Thursday, February 28, 2019

Late Thursday at the end of February

We're two months into the year now. They fly by so quickly, yet a lot of living is packed into a month, even one with only 28 days. In March we can look forward to spring while holding back our enthusiasm for it can be a fickle month. 

I've read more in February than in most months. Eight novels, one cooking/memoire, and a dabble in the gardening book above, plus some dipping in and out of travel books. We're planning a trip later in the year and are beginning to decide just what we want to do and see. 

I've begun another quilt, this one in greys and yellows. I love the bee theme there and hope the recipient will love it as well. 

Tim and I took a walk along the water this week. The air is brisk in spite of the increasing sunshine that aided the glowing colours of the Midwinter Fire (Cornus Sanguinea) along the path. 

Two Anna's Hummingbirds sat very still as we walked by. These tiny creatures that must have a difficult time staying warm these days. 

While reading Nigel Slater's "Notes from the Larder" one evening, I had the urge to bake something. Lemon seemed like just the thing, so Lemon Squares it was. They came out of the oven just before bed, so we didn't even try them that night. I covered them with a tea towel and cut them in the morning. I had one with a cup of tea about an hour after breakfast. Very indulgent. 

This weekend will be a fairly quiet one of puttering around the house, a little sewing, some visiting, and gentle cooking. How about you? Any plans?

Linking to Friday Bliss, hosted by Riitta of Floral Passions.   

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Blogging Woes and Garden Dreams

crocuses along the Songhees walkway, from several years ago

First of all, blogging woes, not mine. A friend of mine, Diane, lives in Florida and writes a blog about her life there. Lavender Dreams Too is a delightful place to visit. Diane walks a lot and shows us the sights she sees along the way; she shares what she's reading and her other activities, such as sewing and crafting. She writes with plenty of humour. 

Google is a great platform and I'm happy to have my blog hosted by Google. However, this week Diane's blog disappeared - POOF - and she can't get it back. If you go to her new blog Lavender Dreams New, you'll get the full story, and be able to sign up for her future posts. 

All of us who blog have poured so much time and effort into our posts and we hate the thought of losing them. I determined to back my blog up to my computer yesterday, but was told I need some kind of special app or program, so I need to do a little more research.

Please go to Diane's blog and give her some love and encouragement. She and Mr. Lavender Dreams are working hard to see about getting her blog back from Mr. Google's bots.

edited to add: Diane's blog is back - hooray - after they made contact with a real person! 

I have a book out from the library "The Armchair Book of Gardens - a miscellany" by Jane Billinghurst. The book itself is a beauty, not huge in size, but filled with wonderful illustrations and sketches, alongside excerpts from garden writers throughout time. 

crocuses from several years ago at Government House

This week I placed my seed order from West Coast Seeds. I avidly read their newsletters for they are full of information about gardening. I confess that last summer, and the one before, I've not felt much like devoting much time to my garden. I feel, in my bones, that this year might be different. 

early prunus (cherry tree) blossoms somewhere in Victoria several years ago

I'll definitely be growing vegetables, but I'm going to find space for a small cutting garden, as well. I've been reading Floret Flowers' posts and am inspired by the armfuls of cut flowers she features. Both of the sites I've linked to focus on what grows best in our Pacific Coastal climate. 

Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, June 2015

Wherever we visit, we always find a garden or two to stroll in. Several years ago, on our trip to the Maritimes, we visited the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, the site of the first permanent European settlement in North America, in 1605. Looking at the photos takes me back to that day, and the warm wind that blew across the water into the garden, creating lovely movement in the foliage.

Anne of Green Gables Site - Prince Edward Island, June 2015

Later, on that same trip, I visited the Anne of Green Gables site where the lilacs bloomed in profusion. 

Blue Poppies dancing in Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC several years ago in June or July
Very close to us are Butchart Gardens where each turn in the pathway offers thoughtfully composed views of flowers, shrubs, trees, and statuary. 

