Monday, January 27, 2020

Sunny Sunday, for a Change!

The weather report on the television shows wave after wave of rain moving in from the Pacific. It's daunting, and when we do have a break, everyone heads outside. On Sunday, Tim and I went for lunch at the Sea Glass restaurant in Sidney. It's a pretty place, decorated in clear greens and blues that evoke the sea, with stained and coloured glass throughout. 

We went with a gift card in our pockets, a gift from our son and daughter-in-law for Christmas. Our meal was lovely - a Tomato Sausage Soup, and a Mediterranean Chicken Sandwich with roasted vegetables. As we were leaving, Tim realized that he had paid with the credit card and totally forgot about the gift card. I suppose we'll have to go back now. (Not a hardship at all.) 

On our way home we stopped at Island View Beach for a walk. There was a little breeze and it was chilly walking against it, but how blue the water was, and how pretty the waves splashing up onto the shore. 

In the distance is a small piece of land known as D'Arcy Island. It holds a sad and shameful story. In the 1890s, in Victoria's Chinatown, officials discovered 7 people with leprosy. Racism and fear prompted the building of a leper colony on D'Arcy Island where these people lived out their lives. Supplies arrived every three months, but there was no actual medical care until 1906. Such a sad story. 

Now the island is a marine park, accessible by private boats and kayaks. We've not visited yet, but I would like to, one day.

Brown dry plants rustle in the breeze and look a bit forlorn these days, having been battered by the winter storms. However, if you look closely at the branches of the trees, swelling buds are visible, hopeful signs of spring. 

Up curl the waves onto the rocks. 

As we made our way home mid-afternoon, the mist began to rise in the fields beyond the beach. Light slanted low against the piles of driftwood, reminding us that although winter is easing, it is not yet finished. 

Home again to a fire, to creamy butternut squash soup, rye bread, cheese, and salad. A perfectly lovely ending to a perfectly lovely day. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Friday Five: Domesticity and Reading

Our snow is but a memory, quickly melted and washed across the land into the sea by the unrelenting waves of rain that blow in from the Pacific. It's gloomy out there, but on Wednesday, when the rain let up and a bit of weak sunshine braved through around 5:00, I noticed that it was not quite as dark as it had been a few weeks previous. Spring is on its way!

I bought a bunch of tulips at the grocery store and they've lasted more than a week. I trim them as they get rather leggy and long in the water. 

Mugs and cups of steaming tea are consumed throughout the year, not just in the winter. A cup of tea in the morning sets things up for the day for me. The blue and white teapot is from Ten Thousand Villages, made in Vietnam, and given to me by my youngest daughter a number of years ago, and I love it. It makes a good amount, and I'll have a second cup when there's time.

Tim gave me the Ladyship mug a couple of years ago, and when I saw the matching Lordship version, I wanted to get it for him. They are good-sized mugs and are perfect for those mornings when neither of us has to go anywhere, ie the weekend. 

That brings to mind Lady Grantham's words from Downton Abbey "What is a week end?" 

Well, there's another one coming up, and I'm pleased about that! The second term of school finished this week and the new one begins on Monday. 

I made a Roasted Grape and Blue Cheese Flatbread to accompany a soup meal recently. The combination of sharp cheese and sweet fruit is a winner for me. 

I've finished this stack of books; some are better than others. I really enjoyed A Single Thread, about women who embroidered church kneelers after WWII, and The Right Sort of Man, a lighthearted mystery also set after WWII. 

The cookbook on the bottom is all about Persian food and my mouth watered reading it. I like cookbooks with stories, short ones, attached to the recipes, do you? I tried an Orange Chicken recipe from the book and thought it delicious. Tim thought so, too. Turmeric, saffron, orange, onion, cinnamon, and more combined to make it both comforting and fresh-tasting. 

Rain is in the forecast for the foreseeable future. Lots of tea is in my forecast! Happy Weekend.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Five on Friday: Five Quotes

"A snow day, literally and figuratively, 
falls from the sky,
and seems like a thing of wonder." 
(Susan Orlean)

I woke up Wednesday morning to deep silence. When I looked out the window, all was white. Snow softened the lines of plants, cars, and garden features. It was no surprise to get the message that school was cancelled for the day. 

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

First on my list of things to do on a snowy day is take a walk. I bundled up and set out for Rithet's Bog. It was a very different place than it had been on Sunday. The waterfowl sheltered in the deeper water of the side ditches. Snow-laden branches reflected mystery in the dark deep pond.

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

I could see that someone else had walked at least part of the path I was on, but his or her footsteps were mostly covered. No one else was there and the snow was deep enough that it took effort to lift my feet and plant them again. I reveled in the marvelous quiet and the bright softness. 

