Monday, June 30, 2014

Gathering the Moments - June

This year, 2014, is half over. On the other hand, there are still 6 months remaining in this year. Do you find, like I do, that when looking back the days blur into chunks and only moments are retained in clear focus? I suppose my brain would explode if every moment of every day remained as sharp as the next. 

In June the irises and peonies came and went. We picked the first strawberries, the first radishes,and  the first raspberries. Last night we picked over a quart of blueberries.

In June we celebrated a birthday and honored fathers. Lavender and roses bloomed. There were cuddles and giggles with little ones.  Other highlights: dinner on the patio, a visit to Butchart Gardens, tea and chocolate, the first popsicles, some rain and some tears, but mostly sunny skies and a light heart. For all these I am thankful. 

Joining Cheryl with Gathering the Moments.

Friday, June 27, 2014

These Days: Five on Friday

1.  Cherry time! We planted trees last spring (2013) and there are enough ripening this year for a generous bowlful for the two of us in a week or so. I covered the tree with a net to prevent birds from getting them all. The net goes right to the ground so that birds cannot get underneath and perhaps get caught. We wouldn't want that. 

2. Baby beets (thinnings) and greens were on the menu this week. Is there anything more luxurious than going out to the garden to choose part of one's dinner? I've been watching the BBC series Land Girls and marvel at how hard people work on farms. Other BBC programs such as Wartime Farm highlight the intensive nature of reliance upon one's physical strength and working the land, too. Gardening used to be a necessity, not a pastime. I'm glad to have the options of gardening and of shopping for my food.

3. One glowing raspberry. There are many more of them and we're picking some every couple of days. Our growing season is several weeks ahead of normal this year, unlike the eastern part of the continent. These photos were taken yesterday in warmth and sunlight. An unsettled front moved in overnight and I awoke in the wee hours to feel a rain-freshened breeze drift across my face. I lay awake for a minute, cozy, as I listened to soft droplets of rain begin followed by a trickle as water collected in the eavestrough.

4.  When unsettling news comes it's hard to know how to respond. As a person of faith, I pray throughout my day. Sometimes, it's impossible to find words or to form thoughts. Ellis Peters, in one of her Brother Caedfel mysteries, writes, "He prayed as he breathed, forming no words and making no specific requests, only holding in his heart, like broken birds in cupped hands, all those people who were in stress or grief." I love this picture of holding broken people up before the God who loves them. 

This has been a week of holding any number of people in my heart - ill friends and those with broken relationships. Anger comes, too, when I consider behaviors and actions that lead to hurt. And I must lift myself up, broken, too, in need of grace.

5.  Big girl and little girls. Our eldest with her Little Miss S and cousin Miss A alongside, enjoying strawberries yesterday's sunshine. We went to the strawberry patch one last time and then home to play in the little wading pool. Splashing, pouring, squirting - oh the delight! 

Today is drippy and overcast. Good for the gardens and grass. Good for staying indoors and getting the house shipshape. Good for preparing for overnight guests. A puttery sort of day. And you? How is your day shaping up? 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


A happy convergence of wanting to sew a quick project and noticing some dust on the shoulders of a couple of special occasion dresses in my closet had me rummaging through my scraps and fabric stash.

I took the photo this morning on the glass-topped patio table. You can see the cloudy sky and the reflection of the buddleia bush that is beginning to bloom. We ate outside last night accompanied by a pair of hummingbirds busy with the flowers. 

The linen came from one very long pieced strip that used to be one of those swoopy window treatments in my living room. I took it down a couple of months ago, washed it, and put it away, wondering if it was destined for rags. Shoulder covers for dresses is a much better idea. I didn't use a pattern for these covers, just traced the outline of a hanger (they fit padded hangers, too) and then cut 2.5 inch squares, pieced them and stitched them to the cover, then trimmed them with ribbon. What took longest was cutting and stitching the squares. The covers are self-lined and by the time I finished all five (the prototype is upstairs already) I'd used up the long swath of linen.

And the hydrangeas are blooming. Our soil is fairly acidic which leads to the bluer toned flowers that I love. I just did a count in my head and there are 8 bushes in various places in our garden. Some are small self-starters from one big bush that I moved last fall.

A few appointments will take me out and about today, but I hope to spend some more time with my sewing machine. There are plenty of scraps left. 

If you sew, do you find the leftover bits and pieces pile up or do you discard the scraps after finishing a project?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer and the Sea

We've named our boat Solitude, as in "a place apart." Here she is on a clear Saturday morning just after launching. There is nothing like being out on the water for the sense of getting away from it all. The cares and worries of life slip away and relaxation unlike anything I've experienced before sets in. 

