Monday, May 29, 2017

Hawthorns, Purple Martins, and Foxglove

Hawthorn trees are in bloom, with a white and green loveliness that seems bridal. I think Anne of Green Gables would loved them. 

On docks throughout our region, conservationists have been encouraging purple martins to rebuild their population by providing houses for them. The program seems to be successful. When we were out on Sidney Island, pairs of martins chattered, swooped in and out, and seemed very at home on their perches. 

In my garden the foxglove is blooming. She stands taller in the morning freshness than in late afternoon. We've had some very warm weather, but I'm not going to complain at all.

Thyme is blooming, and how the bees flock round. There's a steady buzzing as they fly from the rosemary to the chives to the thyme and back again. 

One more hawthorn photo. So dreamy. They are so delicate and soft looking now, and equally striking in the fall with their rich red berries. A tree for all seasons!

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ramblings from my Mazy Mind

I'm so glad that after lurking in the shadows for far too long, Summer decided to show herself last weekend. She not only showed up, she showed off! It appears that she is sticking around for awhile since she received such an enthusiastic welcome. 

We celebrated Victoria Day last Monday by staying home, working in the garden, and enjoying a dinner full of summer flavours - barbecued steak, radish salad, BLT salad, and some roasted tomatoes from last year, tucked away into the freezer for the winter. 

I'm keeping a close watch on the peony buds - there are many of them, and I love their ruffled blooms. Tim got the irrigation system working, and caught me unawares a couple of times by turning it on "just to check." I can move very quickly if needed! 

In the vegetable garden we're harvesting lettuce (need some?), radishes, and lots of herbs. I saw the first red on a strawberry this morning and am looking forward to their juicy sweetness. 

I'm keeping a jug of water and mint leaves in the fridge for a refreshing thirst-quencher. I only drink water, tea, and wine, (occasionally hot chocolate) and there's nothing like cold water for assuaging thirst. A square of dark chocolate and a few nuts fill the need for a little sweetness and crunch. 

I'm thinking that I should harvest some of this mint, and the oregano behind the tray in the previous picture. The herbs are the first things I harvest, then they flower, get cut back, and grow again throughout the summer and fall. I like hot mint tea, do you? I also like fresh mint in salads. 

I smile when I look at our little "vineyard" - two vines of eating grapes, purple Concords, and a green variety that I'm too lazy to go and check. They remind me of little soldiers all in a row, growing straight up to catch the next support. Garden experts here tell us that our growing season is about one month behind normal years. It's been a long, chilly season. I think, though, that the heat and sun is causing everything to work hard at catching up. 

I planted squash seeds rather late, in pots in the house because of the cool weather. On Sunday I set the box out into the garden. They were still plain dirt. On Monday morning I noticed the first faint curl of palest green beginning to push up through the brown dirt. Throughout the day I checked on the pots and could almost see the progress. By the end of the day most of the plants had their seed leaves. Now I'll wait until the true leaves appear before planting them out. 

Before I do, though, I have the hard job of choosing just one of those plants from each pot to grow. I really hate doing that. Those seeds are all miracles and here I am, playing God and deciding which one of them will live. I feel the same way about thinning carrots, beets, and radishes.

I'm admiring the prettiness of radishes, and we're eating them by the handfuls. I inter-plant them with carrot seeds and by the time the radishes are finished, the carrots are almost ready to thin. But that's made easier by the growing of the radishes between them. I don't have to kill off so many carrots. Win, win. 

I'm pondering technology and its effect on my life. I think it is important for me to be intentional about how I spend my time. I've noticed that podcasts seem to be more popular. I've tried listening, but it takes so.much.time and I would much rather read than listen and watch. Do you listen to/watch podcasts?

I've joined Instagram and I'm not entirely sure about it. I see that a lot of the bloggers I follow are also there, and that's perhaps why blogging isn't as strong. I understand the instant appeal, but I'm finding it rather demanding. What's your experience with Instagram? 

Four more weeks of classes, then a final week week of assessment, report cards, and cleaning out the classrooms. Is it fully summer, (or winter) where you live? Any plans?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Gardens and Beaches

It's time for Mosaic Monday once again. I can't get over how brightly coloured these Cineraria are, seen at Butchart Gardens. Mass plantings of them are like a POW to the eyeballs. 

