Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Taste of Vancouver Architecture

The City of Vancouver is Canada's third largest city, and its busiest harbour. In preparation for the World Fair of 1986, the city built Canada Place. The building, a conference center, replicates a grand sailing ship. 

Walking along the promenades outside of the building does evoke walking around a ship. The green glass windows and white railings contribute to the ship experience.

Just a few blocks away from the modern lines of Canada Place is the Dominion Building. When it was completed in 1910 it was the tallest building in the British Empire. Financing for the building was provided by the Counts von Alvensleben, and it's widely accepted that they were a front for the Kaiser's money. Thus, it could be said that the Empire's tallest building was financed by the Empire's greatest rival. 

We were downtown Victoria on Canada Day and drifted into conversation with a couple from the Netherlands. They commented that there was nothing old here. They are right. Recorded history is just a few hundred years old, and most architecture is less than 150 years old. The Dutch couple said that they missed the sense of history one gets in Europe.

edited to add:   There was no slight implied in the comments by the Dutch couple. We completely agreed with them. In Europe there is a sense of being surrounded by history - by buildings that are 1000 years old or older, by cultures that have evolved over many, many generations. We have felt that just by visiting there. Coming to a young country, such as Canada, one simply does not have that same sense.

Every day we are forming history. What will be remembered of our culture in another 500 years? It's a sobering thought. Perhaps more sobering is how I as an individual will be remembered. Every day I form my own history. 

Linking to posts about architecture hosted by Mary of the Little Red House.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Of Muffins, Roses and Vegetable Stew

There are many abandoned apple trees in our area. As fall approaches, we scout out the harvest and when the apples are ripe, collect them. I think it's terrible that so much food goes to waste. I don't think the food banks would take these apples because they are usually small and imperfect. But they make great applesauce. 

Applesauce is a main ingredient in these muffins. They are so good. I wouldn't want to admit to eating three of them while they were still warm. But I just might have done that. Try them, you'll like them. Not too sweet, with a lovely cinnamon warmth. 

I read a little tip about preventing the rose droop - you know, several days after clipping the stems, adding the food, and putting them into water, the rose heads begin to droop. Infuriating. Well, I can't remember where I read this, but one suggestion was to prick a hole just under the blossom with a needle. The theory is that air bubbles get trapped there and prevent the water from rising to the blossom. I tried it, and 6 days later the roses are still perky and upright.

I'm not much of a fan of legumes. I don't really like their texture. I find them mealy. Although I do like hummus. Anyway, I found the recipe for this Moroccan Vegetable Ragout and it appealed to me in spite of the chickpeas. You can find the recipe on the Fine Cooking website. I made some adjustments which I listed on my recipe blog. It's really a lovely dish, with hints of cinnamon and citrus, a bit of salt from the olives, and lots of good vegetables. A great meatless dish, served over quinoa or brown rice.

Are legumes frequently seen in your diet? Do you enjoy eating them? How do you prepare them? 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Enjoying Late Winter

The wind rose around 4 am this morning with a gust that rattled the window and clanked the blinds. I got up to close the window (we always sleep with the window open at least a crack). After crawling back into my warm bed, I didn't go back to sleep right away, but listened to the gathering storm. Soon, rain hurled against the window, sounding like pebbles thrown in a fit of temper. 

The official start of spring is still more than three weeks away. Yet so many of us are impatient for sunny days, for an end to winter. Winter's lingering presence can create impatience which wears on a person until one feels ragged, much like those cattails in the photo. 

