Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gathering the Moments: July

There were sunny walks and a rainy weekend camping trip. A birthday. An anniversary. Flowers galore. Gardening. Jam making. Baby cuddles and plenty of reading. Laughter and good food. Hydrangeas. Cherries. Pool time.

A month goes by so quickly, yet in looking back I can see how much life was lived in it. Thanks be to God.

Linking to Gathering the Moments at Thinking About Home. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

An Island Walk

The best thing about having a boat, as far as I'm concerned, is not the boat itself, but the ability to explore new places, especially places not accessible by road or ferry. We went to Sidney Island on Sunday afternoon. There is a small ferry that shuttles passengers back and forth from our big island, but we went on our own boat. 

There's a park and a nature preserve as well as a lot of old bricks for in the early 20th century Sidney Island produced thousands of red bricks. The shadows lengthened as we walked the trails yet plenty of heat was to be had in the sunny spots.

An old piling stands in the water, rotting from the inside. Perhaps a bird dropped a seed here and it took root - an invasive Himalayan blackberry, but pretty in this spot where the thorns won't tear. 

Water, soft and smooth as silk. Sidney Island has a narrow spit of sandy beach at the north end of the island that stretches low and long, and is covered by water at high tide. 

Golden grasses wave in clumps on the sand. Here the view is to the east, to islands of Canada and the USA and to the mainland beyond. A hint of Mount Baker is visible in the right third of the photo.

The first three photos are straight out of the camera, capturing the saturated evening light. I had fun in PicMonkey with the last photo, playing a little and adding a bit of text. 

I've not been on the computer much the last few days and the next couple of weeks will be limited as well. Those golden grasses tell me that summer is peaking and will soon wind down (Noooooo, she says) and I mean to enjoy all the sunshine I can. 

Are you a summer person, or is there another season you prefer?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The good, more good and the ugly

Lots of goodness in the garden these days. The blueberries are winding down, but there are still enough to pick a batch every few days for topping breakfast granola. 

Last night we drove to Chemainus for dinner followed by musical theatre. Les Misérables. It was so very, very good. Such a wonderful story of the power of grace and love. "To love another person is to see the face of God." I'm still thinking about the story and the soaring voices. 

White phlox is blooming, standing tall and fragrant against the cedar hedge. White and green loveliness. A couple of weeks ago I lost my watch (my regular one) while gardening. I dug through the compost bin, through the recycle bin (where the weeds go) and looked in the garden beds. No luck. 

Today I noticed something shiny in the grass in front of the compost bin. I was watering at the time and turned the hose on the shiny, thinking it might be a slug. Nope. It was my watch, still keeping perfect time. Can't think how it survived a lawn mowing, two days of rain, and perhaps being stepped on. Remember the old Timex watch commercials where the watch was subjected to all kinds of rough treatment? This could be a real advertisement, except it's not a Timex.

I spent a couple of hours in the garden this morning, too, weeding, pruning, admiring. The tomatoes are looking good - still a few more weeks until we eat one, although there is a stem of cherry tomatoes reddening nicely. Every year the tomato plants reach out to one another until I can't tell where one plant begins and the other ends. I read recently that tomatoes like to be crowded, so I'm off the hook. I'll let them sprawl all over each other, in spite of trying to control them with tomato cages.

These hydrangeas are the very opposite of ugly. But I can't show you a picture of the ugly because I don't have one. You wouldn't want to see it anyway. Our city is a seaport. Seaport equals rat population. They've been awful this year. In the past two weeks we've trapped and killed 4 of them. Ugh. And we think that someone in the neighbourhood is poisoning them because there's a terrible smell coming from the woodpile, which means that a rat has probably crawled in there to die. Ugh, ugh, ugh. 

I never told you about our Christmas Day Rat Massacre, either. Usually the rats stay down by the compost bins. On Christmas Day I noticed a rat on the deck/patio. Tim set the trap (peanut butter does the trick) and one took the bait within 20 minutes. He reset the trap. Three more times within the space of 2 hours. Four rats. Ugh, ugh, ugh. 

I can't leave you with the ugly, so here's a pretty surprise. Our clematis did poorly during the two years the house was rented. So I pulled it up and discarded it. The hydrangea bush is in front of where the clematis formerly grew. Today I noticed, among the hydrangea blossoms, some lovely big, purple clematis flowers. I'll try and detangle it from the hydrangea bush in the fall. 