Spring has been unseasonably cold thus far, but that all changed over the weekend. On Saturday we took our son and his family out on the boat, just across Sidney Channel. 

I always enjoy observing the arrangements tossed onto shore by the waves and wind. Half-buried clamshells, delicate sand cupped in purple-hued mussels, intricate barnacles, and more.

A shallow tide pool + sand + seaweed + shovels + a found piece of plywood to float + imagination = hours of absorbed fun for Bigs and Littles alike. Mr. F also had fun pretending to drive the boat. 

What a day! Off in the hazy distance is Mount Baker, in Washington State. 

Three gulls on a log were unfazed by the ferry boat passing in the distance. I don't know if the gulls were nesting or not, but one of them swooped down low over me, squawking all the while, and making it very clear that I was unwanted. 

It's the Victoria Day weekend here, so tomorrow is another day off. I just love Sunday nights when Monday is a holiday. 

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bring on Summer!

Beautiful, fragrant lilacs never last long once cut. About a week ago I smashed the woody stems with a hammer before putting them into the water and they've lasted almost a week now. The cooler temperatures help, too. 

I met a friend for a stroll around Butchart Gardens today. We are all hopeful that warmer temperatures are just around the corner. On Wednesday, the lowest ever temperature high was recorded for the day. 

Meconopsis Himalayan Blue Poppies bloom with paper thin petals surrounding golden centers.

This summer marks Canada's 150th birthday and a special breed of tulips commemorates this year. Canada 150 tulips are red and white, like our flag. Beyond the tulip beds in the photo above, technicians are laying the groundwork for the fireworks displays held each Saturday night during the summer. They are always spectacular. 

Colourful Cineraria filled beds with symmetrical flowers in bright pinks and blues. 

It's cruise ship season and the garden paths were filled with people speaking many languages, all united in their appreciation of beauty. 

The forecast is for a warmer weekend, and it's a long one; Monday is Victoria Day. I'm looking forward to some garden time, and an outing on the boat. Bring on summer!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Things Beautiful and Practical

View from the breakfast table. The fig tree is sprouting leaves and I think that they look like enormous butterflies ready to lift off and fly away. 

They stretch eagerly towards the light. This corner of the world, and our garden in particular, is full of life and the promise of things to come. Some days, especially when the sky is blue and the sun warm on my back, I ache with the beauty of it.

The friendly wisteria vine that grew in through the hedge from the neighbour's garden is thriving. 

It has latched onto the garden shed and we're training it to go where we want it, across the front of the roof. So far it's cooperating beautifully. The slightest stirring of air sends sweet fragrance through the garden. 

How do you store your food containers? I kept mine in a set of double lower cabinets, but found that I only used the ones in the front because reaching to the back was such a chore. Some day we'll redo our cabinets, but for now, Tim installed drawers behind the cabinet doors. It took a couple of evenings and he had most of the supplies already in his shop. I'm loving the ease of access and how organized it all is. A great gift!  

Today was Mother's Day. We celebrated with a brunch after church. This bunch of tiny creamy roses was one gift, and 

a succulent in a French-inspired pot along with some chocolates another. There's also a hanging pot of fuschias on the front porch.

Miss A made this delightful pipe-cleaner portrait of her Nana, from Nana's favourite colour, blue (also Miss A's favourite). It makes me giggle to look at it. So very cute.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Ramble Through My Mazy Mind

I once read an essay that categorized essays as rambles through an author's mazy mind. Hence the title of my post. Many essayists manage to wander around and yet arrive at some clear conclusion. This post is less of an essay and more of a ramble.

This evening I took a walk through the neighbourhood. Delightful smells of freshly cut grass mingled with sweet lilacs. Rain is in the forecast and I think everyone is cutting their lawns beforehand. We did ours last night. Tim does the trimming and I mow until he's finished trimming, by which time I'm happy to relinquish the mower as I will have arrived at the steepest part of the back lawn. 

I'm listening to the sounds of Tim retrofitting drawers into a set of kitchen cabinets. Some day we'll redo the kitchen, but I get so frustrated with the storage of small containers. I've tried baskets, but one can only reach so far into bottom cabinets without crouching right down and crawling halfway in. I'm thankful for a talented and hard-working husband. 

