Thursday, May 29, 2014

Making Progress

"Up the stairs go the bears, up, up, up. Step by step, step by step, up, up, up." I sing this little ditty with my grandchildren as we climb 10 steps up, turn and climb 4 more. It's a memory of my own childhood - a song/story 45rpm recording of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The little misses have caught the tune and often sing it with me. Mr. F will learn it, too.

Along the long wall upwards there are three wedding portraits of our children. At the head of the stairs I've started a gallery wall of family photos. Some professionally taken, others casual snapshots. I love looking at them as I climb up or down the stairs. When I took everything down to paint the hall a couple of months ago, I determined not to rehang the photos until I had painted them. Some of the frames were naturally finished wood (made by Tim in Ecuador), until this week. I've had them laid out on the newspaper covered countertop and gave them a swipe of white paint several times. Today I finally cleaned the glass and hung the photos. One project more or less completed.

Finish number two - this shirt. It would look best on a person, but no person was nearby for modeling it. The fabric is a lovely soft printed lawn, just right for cooler days or as a loose cover-up over a t-shirt. I made it strictly according to the pattern, to determine exactly how I adjust for my own shape. I knew it probably wouldn't fit, and although it does, the next version will have some adjustments. This version will go to my younger daughter.  I'm happy with the way it turned out - flat felled seams, cuffs, collar and band. Can't wait to start my own.

Tim made this wonderful armoire/television cabinet 8 years ago. Since then we've purchased a flat screen tv that doesn't fit. The bottom now houses our printer/copier. The top is empty for now, but he's planning to fit it with shelves and I'll use it to store table linens.

For a minute there I couldn't remember why I was including the armoire. Scary. Oh, yes - I changed the stuff on top. A large hand-painted Italian platter bought in Quito, a French flowershop pot, a cake stand (also made by Tim) and a plant. Nothing new, but new to this space. I so love puttering with the things I already own. I don't need new stuff, that's for certain. But I like rotating displays, do you?

And a flower. We really can't have a post without a flower at this time of year. A wild rose growing on one of the islands we visited last week. Wild roses always make me think of the way Anne of Green Gables decorated the tea table for the minister and his wife - all ferns and wild roses.

It feels good to finish a few things. Are you a start-something-and-finish-it-before-starting-something-new kind of person or a million-things-on-the-go kind of person? I'm the latter, but I wish I were the former.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Piles of Little Things

This week's activity has been concentrated around getting things finished. Little things, like "just-get-the-buttonholes-done-and-you'll-have-something-finished." My mother first sewed on an old Singer machine. I made a skirt with that machine and probably some other things, but then she brought home a lovely, modern Bernina machine, similar to the one above. I sewed a lot with that machine. Mom still has it but she sews quilts now, not clothing. So last time we were in Chilliwack I asked if I could have the old buttonhole attachment. You can see the green case behind the machine above and the contraption afixed to the pressure foot. It makes the best buttonholes. Thanks to my consuegros (parents of a son-in-law), I have a Bernina as well. It stitches so evenly. I still use my Husqvarna for everyday sewing, but for buttonholes - it's the Bernina. 

I've painted shelves and picture frames, filled some holes in the wall and will paint them, weeded the garden, and sewed, trying to finish projects that have sat, neglected, for too long. Not much to show for all my efforts yet, but I'm hopeful. 

Peonies are slowly opening outside. I picked a few fat buds to sit on the mantel and watched them open. Such lush flowers. 

I'd planned to putter some more today, but a call last night had me scurrying to organize myself - instead of sewing I'll be discussing the French Revolution, Romeo and Juliet, and All Quiet on the Western Front with various classes. Some of my favourite history and literature. 

Catch you all later this afternoon.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bringing the Outdoors In

Do you find, as I do, that flowers or greenery adds life to a room? A pot of ivy on the mantel, a fern in the hallway, and a ficus tree behind the sofa add the energy of growing things in my home. But I want more. These days my garden is bursting with life. The first blooms of spring have passed and I'm awaiting the hydrangeas and roses. 

I found these metal containers at Ikea in December. I put small glass candle holders with tea lights in them and admired the light flickering through the open pattern. The other day I looked at them and thought they'd make pretty vases as well. A small jar holds water and into the water I plunked variegated sage, lemon balm, and oregano, all clipped from my garden. The herbs are at their best just now and it's time to begin harvesting for the winter. There are more than enough herbs to enjoy as greenery as well as to dry for later.

