Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wandering through the Hedge

"All who wander are not lost." While gardening last summer I noticed an odd vine growing through the cedar hedge that provides some privacy on two sides of our yard. When pulled a little I discovered it was a piece of wisteria. Our former neighbours planted it along their fence, then later re-contoured their yard so it wasn't even visible from their home. I wrote about Pat and Wendy last September in a post featuring dahlias.

Last week I noticed the wandering wisteria was ready to bloom, so I arranged it artfully (or not) on the newly stacked woodpile. You can see the blooms hanging in mid-air in the top photo. 

I like to think the wisteria came visiting, looking for a little appreciation for blooming so beautifully. Each time I go out to the garden I take a sniff of its heady sweetness. Thank you, Miss Wisteria, for coming through the hedge. Feel free to bring your friends and family along. There's room for more!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Caramelized Onion Tart

A quick post today to join in with Penny's Tasty Tuesday

This is a great little appetizer to serve while the main dish is being grilled (or cooked in some other way.) The combination of onions and thyme is wonderful, with the onions soft from gentle cooking. Make the onions ahead and bake this at the last minute for a crisp pastry.

Caramelized Onion Tart

1 package puff pastry
4 large yellow onions, peeled, halved and cut into slices
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Romano or Asiago)
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the pastry (or cut the pre-rolled sheets) into two strips, each about 15 inches long and 5 inches wide. Place each strip onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Pre-bake the strips for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. The pastry will puff up dramatically, then fall.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onions and gently stir and cook them down. They shouldn't brown, but will slowly soften and caramelize. When they are completely softened and limp, sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Spoon the onions onto the pastry - if it's still puffy, just poke it with a fork and pile on the onions. 

Sprinkle with the cheese and thyme leaves. Bake 10 minutes longer. Cut into crosswise pieces about 2 inches wide to serve. Let cool slightly before serving.

Check out Penny's The Comforts of Home blog for more deliciousness. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Moody Seas Weekend

Saturday morning. On a boat (not ours) just off Vancouver Island. The seas were lumpy as 8 good friends made their way across the water to Pender Island. Laughter is a great way to ward off any seasickness. Blue skies, bluer water. 

Arriving in Poet's Cove where the more sheltered water was smoother. Vivid early green maple leaves stand bright among the dark conifers. 

Monochrome Sunday morning. Time with good friends. Laughter, good food, great discussions that ranged from politics to spirituality to food to hopes and dreams. Enriching.

Sea and sky were variable, changing quickly from grey to blue within minutes. Lovely coastline views. Our short getaway was refreshing, inspiring, and full of fun.  We soaked in the hot tub overlooking the water, hiked some very easy trails, and did I mention we laughed?

On the shore beside the dock, this heron posed for a farewell photo. Isn't he beautiful? He was so still we joked about the resort possibly installing an artificial heron there. But no, his majestic stance is real. 

A weekend away - this is the 3rd annual getaway with this group of friends. I hope there are many more of them. Once we arrived home our daughter and her husband hosted the family for a lasagna dinner. A niece and her husband were in town for a short while. They spent the night with us and left this morning, planning to hike along our beautiful coastline. 

What was your weekend like? Busy or quiet? 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Five on Friday, or it might be Six or Seven

Time plays tricks with my mind. I awake in the morning thinking of the hours ahead and the way I'll fill them. In the morning there's always enough time to do the musts and plenty of the wants. In the morning the day stretches ahead with luxurious possibility. 

By late afternoon luxurious possibility has altered to "Where has the time gone?" and "I didn't get much accomplished." Still, what needs to be done gets done and there's usually time to take a photo or two and a turn around the garden. Without further rambling, here are five (or more) things that have delighted me this week:

1. The first sprouts of radishes (above) and kale. These are the first sown-in-the-ground seeds of the year. Newly sprouted, glistening with water (we've had rain). Time to plant carrots, Swiss chard, and more.

2. Moments from last weekend's party to celebrate my father's 80th birthday pop up in my mind. Here my beautiful mother holds her newest great-grandchild. Do you like mulling over events such as this, remembering snippets of this and that?

3. A few weeks ago I visited Butchart Gardens with a friend. The indoor display had a number of orchids. This green one caught my eye as it reminded me of the first flower Tim ever gave me - a green orchid corsage for a college banquet. 

4.  The Little Misses just after their quick Easter Egg hunt in the back yard. We were all tired after the party on the mainland and the return trip via ferry, but this Nana still wanted to do a little hunt. Taking photos of these two is getting harder and harder. They rarely sit still. 

Little Miss S noticed the forsythia blooms and called them "Dandy-flowers." Earlier in the week Little Miss A told me, as I left her house, "Nana, try to be good." Do you think she's heard that phrase elsewhere? These little ones make me laugh so often.

