Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tastes of Summer

Summer is so short here that I feel the need to make the most of every possible minute. One way to do that is with the food we eat. Meals on the deck using the grill for cooking, picnics by the sea or in the woods, casual get togethers with family and friends - I love summertime. Cooking needs to be easy - and what's easier than compiling the fresh tastes of the season.

Herbed Cottage Cheese Spread makes the most of the fresh herbs that are flourishing in my garden just now. It's easy to put together and yummy with toasted or fresh baguette slices, crackers from a box, or fresh vegetables. I put the recipe on my other blog, you can find it by clicking here, or the recipe name above.

The fresh taste of water can hardly be improved upon, but I like adding just a hint of flavour with fresh herbs like mint or lemon balm. Pick a handful, rinse them, and place them in a large jug of water. Let sit in the fridge for a few hours and the herbs will gently flavour the water. 

This afternoon my husband asked me what the undersea garden in the fridge was for. It took me a minute to figure out what he was talking about.

For a mildly sweet treat on a hot afternoon, popsicles are just the thing. I have some old Tupperware molds and fill them with blended fruits, yogurt, or in this case, coconut milk. I call them Almost PiƱa Colada Popsicles and the recipe is easy-peasy. Click on the name to go to the recipe.

Last Sunday our Little Miss devoured almost an entire popsicle - her father finished it off. 

As I write this, on Wednesday evening, the sky is heavy and rain drips down. It doesn't feel very summery around here. But I'm hopeful. Are you thinking about summer? What summer tastes do you enjoy?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The First Roses

 The first roses are blooming in my garden. I think this is the earliest I've seen since we moved here 10 years ago.  I have no idea what kind of rose this is - but it has a delicate scent and blooms prolifically throughout the summer, if I continue to deadhead it. Unfortunately, black spot is rife here and my roses are infected with it already. 

After a week that began with rain and cold, the sun began shining midweek and the temperatures warmed up considerably. A chill wind coming off the water meant we were happy for our jackets and long pants, as Little Miss is modeling above. She would run straight into the waves and is not frightened by the ocean's vastness at all. Bubbles, rocks, seaweed and sand fascinate her.

Flocks of gulls stood on the beach, all facing into the wind, their feathers ruffling. This one looked out to sea, probably thinking, "When is the wind going to stop? Mrs. Gull is expecting me home to do my chores soon."

Happy Memorial Day to my American friends. I'm linking to Mosaic Monday at the Little Red House. Thank you, Mary, for hosting us once again.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What kind of tree would you be?

Did you ever have to answer a question like the title of this post - what kind of tree would you be? I remember prompts like this in school, given, I suppose, to stimulate our imaginations. Regardless, I always wished to be, if I had to be a tree at all, a tall tree, kind of spindly, but graceful. Like the trees above, snapped in Bavaria 3 years ago.

During our last few years in Ecuador, we lived on a piece of property with lemon and avocado trees. And I soon decided that I'd prefer being a lemon tree. Did you know that they fruit and flower at the same time? I thought that so apt for my life - some ideas come to fruition, others are in flower, and others are mere buds. I like the cycle of a lemon tree.

When we moved back to Canada, I missed my lemon trees. Such good lemonade we made there, and guacamole was a regular after-school snack, made with our own avocados and lemons. Lemon pie, lemon squares, lemon everything! 

Last Saturday Tim and I visited a local fruit tree grower because we're planning to put in some trees - apple, cherry and apricot. We were astounded to see that the grower had several lemon trees laden with fruit. He has a simple method for protecting the trees in the winter, and for sheltering them in the summer. We came home, Tim walked around the yard, did some figuring and started planning. We're going to grow lemons (I hope) in Canada! We'll let you know how that actually turns out. It's going to take awhile. 

