Saturday, September 29, 2018

At the end of September

The end of September hangs suspended between seasons. One day the balance tips towards summer, the next, towards autumn. This past week has been gloriously summer-ish, with golden light and warm days. The garden shows the effect of waning sunlight and cool nights with burnished colour on leaves and flowers. The fig tree leaves fade to yellow and begin to fall. Dry oak leaves scuttle along the street, swirling up into the wind caused by passing vehicles. 

On Friday afternoon it was impossible to stay indoors. My grade 9 Spanish class begged to study outdoors. I promised them a short walk around the playing field if they would work at the beginning of the class. They agreed with alacrity. How lovely it was to be out in the sun with the students, watching them race ahead and fall back, reach up to pick a few remaining sweet blackberries from the bushes along the perimeter, laugh, and talk.

A lone gull lords it over a flock of plovers on a rock nearly covered by the high tide. 

After class, I bought groceries and brought them home, then went out for a little walk. When Tim came home I suggested we go down to the water for a walk. At the breakwater, we saw three huge cruise ships in dock. While we watched, one left and another came in with a tiny tug nudging it into place. Barges, pilot boats, helicopters, float planes, a ferry, pleasure boats, and container ships came and went while the fiery sun sank lower and lower against the Sooke Hills and finally disappeared in a glow of orange. 

With the sun went the warmth and we made our way to the cafe at the breakwater for a simple supper of soup, salad, and a shared plate of nachos. 

Today, Saturday, the clouds have moved in and rain is in the forecast. Still the garden and woods show summer colour, juxtaposed against the tawny shades of autumn. 

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

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Seasonal Eating - Friday Bliss

As the nights draw in and temperatures drop, all the salads and grilled dishes of summer lose their appeal and I long for the cozier foods of fall. 

Recently I made an apple crisp and served it, once again, with creme anglaise. I'm planning to make some Apple Pastry Bars soon, too, perhaps over the weekend. 

When my brother and sister-in-law were here in early September, I made Salted Caramel Pots de Creme from Laura Calder's Paris Express cookbook. Oh my. Rich and so good with that sprinkle of sea salt on top.

We're eating more soup again, hearty roasted vegetable soups like this Roasted Cauliflower Pear soup, and 

Roasted Tomato Soup. Oh how good the house smells! Do you save your chicken bones and carcasses to make broth? I make broth in my slow cooker, adding water to the roasted chicken carcass, plus a carrot, an onion, some celery leaves, parsley stems, peppercorns, a bay leaf, and salt. I leave it on low for 8 hours and a lovely clear broth results, which I freeze in quart jars (leaving a couple of inches of headspace).

Roasted Pear Cheesecake was popular on a recent weekend getaway with friends. Some asked for the recipe. I've linked to all of the recipes (except the Pots de Creme) on my recipe blog. 

What are you cooking or eating these days? Do you eat seasonally? Any good ideas to share?

Linking with Friday Bliss, hosted by Riitta of Floral Passions in Finland. Why don't you join us?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Puttery Day and a Special Visit

It's Saturday, I haven't gone anywhere, and it's perfectly lovely. The past three weekends have been full with guests, and/or going away. It was time to stay home and get some things done. 

One thing on my list still isn't done - picking the grapes. With the purple ones I'll make and can juice, and we'll eat the green ones. Both varieties are sweet and delicious. 

I went on a very special outing this week to meet up with two blogging friends. Honora of Pondside and I have visited several times; she lives in town, but Mary of A Breath of Fresh Air lives in North Carolina. She let us know that she would be in town and Honora made reservations for dinner at the Oak Bay Marina Restaurant.

How lovely it was to sit at a table overlooking the water and watch the lights on the boats begin to sparkle. Conversation was non-stop and we were some of the last people in the restaurant. Our husbands came along and their end of the table was lively, too. 

It's the first day of autumn - an auspicious day to clean the house that badly needed attention after the previous weeks. I changed out a few things in the china hutch and re-potted a number of plants.

A total of 2 rudbeckia blooms graced my garden this year. I ruthlessly plucked them today and combined them with marigolds and sage leaves for a long, low arrangement on the dining room table. 

