Monday, November 28, 2016

Afternoon Tea


A few weeks ago, my daughter invited me to an afternoon tea at the White Heather Tea Room, along with her mother-in-law, and Little Miss S. 

How civilized to sit and drink tea, eat ginger-apricot scones, elegant sandwiches, and sweet treats while the rain dripped outside on a very dreary day. 


We three adult ladies ordered the Not-so-Wee-Tea, while Little Miss S had the Wee Tea. It wasn't so wee, and Miss S isn't so little anymore. 

Her tea was served all at once on a single plate. I watched her nibble one sandwich, and take a bite from another. She ate her apple slice, and then, it seemed like an epiphany occurred. There was chocolate cake. And shortbread. And butter tart square. ALL ON THE SAME PLATE! Surely, her mind seemed to reason, that meant she could eat it in any order she wanted.

So she did what any little person would do, she started with the chocolate cake, moved to the other sweets, and then the scone and chicken salad filling. She packed away most of that Wee Tea, along with two teacups of mint tea. What fun!


Although the tea wasn't a seasonal celebration, it coincided with the first Sunday in Advent the next day, and in a way, it felt like the beginning of this wonderful season. 

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

These Days



These days, the citrus scent of Japanese mandarin oranges takes me back to my childhood. They came in wooden crates and my parents purchased one or two boxes throughout December. They stayed down in the cold room or basement. It was the only time of year we enjoyed them. How sweet they tasted.

My grandparents (on both sides) gave all of their grandchildren a paper bag filled with candy, nuts and one mandarin orange wrapped in green tissue paper. I didn't appreciate the orange so much, then, as I would now. 

After the oranges were gone, the box remained, with infinite creative possibilities. It made a great doll bed, a little shelf for books on the desk my father built into our closet, or a repository for childhood treasures. What did you do with your wooden orange crates?

On this day, as I peel an orange, I breathe in the scent of childhood Christmases, slowly section each piece, pull off the white membrane and savour the sweet pop of juice in my mouth.


These days, lists are being made and there is tea beside the fire. Advent begins this Sunday and I'll bring out the Nativity set, hang a wreath on the door, and the season of preparation will begin again. As the earth tilts, ever so slowly, further from the sun, Christendom anticipates the coming of the Light of the world.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Frith Wood and Painswick: Mosaic Monday




On these grey days (although the sun is currently shining here), it's hard to remember how hot it was in the summer. During our trip to France and England just a few months ago, we enjoyed marvelous weather. Sunshine with very, very little rain. 
One thing we had been looking forward to while visiting the Cotswolds was walking some of the ancient trails. You may remember that we were down for a few days and not up to walking very far. 
However, on our last day there, we determined to go for some sort of a walk, if not a long one. We had planned to do a canal walk in Stroud, but there was no shade at all, and the heat so intense that we turned back. The kind ladies in the tourist office suggested Frith Wood, and gave us a map. So off we went, first driving along a nail-biting narrow road through the prettiest valley, through the village of Slad and beyond, until we came to a public footpath with a small parking area.


The trail took us along a ridge between the Slad and Painswick Valleys, through an ancient beech wood that filtered the light, and beside fields that baked under the fierce sun.
The beech trees were probably planted shortly after the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, from Belgian seed. 


There was little relief from the heat, even in the forest, but oh, how beautiful it all was. We would have walked longer, but the main trail seemed to end. We wandered along a road for awhile, then turned back and made our way back.


From a high point on the walk, we spied a village in the distance and thought it might be interesting to pop down there for a bit. Our adventurous GPS (Sat Nav) assured us that there was a road. It didn't indicate how narrow the road would become. After arriving home I looked at the "road" on Google maps and see that it is labeled a "lane." Much more accurate. 
While Tim drove, I leaned forward, craning my neck to see even one inch further around the corners as the branches slapped the sides of the car. At one point we met up with a rather snooty lady driving a fancy white convertible who wouldn't give an inch and was rather impatient with our efforts to back up to a somewhat wider section in order to let her pass. 


And so we arrived in Painswick, Queen of the Cotswolds, with its pretty Georgian houses, St. Mary's church that dates back to the Domesday Book, and best of all, The Patchwork Mouse Art Cafe where we fortified ourselves with Cheese and Tomato Toasties. A most serendipitous find.


New Street was built in 1428, at a time when the wool trade flourished. The doors are painted such wonderful colours, but after looking at all the photos, I realize that I have a slight list in all of them.
The arched door shown in the mosaic above is an older part of the church that probably dates to the 14th century. 


The tower was built in the 15th century and I'm assuming the clock was installed then, although I couldn't find any specific information. The clock was restored in 1986.