I didn't do a Friday Fill-in today, because I don't have time, and I wanted to tell you about the lemon tree. Then, as I painted a coat of pretty gray paint on the china cabinet after dinner, I thought, "I AM the Friday Fill-in!" I've been working in the school library for the past while, but tomorrow I'm filling in for Christian Perspectives, filling in for English 10 (To Kill a Mockingbird) and filling in for French 9 (a sports celebrity assignment). 

To get back to the original question - what kind of a tree would you be? Or alternately, how are you filling in your Friday?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Many Things in Progress, Few Finished and a Giveaway Winner

Saturday of the long weekend just behind us was sunny. Rain was forecast for Sunday and Monday. So I put my garden in on Saturday. In the protected bed, tomatoes, basil and melon, with room for cucumbers. 

In the middle bed, leeks, broccoli, zucchini, butternut squash and rhubarb at one end that needs to be moved. 

I planted radish, carrot and swiss chard seeds in the top bed, and I'm saving room for my bean poles which will be planted a bit later. 

I'm attempting to grow potatoes in two wire cylinders this year - the idea is to save space by adding dirt as the potatoes grow, since new potatoes form between the seed potato and the top of the plant. We'll see. Lettuce, herbs and a few other things are scattered here and there throughout my flower beds.

For those averse to painting over wood, you might want to avert your eyes. When we moved back into this house, I left the china cabinet and hutch in the garage (which has never seen a car) with the intent of painting it. We've been sanding and filling, and on rainy Monday, we covered it with a coat of primer. 

I had to talk Tim into this - he's a fine woodworker and has made much of our furniture. But not this piece. I told him I wouldn't paint over his furniture, but this was a rustic piece purchased in Ecuador. He's agreed, and he's helping me. 

Elsewhere in the house I have paper shapes taped to the staircase wall where I plan to hang a rogues' family gallery. The sewing room is awash with fabric and projects. There's a lot of anticipation around here these days. Our travelers, who left home last September, are arriving home on the 5th of June. Hooray! On the 14th of June, our latest family addition is due. And I'd really like to get a lot of these projects done before then. Will I? Time will tell.

Another thing that's been in the works is the giveaway. My, how time flies. But the number was chosen - 9 - and so Bettyann, of Langley Girl, is the winner of the giveaway. Thank you to all my readers - I wish I could send something to each of you. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blowing Bubbles

In the Spanish, the relationship between common in-laws has its own vocabulary. Parents-in-law are suegros to the couple, and the sets of parents call each other consuegros. In the same way, the terms for brother-in-law, sister-in-law and so on, add "con" to the front to describe a relationship held in common. Language and culture go hand in hand. 

When we lived in Quito, our rental home was on the same property as our landlady's. I was always jealous when her extended family got together on the weekends and holidays. I wanted to be with family, too. Now that we're back in Canada, we're much closer, but still an expensive ferry ride and several hours from my family and a long, long day's drive from Tim's. So I still miss getting together with my siblings and parents as much as I'd like. However, as our family grows, our gatherings grow, too.

Last Sunday, Mother's Day, we got together with our consuegros at our son and daughter-in-law's home. DIL's sister and her family were there, too. Our Little Miss and her cousin had a great time blowing bubbles on the lawn. I thought I had missed capturing any bubbles, but notice a few oddly coloured circles in the top right photo that must be bubbles. Little Miss is clutching her kitty - Mo Kitty, he's called, and goes many places with her.

 My potted tulips are lingering, dancing beautifully on long, elegant stems. I love this deep purple colour against the greens in my garden.

Although I'm late to the party, I'm joining with with Mosaic Monday, once again hosted by Mary at the Little Red House.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Fill-ins

These bleeding hearts are from my son and daughter-in-law's garden. I added a little "Boost" to them with the Picasa editing feature. I think I need to find a place for a bleeding heart in my own garden. All those hearts dangling like beads are so pretty.