5.  Apple blossoms. Our very own. Most of them are fully open, but I captured these so pink and full of promise. Will there be apples? We hope so. Last year we pulled off all the blooms and fruit starts other than one apple per tree. Then we picked them before they had time to sweeten. Patience. Sigh.

Today will be full. A little trip away tomorrow and company coming on Sunday, plus teaching this afternoon all mean I have a number of things to do this morning. So I'll get to it all and hope that your day is full, but not too full to take time for a little enjoyment. 


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On Dreams and Marriage

Lest anyone should think, after my last post, that my vacation dreams take second place to my husband's, let me assure you otherwise. We make decisions together. Because he loves boating and I love him, I'm thrilled that he has a boat. Because I love Europe and he loves me, I've been to Paris three times.  

We live in an amazing part of the world and I'm thrilled to explore it with him. I'm excited about going to remote areas accessible only by boat to see fjords and mountains, waterfalls and running tides. To sit in silence and hear the loons call at night in a quiet anchorage, while I'm lulled to sleep by the rocking waves. It's no sacrifice for me. Nor is going to Europe one for him. We respect each other's dreams and plan ways to make them both work.

I did a quick search on the words "compromise and dreams" before writing this post. Without fail the advice was "never compromise." So I ask myself, and you, is it compromise to see another's dream fulfilled while yours waits awhile in the wings? Is compromise giving up a dream? Is compromise a weak and nasty word, or a bridge between two widely differing viewpoints?  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On the Water at Last

What's your ideal vacation getaway? Several years ago we co-owned a sailboat with two other couples. We enjoyed our time on the water. The time came when, for various reasons, the boat was sold.

Since that time, Tim has dreamed of owning a boat again. Sailing is lovely, but there's little wind in the summer time here and I'm not much for getting out on the water when it's freezing cold. Mooring a boat is costly, so after much research, Tim decided that we would get the largest possible boat that can be pulled behind a passenger vehicle. 
Here's our 25 foot Albin. It looks small on the water, but has a cozy forward cabin complete with galley and head, a cockpit suitable for company, and an aft cabin that the Little Misses claim as their own. Yesterday was the first day we put it into the water. A test run, just a short jaunt into the water between islands. I took cleaning supplies along and did a little work in the galley, then decided to just enjoy the day.

My idea of an ideal vacation getaway is a trip to Europe. That's a little out of reach for practicality's sake. Tim's ideal is cruising up and down our coastline, stopping at quiet anchorages, hiking our beautiful islands, finding unique communities. I enjoy that, too. This summer, that's what we'll be doing. 

We have yet to decide on a name for the boat. Tim's first inclination was to name the boat Paris. "That way," he told me, "you can get to Paris whenever you want."  All the family laughed over that, knowing of my affection for France. I don't think that's what the final name will be, although that's the name that we talk about the most.

Grey blue sky, land and water. A distant sailboat provides a bit of focus. I enhanced the contrast in this photo so it looks brighter than it was. I didn't mind the grey. The brightness of Tim's smile more than made up for the dull day. When he's out on the water, cares fall away. Work has been particularly stressful for him lately and I'm delighted that we'll be spending time outdoors this summer. Perhaps next year we'll go to Europe. Or the next. For now, I'm making lists of boating supplies and menus to cook on the water.

Do you and your spouse differ in your vacation plans?  

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Celebration Weekend

Not only did we celebrate the joy and hope of Easter this past weekend; a very special birthday party happened.

My wonderful, hard-working, funny and dearly loved father will be 80 this week. I am blessed to have such a great role model. I caught him here, a candid shot, while he was busy getting to his meal. My sister, brother and I planned a party for the family. About 30 of us gathered - our mother, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The youngest was just 2 weeks old. She slept through the whole thing.

My sister, brother, and I planned a party for the family. About 30 of us gathered in Chilliwack - Dad and Mom, their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and spouses. The youngest was just 2 weeks old. She slept through the whole thing. We held the party in a church hall - my brother's church. The toddler play room was a big hit. Little Miss S was heard to say, "fun church" after the party and Little Miss A told her mother that she wanted to have her own birthday party there.

Family get-togethers are loud, busy affairs fueled by the boundless energy of toddlers, lots of laughter and talking, and good food. I never get to visit with everyone, but I still enjoy these times when family comes together to celebrate. 

Today was a bit slower. I'm talked out for the moment, content to stay quiet and mull over pieces of conversation. Do you get together with your extended family often?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

An Abundance of Blossoms

Today's walk takes me through streets dampened by rain in the night. Grass grows visibly these days, reaching up, up, up to the light. All is emerald and lime and parsley-colored.

   My route lies along wooded pathways, peppered now with clumps of bluebells. They grow, too, in my garden and I pick a handful for my kitchen windowsill where the scent of sweetness and spring wafts gently as I finish the dishes.