What's in your herb garden? Do you dry herbs for the winter? What do you clip from your garden when flowers are scarce?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Five on Friday

1. One of my favourite photos taken while hiking this week. This perfect little fungus made me think of woodland fairies who might use it as a parasol or umbrella. Such a whimsical mushroom.

2. A simple meal on the boat - soup, bread, cheese, crudités. A confession about boating - I don't get seasick and find the gentle rocking of the boat quite soothing. However, coming off the boat is a different story. The computer is still rocking back and forth in my mind and I go to sleep at night with the waves rocking my bed in spite of the fact that I'm on dry land. This will disappear in a few days, but it's disconcerting at times. 
When our daughter took her AP Biology field trip to the Galapagos Islands (we were living in Ecuador), she complained of the same thing and ended up taking sea sickness pills AFTER her return to terra firma. 

3. Crisp fresh lettuce from the garden. I see lots of salad in our near future. Tonight's was chicken and avocado on lettuce with a blue cheese dressing. An easy meal to end a day that was a bit emotional because...

4. ...we attended the memorial service for 28-year-old Alyson, beloved daughter of our friends Tom and Sue. So young. I confess that my mind and emotions were taken back three years to the death of my nephew Colin, just 29. Same general type of cancer (lymphoma) and an eery parallel in the timeline of chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, hope that the cancer had been eradicated followed by a relapse resulting in earthly death. I am thankful that their pain and suffering have ended and I believe they are with their Lord, but they are missed here on earth nonetheless. 

5. I took a wander around my garden after returning home. Several fat peony buds are in a vase on the mantel. I'm looking forward to seeing them open. One tall stalk of foxglove stands like a sentinel, glowing pink in the late afternoon sunshine. I'm reminded again of the beautiful and precious gift of life.

For the weekend - tomorrow morning we'll be volunteering at Woodwynn Farm, a therapeutic community on the Peninsula. In the afternoon there will be weeds to pull here, and a lawn to mow if the rain holds off. Ordinary plans for an ordinary weekend that becomes extraordinary when I pay attention. 
Anything exciting going on in your neighbourhood?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Fill a Day

This is a rather longer post - a reflection on a day spent away from normal life.

We awake to the sound of water gently slapping the hull. Another boater is passing by, up earlier than we are. Sunlight glares from the window above us since we left the curtain partially open to watch the night stars as we fell asleep.

morning in Annette Inlet

 In the morning the day stretches ahead of us, long, lovely hours. How we will fill them? There's no list of things to do, no errands to run, no schedule to keep. Will we be bored by day's end?

I stretch, dress, and make my way to the cockpit where open sides let me lean over the boat edge. I stare into the water below. It's a moving highway of life. As the tide ebbs, bits and pieces from our snug inlet anchorage drift out into the channel. Tiny translucent moon jellyfish, scarcely an inch in diameter, contract and push to get wherever they need to go. Suspended filaments twist gracefully in the current. What are they? I toy with taking a course or two in marine biology.

Shadows in the water - see how the dead head and its shadow form an arrow? Perhaps it points to secret treasure.
In the compact galley I prepare breakfast - bacon, pancakes, and fresh pineapple. A pot of tea. Maple syrup and butter. We eat in the cockpit with the fresh air blowing across our small table. We talk of this and that and nothing much, the desultory talk of two people long accustomed to breakfasting together. 

I heat water to wash dishes. He dries. "What shall we do?" one or the other says. I decide to go out in the dinghy, exploring. He chooses to stay on the boat and putter. Man plus boat equals intense puttering.

Life above and below the water

Life vest on, I clamber into the dinghy and begin to row away from the boat. He waves. 

Last night when we arrived, the tide was very low, exposing large rocks. The tide is high now, barely ebbing and the rocks are mostly covered. I row over to check them out. Balancing the oars on the dinghy sides, I drift along the barnacled and shell-encrusted rocks. Crabs scurry to safety when my shadow covers them. Schools of tiny fish dart in unison. Long ribbons of kelp and sea lettuce wave gracefully. 

Continuing along the shoreline I startle half a dozen robins from their low hanging branch. They fly off in a hurry and alight not too far away. Deadfalls lean into the water, creating shadows where larger fish hide. If I am still I see them there, waiting. 