We managed to find another way back to our lodgings without having to drive that narrow lane, where we collapsed in relief, took cool showers, and later walked to The Apple Tree Pub for a satisfying, and easy-on-the-nerves dinner. 

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

November Celebrations



Two November birthdays. Two beautiful young women. A daughter and a daughter-in-love. We gathered on Sunday for a late brunch/lunch.


I was in the mood to try a few new recipes. I made a baked, filled omelette, loosely based on this recipe. Sauteed vegetables and cheese filled the omelette and we had breakfast sausages on the side, along with a fruit plate and...


a braided apple bread that was quite good. I would serve a cheese sauce to accompany the omelette next time.


Cake decorating is NOT my forte, unlike DIL Katie. I browsed Pinterest and came up with the idea of a cupcake bouquet. There were even a few late, late raspberries to pop onto the centers. I'm sure these will be the last. 


Purchased macarons were a special treat. Tim took this photo from the other end of the table. Miss A is reading the macaron flavour key to Miss S. Notice the teacups? The girls asked if they could have tea, in their special cups, with sugar cubes. This Nana agreed with alacrity.


Grandpa suggested that the littles should have finger access to the piped green stems of icing on the cake plate. It didn't take long for that to disappear!


The dads got in on the play - one was a horse, the other helped to get everyone balanced. The ride was short, but fun while it lasted.

How often do you try new recipes? I feel like I've been in a bit of a rut, but all the time I spent in the kitchen this past weekend was a lot of fun.  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Restorative Hiking: Mosaic Monday



A spur-of-the-moment decision.  I boil water for tea, wrap up cheese and sausage, cut an apple into wedges, grab the dark chocolate and put my hiking boots by the door.


And we're off to East Sooke Park, the best place for hiking, in our opinion. Water, forest, sky, mountains. As we begin, skies look dark and ominous, but Tim's pack contains rain gear and hot tea.  

We usually take the coast trail to Beechy Head, and then a shorter inland trail back to the parking lot. This time, we do it in reverse. What a difference! It hardly looks like the same trail. Do you ever do things the opposite way and find a fresh perspective?


Beechy Head is one of the points from where the boundary of between the USA and Canada is marked. We perch on a rock ledge high above the water, hoping the rain will hold off. It does. A bit of sunshine peeks through and the wind dies down as we drink our tea. Below us, nearer the water, gulls sail by; singles, doubles and groups. Where are they going? Is there a gull party somewhere? We were not invited.


In the distance, monotones prevail, a hundred shades of blue and grey. A mostly empty container ship glides down the strait, a thin, crisply delineated shape in the blurred landscape.


The softened focus of the larger views sharpens as I zero in on what's nearby. Puffs of the lichen cladonia ciliata (I think) resemble soft, pale green sheep fleece. We follow the trail along the coast. Up and down we clamber, stopping frequently to admire the view. 


Arbutus berries, yellow, red, and gold, dangle from a spindly branch.


Flocks of squawking gulls cluster around a bed of sea kelp as we near the end of our 3-hour hike. 


We drive home, tired but restored in body and mind. Here, in unspoiled creation, I sense God's presence. Beauty soothes and inspires. 

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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Friday Thoughts



November 11. Remembrance Day. A day to honour those who served and died for our freedoms. 

One of the highlights of our July trip to France and England was a day spent on the Normandy coast, visiting the landing sites of Canadian and British soldiers, and two of the Commonwealth graveyards. 


Here in Canada, we wear poppies on our lapels in remembrance of those who died. The wreath above, on a grave in France, is similar to ones that will be laid on cenotaphs throughout Canada. 

We will remember them.




Here in my garden at home, the dahlias continue to bloom. We've not had frost yet and I've not lifted the tubers. Some years I leave them in the ground. This might just be one of those years. 
Raindrops hang like tears trembling on an eyelash.


Last weekend we changed to Pacific Standard Time once again. Darkness closes in earlier. Rain falls. It's time to embrace coziness, or create that Danish word that is so popular these days - hygge. Here are five things I do to enjoy this season:

1. Sit by the fire. I'm not averse to sitting on the floor, but I saw these footstools? puffs? whatever? and thought they would make a good spot to perch and warm my back. I have to say that they work beautifully. In addition, the grandchildren love rolling them throughout the house, trying to stand and balance on them, and think them great toys.

2. Drink tea. Copious amounts. Chai with its warming spices is a favourite, along with Earl Grey and Orange Pekoe. A square of dark chocolate alongside just adds to the enjoyment.

3. Reading. I'm currently reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch and am getting quite interested in the story, but have had to stop because I've been writing report card comments. They are done now and I hope to get further into the story this weekend.

