Sunday, September 30, 2012

Autumn Love: Twenty Little Things

In blatant imitation of Vee's brilliance, I've created a mosaic from photos of Octobers past, along with a few from this September. There's much to love about autumn and it vies with summer as my favourite season. 

Melissa from The Inspired Room encouraged us to make a list about 20 things we love about fall. It wasn't hard to come up with such a list. Here's mine and I wonder how many things you love about the season, too.

1.  fog lying low against the Sooke Hills

2.  lighting candles in the evening to enjoy while reading or stitching

3.  soup for supper

4.  Thanksgiving (Canada)

5.  autumn poetry (which I hope to share)

6.  picking up my knitting needles

7. pulling on a sweater in the mornings

8.  scuffling my feet through crisp leaves

9.  sunlight slanting low through golden trees

10. cool air blowing across my face as I snuggle under the quilt at night

11. roasted vegetables

12. rain-scented earth

13. grass once again turning green

14. building a fire in the fireplace

15. neat stacks of firewood seen around town

16. wearing scarves

17. pumpkins, round and cheery

18. a pot of herbal tea with honey

19. apple crisp with custard sauce

20. my birthday!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Autumn Apple Tutorial

This is an experiment. I wrote a tutorial for the apples and saved it as a PDF file. Theoretically, if you click Autumn Apple Tutorial, you should be taken to the file. Will it work? It if does, let me know.

Edited to add: Thank you to those who checked out the link. I'm so glad it worked. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Finished Project or Two

The other day I showed you some fabric I was working with. Here's the finished project. Sheila figured it out - a table runner. Some time ago (ahem) I won a jelly roll (fabric strips) from French General. These are from the Maison de Garance colleciton. The warm reds and browns are so pretty, although they are not the colours I usually gravitate to. With the leftovers I cut out an apple wedge shape and made a basket of apples to sit on the buffet cabinet. They won't attract fruit flies.

You may notice the new header. That marks a huge accomplishment for me. Not creating the header, although that's taxing enough. But the reason I discovered I was way over on my picture limit for Blogger/WebPicasa was because I could no longer change my header. 

Since then, at the beginning of June, I've been deleting and re-sizing photos. The work is not nearly done, but I've deleted enough to allow me to redo the header. 

Several of you suggested I pay Google the $5 monthly fee they charge for more storage. Being stubborn and frugal, and realizing that if when photos are re-sized they cost nothing to upload, I decided to take the time to go that route. My photos are stored on my computer, not online. I do not want to pay $5 per month ad infinitum et ultra to upload photos. I try to keep ongoing costs to the minimum. So, although there are blank spots a-plenty in the blog archives, I'll keep puttering away at it. 

If you want to avoid going over your storage amount, just resize your photos.

Here's what Google says:

Free storage limits

Photos up to 800 x 800 pixels and videos up to 15 minutes won't count towards your free storage.

Automatic resizing

All photos uploaded over the free size limit will count towards your 1 GB of free storage. When you reach your storage limit, any new photos you upload to Picasa Web larger than the free size limit will be automatically resized to 800 pixels (on their longest edge).
Note: If you reach your storage limit when uploading from the Picasa desktop software, you'll only be able upload at free storage sizes. Larger uploads will not be automatically resized to the free storage limit.

And a few baby photos just for fun. Little Misses A and S bring a lot of joy into our lives. Little Miss A's parents are going on away for a couple of weeks, leaving her behind. I'll have her on the weekends, beginning tomorrow morning. Tea parties (aka pouring water all over everything), Ball Kick - Nana, visits to the park, and lots of cuddles and books will be the order of the day.

Back to the photos - I'm curious about how many bloggers do pay Google to be able to upload photos to blogs. Do you or don't you?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Birthday and What to Do with an Abundance of Tomatoes

Today is our youngest daughter's birthday. Last year at this time she and her husband were heading off to Europe. Now she's set aside travel for study and they have moved across the Strait of Georgia, much closer than Europe. I love this photo, taken on our family camping trip at the end of August. Happy Birthday, darling girl, we love you tons. You bring much joy into our lives.

