Saturday, August 31, 2013

Raindrops on Roses

After my last wordy post, I'll leave you with images from my garden after the rain. The hydrangea has blooms that are turning leathery with age and brand new ones still forming. A metaphor for life? 

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Love a Rainy Night

Hospital Vozandes del Oriente - Shell, Pastaza, Ecuador

I fell asleep last night to the sound of rain on the roof, trickling through the gutters, and to the smell of earth made fresh. The air blew across my face from the open window and I was transported back in time. Ecuador has been on my mind a little more recently as our youngest daughter and her husband are there now, visiting the land of her birth. 

Digging through old photos I found this aerial shot of the "new" hospital where she was born and where, a few years later, my husband served as administrator. I look at the photo with eyes of love that prickle with tears at the memories engendered. Yet now that it's been eleven years since I've seen this place, my eyes can also see the details that separate this photo from most of my reader's realities. I see a place where so many, many people came for healing. This building holds tales that would break your heart, and tales of triumph and joy. I wonder what you see - a strange landscape, a rusty roof, muddy streets.

One February, Tim came down with a serious case of pneumonia. Our physician decided to admit him so that he could have IV antibiotics. I went home to gather up a few personal items and when I returned Tim was in his room, still working - staff members were in and out discussing things. Not very restful. The next morning I walked into the hospital and there he was, IV pole, robe and slippers, fixing a computer. Dr. Steve agreed that he needed to be out of there. So I had a quick lesson in managing an IV and home we went. This photo was taken when he was well on the mend. 

All this from listening to rain in the night. What memories does rain trigger for you?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Impromptu Picnic

It was one of those Sunday afternoons when it seemed like summer would linger forever, the golden sunshine pouring down on rocks, sand, and sea.

The blue of the ocean melded into the blue sky with only a thin line of blue mountains between. Sere grass golden against swirled cloud blue. A good day for a picnic with a view.

Wind-patterned water smooth, then dimpled with big boats, little boats and medium-sized boats going here and there, to and fro, barely visible in all the great blueness.

Fort Rodd Hill - a national park of Canada right here in our city. Summer day, summer day. Achingly beautiful summer day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Another Item Ticked Off the List

What's wrong with this picture (above)?

"Nana, this chair has a HOLE in it."

Well, yes it does. In March (time really flies) I found a set of 6 dining room chairs for a really good price. The seats were in terrible shape; someone had attempted recovering them and the foam was thin and squishy, and the fabric improperly applied.

The cherry wood chairs themselves were in good shape with labels inside from a very reputable Canadian chair manufacturer.

I did not use the new-fangled Chalk Paint on these chairs - my husband (Mr. Woodworker in his spare time) is highly suspicious of things that don't require proper preparation like sanding, washing with TSP, and a coat of primer. I did all that and then I applied 4 (FOUR) coats of white paint. Thin coats, and there are still a few drips.

Then I took the seats to the foam store where they cut and glued firm foam to the chair bases. Last week Tim and I spent a couple of hours one evening and managed to cover one seat. Things were not looking good. But the next night, the remaining five seats were covered lickety-split. We'd figured out the system the first night. First a covering of polyester quilt batting, then the fabric tightly, tightly applied with a staple gun, then a dust cover underneath. Then Scotch Guard and finally, on Saturday morning, we screwed the seats back onto the chairs. 

And I'm very, very happy with the way they look and how comfortable they are. Very happy. I like the mix of painted and wood finishes in the dining room and how the light paint makes the room brighter. The walls are pale blue and go well with the grey hutch. Another wood piece sits behind this chair at the end. And I love the upholstery fabric - a Robert Allen print from

This was a bigger project than I'd anticipated and I'm happy to see it completed. Just one more thing to tick off the list. Have you ticked any projects off your list lately?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dahlia Daze

My dinner plate dahlia is producing smaller flowers this year. That's a good thing. They are still so heavy that the stems bow down and sometimes break under the weight of the blossoms. This was one such flower. It's in a flattish bowl where it seems quite relieved to rest rather than try to stand up straight.

