Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Of Bluebells and Fools

Our evening walk takes us along streets to woodland pathways, narrow walkways between houses and alongside a nature preserve. We are blessed to live in a city where the natural world is valued. These days, the woods are full of blooms. Some of the prettiest are the bluebells.

Lucky for me, they also grow in our yard where I am free to pick them. Guests came for dinner last night, one of my many aunt and uncle pairings. There was no fussing over the meal since I taught all day, but I put a cluster of bluebells at each end of the table between two tea light candles. For vases I used crystal sherry glasses. Isn't it wonderful how a few blossoms and candlelight can elevate a meal?

For dessert I made a Rhubarb Fool. I do love that whimsical name. For a little reading about the name's history, click over to this article from The Guardian. This is the easiest, creamiest dessert ever. It's no more than rhubarb, cut into chunks, placed into a saucepan on low heat with sugar, then left to collapse slowly into a sauce strewn with soft pink chunks and threads of tangy deliciousness, cooled completely, then stirred gently into mounds of whipped cream. For another layer of flavor, I added finely chopped candied ginger to the rhubarb. For a more detailed recipe, follow the link to my recipe blog

Don't forget to sign up for the giveaway. Just comment on the giveaway post, found by clicking on the link.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tulips, Tulips, Tulips

I told you a took a lot of photos at Butchart Gardens. The tulips were in full bloom, mass plantings everywhere. Drifts of pink, fuschia, white and red.

The underplantings were just as lovely as the tulips. Clouds of forget-me-nots.

I snuck a few hyacinths in as well. They were clustered all along the first walkway into the gardens, perfuming the air with their lovely scent.

Another tulip bed, pinks and purples, underplanted with white bellis daisies.

 Yellow and blue, a classic and lovely combination.

You believe
In God, for your part?--that He who makes
Can make good things from ill things, best from worst,
As men plant tulips upon dunghills when
They wish them finest.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh

Don't forget about the giveaway - just click on the link and comment there. 


Saturday, April 27, 2013


Stone pathway through a pond in the Japanese Garden section of Butchart Gardens. In March, I took a photo of the same stones, from the opposite direction.  The light here is warmer, brighter, and the foliage more lush. Oh the difference 6 weeks makes.

 A thick (very thick) cedar hedge borders one edge of the Japanese garden, sheltering it from the water. Someone had the brilliant idea of cutting a small window through the hedge for a glimpse of the cove beyond. 

In this photo I have the camera almost through the hedge. Isn't that a beautiful view? I love the whimsy in this idea. The sound of that word just makes me smile.

Whimsy: "Playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor." 

I love a touch of whimsy and think I need to incorporate some in my own garden. Do you have anything whimsical in your yard? 


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thoughts about Trees, Tourists, and a Giveaway

Yesterday, I took myself to Butchart Gardens. Having an annual pass is wonderful. When I was last there, documented in this post, grey clouds threatened rain and there were few visitors. Not so now. I heard all kinds of American accents, and there was at least one tour from Asia. I don't know enough to distinguish Chinese from Korean from any other eastern language so I could not identify the people group. 

Everyone has a camera. I-phones, tablets, point and shoot digitals, humongous DSLRs. It's just as much fun to watch the people as to look at the gardens. Some people look at life through their cameras, snapping away, rarely taking time to just stand and really look at the foliage, the flowers, the composition, the structure of the scene in front of them. Others look for awhile, then put the camera up to the eyes and press the shoot button. 

A querulous conversation overheard along the way:

He (gray haired and tall, looking wildly about at everything but the flowers):  I don't know what I'm going to do and you don't know, either.
She (snapping photos left and right): You know you will anyway. You always do.
He: (stomping away) I'm going back to sit in the car.

What was THAT all about?

I stood under this blossoming tree for quite some time. Its beauty made my soul ache. Do you get that feeling? That you cannot possible absorb the loveliness of this, of now, and your soul stretches and leans into the moment?