On another note, the tomato harvest continues. I discovered an easy way to freeze them for sauces and soups. I fill a rimmed baking sheet with halved tomatoes, removing only the cores. Chop one or two onions, scatter them over the tomatoes. Strew a little fresh or dried oregano on top. Drizzle with olive oil, just a little on each tomato. Salt and pepper to taste. Then roast at 400 degrees for at least a couple of hours. The tomatoes will give up their juices and if you check them after an hour, you'll see them swimming. Continue baking until most of the juice has evaporated. This is not an exact science. The smell will be wonderful.

Here are the tomatoes after 2 hours - they could go a bit longer for more caramelizing. But I needed to get dinner finished with, so out they came.

I divide them up into 1-1/2 cup amounts (more or less) and freeze them. I like to freeze them in glass rather than plastic. I try to avoid plastic when possible, and this way, they can be defrosted in the microwave, if needed. Thawed, they are the base for soup (just simmer in stock and puree, add a little cream and season), and sauces.

Tell me, what tricks do you have for storing up an abundance of tomatoes?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Looking for Fall

Our days continue sunny, although a few clouds drifted in this afternoon. I heard there was fog and I went looking for it. Didn't find much. But here at the beach, the horizon line is almost invisible.

Facing the other direction, a bit of fog obscured the islands, but it wasn't quite the autumnal scene I was hoping for. 

I'm working on a project - in the deep rich colours of fall. 

Are you longing for more autumn, or has she arrived in all her glory in your area?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Late Summer in the Garden - Mosaic Monday

Out of town friends visited us this past week. With them, we visited Butchart Gardens, just 15 minutes away. The gardens are self-guided, but we had a personal guide - Sandy - our son-in-law's mother. Owen's father was in charge of maintaining the equipment at the gardens for many years and the family lived on the property. Sandy knows all sorts of interesting tidbits and shared them with us.  Thank you, Sandy.

 Lots of summer colour still brightened the gardens, but signs of fall are everywhere. Golden leaves shimmered in the afternoon sunshine. 

Unfortunately, my camera battery died about 1/3 of the way through the gardens. So, no dahlia photos (they were stunning), no late summer roses (beautiful), no fountains. Sigh. I need to be better at checking my battery life.

Here at home I've begun the garden cleanup. The green bean vines are in the compost bin, as are the sweet peas. I didn't think I'd have sweet peas this year. Our spring was so cold and wet and the seeds didn't germinate. Or so I thought. One day I noticed a plant starting and I nurtured it as best I could, protecting it from slugs. Usually sweet peas bloom early - these didn't bloom until late August. I picked the last bouquet and set it on my kitchen windowsill. The fragrance wafts as I do the dishes. Delightful!

Joining in with Mary at the Little Red House for Mosaic Monday

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Little Bit of Autumn

This blossom, seen at Butchart Gardens on Monday, leaves no doubt that summer is hanging around. We've had no rain to speak of for two months now. The leaves are turning brown and crisp from lack of water, not autumn's mellow cooling. Still, the lovely sun lingers like a beloved guest and we're not wishing her away. 

Come evening we're glad to embrace autumn a little bit. There's a definite chill in the air once that sun slips below the horizon. A cup of tea and a cookie or two makes for a cozy treat. 

My paternal grandfather gave us the teapot for our wedding. I think of him each time I use it. It has an autumn look to me, as do these tea cups that Tim's mother received for her wedding and later gifted to me. 

Emily Dickinson has some words to say about this season of not quite summer, not yet autumn:

As Summer into Autumn Slips

As Summer into Autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
"The Summer" than "the Autumn," lest
We turn the sun away,

And almost count it an Affront
The presence to concede
Of one however lovely, not 
 The one that we have loved --

So we evade the charge of Years
On one attempting shy
The Circumvention of the Shaft
of Life's Declivity.