A tidy house is a wonderful thing. Aaah, says my mind and soul. After I took this photo I tweaked a couple of things - do you do that after seeing a photo? 

After dusting and vacuuming I changed the round blue wicker basket for this more autumnal natural one. I find trays on the coffee table are good for harnessing a number of things - among them the television remote and coasters. There's often a pen or pencil in the basket, too.

And so it's autumn. Last night was wet and rainy, today the sun shone, but now, in late afternoon, the wind is picking up and tossing the trees with wild abandon. 

I'll be linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.  

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Visit to a Smaller Island

This pretty pot of petunias welcomed us to the home of our friends' parents, who offered 8 of us a weekend stay on Pender Island.

Their home is on the water, with a dock where we caught sweet Rock Crabs. Although the weather is feeling autumnish, we sat at the picnic table outside and cracked crabs without worrying about the mess. It was a great start to dinner. We all provided elements of the dinner so it wasn't a lot of work for any one person. 

My contribution was dessert - a maple-flavoured unbaked cheesecake with a ginger cookie crust and roasted pears on top. It's a light cheesecake, which was a good thing because we certainly had a sumptuous dinner to precede it.  

We did go for a hike before dinner. The weather alternated rain and cloud with sun and blue sky. From the top of Oak Bluff, the misty blue islands and silvery water of the Salish Sea look like something out of Tolkien, or C.S. Lewis' works. 

"Farewell we call to hearth and hall,
Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
We must away ere the break of day,
Far over wood and mountain tall."
J.R. Tolkien

And then the sun came out for a wee bit. 

Woodsy detail.

It's feeling very autumn-ish here these days. Lots of rain and wind, although nothing like that of Hurricane Florence. 

A LOT of deer live on Pender Island. I startled this mama and baby who were napping in a quiet spot. They stood and looked at me for a long time before ambling off into the woods. 

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

Friday, September 14, 2018

Between the Seasons

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks"  John Muir

Indecisive September hovers between summer and autumn. Indecision about what to wear every day reflects the fluctuations in temperature. No socks and a light top one day, sweaters and closed in shoes the next.

"The air is crowded with birds, 
beautiful, tender, intelligent birds
for whom life is a song." George Henry Lewes

On my walk yesterday I stopped to watch this little bird gorging herself on Mountain Ash berries. She knows she needs to eat now to build up energy reserves for the weather to come.

Acorns litter the path under the sprawling branches of Garry Oaks. 

In my garden, blithe roses put out bud after bud, happy, I think for cooler temperatures and more moisture. Winchester Cathedral showing off just now, and I see that another white rose, Bolero, is getting ready to shine soon.

Our menus also reflect the waffling season. In the morning I think that a warming meal would be appropriate for dinner, but by late afternoon, a salad is more appealing. 

On a rainy day this week I roasted a chicken. There were plenty of leftovers for packed lunches, and this salad. Also in the fridge was a container of roasted butternut squash. I found some dried figs in the pantry to sliver and warm with the squash, then cooked a few bacon strips until crispy. A bed of lettuce topped with perfectly ripe and sweet Bartlett pear slices rounded out the plate for a most satisfying meal. A drizzle of mustard vinaigrette finished it all off. Yum!
Today is the end of the first full week of school. I am slowly getting back into familiar routines both there and at home. My students are wonderful, and eager to learn. This semester I have two classes of Spanish - beginning and third year (Grades 9 and 11). Teaching part time is enough for me. 

How about you? Do you find September is a time to reestablish routines that may have been relaxed during summer? 

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Rainy Weekend

Listening to the rain falling at night must be one of the coziest sounds there is. Autumn rains here are soft, more of a drizzle than a downpour, and most welcome. Rain fell intermittently most of the weekend here. 

A few of my dahlia plants (just the pink ones, apparently) finally bloomed. During the summer, when I cut flowers for the house I take care to leave plenty in the garden for show. Now that autumn is here, I cut with abandon, knowing that rain and wind will hasten their demise.

The perfect symmetry of dahlias in their multiple forms is such a marvelous thing. I chose the dusty olive-coloured leaves of sage, and parsley gone to seed as fillers.  