What's good around your place?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fussing for the Two of Us

A special day. A special dinner. A little fuss. Last night's dinner à deux. A host of memories on the table alone - a pale blue damask linen table cloth given to Tim's parents on their wedding day more than 60 years ago. White linen napkins from the same era. China salad plates and later, for dessert, tea cups from the set started by my mother when I was 16. Flatware given by my parents for our first wedding anniversary. Crystal water goblets chosen for our wedding (I only have 6 for they ceased production soon after.) The table itself, built by Tim in Ecuador 28 years ago. How many people have sat here, lingering, laughing, talking?

Candlelight on a summer evening. White flowers and greenery gathered from the garden. All this fuss for just the two of us.  You know, it didn't take long to pull together. I started cooking and table setting at 3:00 and all the prep was done by 5:00, except for the last minute cooking after he arrived home.

I use to save "special' for company. During our years in Ecuador there were always the special treats brought down from Canada or the USA. I would hoard them in the freezer and use them rarely, then only for company. One day I read or heard, "Use the things you love on the people you love." Well, of course. 

My children remind me occasionally of the time I tried to grow raspberries in Ecuador. Our crop was very very small. I used these same china salad plates, one for each of us, and in the center of each plate I placed one single raspberry. That was dessert. How we laughed. 

First course, Watermelon with Feta Cheese and basil. Simple. Juicy.

Main course: Shrimp with Garlic, Parsley and Lemon, Roasted Asparagus, Sauteed Mushrooms, and an Onion Carbonara from a cookbook by Patricia Wells (The French Kitchen Cookbook) that will be going into my regular repertoire of recipes. He had a glass of Malbec, I had Riesling.

We like to wait a little for dessert. Tim had an exhausting day so he took a little rest on the couch while I cleared away the food and dishes. Very 1950s. Then dessert - a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream and Raspberries. Earl Grey tea. The cake is from Laura Calder's book, French Taste. Dark intense chocolate flavour. 

I let the candles burn down even after dessert was done. We watched an episode of The Good Wife on Netflix. My sister called to wish us Happy Anniversary and we Skyped with our youngest daughter and her husband in Vancouver. There are cards on the mantel.

And so another year is marked. Today I'll be watching two little grand-people while their mother goes to an appointment. Good times ahead, always.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Daisy Memories

"Daisies are such friendly flowers." (Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail)

 Daisies in glass bowls decorated the tables at our wedding, 37 years ago today. My aunt volunteered to do them for us. 

Tim and I looked at each other this morning and marveled how the years have marched by. Those young, young people committing to each other and to God are not the same people as they are now. The years have taken their toll on physical bodies. Careers have changed. Children were born, grew up and now form families of their own. Darling little ones now call us Nana and Grandpa. There's been much, much joy and a large portion of tears during these years. The joy far outweighs the tears, but this morning, I'm feeling a little pensive.

Our dreams were not grandiose. We envisioned a family, settling down in the town we met in, building our own home and living there forever. Tim has his carpentry papers and envisioned himself as a contractor one day. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. 

How God must have smiled at us then. Instead, we've traveled and lived overseas for 21 of those 37 years, raising our family in circumstances wildly different from our own childhoods. Tim now sits behind a desk in meetings that affect many people. He's off to Salt Spring Island for the day for work. I did stay at home while the children were small, later began teaching, and love it to this day.  We never did build our own house and it's unlikely to happen now. But wherever we've lived, we've made a home.

There is no pre-figuring the future. Yet each step we take in life leads us along a pathway. Sometimes, we play the "what if?" game. What if we hadn't gone to Ecuador? What if we had done this, or that? Life would be very different. I don't regret any of the major decisions we've made. Life is richer for our experiences, both the good and the bad.  Thanks be to God.

And so I come back to the daisies. Our anniversary celebration will be on Friday, but for tonight I'm making a special dinner. I think I'll pick some daisies for the table. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

Wildflowers, Summer Eating and a Winner!

All along the roadsides these days there's a blue blur. I've been hoping to see some wild chicory up close and personal. On a walk this past week I noticed some beside a pathway and took a couple of photos. Such a pretty flower.