Joining in with Happy Hour at Craftberry Bush, a fun blog with lots of creative ideas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Not Just for Dinner: Plate Wall Tutorial

I've been very slow to put up pictures and wall decorations. Every wall does not need something on it. I don't think that I'm minimalist by any means, but clutter appeals less and less. 

I've seen some wonderful plate walls on blogs. Some are full of pattern and colour, others are just white in various shapes. I went for something in between. A few pops of colour, but lots of white. 

Most plates are hung with the designated plate hangers seen in hardware stores. I opted out of that look, not wanting the visible wires. Sarah Richardson, Canada's HGTV star, showed how to do a plate wall a different way. I know I've seen a video of her technique, but cannot find it. So, I'm offering you my riff on her method. 

You'll need: 
picture hangers (I found mine at the Dollar Store)  The screw is not needed.
two-part epoxy (borrowed from my husband's shop)
a disposable container and mixing stick (plastic lid and wooden kebab)
a plate, or a dozen of them

Set out the plates and decide where you will place the hanger. It doesn't really matter unless the plate has a definite up and down. I placed the hangers so the triangular loop rested on the rim of the plate. 

Mix equal amounts of the adhesive and resin, as indicated on the directions. Do this in a well-ventilated place because it smells a little.

With the stick, apply epoxy to the plate back and then gently place the hanger over top. Be careful to not get the moveable triangular loop caught in the epoxy or it will be frozen in place. Which still allows for hanging, provided the hook is positioned properly. I know this from experience.

Let the plates dry, undisturbed for at least 24 hours. You don't want your plate to fall off the wall before the epoxy dries.

Once the plates are dry, trace each shape onto paper - plain or newsprint. Then start playing with the arrangement you want. I chose an arrangement that started high on one side and angled downwards. You might want a more geometric arrangement. It's your plate wall, do what you want with it. I laid out my plates on the floor in front of the wall I planned to hang them on. Once you are satisfied with the arrangement, tape the paper shapes onto the wall itself. Do any last minute fiddling with spacing now.

Then, measure where the hanger falls on each plate, transfer that to the paper shapes and hammer a nail into the wall at that spot, right through the paper. Pull the paper off the wall, et voila! you have your nails perfectly spaced. 

In the interest of being totally truthful, I did have to move a nail once I got the plates on the wall because I hadn't allowed enough space.

Here's my finished wall seen from the middle of the living room. I like looking at it while I'm seated on the couch. It makes me smile. Some of the plates were gifts, some I've had for awhile, and a few I bought just for this wall. 

I'm curious - do you have a plate wall? Or would you ever want one? People either seem to love them or hate them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fruits of the Season - Vee's Note Card Party

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy."
William Blake

"A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?"
Albert Einstein 


"What is more mortifying than to feel that you have missed the plum for want of 
courage to shake the tree?"
Logan Pearsall Smith

"Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand."
Mother Teresa
 September is filled with the abundance of harvest. Around here, there are tomatoes galore and a box of apples in the garage that isn't dwindling as fast as I'd like. All the applesauce we need is now in jars. Time to think about apple pies and apple crisps to tuck into the freezer for winter desserts. 
It's Vee's Note Card Party Wednesday! Click on over to see more wonderful collections of photos previously posted on blogs.  The assortment is always fun to peruse.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

At the Breakwater

 This afternoon we, along with Little Miss S and her parents, took a walk along the breakwater. It was a sunny afternoon. Along our walk we heard Spanish, Chinese, German, English, and other languages. Do you think that had something to do with the cruise ship in port?

 Boats of all kinds went to and fro. Sailing ships, tankers, whale watching boats, kayaks, fishing boats, inflatables, even one that looked like a bathtub. 

This ferry plies the waters between Victoria, in Canada, and Port Angeles, in the USA. This photo shows the ferry headed towards Port Angeles. We were back at the harbour when it returned, picking up friends visiting from the USA. 

I hope your Sunday was equally sunny.

Joining in with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary of the Little Red House.

Friday, September 14, 2012

There was a Party!

