Thursday, August 28, 2014

Five on Friday

1.  Purple coneflowers at the garden I visited earlier in the week. I have some growing in my own garden, a recent addition since I realized that most of my flowers bloom earlier in the summer and I want colour all season long. The petals look as though they've been painted with watercolours. 

2.  My husband has been away since Sunday. Baltimore, Buffalo, Toronto. I thought I'd have all kinds of time to accomplish some projects, but I've mostly been keeping up with the garden. Green beans ready for the freezer. I use them mostly in soups. I did manage a little sewing, but didn't finish all I'd hoped for.

3. Do you prefer vegetables or fruit? I prefer vegetables. I do like fruit but find vegetables more interesting. This Sausage, Green Bean and Sweet Potato medley is a concoction derived from the need to use up more of those beans.

4.  Along with freezing green beans, I've canned applesauce and tomatoes this week. Just one canner full of each. This is such a rich time in the garden. Our apple trees produced a couple of dozen apples, not bad for the second year. All over our area there are abandoned apple trees. We collect apples from them to make applesauce. I'd like to bake a couple of pies for the freezer, too. 

5. The changing light and cooler nights are indications of the season turning. Days are still hot and sunny. Little Miss S's mother purchased some second hand pink boots for the rainy days ahead and now that's all the little girl wants to wear. With rainbow striped socks and a flower print skirt.

The last weekend of summer is here. School might or might not begin on Tuesday (our province's teachers are involved in some labour action). Tim will be flying in from points east tomorrow afternoon and I'll meet him at the airport in Vancouver, then we're taking a few days for a little trip. 

Have a wonderful weekend! Enjoy the golden days of summer. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Late August: Early Morning

The clock says 5:38 am. I roll over, then my eyes pop open and I jump crawl out of bed. It's not quite dark, not quite light. It's time to practice, practice, practice!

As I drive down the road, I'm hoping for fog lying across the land. Alas, it's been too hot and dry the past few days. I find one low field with a soft blanket of white and stop for a few minutes.

I head to the beach. I'm just in time to join the geese, gulls and ducks waiting for the sun.

Here comes that bright orb, barely peeking above the horizon at first, then rushing upwards in a blaze of red and gold.

Light bathes the landscape. I walk and stop and admire and give thanks to God for this most amazing day. 

Yep. I have a new camera. As soon as the battery charged I looked around for something to photograph - these tomatoes looked like a good subject.

It's a Panasonic GX7, one of the new breed of mirrorless camera systems that allow interchangeable lenses without the bulk of a full DSLR. I'm so grateful to Donna, photographer par excellence at Cottage Days and Journeys for her expert advice on how to choose a camera. I have a 14-42 mm lens that I used to take the above photos, and a 45-200 mm lens that I haven't even taken out of the box yet. Fun learning ahead.

Here's a question for you - are you the kind of person who reads the entire manual from cover to cover and explores all the buttons before trying out a new gadget/appliance/tool, or do you first figure out how to turn something on and start using it, figuring it out as you go?

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Way of Seeing

Sunrise over Sidney Island

We made an early morning airport run yesterday. Fog lay in thick bands on the fields. Wisps trailed in the air. I wished for my camera and time to stop. On the way home, I saw the fiery sun burning through and pulled over to watch. I managed one inadequate IPhone photo. 

In the evening I took a stroll through Butchart Gardens, not planning to take photos. I don't want to be someone who looks merely for photo opportunities and misses the richness of life. Tourist watching is so interesting. Some wander along the pathways going snap, snap, snap everywhere without taking the time to really look. 

Surely there's a way to both appreciate the moment and capture a slice of it via photography. I found myself pulling out my phone frequently. The dahlias are amazing and full of bees of various kinds. Here is one blossom with two busy creatures making the most of these sunny days.

No matter the season, there is always something to admire at the gardens. In the Japanese Garden I often notice the contrasting colours and textures that provide interest without a lot of colour. And then the pop of red in the bridge. So lovely.