On this morning, Tim had a co-pilot, complete with life jacket and sunglasses. She was so excited. Out on the water a police boat came alongside and asked us to slow down. I thought maybe they would board and check for licences and safety equipment, but no, they just wanted to compliment Little Miss A for wearing her life jacket and gave her some stickers, an activity book and other little items. Kudos to the RCMP!

After anchoring in Princess Bay, Tim took A out for a ride in the little dinghy. I love the way she rests her arm on his leg, watching every move he makes. He took her along the shore and pointed out various features. She had a hard time staying seated and Tim later said he kept his fingers hooked into her life jacket.
On the little island (Portland again) I crouched to snap a photo of this wildflower. A bee buzzed in at the last moment in a frenzied photo bomb. You can see how fast his wings were moving. The grasses that were so green a month ago are drying already, golden and rustling in the breeze.

 There's still plenty of green. Green trees, bushes, and dark rock meld beautifully with blue sky and sea. 

Homeward bound we wait for a ferry. On the water it can be difficult to judge distances. The ferries are big and move fast - they aren't as maneuverable as smaller boats so it's best to stay out of their way. If you are near a ferry and hear five loud blasts from its horn, know that it's saying something like, "what on earth are you doing? Get out of the way!"

And now, another week begins. I'll be attending a graduation, meeting with a few friends, gardening, cooking, and sewing. An ordinary week, if there is such a thing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Five on Friday

1. Regarding blogging woes: Here's one little fix that might work if you find that people cannot comment on your posts. Jenny of Elefantz  (a beautiful site with lovely embroidery designs) did some research and she said to spread the information around. Apparently the "embedded" option is the one giving problems.

1. Go to the top right of your blog page and click on 'design'.
2. In the left hand sidebar, click on 'settings'.
3. From the list shown, click on 'posts and comments'.
4. Go to 'comment location'...
5. ...and choose either 'pop-up window' or 'full page', but not 'embedded'.

I changed my comment option so if you've had trouble leaving a comment before and notice a difference, I'd like to know if this fix really does work.

2.  Summer means salad. Crisp Vegetable Slaw is currently a favorite in spite of my love/hate relationship with cabbage. You can read about it over on my recipe blog. The weather has cooled off (not that we had much heat to begin with) so I'm back to making heartier meals. I'm confident hopeful mildly optimistic that we'll have warmer temperatures soon.

3.  Many of my readers know that we spent quite a few years living in Ecuador, including 10 years on the edge of the Amazon rainforest. (It sounds so exotic, but really, life becomes pretty ordinary or extraordinary no matter where you are - depending on your attitude.) Anyway, I dug out my crochet hooks last night (keep up here, this will all fit together in a sec). I haven't crocheted much in the 12 years we've been back in Canada and when I opened the container, out wafted the peculiar musty smell of Eau de Jungle. Took me back to sunny days and evenings with rain pounding on the tin roof (in our first home) so hard that conversation was impossible. Drifting into sleep to the steady drum on the roof as clean, rain-scented air blows through the room is one of the things I miss. A simple scent brought it all back.   

4.  Until recently these shelves were a pale wood color. When I was painting picture frames a few weeks ago, I painted the shelves, too. They look crisper and fresher and so different that I've been asked if the whole setup is something new. Nope. Just paint. As an aside, do you know hard it is to take photos of something between two windows? I finally forced the flash. There's nothing like looking at a photo for realizing things need to be moved an inch or two to really balance out. But hey, this is real life stuff and those are working shelves, not just for pretty.

5. Three deer were enjoying a late dinner when I passed them on my walk yesterday evening. I was just across the street from them and they took little notice of me as I stopped, took out my phone and snapped a few portraits. I also saw a wild bunny at the bottom of our street. I'll be keeping a wary eye for my garden. Fortunately we have a fenced yard, but for keeping the wildlife away, the dogs on either side of us do a much better job.

Today I'll be house fluffing in the morning and meeting a friend for a walk in the afternoon, then grocery shopping. Tim's had a busy week including 3 nights of meetings that included dinner so I haven't done much cooking this week (except for the strawberry tart.) I'll make a nice dinner for this evening - any ideas? What are you cooking?     

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Strawberries Make Life Sweeter

It seems like there's a lot of frustration with Blogger and Google these days from the comments received on my last post. It seems that some internet places won't play nicely with others (aol and yahoo), and Google Plus is just plain confusing. Comments lost, comments disabled, comments hard to post, comments impossible. Thanks for all your input. It's nice to know I'm not alone in the blogging maze.

