Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Postcards from the Road: Little Things

The grand vistas of jagged mountains and massive glaciers are only a part of the wonders of the Canadian Rockies. Looking down from time to time reveals delicate flowers growing in harsh conditions. Above is Fireweed, with snow-covered mountains in the background.

This plant, whose name I am going to have to research, grows on a moraine - the gravel piles left behind by receding glaciers. How anything grows on them is amazing. This plant carpets the ground beside Sunwapta Lake, formed by the retreat of the Athabasca Glacier.

Indian Paintbrush is a cheerful sight beside hiking trails and in alpine meadows.

This delicate columbine nods gently beside Lake Agnes, where we hiked yesterday. It was the only patch of them I've seen so far.

Here we send our greetings from a rock in the Bow River near Banff. A kind Australian tourist took the photo for us. Wish you were all here!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Post Cards from the Road: Three Lakes

Four postcards today, featuring 3 lakes. The temperature was chilly this morning when we set our for our hike. Clouds covered the mountain behind Lake Louise, that iconic symbol of the Canadian Rockies. Sunshine soon dispelled the cloud and we had a beautiful day. Did you notice the red canoe on the lake?

Next: Mirror Lake, with the Big Beehive in the background. Our hike today took us around the back side of that rock formation on a steep trail that switched back and forth across the mountain.

Third: Lake Agnes. This photo is taken from the distant end of the lake where the switchbacks up the Beehive begin. The teahouse at the far end of the photo was doing a booming business, but we chose to bring our own lunch and perch on a rock to eat it.

Finally: Lake Louise once again, taken from the top of the Beehive. The black specks you might see are canoes on the lake. At the left end of the photo is the Chateau Lake Louise, one of Canada's famous Railway hotels - now owned by Fairmont.

When we returned to the lake, the sun shone and there were no clouds - it would have made a beautiful photo, but all I could think about was taking off my boots. It was mid-afternoon and tourists crowded along the lake shore. Tonight I can hardly keep my eyes open and it's barely 8 pm. We hiked 10 km (6 miles) with an elevation gain of 540 metres (1770 feet). Beautiful, beautiful views.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Postcard from the road - Mount Robson

It's funny how much I miss my blogging friends when I'm away from my computer. We're on a little trip and internet access is spotty or non-existent. Also, I'm having too much fun to sit down and write a post. Things will be a little quieter for the rest of this week and we have reliable internet, although no cell phone coverage, so I'll send you all a virtual postcard when I can.

Above is beautiful Mount Robson, in Mount Robson Provincial Park. It's the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies at 12,972 feet or 3954 metres. 

I haven't seen Mount Robson for many years, but have backpacked into Berg Lake twice, when we were newly married. It's a 2-day hike that follows the Valley of a Thousand Falls, then climbs steeply to the iceberg-fed lake. Lots of memories. 

Time to check the laundry in the machines here at the hotel and then find some dinner. I hope to catch up with you soon - if not this week, then next.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From My Herb Garden: Chives

Chives are one of the prettiest herbs, with their purple flowers perched on slender stems. The flowers are good in salad, broken into bits, with a stronger flavor than the stems. The bees love the flowers and there's usually a horde of them buzzing about when the chives are in bloom.

 Before school ended in June, I filled in for a Home Ec teacher who asked me to demonstrate the technique for a souffle. I hadn't made a souffle for several years, so I thought I should practice at home. Individual ones like these Cheese Souffles with Chives are good for a light dinner or lunch, accompanied by salad. So yummy.

Cottage Cheese Dip - something for these warm summer days. I made this last year and haven't yet done so this year. That needs to be remedied.

Chives are so easy to grow and one of the first herbs that grows in the spring. There's nothing like a snipping of fresh green chives to liven up a winter (or summer) dish. Are there chives in your garden? Are they in bloom now? (Mine are blooming for the second time round this season.)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Blue Hour: Mosaic Monday

The French have a lovely expression for the time of day when the sun slips low on the horizon and dapples the landscape - l'heure bleue - the blue hour. Recently a group of family and friends visited Butchart Gardens in the evening. Each Saturday night during the summer months, a fireworks display, set to music, delights tourists and locals alike. 