A swirl of languages rises up from the garden walkways. I love to hear them and can tell from the tone of voice and the gestures what each one finds amazing here. The love of beauty is universal, a common trait to us all. I think it would be wonderful if world leaders would take the time to stop the plotting, stop the politicizing, stop the warmongering and just appreciate the beauty of diversity.

I indulged in another little day dream as I strolled along. I thought of you, my readers, many of whom have blogs I visit regularly. "Wouldn't it be wonderful," thought I, "to have a meet up here?" We could visit with the flowers and each other, and then enjoy tea in the old family home, chatting over tea and scones as long shadows fall.

Wishing you all a most lovely day.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Leaving a Mark: Mosaic Monday

All sorts of textures are scattered throughout the intertidal zone. One day we, (Tim, his sister, and me) sat with our feet in a cooling tidal pool and watched. Tiny crabs, less than an inch across investigated my toes, causing the faintest tickle. Crabs chased each other - they seem to be very territorial. Most fascinating was observing the barnacle feeding - with its feet! The link takes you to a short article explaining just how it works. 

Stone worn by the water looks like a miniature landscape in the top right photo. Tangled ribbons of bull kelp line many beaches.

Someone created this crooked little set of steps, probably with the aid of a chain saw. A random piece of man's inventiveness in the woods.

Tim snapped this one from Solitude as Janet and I rowed the dinghy to shore. Doesn't it look like a blessing from heaven? We were certainly blessed by the beauty of creation and the good time we had.

Many people have left evidence of their visit to Wallace Island by writing/painting/carving their boat name on a piece of driftwood and hanging it on the outside of this abandoned building. The inside is filled with more such pieces. No, we didn't leave our mark here. Perhaps next time.

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith of Lavender Cottage Gardening. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five on Friday

1.  It's been a week of getting things done. Feels good. Closets organized, carpets cleaned, and a little pre-fall gardening. 

2. There was a day spent with a friend, including two hours of walking which included views like the photo above. We've not had any significant rain for some time and the grasses are golden. So pretty against the blue.

3.  The tomatoes are ramping up their ripening - they need to be a part of almost every meal. Green beans and zucchini keep chugging along, too, along with the occasional cucumber. The heritage raspberries that produce in the fall are big and juicy although not quite as sweet as the summer crop.


4.  The new Louise Penny mystery will be out next week (Aug 26). I'm looking forward to reading devouring it. In preparation for the new book launch there's been a coordinated re-reading of her earlier novels, found here on Gamache Series. I wish I'd found it earlier. There are some wonderful essays by writers and editors as well as great discussions about the books.

5.  Today I'm planning to make some Honeyed Peach and Blueberry Compote. I'll let you know how that turns out. A little laundry, some cleaning and hopefully some time in the beautiful outdoors. That last photo - a harbinger of things to come. Nights are much cooler and noticeably shorter. Have you noticed it, too? Fall's coming. There. I said it. Guess I'm not in denial any longer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Today's This and That

Well, hello there! Isn't this a lovely smiley face? Mister F and I got to spend some time together yesterday. He's a fair boy with the bluest eyes. He'll take the occasional bottle now and as I fed him, we looked at each other and time stretched backwards to when I cradled his father who looked at me with the same blue-eyed stare.

This business of walking through life is a funny one - I've never thought of it as circular, but linear, with the ability to move back and forth along the line thanks to memory.  And not so much that I move but that my mind holds the present while musing the past.

Yesterday's pickings - enough green beans for dinner (I made the Copycat Green Beans again thanks to a conversation with a friend who reminded me of it), tomatoes and plums. Something is eating my tomatoes and I don't think it's birds. Gardens seem to go in cycles. This year my winter squashes bombed. I have one small pumpkin and that's it. The tomatoes are doing well, the blueberries were fantastic and the fall crop of raspberries is coming along very well. Plums, eh, not so much, and just when I was thinking about picking the figs, they disappeared. Into thin air. I hate to think what took them away.