After an hour of paddling and watching, I return to the boat. I see that Tim has hung the Canadian flag and it flaps brightly in the wind.

Solitude anchored in James Bay off Prevost Island

We decide to weigh anchor and find a hiking trail. On the same island is a small park. We anchor the boat again, take the dinghy ashore and begin hiking to Peile Point. Our guidebook warns that this is a sheep trail and so we find it. Sheep appear to be more agile than we are, clambering up and down steep rocky inclines. We know that it's a sheep trail for they've left clumps of creamy, soft wool behind. Trail markers, perhaps?

Tim sitting on the rocks below the lighthouse at Peile Point

Hot and sweaty we arrive at the lighthouse point. We sit on the rocks eating apples, nuts and dried fruit and wishing we'd brought our lunch. A seal swims by just to take a look. Reassured, he soon returns to his rocky sunbathing some distance off. A bald eagle soars overhead and alights in a tall tree. White sails dot the ocean. A tidal pool holds a small reddish purple crab, several tiny fish, barnacles and pebbles. On the water-covered rocks below we see starfish, purple and orange, and rows of purple mussels.

Peile Point lighthouse from the water
We return to the boat. Three hours have passed. We're hungry and break out the salami, cheese, bread and crudités. We decide to go to Montague Harbour for the night. Half an hour to cross Trincomali Channel, another half hour to decide where to anchor. I read a book. He reads a magazine. Often the reading material falls to our laps as we gaze out at the world around us. He takes a nap, then decides to go exploring in the dinghy. I stay aboard to finish my book.

Light filtering through spring green maple leaves

We cook dinner late. He grills a marinated pork tenderloin on the barbecue mounted on the back rail of the boat. I cook asparagus and re-heat some vegetables I'd roasted at home. Coleslaw with a peanut dressing. Red wine. Before the sun sinks away we take the dinghy ashore and walk up the road for 20 minutes or so. Once aboard again I make two mugs of hot chocolate. He eats a couple of cookies and I have a square (or two) of dark chocolate. We talk and watch the light fade. We see the glow from other anchored boats - a neighbourly sight although we know no one. 

Just after 10 pm we crawl into bed. The waves have died down and the boat is still, barely turning on her anchor as we fall asleep. Just one day left.

As the light fades - Annette Inlet
 How will we fill the hours that stretch ahead?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Getting Away from it All

Getting away from it all takes on new meaning when one is on a boat. On a little boat, cruising around to places without internet access means there's no temptation to take a computer along. We had a quietly wonderful three days and spent time on three of the islands between our home island (Vancouver Island) and the mainland. 

This close up of a cluster of Acorn Barnacles could be the setting for a fantasy tale. The taller golden barnacles remind me of defensive castles with the white smaller barnacles clustered around for protection. These tallest of these little barnacles are less than an inch in height so the kingdom would be minute. 

Rocky points reach into the sea requiring close attention to charts, either electronic or paper, to ensure one's boat doesn't get too close. One wants to avoid the "chunky bits" at all cost. 

Beautiful views at every point. On Portland Island we took an apparently seldom-used 2.3 km cut-off trail and had it all to ourselves, except for some wildlife. Arbutus trees, firs, cedars, rocky beaches, blue water and distant mountains. Soul-refreshing.

Portland Island is one of Canada's "Hawaiian Islands" - so-called because it was first settled by Hawaiians in the 1880s who came north after working in the fur trade in the USA. Here is the remnant of a fruit orchard planted by those early settlers who are now gone. The island was later given to Princess Margaret of England, who later returned it as a gift to Canada (what would she do with it?) and is now a national park. 

We disturbed a family of Canada Geese on the trail. The parents quickly ushered their four goslings into the water and swam across to nearby rocks.

We arrived home late afternoon today and I've been editing photos and doing not much else. We've equipped the boat with dishes and linens, and all I had to bring in was the food from the tiny refrigerator on board, along with the linens which I'll launder tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you've been up to - it will take me a few days to catch up. I'll post more about our little trip later.   

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Can we ever see too many flowers?

A few more photos from my latest visit to Butchart Gardens. I admire the gutsy colour combination of white, pink, and orange tulips underplanted with blue forget-me-nots. 

