do." A few more men showed up later, accompanied by their wives or girlfriends. So I suggested that afternoon tea is something that men who love their wives are willing to do. 

And so, our holiday ended, we're home again. Tomorrow it's back to work for Tim and back to the books for me. But not for long!

I'm linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary at the Little Red House. Every week bloggers link up with the most interesting and beautiful posts. Click on over, you just might like it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A New Season

Last night I cooked a special dinner.

It was a mini-Thanksgiving. (Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks - so I'm not all THAT early.)

I made stuffed turkey breast, roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa pilaf, cranberry sauce, and apple pie. For just four of us.

This morning we said our good-byes - Ashley and Owen are off to Europe for a year. With their backpacks and computers. No, they are not flying as dressed above. After leaving our home, they drove to a wedding on Thetis Island. Tonight they will be at Owen's parents' place in Victoria, and tomorrow they'll take the 7 am ferry to Vancouver and catch a plane to Munich. 

It's exciting and we wish them all the best. I'm so glad for Skype and email - nothing like that was available when we left for Ecuador 30 years ago.

But my heart hurts. After we watched the car disappear into the distance and we walked back into the house, Tim and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes. Tim suggested a walk on the beach. It was the perfect thing to do. As if echoing our hearts, the beach was misty, water hidden by thick fog. Yet, by the time we left, the fog was lifting and there was a patch of blue sky. Nature provides such wonderful solace. 

God be with you both, Owen and Ashley.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Beautiful Land

Tim's mother and siblings live in Alberta. We spent most of our time visiting, catching up on what's been happening in their lives.

But there were times for walks - like this one around the pond near Tim's mother's place. Autumn's presence was foreshadowed in the cool mornings and yellowing leaves.

Graceful poplars leaned against the sky. I loved listening to the swishing fluidity of wind playing in the branches. 

One day we visited Dry Island Buffalo Jump - a provincial park near Tim's sister's home. Here the native people used to stampede buffalo over the cliff to kill them, and then employed every part of the animal for their use.

The peace of the grassy cliff and the gray sky beyond belies its gory past.

High bush cranberries grow plentifully. We picked a big bowlful for Tim's sister to make into cranberry jelly. The berries looked easy to pick, but the thorns were fierce!

An abandoned barn in a field of wheat. Evocative of someone's hopes and dreams.

I found the prairie fascinating. It's so very different from the water, rocks and mountains of where I live. The vast openness of land and sky seeped into my heart as I absorbed the beauty of this land. Every region has its own beauty, unique from any other. I feel privileged to live in Canada. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Home Again

Our vacation started two weeks ago with a birthday party in Victoria. Three of our children and their spouses have birthdays in September so we celebrate with one party. The efforts of the birthday boys and girl garnered a lot of laughter. I'm sorry I don't have a photo of the cake because Katie topped it with little Lego people representing each personality. 

Our next stop was Chilliwack, on the mainland, where we spent the weekend visiting my family and eating my mom's good cooking!

Early Monday morning (you can tell just how early by the photo) we headed east, to Alberta.

Up, over the coastal mountains, then across the interior of British Columbia, past Kamloops. We stopped at Yard Creek to run around a little and stretch our legs.

On towards the Rockies. Lunch was a picnic at Hemlock Grove rest area in Revelstoke National Park. 

The leaves were still green, but tired-looking. We soaked in the lovely warm sunshine, enjoying our food.

An inquisitive jay hovered nearby, hoping for some handouts. We kept our food to ourselves since that's what the signs recommended.

At first I thought the huge cloud I saw was just weather, but then we saw the smoke billowing up from the mountain. Forestry officials were conducting a controlled burn to rid the forest floor of debris. Controlled burns prevent larger forest fires from destroying even more territory. Fires are a natural occurrence, often caused by lightning.

Our day ended late, in Red Deer. I'll write more about our vacation in another post.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Ratatouille is one of those dishes from southern France (Provence) that can be oh, so very good, or oh, so very bad. This is a sort of recipe. 

It's a great way to use late summer vegetables - zucchini, eggplant, onions, sweet peppers and tomatoes all meld into a delectable dish. And I've found that it can be frozen successfully - it loses a little of the texture, but not much and if baked with a cheese topping - mmmm good. Of course, fresh is best.

