Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Little Town that Could

This past week we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. Over the weekend we went up over the mountain to the little town of Chemainus, home to painted murals depicting the town's history, charming homes and wonderful gardens. We had fun wandering throughout the town, snapping photos, talking, and admiring. Sometimes just an overnight getaway can provide that bit of distance from real life and enable relaxing disengagement.

Chemainus is also home to the Chemainus Theatre. We've attended a number of productions and save one, have thoroughly enjoyed them. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat made me smile widely throughout. Such energy! 

A big bouquet of roses to the staff at the hotel. We arrived, as planned, on Friday evening. We had booked the night, dinner and the theatre. Unfortunately, I had reserved for Saturday evening, not Friday. The staff immediately called the theatre and the dining room and arranged for us to eat and watch the musical in spite of my mistake. We had excellent seats and a wonderful dinner.

My blog fix up (previous post) is coming along well, but it's so time consuming to take down photos from the blog, delete them separately in Picasa, resize them, then repost. A lot of posts lack photos, but I'm making progress.

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


Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Little Break

Hello, dear readers:

I'm having some issues with Blogger and Picasa Web Albums. My blog will be available (I hope), but no new posts for awhile. I'll be taking down hordes of photos and resizing them to clear up space on Picasa Web Albums.

I knew that Blogger re-sized the photos before posting, but what I didn't realize is that when a file is uploaded without prior resizing, Picasa saves the original file, and mine are huge. Hence, I am out of space.

Hope to be back soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I have a couple of major sewing projects on the go, which I'm having a hard time getting to. So I thought that if I stitched up a quick little something, I might feel more motivated. Last night I made these two small bags, perfect for tucking into a purse or overnight bag. They were fun and easy, but the zippers and resulting rounded corners irk me. I pondered the problem during the night (what a silly thing to keep me awake) and think I've come up with a solution. I'll let you know if it works, although I won't get to it for a couple of days.

This week I made raspberry jam. Ashley was hankering for a lesson on jam-making so she made a batch of cherry jam. The darker jar there is the cherry. Jam is good for so many things, not just toast or bread.

Almond Strawberry Squares are a good example. Of course, these could be Almond/Walnut/Pecan/Hazelnut Strawberry/Cherry/Raspberry/Apricot Squares just as easily. Substitute at will.

On another note - has anyone migrated from Blogger to Wordpress? Why, or why not? I'm thinking of making the switch and would welcome words of advice from anyone who has considered or done it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In my Garden

 In May we planted a few potatoes in chicken wire cages, hoping to grow towers of potatoes. Here they are in June. We kept adding more soil (and paper) as they grew. 

Here they are today. I don't know how many potatoes are actually growing there, but the greenery is amazing. Five feet high! The plants are in bloom, which bodes well for actual potatoes, but I'm still waiting to see what's really going on in the dirt there. It's been an interesting experiment so far.

You can see that one plant escaped through the bottom and is growing on its own.  

I ventured over to PicMonkey this afternoon and created this little collage of things currently in bloom in my garden. I'm not a fan of orange and will likely remove the lilies before next year. I am admiring their multi-layered beauty and think they go well with the blue flowers on either side. In the garden these plants are widely separated, maybe I should re-think that and transplant the lilies in between the blues. Hmmm. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Card Party - Ocean Views

For Vee's Card Party, I've chosen Ocean Views. These photos were taken and posted last summer.

In July we spent a week on remote Sonora Island visiting Tim's nephew and his wife. Stunning, unspoiled wilderness. Above, the photo shows the labyrinth of islands from a mountain viewpoint.

 We have plenty of weather variations here on the west coast of Canada. Clouds hang heavy against the forests, greying the landscape. I thought it interesting that a number of comments on my post Sunday thought that I had created a black and white mosaic. No - they were taken in colour and not altered. Clouds and misty rain dull everything.

On summer evenings in Parksville we frequently wandered down to the French Creek Marina. White boats huddled at their slips, masts rising tall into the fading light.

My parents came for a visit and we strolled through the beautiful Milner Gardens, and took the time to sit on this bench and enjoy the view framed by majestic trees. 

Check out all the wonderful card party selections by clicking on the links at Vee's.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Afternoon at the Museum

Changeable. That's the word to describe our weekend weather. Friday was unsettled, then warmed up and the sun shone. We had guests for dinner and began out on the deck, enjoying the summer evening. We finished the last bites of the main course in between raindrops and moved the gathering indoors for dessert. We had ringside seats to a spectacular and unusual lightning display. 

Saturday: warm and sunny.

Sunday: Grey clouds. Mist hung over the city. We went downtown and took in a little of the Mexican fiesta in Centennial Square, admiring the grace and enthusiasm of the dancers who didn't let a little fine rain stop them.