Another larger view, taken from above the sunken garden. I love the masses of color and all the curved lines. When we lived in Ecuador, I had a local handyman help me dig out some new beds. I had laid out a garden hose to indicate the shape of the bed. He thought it absolutely crazy - all graceful curves. Straight lines is what he preferred. After the beds were dug, though, he admired the effect.

A green door on an outbuilding. Love the vine creeping up the walls.

The Japanese Garden is a peaceful place without a lot of showy colour. The red bridge really pops in the green landscape.

More curving lines that lead the eye and the foot. This garden is designed and maintained by professionals, but there are many wonderful principals to apply to home gardens as well. Every time I go I think of something else that will improve our own little piece of this earth.

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Five on Friday

Je suis crevée. I'm tired. I'm glad that calls to teach have been steady, but work combined with a dodgy back is exhausting. Ah well, a long weekend is ahead, and I'm paying the second visit to my physiotherapist this evening. Things are looking up. 

1. Speaking of looking, a friend with whom I walk noted that I frequently take photos of details; single flowers or small vignettes, as opposed to grand vistas and larger scenes. Since then I've been watching myself. She's right. So I give you, above, a larger view of the old quarry, now a wonderland of plantings and pathways at Butchart Gardens.

2. And here I am, back to detail. I've been teaching Social Studies (history) recently. The students are preparing for a test covering the time period of the defeat of the French troops on the Plains of Abraham through the American Revolution and the War of 1812. We reviewed today and one question they struggle with deals with the roots of Canada's bi-culturalism. They have an excellent teacher and I stumble along trying to fill her shoes. However, in an attempt to get them to try to understand the importance of this material, I stressed that what happened in those crucial years plays a large part in the way we see Canada today. It's rewarding when at least one student has an "aha" moment and gets what I'm trying to convey. I love history, from the bird's-eye view to the small details of the way people lived and thought. As in photography, both have their place.

3. We've eaten outdoors three nights this week. It's been so lovely to sit in the shade and be warm, to listen to avian twittering, and to flick flies away from the table. Wait, no, that last isn't lovely, but it's true. Not too many flies, fortunately. 
A change in the weather is coming. Already the wind is picking up and it's chilly, not warm.

4.  My mother told me once that these little Bellis Daisies were favourites of her mother, the grandmother I never met. The grandmother who took her place loved pansies. Do certain flowers remind you of loved ones?  I like the way these are nestled into the rocks.

5. We've been enjoying rhubarb for about a month now. Rhubarb can be tart and I like the way the creamy topping on the top of this Rhubarb Cream Cheese Pie tempers the tartness. The whipped cream adds more creaminess. The recipe comes from a friend in Ecuador. When I spoke to another friend about it, she said, "I gave her that recipe." I like to acknowledge original sources when I can, even in recipes. So I think of it as Phyllis' recipe, not Gail's. Clicking on the link will take you to the recipe. How do you like rhubarb?

A long weekend. A small luxury. I'm looking forward to sleeping in a bit, cleaning this messy house, dinner with two of our children (and their families) and some boating. Do you have anything planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Almost Summer Days

Almost every day I prowl around my garden discovering what's new. Today, this wild blue cornflower showed her pretty face. I know that she'll scatter seeds in places I don't want them, but I'll deal with those later and admire the flower.

There was a rosebush here when we arrived 12 years ago - just an ordinary unpedigreed rose. She's always the first to bloom. Today I picked a few flowers for the house. The petals are falling already. Mint sprigs seemed like a good accompaniment. The mint is flourishing! It may need to be reined in soon. I just hate digging out plants - they go to all that effort to grow and mint is so pretty and green. 

Several weeks ago friends picked us up enroute to a gathering. Just a block from our house, I spotted a large mirror on the side of the road with a "free" sign. The driver stopped at my exclamation. Tim and Paul tried to put the mirror into the car, but it wouldn't fit. We were all laughing ourselves silly. Tim picked up the mirror and carried it home while Paul drove the car slowly beside him. Wonderful husband!

I've wanted a mirror in the garden ever since I saw one in my neighbour's yard in Parksville several years ago. And now I have one.

Today marked the first meal eaten outdoors. Mint and lemon in the water. Umbrella overhead. Warm sun on my back. Crustless Salmon quiche, broccoli and carrots. And for dessert, one dark chocolate-covered caramel sprinkled with pink sea salt. Delectable. 