I wish we all could meet at Butchart Gardens and wander through it together, stopping to look and admire, take some photos, and have tea. Would that not be a wonderful afternoon? I picked up a few things in the gift store to complete a giveaway. There's a set of four mug mats and a felt needlebook made by me, a wire flower arranger (to place over a vase), a package of annual seeds and some loose tea, blended for the Garden. 

To enter, just leave a comment on this post, ensuring that I have a way to contact you. I have noticed that I cannot find contact information about some of my commenters because they are connected with Google+, and unless I join Google+ I cannot see anything - not even discover your blogs. My reasons for not connecting with Google+ are for another post.

I'll choose a winner on May 3, just over a week from now.  

This post is linked to Thursday Inspiration, hosted by Mary of the Little Red House.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Days

First up, breakfast is NOT my favourite meal of the day. I eat it because I have to. I don't enjoy many traditional breakfast foods - oatmeal yech, cereal doesn't stick, eggs once in awhile. Tomato juice and cheese is good. Or leftover pizza.

I drink a glass of water when I come downstairs, then after my husband goes to work and before I leave (or stay), I eat something. My latest breakfast kick is an Apple Almond Smoothie. One apple, cored, peel intact, a couple of heaping tablespoons of yogurt, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a handful of sliced almonds, a sploosh of milk and a dash of vanilla all whirled together in my ancient blender. The result: creamy, a bit chewy, lightly spiced goodness that takes me through the morning.

Along our evening walking path is a neglected and abandoned lilac bush. On Monday night I was surprised to see the lilacs just beginning to bloom. How I love their scent. Tim cut a few boughs for me to plop into a vase.

Can you see the tablerunner? I've been waiting since Christmas to show it to you. A friend made it for me. Lilac print fabric along with black. How pretty it is. And how complementary to the lilacs. Thank you, Karen.

Last, but certainly not least, today is my father's 79th birthday. A man of strong faith. A harder working man I've never met. He spends his retirement days doing work at my brother's church - painting, fixing, repairing, renovating, and helps others out as well. He gardens and golfs, and loves my mother, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Here he is at Easter, reading Go, Dog, Go to Little Miss A. Happiest of Birthdays to you, dearest Dad. I love you.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rhubarb Season

Although there was frost on the roofs this morning, the day was filled with sunshine. This afternoon I harvested the first rhubarb, some rainbow chard and chives. I'm drying chives for next winter - they are good to sprinkle in salads or egg dishes. I use them fresh for as long as I can, then use the dried ones.

The chard I cut up and sauteed for dinner, adding a dash of balsamic vinegar at the last minute. With roast beef, cauliflower and quinoa, we had a delicious dinner. 

On Friday, at the grocery store, I saw California strawberries, organic ones, on sale. I thought I'd try them - surely the organic ones would be sweet. Alas, they were white inside, crunchy and not sweet at all. You'd think I'd learn my lesson. I usually buy one box of the traveling strawberries per year and then vow to never purchase them again. I'll wait for the real strawberries, the ones that grow locally and are juicy and full of sun ripened sweetness.

Since the oven was on already for the beef, I cut up the rhubarb and the strawberries, placed them into a 9 x 13 pan, sprinkled them with brown sugar and drizzled them with honey and baked them at 350 for about 45 minutes. The result: a lovely cooked rhubarb sauce to eat over ice cream, cake or with yogurt. My husband loves it. 

This evening I planted carrots and mesclun lettuce, and set out my leek starters in their trenches. Then we went for our evening walk and watched the stars come out and the sky darken. A satellite sailed across the moon. Will we see any meteor showers tonight? We'll go outside again before bed.

Did you have internet troubles today? Google and its services were down for at least the afternoon. I could still access Pinterest and Facebook, and a couple of other websites, but not Feedly. Now Google is back, but Feedly is still not loading. It seems to have been a widespread problem in our area. Weird. 


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Of Islands in Springtime

Saltspring, Mayne, Galiano, Portland, Prevost, Saturna, Pender - the Gulf Islands in the Salish Sea used to be just names on a map to me. Now, almost 11 years after moving here, I can identify many of them as we sail past on BC Ferries. The vista above is taken from the westward looking vantage point of Oak Bluff on North Pender Island. All of the land masses visible are other islands.

