Sunday, July 30, 2017

New Westminster's Waterfront

Last weekend, before the anniversary party, we spent a day in New Westminster, part of Greater Vancouver, BC. The town stretches along the Fraser River, and continues to be an important shipping port. The north side of the riverfront has been revitalized; a long walkway extends beside the water, with pretty housing, flower beds and baskets, and lots of bird life.

Above you can see a heron, the walkway, a CPR train (we had to cross the tracks to get from our hotel to the town), a tea shop in River Market, and a fence of lovers' locks. 

A very tall tin soldier stands guard over the children's play area. 
In 1859, New Westminster became the capital of British Columbia, a short-lived honour once the Island joined the province and the capital moved to Victoria. The city was named by Queen Victoria for her favourite part of London - Westminster. 

One of the gardens planted along the walkway, with the river in the background. 

I recently discovered a Canadian connection to Highclere Castle, the film location of Downton Abbey. The 4th Earl of Carnarvon served Queen Victoria as Colonial Secretary and aided in the passing of the British North America Act in 1867 that created the country of Canada. In helping construct the Act, Lord Carnarvon wanted to see the Senate have a limited tenure, in place of the "for life" status others argued for. I wish he had persevered. 

Our first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, was a guest at Highclere and wrote that it was "one of the swellest places in England." 

So it tickled my fancy to find a street in New Westminster named Carnarvon, named for the Lord of Highclere Castle. Some of this information I discovered on Lady Carnarvon's blog, and more from history sites. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday (on hiatus until September after this week), hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Summer Days

While walking these summer days, there are so many flowers to see. How colourful the world is just now. We had invasive morning glories on this property when we bought it 15 years ago, and I still find the odd vine sneaking up here and there, so I've been reluctant to plant any type of morning glory. The pretty colour of this blossom has me re-thinking that decision. 

Almost every meal these days must include kale. It's flourishing in my garden. I gave a huge bagful to a Dutch friend in hopes of thinning it out a little. Connie said that it's a Dutch custom to cook kale and combine it with mashed potatoes and eat it with a fat sausage.

I offered a big bunch of kale to one of our neighbours who was visiting with Tim. When I asked if they ate kale, he replied with an emphatic "NO." Do you eat kale? Cooked or raw? 

I've been making kale salads. One trick I learned is to massage the cut kale with olive oil and coarse salt to soften it a little. Then I add other ingredients (cucumber, carrot, blueberries, feta cheese in the photo above) and a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, finished off with a twist of ground black pepper. Kale salad holds up well in the fridge if there are any leftovers. 

On a recent walk I picked a bunch of Queen Anne's Lace and plunked it into a vase with sweet peas. It made such a pretty mix of colour. 

We have 8 hydrangea bushes throughout the garden, some in the front, others in the back. Each one blooms uniquely: dark blue, pink, purple, pale blue. The one above has a variety of different colours on the same bush. 

I took apart the floral arrangement from last Sunday's party in order to replace the wilted hydrangeas with fresh ones. The vase was crammed so tightly that I couldn't get everything back in, so I created two arrangements from one. Then, a photo shoot ensued, using the old fence as a backdrop. 

These summer days are so very pleasant. I found a quote - "I love how summer just wraps its arms around you like a warm blanket." (Kellie Elmore) Ah, summer. I hope yours is filled with lovely days. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

We Went to a Garden Party


My heart is full to overflowing with gratitude and joy. On Sunday afternoon our children threw a garden party. Oh, what a party it was. Beautifully decorated tables, delicious food, and the very best of guests.

The party took place in Vancouver and my siblings and parents from Chilliwack attended, as well as one sister-in-law from Alberta. We were all asked to dress in blue, for this was a "dinner in blue," a riff on the "diner en blanc." 

The three grandchildren were completely enchanted with Auntie Ashley's chickens to the point that they barely engaged with anyone else. Greatest child-minders ever! They picked bits of grasses and leaves to poke through the holes - a sample menu - said the 6-year-old. 