Before the fireworks, people spread their blankets on the lawn, then leave them to wander through the gardens. Of course, I took photos, then walked fast to catch up with the rest. The fountain is always fun to watch as the sprays of water sway, rise and fall.

 Artful lighting comes on just before dusk, giving plants an other-worldly look, like these astilbe. As the days shorten, almost imperceptibly, each week the time for the fireworks show is just a bit earlier. 

The image of blues in my garden was taken in late afternoon, not twilight. The shadows lengthen but the sun is still hot.

I'm trying to remember to watermark my photos. Recently a kind blogging friend, Karen from Todolwen, emailed, then telephoned me to say that some of my photos had been taken from my site, put onto another site and even watermarked with the thief's URL. I fail to see why anyone would do such a thing, or what pleasure they would take from it. I'm so thankful to Karen for letting me know. After I contacted the thief via email, the photos were removed, but still....

I'm linking this post to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary of the Little Red House.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

In the Garden Lives a Bunny

Once upon a time, in Nana's garden, a bunny lived in a little house.

She has blue eyes and loves to wear her blue checked skirt. Adventures await!

Her favorite toy is a carrot, almost as big as she is. She has a pillow, soft and pink, on which to lay her head.

At naptime, she is tucked into her little house, with the blanket pulled up snug and her beloved carrot beside her. 
Little Miss A is going on a road trip soon. Inspired by Pinterest and Altoids tins, I created this little play thing to take along. It's so cute I almost want one for myself. I might do a tutorial on this - it was fun to make! I'm mulling Bunny names - can you think of any?

Friday, July 19, 2013

What Fills My Days?

The days fly by. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I wondered what I did to fill in the hours I've been given. Daily tasks of housework and laundry, shopping and errands don't take all that much time. When I stop to take account, I realize I have been productive and have had good times along the way. 

This week I canned dill pickles - the cucumbers are producing more this year than I can remember. Handily, the dill matured at the same time. I also canned Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce, using a recipe from Mennonite Girls Can Cook. I did add salt and chili powder because I thought it lacked some zip. I'd probably cut the sugar next time, too. We had it last night on grilled burgers - yummy.

This spring we put in some fruit trees. I noticed aphids on the new growth of the apricot tree. Not wanting to use chemicals, I searched the internet and found this suggestion for an Organic Aphid Spray to use the leaves of tomato plants. I certainly have a lot of tomato leaves, so I gave it a try and I'm happy to say it worked well. No more aphids on the apricot tree! Best of all, it targets only the aphids and leaves the beneficial insects to do their work. I wouldn't want to hurt the ladybugs! One warning - you wouldn't want to save the mixture for very long - it smells foul and ferments quickly.

Although productivity is good, so is rest and relaxation. Recently, I won a giveaway at Rebecca Sower's blog for the book Art Saves by Jenny Doh. It's an inspiring collection of stories from various artists on how art has enriched and even saved lives.

And lastly, I've been sewing - a dress and a couple of tops for myself. You might see a photo someday, or not. While hand sewing, I like to have something to watch or listen to. I discovered the BBC documentary series Tales From the Green Valley, about reviving a Tudor/Stuart farmhouse on the Welsh border. Each program features a month on the farm. It's available on You Tube and I've given a link to the first of the series. Watching it makes me appreciate modern conveniences like a sewing machine, washer and dryer, and a fridge!

So that's what's keeping me busy these days. How about you? 


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer's Parade

This year, more than any other, the analogy of a parade patterns my thoughts of summer in the garden. Parades begin with a showy piece, like the bright daffodils and tulips of spring, before the main event. Often there are gaps in the parade while the music and beauty from one show fades before the other comes into full swing. In May the peonies delight with their ruffled creamy petals of palest pink and deep crimson. Purple, pink and yellow irises follow. Then, we wait for the roses of June, whose first velvet blossoms swell our hearts with loveliness. We bury our noses in their intricate whorls and inhale deeply. Like the music that trails behind the marching band, the rose fragrance lingers in memory, sweetness preserved for darker days.