I'm also thankful for good friends, and a lovely Sunday afternoon of boating. We gathered at the boat launch and set our heading to Salt Spring Island for a late lunch. Being out on the water tends to make us forget about life on land for a few hours. We sleep very well after a boating trip, except that I tend to feel the motion of the boat when I close my eyes. The room seems to be going back and forth, just a little. 

I'm thinking about Mother's Day this Sunday. Did you know that Anna Jarvis, the originator of this day to honour mothers, regretted ever coming up with the idea? She was horrified at the way a simple celebration had been hijacked by the floral and card industries. 

Be that as it may, I'm very thankful for my mother and her love, guidance, and example. My mother-in-law is also wonderful. I'm thankful for the opportunity I've had to become a mother, and now a grandmother.

But I know of many women for whom this day is agony. Some have longed for children and have not been given any. Others wait in cycles of hope and disappointment. In the past couple of years, our eldest daughter and her husband have lost four little heartbeats, now safe in heaven. It's hard. We are all thankful for the little girl they do have, but the loss of the others aches still and there are times when I am overwhelmed with grief. 

We will celebrate Mother's Day with joy. Our three grandchildren will fill our gathering with exuberant delight. I am overjoyed when I spend time with them. But I will also be conscious of those for whom this day is difficult, and my thoughts will be filled with tenderness for them.

I'm looking at this bouquet of flowers, picked from my garden last night. Cornflowers, a few last tulips, Bluebells, Candy Tuft, and Lemon Balm.

I'm planning to pick some rhubarb tomorrow. Shall I make a rhubarb cheesecake bars, or just stew it to serve over ice cream? Decisions, decisions. Which would you choose?    

Monday, May 08, 2017

Tulip Mania

Spring has been slow and cold here. Sunny days are outnumbered by grey dull skies. Saturday, however, dawned with a bright blue sky - a perfect day for a visit to Butchart Gardens. One little grand stayed with us overnight while her parents were off celebrating their anniversary, so we called up the cousins and asked if they would like to visit the gardens, too. Daughter-in-law Katie came along to help guide herd the flock. 

Waves of tulips in a plethora of colour and shape greeted our eyes. Elizabeth Von Armin, author of Elizabeth and her German Garden writes "I love tulips better than any other spring flower; they are the embodiment of alert cheerfulness and tidy grace..." She goes on to disparage hyacinths for their untidiness, but since I love hyacinths, as well as tulips, I'll ignore that part. 

Although this was Miss S' first trip to the gardens, the cousins have been here many times as Katie worked here for several years and received a lifetime pass as a parting gift. So when asked where they wanted to go first, the Rose Carousel, seen in the top of the photo above, was their choice. This is the only carousel on Vancouver Island, and the 30 animals were hand carved by carousel artists.

Each of the girls chose an animal to ride - a cheetah for Miss A, and a horse for Miss S. Mr. F rode in a bench seat with his mother. I held Miss S for reassurance as the music began, and the carousel slowly began to go round and round, and the horse rose and fell in a stately canter.   

Then it was off to see the dancing fountain shoot upwards, fan sideways, wave back and forth and generally delight. That one tulip petal looks as though it's waving in response.

We've all heard of the bubble, but the first economic bubble of that sort concerned tulip bulbs. In the 17th century, in the Netherlands, there arose a great demand for tulip bulbs that saw a single bulb cost as much as a house. As in all economic bubbles, the burst bankrupted many. But the Dutch love of tulips continued. For an interesting summary of the 17th century Tulipomania, click here

Cheerful tulips nodded to us throughout our stroll. It's impossible to choose a favourite, but these rounded, slightly ruffled flower heads would be in the top 10.

The underplantings, mostly of forget-me-nots, and other small flowers, either complemented the tulips, as above, 

or contrasted, as seen here with the pink and blue. 

 They were all beautiful. Can you spot the rogue tulip in the above photo? There's a standout in every crowd.

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

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Hodge Podge for the First Time

Every week, Joyce, of From This Side of the Pond, comes up with some interesting questions for bloggers to answer on their own blogs, and then post a link in her blog so we can all read the answers. I've read Hodge Podge posts for some time and thought I'd take part occasionally. So here goes - the questions are Joyce's, the answers mine.