We, along with 6 other friends, spend a night at Poet's Cove, soaking in the hot tub, talking, talking, talking, laughing, eating, and walking. I am thankful for good friends. Skies were mostly cloudy, with sunshine breaks and a few showers that bothered us not at at all.

I don't know the name of this little blue wildflower. It's just a weed, less than 1 cm long, dotting the grassy wild rocky bluffs overlooking the water. 

E. E. Cummings expresses my thoughts well: "I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes."

Joining Mary at the Little Red House for Mosaic Monday.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Today ...

Outside my window the skies drip. Everything is beaded with raindrops. I ventured out with my camera to take a few photos. I didn't plant any bulbs last fall because we are reworking our garden beds. These are tulips of indomitable spirit that escaped my shovel last year. I'm happy to enjoy them now.

We've planted a few fruit trees - cherry, apple, apricot. Doesn't the raindrop on the blossom above look like a tear? There are many tears falling these days - so much sorrow in the world, not only in Boston and West, but anywhere terror and violence, injustice and wrong hold sway.

In contrast, the raindrops on these plum tree blossoms look like tiny jewels, sparkling against the gray sky. Life is made up of tears of sorrow and moments of joy, with a whole lot of ordinary life in between. Everyday life is a gift - I'm sure there are many who long for that - consisting of routines. Getting up from a warm bed, eating three meals, work, shopping, cleaning, cooking, spending time with beloved family and friends. These are the moments to treasure. 

Today. Laundry. Cleaning. Cooking. 

"The nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but those that bring simple little pleasures, following one after another softly, like pearls slipping off a string."
L. M. Montgomery

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Note Card Party - Delicious Treats

It's once again time for Vee's Note Card Party. It's a lot of fun, with interesting selections from many bloggers. You never know what's going to turn up as someone's choice for note cards. The idea is to find four photos, previously published on your blog, that you think worthy to be made into note cards.

French Silk Pie

This month, it's all about chocolate. For me, dessert is best when chocolate is involved. I know several people who don't really like chocolate. Does. not. compute. 

Chocolate Mousse filled Chocolate Roll with Chocolate Sauce

Nothing completes a meal, for me, like a little bit of chocolate, preferably dark and intense.

Raspberry Chocolate Tart

Did you catch the other theme going on here? Fruit! Chocolate + Fruit = YUM, although I confess to sometimes eating the fruit first so I can enjoy the chocolate last, without any other competing flavours.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Sauce

Does it seem frivolous to you to be thinking about chocolate and fruit on a day when people mourn, when life, for some, has been shattered? It does to me. Then, I think, what is the goal of these people who, in their twisted minds, wreak such havoc upon the world? Is not their goal the destruction of all that is beautiful and lovely? Do they not want to create insecurity and have people live in fear? When we cease to live our lives as we normally do, the terrorists and evil have won.

From our little island far away from Boston, 30 people traveled to run the marathon. One of them was a co-worker of my husband. When she was finally able to call (the cell towers were jammed), she told him that she had crossed the finish line two minutes before the blasts.

I will pray, and I will care, and I will grieve with those who grieve. I will continue to live my life trusting God, and giving thanks for the beauty of life.

Enjoy the beauty over at Vee's Card Party today. We're likely to be a little subdued, but the gathering will be a pleasant way to spend some time together.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Magnolias and Celebrations

The other day when I was out and about in the neighborhood, snapping pictures of hyacinths, I stepped into another driveway to photograph this magnificent magnolia tree. I've been eyeing it for weeks now, waiting for the buds to open. Isn't it beautiful, all frothy pink against the blue sky? I'm glad I went when I did for since then we've had strong winds, and then a hailstorm on Saturday. I haven't been by to see what might have happened to the blossoms.

Have you heard of the blog, Mennonite Girls Can Cook? It's a wonderful resource for delicious recipes. The MGCC girls have just received the first copies of their second book, called Celebrations. And they are having a giveaway. Just visit the blog! You'll be glad you did.