I'm so grateful for the free blogging platform that Google provides with Blogger, but I'm not interested in having my entire life connected to my Google plus profile, which seems to be their goal. An ad for Google plus says "connect with friends and family, explore your interests and see how all of Google gets better." Um. I don't think it's working. Exclusivity is not connection. But that's another discussion. Let's move on to something sweeter!

It's summer! Sort of. Cooler temperatures around here lately, but still very pleasant with a sweater. Strawberry season arrived a couple of weeks earlier than normal due to a warm May and early June. 

One little miss and I headed out to the strawberry patch yesterday. She's so good at understanding rules. When I gave her her hat to put on she said, "oh yes, summer rules." Another rule was not eating the berries until we'd paid for them. She followed that one without any problem. She's also very good at choosing which berries to pick and which to leave to "ripen just a little bit longer, Nana."

I filled my bigger bucket and she filled her smaller one, mostly by taking berries from Nana's bucket. Sweet times in the berry patch.

We ate lots of them freshly rinsed, juicy and sweet. After she went home, I made a Strawberry Tart for Grandpa who had meetings scheduled until 8 pm and was happy to sit down and have a big piece when he got home.

What's fresh at your place?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Secrets and Blogger Woes

The title is more provocative than the post - but isn't that frequently the way with many news/magazine titles?

Secret is the name of the rose. Sweet fragrance that reminds me faintly of apples, showy blooms and watercolour-stained petals. Beautiful. 

As for the other - blogger woes - I have a question for you. But first an explanation. The comments for my blog go to an email account that I set up especially for blogging (a yahoo account). I read comments there. However, I've been checking my blog for comments lately and quite a number of comments are not making it to my email. So I've missed replying and visiting several blogs. Comments from Ann, Podso, Kitty, Snap, and Mrs. Rabe were the ones that didn't show up from my last post. Weird, eh? (said in my best Canadian accent)

I checked my Yahoo spam and other folders and the comments are nowhere to be found. Has anyone else noticed this issue? Do you read the comments on the blog, or through a forwarded email address? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tea Time

Morning tea is fine from a mug, preferably china. But afternoon tea calls for something a little more civilized. I have two of these hostess sets, handed down to me from my mother-in-law. I'll have to ask her if she remembers where they came from. They were made in Japan. Don't you think they are such a practical design, with room for a little treat alongside the cup?

Roses are a favorite adornment for tea cups. I like the softness of these and the gold edging on the handle, base and plate. 

After a rather windy, chilly weekend, the sun has returned and it was warm enough to enjoy afternoon tea in the garden, with fresh raspberries (they are very early this year) and a bit of dark chocolate. The tea is Red Rose orange pekoe, fairly weak. 

Joining Tea Time at Rose Chintz Cottage

At the Beach

For one reason or another the boat trip planned for Sunday was cancelled. Plans were adapted to a picnic at the beach. A rain shower on the drive out had us all wondering if the picnic would be moved to Nana and Grandpa's house. However, as hardy Canadians (cough), we persevered and enjoyed ourselves in spite of cloudy skies, chilly breezes and the occasional spatter of rain.

A kite left at the beach provided fun entertainment for Miss A and her father. 

Can you guess the theme of these three photos? Fathers and daughters. One daughter (and her husband) was missed.  And it would have been nice if my own father could have been there, too, but he lives on the mainland. I'm so grateful for the men in my life who respect me, love me, and encourage me - and make me laugh.

Little Mister F spent most of the picnic sleeping against his mother. I managed one decent photo, although his eyes are mostly closed. The Little Misses didn't mind the weather at all. They dug, they poured, they drove, they poked - the beach has infinite play value.

All that fresh air had a most soporific effect; we came home and napped, then slept wonderfully last night. I hope the families with little ones enjoyed the same results. 

Another week begins - what's on your list?


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Stormy Weather Photo Challenge

Taking the photos wasn't the challenge this time around - finding stormy weather was. We've been enjoying sunny days with little variation. I thought I might have to fake some photos with a spray bottle of water, as Donna suggested. This week, though, dark clouds rolled through once or twice for a bit of drama, but usually passed through without any precipitation. Then, early one morning, I heard rain spattering against the roof and windows and, very briefly considered getting up decided that I'd rather stay in bed. 

I did go out before breakfast to capture the effects. Raindrops running a course down oregano leaves, each drop elongating before slipping to the next position to finally hang, tremulous, and then fall.

You can see how little rain we actually got - just the bottom petals of the delphinium hold a few droplets.

