Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Last Summer Day

Here we are, almost to the end of September, and summer lingers. Shimmering days of warmth that cool to "pull up a blanket" nights create some of the most perfect weather imaginable.

I've picked raspberries twice this week, probably a pint each time, and today I gathered another handful. This is luxury. 

Tomatoes that just won't quit. I hate to say I'm getting tired of them, for in a month or so they will be mere memory. So I pick and roast and freeze against the dark chilly wet that will soon be upon us. 

The roses don't seem to have any inkling about the cold front that is moving in tonight. Growth abounds and I fear that their promise will be nipped in the bud, so to speak.

Today was so lovely I could hardly bear to be indoors. Since we are learning about activities we like to do in Spanish class, I asked them if they would like to go for a walk. Of course, they did! And so we spent 15 minutes walking around the block, enjoying this last summer day. 

Echinacea opens, a stalwart perennial that I planted a mere month ago. I bought one white and two purple and hope to have masses of blooms late next summer.

We celebrated two of the family's three birthday celebrations last weekend. I brought a tray of stuffed jalapeno peppers - pepper poppers. They are a treat most of the family enjoys. A bit fussy to prepare, but gobbled down in a hurry. It's always a bit of a gamble to eat them, for jalapeno's heat is highly variable, and there's no way to know until it's in your mouth.

There's been some reading, as well. Louise Penny's latest Inspector Gamache mystery Glass Houses, as well as the stack above. The Susan Wittig Albert stories are gentle mysteries set in England's Lake District, featuring Beatrix Potter! The historical timeline is correct, but the events and other people in the books are fiction. Even the animals play a part in solving the mysteries. I enjoyed reading Luard's book mostly for the essays written about each month of the year. 

I mentioned a Grilled Kale salad a few weeks ago and some asked for the recipe. I used this recipe for the grilled kale, but then added nectarines and goat cheese instead of the plums and ricotta, because that's what I had on hand. The dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a bit of honey, and fresh thyme was delicious.  Now I have a bag of plums in the fridge, so perhaps a plum version is next. 

The garden beckoned when I returned home this afternoon and I followed its siren call with my camera. The bees were busy, busy among the flowers, especially the oregano. 

Tomorrow, they who watch these things say, clouds and rain will prevail. It's best to enjoy the weather that comes along, for we really can't do much to change it. So out will come the cozy sweaters and blankets, and there will be tea and chocolate in the evenings, along with a lighted candle for cheer.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Falling Gently

The sun shines with an intensity that smacks of desperation. Too soon the light fades and the sun's warmth is but a memory as I reach for a sweater and pull on socks. 

In the garden, fragrant roses produce bloom after bloom. The apples are gone from the trees now - jars of applesauce stand on the pantry shelf and dishes of apple crisp, half-baked, lie waiting in the freezer. The tomatoes ripen. A handful of tiny Millionaire red globes are sweet as candy. Kale will grow throughout a mild winter; who knows if that's what we'll get. Carrots and beets remain in the ground until needed. We clip bunches of Concord grapes for lunches.

As autumn tip toes in on sunny days and coolish evenings, lighting a candle and drinking tea seem the cozy thing to do. When we were in Alberta in the summer, Tim's sister told us that their mother had received a package of Dutch Stroopies in a gift basket once and had really taken to them. We shared what was left while at her place, and we took to them, as well.

But I learned that we were not eating them correctly. Our daughter's mother-in-law is from Holland and the proper way, according to Cristal, via Jannie, is to place the crisp round wafer on top of a cup of hot tea to soften a little. It doesn't take long and makes the centre melt into a sweet syrup that is delicious.

Is autumn arriving gently at your place? Have you ever eaten stroopies? What treat do you enjoy with your tea? 

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Birthday Remembrance

Holy Cross Hospital, Calgary, AB, Graduation 1953

Ruth Adel Olsen. My mother-in-law, pictured above, long before I knew her. Her smile belies the hard times she'd endured growing up on a remote farm in the north. A father who suffered from mental illness. A tragic house fire where her efforts to save a little step-brother resulted in severe burns and the death of the little boy. Her older brother died later in a gruesome sawmill accident. 

Mum with some of our family (missing Ashley and Owen) in July 2013

Several years ago, during a family get together in Jasper, Mum told us of the long journeys she made by train from Newlands, BC to Calgary, AB for her nurse's training. The old train station in Jasper is still in operation at the time of our visit. We wandered through it while Mum recalled long hours spent on the hard benches waiting for a connection, and told stories of other passengers she had met. 
The train passed within a kilometre of her home in Newlands, so the train engineer would stop there and let her off in the middle of the night. Her step-father met her with a lantern and together they trod across the road and up the long drive to the farmhouse. 