A closer look. I like the way the crocheted doily provides a patterned background through the crystal bowl.

And even closer. Creamy petals, each so intricately folded. Such artistry from the Creator.

It's a quiet weekend around here - cleaning house, shopping, barbecued chicken burgers and corn on the cob for dinner, watching Foyle's War - ordinary and lovely things. I hope your weekend is wonderful.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sharing What We Know

For the past few months I've been tutoring a young doctor from Central America in English pronunciation. He immigrated to Canada, hoping to practice medicine. It's a long haul and he needs to pass an oral English exam, hence the tutoring. The other day, before he left, I offered him a bag of green beans and another of tomatoes from the garden. 

"Oh," he said, "can you show me how they grow?"

"Of course." So off we went into the garden. I showed him the butternut squashes trying to take over the world, the tomatoes ripening, the tall green bean towers, the raspberry canes and more. He was fascinated by the herbs, especially the chives, and asked to take a few home. I clipped a big bunch for him, and threw in a couple of the flowers telling him they were edible, too.

He was amazed. "Can I bring my children to see this?" And he did, along with his wife.

I let the children pick tomatoes, find ripe raspberries and pulled a few carrots for them. They had never seen a vegetable garden. Can you imagine? What fun it was to see their excitement. "Mira, papi," they said in their sweet Spanish voices, "look." 

This morning, I picked tomatoes and herbs and turned them into salsa. Growing a garden and preserving food are skills I learned from my parents. What a rich heritage to understand the source of our food. And I wonder what else I take for granted that others in the world have not experienced.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

From My Herb Garden: Rosemary

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. I have three plants, of two types, and it grows all year round in our climate. I clip it to add to flower arrangements and for a bit of green on my windowsill in the winter. I love the pine-infused fragrance and taste, and enjoy just brushing by it in my garden. I find the tall spikes and needles attractive, too, and the bees love the tiny purple rosemary flowers in the early summer.

Rosemary Parmesan Coins is something I've made for years, but can't recall from where the recipe came. I like to keep a couple of rolls of dough in the freezer which can be easily baked up. I tend to eat these like chips and they never last long. 

Rosemary's assertive flavor goes well with meat and poultry. This week I made a Grilled Rosemary Steak that was easy and delicious. Our weather improved this week and the sunshine we've enjoyed most of the summer returned, making a meal outside seem like a very good thing.

In other news around here I've been dealing with a glut of green beans, now slowing, and the start of ripe tomato season. Making salsa is on today's agenda, along with hemming some curtains. Anything interesting going on in your corner?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Note Card Party - Mountains

Make yourself a cup of tea, grab a cookie or two, pull up a chair and join us for Vee's Note Card Party! Here's where we display 4 photos previously shown on our blogs that we think would make great note card photos. 

"poems of geology" (Norman Maclean)
My regular blog readers will recognize these photos as I've shown them all in August. Above, Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.

"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things" (Henry Miller)
 I never tire of this photo. It's definitely going to be enlarged and hang somewhere in my home. Lake Louise in the morning mist.

"It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe" (Robert W. Service)
 This rather daunting-looking mountain has a trail up the other side, not visible in the photo. Its shape evokes its name - the Big Beehive, with Mirror lake at its base.

"I lift my eyes to the mountains; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121
 Lastly, Lake Agnes with Mount Whyte (left) and Mount Niblock (partially hidden on the right) in the background. 

So there you have it. Mountains. Thanks, Vee, for hosting the Note Card Party once again.

End of Summer Melancholy

This has been a strange summer for us. Family issues have weighed heavily on our minds. We had house guests for three months (Tim's nephew who had the accident in May, and his wife.) As of last Monday the house was back to just the two of us and it's taken me some time to adjust to cooking less and to embrace being alone. 