The celebration was in honour of our 40th wedding anniversary. I just can't quite believe that we've been married that long. It's been full of more ups than downs, more laughter than tears, and more joys than sorrows. 

There's something utterly elegant about using china plates and delicate glassware outdoors. I felt like I was in a scene from a movie. Do you remember when Karin Blixen's character in Out of Africa went camping? Mozart under the stars, white linens (and plenty of servants). There were no servants yesterday, just some very hard-working children, but the atmosphere was the same. 

Flowers and herbs gathered from the garden (and the sidewalks) combined in airy, casual bouquets on the table. 

We took some casual photos after dinner - here with my parents, my sister and her husband, and two sisters-in-law. Those who could, came, and those who couldn't sent best wishes.

Then with our children, their spouses and the grandchildren. Happy faces all around, and doesn't all the blue make for a harmonious photo?

Oh, these grands. This was a silly photo, but so full of life and fun. I love it.

Then there was cake - a gorgeous creation by our daughter-in-law. It tasted just as good as it looked!

Tea or coffee and cake in the garden. Simply wonderful. 

There are many superlatives in this post, but I did restrain myself. Really. It was such a special time and I'm so grateful for my husband, our families of origin, and our own family. Truly, we have been given much. 

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Rambling Here and There

On Saturday, the wind blew in from the Pacific; a steady stream that boded ill for the wildfire situation in the interior of the province. The fires continue and about 45,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. We here on the Island are a bit distant, but no less concerned. Thankfully, no lives have been lost.

Saturday evening Tim and I went downtown. It's fun to mingle with the tourists and walk along the waterfront. The world comes to Victoria in the summer, via cruise ships, bus tours, and independent travelers. We welcome them. Dinner, for us, was at a favourite Mexican restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf, a bustling community where commercial fishermen dock their boats, people live on float houses, and a number of great seafood restaurants ply their wares. Combine that with live entertainment and the dramatic skies seen above, plus fish tacos, for the makings of a fun and casual evening.

On Sunday evening friends came for dinner. A pitcher of mint-raspberry water was both pretty and delicious. Next time, I'll put the raspberries in overnight - by the next morning the water was delicate pink with a marked taste of fresh raspberries. 

Paella was on the menu. One of my friends wanted to learn how to make it, so we worked together, chopping, sauteeing, and stirring. It turned out very well and the six of us went through an amazing amount of it. 

I went to Butchart Gardens two days in a row - once where I met a friend (previous post), and the second day with a favourite little man. I use my annual pass well. Mr. F's mother used to work at the gardens and, as a result, has a lifetime pass, so the gardens are very familiar to Mr. F.

He was quite clear on what he wanted to see. "I want to see the (s)pitting frog. I want to see the (s)pitting snail. I want to see the garden in a big hole (sunken garden). I want to see the (s)pitting dragon." So we crisscrossed the gardens to see what we wanted, without following much of the prescribed route. In the Japanese Garden, we walked over bridges and stepping stones, circling back around to do it all over again. Several times. All the (s)pitting things (s)pitted admirably. 

He drops the initial s and it makes me smile.

Backtracking a little to Sunday afternoon - we went blueberry picking. We eat a lot of them, mainly with yogurt or granola in the winter. Our bushes can't provide enough for us, so we went to a U-pick farm, and picked 40 pounds. They are all in the freezer now. 

Fresh dill and pickling cucumbers at the market inspired me to put up a few quarts of dill pickles.

I rambled around my garden this morning, admiring the flowers, the bees in the lavender, the squash flowers and small fruits. The sweet peas are gorgeous this year and I keep them blooming by clipping regularly. It's a double win - sweetly scented bouquets in the house and more blooms in the garden. 

The sweet peas at Butchart Gardens are also doing well. I overheard some visitors saying, "oh, let's pick one and eat it," so I cautioned them that they are not edible. 

There's been some reading. Armchair travel via the two bottom books, and light mysteries via the first two. I can't decide if I like Dominic LeJeune, the protagonist of this series. He's a bit too moody.