1. Can you tell I'm embracing a Cinco de Mayo theme here this week? Do you like Mexican food? What's your favorite dish? How about on the side-black beans, pinto beans, refried beans, rice? What about heat-mild, medium, hot? Will you celebrate with Mexican food and drink on May 5th aka Cinco de Mayo?

I really like Mexican food. A lot. Fish tacos would be my favourite dish. I'm not as fond of the side dishes of beans and rice. Medium heat, please. We don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo here, but I might make pizza, since it's a Friday and a granddaughter will be spending the night.

2. Ever been to Mexico? For work or holiday? Love it or no? If you haven't been is this a place you'd like to visit? Can you speak Spanish?

Mexico is a wonderful place to visit in January or February when our local climate is dreary and cold. We've been several times, on holiday. I'd like to return to the Mexican Riviera. Yes, I can speak Spanish. 

3. What's one thing you may accomplish this month?

This month, I may get my garden in, if the sun decides to shine and warm up the dirt.

4. If you were mayor of your village, city, or town, what's one thing you'd like to see changed, done away with, revamped, or accomplished? Is serving in public office something you've ever seriously considered?

I've never considered serving in public office. No interest at all. But I can certainly run the world from my living room!

5. What's something that may be popular, but that you just don't get?

Cold shoulder tops, books with covers torn off as decor, raw fish sushi. 

6. Can't let this week slip by without mentioning Thursday May 4th is Star Wars Day. As in 'May the 4th be with you' ahem. Are you a fan of the Star Wars series? Exactly how much of a fan are you? On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being 'I've seen every film, own the action figures, might have dressed as Darth Vader for Halloween one year', and 1 being, 'what's a Vader?' -where do you land?

I've watched Star Wars and enjoy the movies, but I wouldn't consider myself a fan. Maybe a 2 on the scale.

7. Scroll back through your blog posts and in three sentences or less tell us the general theme of your fourth blog post. Does it still ring true today? Is it a topic you re-visit on your blog from time to time?

I was surprised to see that my fourth blog post (10 years ago) referenced Susan Branch. It was a link to an interview done on another blog. And I'm still a fan of her artwork, books and blog. 

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Many of my thoughts are random. It's hard to choose one from the whirl in my head. So here is a thought from Audrey Hepburn:

"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others;
For beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness;
and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone."

For more Hodge Podge answers, visit Joyce's blog.

Monday, May 01, 2017

A Weekend in Vancouver

Cherry trees arch across the street where our youngest daughter and her husband live in Vancouver. The trees are some of those donated in 1958 by the Japanese Consul, Muneo Tanabe, as "an eternal memory of good friendship between our two nations." 

The trees are aging. Ashley told us of a neighbour who, as she parked her car on the street, heard a crashing sound behind her and saw that a tree limb large enough to span the road, had fallen just behind her car. 

These days, traffic on these streets is busier as many people come to photograph the trees. They bloom all over the city, but the ones in this area are a bit later and attract those who just can't get enough of the Prunus genus. I know I was out there with my camera snapping away. 

The City regulations allow for backyard chickens. We got to meet Gala, Fuji (rather feisty), McIntosh, and Granny Smith. They live in a large and airy coop in the back garden. I helped Ashley do some weeding on Saturday morning and we were sure to save the good weed greens, such as dandelions and chickweed) as a treat for the hens.

The hens lay around 5 eggs per week each. Each hen's eggs are a slightly different colour. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast of fresh eggs, bacon, pastries from a local bakery, and sliced tomatoes.

A weekend goes by so very fast. While Ashley and I weeded, Owen and Tim went to the lumber yard for supplies to repair the deck. We walked, just a few blocks, to Le Marché St. George for a lunch of crepes and/or quiche, and the spiciest chai tea I've ever tasted. It was too spicy for me, so Tim got to drink two bowls. The tiny restaurant was jam-packed, so, in spite of the chilly rain, we ate outdoors, on the sidewalk, à la française. Cozy blankets and pillows provided by the restaurant kept us warm.

We crossed on the ferry Sunday afternoon, in time for dinner with the families who live on this side of the water. 

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

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-...