Little Miss A was over for a few hours yesterday. On my coffee table is a bowl with pieces of sea glass I've collected over the years. I let her play with it - she stirs it around, feeds it to her baby and loves handling it. Yesterday, in a most grownup little 2-year-old voice, she said, "they are so colorful." Expression, intonation - everything was correct. I giggle to myself every time I think of it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Gathering - Mosaic Monday

After what seems like a long spell of dryness in the creativity department, ideas are coming to mind in a rush. They cover the gamut of my life - from writing to sewing to gardening to cooking to home improvements. It's fun, but somewhat overwhelming.

Focusing on a particular palette helps - these days, I'm attracted to the pinks and greens of early spring, to freshness. So I gather - threads, fabrics, ideas - and hope that the result will be as I've envisioned. 

What are you gathering, literally or figuratively, these days?

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

Saturday, April 13, 2013


I've been eyeing this clump of hyacinths on a nearby street for a few days. After returning from the grocery store, I lugged the food into the house, put away the perishables, left the rest on the counter, grabbed my camera and walked a block or so to take some photos. It was all about seizing the moment.

Sweet hyacinth scent wafted upwards as I crouched down to take the photo. I did have to walk a few steps into the driveway to get the shot. I've seen others around here do it to examine a particular bush or tree more closely. It felt a bit awkward for me, yet I know that I wouldn't mind if someone walked up my driveway for a photo. 

Donna's prompt was all about simplicity. Flowers emerging from the earth - simple, yet so intricate. The photo was taken with my Nikon Coolpix, edited very slightly - deepening shadows, adding highlights.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Little Patch of Sky - Thursday Inspiration

The prompt for this week's inspiration is sky. In the above photo, most of the image is the reflections of the mountains near Canmore, Alberta, where we spent a few days hiking last summer. The triangle in the foreground reflects the sky, just a small triangle of light and clouds between the mountains. 

Linking to Mary of the Little Red House for Thursday Inspiration.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

One Day's Difference

On Sunday evening, after the rain abated, Tim and I walked the bog. I had only my camera phone with me, but thought I'd try taking photos of the pussy willows. The willows against the dark sky struck me as darkly beautiful. However, the willows are blurry. But the colour that I noticed is still there. 

On Monday, after work, I walked the same path but had a hard time finding pussy willows that were still gray. They must be just on the cusp of change. I did find these, fluffy and gray with the promise of growth. The bushes that have been brown for so many months now show a haze of lime green leaves.

I'm changing some habits. Until today, unless I was working or had an appointment, after my husband left for work, I would start my day with the computer, a cup of tea to hand - perusing Facebook, blogs, email and such. I could easily spend an hour or more. I've recently decided to not turn on my computer until noon and occupy my morning time with other things - like sewing, writing, and gardening. Today was the first day. It wasn't difficult at all, and I feel better for being more mentally and creative active earlier in the day.

When do you read blogs? If you don't work outside the home, how do you schedule your day?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

April Showers

After a stretch of sunny, warm weather that made Easter feel like summer, the rains have come again. But these are not the cold onslaught of November rains that lashes against the windows and the soul alike. No, these rains are soft spatters, falling gently on the newly planted grass seed, the pots of bulbs, and the trees laden with blossoms. These are the rains that bring the flowers.

These raindrops sit like crystal drops on the frilly ranunculus that I admire from my breakfast table. Pink delights.

Just as I type this rhapsody to gentle rain, I hear a noise and look outside to see heavy drops of rain slanting down. Sigh. All this rain makes me tired. I need a nap.

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

Friday, April 05, 2013

In Praise of Awesome Aunties

I love watching my children (by birth or marriage) interact with their nieces. Aunties play a special role - not parents, but still related closely enough to have a great impact on a child's life. When I see scenes similar to those above, I think of how I missed out on being a proper auntie to my own nieces and nephews, and how my children missed out, too - because of living overseas for so many years.

I, myself, hit the auntie jackpot. My mother is the eldest of 10 children. She's standing next to her mother in the photo above. These photos, with all the sisters, and one brother (the last child), standing in birth order, were taken many times over the years, well into adulthood. I think they still take photos like this when they are all together, although two of the sisters have passed away. 