I'm joining in with Friday Fill-ins again. Working full time (until June 15) is seriously cutting into my blogging/sewing/gardening/cooking time. I know I'll get used to working all day, but just now, I come home and collapse on the couch with a cup of tea before making dinner. And then the evenings are just not long enough to do everything I want to do. 

1.  When we go for our evening walk, I'm amazed at the life that is bursting out in every yard, every tree, every patch of ground.

2.  I'm head over heels in love with my granddaughter and looking forward to being the same way with the next one, due in less than one month.

3.  It'll be AMAZING! (see #2)

4.  Scandinavia is a place I've always wanted to visit, but haven't yet.

5.  When I'm sad I eat chocolate. When I'm happy, I eat chocolate.

6.  Good things as well as bad are happening in and about my community.

7.  And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to shopping for some household items with my husband, followed by Poirot on the television, tomorrow my plans include gardening, sanding a piece of furniture, housecleaning and Sunday, I want to go to church, relax, and have my family over for a barbecue.

What are YOUR plans for the weekend? This is a long one for us - on Monday we celebrate Victoria Day!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Note Card Party - Four Seasons

Autumn Reflections

Vee is once again hosting a Note Card Party in which we choose four photos previously published on our blog that we think would make a fun card set. For this month, I chose the four seasons. 
 A Winter's Walk

 Sea Side Spring Blossoms

Summer at the Beach

Pop on over to Vee's Haven to check out more fun virtual note card sets. Vee is featuring some delicious things to eat - so I think I'll have myself a piece of cake, real, not virtual.

Dinner with Dessert

We invited some friends over for dinner on Saturday evening. I knew the weather would be great all day and planned to spend most of the day in the garden, not the kitchen. On Friday evening I prepared as much as I could. 

I made the marinade for the flank steak, readied the Potato Splats, made the salad dressing, and set the table. Then I lit the candles just to see what it all would look like, and took a few photos. I used votive holders at every place to hold a few bluebells, a linen tablecloth and napkins, and ended up with mostly monochrome. Blue and white is a winning combination for me. 

We had guests for dinner quite often while living in Ecuador. On one such occasion, as we sat down at the table with our children and our guests, our son, probably 8 or 9 at the time, said, "Oh, good. Company. That means we get dessert." 

I found the recipe for this gluten and dairy free sorbet (since some of our guests can't have those ingredients) on Tartelette's blog. Do check it out. It's a berry sorbet that captures the very essence of summer. I made a few changes to the recipe; using frozen berries, and strawberries in place of the raspberries. I've done it with raspberries too, and prefer it that way. In fact, I've made this recipe at least three times in the past two months. And I plan on making it a lot more as summer arrives.

I have one of those hand-cranked ice cream makers that you place in the freezer for 8 hours before using. I purchased it at a thrift store about 8 years ago. This year, I'm just storing the thing in the freezer so it's handy at a moment's notice. 

With everything that was done ahead, I spent the day in the garden and came in to shower at 3:00 and had plenty of time to prep the rest of the meal - roasted asparagus, carrots with onion butter, salad, plus the steak and potatoes. 

Do you have guests for meals often? Do you make dessert? How do you prepare ahead?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Flowers with Love

Just a quick post today featuring some of the flowers I received for Mother's Day. The white lilacs were not a gift, but are from our son and daughter-in-law's garden where we enjoyed a great brunch cooked by the men in the family and a sunny afternoon outside. 

An azalea plant from my husband, orchids from my daughter and son-in-law, and red roses from my son and daughter-in-law. And a phone call from my daughter in Spain. What a perfect day, surrounded by love. I am so blessed.

Late afternoon Tim and I went for a walk on the beach - it truly felt like summer, with a few brave souls swimming and many families picnicking and enjoying the glorious weather. 

Linking to Mosaic Monday and hoping you all had a wonderful Sunday, whether you celebrated Mother's Day or not.

Happy Mother's Day

My mother. Memories rush in a flood as I think of what my mother means to me. She's beautiful inside and out, smart as a whip, handy at just about anything she tackles, and has a heart that leans hard on her Lord. 