The first batch (a double one) of salsa. Last year I made enough salsa to very nearly get us through the year. I had to buy one jar. I like salsa with my morning egg, Tim likes it with crackers, and we both enjoy it with tortilla chips. Then there's tacos and fajitas. Salsa is our all round purpose condiment. We go through jars of it while the ketchup bottle languishes in the fridge.

And here he is again, playing with the little musical ball all of our children played with. Let's see, that makes it very nearly 33 years old. It's been through the wash numerous times and still jingles merrily.

Oh, a camera update for those who might be interested. It's toast. Water on the main circuit board. I've been considering what to get for a replacement and I think I've settled, but I'm thinking about it for a few days. I do miss my camera. These photos are Iphone products and they are okay, but not the crisper quality I enjoyed with my little point and shoot Nikon. 

This morning I'm meeting an out-of-town friend for a walk and then we'll come here for lunch. The house is in a bit of disorder as carpet cleaners are coming today so lamps, plants and occasional tables litter the kitchen eating area. Have a lovely day, reader friends - I'll catch up with you all later!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Making the Rounds

Recently, Maggie of Normandy Life, invited me to take part in a tour of blog land. Maggie is British and writes about her life in the gentle countryside of France. The blog land tour involves answering four questions about my own creative process. Thank you, Maggie, for inviting me. The answers to these questions have made me do some serious thinking.

1.  What am I working on right now?

This shouldn't be too difficult to answer. Right now I'm working on a blog post.

In the larger scheme of things, I usually have many projects on the go. Right now there are a couple of sewing projects cut out and ready to stitch, a hexagon quilt that I piece in the evenings, a bit of crocheting I just began, garden produce to freeze and can, weeds to keep at bay, and a major writing project.

2. How does my work differ from others in this genre? 

I first began blogging because I was looking for a creative community - some place to share my love of sewing and creating things with my hands. I found that, and much more. I found friendship and encouragement. I found so many others who look for the beauty in everyday life in much the same way that I do.

But each of us is unique. Because of that, my work is unique, just as yours is. We draw inspiration from each other and combine it in ways unlike the original. If I were to define my style I would say I strive for simplicity and elegance, be that in my photos, in my fashion, my decorating, and even my cooking. At the same time, I recognize the complexity in life and appreciate the multi-layered facets of photography, fashion, decor, cooking, writing, etc. 

3. Why do I write or create what I do?

If I didn't, I'd go mad. Stark, staring crazy mad. Headed for the loony bin mad. Give me a medium to express myself, any medium!

I've kept a journal for years. My blog is like a more visible journal. Words string themselves together in my mind and flow to my hands and the pen. 

The pen (or keyboard), the wooden spoon, the needle and thread, the paintbrush, the ivory piano keys, and the stick in the sand all provide ways for creative expression. I like to use whatever is at hand.

4. How does your writing process actually work?

My blog post topics are often triggered by the photos I take. Details are important to me and many of my photos are close ups of marvelous bits of creation that reveal the paradox of complexity and simplicity. 

I'm fairly guarded in my public writings and sometimes wish I were not. I'm that way in real life, too - unwilling to share too deeply until I know that I can trust the listener. I want my writing to have some sort of take-away value - a question for my reader to ponder and respond to, a thoughtful quote to appreciate, a bit of encouragement, a new way of looking at something, a recipe to try, or some beauty revealed.

I could go on here, but if you've hung on this long, I'll take pity on you and stop.

The idea of the blog hop was to link to 3 other bloggers who would then answer these same questions, however, I was unable to find anyone to participate. Katherine, of Sew Me Something Good, had the same difficulty so we agreed to link to each other's blog. Katherine is a sewing whiz and creates beautiful, intricate quilts. She also has a Craftsy site where she sells patterns.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gifts from the Sea

Head down I walk along the beach, looking for bits of sea glass. Opaque bits of white, green, turquoise, brown and blue lie in the sand, tossed ashore on the ocean's whim. They have tumbled over and over in the water, colliding with rocks, with sand, with debris, until their once sharp edges are worn into smooth loveliness.  I pick them up and put them in my pocket. Small white stones find their way into my pockets until the fabric sags with the weight. They, too, have been shaped by the force of the sea. 