4. Get into the kitchen. Make soup. Bake. Breads, cookies, cakes, scones - the baking warms the kitchen and fills the house with good smells. I'll be baking some cupcakes tomorrow for a party on Sunday. 

5. Go for a walk. I bundle up against the wind and rain and enjoy braving the elements knowing that I'll return to...hot tea, a warm fire, an interesting book, and good food.

How do you cope as the earth tilts farther and farther away from the sun?  


Sunday, November 06, 2016

Mosaic Monday: Beach Colours




The dark days of November are upon us. Those leaves that remain on the trees become dull and soon join their compatriots to decay on the forest floor.


But just look at all the autumn colour strewn on the beach! Light shines through fragments of Bull Kelp, shards of Turkish Towel, and tangles of Succulent Seaweed, detritus tossed onto the sand in casual disarray. Colour and texture galore.



On my way to the airport this afternoon to collect Tim, I stopped at Island View Beach for a short walk. The weak sun tried hard to break through the clouds, but the results were patchy, at best.


Half a dozen sailboats plied the waters between the beach and James Island. It would have been a good day on the water, with enough of a breeze to catch the sails.


The bits of colour remaining stand out against the monochromatic greys and browns of the season.



On Saturday morning I ventured out in the drizzle and picked the very last handful of raspberries - just enough for my breakfast. It's been a long season for them.


  
With Tim gone most of the week, I've not cooked very much. As the days went by, I found myself resorting to crackers and cheese with a few raw vegetables. This morning, however, after church, I put a roast into the slow cooker, baked a slender Genoise and topped it with lemon curd and frozen blueberries, and finished cooking a pot of vegetable soup I started last night. We enjoyed a good dinner this evening.

Alas, Tim arrived home with a cold and took a nap on the couch this afternoon, and went to bed early. Still, it's lovely to have him home again.

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


Thursday, November 03, 2016

A First Foray into the Indigo Vat: Five on Friday



October was a very wet month. Not record-breaking as far as rainfall, but only 4 days without rain during the month. Soggy, soggy. Photography suffers on gray days. I did want to tell you about our adventures with indigo, so here goes. I've condensed it into 5 main steps to fit with Amy's Five on Friday. 
In the above photo, there are two thrift store vintage cotton damask napkins that I dyed. Here's how we did it - with many thanks to Ashley for her expertise. Oh, and the lemons were the last ripe ones on our tree before it was covered up for the winter. I hope to make some lemon curd this weekend.


photo blurry due to photographer's malfunction - didn't check the settings

1. First step was manipulating the fabric. We folded, tied, scrunched, and stitched. The idea is that by folding the fabric tightly, in a variety of ways, different patterns will emerge. Some pieces were folded on the bias and wrapped around plastic tubes, then tied. Others were folded and sandwiched between pieces of wood. The possibilities are endless. The dye penetrates less into the midst of the folds, leaving that wonderful shaded effect. 
Real pros can achieve precise grids and patterns - we just played, but we were happy with the results. 



2. Ashley prepared the "vat" - a plastic pail. Temperature is critical, so she placed the vat into the bathtub and surrounded it with warm water. Chemicals assist in de-oxygenating the water to help the dye work. Here she's just added the indigo.



3. These two pieces soaked in the mixture for 20 minutes or so, and were then removed. See how pale and green they are? Well, that didn't last long - once the soaked fabric is exposed to oxygen, we saw the change happen before our eyes.



Here's another piece coming out - pale blue after just a few seconds. All those tufts are plastic ties that took the dye differently.


4. We laid out the wet, and still tied pieces to oxygenate for 20 minutes while another batch soaked in the indigo. Then we switched them around. Depth of colour is achieved by the repeated soaking and oxygenating. We did 3 dips, but the pros may do up to a dozen.



5. After the fabric sat overnight, we untied all the threads and strings, threw the fabric into the washer and dryer and there we have them - pretty indigo dyed fabrics. Just visible at the right of the above photo, taken this morning in my back yard, is a deeper blue piece - that was a piece of natural linen, not white. A very different effect.


I picked up 5 damask linen napkins at a thrift store awhile ago and decided to dye them. Each one was folded into a different pattern. It's hard to decide which one I like best. The soft effect of the dye is so pretty and I hope to do more of this again. 



Our days have been so dark well into the morning - this photo was taken around 9 am. This afternoon, however, when I left school, the sun shone so brightly that I had to dig to the bottom of my bag for my sunglasses. I'm not complaining! I went for a walk with my daughter and granddaughter and we thoroughly enjoyed the lack of wet. 

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

Exploring the Czech Countryside

Most of our time in the Czech Republic was spent in Prague. One day, however, we ventured out of the city to Krivoklat Castle, in Centr...