The way I make it takes awhile, so I like to make a big batch and have leftovers. Basically all the vegetables are cut into pieces and sauteed slowly until tender. I like to saute each vegetable separately, in olive oil, each with a separate herb and salt.

Onions - thyme
Red or Orange Peppers - rosemary
Zucchini - oregano
Eggplant - just salt and pepper
Tomatoes - garlic

Combine all the sauteed vegetables and then add a good squeeze of lemon juice and perhaps some finely chopped mint.

I could eat just this for dinner, or lunch, by itself. But paired with some crusty bread and a hunk of cheese - perfection!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Makeup Brushes and Travel Plans

With less courses and a little more time for other things, I stitched up a couple of makeup brush rolls. I made this one for my youngest daughter, 

and this one for myself. The brushes (and mascara tubes, eyeliner pencils, etc) all fit neatly into their slots. It's easy to untie and unroll in the morning and keeps everything neat and tidy.

See the feathers on this fabric? Our little girl, last September's bride, is spreading her wings and flying off to Europe. For a year. She and her husband are taking their jobs with them (via computer) and plan to spend a couple of months in several countries. 

Does my mother-heart go pitter patter? You bet. But this is an opportunity of a lifetime. We will miss them. But I would never hold them back. Our parents let us go freely and now we can do the same. Just because something is hard doesn't mean it isn't good. 

And there's Skype. And a good reason to make a trip to Europe, don't you think?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Words to Inspire

"You have made known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence..."

Psalm 18:11

Friday, September 09, 2011

Gladiolus for a Pink Saturday

Gladiolas remind me of my childhood. My mother grew them in the front and along the side of our house. Standing tall, they symbolize sincerity and strength of character.

A few weekends ago when we babysat our granddaughter overnight, her parents gave us these gladiolas. They were tight buds but opened up beautifully. 

Actually, I would have given THEM flowers for the privilege of looking after the little one, herself a bundle of pink sweetness.

Linking to Pink Saturday, hosted by Beverly at How Sweet the Sound.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

First Anniversary

I've been thinking a lot about the wedding that took place last Sept 4. And looking at photos. So I thought you might like looking too. Here's the happy couple right after the ceremony.

Beautiful flowers ... 

Beautiful cake ... 

Beautiful outdoor setting for the reception.

Happy days, and a happy couple. Isn't memory a wonderful thing?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Of Rocks and Patterns

In the past two weeks I've finished two more courses. I have one left to complete my B.A. in French. And that course is more than half done. Change is in the wind. I feel uncertain. What's next? 

The routine of solitary study, of reading and essays is about to end. It's taken me a little longer than the three years I'd planned - by just a few months. I lost some time in this past tumultuous 18 months - family issues, moving, a wedding, and more. But I always returned to my desk and my computer, to a well-established routine.

Like the beach rocks in the photo, tumbled by the waves, life has a way of shaping human character. Rough and tumble, at times uncomfortable, but always with the hope of smoothing those sharp edges while preserving the essence of being. At least, I hope so. I don't know what beach, figuratively speaking, I'll be washing up on next.  

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

In the Blackberry Patch

Twice during the long weekend Tim and I donned long-sleeved shirts and shoes with socks (I'm barefoot as much as possible in the summer) to brave the thorns of the blackberry patch.

Tim loves blackberries on his granola every morning so we fill the freezer. He's willing to make the effort to get the very best berries - those high up, where the sun sweetens them first. A number of people wandering by commented on what a brilliant idea it was to bring a ladder.

"Our" blackberry patch is just steps from the ocean, at the end of a beach access. A steady stream of people wandered by yesterday afternoon: to walk their dogs, to sit on a bench and read, to wander the rocky high tide line. 

We filled our buckets, then took a short stroll on the beach, enjoying the late afternoon sun - it's warm here these days!

The berries are all tucked away in the freezer - ready for sprinkling on cereal or for baking into muffins and cobblers. This morning I'm drying tomatoes and cherries in my dehydrator. Do you squirrel away food for the winter?

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Late Summer Garden

Sunny days combined with cooler nights mean sweet juicy tomatoes. We're enjoying them a variety of ways, but they are best sliced, on fresh bread, with a little pesto and fresh mozzarella cheese.

The garden delights with flowers, too - fragrant heliotrope, roses, yellow callas, and succulents. Ah, September - summer's last effort.

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary at the Little Red House.

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...