As far as getting out into my own garden this year, it's been too cold and the snow is very slow at disappearing. There's been some damage - a broken young magnolia tree, a smashed rose bush, and our tall hedge is rather splayed in spots. Tim tied up the hedge yesterday and we hope it recovers. 

Is gardening on your mind these days? Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf.

Don't forget to visit Lavender Dreams New!  

Monday, February 18, 2019

On Family, Learning, and Play

Today, in some Canadian provinces, is Family Day. It's a fairly new statutory holiday, and is most welcome in the long stretch between New Years and Spring Break. Coming as it did this year after a week of snow days and professional development days, students and teachers have had a very long break. Tomorrow it's back to normal. 

My parents came over this weekend. We enjoyed visiting, relaxing, reading, eating, and a couple of games of Scrabble. We went for a long drive and a short walk in Sooke before going out for lunch at Mom's Cafe, a diner that has been serving good food since 1964. They left on the ferry this morning. 

On Saturday our eldest daughter and our son came over with their families for a casual supper. I invited the grandchildren to bring along their marshmallow shooters, given at Christmas, saying I would provide the ammunition. It was wild and fun with grownups and children alike chasing each other around the house. Now I'm finding marshmallows all over - as in the plant above. It makes me smile every time I see one. Fortunately, marshmallows just dry up; they don't go soggy or messy. 

I like taking photos, but I don't know too much about exposure and the technical side of photography. I'd like to learn more. One thing I'd like to learn is how to take a photo against the light. After reading a few things on the Internet, I picked up my Valentine roses, dried off the stems, plopped them on an open book in front of the window and started playing. I was going for a semi-silhouette effect (new term for me) and I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out.

I've flirted with knitting over the years, but we're not in a committed relationship. After opening up a drawer upstairs and seeing all the yarn I've collected, I decided it's time to use it up. Crochet or knitting - that is the question. I discovered an easy dishcloth pattern that included a couple of new things for me and decided that would be a good start. I pulled it all out and started over a couple of times as it was all too tight. So, I've learned to increase stitches; I already knew how to knit and purl. Small steps, and I don't aspire to being a great knitter. The rhythm of push, around, twist, and through is a lovely one. Relaxing. Portable. It's good to have a portable handicraft, I think.

I know that many of you knit for I greatly admire your creations on your blogs. How did you learn? On your own, from a friend or family member, or in a class?

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf.  

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Friday Bliss: Tea, cookies, and SNOW

Bunches of ranunculus appeared in the store this week. Tight buds that will open into layers of pink. I couldn't resist and a small bouquet made its way home with me. 

The big news this week has been the weather. Snow, snow, snow - and more snow. It's been beautiful. School was cancelled for an unprecedented three days in a row. I went for long walks on my own to enjoy the transformed landscape. It's not cold, and so lovely out there.

On Wednesday, I took two grandchildren to visit their cousin, about 15 minutes away. The snow was all the entertainment they needed. 

Driving was fine on the main roads, but our town has few snowplows and side streets were slippery and messy. Coming home I lost traction on the hill on our street, backed up to a clear patch of pavement for traction and set off again, this time with a heavier foot. I made it, but just barely. Later, I saw some of our neighbours out shoveling the street because they could not make it, either.

My father taught me how to drive in all kinds of weather. He drove big trucks and trailers when I was young. To this day he is a good driver. We lived in the north where there is plenty of winter driving, and I feel quite comfortable in the snow.  

This fat robin is probably wondering when the snow will disappear. In the tall tree outside my daughter's dining room window a varied group of birds arrived - flickers, robins, varied thrush, red-headed woodpecker, juncos - all at once, to chatter and feed. 

I stitched a quilted heart to use as a hot mat for a teapot on the coffee table.

Tim and I celebrated Valentine's Day at home, simply, on the 13th. I made dinner, he brought me roses. I baked heart-shaped cookies, a family tradition. Tea and cookies are a lovely way to spend time chatting with a friend, a child, a husband, or anyone.

I hope you've all had a sweet Valentine's Day, celebrating positive and loving relationships in your life. 

