Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Random Bits and Pieces

Last weekend we went to the mainland for a family picnic. You may remember a dinner in May where we celebrated my parents' 60th wedding anniversary. This was a larger event, some 35 of us gathered at my nephew's.

The biggest draw, for most of the second cousins, was the trampoline. The saddest faces occurred when it was time to give someone else a turn. I've only included our grandchildren in these photos, but others enjoyed the bouncing, too. Oh, the energy. And it struck me how long and lanky those girls are getting at 4.5 and 3. 

Our back fence neighbour and I often chat over our respective compost bins and gardens. Last summer I admired his gorgeous poppies and he generously gave me an envelope of seeds to plant. I need to ask his advice because while this flower is gorgeous, the plant isn't nearly as tall as his. And only one plant flowered.

Such deep, rich colour in this lace cap hydrangea. Such intricacy of design.

There were blackberry bushes with a few berries at the picnic. One Little Miss collected them in a bucket and handed them out as "blackberry jam." 

I'll be taking a blogging break for a couple of weeks. Summer is here and I'm planning to enjoy some relaxation. Come September I'll be teaching regularly. I've accepted a 57% teaching position - just afternoons. Two English 9s and one French 8. The English continues through the entire year and come second term I'll switch to Home Ec 8 in place of French. I'm so thrilled with this position. 

See you all later!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Beautiful Blues

What kind of blogs do you read? My blog list includes "slice of life" blogs much like I write, with a focus on finding beauty and pleasure in the ordinary things of life, but I also enjoy reading blogs about food, fashion, travel, photography and more. 

Several weeks ago a black box tied with a ribbon arrived in my mailbox. I knew what it contained and could hardly wait to open it.

One of my favorite fashion blogs is The Vivienne Files, written by Janice. Her posts are full of wonderful ideas on how to have a coordinated wardrobe that will give you the clothes you want when you want and/or need them.

She held a giveaway for the scarf above, from KathKath in the UK, for one lucky reader. I was so surprised and pleased when my name was chosen. This scarf is lovely to touch and even more lovely to wear.  

It will go well with my wardrobe - largely based on black, grey, navy, and blue. At first I wondered how I would wear this scarf in the heat we've had, but I saw a woman in town wearing a scarf as I'm doing above and thought, "I can do that!"

Janice provided another idea recently - tie a knot in the center of the scarf and use it as a necklace. Click on the link for more details.

Thank you to Janice and to KathKath for this beautiful scarf. It's a an addition to my wardrobe that will be worn often and will take any outfit up a notch or five.  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Preserving Summer

The lovely scent of rain-washed air blew in the window early Friday morning. Throughout the weekend, rain fell in fits and starts.
"Welcome, welcome," said the earth. 
"Ahhh," breathed the plants. 
"Relief," sighed the forest.

And the rest of us didn't mind at all. 

It was a good day to preserve summer. Chop a few apricots.

Combine them with some sugar in a deep pot. Stir and let them meld together while you...

run out to the herb patch to clip some rosemary, not even minding that you can feel your hair gaining volume and frizzing in the damp air.

 The piney smell of rosemary rises to your nostrils as you chop it finely, then...

add it to the apricots and sugar. The mixture bubbles for 15 to 20 minutes while you stand and stir, thinking of summer and winter and the sweetness of apricots combines with the pungency of rosemary and it's all you can do not to eat the mixture by the spoonful.

You think of melting Brie and cheese scones and perhaps a glaze for chicken and your mouth waters. You fill the hot jars with the hot jam and set on the hot lids and screw them down firmly. Later, the pop, pop, pop of sealing lids assures you that when you open the jar in the cold grey of November, summer will rise again.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Garden Gone Wild

Last night after dinner I asked Tim's help with the tomatoes. They are a tangled mass of stems and green tomatoes. I can't tell which branch belongs to which plant. The cages have fallen over with the weight of the growth and the tomatoes. So we spent some time tying everything up. 

This morning I went out to cut a bouquet for the house. Several years ago I moved the phlox from the front to the back, but it's a persistent perennial and there are several stalks growing where they shouldn't. I cut them down this morning and added some hydrangea to the vase.

Three years ago we planted an apricot tree. In our climate it needs full rain cover, so it shares a roof with the lemon tree. This is the first year we are enjoying apricots and are they ever good. It's the height of luxury to pick a perfectly ripened apricot and bite into its juicy, sweet warmth right there in the garden.

The backyard, transplanted phlox is blooming madly. I love the bright white against the cedar hedge behind it.  