She met her husband, Ron, while on a blind date with his brother, at a park in Calgary. Ron saw her from the other side of the river, swam across, and introduced himself. Ruth said that she thought Ron much more handsome than his brother. They married soon after her graduation. Four children were born. Ron had itchy feet and the family moved frequently. Ruth made a home wherever she found herself - USA, Chile, Namibia, Mexico, Guatemala, and numerous places in Canada. After Ron passed away 18 years ago, she moved back to Alberta, to be near family. 

I learned much from my mother-in-law: how to pack boxes and crates for overseas moves, how to make Yorkshire Pudding, a great pastry recipe, the importance of not complaining when life doesn't go my way, and so, so much more. She used more black pepper than anyone I've ever known and she was generous with her time and resources. She set out to make friends wherever she was, although in her later years, because of hearing and sight loss, she kept more and more to herself. However, she was always happy to chat on the phone or visit in person when we were there. We did learn not to call on Sunday evenings when Downton Abbey was on for she was quite enthralled with the first few seasons.

The first summer we were married, she brought over this Pinwheel crystal brandy snifter containing a rose from her garden. Just because. She was like that. If she saw something she thought someone else would enjoy, she shared it. 
Of course the best gift she gave me was raising her son, my Tim, to be the wonderful man he is today. I'm so thankful for his love and steadiness, his dry sense of humour much like his mother's, and so much more. 

One of the last photos of Mum, taken in March of this year, at her daughter's wedding. She was so glad to be there. Family was so important to her. And faith. She loved us all well and prayed for each one of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

She would have been 87 tomorrow; she passed away just three months ago come Sunday. We miss her. Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mum.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Comings, Goings, and Staying at Home

The rising wind and darkening skies hinted at the weather to come. We thought we'd get a walk in before the rain began, but we didn't quite make it. 

The Songhees Walkway follows the Inner Harbour on the west side. Two enormous yachts lie at the dock on the opposite side. A flock of Canada geese, intent on feeding, were sublimely uninterested in the view.

In spite of the weather, the harbour was a busy place. Several float planes took off and others landed. The little passenger ferries bounced from stop to stop. Whale watching boats came and went. A cruise ship came into dock. I'm sorry for the passengers who were likely hoping to wander through town in the sunshine. 

Knowing the rain was coming, I worked in the garden for a few hours yesterday, picking tomatoes, pulling down the climbing beans whose leaves are yellow and spotted. There were a goodly number of pale tan, completely dry pods that I harvested, both for seed for next year, and to use as dried beans for eating. I dug up some carrots and picked enough kale for a grilled kale, nectarine and goat cheese salad. So yummy, and all eaten before I thought of a photo. I clipped long stems of hydrangeas for the dining room table. 

On Thursday night I had peeled and chopped enough tomatoes for a double recipe of salsa, and refrigerated them, so I put that on to simmer Saturday mid-afternoon. By 8 pm the lids of 7 pints and 4 half-pints had popped most satifactorily. 

After our walk today, we've spent a quiet afternoon at home. Rain fell intermittently. I picked some marigolds for the mantel and baked a yogurt cake. Carrot Ginger soup is simmering on the stove for supper. Our neighbours have a eucalyptus tree and I can see the branches tossing wildly. It's a good afternoon to be indoors. 


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bright September

The morrow was a bright September morn,
The earth was beautiful as if new born;
There was a nameless splendor everywhere,
A wild exhilaration in the air.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A day of mist and drizzle last weekend was the exception, not the norm for September thus far. Bright days and cool evenings mark the gradual tilt of the earth away from the sun. 
In the garden, the sky blue hydrangeas have turned to lime green. I cut long stems and plunked them into a tall, copper-ringed French flower bucket. They greet me in the hallway when I return home each afternoon. 

On the breakfast table, a mason jar filled with late summer blooms in vivid and muted colours preserves the illusion that summer days are not yet over. 

Regular readers of this blog might remember our trip to France and the UK last summer where we visited a cousin of mine. Teresa and her family made a visit to Canada this summer, seeing family and friends. We enjoyed a short tea-time together on the back deck. It was a good opportunity to bring out a variety of tea cups.

In June I made a long list of tasks and projects I hoped to accomplish during the summer. Most of them remain undone, but I'm still whittling away on a few. One was to use some of the bits of embroidery I've done and tucked away into drawers. 

I did manage to re-organize my sewing room in hopes of using it more. Just a few things left to do there - I'm putting the embroidery pieces into hoops and will put a grouping of them on the wall above the single bed in the room. The bed is great place to lounge, and it's where grandchildren nap and sleep. I have a strong awareness that we live in an earthquake zone and I won't have anything heavy hanging over a bed. These hoops will be a great solution. 

Most of my embroidery is of the free-hand sort. I get an idea in my head of what I'd like it to look like and just begin plying needle and thread. In the stitching above there are still leaves to add and some french knots to scatter among the foliage.