Linking to Friday Bliss, hosted by Riitta of Floral Passions.  

Monday, February 11, 2019

Winter has arrived!

Our corner of Canada is much scorned by the rest of the country when we fuss about snow. It comes infrequently and is usually gone in a day or less. However, we've been in a "deep freeze", or perhaps just a cooler for the past week or so. Some snow fell late Friday, followed by punishing winds that battered against the house and caused multiple power outages, uprooted trees and debris to fly everywhere. 
 On Sunday afternoon the snow began again, this time in earnest. Tim and I went for a long walk. It was magical. Fat snowflakes landed on our faces and we turned our open mouths upwards to catch them, bits of cold on our tongues. Snow fell until around 9 or 10 pm. This morning is white and beautiful - and schools are cancelled. More snow is falling. I'm looking forward to taking a walk on my own later this morning. 

Today is this fellow's 5th birthday. He had his friend party last weekend, followed by a little family party here on Sunday. His birthday is a reminder to me of how God redeems days and memories.
Twenty-five years ago, on this day, this little guy's father was just 10 years old, living in a small town on the edge of the Amazon jungle. He was struck by a hit and run driver and suffered severe head trauma. We were flown to the capital city for medical treatment. He was in a coma for 4 days. His recovery took years, and we are thankful for his agile mind and body now. But over the years, I always mourned a little on February 11th. Perhaps it was a loss of innocence for me, and some grieving in spite of the good outcome.

However, all that grief and sorrow was taken away when our boy's son was born exactly 20 years later. Now there is just joy and thankfulness. Thanks be to God. 

Tulips are brightening the days. These were last week's and I don't have any in the house just now and won't be making any trips to the store to get them in the snow.

I recently finished the binding on this simple quilt. The scalloped edge meant bias binding and I cut miles of it. Enough to do another quilt, I think. I took it out into the snow on Friday for a photo shoot. It was very cooperative.

The snowdrops are currently completed covered in a blanket of snow, so I'm glad I took this photo on Friday. The blooms are almost at their end.

On this snow day, after my walk, I plan on watching Pride and Prejudice while I sew. There will be copious amounts of hot tea, and a lot of gazing out the window, too. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. 

Friday, February 08, 2019

Of Light and Shadow on a Friday Morning

Children and children-at-heart are impatiently watching the skies this dark morning. We are waiting for snow. A few lazy flakes drift to the ground as I write. Not enough for a snow-day from school! Ah well, perhaps we'll be able to play in the snow this weekend. I'm hoping so.

Last Saturday we went for lunch with some friends. Our view included a boat-builders' dock and the old boat above. It doesn't look like the best advertisement for the business, but certainly has plenty of character. The day was gloomy with clouds and that's certainly reflected in the photo. 

On another day this week, I drove out to Island View Beach for a walk. The late afternoon light was so clear with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. (That's cold for us.) Mount Baker, in Washington State, glowed white and blue.

The light transformed rose hips into almost translucent orbs of colour. Soon they will all fall and be replaced by fresh wild blossoms. 

Storms and waves toss up huge piles of driftwood along the shorelines. Beach visitors are almost compelled to create something from them - shelters, sculptures, artful arrangements. I don't know if the placement of arching branch was an affair of nature, or deliberate.

Oh, the light, beautiful as it fades.

On another day, light streamed in the window to dance on the frame photo of Hailes Abbey, taken almost 3 years ago now. 

A number of readers posed a question about what I teach in Grade 8 Foods. We run a program called RAFT - Robotics, Art, Food, Tech Ed (aka Woodworking) - for our 13-year-old students. This semester, February through June, is divided into 4 blocks with the students rotating through each of the four options. There are 3 groups of students, so I will have one block free. Our goal is to give students the opportunity to explore a variety of applied arts. It's just a taste - I think I have them for 25 class days. 

My goal is to help them see how they can learn skills that will enable them to eat well and to be mindful of what they eat. We begin with breakfast - Pancakes with Berry Sauce, followed by Banana Muffins. So they've learned how to mix two types of doughs, and thicken a sauce with cornstarch, cook on the stove top and use the oven. 