Together with my father, she devotes hours of time to volunteer work - every Wednesday she gathers with other women to make quilts for those in need. On Mondays she's found in the church office, taking care of the financial records. 

What I love most about my mother, though, is the way she loves her family. Her husband, her children, her grandchildren, and her great grandchildren receive love from her, steady and quiet. 

She lost her own mother when she was just 15 and worked hard to help care for her 9 younger siblings. Even though she excelled at her school work, her father forced her to quit school after Grade 9. She married at 18, had me at age 20, and completed her GED (high school equivalency) the same year I graduated from high school. She's an example of perseverance and discipline.

Here she is with my grandchild, one of her 10 great-grandchildren. She's been my teacher and example in so many ways, but most of all, she's been my friend, someone I can talk to, laugh with, and be silly with. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Bluebells of Spring

I love this time of year when the garden begins to fill with colour. In one corner of our yard a small patch of bluebells delights the eye. I'm still trying to figure out my camera - it takes fine pictures on automatic settings (I use the scene choices, mainly landscape, indoor, and close up). But since it has a few more bells and whistles, I'd like to learn how to use them.

I picked a handful and brought them indoors, placed them on a creamy plate and set them in the late afternoon light streaming through the window. 

The Aperture priority setting seems to give the best results. 

Here I used the shutter priority setting and the photo is completely washed out. I also did some photo editing in Picasa to intensify the shadows, add a vignette effect and a museum matte.

This is an untouched photo, done in the close up scene mode. Practicing with such pretty subjects is fun, and relaxing after a day of work - still invigilating AP exams and working in the school library.

Don't forget to sign up for my 900th post giveaway, here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Playing Outside, and a Giveaway

Yesterday was a Nana day AND the sun shone. Hooray! Hooray! In the morning I tucked the Little Miss into her stroller and headed for the playground. As soon as she spied the playground both hands flew into the air, accompanied by an excited garble of 16-month speak. I might not understand the words, but her emotion was clearly expressed.

There are two slides at this park, one longer curved one, and a double wide shorter straight one. She loved them both and slid down over and over again. I climbed onto the playground equipment with her at first, not certain about how safe she'd be there alone. But then I was stuck at the top of the slide with her, and who would wait for her at the bottom?

So, I sat down beside her on the double slide, we held hands and Wheeee, down we went, together. There's nothing like a small child to bring playfulness back into life.

Then it was time to ride the horsie, all the while saying "naaay, naaay" in very horsey tones.

Picking flowers was next, pulling them off at the heads, taking a sniff and then handing them to Nana. 

Flowers from Adria. The sweetest bouquet ever. Thank you, Little Miss, for a wonderful morning at the park.

Note to her parents: The brim of her hat was down most of the time, but I turned up for taking pictures.

Now for the giveaway:  I don't often pay attention to my blog stats, but with the new interface, the number of posts seems more visible. I was stunned this morning to realize that this is my 900th post! I know there's been a lot of drivel written, and there will be more. But I'd like to celebrate!

I want to thank my readers for coming by, for leaving comments, for encouraging me, and for accompanying me in blogging. Most of you I will never meet, yet I count you as friends.

So. The giveaway. Two books, "Shoe String Chic" by Kerrie Hess, passed on from Hostess, and "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. One book for the outer woman, one for the inner. Something handmade - still thinking about that. Some tea and chocolate. 

Join in by leaving a comment on this post. I'll draw a name in a week or so. That's it! Thank you! And don't forget to play today!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Weekend Happenings

Just a few minutes drive from home are rural homes, acreages, hobby farms, dairies, fields of hay and horses. Woodwynn Farms is situated here; 193 acres purchased with the goal of becoming an integrated community, designed to help those who are battling with addictions, homeless, and in need of support. It's modeled on the San Patrignano community in Italy. In such an idyllic setting, away from the downtown lifestyle, hurting people will be supported to heal and move beyond the addictions that bind them. Unfortunately, the organizers are meeting with opposition from the neighbours - a "not-in-my-back-yard" kind of opposition. 