What creative or other projects are you doing these days? Is September bright in your corner? 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Between the Seasons

Autumn is hanging out in our neighbourhood. The first glimpse was around 8 pm one evening when a few raindrops fell as I picked a few raspberries. Temperatures dropped, more rain fell, and I listened to it softly falling during the night. We are thankful for the moisture. 

This weekend the two of us took a last overnight boating trip for the season, to Genoa Bay. Gray mist and gentle rain were the weather of the day on Saturday, but Sunday morning the mist wreathing the hills was soon burned off by the sun.

Golden light shone through paper thin leaves littering the forest floor. 

Float houses are popular in much of the west coast. At the Genoa Bay Marina, a couple of them are for sale. I wonder how damp they would be in winter, though. 

We hiked for a couple of hours on the hill above the marina. The trail began in shaded woods where ferns grow lush. We soon left the green behind for dry grassy outcroppings and the scent of warm pine. When we stood still, we heard the soft plink of dry needles falling to the ground. 

More evidence of autumn's visit combined with the dry summer is seen in the glow of orange Garry Oak leaves. 

Blue, blue water and sky signify September days to me. The earth radiates the heat stored up over the summer. Evenings cool rapidly. Shadows slant earlier. This time between the seasons celebrates the best of both summer and autumn. 

Is autumn peeking into your neighbourhood?

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

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Marching into Autumn

Our hot summer days continue and there's not much autumnal about the weather. We could do with some rain. Meanwhile, as the sun shines, we make the most of it. 

Last Sunday we went to the grounds of Royal Roads University, formerly known as Hatley Castle. I showed you the gardens, but the real reason for the visit was to see the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Musical Ride.

Marching bands and seated bands entertained the large crowd until it was time for the stars of the show, the horses and their riders.

Our Lieutenant Governor General opened the event. Her arrival to the stands was preceded by the single piper seen above. Bagpipes sound so wonderful in the open air, less so in buildings, I find. 

The Massed Pipes and Drums featured members from three groups, each in their distinct uniforms. I enjoy drums very much and these musicians did a superb job, marching about the field on a very hot day. 

Tim pointed out the daggers tucked into the stockings of the one regiment. I did a little research and the dagger is called a sgian-dubh and is a traditional part of Highland dress. Wilfred Owen, the first World War poet, referred to "daggers in plaid socks" in his poem "Disabled."

We sat next to the bandstand and I snapped this photo of the crowd as a reflection in the horn.

Then came 32 horses and their riders dressed in red serge. How hot they must have been. The Musical Ride is a tradition in the Mounted Police, stemming from trying to relieve the monotony of drills in the 1870s. The riders did tricks and competed amongst each other, and their first performance was in 1876.

Intricate turns, drills, and figures, set to music, show off the riding skills of the police officers and showcase the beautiful horses. The horses seemed to dance through many of the movements, light and graceful. 

One popular move is the charge, seen above, where the officers point their lances forward and urge the horses to gallop. 

The Musical Ride serves as an ambassador of goodwill these days, rather than as a police unit. They travel all over the world performing and representing Canada. This year, as its our 150th anniversary, the RCMP Musical Ride completed a cross-country tour.

Our seats were at ground level, quite close to the front and with the dust, we looked at each other at the end of the show and saw faces covered in dust! 

Have you ever seen the RCMP Musical Ride? 

Linking to Mosaic Monday, back after an August break. Hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.   

Friday, September 01, 2017

The Man Who Loved Shakespeare

Should you drive from the southern coast of British Columbia into the Interior, you might choose to take the Coquihalla Highway. Along the way you might be intrigued by road signs for Romeo, Portia, Lear, Juliet, and more. 

Andrew McCulloch was the brilliant engineer in charge of constructing the Kettle Valley railway through an incredibly challenging landscape, including the Coquihalla River canyon with its sheer cliffs and narrow gorges.

If you take the turn off to the Othello Tunnels, you can walk along the old railbed and through the tunnels, as we did a couple of weeks ago.

There are three tunnels, dark, damp places blasted and chipped from solid rock. It's good to have a flashlight, or failing that, a strong arm to hold. Between the tunnels are two bridges. 

Looking down, the water rushes over and around boulders of all sizes and shapes. Rock faces jut sharply over the river, low now in late summer. It was a hot day and the water looked cool and inviting, but there were warnings that the swift water was dangerous and one could be swept away by the current.

McCulloch loved Shakespeare, and named several of the railway stops for characters in the plays. It is said that often, in the evenings, around the campfire, he read Shakespeare. 

Although the rail line has been long abandoned, McCulloch's feat of engineering is remembered as modern travelers hike along his route, and the signs that flash by as cars zoom up and over the mountains bear witness to his literary preferences. 

I wonder what he would think of our modern highways and fast cars. I like to think Andrew McCulloch would smile to see the names he chose still in use today. 

A Bit of This and That

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