I am reminded of how ephemeral summers are. We anticipate them throughout the year and plan the hikes, the barbecues, the picnics, the gardening and house projects. Then, like the scattering of seeds from wind blowing on a dandelion globe, poof, the days are gone. What remains? Memories of laughter, of tears, of the first sweetly warm tomato eaten straight from the vine, of raspberries red and ripe, of bushes loaded with blueberries, of toddler giggles and a baby learning to walk. 

But it's time to lay aside melancholy. There are days of sunshine still ahead and I mean to make the most of them. I love autumn, but summer's short season holds a special place in my heart. 

What's your favorite season? Is it approaching or ending? 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tea in the Mountains - Mosaic Monday

Enroute to the Rockies a few weeks ago, we spent a few days in the Lower Mainland visiting my family there. My parents took Tim and I, along with our youngest daughter (son-in-law had to work) to Mount Baker, just across the border. 

Beautiful day with beautiful people. We picnicked in a parking lot because we didn't find anywhere else suitable. However, just up the road were some lovely spots with tables. Next time. I asked my parents to pose with their mugs of tea - they drink tea with every meal, except breakfast when my father drinks coffee. Tea in the mountains, tea at the shore. It's a good thing.

The small photo at the bottom shows Tim and Ashley trying to slide down the snow on Mount Baker. My mother, ever the good sport, let them use her vinyl picnic tablecloth as a sled. They had a lot of fun even if they didn't go very fast. The snow was too wet. 

Today is my mother's birthday. Isn't she lovely? Happy Birthday, Mom! 

Linking with Mary at the Little Red House for Mosaic Monday.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Little of This and That

Last week I received my copy of Susan Branch's A Fine Romance. I've admired Susan's style for many years, and have enjoyed reading her blog. Oddly, this is the first book I have of hers. I'm so enjoying her rambles through the English countryside with her husband Joe and am thinking that in a few years, a trip to England might be the thing to do. We'll see. I'm pacing myself with this book - a hard thing for me to do.

Does it seem to you that some summers are filled with more home maintenance projects than others? This is one such year. I've never liked the outside of our home - pale vinyl siding, and a few years ago when we added the garage we had the idea of trimming it with this pinky beige color. It's really awful and I can only assume that I was on some sort of medication at the time I chose it. Anyway, this is the year it disappears. I'm working on that. I also painted the front door which will be revealed sometime.  Maybe.

We're having a few cooler days now and painting isn't a bad thing to be doing. All that stretching has to be good for me, too. 

Every year I plant green pole beans around the wooden teepees Tim built for me. Every year I wonder how those little plants will ever grow to produce beans. And every year I'm wowed. There are lots and lots of green beans to harvest and the plants have entwined themselves around the teepees, the kale, the rhubarb and anything else they can reach. I pick green beans every other day, cook them for us, freeze them for soups and stews, and give them away. Want some? 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

From My Herb Garden: Sage

Every time I use sage, I'm reminded of an argument Laura and Mary Ingalls had in one of the Little House books about whether or not sage or onion should be used in a stuffing recipe. As it turned out, Ma stopped the argument by reminding the girls that neither sage nor onions was in the pantry, so it was a moot point.

Sage can be pungent and overpowering if too much is used. The green beans are proliferating mightily around here and I'm looking for new ways to serve them. Bacon, sage and onion sounded good and tasted just fine in these Green Beans with Sage and Bacon.

This Sage and Ginger Mixed Nut recipe is good to keep on hand for unexpected guests, or unexpected hungers. It keeps in the freezer and is very slightly sweet and herb-flavoured, with a hint of heat from the cayenne, which could certainly be omitted.

Then there's just plain fried sage leaves. Sprinkled with a little salt, they are crunchy bits of herbaliciousness. If they don't get gobbled up in the kitchen, they'd make a great garnish on a turkey platter.