I've spoken sternly to the squashes, pumpkins, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes but, like an unruly class, they are not listening at all. The Butternut and Hubbard squashes are spilling out either side of their bed and are heading towards the bean trellis. The Princess Pumpkin is really acting like a princess and invading the tomato bed. Cucumbers spill into the walkway. The quinoa (a new plant for me) is threatening to overtake the bean tower in height.

But here's the real culprit - the zucchini. I'm positive she's the ringleader of this whole rebellion. I go out every day to inspect and pick zucchini. How do they grow so quickly? I try to catch them when they are a reasonable size, but they lurk under leaves and hide from me. Yesterday I found this whopper - 6.2 pounds of zucchini. (The top photo shows 5.14 pounds, but the zucchini was resting on the counter a little.) 

I showed it to my daughter via Skype, then set it on the coffee table, where it rolled off onto my foot. It hurt! A zucchini weapon. 

 I could be cutting and trimming and weeding, instead, I'm ignoring it all. I read an article that growth is extra-luxuriant this year because of the heat. Instead, I clipped a few herbs and arranged them in a crystal vase for my kitchen windowsill. The white blur at the top - that's the phlox. 

But the zucchini isn't going away on its own. What would you do with a 6.2 pound zucchini? And its smaller relatives? 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Enjoying the Ordinary

This summer is a bit crazy. Between trips and house guests, all very good things, the "lazy and hazy" days of summer are few and far between. 

An evening stroll in the garden revealed the purple coneflower blooming its little heart out. 

We picked a few plums from the tree hanging its fruit over our son and daughter-in-law's fence. I made three jars of jam. Love the light shining through revealing the chunks of fruit.

I used a recipe from this book. The concept of small batch preserving is good when there's just the two of us and we don't eat as much jam as we used to. I plan on using some of the plum jam to make an oriental plum dipping sauce for meatballs.

This week is quieter. I took our Australian friend to the airport on Monday morning. I'm doing a little sewing, a little preserving, a little gardening, and lots of quiet thinking. 

How's your week? Busy or calm?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

It's Cooler on the Water

Saturday. 6:28 am. Uncannily calm water. Tim and I launch the boat early. 

The sun in the east shimmers behind light clouds. Granola, yogurt, hardboiled eggs and tea for breakfast. We anchor. Nap. At 9:30 we head back to the dock and pick up our passengers - our visitor from Australia along with Eldest Daughter and Husband, and a Little Miss.

A seal swims nearby. Curious. Watchful. He soon dives under the cool sea.

The sea sparkles (or "farkles" as someone says). We anchor and stern tie in Royal Cove and hike a short distance to a rocky shore. Blue water dotted with boats of all sorts - big, small, mostly white. They pass to and fro.

Open areas on the island are sere and golden. They prompt the Little Miss - "this grass is poky, Nana." We name the place "The Island of Poky Grass." 

On the white midden beach she prepares dishes of Cobb Salad with Chicken for us. I line them up in a row for a photo and sadly, that stops the game. Patience, Nana.

Tiny crabs. Tinier snails. Sea anemones. Waving seaweed of emerald, red, white. Tidal pools are micro-worlds of life. It takes time to sit and watch. To pay attention. To marvel.

A gull dives down and pulls up lunch - a squirming starfish. We watch as he chews, gulps, and swallows. There is a big lump in his neck, but as he stands there, the lump slowly descends and disappears. Does the starfish wriggle yet?
The sun glares down. Heat shimmers on the land. Sea breezes cool. Treasures are captured by camera and left to delight another passerby. We return to the boat for lunch, followed by naps and reading.

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Thoughts on Friday

Whoosh! That's the sound of summer days passing by at an alarming rate. A friend is visiting from Australia and I'm having fun showing her the sights. Butchart Gardens was a must - that was Wednesday. Tuesday was our seaside walk in Sidney and yesterday was spent downtown. All these photos are from Butchart Gardens.

Perfect symmetry in this dahlia from the Perfect Designer. I love the way each curled petal is holding a tiny droplet of water.

Interplantings. If you've been around my blog for very long, you'll know that I'm fond of pinks, blues and whites in the garden, and tend towards the cool and understated. 

I took time on this visit to appreciate some of the other combinations. It's easy for me to admire, briefly, the hotly coloured begonias and leave without taking a photo. Above is a sampling of interplanting that is warm and vibrant - it fairly pops.

In contrast, here's another group of plants that, put together, form a very different impression. Calmer. Pretty, but not stunning. Yet my eye lingers longest on this palette. 