I am not the first to draw parallels between the experience of life and the sea. I know that, by God's grace, my rough edges are being worn down like the sea and sand polished flotsam.

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith of Lavender Cottage Gardening.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Five on Friday

1. Several people have asked about the zucchini soup base I mentioned in a recent post. I wrote up a rough recipe from my memory and posted it on my recipe blog here. Don't forget to remove the bay leaf - bay leaves don't puree very well. Ask me how I know.

2.  We welcomed rain this week. Rain + clouds + shortening days = I don't want to think about fall. So yesterday one Little Miss came over and played in the little pool until she came in shivering. I wrapped her up ("in this soft blanket, Nana") and we cozied up together on the couch reading stories.

3. Garden produce. There's something everyday - kale, tomatoes, cucumbers. I harvested the potatoes from the two plants I put it. Delicious! My green beans are terribly slow this year but I hope to pick enough for dinner one day soon.

4.  Another Little Miss, this one just two, said something this week that still makes me laugh. Her mother and I were chatting via Skype (just across town) and Miss S came running by saying "My website is gone." Miss S is barely exposed to technology - she doesn't watch television or play electronic games. Skype is about the extent of it. But somehow, she's captured the idea of websites and creates them at her little desk, on paper, with markers, crayons and stickers.  Not all drawings are websites, though. Little minds are amazing.

5. I'm still savouring the memory of our lovely, relaxing days out on the water. Tim jumped right back into work on Monday but I've been having a more difficult time getting back into a productive mode. Today there's a house to clean if I would only get to it. 

I used to get more done in a day, even with three children. My goal was always to accomplish the household tasks in the morning, then take a little lie-down after lunch (the children either napped or played on their own in their rooms), and then spend the afternoon sewing, going for walks, shopping, etc. I'd like to get back into that routine. Do keep some sort of schedule at your place?

Bon week-end, everyone! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rainy Day This and That

We're having a spectacular summer, weather-wise. Endless days of sunshine, but not too hot. Almost endless days, that is. Last night I awoke around 2 am to hear water trickling through the gutters. A gust of rain-freshened air blew across my face. Ah, delight.

The rain has mostly stopped now and the earth is busy absorbing it all. Perhaps this will help the forest fire situation, and will certainly green things up a little around here. Our Bolero Rose had another bloom, all sweetly scented ruffles.

Zucchini is busting out all over. I made a big batch of garlicky zucchini soup concentrate and froze it in jars for cooler days ahead. Ratatouille is next, when I get to the market for some eggplant and red peppers.

Our new favourite summer salad. Tomatoes picked warm off the vine, sweet Okanagan peaches, a little red onion (or not), fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Nothing could be simpler or more delicious.

This is the scene showing on my walk last night around 7:30. Summer holds so many delights. Are you still enjoying this season? What's delighting you at the moment?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back to Everyday Life

Real life isn't always filled with pretty sights. Here's a photo of my basement freezer/pantry room. I've dilly dallied and avoided cleaning out the freezer, something I like to do BEFORE the current crop of berries and produce begins. Delaying just made the job a wee bit more difficult as I had to deal with the packages of this year's blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb.

I took everything out, filled the coolers, filled boxes and covered them with quilts to keep them cold while the ice in the freezer thawed. While sitting here at my computer earlier, I heard a rather loud commotion and realized the ice had fallen to the bottom of the freezer. Time to get the towels, the soapy water and bend down, waaaay down. It seemed deeper this year.

Everything's back with the fresher things at the bottom and the others at the top where they'll get used up first. 