Next is lunch, and yesterday they prepared the pizza dough (yeast) and tomato sauce. Today they will roll out the crust, add the sauce, grate the cheese and bake it. Alongside, we're serving carrot sticks and cucumber slices, so those will be prepared while the pizza bakes. 

It's a busy, busy class - there are 24 students in 6 kitchens. Students come with a very wide range of experience. Some never cook at home; others prepare entire meals. We intersperse the cooking days with discussions and lessons about theory and nutrition. 

I demonstrated how to make the pizza dough on Wednesday and stressed a number of times to NOT squish the dough but to use a push and fold and pull method. Some students don't listen well. I was called to two kitchens where the "kneader's" hands were coated with sticky dough because they had picked it up and squished it through their fingers. What a mess! We scraped the dough off and I showed them, once again, how to knead. 

Of course, the best part of the course is eating the food they've prepared, and I don't think anyone has ever produced something utterly inedible. Cooking is very forgiving. 

Linking to Friday Bliss, hosted by Riitta of Floral Passions. 

Happy weekend!  

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Remembering Summer

We had our first skiff of snow last night. The grandchildren are excited for more in the forecast, as am I. We'll see. Very often these weather warnings are greatly exaggerated. It is dark and chilly out there, with a wind that nips at ears and nose, although nothing like the effects in the middle of the continent. 

We had our local families over for lunch after church to celebrate a little boy turning 5 soon. The girls made tissue paper parachutes and jumped off of things so the parachutes would puff up. Very creative. 

After they left I sat by the fire doing some hand stitching on my quilt and my mind cast back to last summer's boating adventures. And so I thought I'd tell you of one of the most interesting people we met on our travels in the rather remote Broughton Island Archipelago. 

Tim and Bill Proctor sitting in front of the museum Bill created.

Billy Proctor is a legend in these islands, and along the coast. Bill was born in 1934 so he's the same age as my father. Bill lived his entire life on the coast and has worked as a hand-logger, a fisherman, a boat repairman, and more. He tells the story of how he hated school and ran straight away into the woods when his mother ordered correspondence materials for him. He returned home later that day, but his repugnance towards school was so strong that his mother packaged up the materials and sent them back. You can read more of his early life in an article published in our local paper. He loves the land and the sea. 

We were tied up to the dock at Echo Bay Marina where we enjoyed hot showers, a small grocery store, filling our fresh water tanks, and a fish and chip dinner. Echo Bay was once a thriving coastal community with a school building, fishermen and their families, and loggers. As time passed, the area has become less populated and there are only poignant reminders of the lives once lived there. Empty cabins and beached derelict boats hint at the tales. A trail from Echo Bay leads to the place where Bill and his wife built a home. There is an enclosed garden where a bush of yellow flowers blooms profusely and I wonder if it was Bill's wife who planted them. 

On one of his rare visits to larger centres, Billy visited a museum. He is a collector, a beachcomber, and realized that he had more stuff than the museum. He returned home and built a museum to house the many artifacts he's found over the years. 
He also built a hand-logger's cabin, seen above. This cabin was typical of loggers' cabins in years past, built from one large cedar tree in about a week. Just one room, with a wood stove, a bed, and a place for snowshoes, rain gear, and other tools. Tea was a staple, strong and bracing, steeped in teapot, not bags dunked into mugs.  

The stuff Billy collected ranges from old trading beads, seen above, to logging equipment, flint stones from pre-literate times, newspapers, school effects, and more. It's an eclectic collection that strongly reflects the remote coastal life. 

I loved the blue bottles on the windowsill, and throughout the rest of our trip I kept my eyes open for trading beads and blue bottles, but alas, I found none.

Back at Echo Bay, tiny flowers, yellow and white, dot the field where children once played in the school yard. How pretty they are. Can you imagine children sitting in the sunshine making daisy chains? I can. Thinking of them, and thinking of that time last summer has warmed me.

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. 

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-...