Our son challenged himself to cycle the Whistler Gran Fondo on Saturday. He biked 122 km from Stanley Park to Whistler in 4hrs 50 min, with a total elevation of 1900 metres (6200 ft). He and his wife went over on Friday night so we had the grands for the weekend. 

The weather put a bit of a damper on our planned activities, but we managed to have lots of fun, including some time between rain showers on the beach. A large pile of driftwood logs was the perfect playground, complete with tunnels and hiding places. 

I took a short walk along the path while Tim supervised the log playground. The day was dull, but bright yellow flowers (I'm not sure of their name) added some colour to the scene.

After months with no measurable rain, we're glad to see rain clouds again. 

When we arrived home from the beach, I strolled around the garden with my snippers. A zinnia, cosmos, heliotrope, feverfew, and white geraniums make a pretty bouquet for the kitchen windowsill.

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

Thursday, September 06, 2018

These Days

These days, early in the morning, I pull up the covers over my shoulders as cool air blows in through the open window. Later, the shower nozzle is turned just a little bit more to the warm side.

In the morning the dew is heavy on the car windshield. Swish swish go the wipers before I pull out of the driveway.

In the morning I turn on my seat heater for the ride to school, but still wear my sunglasses. In the afternoon I turn the air conditioner to full blast.

These days, in the evening, when I go out with my white bowl to pick a few raspberries, the light slants low and golden. The dahlias are finally blooming; they've been so slow this year. Tomatoes ripen and burst with improbable sweetness in my mouth.  

These days Winchester Cathedral blooms once again with creamy petals that fall quickly in the heat of the afternoon. Soon there will be buds on my other rose bushes. 

These days I remember the times spent with my grandchildren over the summer. There were together times, as well as a Nana date with each one. Mini golf, the petting zoo, go-carts, lunch out, complete with ice cream. Such fun.

These days, in the woods and gardens, in contrast to the rich and tawny shades that characterize autumn flowers, the autumn crocus (colchicum autumnale) blooms in pale shades more reminiscent of spring. I think it a bit out of place, like showing up at a serious event - a conference or memorial - in an airy sundress. 

These days, from a brilliant blue sky, the sun dazzles, burnishing fading foliage with gold.

In the evening the drapes are drawn sooner than they were, and lamps are lighted against the darkness. Gone are the days of sitting outdoors while sunfire beats from the west. The melancholy of vanishing summer comes unexpectedly even as I embrace the energy of autumn. 

These days pears, plums, and apples fill bowls in the kitchen. For a recent dinner party, I made a Pear Frangipane Tarte from a recipe found in the September issue of Victoria magazine. It was a straightforward recipe with a pretty and delicious result. 

When my brother and his wife visited last weekend, Salted Caramel Pots de Crème from Laura Calder's Paris Express book were on the menu. The recipe made 6, so Tim and I enjoyed the last two on our own. 

These days, typical of the transition between summer and autumn, are splendid and exquisite. Lauren deStefano says it's the "time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale."

These are they with you?

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Hanging on to Summer

Here we are. The great blue bowl of September skies covers us in the afternoons. The first day of this month was a great day to pile 6 adults and 2 children into the boat and take a short ride to Sidney Island for a day of sun and sand.

Never lose an opportunity of seeing
anything beautiful, 
for beauty is God's handwriting
Ralph Waldo Emerson  

Together we walked along the wooded trail to the walk-in campsite, then circled around to the other side of the small island, took steps back down to the beach and meandered back along the sand. Water + sticks + sand + children = unending entertainment.

Sticks and sand also provided entertainment for our son, who found this pointy-headed creature and thought he needed sunglasses. 

Not even a hint of wind ruffled the tidal pools in the morning. Calm waters and perfect reflections hint at the resignation of summer's soon end. Meanwhile, we soak in the sun and delight in the thought of cooler nights.

Go out, go out, I beg of you,
and taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth 
with all the wonder of a child. 
Edna Jaques

Eel grass is thrown up by waves onto the beach to dry and tangle, or be caught by a rising tide and tossed back into the sea. 

An indomitable blackberry plant grows from an old stump, surviving hot days with no rain. 

Oh, that blue sky!

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished
Tell about it.
Mary Oliver 

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-...