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of weather."
(Mark Twain)

Once home again I took a turn around the garden. The Japanese fishing ball looks as though it's wearing a dunce cap. Inside, I made a mug of hot chocolate and walked from window to window, looking at the different views. Then, what to do with the day? Should I indulge myself, or should I mark papers?

Indulgence won out - I read a little, and played with fabric, creating four zipper pouches just for fun. I re-watched an episode of the Crown while I sewed. As the light faded I put away the sewing and went to the kitchen. Earlier in the day I had browned a pot roast and put it into the slow cooker with a bit of red wine. Now I added some chopped mushrooms to the cooker. I cut zucchini, tomatoes, and potatoes to make a vegetable tian that went into the oven. Just before dinner I took the meat from the cooker and let it rest, then poured the mushrooms and liquid into a pot to create a flavourful gravy. It was the perfect day for such a warming dinner. 

"One of the secrets of a happy life
is continuous small treats."
(Iris Murdoch)

The next day school was back in session, although the buses didn't run and numbers were down. It's nearing end of term and assessment is high on the list of things to accomplish. Still, that one day was a gift, an expected treat. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A Week of Winter

"Moss grows where nothing else can grow. It grows on bricks. It grows on tree bark and roofing slate. It grows in the Arctic Circle and in the balmiest tropics; it also grows on the fur of sloths, on the backs of snails, on decaying human bones. It is a resurrection engine. A single clump of moss can lie dormant and dry for forty years at a stretch, and then vault back again into life with a mere soaking of water." Elizabeth Gilbert

Winter has arrived with winds roaring down the straits. Ferry after ferry has been cancelled. The weekend was especially disruptive with passengers stranded on either side. Our Vancouver daughter had four friends stay overnight. I was called in to teach yesterday morning for a colleague who was stranded. 

Tim and I bundled up on Sunday afternoon and went for a walk around the Bog, a depression in the landscape sheltered from the wind by curving hillocks and tall trees. 

The ponds are full now, fed by streams that trickle underground and overground, between houses and under streets, thanks to the abundant recent rains. 

Green-winged Teals and Mallards quack and preen, and swim about in organized confusion. 

Later that night snow began falling, small flakes that felt like pellets that swirled up and around with the wind. Every child went to sleep with hopes of snow covering the ground in the morning. 

Our Mister F awoke early on Monday morning and quickly rushed to play outside in the fresh snow even before it was light saying, "It could be gone by recess time at school." Smart boy! 

Miss S attends another school and she told me that recess and lunch hour were extended so that students could enjoy the snow. Smart teachers! 

Snow is an event here, and there is more to come. I love the bright whiteness and the way it transforms the drab landscape into light and airiness. There is little ambivalence about snow in our city - people either love it or hate it. I'm in the love camp. 

I grew up much further north where winters can be interminable with snow lasting until March or April. That is too much winter for me now. Then I lived very near the equator for many years and winter, or seasons of any kind, were non-existent, and I missed the rhythm of the year. So I'm very happy to be in a place where seasons are mild, but definite. 

After being out in the cold briskness of winter, is there anything better than a cup of hot chocolate or tea by the fire? I think not. Saturday's puttering resulted in a clean and tidy home that makes me smile to look at it. A place for everything and everything in its place. Ahh. 

This morning a few lazy flakes continue to drift through the air. The wind has stopped for a bit and ferry passenger traffic is back to normal. Another system is blowing in and we'll see what that brings. 

Meanwhile, I'm off to school: Spanish, Foods, Spanish, and French are on today's schedule. What's on yours? 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday Five: Between the Storms

Yesterday, Thursday, dawned clear and cold, cold being a relative term. There was a little frost. However, the sky was clear and blue, a sight not seen in awhile here. I ventured out to my garden to see what might be happening. 

1. In the midst of repetitive wind and rain cycles, under the dark soil, life is stirring. The first snowdrops are beginning to unfurl their creamy bells. Bluebells and chives poke green shoots upwards. It's all very heartening.

2. Moss thrives. I like moss and don't mind it on rocks, paving stones, and in shady places. My husband dislikes it on the lawn. He applies lime to combat the moss. I transplant bits of it to where I think it would look pretty. Not on the grass, though. Marital harmony is important. 

3. While I love moss, I have a love/hate relationship with succulents. Perhaps I just don't know enough about growing them. Hens and chicks just appeared in my garden and I do like them, but tend to leave them to do their own thing. If I fuss with them, they sulk and look poorly. In the winter, with all the rain, they turn red. I thought they looked very pretty tinged with frost yesterday morning, nestled among the moss. Do you have succulents in your garden? 

4. Oh, little rosebud, I fear for your safety. You looked so lovely in the sunshine, but today wind and rain is lashing furiously. Be brave. There's a change coming from the north. Several days of below freezing temperatures. In typical fashion, newscasters are saying we will experience the coldest weather of the century. That's really not saying much as the century is only 20 years old. Perhaps we will have snow. That I won't mind, but the rosebud might.