Three bags of cranberries didn't make it back into the freezer. They've been converted into cranberry sauce, something we enjoy all year round. 

Wild sweet peas made a little table decoration on the boat over the weekend. I picked another bouquet and it's sitting on my dining room table.

Something not so nice happened last week on the boat. I set my camera on a little shelf, under a window. In the morning there was a lot of dew on the outside of the boat and a little leak in the window seal - just a little one - but it dripped on my trusty Nikon. I fear the camera is now toast. We let it dry out and it will turn on but nothing else works. On the advice of a camera salesman, I'll be taking it into a camera store tomorrow. It might be that the cost of repair will not be worth it. We'll see. I've been using my IPhone camera instead. It's just not the same. I miss my camera.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Queen Anne's Lace

Do you find that the Internet can lead you on wild goose chases? Or in this case wild carrot chases? I looked up Queen Anne's Lace and found all sorts of weird and wonderful folklore and uses for the plant. 

I just think it's pretty. Especially growing beside the water. 

Two collages - the first in Picasa, the second in BeFunky. I like them both. That little boat in the top left corner of the water photo - that's our Solitude. We've had such peaceful, relaxing times on the water these past couple of weeks. Seems a shame to go back to real life.

Judith of Lavender Cottage Gardening is the new host of Mosaic Monday. Thanks to Mary who hosted for so long and to Judith for picking up the torch. 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Personal Photography Challenge: August

This month's photography challenge subject was animals. I love watching animals in the wild, although I'm not particularly fond of pets in the house, nor visiting zoos. Each of these photos was taken while out and about.

This Moon Jellyfish is just one of dozens seen in Tod Inlet this weekend. I paddled around in the dinghy, pausing to look at the bottom and all the wonderful life scurrying about. These graceful jellyfish, about 8 inches in diameter, pulsated like translucent ghosts along the shore. This photo was taken with my IPhone and the contrast enhanced slightly.

An unintentional animal photo - I was intent on the flower and the bee photo-bombed the capture. The mad blur of wings indicates the speed he was going. Taken with my Nikon D7100 and nothing was done to the photo, taken on Portland Island.

This is another straight out of the camera photo, taken with my Nikon. Mr. and Mrs. Purple Martin. They were not very shy at all. Nesting boxes at the Ladysmith Marina were filled with their swooping comings and goings.

I'm late to the party this month as we've been out on the boat again. Tim returns to work on Monday so things will be a little more back to normal. 

Thanks to Donna for hosting the Photography Challenge.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Looking at the Details

Sunlight flits across the water, framed by a curving branch. Arbutus trees were unknown to me until I moved to this area 12 years ago. They grow in a narrow band along rocky shorelines, usually within 8 kilometres of the ocean. I guess they like the sea air.  So do I.

Arbutus branches twist and turn every which way resulting in wild contortions. Native to the northwest, they adorn rocky bluffs and dry meadows. Not too much moisture, please. 

Throughout the year their bark peels in thin sheets of curling red revealing hard, smooth green wood that is a delight to stroke. The First Nations peoples used the bark and other parts of the tree for medicinal purposes, and hold the tree in high regard, for in their story of the Great Flood, the arbutus provided an anchor holding their canoe safe.

I love the glow of light through the thin peeling bark and the striking coloration of this tree. Leaves turn golden and dry throughout the summer as new ones emerge. Last week I stood alone and listened as a few leaves let go and rustled down, down through the forest canopy to fleck the ground with gold. I am reminded that summer is short and soon leaves of all sorts will fall.

Let's not think of autumn yet. Today is golden. I worked in the garden, pulling up weeds that grew while we were gone. The first tomatoes ripened. Zucchini went wild. Potato plants turned yellow and the garlic stalks brown. Dig. Pull. Prune. Pick. Enjoy.
Do you like our new ride? On Wallace Island an old pickup truck rusts in the meadow. We clambered in and Tim's sister snapped a few shots. Summer lingers on.

How is August in your corner?  

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...