The week also included tea with a cousin. She and I are both fond of blue. So I end this rambling post with a blue hydrangea blossom. The weekend holds ramblings of a different sort. How about you? Have you rambled near or far?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Floral Bliss in a Large Garden

Since I didn't seem to be accomplishing too much at home this afternoon, I decided to take my camera to Butchart Gardens. En route, while waiting to turn left, I glanced at the car to my right and encountered a friend. A quick chat and Sandi met me at the gardens for a stroll. 

This is, of course, the time of year when many, many people from all over the world visit the gardens. I enjoy mingling with the crowds and hearing all the different languages. Everyone, it seems, loves flowers.

Bees, of course, thrive on flowers. The dahlias are just beginning to bloom and this particular bee is very happy about that.

A richly coloured Black-eyed Susan (I think) grew in a raised bed at my eye level. Blue eyes met Black eyes..

Every rose bush is blooming with colour. I particularly like the pink of the Frederic Mistral rose above.

The Butchart's home (now a tea-house and restaurant) seen from the Rose Garden.

Arches in the Rose Garden are appropriately covered with roses, great sprawling bunches of them.

For more wonderful floral photos, visit Floral Bliss, a link up hosted by Riitta in Finland.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Abandoned Dreams

One might think, traveling off the beaten path, that few people have been to certain places. But up and down this coastline of ours, all 27,200 kilometres (16,900 miles) that wind in and out of deep inlets and fjords, and around some 40,000 islands, big and small, one finds evidence of past human activity. 

Midden beaches mark the spots where First Nations harvested shellfish. Crumbling villages and rotting totem poles are all that remain from many settlements. 

From the nearer past, boarded up and falling down structures are all that's left of many people's dreams. On Tumbo Island, accessible only by boat, a house, a barn, and a tottering stone chimney bear silent witness to someone's hopes. 

Whoever lived in this cabin planted a couple of rosemary bushes that are now sprawling wildly. I picked a few sprigs and took them back to the boat. That same someone planted lavender, too, whose long spires were busy with bees. 

And who chose the colour of this door? She, or he, and I have something in common - an attraction to rosemary and lavender, this pretty blue - yet I know nothing of her. No name remains, only silent buildings and overgrown plants. 

Historical records tell us that the island was once used for coal mining (too deep), fur farming (mink and foxes), and that Chinese immigrants who worked in the mines grew a large market garden and rowed (!) the produce across the Strait of Georgia to White Rock (about 20 miles). 

An abandoned rowboat bakes in the sun. The island is now a park, although a small section is still privately owned and occasionally occupied. Remote settlements such as this became more rare as fishing and logging were commercialized and single operators just couldn't make a living.

It's a quiet place to visit. The big pleasure boats don't stop here, as the anchorage is shallow and crisscrossed by shallow reefs. Across the Strait, the densely occupied BC and Washington coastlines are visible, and tanker boats and container ships sail by regularly, but Tumbo and Cabbage Islands drowse in the sun, hardly noticed by civilization.

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cruising Down Memory River

Just one year ago we were in Europe. I've been reading my travel journal, remembering, and enjoying the trip all over again. Today's post features photos taken during our Avalon river cruise up the Seine. I can't say enough good things about the cruise. It's a good thing we can enjoy it over and over again in memory. The sunflower bloomed in Monet's Garden. 

Close to where our ship docked in Vernon, this house, bordering on the river, had an "Â vendre" sign out front. The gate was open, and the front door, so my friend and I walked into the garden and up the stairs. We were not quite brave enough to walk in the door, but we did peer in a little. Were we brash? The idea of purchasing such a house and renovating it occupied an hour or two of pleasant conversation later. Our husbands were not so enthralled with the idea. 

Wrought iron fences are a weakness of mine, and this one, painted robin's egg blue, went to the top of the list. 

