Thursday, September 29, 2016

Late September Doings

Do you watch The Great British Bake Off? We don't have cable television, but I discovered that the show is available on Youtube. It's become my "have to watch." There are some amazingly creative bakers in England! It's such a great show, partly because of the civility of the participants and judges. No insulting putdowns, no angry rivalry, just bakers being evaluated on what they produce. 

One of our sons-in-law had a birthday party this past weekend. I volunteered to bring a cheesecake (raspberry swirl), but when I put it on the plate, it looked singularly unattractive. A little thought, some quickly picked raspberries, white chocolate shards, and voila! A cake that didn't look too shabby. I think the Great British Bake Off is inspiring me. My daughter baked a chocolate cheesecake that was so delicious, and looked great as well.

Although temperatures are cooling down, this week is a sunny one. A good thing. Tim has been slaving away on our side driveway for a couple of months in preparation for concrete. It's where we park the boat and there is also a small patio outside the suite entrance that was heaved and cracked. He's broken it all out, took out a very overgrown cedar hedge, hauled piles of stuff away, smoothed and packed it all, put up forms, and now we're just waiting for the concrete company to come and pour it. The construction industry is so busy in Victoria that we've had trouble even getting contractors to come and look at this job. Hopefully, it will be poured tomorrow. 

Dahlias, tomatoes, kale, zucchini, lettuce and raspberries are still being harvested from our garden. I pulled up several tomato plants in order to begin the garden clean up, but there are more ripening every day on the remaining plants. They taste so very sweet.

How's autumn looking around your place?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Two for One in Wales - Mosaic Monday

Welcome to Dinefwr Park, home to Newton House and Dinefwr Castle. We visited on a drizzly day in July, with my cousin and her daughter. Cows lounged in the field along the roadway, looking very much at home.

We learned that these are no ordinary cows; they are White Park Cattle, an ancient breed of horned cattle that have been around for a very long time - more than 1000 years!

Our guide told us that during World War II, the cattle's white colour stood out at night and helped the enemy bombers locate their targets. An attempt was made to first paint the cows green, then later to cover them with camouflage blankets, but these efforts failed as the cattle didn't recognize each other and began acting strangely. So the cattle were shipped to Canada, first residing at the Toronto Zoo, then later to the USA. A well-traveled breed!

Lord Rhys (Rice) built the original Newton House in 1660. Traces of it are still visible, but most of the current structure dates to 1850. Capability Brown was consulted about the landscaping, resulting in beautiful views from the house. Financial difficulties resulted in unfinished work. If you look carefully at the arches on either side of the doorway, you'll notice the right side is much more detailed than the left. 

From the formal drawing room and the dining room one's eyes are drawn to the medieval deer park, one of the most important features of this site.

A herd of fallow deer graze peacefully in the misty landscape. This scene has changed little for hundreds of years. 

This stack of old books appealed to me. 
Financial troubles forced the sale of the property in the 1970s, after which it fell into ruin. Some of the upper floor support beams were cut out and used for firewood. Today's reconstruction reveals what life was like in 1912. The basement reveals what life was like below stairs, with clothes to try on, a silver safe to peer into, and the butler's room to explore (I thought immediately of Mr. Carson).

I wish I could have tucked a few of these plant pots, available in the gift shop, into my luggage.
We took a tour of the house and saw some sections not open otherwise. Guided tours are a wonderful way to learn some of the stories about the houses we visited. 

The tea shop is located in the former billiard room, complete with fireplace. I enjoyed a delicious Courgette (Zucchini), Garlic and Stilton Soup and a Cheese Scone.

After lunch we walked up the hill to Dinefwr Castle, built in the 12th century by an earlier Lord Rhys. 

A view from the battlements shows the extent of the castle.

The views over the valley are extensive and would have been very useful to see if anyone were approaching the castle, be he friend or foe.

A view of Newton House from the castle. 

Tim, my cousin and her daughter.