My sister and I were the eldest grandchildren and doted on by our aunties. My uncle, the baby above, is just 5 years older than I am, so many of the aunties were children when I was young. We loved spending time with them. They played with us, told us stories, took us for walks, confided in us about their boyfriends, babysat us, and were, at times, very likely annoyed with the two of us. Several of my aunties lived with us for short periods. 

When we made our infrequent visits home from Ecuador, my aunties (and uncles) were always welcoming and took an interest in my children. Delicious home-cooked dinners, comfortable beds, excursions out, the loan of vehicles - my aunties and their husbands gave much of themselves to us. Each one has chosen a different life path, but all of them are smart, creative, and loving women.

I've been told that several of my aunties read this blog. So Auntie, if you are reading this, I want to let you know how awesome you are. You've all contributed much to my life and I love all of you. I love being your niece.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Thursday Inspiration: Bread

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, 
is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight."
MFK Fisher

When I was 12, my parents sold the home we had lived in for 10 years. My mother claims that it sold to the people who came by the day she had baked buns. The yeasty, warm scent of fresh bread was too much to resist.

Baking bread brings a satisfaction similar to that of making soup or completing a needlework or art project. All the ingredients are brought together and given time to meld, with the result being something that nourishes not only the body, but the soul. I do love baking, and eating bread, although I eat much less of it than I used to. 

Linking to Thursday Inspiration, hosted by Mary of the Little Red House

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


 Way back, last summer, en route to Alberta, we spent a couple of nights with my parents in Chilliwack. My mother and I visited Winks, a store I'd heard about through Judy. So many pretty things to tempt me there. I came away with just one thing - a tea towel printed with teacups. From it I fussy-cut the cups and combined them with other fabrics to make some mug mats. They've been finished for awhile, unused, waiting for me to photograph them. Today was the day. Now I can start using them.

Where do you keep your hand sewing needles? Mine have always stayed in the paper packages until I need one, then it stays in my pin cushion. But they tend to get lost there, drifting down inside the pin cushion where I can't find them. My children will never let me forget one such occasion when I searched for a needle, all the while ranting about children who took my sewing needles and didn't replace them. I had to eat humble pie that day when I found at least 15 of them stuck down inside. 

Anyway, I made a felt needle book for myself recently, and quite like knowing where all my current needles are. I like handstitching, do you?

Yesterday was one of those not-quite-right days. My tutoring student cancelled, another person failed to show up as planned for another appointment and I was left feeling blah. Knowing that a little creativity is good for my soul, I gathered some old greeting cards and made a small banner to hang over my desk. Bloom. A good word for spring. 

That's what I've been making. Today is a better day - my student showed up, I have a paper I'm editing, and the sun is shining. How's your day?

Monday, April 01, 2013

What a Weekend!

Glorious sunshine filled the days. Warmth poured down. It was delightful and I thought of so many of you who are experiencing continuing cold weather. But that didn't stop me from enjoying the almost-summery temperatures. Paska Buns, made from Judy's recipe, found by clicking on the link, were gobbled down in a hurry. I'm ashamed to say how many of them I ate. But they are best fresh, and a once-a-year treat.

After church on Sunday, and before dinner, we had a quick egg hunt. Little Miss A knew exactly what to do. Her interest lay entirely in what was inside the eggs. Little Miss S, on the other hand, was happy to hold an egg in each hand and shake them to hear the insides rattle.

 Dinner in the light-filled dining room. We missed two of our family, who were unable to attend. Lots of conversation and laughter. 

A walk around the bog in the late afternoon had us shedding jackets. Herons don't often frequent this pond, but seemed to be getting along well with the ducks.

My parents left this morning, and I went to the park this afternoon with the Little Misses and their mothers. I came home feeling a little bit droopy, like these tulips. They drank all their water, but perked right up when I refilled the vase. I'm perking up, too, after dinner and an evening of catching up on blog reading. Tomorrow, real life kicks in again. I'll be ready for it.

How was your Easter weekend?

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 ...