Then to the Royal B. C. Museum to take in a couple of special exhibits. One on dinosaurs, the other on Cecil Beaton's photographs of Queen Elizabeth II. The dinosaurs didn't hold my interest, so Tim and I went our separate ways, and I enjoyed the photographic exhibition on my own. What struck me is the immense effort that went into these portraits - lighting props, elaborately painted backdrops, ladders, assistants - to make them into the works of art we enjoy. 

We met up to tour the First Nations exhibit where I learn something new every time I visit, and concluded with hot chocolate in the cafe. It was that kind of day.

I hope you've had a good weekend, as I have, regardless of the weather. 

Joining Mary of the Little Red House for another Mosaic Monday.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Best Laid Plans ...

Yesterday, I planned to go for a walk with a friend, head to the market for produce and the grocery store for other stuff, sew a dress, and perhaps putter in my garden. 

Instead, I went for a walk with a friend, then drove up Island to deal with some house stuff. Possible renters. Who will not work out. As the link will show, the house is painted in cool tones, greys, whites and blues, and the possible renters asked if they could repaint it in dark earth tones. I don't think so. They are no longer possible renters. I put an ad on line last night and by this morning we had 8 more people interested in renting our home. I'm sure we'll find someone.

While there, I thought I'd walk my favourite beach. Sadly, the tide was up, but I sat on a driftwood log, ate my lunch, and enjoyed the view. The distant mountains are hazy. Recently, we've had a pinkish haze on the horizon, due, we're told, to massive forest fires in Siberia.

 I'm loving my hydrangeas! I have a long candelabra that holds 10 tea lights. Usually, it's put away for the summer, but I dragged it out and filled it with hydrangea blossoms. They march prettily down my dining room table.

More blossoms on the mantel. Yes, I do love blue.The weathered grey driftwood has more of my favourite tones.

And a recipe. Unbaked, for those of you sweltering in the heat. Chocolate Marshmallow Squares. The recipe, and a story to go along with them, are on my recipe blog, found by clicking the link in blue.

Today, I'm going to the market and the grocery store, but I won't be sewing or puttering in my garden. Company's coming for dinner. What are you doing today?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Garden Party

Over the weekend we celebrated a birthday. I'm so glad Ashley had the foresight to marry someone who had a birthday in the summer. The rest of us are in the fall or early spring, when garden parties are out of the question. 

We ate outside, surrounded by green growing things, pretty blooms, and warm drifts of summer air. Grilled chicken, quinoa cakes, and various salads were on the menu, followed by a frozen chocolate mousse cheesecake. I love summer food.

A little side table held the glasses and drinks, a simple mixed bouquet of garden flowers and a chalkboard sign. A white linen cloth and black napkins gussied up the table.

It's a party in the garden every day around here! The first dahlia has blossomed, all painterly streaks and blushing colour.

Even the tomato plants wore their finest sparkling jewels this morning!

Tell me about the party in your garden these days.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunday Afternoon at Thetis Lake

Here in the Pacific Northwest, more specifically Vancouver Island, we are, at last, basking in the warmth of summer. We spend every possible minute outdoors - eating, lounging, working in the yard. Summers are so very short and we take advantage of any opportunity.

This afternoon Tim and I took a walk around Thetis Lake. There are two lakes, Upper and Lower, and a trail goes around them both. The lower lake has a couple of small beaches that were carpeted with sun-starved skin covered by skimpy bikinis and swim shorts. Further along the trail the crowds dissipated. Although the afternoon was warm, our walk under the canopy of trees was pleasant. Filtered sunlight patterned the pathway, and I thought of Gerard Manley Hopkins' line "Thank God for dappled things."

The lakes meander through the forest where trees stand as sentinels on the shore. Occasional vistas open up on rocky bluffs.

Oceanspray (Holodiscus-discolor) is in bloom. A native plant, also known as Creambush, it was used by the First Nations in a variety of ways. The wood is very hard and was used for arrows and small tools, including prongs for reaching into fire because it doesn't burn easily. The leaves and flowers were used as medicine. 

The common name comes from its similarity to frothy ocean waves. It grows everywhere in our forests, its delicate prettiness belying the challenging conditions in which it thrives.

I'm hoping this beautiful weather lasts and lasts. The weather report shows cooling temperatures and no precipitation. I intend to savour every bit of summer I can.

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

Friday, July 06, 2012

Summer Delights

I'm not getting much accomplished on my list of projects these days, but I'm sure having a lot of fun! Here's Miss Tiggywinkle at one month, bright-eyed and nearly the same size as her cuddle bunny. I'm sure she's smiled at me already, although some people say it's just gas.

