Saturday, January 30, 2016

Apricot Almond Squares

Sunshine has been in scarce supply around here this week. In spite of the rain, however, I do think the days are brightening and when the sun does shine, it's brilliant! 

I spent much of the afternoon in the kitchen, getting ready for next week. A pot of vegetable soup, a double batch of meatballs, vegetables prepped, and a pan of squares baked. 

After all of that I sat down with a cup of tea, a candle and a freshly baked Apricot Almond Square. 

As I cut the squares I thought about the size of things. Have you noticed how HUGE cookies are now? Our local grocery store offers free cookies to toddlers to munch while their parents shop. They last the entire shopping trip. Recipes used to say, "drop by heaping teaspoonfuls" but judging by the size of these cookies, they are measured out by cup fractions. Bar cookies, (called squares here) are much the same. I think the increased size encourages us to eat too much, don't you? I still make my cookies on the small side. And cut my squares about 2". 

Moving on...

Here's the recipe:

Apricot Almond Square

1 1/2 cups flour (I use 1 cup white and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
2/3 cup icing sugar
3/4 cup butter

Whirl the above together in a food processor until it comes together in a crumbly dough that can be pressed together. Without a food processor the mixture can be mixed by hand or with a mixer. Press into the bottom, and about 1/2 inch up the sides of an ungreased 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup apricot jam (I used homemade jam, any flavour would work, except you'd have to change the name!)
1 Tablespoon melted butter 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sliced almonds

Mix the egg, jam, butter and vanilla together. Spread over the hot crust. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

Linking with Sunlit Sunday, hosted by Karen of My Little Home and Garden. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Five on Friday

Is it really Friday again? The weeks are flying by so very quickly. Are you noticing the slightly longer days? Those short moments are easier to notice on the sunny days than the rainy ones, of which we've had plenty lately.

I ventured out between the raindrops yesterday for a fast tour of the garden. Oh, the ridiculousness of January! Snowdrops, of course, but also hyacinths and crocuses. Those sharply pointed leaves made me smile! They don't respond to the calendar, just to the mild temperatures.

Even the chives are making an appearance, thrusting up fresh growth from the brown leftovers of autumn. I'm thinking they would taste just fine snipped into a salad over the weekend.

Hellebores droop gracefully, half-turned upwards to the light. Such pretty, creamy blossoms to brighten winter.
Thank you for all the thoughtful comments on my last post. I do so enjoy this blogging community.

Last summer, while out on the boat, I thought I might want to do a bit of handwork, so I packed a few balls of cotton yarn, a crochet hook, and a pattern. These washcloths/dishcloths were the result. They've been sitting on a shelf in my sewing room, just looking pretty. The sherbet colours caught my eye yesterday and I thought they deserved a photograph.

So there you have them, my five thoughts for this Friday's link up party at Amy's.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Crossing the Strait

Sunday morning. Blue skies, bluer water. The ferry glides through the water. In Active Pass we meet a sister-ferry headed for the Island. 

Pristine white deck railings. Forested chunks of rock jut upwards from the sea.

Gulls wheel overhead, flying into the wind, holding themselves almost motionless against the sky. 

On Monday we gathered to celebrate a crossing of a different kind. Once 10 siblings posed for photos, stair-stepping in age from my mother, the eldest, to my uncle, the youngest. Now they are 7. Seven red roses for the surviving siblings, two yellow roses for sisters who crossed ahead, and one white rose for my Auntie Clara. We grieve, but not without hope.

While walking and waiting for the ferry on the return trip, this bit of moss caught my eye. Life springs up. It's irrepressible. Precious. 
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there, 
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, 
your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139: 7-10 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Homemade Sunshine

Not every day is sunny. Can one create a sort of sunshine in the mind? I like to think so, but sometimes it takes more effort than at others. 

A bit of coziness comprised of a cup of tea, a bit of chocolate, a few moments with a new magazine and a soft, warm spot on the couch improved my outlook on the day immensely. 

What little things brighten your day?

Linking with Sunlit Sunday, hosted by Karen of My Little House and Garden. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Five on Friday

1. Unrelenting grey drizzle has me longing for meals that warm me through. Chili fits the bill. Do you enjoy avocado with your chili? So yummy. 

2. Our new bathroom light fixtures are installed and I'm pleased with them. They took awhile to arrive - we ordered them from a lighting shop and one arrived with the requested finish and the other without. I think we'll change the bulb wattage - they are very bright.

3. Here's another view of the main bath - finished other than the baseboard. We kept the same basic plan, but replaced all of the fixtures and cabinets. Now to add some colour. 

4. Pink adds a cheery tone. The hostess set is pretty with its painted roses. I have two of these, given to me by my mother-in-law. The label says "made in Japan." Those are the last two cranberry shortbread cookies from my Christmas baking. The tablecloth is a vintage one, also from my mother-in-law's collection.

5. I had fun this week making a variety of pillow covers. These are samples for Home Ec. The students (Grade 8) will learn a bit of sewing - learning the machine and then creating one project. I'll teach them how to do an envelope-style cover and they will be required to do something creative with the front.