 A simple table setting. I love that Anna Maria Horner fabric, don't you? So festive. The tutorial for that very simple tablerunner is my most clicked on post. I think that's because it somehow got included on TipNut. You can find the tutorial over in my sidebar. 

We gathered to celebrate three September birthdays, a son, a son-in-law, and a daughter, each one beloved.

Little Misses A and S lounged on the carpet. I'm having a hard time capturing photos of the two of them together. Little Miss A is a whirling dervish of activity and I suspect Little Miss S is not far behind her. 

Dinner. Gazpacho as a starter, made by Owen, who learned to like the dish in Spain. Then sliders - which is a new name for mini-burgers. Chicken, Beef and Salmon with an assortment of toppings to choose from. Greek salad made by Cristal, along with Salsa Cruda and tortilla chips. The meal ended with an ice cream cake made by Katie and a joint candle blowing session. Casual. Fun. Delicious.

I've been cleaning some of the hidden places in my house - tangles of ribbons, rows of jars, pantry shelves, and kitchen cupboards need attention. It feels good to get these things done. 

Mindless tasks such as these provide opportunity for my thoughts to wander. And I think about the words I say, especially to those I love. The book of James, in the Bible talks about the tongue being as uncontrollable as a fire. And while I believe in forgiveness, both divine and human, I have to live with the truth that words, once spoken, cannot be retracted. And words can cause so much hurt. So while I'm cleaning my house I also need to deal with thoughts and words. That's much more difficult.

Aren't these rudbeckia pretty? I'm not a fan of much orange, but come autumn, I'm happy to see these cheerful flowers glowing in the sunlight.

Goodness. What a post. From party to cleaning to flowers. Hope your Friday is full of good things.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On Hospitality

Rothenberg, Germany, 2009
 Through a series of far-flung connections, we have hosted, for the past two nights, three young men from Germany. All three are engineering students at the university in Dresden and are visiting Canada for three weeks. 

While conversing with Martin, Marcus and Toni, I thought about how quickly time passes and how momentous events shape lives for years afterwards. Each young man is from a small village in the former GDR or East Germany. They were born shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Communist Russia, and the reunification of Germany. They have heard their parents tell stories of life in the GDR.

Toni's parents own a butcher shop. It's been in the family for 100 years. Toni is studying electrical engineering. He told me, "I want to try something different. I can always go back to the shop, but I want to try." Because of the events of 1989 - 1990, he has an opportunity that would have previously been denied to him. He and his friends can travel freely.

The young men asked us for suggestions on what to see here on Vancouver Island. Recorded history is young although the First Nations people have been here a long time. Our son-in-law was with us for dinner and gave our visitors a lot of good ideas. We suggested East Sooke Park, our favourite place to hike. 

One of their first questions to us: "Why do Canadians like fluffy bread?" They were quite horrified at the kind of bread available in the supermarket. This morning for breakfast, they devoured an entire loaf of homemade whole wheat bread. "It's not German," they said, "but it's pretty good." 

After coming home last night they shared that they had purchased Twinkies at a Seven-Eleven and thought them absolutely horrible. I've never eaten a Twinkie but just looking at them and reading the list of ingredients is enough.

They wanted to swim in the Pacific Ocean. We warned them that it would be cold. They couldn't believe how cold it really was. One said his skin burned for hours afterwards. They also wish to swim in a glacier-fed river in the Rockies. They are in for another shock. 

Polite and well-mannered, curious about Canadian life, they spoke English well, but when it was just the three of them, they spoke German. Hearing their softly spoken give and take, I was taken far back in memory to visits with my great grandparents who never learned English. The cadence of the German tongue is one that many do not consider beautiful, yet my memories of it are filled with love that transcended words I could not understand.

Hospitality: The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. 

I'm glad we said yes to these German visitors.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Blue and Gold Mosaic Monday

I am often in awe at this beautiful part of the world we live in. Sea, mountains, forest, beaches - all are within a half hour's drive. During late summer and early autumn, the days are filled with golden light that beguiles us into being outdoors. 