It occurred to me in the night that wishing away these late winter days denies the value of time, of the gift of each day. Rather than merely putting in the time until spring, I have decided to embrace, as well as I can, the last of winter. Here are some things I wrote down this morning: 

* Observe the slow tilt of the earth leaning towards the sun and revel in the fact that each 24-hour cycle adds a sliver of light to the lengthening days.
* Choose a couple of good novels for evening reading.
* Add fresh flavour to soups and stews with lots of fresh herbs, chopped and sprinkled on top. Garden shops are selling pots of herbs - set them on a windowsill and clip away.
* Open the windows (or a window) for a few minutes each day to let the clean, crisp air blow away mental cobwebs.
* Wear something bright. My winter wardrobe is mostly grey, black and cream. A soft, or bright, pink scarf makes me feel just a little bit perkier.
* Rearrange something, tidy a closet, or organize drawers.
* Make certain to use the frozen fruit and vegetables in my deep freeze. Blackberry cobbler, blueberry smoothies, rhubarb compote on pancakes - now is the time to enjoy the work of last summer.
* Go outdoors even in inclement weather. Bundle up well, turn my face into the wind and pretend I'm a Bronte character striding the moors. Then come in and enjoy a hot cup of tea or chocolate.
* Start a new project, or finish an old one. Both bring satisfaction.
* Indulge in fistfuls of tulips and daffodils purchased from the market.

What are you doing to add pleasure to late winter days? I'd love to know.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Red Roses

A bouquet of red roses showed up with my husband on Friday. What a sweetheart. We have enjoyed this weekend MUCH more than the previous, lost weekend.

In the midst of sickness, I wondered if I would ever have energy again. Our God-given healing mechanism is amazing - I spent Saturday outdoors, digging in my garden. The dirt was a little heavy with moisture, but the sun shone and I rid my garden bed of the last of the pesky vinca and lamb's ears. No more spreading plants for me. Not content to confine themselves to an allotted amount of space, they threaten to take over the entire garden bed and suffocate anything else that tries to grow there. 

Today we're back to chilly winds, clouds, and occasional drizzle. A good day to stay indoors and play with my camera and roses. How did you spend your weekend?

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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Many Colours of White

I read recently that there are more shades of white available than of any other colour. Just looking around my house, I can well believe that. 

My husband's paternal grandmother crocheted this tablecloth, also seen in the above photo. She loved needlework and created many beautiful things, of which I have several. I wrote a tiny bit of Dora's story here. I don't know how old this tablecloth is, but I'm guessing between 40 and 60 years old. For the past 20 years or so, it has adorned a table in my mother-in-law's home. I'm honoured that last summer she gave it to me. Although slightly yellowed with age, the intricate and even stitches have undeniable beauty.

One of this year's goals is to improve my photography skills by reading and applying the information in my camera manual. On each photo I've added specifications - the speed, f-stop and ISO. I can see differences in the above photos, but they are minute. So which one is the better photo? My camera is not a full DSLR so my options for control are limited. However, from this experiment, I can see that I have a LOT more to learn about photography.

Mary, from the Little Red House, is encouraging people to link up with her theme of the colour white today. Her camera prompt was a good excuse for me to play with some of my whites and to get to know my camera better. It will be fun to see what others come up with.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Just a quick note to say that if you receive an email from my yahoo account, it's likely something you won't want to open. I think I've been hacked. Will be changing passwords all around. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Just Around the Corner - Vee's Note Card Party

Each month Vee hosts a Note Card Party - she asks us to choose four images previously posted on our blog that we think might be suitable for printing as note cards. 

This month, I am longing for spring, hoping for colour in my garden where there is little, and so I went back to find images of spring past.  

Are these flowers not glorious examples of springtime abundance? I can hardly wait to see them in real life again.

Colour! Bring it on!

We are redoing our garden beds this year and I didn't plant bulbs last fall. I'm really regretting that now. I have a few in pots that will have to do. Do you have a favourite spring flower? Mine changes with what's in season. To me, each blossom is full of the very best kind of magic - life after winter. 

Today's sunny skies have me thinking that a walk after lunch would be the very best thing I could do. Tell me, what are the signs of spring around your place?

Linking with Vee's Note Card Party.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Lost Weekend

Well. Remember Valentine's Day? Waaay back. Candlelight dinner in front of the fire. Very nice. Last proper meal I've eaten. And that's all I'm saying about that. It was intense but short-lived and has passed through 9 members of our family, including the little granddaughters. 