These are five things that have been filling my week with delight. Today (Friday) is the last day of the semester. Next week is exams and on February 1 we begin the second semester. 

Linking to Five on Friday, hosted by Amy of Love Makes My Home.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

An Evening Walk

Tod Inlet, taken just before dusk

After dinner is eaten and the dishes done, one of us suggests a walk. Sometimes it happens right away; other times we wait until 9 pm or so. 

I put on a loose hat, mostly so that my hair won't frizz too badly. We check the thermometer and decide if we need gloves, or not. The hour is of little concern, for no matter the time, we'll step out into darkness.

Island View Beach, early morning

Down the hill, turn left and then veer onto one of three route possibilities. We rarely meet anyone, occasionally someone is walking his dog and we exchange greetings with puffs of visible air. 

Through the woods we go, talking quietly or not at all. The trees loom dark and high against the path. Oddly, visibility is best on cloudy nights when the city lights reflect back down to earth. On clear nights we look up at the stars and are careful with our feet to prevent stumbling over roots and rocks.

November full moon

Now on quiet streets where houses nestle into Christmas Hill. From the woods on the hill pours a soft and liquid, "Whoo-hoo. Who-whoo." We stop, entranced. Again, "Whoo-hoo. Who-whoo." We walk on, lingering, aching to hear more. 

A few seconds later, "Whoo-hoo. Who-whooo." A quick swoop of wings in the dark and then another call from a different tree. "Whoo-hoo. Who-whoo." The last time.

Hands and ears begin to feel the cold. We walk home, open the door and are greeted by a rush of warmth and the flicker of the fire. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

On a Sunny Saturday

While picking up a few groceries today, bright primulas caught my eye. They are sitting on the dining room table for now, and after they have finished blooming I'll move them outside.

Five Gerbera Daisies also found their way home with me. I lined them up on the kitchen windowsill in a variety of vases. The sun shone today, in between a few showery moments. 

The house doesn't get very untidy with just the two of us living here (although I can really make a mess when I'm sewing). Still, dust collects, papers must be gathered up and the floors cleaned. And don't forget the laundry. I feel very satisfied when things are tidied and put into order. Adding flowers to the mix just ups the satisfaction factor. Is it that way with you, too?

Linking with Sunlit Sunday, hosted by Karen of My Little Home and Garden. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Five on Friday

1. There are still a few hours in Friday to get this post up. After our sunny Sunday, the week has been dull and drizzly. I try to appreciate the shades of the day. 

2. Last weekend, I talked the man of the house into rearranging the living room. It's not one of his favourite pastimes. Do you enjoy rearranging? I still have a few things to tweak, but it feels more open this way. 

3. The shirt project I was sewing last weekend got stalled in fIavour of something quicker - a flannel nightgown for someone who likes blue, stars, and ruffles. This ticked all the boxes in spite of the lengthy sleeves which are rolled up here.

4. I seem to be in the middle of several books. I think I'd feel better if I'd finish just one. Currently holding bookmarks are "The Inconvenient Indian" by Thomas King, "French Chic" by Tish Jett, "Rising Strong" by Brene Brown, and one upstairs about Wales that I'm too lazy to get up and investigate.

5. I'm craving fresh these days. A little bit of mint from the garden tastes wonderful in my mouth. I bought a bunch of cilantro and have been chopping it into my salads. Speaking of fresh, with the nosedive of our dollar, produce prices are skyrocketing. Cauliflower for $7.00 a measly head! Yikes! 

And that's a wrap. It's felt like a very long week and I'm anticipating a puttery weekend. We're having neighbours in for dessert tomorrow night but other than that, no plans. Sleeping in. Feet up. Light housework. Cooking if I get inspired. 

Linking with Five on Friday hosted by Amy. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016


While driving home from a friend's house on Sunday afternoon, I glanced toward the water. "Oh, let's stop by Island View beach for a better view," I suggested to Tim. (He complied.)

What a day! Mount Baker (in Washington State) was certainly showing off her beauty, with the help of clear skies and sunshine. 

A dried sea plant, left high and dry on a piece of driftwood, looks as if it were sprinkled with sparkles, aka sand.

Golden nuggets of fungus creep along another sea-tossed log.

I was so glad I had my camera with me. We didn't stay very long, but that little detour added a bit of whimsy to the day. It was a reminder to take the time for serendipity for one never knows when she'll show up.

Any serendipitous moments in your life lately?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In my January garden

By 2 pm the sun, still shining brilliantly, casts long, long shadows across the drowsy garden. Winter is mild and tends to wet rather than white. By mid-January there are signs of burgeoning life. A tiny lilac bud swells.

Hydrangea petals, once sky blue, are now sere, faded, and skeletal. 

A rusting garden ornament stands amid hollow, brown stems. Irrepressible weeds still show a bit of green below. 

Life bursts from the floribunda rosebush. 

One rose, of the Heinz 57 variety, glows in the sunshine, a solitary bloom among the rose hips and leafless stems.

I look for my patch of snowdrops, but alas, they have not yet appeared. I wonder what could have happened to them. 

 Although the garden is slowly awakening, another month or two will pass before much happens. And in that time we might (I hope) see snow. But for this next week, rain is in the forecast, so I'm glad I enjoyed the sunshine today.