Sage is supposed to be good for many things - but I don't know how much truth there is in the following quote: "Sage is singular good for the head and brain; it quickeneth the senses and memory; strengtheneth the sinews; restoreth health to those that hath the palsy; and takes away shaky trembling of the members." - Gerard

Any good recipes/uses for sage in your cookbook? 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Let Summer Linger

 Each summer is different, but this one particularly so. There's been a sense of waiting, of longing for resolution, of putting in the days like dull beads on a string. It's not been a gloomy summer, but one fraught with small dramas that make up extended family life. Those dramas can wear away at the soul, rubbing the shine off bright mornings and lingering light-filled evenings.

Last night I wandered through my garden and noticed the hydrangea continues to produce new blooms. Summer is not over yet and there are shining days ahead in which to feel the sun wrapping me in warmth, flowers in which to bury my nose, and walks along the water where the light glints in brilliant shards. 

The roses bloom again, smaller than in that first heady rush of June flowering, but sweetly scented still and lovely in the twilight that falls sooner than it did. There are blackberries to pick, dark condensations of honeyed sweetness, ripe red tomatoes to eat warm from the vine, and oval plums to let fall into a basket like purple jewels. I'm planning to let summer linger long. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Glacier Walk - Mosaic Monday

The Icefields Parkway is 242 kilometres (144 miles) of sheer beauty between Jasper and Lake Louise. You could travel it in 3 hours, but the guidebooks say to allow much more time for pulling over at viewpoints. When we traveled through here as college students, we never stopped, but just admired the scenery flashing by. Now, much older (and hopefully wiser), we pull over and stand in admiration at creation's majesty. 

On this latest trip, we splurged on a guided expedition to Athabasca Glacier, part of the vast Columbia Icefields. The glaciers are receding - we notice the difference from our youthful travels - whether by natural climate change or human cause and effect is something I'm not getting into here. 

Our excursion took us by coach bus from the Icefields Parkway Center to a parking lot above the treeline where we transferred to a SnoCoach - a large-wheeled bus (built in Calgary) especially designed for travel on the glaciers. There are 23 of these buses, 22 here and one in Antarctica. While it was fun to walk on the glacier, next time, we would take a guided walking tour so we can explore more.

The large, lower left photo shows the Ice Dome and the Dome Glacier. This the world's only triple continental divide, where water melting here flows to three oceans - the Pacific, the Arctic and the Atlantic (by way of Hudson Bay). 

Just one more mountain - Mt. Edith Cavell - here with her cap on as befits a nurse of her time, and one of the very few mountains named for a woman. I first read about Edith Cavell in Grade 3 or 4, in a book about nurses I received as a gift. A British nurse during the first World War, Miss Cavell helped soldiers of both sides. She aided over 200 British soldiers to escape and for this she was arrested for treason and shot by firing squad. She freely admitted to the court what she had done and said, "I cannot stop while there are lives to be saved."

Rather a long post for Mosaic Monday - guess I'm feeling wordy this morning. I hope you all have a wonderful week. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Water: A Personal Photo Challenge

rushing waters of the Robson River below Mount Robson which runs to the Fraser River and the Pacific Ocean

Donna, at A Personal Photo Challenge, is a wonderful photographer (whose photos can be seen at her personal blog Cottage Days and Journeys.) Once a month, she offers a challenge to photographers or want-to-be photographers like me to hone our skills. She puts up links and suggestions for great photos. 

This month the challenge was water. I wish I had read the links before I went on my trip to the Rockies. I know some things I would have done differently. 

All of these photos were taken with my Nikon Coolpix, without a tripod. For editing, I added in a tiny bit of shadow to highlight the contrasts which are hard to capture on sunny days.

calm Lake Agnes, above Lake Louise

 I crouched low to take this photo, trying to capture the expanse of calm water below the glacier.

a boulder and tree strewn glacier fed stream on a cloudy day - the stream feeds Lake Louise

The roar of this stream filled our ears as we hiked along the trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers above Lake Louise. I can only imagine what it must be like during the spring melt.

sparkling ocean waters off Vancouver Island

I'm always amazed at the different looks water offers. From ocean to mountain streams to glacier fed lakes water takes on so many characteristics.