I think my favourite colour is blue. (Any family members reading this are rolling their eyes and saying, "duh.") Isn't this the prettiest window? Blue gingham curtains with a little ruffle, blue shutters, and a pot of white flowers. It just makes me sigh with satisfaction. 

Church steeples dominated the landscape of each village. There is such disdain for the Church in many places today, yet people forget that without it, much of our knowledge would have been lost, health care would not be where it is today, and society would be very different. I'm not excusing the injustices and atrocities committed, but I think that modern society has lost its compass. We have become so arrogant that we believe we hold all the answers ourselves. It doesn't seem to be working so well.

The old mill of Vernon straddles two piers of an ancient bridge. The waterwheel is long gone, but the mill has been preserved. It likely dates from the 16th century, and was painted by Claude Monet. An engraving of the mill is featured on the postal stamp of Vernon. 

The food on the Avalon Creativity was amazing! There was no standing in line at buffets, but instead very civilized dining with various beautifully presented courses, served by attentive waiters as the ship sailed along the river. Buffets were available for breakfast and lunch, but with only 80 people aboard, there was never a wait. 

There were always several choices on the menu, including vegetarian options. What really tickled my fancy was the option for a cheese course instead of dessert. The cheeses and accompaniments varied every night. Oh my, they were delicious!

One last photo of Monet's house as seen from the garden. 

Do you make vacations last long after your return home? What makes a vacation memorable for you? 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Home Keeping

I love teaching, and I also love puttering at home. Balancing the two takes effort. Summers are wonderful times to do the things I don't have the time or energy for in other seasons. 

Tea on the patio with raspberry scones felt like a luxury. I'm planning to do more of this.

On the last day of our boating trip, we met these sweet faces (and their father - their mother was working) at the dock and took them to Sidney Island for a few hours. They were quite intrigued with the little dinghy bobbing along behind the boat. I suggested a little rowing excursion. This is a new-to-us dinghy and the oars are MUCH longer than the old ones. I'm having a hard time getting coordinated and our trail through the water looks quite wobbly. One of my passengers inquired why we were going so slowly! I thought I was doing well just to get back to the boat!

Anyone want kale? The garden is producing mountains of it. I'm thinning the plants and making kale chips (no substitute at all for potato chips), kale gratin, kale salad, etc. I asked our neighbour if he would like some and the answer was an emphatic "no!" 

My parents grew a large garden in my younger years and as I shelled those few peas in the container above, I thought about shelling peas as a child. My father put up the old canvas camping tent and we used it for shade while shelling. I've decided that frozen peas are just fine and I won't be growing peas anymore.  

Our temperatures are pleasant - they could be a wee bit warmer for my liking, but I'm particular, according to Tim. Eating outside makes a simple meal almost party-like. 

Making bouquets from the garden is another luxury. The lace cap hydrangea bush is finally doing something after poking along for a couple of years. I look around to see what's doing well and cut a few stems, then plunk everything together - in this case, roses and asters.

Trying out new recipes is fun, especially when they are as easy as this one. I saw it on Madonna's blog Make Mine Lemon, and adapted the flavours a little. Well, a lot, because I wanted to use what I had. And it was delicious!

A couple of years ago Tim and I made a little tent for one of the grandchildren. We just finished another one for a little man who's been requesting one. He'll be coming over to spend the day tomorrow and will see it then. 

En route to Cabbage Island on our boating trip last week, we spent a night in Bedwell Harbour. The resort there is a lovely place for a getaway - we've gone in early spring and thoroughly enjoyed it. The way it glowed in the setting sun is magical. 

The light also reminds me of the precarious situation that many residents of our province are facing with wildfires. One of my cousins has been evacuated from her home, and many are on alert. Over 400 square kilometres of land has been scorched, and 14,000 people displaced from their homes. A state of emergency has been called. Several homes have burned to the ground. The Island is not affected, but there is concern everywhere. This situation came about very suddenly as the temperatures rose and dry lightning strikes lit the dry forests. We are all praying for heavy rain with no lightning. 

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-...