So. No blogging. Lots of television (inane). Read three novels. Stayed home to prevent any further spread of this. Today I'm going to teach. Will catch up with you all later. I've missed you. 

How was YOUR weekend? 


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Our First Valentine's Day Together

We attended a very conservative Christian college in Saskatchewan. Boys were not permitted on the girls' floor.  A central lounge area and porch separated the dorms. To contact someone from the opposite sex, you asked someone entering the dorm to take a message. No cell phones or personal computers back then.

On Valentine's Day, which happened to fall on a Saturday that year, I was in my room when I heard someone in the hall calling my name. I poked my head out the door and the messenger handed me a single red rose and a card. Other girls experienced the same, but I remember most of the girls in the dorm coming by to see MY card because it was so different, and almost risqué - referring to kisses and all. The inside of the card reads, "But you can keep trying."

That night we attended a concert in Regina, about an hour's drive away. Back then a date with just the two of us counted for more than a double date, and date points were strictly rationed by the month. We had saved enough points for a "just-the-two-of-us" date and planned to have dinner out before the concert. 

En route to town, we saw a fellow classmate's car pulled over beside the road. Two couples stood beside it looking lost. We knew we had to stop and help, but we saw our "just-the-two-of-us" date disappearing fast. Sure enough, the car couldn't be started. We offered to take the couples into town and to drop them off wherever they wanted to have dinner, then pick them up again and take them to the concert. Being polite young Canadians, they insisted that wherever we were going was fine with them. 

It wasn't fine with us. We wanted "just-the-two-of-us" for dinner. But Tim headed the car in the direction of our intended restaurant.

As we drove along, one of our passengers said sotto voce to another, "Isn't that where we were going to eat?"

Tim overheard, turned as soon as he could, and before anyone could say, "happy valentine's day," our erstwhile passengers were standing in front of their restaurant and we had arranged to pick them up to take them to the concert. We carried on to our own dinner à deux, glad for the escape and feeling only slightly guilty at ditching our companions.

Last week, while rummaging in a cupboard, I came across the old scrapbook containing the above page. No acid-free paper or tape. No fancy papers or stickers. The rose came wrapped in the green paper behind the card. The hearts were cut from some scrap. The caption is from a magazine. On the next page there is a placemat from the restaurant and ticket stubs from the concert. No words tell the story I've told here, but just looking at the pages brings it all back. I think of throwing away these old, crumbling scrapbooks, but I don't have the heart to do so. Maybe someday.

I'm so thankful for a love that has lasted a lifetime. I don't take it for granted. I know of so many aching hearts for whom such love does not exist. I have no secrets beyond mutual respect, shared values and a commitment to love even when love is not felt.

Happy Valentine's Day to my readers.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day Cookies and a Kitchen Tip

Should you come to my house for tea today or tomorrow (and I'd love it if you would), you'd be served sugar cookies. This is a recipe I got from my mother years ago and is her standard. Crisp, buttery, and so good. When I went away to college, she sent a box of pink iced heart shaped cookies at Valentine's Day. You could say they are a family tradition.

Unlike my talented daughter-in-law who makes the most amazing cakes, I am not a decorator of food. I cook, I present, but I don't decorate. My lines are uneven, and I'm never happy with the results. I'm learning that icing consistency is EVERYTHING!  Today I couldn't find my icing bag and tips (that's how often I use them). Instead, I found these condiment holders, never used. I cut the attached lids off since they just got in my way. What an easy way to decorate. I'll probably never go back to the bags. Well, I might. But this is easy. Trust me. 

Most of these cookies will be going out the door to my children's homes. (Act surprised, kids). But there will be a few here for us to munch on as well.

Any Valentine traditions being upheld in your home? Are you staying in or going out? Flowers or chocolate? 