Summer may not be the greatest time for slaving over a hot stove, but it's a wonderful time for eating. All the fresh produce and seasonal treats must be enjoyed now, not later. Cherry Clafoutis is one dish I make at least once each summer. Cherries are so delicious and these are roasted with a little sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon before the batter is added. A bit more work, but the taste is worth it. Clicking on the link will take you to my recipe blog.

This quick-to-make salad has been done twice here this summer already, once with the feta cheese and once without it. It was delicious either way. The combination of watermelon and tomatoes may seem unlikely, but the pairing works very well. You hardly need a recipe, but here's a link to my version of Watermelon Tomato Salad

The winner for the Jord Wooden Watch is Linda Jo. Congratulations, Linda. I'll send you an email later today. Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. 



Friday, July 18, 2014

Five on Friday


1.  It's been a week of glorious warm sunshine. Maybe a bit too warm at times, but I won't complain. Not much. I spent time with little ones this week, on two separate days. Little Miss S here is waving her pinwheel with great enthusiasm. I get such joy from watching my grandchildren interact with the world. Bugs, water, grass, sticks, rocks - everything is interesting and an avenue for imagination.

2. Yesterday afternoon I walked through the Horticultural Garden of the Pacific with Miss A, her mother, and her little brother. I haven't been there in years and was surprised to see all the development. Another visit will be on my calendar. This garden has lots of fun areas to keep little ones engaged. A play house decorated with toy bugs and other creatures was a big hit. She and I sat down at the little table inside and had a tea party with shell dishes.

3.  The lilies were astounding. Huge flowers growing tall, tall, tall. Richly fragrant. Gorgeously coloured. 

4.  What I've been reading. I found the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear in the library on a recommendation from another blogger and I whipped through 8 of the 9 books in the space of two weeks. Easy summer reading. Maisie isn't as compelling a protagonist as others I've read, but the books were light while still providing enough interest to keep me wanting the next one. The only one I have not yet read is, ironically, the first in the series. I'll put it on order from the library.

5.  While I was reading, the zucchini started producing. Penny of The Comforts of Home posted three great zucchini recipes. I'll be starting with the Farmer's Market Salad with Tomato Basil Vinaigrette. Doesn't that sound delicious?

And just a reminder that you have a few more days to enter the giveaway for a beautiful wooden watch. Just click over to comment on this post.

Plans for the weekend include a short boat ride on Saturday and lots of puttering around the house. How about you?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In the Summer Kitchen

Memories of childhood summers include the intense fruity fragrance of jam making on a hot summer's day. Stirring the bubbling cauldron of sugar and berries. More stirring. The caution to "stand back, it's hot," as the pot is removed from the stove. The sound of jar lids popping as they cool and seal.

I learned how to make jam from my mother and have made it for years with commercial pectin. However, I've been experimenting with recipes other than the ones that come with the pectin packets or the companies that have a vested interest in pectin. I took a book out from the library recently called Food in Jars, by Marisa McClellan. She has a blog, also called Food in Jars. Her recipes call for a little more cooking of the jam and fruit and a bit of liquid pectin at the end. But the ratio of fruit to sugar is much, much higher. Both the raspberry jam (Simple Raspberry Jam) and the Rhubarb Jam (Rhubarb Vanilla Jam with Earl Grey) are from her book. 

So. Delicious. I licked the jam pot after both. Yum. Yum. Yum. The Rhubarb Jam is made with a whole vanilla bean that is scraped out and all the bits added to the jam. If you look closely you'll see the dark flecks. And, instead of water she adds double strength Earl Grey tea for just a hint of bergamot. This takes rhubarb to a whole new level. One thing she forgot to mention is to remove the vanilla bean carcass before pouring the jam. But most cooks can figure that one out.
Do you make jam? I find it so simple to do and it tastes so much better than commercial jams.

Last fall's garlic planting shot up garlic scapes this week. I likely waited a bit too long to clip them for tenderness, but I'll just cut off the woody bits and sauté the tops in a little olive oil or butter. 

Another version of infused water - melissa (aka lemon balm) and cubes of watermelon. So refreshing! 

A question for you. What is your favourite picnic food? I don't mean food to grill, I mean food to pack in a cooler and take along to a park or a picnic site. Potato Salad, Quinoa Salad, Deviled Eggs? I'm looking for some new ideas in the portable picnic range. I know you'll have wonderful suggestions.