 Soon then, marching one right after the other, sometimes joining in a combination piece, come the delphiniums, the lavender and marigolds, the lilies. Hydrangeas join in; fat mops of blue and purple swell the garden with lavish color. Somewhere along the line the lupins, the foxgloves and cosmos join in, swinging into formation to heighten the excitement. Fast on their heels follow hollyhocks, standing straight as soldiers proudly bearing medals with colored ribbons.

Then come the dahlias - from deepest burgundy to ivory white and every shade in between, striped, ruffled, dinner plate, daisy - their variety is endless and their performance goes on long until the first frost, months from now. A quieter show, offering a pause in the music of the parade, is given by the phlox, green spires topped by white in my garden. Sometimes, delphiniums play a coda and show up once more in late summer, along with a second flush of lavender.

Like a parade, this summer will end. The colors will fade, the sere blossoms will fall to the ground, green stems will wither. But now, in these days when summer is high and rich, I gather to myself all the fullness of my garden, storing scents and colors in my mind against days to come. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

From My Herb Garden: Oregano

 Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum) grows wild on the mountains in Greece. Its spicy warm flavor makes it popular for pizzas and tomato sauces. In my region (west coast of Canada), it's a perennial that spreads slowly. I dry it for the winter, and use it fresh in the summer and fall.

 Oregano and garlic marry well in this Chicken Marinade recipe, given to me by a friend. Marinated for a short or long time, and grilled until done, but not dry, chicken breasts taste wonderful. Using a meat thermometer ensures cooking to just the right temperature.

A gougère is a savory French appetizer. Made like cream puffs, Gougères are seasoned with herbs and cheese and the puffs are small and served unfilled. Rumor has it that they can be stored in the freezer and pulled out and reheated in the oven, but I wouldn't know. They all disappear when I serve them. 

Herb lore says that if you anoint yourself with oregano before sleeping, you'll dream of your future spouse. I don't know how that might work, but I do know that I like using oregano in a variety of dishes. How do you use oregano?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beach Views - Vee's Note Card Party

For this month's selection of photos previously published on my blog, I went back a few years. These were taken with my old camera and I can see a huge difference between these older photos and the ones I now take. These shots bring back memories of the short time we lived in Parksville, 2 hours north of our current home. It wasn't an easy time, but walks on the beach provided solace.

That heron in the top photo looks like he's waiting for the ferry to arrive.

 An ocean-tossed still life of rocks.

 This open shell on the beach looks like a heart. It reminds me of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book, Gift From the Sea, and the chapter on being open and vulnerable to life.

If I were one of these Canada Geese, I'd be the last one - gingerly stepping into the cold water behind everyone else.Which one would you be - leading the pack, in the middle, or very last?

A visit to Vee and her Note Card Party is always interesting, always enjoyable. You're warmly invited.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Of Cousins and Blueberries

Cousins Little Misses A and S have spent some time together lately. While you couldn't say that they play together, they do interact and have fun. Family times in the park with Auntie Ashley, trying on Grandpa's hat, and eating pizza provide this Nana with great photo ops. Miss A loves to ride Miss S's car while the owner, not yet able to walk on her own, hangs on for dear life as they careen around the house. Cousins can be such fun! I know, for I have 56 of the first cousin sort!

Blueberries are ripening in our garden. The bushes are loaded this year, more than I've ever seen. Yesterday I picked 5 pounds and there's lots more to come. 

These summer days are so filled with joy. Not all is rosy, but I am thankful for the positives and trust God for the things that aren't so easy just now. How is your summer so far? I hope there are good things to focus on in your days.

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

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Yellow and Orange

Pinks, blues and whites are the colors I'm attracted to most in my garden. But here and there some warmer tones have crept in. The lilies above will likely disappear next year when the new shed is built. For now, I'll take moderate enjoyment from their ruffled petals and exuberant color. 

Yellow is up a few notches from orange on my color preference list, but still not very high. Marigolds, however, make such great borders and keep harmful bugs away as well. I have a few of them lining the lemon and apricot tree bed.