While touring the ruins, I felt the similarities between this 12th century castle, and the one in Les Andelys - Chateau Gaillard, built by Richard the Lion-Heart, about which I wrote earlier. The designs were similar, but the building materials very different. Here is the dark stone of Wales, whereas Chateau Gaillard is constructed of golden limestone.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief tour of Dinefwr - both a castle and a house. It's been just two months since we visited which seems short, but much has happened since then. I like going back over the photos and my travel journal. Tim and I reminisce and it makes the pleasure of the journey linger. 

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Officially Autumn: Five on Friday

1. The autumn equinox has come and gone. The sun slips low earlier and earlier. I search through my clothing for layers of warmth. No more bare feet. No more airy shirts. It's time for the coziness of sweaters and blankets. 

2. Autumn arrives with gentleness, gliding in on thistledown in foggy mornings clearing to bright sunshine that has us taking off those early morning sweaters to enjoy the sun's radiant warmth on our backs.

3. Many of the leaves have been parched brown and crunchy by lack of rain. Now begins the fall of softly coloured leaves - not so intense as in the eastern parts of our country, but their lovely yellows stand out against the dominant evergreens.

4. These calm photos belie the busyness of autumn. The whirlwind of beginning teaching has not yet abated. Yesterday, I, along with 4 other teachers, accompanied a big yellow bus of 45 teenagers to Bard on the Beach in Vancouver where we enjoyed a production of Romeo and Juliet. It was a long day.

5. In my own garden the hydrangeas are tawny pink and faded blue. This weekend I'll clip the last bunches to dry for the winter. There will be a birthday party, some house puttering, and hopefully some time for reading and sewing.

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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Five on Friday: This and That

1. One of our BC Ferries slips between islands. These boats are our link to the mainland. I find riding the ferry rather relaxing, although it took me awhile to get used to the slower pace. There are restaurants, coffee shops, and a small gift store on the larger ferries, like the one above.

Another view - closer up. This ferry is docked and was loading when we chugged by in our boat last weekend. It looked awfully big so close up. Ferries have the right of way, so we had to be careful to be well out of the way before the captain decided to leave. I kept an eye on the loading lanes (not visible from this angle) and the cars were still driving on as we passed.

2. I clipped a few dahlias yesterday evening just before darkness fell. As I arranged them, I noticed a dark something in one of those petals, tucked up tightly. After a bit of gentle shaking and pulling, a disoriented and very sleepy bumblebee tumbled onto the counter top. I carefully put him on a paper towel and set him outside. He was gone this morning.

3. Breakfast on the boat. We're still picking raspberries from our canes - such a treat. Chocolate bread from the bakery purchased just before we left last Friday night. Bacon, eggs, tea and coffee and a sunny day. This weekend is supposed to be rainy, and the view will be very different.

4. I've been looking for a good apple loaf. One with chunks of apple in it, not just applesauce. I tried this one today and I'm not very thrilled. It's edible, but heavy. I'll keep trying. Does anyone have a good recipe to share?

5. A few plants clipped during one of my evening walks - Queen Anne's Lace and Hawthorne branches. They look well together - almost Christmassy to my mind, although the teal jug relieves some of that. 

The weekend ahead looks like an indoor one, although I hope to harvest and deal with more tomatoes. There will be laundry and house puttering, I'm sure. Nothing out of the ordinary planned here. What plans do you have for the weekend?

Linking with Amy's blog for Five on Friday. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Signs of the Season

Although it's not officially fall, the signs are unmistakable. Fallen leaves, dried and crunchy underfoot. Still pliable and yellow leaves gently let go of their hold and twirl softly to the ground.

Dry grasses, dry branches, dry leaves, and the green-tinted ocean.

Darkness falls earlier and earlier. Soon our walk along this path will be dark. 

Skies streaked with colour and clouds. 

Tomatoes. Oodles and oodles of them. These are roasted cherry tomatoes, divided into containers and frozen for the colder, darker months to come. I like to make soup with them, and also just heat them and add a bit of cream for an easy side dish. That's what we enjoyed tonight.