White stars have fallen to earth, it seems, in the form of fawn lilies. They grow 12 inches, perhaps, above the ground, faces downward.

I crouch low to look the lily in the face and am rewarded by brightness and intricate design, along with damp knees. 

Returning once more to Lily Avenue, I discover the naturalized lawn covered with shooting stars. Johnson's  Henderson's Shooting Stars. Paler pink than other years, poised to dive downwards into the leggy grass.(edited on 4/21) Thanks to Gretchen for being puzzled about the name.

Pink magnolias sit like cups on branches. Tightly closed tiny daisies, white petals tinged with pink and sunny yellow centers. Ruffles of pink cherry blossoms dance like bridesmaids. Hyacinths and tulips and daffodils. The world is bursting with color and life and an abundance of flowers. Soon the lilacs will bloom. A parade of purple, blue, white, pink and green and fragrance. Spring's assault on the senses. 

Perhaps ee cummings says it best, 
"i thank You, God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky: and for everything
which is infinite which is yes." 

I'll be taking a little break for the next few days. I wish you all a most blessed and happy Easter. May you know the joy and hope of resurrection life. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Notes from my Garden

Inspiration comes from everywhere. I had a plan for this month's Note Card Party, but then in church on Sunday, an image was shown on the screen and all my plans flew away. This one took a little preparation and good weather. I taught yesterday, so I prepared last night and hoped for a sunny morning. Wind flapped against the house most of the night and I wondered if Plan A would have to be resurrected in the likelihood of rain. How happy I was to see the sun this morning!

Easter greetings in English and French. These were fun to do. The preparation involved writing the cards.

And a box top so you know what you're getting! I'm looking forward to visiting at Vee's Party this afternoon - you're welcome to join in. Vee's new rules allow for new photos, not just ones previous published. This is a good thing, I think.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tulips in the Sun

Oh my! What a gorgeous, sunny weekend we've had. Much too nice to stay indoors. We shoveled and dug and weeded. Pulled and transplanted. Mowed and trimmed. And at the end of the day - we ached with the good kind of ache that lets you lie in bed and drift off to sleep.

The water on the tulips came from a hose, not from the sky. The bottom photo of the middle column is of a tulip centre, as is the one on the right. They are from the same sort of tulip bulb, but look at the difference. One creamy monotone, the other high contrast. Fascinating.

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

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Closer Look

Donna's Photo Challenge this month was all about macro. These are some of my favorite shots to take, especially of flowers. This month I challenged myself a little by putting my Nikon Coolpix P7100 on Manual mode and adjusting the settings myself. It's still not fully manual, but more than I usually use.
 I also challenged myself to go beyond my usual subject of flowers and looked for things around the house. A close up of this old button card from my button box shows irregularities and wear and tear. Character, if you will.

 A feather picked up from the ground. Such amazing symmetry.

A ball of yarn. The focus here is to the left of centre so that the outer edges of the ball are blurred. I was happy to see an accidental bit of bokeh show up in the photo.

All photos were lightly edited in Picasa with some intensification of shadow and highlights, and cropping to (almost) square size.

I'll be foregoing my Five on Friday post this week. Check out the other participants of the Personal Photo Challenge hosted by Donna. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons

Lemon trees grew on our property in Ecuador. We harvested them year round, for lemon trees can have blossoms, baby fruit and mature fruit all at the same time. During some seasons more lemons grew than at others. We loved having fresh lemons all the time (and avocados, too.) Sometimes lemons would fall to the ground and get chewed up in the lawnmower. What a lovely scent filled the air.

A couple of years ago we discovered a fruit grower who grew lemons here in Canada. Tim thought it would be a wonderful thing to have our own lemon tree. We chose a south-facing spot against a short stone wall. Tim built a wooden shelter - just a wall, really, to protect the lemon tree from the cold wind. Last spring we planted the tree, watered, fertilized it and watched the bees buzzing around the blossoms. Tiny green lemons formed. Would they have the chance to ripen before the cold? No. But our fruit grower expert told us that we would be picking lemons in April. Really?

Tim draped the tree with an old string of outdoor Christmas lights wired to a thermostat. We covered the tree with two layers of an agricultural fabric in September. Many mornings I looked out the kitchen window to see a colorful glow coming from the wrapped lemon tree. The lights come on when the temperature hits freezing and their heat protects the tree. 

Last week Tim removed one layer of fabric. Yesterday I was in the yard and noticed a tear in the remaining layer. I peeked in then went for my camera.

Lemons! All the cosseting resulted in lots of lemons. This sneak peek was all I could get through the little tear. I'm dreaming of fresh lemonade, lemon meringue pie, guacamole, lemon bars and more. Tim thinks we should have a big celebration or at least a little ceremony. I think a lemon-themed party might be fun.