All photos were taken with my Nikon Coolpix P7100, cropped as needed and a bit of contrast enhancing accomplished with Picasa. 

Joining in with Donna's Personal Photo Challenge. Thanks, Donna, for the links to great articles and for hosting this challenge in the midst of your own personal life challenges.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Five on Friday

1.  A recent project - linen coasters with hexagons for a gift. These were fun to make. Hexies can be addicting. I have a growing basket of them that will one day, I hope, turn into a quilt or coverlet. The handwork is good for evenings, and I thought that they would be good to take on the boat, should I feel like doing something other than gazing at the scenery. 

2. Little Miss S celebrated her second birthday last weekend. Grandpa had fun blowing bubbles with her. Eagles eyes might note the life jacket sitting on the chair behind her. 

3. In preparation for future boat trips, Grandpa wanted the Little Misses to try on their life jackets. Miss A agreed with alacrity and then wouldn't take it off. She wore it throughout the party. Miss S on the other hand, wouldn't hear of trying it on. Perhaps she didn't want to cover up her party dress. 

4.  My last post referred to school and hospital. On Thursday I assisted other teachers in chaperoning Grade 10 students to the P.A.R.T.Y. program at Victoria General. PARTY stands for Prevent Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth. In small groups we made the rounds through the hospital, from a crashed car from a real incident to the ER trauma room where a fellow classmate with simulated injuries lay on a bed, blood and bandages on the floor, tubes everywhere, to the morgue and former autopsy room, to rehabilitation where several brain injured victims told their stories, and more. It was graphic and rather hard-hitting. We hope it saves lives and health as students think now about how to handle risky behaviour.


5.  My bedside posy. A white Bolero rose with a few sprigs of lavender and some lemon balm. Subtly fragrant, it will surely be a great inducement to sweet dreams. The idea came from Jooles of Sew Sweet Violet who is sharing a monthly bedside posy. I do love flowers in the bedroom. And the living room and kitchen and dining room. But I don't want to denude my rosebushes entirely. 

Plans for the weekend? We hope to take the family boating on Sunday for Father's Day, so I'm planning a picnic. How about you?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rosy Days

My floribunda rosebush is blooming. I wondered if it would. Last fall I moved it to a new place, from the front garden, to make room for an expanded driveway, to the back garden. I'm so happy it survived the move. These blooms were at the center of the plant and I just poked my camera in, snapped, and hoped for the best.

I'm in no way a rose expert, but the author of Hostess of the Humble Bungalow has written a wonderful little primer post on the care of roses. Hers are stunning.

A couple of weeks ago, Heather of Inspire Me Heather held a garden party. Just look at the her beautiful yard! She set up a very cozy party space under a tree. Pondside was there, and Sheila from Sheila Zeller Interiors, as well as Janice from Real Food Made Easy. It was fun to meet some new bloggers (and visit again with Pondside). Heather served some delicious nibbles and provided the recipes for all of them. She even had prizes at the end and I came home with the paper globe lanterns you see in the photo. 

Tomorrow I'm at school again. Actually, I'll be at the hospital, not the school. But it's a school program. I'll tell you more about it in my next post. 

Wishing you a rosy very-nearly-summer day.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Delight in the Familiar

Feverfew (tancetum parthenium) self-seeds in my garden. I like its airy growth and find it a good filler for gaps. It seeds itself here and there and where I prefer it not to grow, I yank it out. It's pretty and friendly, familiar.

The other day I took Miss A to Butchart Gardens, a place she's visited many times. As we drove I talked about the adventure we were going to have.

"No, Nana," she said, "this isn't an adventure."
"Why not?"
"Well, because you have to walk to an adventure, not drive. Adventures are for the woods, not Butchart Gardens."

Interesting words from a 3.5-year-old. But I had to disagree with her and told her that Nana looks for adventure everywhere, even if she has to drive.

When I was much younger, although older than Miss A, I thought that adventure required new experiences. Revisiting a place couldn't possibly be an adventure. Where was the delight in climbing the same mountain, visiting the same museum, or re-reading a book?

Older now, perhaps I'm a little wiser. I can find delight in the familiar anticipation of flowers blooming. A wander through my garden with a cup of tea is a daily small adventure. The familiar cycle of the seasons brings so many opportunities for delight. There's always a rush of joy when the roses bloom or the tomatoes form.