Last summer we planted a Meyer lemon tree. We are right on the edge of their growing region, Our fruit tree provider told us that they thrive against a south-facing shelter. So we built one. In addition, there's a string of old-fashioned Christmas tree lights strung through the branches, attached to a thermostat. In winter we cover the tree with an agricultural fabric. When the temperature drops to just above zero, the thermostat triggers a switch and voila - the light bulbs keep the lemon tree just warm enough. We knew the morning temperature by looking out and seeing the glow of colored lights under the fabric.

The lemons are growing - itty bitty now, but bigger than they were. Some don't make it; they turn yellow before their time and drop off. But those larger green ones will hopefully give us juicy lemons before fall. We'll see. That's a yellow sight I'm looking forward to seeing in my garden.

What are your favorite colors in a garden? Do you favor the cooler shades or the warm ones? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

From My Herb Garden - Basil

Basil just might be my favorite summer herb. I plant it among the tomatoes where it flourishes. There are lots of kinds of basil, but I like the standard variety - I don't even know its name. I recently made my first batch of basil pesto and put it into small containers into the freezer. It's so delicious stirred into pasta, or into the pan juices of chicken with a little cream added for a wonderful sauce. I also like it spread on a sliced baguette and toasted under the broiler.

Zucchini Vegetable Medley is another place to use basil, combining the summer flavors of zucchini, corn and tomatoes. The photo above is the dish before baking it. It's a great thing to do ahead and then finish up at the last minute. 

A Layered Tomato Salad is a great way to use basil. If you use goat or sheep cheese there's a good chance lactose sensitive people will be able to eat it. Several of our friends can't eat cow's milk cheeses, but these others are fine. Tomatoes are best fresh from the garden, but I'll have to wait awhile until ours ripen, meanwhile, the vine-ripened ones from the market taste just fine. I've made this twice in the past 10 days.

Basil. Do you grow it? How do you use it?

Monday, July 08, 2013

Things Take Longer When Ikea is a Ferry Ride Away

Some people like Ikea, some don't. I'm in the first category. I find wandering through the store inspirational, especially for organization. Last December I purchased a set of tab-topped curtains to make new coverings for our patio doors. I also purchased a curtain rod for the kitchen window. Alas, when we got home, I discovered that the curtain rod was too short and I should have purchased two sets of curtains. "Oh well," thought I, "we'll be going over again soon."

We planned a trip for February 15 - Tim had to go over for a meeting and I would tag along, spend the day shopping, and we'd spend the night with our daughter and son-in-law. By the evening of the 14th I knew I wasn't going anywhere but between my bed and my bathroom. Tim thought he would stop at Ikea on the way home and at least return the curtain rod. Not so. By noon he was feeling a little queasy and stopped eating - a very good thing. He managed to get home on the ferry (after passing out cold as he came up from the car deck and spending most of the sailing in the first aid room). Let's just draw a curtain over that weekend.

Last week while in Vancouver, Ashley and I went to not one, but two Ikeas. There was job action at the first one which meant no returns and no restaurant. So we drove all the way across town, using about $12 worth of gas, just to return a $2.00 curtain rod and have lunch. But I did get another set of curtains and completed the project. I cut the tabs off and hung the curtains from clips at the top. Then I added a wide border at the bottom and topped it with some navy grosgrain ribbon. The kitchen curtain is still in the works. Hopefully it won't take another 7 months to complete.

Can I also add how difficult it is to take photos of curtains on windows? I'll bet professional photos are taken on fake windows. Or they have better lighting equipment.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Lavender's Blue Dilly Dilly

Out to my garden in the early evening, just after the irrigation system stops its soft spray. The hammering and drilling noises coming from next door where the neighbour is rebuilding his deck have thankfully ended for the night. Children play in a yard nearby, their voices rising and falling, a sprinkler ticks rapidly, and indistinct hum voices hum from a distant patio, punctuated by bursts of laughter. Butterflies and bees drone lazily.

Early summer pleasures. Among them, lavender. I've harvested several bunches for sachets, but left some plants alone to enjoy. Summer evenings are full of loveliness. I hope that you, too, are enjoying the pleasures of summer.

Joining with Mary for Mosaic Monday

Friday, July 05, 2013

Valuing Our Work

My Grade 2 teacher, Mrs. MacDonald, involved our class in a fan-making contest. Each student was to create a hand-held fan from folded paper, decorate it, and the results would be displayed around the classroom. Then, each student voted for the one she/he liked most. The owner of the fan with the most votes received a small prize. 