What do you like to make with lemons? 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

On Absent Mindedness and Waiting

Doesn't it seem like we've waited a long time for this particular spring? It does to me, and I live in the most mild climate in Canada. I'm just so glad to see these brighter days. I love going out into my garden to see what new thing is blooming, growing, bursting with life. 

Pink cherry blossoms are flying like stars about the town just now. But these blossoms, white, not pink, are something special. They're blooming in our yard with the hope of fruit. Cherries, if we can get them before the birds do. We planted fruit trees last year and picked all the blossoms off so as to give the trees a chance to grow before fruiting. This year, we're hoping for fruit.

Mesclun lettuce growing in the garden bed. We won't be waiting very long before harvesting some of this. 

I read somewhere today of someone who went to the post office with a chocolate bar in one hand and a letter to mail in the other. She mistakenly mailed the chocolate bar. It reminded me of an event several years ago.

A bad cold had me in its grip. I don't take any medications beyond ibuprofen for I'm highly sensitive. Cold medications never. But this particular cold was terrible. In desperation I took one third of a tablet designed to ease the congestion. I had several errands to run that day and came home feeling dragged out only to discover that the letter I had mailed that day was still sitting on my desk. The envelope I slipped into the mail slot was empty. Then the library called to tell me that I had returned a DVD that belonged to the video rental store.

Later that afternoon, I picked up the remote to change the channel on the television. I clicked and clicked and nothing worked. One of my children, I don't remember which, looked at me strangely and said, "Mom, you're holding the telephone." 

And that's why I don't do "drugs." 

Have you ever done something absentminded, either under the influence or not? 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

An Urban Walk over the Gorge Waterway

Our city has many trails that meander through urban neighborhoods and along the water, skirting industrial areas and opening into small parks. Bikers, runners and walkers use these trails for pleasure and for commuting. This trail is one that my husband used to ride on his bike when he worked downtown. The waterway pictured above is the Gorge - part of an inlet that winds into the land, crossed now by way of an old railway trestle.

Red-flowering currant bushes are in bloom, bright pink to attract hummingbirds. We didn't see any of the small birds today, though.

On our return I notice a lamppost, graceful and curving. I am reminded of Narnia.
Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary of the Little Red House.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Five on Friday

Today slipped away in a flurry of phone calls, stacks of fresh, folded laundry, bathroom cleaning, and a walk in the sunshine. Blogging took a decided back seat. But here we are, and it's still Friday.

First of all, I did a little spring freshening up of my living room mantel. A stack of books. Trading out brass candlesticks for crystal, a piece of driftwood to hint of summer, and a leggy bunch of tulips, pink with blue centers. Here, I'll show you.

Blue! Amazing. The black flecks are all the pollen that is falling off. 

Two: We've had a lovely week, weather-wise. We mowed the lawn. I push the mower until he's finished doing the edging - by then I've usually completed the flat sections and he finishes off the rest. The smell of freshly cut grass sings summer to me. 

Three: I planted kale and radish seeds on Tuesday. The latter should be poking up through the ground tomorrow or Sunday. 

A quote for number four, well-known, but I read it with a new perspective this week:

"We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring will be to 
arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
T.S. Eliot (The Wasteland)

And last, but not least, a new song. I heard this on CBC while driving today in the bright sunshine. I find the words compelling and the music folksy and lovely.  Do listen and watch. The lyrics show up on the video, a good thing if you, like me, sometimes often have a hard time deciphering the words.

Matt Epp's Never Have I Loved Like This 
Have a wonderful weekend. Do you have anything planned? There's not much defined around here, so whatever unfolds will be spontaneous. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Garden Inspection

Sunny days. Three in a row! Irresistible. Shy and looking downwards, daffodils nod their heads.

Exuberant mint bursts up from its pot. It would take over the world if I let it.

Grape hyacinth glows in the morning sun, its slender leaves stroked with gold.

Plum tree leaves reaching, unfolding, lifting to the light.

A dandelion offers its color to the garden. Today, it makes me smile. Later, I'll dig it up. Maybe make a salad with the leaves.

As I wander through the garden (it's not very large), I notice first the flowers blooming, then the garden beds where the garlic grows tall and green and wrinkled rhubarb leaves slowly uncurl. Stones mark the rows where kale and radish seeds, planted yesterday, wait in the darkness for life. My neighbour's grapevine growing over our compost bin swells with promise. I walk to the left to inspect the raspberry canes, happy to see the new sprouts and fresh leaves. I turn then, to the right. And oh, the apricot tree is in bloom.

A rush of pure and unexpected joy takes me by surprise. A tree with its first blossoms. Such a small thing to cause such depth of emotion. Puzzled as to why this particular sign of growth and life affects me so, I'll not over think this, but take it as a gift from the God who delights to give.

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-...