This past Saturday Tim and I spent a couple of hours there. Tim moved furniture and tossed hay bales, I washed windows in the barn - which is being re-purposed as a farmer's market. We were part of a group of about 250 people from our church (Saanich Baptist) who spread out in various locations around town, cleaning, painting, gardening - doing whatever needed doing. It's a way for us to Serve our City.

Sunday afternoon we enjoyed a family meal together. My niece and her son are visiting for a few days. I am so very grateful for the family we have - and the times we can enjoy together, laughing, talking, or just soaking up the lovely sunshine as we ate dessert on the lawn.

Mid-afternoon Tim and I, along with my niece and the baby, strolled along the waterfront in Sidney.  This dashing pirate, looking out to sea, invited a photo.

Apples blossoms against the ocean: a perfect harmony.

How has your weekend been? Busy? Relaxing? Sunny or wet, I hope you've been refreshed. 
Joining in with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary at the Little Red House.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Rainy Day Beauty and a Vocabulary Lesson

We woke up to hear rain dripping into the eaves during the night. The rain continues. Cold. Heavy skies. Today I invigilated a simulation of an AP Calculus exam. Mind-numbing. The script is strict to ensure fairness throughout the world. The invigilator may not read, mark papers, or do anything unrelated to the exam. I thought a lot. Time moved very slowly. Three actual exams to invigilate in the next couple of weeks. I'll be thinking a lot. Maybe about blog posts.

But when I arrived home, this beautiful rhododendron in my yard, to which I've never paid much attention, seemed to say, "Here, look at me, I'm so pretty." And so I did. Then I went inside to get my camera. 

The raindrops only served to enhance the pink delicacy of these blooms. And why have I never noticed the dark speckles on the upper petals? Or the long stamens seemingly tipped with gold?  How much do I miss everyday because I don't take the time to look? What new thing have you noticed recently?

Moving on to vocabulary. Invigilate seems to be used in Canada where USA uses the word proctor. One proctors an exam in Washington, one invigilates an exam in British Columbia. However, in British (I think) and Canadian usage, the word proctor is strictly a noun, not a verb. Thus, a proctor may invigilate an exam, but an invigilator may not proctor an exam. 

As my linguistics major daughter tells me, language is a fluid thing. It certainly changes from country to country. When I lived in Ecuador and taught at an American school, I once used the word invigilate and the principal thought it sounded like something out of the wild west, a term that evoked coming out with guns blazing. 

So I'm a bit of a language nerd. If you've read the whole thing, you probably are, too.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Inspired by the Ocean

I grew up nowhere near the ocean. Instead, our family vacationed beside lakes. We camped and fished, boated and read on numerous lakes in British Columbia. Visits to the ocean were rare and the sea was a strange thing.

When Tim and I moved to Ecuador, we spent our vacations at the beach. The incessant rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean bothered me; they were so restless. I missed the peace and quiet of the lake. 

Many years later I read an essay by E.B. White entitled "Once More to the Lake," which eloquently expresses much of the difference between oceans and lakes. But, I digress.

Our trips to the beach in Ecuador, combined with moving to an island, instilled in me a love of the ocean. What I once perceived as restlessness I now see as soothing motion, unending and reliable. Walks on the beach reflect what my mood may require - solace, adventure, exhilaration, or solitude. 

Inspired by the ocean waves, I stitched up this table runner. Some of the pieces are from an old shirt of Tim's (well, not very old, but one of those tea-towel shirts he doesn't like wearing), a damask napkin from the thrift store, and others from my stash. The runner sits now on my dining room table and reminds me of the ocean; its motion and changing colours.

What is your experience with lakes and oceans? Do you prefer one over the other? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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...