Bight: A curve or recess in a coastline. 

A recent walk took us to MacKenzie Bight. Late afternoon.

Photo of a sailboat taken against bright sunlight.

Few words passed between us as we absorbed the great blue bowl of sky above, lapping waves below, and golden grass all around. Blue and gold. 

Linking late to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary of the Little Red House. I wasn't able to upload photos yesterday, some glitch with Blogger, I suppose, that disappeared in the night.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Hidden Treasure

A Hubbard Squash vine has climbed the 8 foot cedar hedge to the top. In amongst other growing things, tucked away from view, I found this squash, brightly coloured in a September hue that glows in the sunlight.

On a recent hike, I heard rustling in the foliage along the path and spied this tiny mouse crouched still, waiting for me to pass. He didn't move as I bent closer to look and to take a photo. His ears are so darling. His eye was fixed on me, but is difficult to see as the shadow falls directly over it. Can you see it?

He's a cute thing, hidden in the forest. But I would not think him at all cute if he were hiding in my house.

Around here, there's a September birthday party to pull together for this evening, presents to wrap, food to cook. Hope your Saturday is wonderful!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

September Energy

After complaining of inertia a couple of posts back, I've somehow found a bit of energy. Not quite like Little Miss A, above, running with wild abandon, her sweater flying wild, and sheer joy on her face. But enough to accomplish a few things.

The urgency of harvest is upon me. Everything seems to be coming ripe all at once. This week I've canned 11 pints of spiced plums, 6 pints of applesauce (more to come), a double batch of salsa, and I froze peaches. 

I don't like adding sugar to my fruit when I freeze it, but the peaches need something to keep them from turning brown. Orange juice does the trick. I use frozen concentrate, mixed according to the directions, and cut the peaches, blanched and peeled, directly into the juice. Strain them out to freeze them in containers and use the leftover peachy orange juice in a summer beverage. I use frozen peaches in cobblers, sauces, and smoothies throughout the winter.

Not all the peaches go into the freezer.  Peach Upside-Down Cake is a treat. Buttery, with brown sugar goodness, and that wonderful B.C. peach flavour. Nothing better on a late summer evening. We wait long enough for the peaches and we do enjoy them. Click on the link for the recipe.

This morning I mixed up a batch of cinnamon bun dough, then headed upstairs to paint the bathroom. When that was done (just the second coat - the first was done yesterday), the dough was ready to form. Now 6 pans of sweet buns are rising on the counter top. While they bake I'll put the bathroom back together.

One pan will be delivered later this afternoon to our son. It's his birthday today, and the start of what we call "birthday season." In our family of 10 (spouses and grandbabies included), 7 of us have autumn birthdays. We get together in September and in November to celebrate. Little Miss A will have her own party in December. 

Fun as those get-togethers are, for me, there's something about THE day. You know, the actual day of something. I like to make THE day a little bit special, so Travis will be getting a pan of sweet goodness from his mother today. 

What about you? Does THE day matter? Or not?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Evening Candlelight: A Different Twist

Darkness falls earlier. Although the days are warm, there's a distinct chill when the sun slips behind the hills. It's time to think more about life indoors. Lighting candles in the evening while we sit and read or knit or stitch adds coziness to the scene. 

I have a collection of sea glass and often display it in containers in our home. Here's a way to combine a bit of summer and autumn together. 

You will need two votive/candle holders, one of them should nest inside the other, with room to spare. Some sea glass, small pebbles, or sea shells, and a tea light. 

One votive holder inside the other, with pieces of glass slipped between them. Easy. And oh, so pretty on a September evening. 

Make one, make three or four. Line them up on a mantel, down the center of a table or on a window sill. Enjoy cozy.

Linking to Tutorial Tuesday, hosted by Hope Studios.

Two years. And many adventures. Happy Anniversary, Owen and Ashley, and many more to come.

Living Alongside Medieval History

  Several people have asked why we chose Leiden for our visit to the Netherlands. We've found it's easy to stay in the large cities ...