Monday, February 11, 2013

A Parcel from Afar, A Little Sewing, A Misty Day

Elizabeth, who writes the blog, Cornish Cream, held a recent giveaway and I was lucky enough to win. How fun to receive a parcel bearing the mark "Royal Mail." Makes one feel positively queenly! Barbara's gifts included a book on Cornish Gardens that I'm looking forward to perusing with a cup of tea nearby, a tube of scented L'Occitane hand cream, a tea towel featuring the fruits of England, a map of the great gardens of Cornwall, and a pretty bookmark. Oh, and a tissue holder stitched of beautiful rose printed fabric. Thank you, Elizabeth, I'm thoroughly enjoying this parcel.

 I had great plans before Christmas, but then ended up working more than expected, so my plans went sideways. One of my goals was to stitch up this cute vest for Little Miss A. It's made of rose-printed floral flannel and lined with pink polka-dotted flannel. I used a pattern won from Running with Scissors, although the pattern itself is by Sweet Charlotte. I like the asymmetrical zipper and collar. Size two fits well.

On our province's first-ever Family Day, we went hiking to East Sooke Park, with friends. Mist hung heavy over the hills and the water, covering our hair with diamond droplets. But the temperature was pleasant and the mist cleared a bit while we ate lunch and sipped our tea on the rocks overlooking the water. A fine Family Day it was.

And what's up for the week ahead? Valentine's Day preparations, of course, some sewing, some writing. All dependent on whether or not I get called in to teach. What does your week look like?


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Views Here and There

Along one of my walks around the neighbourhood, there is a yard with naturalized plants - daffodils, crocuses, narcissus. I was so pleased to see these crocuses sprinkled all over the lawn yesterday. They look like they are reaching out to embrace all the sunshine they can. This photo was taken around noon and look how long the shadows still are. Winter may linger for awhile yet.

Saturday was not sunny, but we went for a short hike up Mount Douglas - an urban park here in town. It's possible to drive almost to the summit, but there are also a number of woodland trails. Tiny ferns sprout from moss-covered rocks. All is lushly green. I wish I could capture the scent and embed it into the post. Utter freshness.

This was the sky from the top of the hill around 4:45 pm. Below the filtered sunlight lies the city in half-darkness, with the ocean on two sides (three, if you count Finlayson Arm, not visible from this vantage point).

Tomorrow is a brand-new statutory holiday for our province. Family Day was instituted by the government - "a day for families to spend together." We have no plans as yet, but it's nice to know that we have a day to relax.

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

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Bright Days

While the eastern part of the North American continent has been preparing to hunker down with blizzard warnings and preparations for snow, we've enjoyed some delightfully sunny days. I admired these ducks on a recent walk around the bog. 

Although the bullrushes are brown, soon new growth will replace them and all will be green again. The trees are beginning to show the first hints of swelling buds. Life is burgeoning all around! 

Linking to Sunlit Sunday at My Little Home and Garden, hosted by Karen.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

On the Topic of Home

Mary, of the Little Red House, suggested a weekly prompt to spark inspiration. This week's word is home. Click over to her post to see what others have come up with.

Home is more than latitude or longitude. More than a building. Over the years we’ve made our home in a number of places around the world. Home does not depend on a particular house, although each one I’ve lived in contributes to my collective idea of home.

Homes are not built; they are created, with intention or without it. 

Home evokes shelter and warmth on a blustery night.

Home expands to include family and friends gathered round the table: laughing, eating, sharing life.

Home began in my childhood, with a father and mother who loved me and cared for me, with a widely extended multitude of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. 

Home is where I continually learn to love and be loved. 

Home began afresh when I left childhood behind and married. Soon home expanded to 3, then 4, then 5 of us.

Home evolves. Now we are two again, but the ripples of our lives expand outwards, yet return to the centre. 

Home protects. Home challenges. Home restores. Home equips. Home comforts. Home remembers. 

Home is where I feel most intensely, where I create unabashedly, where I dream freely, where I pray and cry and laugh until tears run down my face. 