Now I"m off to watch a Little Miss while her mother goes to her own eye appointment. My own appointment, last week, went well. I just need to order the new prescription. And choose new frames.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On the Water

Last Friday afternoon Tim arrived home a bit earlier than normal and we set sail for Genoa Bay. I packed a picnic supper to eat along the way. After anchoring Solitude we watched clear light fade to pink and grey as we bobbed on the water.

Full moon? Almost full moon? How beautiful to watch it rise over the trees until its light shone a glimmering pathway to us. 

Mornings are what I love best - hanging over the side of the boat looking into the water and watching the activity on the shoreline. Gulls and a heron in this photo but there were seals a-plenty in the water, and on-shore, a mama raccoon with three little ones. Mama turned over rocks and dug down a little, then moved aside while the babies scrabbled in the hole for sustenance.

We usually anchor our boat in a sheltered harbour for the night, preferring the peace and quiet to conveniences on shore. But on this trip we pulled up to a slip in a marina because we were meeting with friends - new friends - people who own boats similar to ours. It was our first meet-up. Friendly folk with whom we shared dinner on the dock and boat talk. Frankly, the boat talk bored me rather quickly and I returned to Solitude to read while Tim chatted with various boat owners. 

This marina has a Purple Martin Recovery program and have built nesting boxes all along the dock. The Martins know they have nothing to fear from the boaters and remained quite calm while I snapped a few photos.

No breeze. High heat. Silky water. We took a short walk. My hair frizzed and my energy wilted.

Heading home again on Sunday. The sun danced with the water and cool breezes flirted against our skin. 

Seals drape themselves on the rocks, utterly relaxed. A lesson to be learned there, and I did. After arriving home I draped myself on the couch and took a snooze. There's nothing like being out on the water for de-stressing. 

Don't forget to enter the watch giveaway. Just click on the link to comment on that particular post. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Telling Time and Something for YOU!

From time to time I receive email offers to review a product on my blog. I usually ignore them. However, recently, Jord Wooden Watches sent an offer for something really unique - a watch made of wood. I've watched my husband, Tim, work with wood and I was fascinated by the idea of wood being used as a timepiece. 

I checked out the website and agreed to try out the Ely - Natural Green timepiece. It's beautifully made and equally beautiful to wear. Its lighter weight is perfect for summer although I can see wearing this year round. I love the natural look. It tells time, but it's also a wonderful accessory. I wear it loose on my wrist, like a bracelet. 

The band, watch face and case are all made of wood. The clasp and time mechanism are metal. It's really a lovely piece of artistry suitable for men or women. Jord Wooden Watches have kindly offered a watch as a giveaway for one of my readers. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment below. I'll check back here next Monday and pick a name from the comments. 

 As to the keeping cool part - we're experiencing a bit of a heat wave here on the west coast. I'm mostly loving it and stay cool by wearing dresses. Floaty ones like the one above that I made at least 15 years ago. It doesn't get a lot of wear, but each summer, on these hot days, out it comes. Did you notice the watch?

Stay cool and don't forget to leave a comment for the giveaway. I promise, you'll love this watch!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Five on Friday posted on Saturday

1.  It's been like a zoo around here this week. I don't know why but I've felt a little bit behind the 8-ball. Lots of issues percolating through my mind - family stuff, vacation planning, projects. Tim was sick for a couple of days - a nasty gastro virus that laid him flat for a day and a half. 

2.  I'm not fond of orange (sorry, Vee) but the day lilies are in bloom. They are slated for removal to a distant corner but that hasn't happened yet. And they are beautiful. I'm trying to appreciate them more. 

3. Things are looking brighter indoors since yesterday. A fine young university student stopped by asking if he could wash my windows for me. 

"Why, yes," I said. Then I ran around upstairs and down, wiggling screens out of windows and washing window frames. Then I decided that since the outsides were so clean, the insides could benefit from a wash, too. Then I realized the ridiculousness of putting dirty screens back into clean windows, so I hauled them all out to the back lawn and went over them with a brush and a hose. I was exhausted. But things are much brighter today! Hooray for clean windows.

4.  Hydrangea. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I captured this blossom still covered with morning dew. Does anyone not love hydrangeas? If you don't, don't tell me. My ideal mixed bouquet would hold hydrangeas, white roses, and ferns.