What's happening in your garden?

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

Five on Friday

1. Candlelight and January are made for each other. After the Christmas decor was packed away, I left up the fat candles sitting in coarse salt and some pine cones. 

2. The other candle sits in a glass tea light holder set inside another glass dish and bits of sea glass collected over the years, fill in the dish and add a varied and lovely glow. 

3. Another remnant of Christmas is the paperwhites. Three bulbs, planted at the same time. However, one grew quickly tall and bloomed on Christmas Day. The second decided to start growing about then, and is now opening its first buds. The other is just sitting there. I'm willing to give it time.

4. Several months ago I realized that the bookshelves we had in the living room were inadequate. Ikea to the rescue! On the very bottom shelf sit books for the younger set, and the grandchildren know just where to find their favourites. And now, the tables are not piled quite as high with reading material.

5. When I arrive home from school, darkness is beginning to fall. Most days, the fire is on when I enter the house and after shedding my coat and shoes, I curl up there for a few minutes. I might drag myself away to make a cup of tea, but soon return. These minutes of solitude and quiet before making dinner are so restful. Later in the evening I often read there. 

In some ways I miss the wood fire - the scent and sound are incomparable, but the convenience of gas trumps all. And it heats the house on all but the coldest of days.

Linking with Five on Friday hosted by Amy.  

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Permission Granted

Last winter I purchased two hellebores. One survived, the other didn't. This year the blooms came early, delicately colouring my winter garden. Delicate pink with yellow interiors, marvelously made.

Last January I set myself a challenge. I was very quiet about it as is my wont when I'm unsure that I'll be able to carry through. The challenge: no purchased clothing. Everything, other than underwear and socks, was to be stitched by yours truly. I bought a new bathing suit before the challenge because I wasn't about to tackle THAT!

January came and went - I created a travel wardrobe for our trip to Mexico that worked well. The week after our return I began subbing for a week, then two weeks, then a couple of months. The sewing fell off sharply. 

I stitched furiously in May and created a summer wardrobe that served me well (added to the Mexico items). Summer was very busy and I didn't get nearly as much accomplished as I'd hoped. 

Then I began teaching in the fall. I've managed to finish just one jacket for myself and a few other small projects for others. I ended up buying two pairs of pants, a t-shirt, a cardigan and a wool winter coat. 

In the end, though, I counted up what I'd sewn - 21 items, including a couple of jackets, a cardigan, several t-shirts, a couple of skirts, blouses and dresses. Not bad. The collage shows some of what I've sewn. I get awfully tired of posing for photos and seeing so much of myself.

When I gave myself the challenge, I had no idea that I'd be working so much. I felt like a bit of a failure having to purchase clothing, but when I sat back and took a look at my life, I gave myself permission to change things up. Circumstances change so expectations of what can be accomplished have to change, too. And in the end, I'm pleased with most of what I've sewn. Just one real wadder. 

Have I challenged myself the same thing this year? Nope. I'm still teaching. But I'm continuing to sew slowly, when I have the energy and focus. It's something to enjoy, not a duty to perform.

Have you had to adjust expectations recently? Any challenges you've set yourself?  

Sunday, January 03, 2016

January Quiet

10 AM on January 2, East Sooke Park, walking towards the water

Is any month more conducive to dreaming than January? The earth tilts ever so slowly towards the sun; cold settles deep into the land. Life is centered indoors, where fires glow and soups and stews provide sustaining warmth.  

Moss drips from the trees against a tangle of rocks and driftwood along the shore - East Sooke Park

Gardeners dream of colour and make long lists from the seed catalogues. Travelers begin thinking of trips to take. It's a good month to consider home improvements. Considering takes time and thought, not energy, and I enjoy the considering after a day of teaching. 

Arbutus tree bark detail 

After the rush of December, this month is ideal for delving into new interests - a photography course, writing down family stories, learning upholstery, starting ( or picking up again) a new embroidery or knitting project. I'm currently working on sewing a shirt.

Detail from moss/lichen/fern growth on a rock

I like to read recipe books in the evening and consider what I might make in the next week or two - a chicken pot pie, a fresh salad, or perhaps a vanilla cake with whipped cream. 

After the Christmas decor is boxed away for another year, the house can benefit by changing things up a little. Today, the paper whites are blooming on the mantel, tall and fragrant, flanked by tea lights set into vases with sea glass.

Looking westward from Beechy Head in East Sooke Park

Not all of January is white and grey. When the sun burns through the clouds, invigorating colour appears. I feel more energetic and am glad to bundle up and go for a walk or hike. 

Tea on a rock at Beechy Head, East Sooke Park

And always, there is tea, indoors or out. Copious cups of varying flavours delight my taste buds.  

In January, my heart is warm from the glow of Christmas, and I welcome the quiet. January is a month for thinking and pondering, providing moments of peace in which to plan for the months ahead.  

How will you make the most of January days?

Linking to No Place Like Home, hosted by Sandi.  

Of Spare Rooms and House Guests

  If you've ever read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables , you'll remember the importance of the spare room. It was a long-...