What are the signs of the season around your place? 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mosaic Monday: On the Water

Boating stepped aside this summer as we traveled further afar than our own waters. "Surely," we thought, "we'll get out on the boat a few times." 

Nothing much happens if it's not planned for, so we penciled in a date. The weather cooperated beautifully and we spent two nights on the water. In the above photo, Mount Baker, in Washington State, rises tall into the clouds.

Our view from our anchorage in Princess Bay, off Portland Island. As the light faded into darkness, one single shooting star fizzled off the the bow. 

Saturday morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set out to walk around the island. Three hours and about 6.5 kilometres later we arrived back at the dock.

Recent rains have brought a little more green to our area, but there's no mistaking the coming season. 

The mere act of getting on the boat and anchoring just an hour away from home is the most relaxing thing I know. It's as if when we pull away from the dock we leave lists, lesson plans, worries, and the "shoulds" of every day life behind. 

A branch of dry Garry Oak leaves arches over the water. September skies are bluest of all the months, I believe, and that deep colour is intensified in the water.

Plenty of wild things crossed our path, on both water and land. A family of raccoons clambered over an old apple tree, a lithe river otter slipped out of sight into a pile of driftwood on the beach, gulls flapped, and cormorants spread their wings to dry on the rocks. Two white swans glided by the boat near shore, and in the deepest water black fins sliced upwards and curved quickly down.

Home again this afternoon, with sunlight sparkling on the water and mellow light filtering through trees just beginning to change colour.

A new week lies ahead, filled with meetings, students, lessons and the unknown good and not-so-good. 

Linking with Maggie who hosts Mosaic Monday, on her Normandy Life blog.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Recent Makes: Five on Friday

During September my heart is drawn away from the garden into our home. It's still summer, according to the calendar, but darkness falls earlier and earlier. I find myself pulling the blankets tighter in the wee hours of the morning. 

The garden delights with tomatoes galore, and we still pick raspberries and zucchini. The pumpkins (just two) are growing fat and round. And the dahlias put out flower after flower. 

For today's Five on Friday I'm sharing 5 things I've made recently. The first is the bouquet on the mantel, a small arrangement of dahlias and plant trimmings. 

I've been admiring project bags for awhile now - there are some very pretty ones. On a rainy afternoon, I set my mind to thinking of dimensions and fabric combinations. It didn't take too long to stitch up a lined and zippered bag to hold my ...

knitting. I'm not very adept at knitting, but there's a craft club once a week at school, during lunch hour, and another teacher has offered to teach me how to knit socks. We'll see how that goes. I enjoy having something portable to work on, and the rhythm of knitting is very appealing to me. 

Third is a work in progress. I'm making a quilt with hexagons. Small ones. It's a project that gets put away from time to time and brought out again on the same schedule. Progress is being made, slowly. 

At first I joined the hexagons in rows, but that became tedious, so I did patches of them. Now I'm more orderly and I'm putting them together in sets of seven. Scraps, old shirts, linen napkins, and some new fabrics meld together in my favourite shades of blue and white.

For number four, here's an apron I stitched up recently, using a pattern from an old magazine that had a very small diagram and rough dimensions. I played with it and will likely make it again with some modifications. 

And lastly, here's a bit of early autumn in a teacup. The teacup is from my aunt who passed away in January. It's called Knotty Pine, by Royal Albert. I gathered bits and pieces on a walk and tucked them into the teacup. 

I'm sneaking in one more thing - not a make, but a READ! Oh my, it's a good one! Multi-layered, rich with human foibles, grace, hope, and good eating. I pre-ordered the book and picked it up on the release date, August 30, but held off until the weekend (Labour Day) to read it. So satisfying. I'm still digesting it and will definitely read it again.

Joining Amy for Five on Friday, a fun link-up of blogs from here and there.  

Days at Home

  Last night after dinner the sunshine illuminating the bouquet of peonies prompted me to grab my camera. I love the frilly elegance of the ...