The forecast is for a cooling down and change in the weather, so we have to make the best of what we've got now. How lovely are these almost-summer days. Are you enjoying them too?  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Breakfast by the Sea

"We're going out for breakfast on Saturday," said he, "We have a 9 am reservation." 

Reservation? For breakfast? Really?

And this is where he took me. It's in Sidney by the Sea, just a few miles north. Our good friends have their boat moored in the nearby marina and recommended the Sea Glass Restaurant. We did need that reservation.

Table 12 has the best view overlooking the marina. A grey day, but brightening. Masts reflected in the water rippled in the breeze.

Sea glass, shells, and watery shades of blue, green and aqua made for beautiful decor that just added to the experience. 

And the breakfast? Wild salmon cakes on foccacia bread layered with spinach, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. Crispy potatoes on the side. A little dish of fruit. Earl Grey tea to drink. Delicious and satisfying. So satisfying that I brought home half of it and enjoyed it again on Sunday morning! 

A great start to a Mother's Day weekend that included a wedding shower, dinner with  children and grandchildren, puttering in the garden, phone calls with my daughters and more. I hope your weekend was equally wonderful. 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Photography Challenge: Colourful

Donna's photo challenges are always interesting. This month, the challenge was colourful. (Actually, it was colorful - but I'm Canadian, so I'll add the extra "u.") I found this challenge a little more difficult than earlier ones. Don't we always photograph colour? How could I force myself to learn a little more with this challenge? 

My favourite colours are the cool tones of blues, greens, violets, pinks. I can handle some yellow, but not too much. My home and my garden very much reflect this cool palette. So I decided to stretch myself a little and go outside of my usual palette. Ta Da! Above is a detail of a Golden Chain Tree, currently blooming along the path I walk. Doesn't it glow against the greens?

A trip to Butchart Gardens was a revelation. I can walk by beds of orange, red, and yellow flowers without once feeling the urge to snap a photo. Okay, red, sometimes, but it has to be a deep, cool red. This time, I forced myself to really look at the other colour combinations. The jagged edge on the orange tulip above caught my eye. I think I photographed it more for the shape than the colour. But colourful it is.

I slipped backwards for this photo. A long, lovely bed of white tulips nodded gracefully in elegant uniformity. Then I saw her. And I giggled quietly to myself. One rebellious poppy, flaunting her blue petals and golden center in the midst of all that white. Brave little poppy. "Look at me," says she, "I'm unique." Isn't she adorable?

I enjoyed this foray into new territory with colour. Did you learn something new during this challenge? What is your favourite colour palette?

All photos were taken with my Nikon Coolpix P7100 and edited for colour contrast in Picasa. 

Visit A Personal Photography Challenge for more colourful displays. 


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

This Beautiful Broken World

A walk over the weekend took us by the naturalized front garden on Lily Street. Currently blooming among ever lengthening grasses are native Camas Lilies. The tubers of these plants were a staple food for the First Nations People who once lived here. There are also white Camas Lilies, but those are poisonous. Only the blue ones are safe to eat, thus, harvesting must take place when the plant is in bloom.

Nana pushed the stroller, but Little Miss S preferred to walk. We kept her overnight while her parents enjoyed an anniversary getaway. All went well although after her bath she wanted to "go downstairs, see Mommy." At nearly 2 she hasn't spent much time away from her parents.

How beautiful the bluebells are in the woods, here framed in front of a mossy tree. The world is so full of beauty, yet brokenness is everywhere.

Girls are captured and held as trade goods in Nigeria. A Nigerian student at our local university spoke on the radio this afternoon, expressing sorrow not only for these girls, but for all who live in that country under fear of such things happening.

Dear friends of ours lost their beloved 27-year-old daughter to cancer this week. The next day, their older daughter gave birth to a lovely baby girl. How does one come to grips with such onslaughts of sorrow and joy? Faith gives hope for the future, but the anguish of loss now must still be born.

Buttercups bloom in my lawn. I am drawn back into the past to my grandparents' small farm in the Fraser Valley where, in the summer, I gathered fistfuls of these sunny flowers, wanting to bring their brightness indoors. They soon wilted and lay limp in the glass my grandmother provided.

Life goes on in the midst of brokenness, and it is beautiful. Finding the beauty and letting it seep into my soul while acknowledging the pain of the world seems paradoxical. Yet, I believe that one day, all things will be made right, and so, I'll ache and weep with those who weep and still look for beauty in each day.

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-...