Linking to A Personal Photo Challenge hosted by Donna. 

Another Felt Project

The British Columbia contingent of my husband's family headed east a couple of weeks ago for a family reunion in Jasper. Long days in the car for Little Miss A and Little Miss S. You might remember the little bunny (whom I named Carmen - thanks to Pondside) for 2 1/2 year old Miss A. For Little Miss S, 14 months old, a different toy was required. 

I cut out felt circles, using a jar lid as a pattern, 14 in all. On 7 of them I appliqued a small picture: a leaf, a flower, a bird, a fish, a heart, etc. On the other 7 I appliqued a geometric shape. Two circles were joined together with buttonhole stitch, an eyelet made, and there was a little toy for Miss S to play with. The felt circles can easily be removed from the ring. I've noticed that Miss S prefers them apart so she can pick up as many as she can in her tiny hands and scrunch the felt together. Or she places them on tables or the floor.

I like to use wool felt. Yes, it's more expensive than the acrylic stuff, but it lasts longer and feels better. It's thicker and the colors seem richer.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

I Learned Something New Today

I learn so much from other bloggers. Like creating a color palette on photos. Jen of Muddy Boot Dreams created some beautiful palettes from her photos and gave a link to a tutorial on how to do it in PicMonkey. In the above example, I created the color swatches on top of the photo. They are not as visible as in the image below, where I created a strip underneath the photo.

I've been thinking of enlarging this photo for our bedroom, but wondered if the colors would go with what I already have there. I thought there might be too much green. But I see that it will go perfectly. 

My mind is whirling with possibilities. Do you use PicMonkey? This was my first visit there - I've stuck with Picasa and Photoscape thus far. Another tool to add to my editing file. Have you learned anything interesting from the blogging community recently? 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

From My Herb Garden - Thyme

Thyme grows year round in my garden. It's probably my favorite winter herb, adding warmth and character to stews and soups. But it's great in the summertime, too. Here I've made an Onion Tart - perfect as an appetizer before dinner, or as an accompaniment to soup or quiche. I could have eaten the whole tart myself and skipped the rest of dinner.

Thyme marries well with fruit, too. This Raspberry Thyme Vinaigrette uses whole raspberries, either frozen or fresh. It's a pretty color and is wonderful over all the fresh salads of summer.

I like to use thyme and a bit of orange zest in my beef stews during the winter. Since thyme and orange go so well together in savory dishes, I thought I'd experiment with them in a slightly sweet Orange Thyme Shortbread. The thyme adds another layer of flavor to these perennial favorites.

As always, clicking on the links will take you to my recipe blog. Is there thyme in your herb garden?

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Catching Up

We arrived home after dark on Friday night. I awoke Saturday morning with the urge to visit my garden and catch up on all that was happening out there. What a change 10 days can make. The beans have climbed to the very top of their obelisks and are waving tendrils in the air above, looking to entwine themselves on something higher. The butternut squashes have moved into the pathway between the beds and are nestling comfortably with the cucumbers who have done the same thing from the opposite bed. Tall green kale plants tower over the carrots. Tomato plants lean into each other and it's hard to tell where one ends and another begins. 

I wandered bare foot, inspecting the herbs, approving the new blooms of pink cosmos, the second round of roses, and the ripening plums. I dashed back indoors for my clippers and cut stems of richly coloured hydrangeas to plunk into a vase on the dining room table. 

Last night I made a Plum Platz, aka Plummen Kuchen, for dessert. And breakfast. I used up the very last of the plums I froze last summer. Have to make room for more in the freezer. With the cucumbers I made bread and butter pickles. With the zucchini and tomatoes, some ratatouille - a big double batch with enough to freeze in quart jars. With a box of blueberries from the store - sauce with lemon and cinnamon to serve over pancakes, cheesecake or french toast come winter. Tis the season!

Do you can/make jam/freeze summer produce? How's your garden doing?

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...