5.  I'm writing this on Friday, but it will post Saturday. This morning I'll be hopping on a bus to go downtown for an eye exam. My eyes will be dilated so I can't drive. Eldest daughter will pick me up and bring me home. I'm not looking forward to this appointment. There's nothing the matter, but I find glasses extremely frustrating. ...... I started out with a long complaining description of the frustration, but luckily for you, I deleted it all. 

We're looking forward to superb summer weather this weekend (as it has been all week) and I hope you are enjoying the same. Summer's too short to be on the computer over the weekend, so I'll check in with you all on Sunday evening or Monday. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Portrait Photography: A Personal Challenge

Once again, it's time for A Personal Photography Challenge, hosted by Donna. True confession time here - I did practice taking candid portraits, but I did not read all the wonderful articles that would have helped me to do a better job. I'll blame lack of time, which is a very lame excuse. But there you have it.

This Little Miss does not like having her picture taken. I fudged a little by saying that I would like to take photos of the zoo animals (aka aminals), and she seemed to think that was okay.
She was playing in the pool and telling wonderful stories, of which I caught only a few words.

 Inside or outside; that is the question. This photo was taken in a boat, under a roof, but the sides were open to the light. Since I'm not quick enough with my manual settings, I used the automatic setting, and I believe I chose outdoors for this one. Perhaps indoors would have allowed for more light on my daughter's face. I love the intense pursing of the lips of Little Miss S. This photo was taken at the beginning of the boat trip when she wasn't quite certain of this experience.

Auntie Ashley and Uncle Owen came over for last weekend's camping trip and posed for a quick photo with one niece and nephew.  It's hard to get everyone's expressions just right, especially with little ones.

It's summer time and everyone is wearing hats and sunglasses. This is good healthwise; not so good photography-wise. I played with the exposure on this photograph, bumping it up a notch in an effort to eliminate some of the shade on the faces. I love this moment where Little Miss S shows a leaf to her Grandpa. Facial expressions are not evident, but the relaxed posture, the protective arm, and the focus on the leaf all speak of a moment to capture.

I sneaked in an extra photo for this challenge and I'm hoping our wonderful professor, Donna, won't rap me on the knuckles too sharply. A huge thank you to you, Donna who puts up informative links specific to the monthly challenges and is always encouraging me, and others, to do our best with our photos. You are undergoing your own personal challenges these days and I admire your can-do attitude.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Lemons, Fleur de lis and Daisies

Have you ever cooked with preserved lemons? They are often used in Moroccan foods and add a salty tartness to dishes. They are easy to make at home and I used some of our home-grown lemons to make a few small jars yesterday. It's a simple matter of layering lemon wedges and kosher salt, squishing the lemons down until the juice covers them. I added a bit more lemon juice to make certain everything was covered. Seal it up and let it sit for a month or so. I keep the jar in the fridge after that and it lasts at least a year.

While I was working with the lemons, I also made some lemon finishing salt, which consisted of grating the rind of a couple of lemons and rubbing it into sea salt. I dried the mixture for about 20 minutes at the lowest setting on my oven - 200 degrees, let it cool and put it into jars. I think it will be good on salmon and other fish dishes.  

 In the spring I painted the little lavatory off the laundry room. It was a dismal beige and now it's a beautiful green/blue color called Vienna Lake which is hard to see in this photo. Does the name of a paint color influence your decision? It does mine, so I've learned to cover the names while picking a color. 

The fleur de lis canvas was a simple idea. I drew the design on a folded sheet of paper - just one half of it, then cut the whole thing out and traced it onto a white painted canvas. I used a black Sharpie to color in the design, rather than paint, just because it was handy. It also made it easy to get an even line on the edges of the design. Someday we'll replace the vanity and fixtures, but this will have to do for now.

The past couple of days have been deliciously warm. I'm gardening in the early morning or evening to avoid the heat. These daisies are flourishing just now, but I wonder how long they will last.

It's the season for summer meals - salads of all kinds, and some kind of meat on the grill. Simple and satisfying. Thank you for all the ideas for flavoring water that you shared in the last post, and for your kind comments. I'm looking forward to fruity flavored water!

What's keeping you busy these days? Are you laying low trying to stay cool or feeling energetic and getting a lot accomplished?

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...