I still hope to visit new places in the world - England, Greece, Scandinavia. But I also want to return to France, Spain and Germany for I have not seen or experienced nearly all that I want to there. With every visit to the relatively nearby Rocky Mountains or the Gulf Islands surrounding my home, I find new enjoyment in the familiar scenes. When Tim or I say, "remember last time..." another layer is added to the experience, enriching and deepening it. As I breathe in the scent of a sun-warmed forest, memory triggers all the forest scents I've ever breathed. A damp tangle of ferns growing high as my shoulder reminds me of the jungle trails I walked in the South American rainforest. Connections form between then and now.

Delight comes equally from the familiar of everyday life that links yesterday with today and from unfamiliar new experiences that expand my understanding. I anticipate new experiences but don't crave them as I formerly did. The Apostle Paul says, "I have learned to be content..." I can paraphrase that to "I am learning to be content..." Perhaps this delight in the familiar is akin to contentment.    


Saturday, June 07, 2014

Slow Saturday

A bouquet of radishes for you. From the second planting. A quick rinse and they are ready to eat, crunchy and peppery. Do you eat the green tops? Last year I added them to soups and salads. 

It's not that I don't have things to do. But this Bolero Rose, the first of the season, called out for a photo. So I answered, and then did a quick little tour of the garden. Isn't this just a wonderful time of the year when everything is green, green, green, reaching toward the sun, stretching, growing to beat the band? It fills me with energy.

Ashley and Owen gave us a fig tree in a pot almost four years ago (as a wedding thank you). Last summer I found space for it in the garden and I'm being rewarded with a half-dozen figs. I'll have to research when to pick them because I don't have a clue. The tree is still small, but growing quickly. 

Farewell to the peonies until next spring. But delphiniums and roses and lavender and anemones and, and, and... will undertake to provide colour in the garden. 
My Saturday is proceeding slowly. I'm not in a big hurry to accomplish the things on my list. They will get done. But in the garden, one plant rushes upon another in a flurry of growth. "Hurry, hurry," the garden says, "reach, stretch, grow to the light." Do you sense that dizzying pace of nature, too?

Friday, June 06, 2014

Five on Friday

These Friday posts are a good way for me to gather a few of the threads that float through my brain during the week. Thank you for coming by to read and comment. I always enjoy hearing what you have to say.

1.  Some time ago I mentioned a yogurt cake and promised the recipe. Click on the link to take you there. Just writing about it now makes me want to make another one. 

2. The roses are getting ready to burst into flower. I can hardly wait. I thought, at first, that this red bug was a ladybug, something beneficial. But it didn't have any spots. Then someone on a blog somewhere mentioned a lily beetle. I did an internet search and it's not one of those either. Maybe she's just a ladybug who left her spots at home for the day. She didn't seem to be eating the roses.

3. On Thursday Little Miss A and I strolled around Butchart Gardens. One sees things differently with another person. "What that flower, Nana?" "What's that?" "Why?" "How come?" The questions don't cease. Such interesting conversations. My favorite takeaway, "When I have a garden, Nana, I'm going to have a big red begonia." I'm thinking she might get her own begonia sooner rather than later, don't you think?

4.  Bees were a little scary until we talked about how they are good for the plants and that they also make honey. Then we "hunted" for bees, looking for them wherever they might be found and cheered them on with their work. 

5.  Summer means it's time to make popsicles once again. These old Tupperware molds came from my mother's kitchen to mine. Today's popsicle variety is Coconut Peach - a can of coconut milk blended with last summer's frozen peaches. The freezer is emptying rapidly and it will soon be time to fill it once again with fresh berries and vegetables.

For the weekend ahead, there's a birthday party for Little Miss S who is two years old today. Some gardening. House fluffing. Time with family. Relaxation. What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

An Evening Walk

 We walk together many evenings, after dinner, after dishes. What is cold and dark in winter is full of soft summer's light in June. Last night I walked alone; he had other things that needed doing. I took with me my IPhone. The light beguiled me into taking photos. Gold-flecked grasses drooped with grace.

Thoreau says, "Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow." 

I find that setting out on a walk with the purpose of mentally solving a problem often results in a solution within 30 minutes. An essay or article to write? A relationship issue to ponder? Walking might not fix the problem, but it gives me perspective and often a way to move forward.

8:30 PM. The sun drifts down, slowly falling behind the hills. I look beyond the asphalt, beyond the houses, beyond the city, to the sloping layers of the Sooke Hills.

A sweet citrus scent floats on the air in the schoolyard. The glossy-leaved Mock Orange (Philadelphus virginalus) glows white in the fading light, covered with blossoms where each stamen is tipped with gold.

Where do you walk? Morning or evening? Every day? 


Days Not at Home

  Last Wednesday morning we boarded a plane for The Netherlands, landing midday on Thursday, Amsterdam time. After figuring out our e-sims a...