Home is where I am most me.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

A Tourist Visits Balboa Park

Before visiting San Diego I had no idea of the vastness of Balboa Park. Set in 1200 acres of land in the city, it's one of the world's largest urban parks. Home to 17 museums, numerous parks, a theatre, and other delights, it's someplace where one can spend oodles of time. 

The Spanish-influenced architecture is amazing. Many of the buildings were constructed in 1916-17 for the celebration of the opening of the Panama Canal. More construction happened in the 1930s as part of a make-work project during the Depression. I was taken by the light slanting through the openings of this long colonnade paralleling the main pedestrian avenue.

Wonderful mosaics and carvings embellish the buildings. While there I visited the Timken Art Museum, and the Museum of Art. Tim spent his time in the Museum of Natural History.

When we visit a place with palm trees, Tim always reminds me of something I asked of him when we were first married. Having grown up in northern BC I had never seen a palm tree growing outside, so I asked him to take me to such a place one day. Twenty years in Ecuador certainly count, as do visits to the southern USA and Mexico. We laugh over this still.

How lovely it was to sit on a bench in the warm sunshine, book open on my lap, while people-watching. A Frenchwoman and her elderly mother sat on the bench just across the way and I picked up bits and pieces of their conversation. A few families passed by, children running ahead to the nearby fountain while the parents plodded steadily on. I don't often take photos of the people I watch, but I so enjoyed watching this chic cyclist pedal by. 

Do you enjoy people-watching? 

Monday, February 04, 2013

What Came in the Mail, Books I Read, and What I Ate

Have you visited Donna at Cottage Days? She takes amazing photos of nature on her trips. Recently she held a giveaway for a photo book of her trip to Alaska. She also gave away a desk calender, which I won. It arrived the day before we left on our trip, so I didn't have a chance to photograph it and show you. I'm going to enjoy looking at this wonderful scenery while seated at my desk. Thank you, Donna.

These are the three books I read on our vacation. Each one is unique, although both The Postmistress and Mr. Churchill's Secretary are set during the second World War. The School of Essential Ingredients is a series of chapters each focusing on various members of a cooking school class. What really sets this book apart is the description of food - it made me want to go home and cook, cook, cook.

When we are on vacation, we do some of our own cooking, and some restaurant meals. I like to try new dishes or new ways of eating something familiar. These green beans, cooked in a little oil in a hot skillet, then dressed with garlic, ginger and soy sauce were so good that I came home re-created the recipe. The sauce at the restaurant was perhaps a little sweeter, but this is still delicious. I could have eaten them all. You can find the recipe on my other blog. Copycat Green Beans - since I took the inspiration from the meal we had in Carlsbad.

That's what I received, what I read, and what I ate recently. Now I want to think about Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

A Taste of Spring

We flew home yesterday afternoon via Seattle. As the plane began to descend, I thought we were over the ocean because all I could see was glowing sunshine on white billows. As we continued our descent the billows became clearly distinguished as clouds. Passing through the clouds we landed in grey-sky Seattle, and connected a flight to grey-sky Victoria. Somehow, it cheers me up immensely to think of this grey cover as such a thin veil that cannot keep that brilliant sunshine from us indefinitely.

Our days in Mexico were grey, too, but each vacation day in California was warmer and sunnier than the previous one. Our sun-starved bodies and souls soaked in all they could. You can tell by the photos that I was craving colour - bougainvillea, osteospermum, asters, and a flowering decorative pear tree.

The planting in the above photo captured my attention. Driftwood logs - we have those. Succulents - we have those. A hollowed out driftwood planter may be in my summer garden plans.

Meanwhile, today was church, lunch at our daughter and son-in-law's, followed by grocery shopping and now, laundry. It's always good to come home and I'm glad I had that taste of spring to carry me over until it arrives for real here.

Remember, the sun is shining brightly beyond those clouds.

Linking with Mosaic Monday hosted by Mary of the Little Red House, and with Sunlit Sunday, hosted by Karen of My Little Home and Garden. Click on over to both of these sites for some wonderful mosaics and more sunshine!

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...