5. Storm chips. Have you heard of them? A couple of years ago when we had a snow day off of school, I craved potato chips and took a walk through the snow to get some. Apparently I am not alone. There is a #stormchips hashtag, started in 2014 in eastern Canada. Something about snowstorms causes potato chip yearnings. Who knew? 

This weekend will be fairly slow. I have cupboards I'd like to reorganize and some housework to do. I'll likely bake cookies. There's a stack of books to read. I'll putter. And I'll make sure to stock up for next week's predicted storm - milk, eggs, and storm chips. 

Monday, January 06, 2020

Rainy Day Monday

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

Outside my window this morning the rain drips down. I see delicate translucent beads hanging from each branch of the bare maple tree. The street is shiny wet, with rivulets trickling down along the curbs. I rather dread going out. Inside, my back is to the fire as I type. A large mug of tea is close by.  

I am thinking about walks in the woods and how fresh everything smells, and the quiet sound of slow rain on fallen leaves. 

During the past week I did some major cleanup. We have a storage room over the stairs and it tends to extreme untidiness over time. It looks wonderful now and I discarded all kinds of things - some to the thrift store, many papers to the recycle (I'm getting rid of my teaching materials), and some to the garbage can. We shifted furniture while my dad and son-in-law were here to help and that's required some cleaning out of drawers. My sewing room has also been sorted and organized, although there is one bank of drawers that I still need to get to. It feels great to start the new year with tidiness. 

(For those who will think that I should pass on those teaching resources to others, most of what I have and use is now digitally filed and readily available to my colleagues.) 

We've met some interesting people recently. Our rental suite has been vacant for a couple of months while we've painted and did some minor repairs. It was lovely to have the extra space over Christmas, and we put up an advertisement just before our guests arrived, planning to rent it for January 1. Rental spaces are very hard to find in our town and we had so much interest that we took the ad down after 24 hours. We interviewed 4 possible tenants and it was really hard to choose between them. In the end, we chose a couple who are brand new to Canada. She will be studying at UVic, and he will work. 

Another couple with a small boy also wanted to rent the suite. They are new to Canada, as well, and she will be studying while he works. Seems to be a theme. We had this couple over for dinner last week. I made a Mediterranean Chicken dish that I liked so much I made it again on Saturday night. The recipe is on my other blog and available if you click the link.

Over the weekend our daughter and youngest granddaughter came to stay. Miss Iris is the sweetest baby, and so content. She looks at the world with big serious eyes and has to feel comfortable before engaging in smiles and play. Just before they left yesterday she was sitting in her high chair completely engrossed with a piece of packaging. The sun shone for a brief moment and illuminated her, so I grabbed my camera and took a quick photo. 

As we contemplate another year in a world where much is broken, I leave you with these words from J. R. Tolkien, 

"The world is full of peril and there are many dark places. But still, there is much that is fair and though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater."

Friday, January 03, 2020

First Friday Five 2020

First of all, can I just say how much I love typing or texting 2020? It's snappy and quick and makes me smile almost every time I do it. 

It's almost 8 p.m. and I can hear wind and rain against the house in the dark outside. This afternoon, while driving to the ferry to pick up youngest daughter and youngest granddaughter(!), I heard warnings on the radio about all the ferry cancellations because of wind. There was no sign of the storm when took a couple of photos, but it blew in fairly quickly. Ashley's ferry was on time and I'm glad she and Iris made it. She's here for a friend's baby shower, and I'm so glad to cuddle Iris once again.

I had a few extra moments so I drove down to the water and snapped some photos. The moss is thriving with all the rain we've been having. So green and lush. 

The Christmas decor is put away, but the puzzle is still on the dining room table. Finishing is unlikely, although I'll leave it out for awhile longer. 

We recently installed a new front door. The outdoor lights shine through in an artsy fashion that's kind of fun. The door is white inside and out, and will be painted come spring when the weather dries out and warms up. 

Do you, or have you ever, chosen a focus word for the year? If you have, did you find it meaningful? I'd love to know specifically how. I did chose words several times a few years ago, then left it behind. However, recently, one word keeps coming to mind, with multiple meanings that seem very relevant, so I'm thinking about how to incorporate that focus into something intentional for the year ahead.

If that sounds as wishy-washy to you as it does to me that's because I'm still pondering. 

Iris is tucked away for the night, there's hot peppermint tea to sip, and pools of lamplight making the living room cozy. Although Tim, Ashley, and I are engrossed in various individual pursuits we stop and chat and it's all very convivial. I'm going to post this and devote myself to chatting. 

Living Alongside Medieval History

  Several people have asked why we chose Leiden for our visit to the Netherlands. We've found it's easy to stay in the large cities ...