My mother found some pretty wrapping paper for me to use, showed me how to fold it carefully, and how to make a ribbon bow to decorate it. I was pleased with the way it turned out and carried it carefully to school the next day. Somehow, when it came time to vote, I felt it immodest and prideful to vote for my own creation, although I thought it wonderful. In the end, my fan tied with one other for the most votes. When it came time for the tie-breaker vote, I voted for my own fan, won the competition, and felt ashamed for doing so, as if I had cheated.

Years later, when I mentioned the incident to my mother, she told me that it was completely fine to vote for myself. Don't politicians do the same thing?

I spoke recently with a talented young designer who told me that she thinks her work is just fine and is pleased with it - until she looks at others' work. 

Valuing one's work is something that many of us find difficult. Comparison to others usually results in thinking less of myself - 
- she writes better blog posts than I do and has way more comments
- she reads more intellectual books than I do
- she comes up with such unique ideas
- her house-garden-table-face-photograph is prettier than my house-garden-table-face-photograph
- and so on, ad nauseum 

 I've gained more confidence through the years, but unbelief in my abilities rises up fairly regularly. I don't want to proclaim to the world, "here, look at what I've done, isn't it beautiful?" Instead, I want to:
- affirm the diversity in the world
- acknowledge that I have God-given talents and abilities that can be used to help others and honour God
- realize that when I take time to set a pretty table, sew a dress, plant a garden, paint chairs, or a host of other activities, I am fulfilling a deep-seated inner need - the need to create.
- realize that no one is perfect, that no one has life completely together, that all humans struggle in various ways at various times

I wish that each of us would value the work we do and not denigrate it. By work I don't mean the job I do every day, although that's part of it. Rather the work I refer to is that which I produce, how I fill my days. Yes, improvements can be made and striving for excellence is good, but perfectionism is not. 

I have no wish to be a Monarch Butterfly, like the one that joined us for dinner the other night on the patio and who obligingly waited for me to run in and get my camera. But I do think I can learn from her/him and do the things I'm meant to do without overthinking and comparison.

Am I alone here? I don't think so. Tell me how you value your work?


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Over the Sea and Home Again

Monday, July 1, was Canada Day. We celebrated by a quickly planned trip to the mainland. Our afternoon cruise was delightful - warm and sunny, with always stunning scenery.

After leaving the car at our daughter and son-in-law's home, we walked, rode buses and the metro, walked some more and enjoyed the beautiful city of Vancouver. People were out in droves enjoying the holiday and sunshine. 

After a picnic supper in Stanley Park, we wandered along the waterfront until we found a patch of grass on a slope where we spread our blanket and sat to wait for the fireworks. But we needed ice cream! We left Tim to hold down the fort (blanket) and the three of us walked some more. Owen works downtown and knew of a place that sold "the world's best gelato." The lineup to get into the store curled down around the corner. We waited at least 30 minutes to get in.

Owen wasn't exaggerating. Bella Gelateria won the Florence Gelato Festival in 2012. 

We asked for cups of gelato instead of cones to make carrying it back to the blanket easier. It was so hot; with a cup of gelato in each hand, walking as quickly as possible through the crowds, drips and melts were inevitable in spite of my periodic taste swipes. Here's the end result - empty cups and happy tummies. 

The crowds were so pleasant. Beside us a Philipino family played cards while waiting for the fireworks. People chatted, read, and played. About 100,000 people came to downtown Vancouver for the celebration. It was fun to be a part of it. So many languages and cultures came together. I'm a proud Canadian.

The next day, Owen returned to work, Tim and I did some errands with Ashley, and then we took Tim to the bus terminal where he caught the ferry back while Ashley and I shopped. On Wednesday the two of us went downtown again. Lunch at Lily Mae's was delightful - a scrumptious chicken confit sandwich and salad, eaten while watching the flow of interesting people on the sidewalk. All in all, a very good little trip. 

Happy Independence Day to all my American readers! 

Of Spare Rooms and House Guests

  If you've ever read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables , you'll remember the importance of the spare room. It was a long-...