The Little Miss has spent the last two days here with Nana. We've watered the garden, played in the park, splashed in the pool, and yesterday, we painted. Little Miss knew just how to dip her brush in the paint pot and swipe it over the paper. But then her little hand got dirty and she put it into her mouth to clean it off. That was the end of the painting because Nana had given her pudding as paint! Pool time followed painting for a good reason.

Now that summer is here (oh glorious thought!) we took an evening stroll along the beach. Long slanting rays of gold illuminated water, gently bobbing sailboats and houses tucked into the trees with soft summer light. Ahhh.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

A Sea of Chocolate

When I go to the mall (which isn't very often), I stop by Purdy's Chocolates on my way out and indulge in just one dark-chocolate covered caramel sprinkled with pink Himalayan sea salt. I take it out to the car and eat it there, slowly, by myself, then drive home. The combination of flavours is irresistible.

I've been haunted by the thought of a sauce that would combine all these flavours. A sauce to pour over ice cream, sliced bananas, fudgy brownies, or even to eat a spoonful straight from the jar.

Our son-in-law who has been staying with us for the past month is wide-eyed at the amount of chocolate his wife and I have been eating. All in the name of taste-testing, of course. Here's the product of our testing, a smooth sauce with hints of caramel, salty goodness, and not too much chocolate. 

1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup cream (33% - whipping cream)
2 Tablespoons butter (I used salted)
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon sifted cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon cream (save back 1 Tablespoon from the first amount, or add another)
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, divided

In a 1 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, over medium high heat, let the sugar and water come to a boil. Do not stir, but occasionally swirl the pan. Watch carefully as the mixture begins to caramelize. Let the mixture caramelize to a golden brown colour, ensuring that it does not burn. 
Remove from the heat and add the cream, butter and unsweetened chocolate. Stir with a spoon, or a small whisk. The mixture will be a gloppy mess and you'll think you've ruined the sauce, but stay with it and stir. Set the pot over very low heat to help the combining, stirring constantly.
When the mixture is smooth, whisk in the vanilla and cocoa powder. Then whisk in 1 Tablespoon cream and 1/4 teaspoon of the sea salt. Adding the cream at this stage will aid in smoothing the sauce even more. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
Let the sauce cool, then stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Add this extra salt later keeps it from dissolving and allows for the hit of salt that tastes so delicious!

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

S.A.D. in the Summer?

The hydrangea bush just outside our front door is beginning to bloom. It's rather pale blue just now, but the colour usually deepens as summer goes on. I'm hoping that will happen this year. 

Waking up to grey skies morning after morning is becoming depressing. I have never suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), but this weather is enough to bring it on. I thought we'd turned a corner on Sunday afternoon. Alas, yesterday was grey, and heavy rain in the night had me thinking it might be November.

Brighter weather is in the forecast. I'll be patient and try to wait well. Today is a day for sitting down at the sewing machine instead of working in the yard. But in between rain showers, I think I'll clip a bouquet of hydrangeas.

"A dead hydrangea is as intricate and lovely as one in bloom. Bleak sky is as seductive as sunshine..."    Toni Morrison

Morrison's words may be true, but in summertime, I prefer my skies sunny and my hydrangea in fresh bloom. 

How's the weather out your way, and how are you coping?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Thoughts on Being Canadian

Today is Canada Day, which marks the joining together of the colonies of New Brunswick, Canada (present day Ontario and Quebec), and Nova Scotia into a federation of four provinces on July 1, 1867.
Tim and I celebrated by visiting Fort Rodd Hill Historic Park where red and white t-shirts, picnicking families, and festivities marked the day. 
The park is also home to Fisgard Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse on the west coast of Canada. The building is beautifully maintained, with interactive displays for visitors of all ages. 

 Wandering through the somewhat crowded space, I was struck most by the gorgeous vistas seen through sparkling glass held by pristine window frames. A lot of care has gone into the caretaking of this site. 

A rather strong wind blew the clouds away and we lifted our faces to the sun and welcomed the warmth. I hope it returns every day.

Fort Rodd Hill was constructed at the end of the 19th century, in conjunction with Britain who feared war with Russia. No shots were ever fired in war, no battles ensued here. The gun emplacements, one of which is seen above, are now empty. Children climb on the embankments. Families play games, couples lounge on blankets spread on the grass.

As part of the festivities, there was a shooting display. I recently re-read Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, and when the machine gun stat-stat-stat sounded, I thought how terrible it would have been to exist in the trenches under such a barrage of noise and fear for days on end, as the soldiers of World War I experienced. 

How fortunate are we who live in peace. Much of the world is not so blessed. The UK is celebrating the Queen's Jubilee Year and the Olympics. Later this month both the USA and France celebrate their Independence and Bastille Days. Let us celebrate humbly, knowing that freedom is precarious and hard-won. 

Happy Canada Day! 

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...