These flower combinations sort of remind me of people - some of us are the quiet type, others chattier and others flamboyant. We're all beautiful and can appreciate each other. There are contrasts and complements. 

These interplantings remind me of parties. Here's another party in a window box at the gardens. There are the loud, boisterous ones with lots of laughter and chatter, and quieter gatherings where the laughter is accompanied by softer voices.

This little analogy breaks down quickly for one's garden is not necessarily a reflection of personality. I know a couple of quiet contemplatives whose gardens are a riot of contrast. I'd love to know your thoughts on if you think gardens reflect personality traits. 

And I'm off to spend the day with my friend, at home. I hope to plant carrots for the fall, do a little weeding, laundry and putter about the house.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Seaside Walk

A friend and I walked along the water this afternoon. Our temperatures have cooled down to the very pleasant mid-twenties (Celsius). Queen Anne's Lace is in bloom everywhere along the roadsides and beaches. 

A unique decorative windmill, charming to watch spinning round and round in the breeze. 

This single white feather, caught in a flower bed, probably drifted down from one of the many gulls curving over the area. 

More Queen Anne's Lace, some going to seed already. I've heard this plant called Cow Parsley, but often wonder if it's the same thing. Whatever the name, it's so graceful and pretty.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Back to the Jungle

from top left: Brown Clipper (Parthenos sylvia), Giant Owl Butterfly (Caligo memnon), Sky Clock Vine (Thunbergia grandiflora), White Tree Nymph (Idea leuconoe), Bougainvillea

Humid. Warm. Damp. Lush. Trickling water. Harsh cry of a macaw. A thousand shades of green. Butterfly World. An indoor garden for tropical creatures. The only thing missing is the musty jungle smell of decomposing plant life.  

Tortoises, flamingos, koi fish, and geckos live happily alongside the hundreds of butterflies that glide from flower to flower. Above is Little E, (Eclectus). He tilts his head this way and that and eyes Miss A with interest.
Golden Helicon (Heliconius hecale), Scarlet Mormon (Papilio rumanzovia), Pink Cattleheart (parides iphidamas)

Beautifully coloured butterflies. The Lantana in the top right photo above is something we called the Fruit Loop Bush because of its multicolored blossoms. 

The only butterfly I recognize is the Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides), seen above. When the wings are closed, the spots are distinctive, but it's the iridescent blue on the inside of the wings from which it gets its name. Truly beautiful but hard to capture with the camera. I'm thrilled when one lands on my shoulder and stays there for 5-10 minutes while we wander around. Miss A snaps the photo of the open wings. She is very careful not to touch any of the butterflies.

Shadow is the resident blue and gold macaw. Less friendly than Little E, he appears to be the king of this particular jungle.

A fun outing with a fun little girl. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith of Lavender Cottage Garden. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Five on Friday

We sat outside as the sun sank low against the Sooke Hills. While chatting with Tim, the light played on the flowers and I was struck by the echo of petals in the white container, so much so that I retrieved my camera for a couple of shots. 

This pretty basket of lobelia, petunia and the smaller white flowers caught my eye in Charlottetown last month. So fresh and lovely. I'm afraid my hanging basket is looking rather the worse for wear with the extended heat.

I cut lavender this week. A bundle lies on the entry table and this little pouch in the china cabinet. I stitched the pouch a few years ago from a damask linen napkin from the thrift store and added a row of odd buttons to the cuff.

Cold and sweet. I like to keep some kind of frozen treat handy during the summer for friends and family. This is the second batch of fudgesicles so far. The recipe is below if you'd like to try it. Those of a certain age will recognize the Tupperware* molds - these are from my childhood. 


3 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1/3 + 1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Whisk together the milk, cream, sugar and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Continue whisking and heat over medium heat until very hot (but not boiling). 

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Slowly pour about 1/2 of the milk mixture into the eggs, whisking to combine. Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan and combine well with the rest of the milk. Heat over medium heat until slightly thickened. Don't let it boil. 

Remove from the heat and add the salt, vanilla and chocolate chips. Whisk until the chocolate chips are melted. Let cool and pour into popsicle molds.

 Delicious on the hot days we've been having.

These pretty goldfinches twittered and fluttered outside the window of the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company as my friend Ann and I enjoyed our lobster croissants. I was so happy to see them for we don't have them here on the West Coast.

Today is a bit of this and that - some housework (the guest beds are well used these days) and a visit to the Butterfly Gardens with a Little Miss. 

I'm linking up with Amy at Love Made My Home.

What are you up to today?

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...