Friday, February 28, 2020

Five Things Friday

We're gaining about 25 minutes more precious light each week just now as our earth tilts ever so gently towards the sun. On my walks I see burgeoning shoots and blossoms springing upwards and outwards. The photo above was taken a week or more ago, and most of the snowdrop blooms have ended. Taking their place are crocuses and daffodils. Life is irrepressible.

Even the trees are eager to show off. These creamy blossoms are on a tree outside the school and I couldn't resist snapping them while walking from one building to the other. 

Spring restlessness is setting in. I'm a little tired of my winter clothes, but still need the warmth and layers, so I'm being creative and finding new ways to wear them. I don't need new things, and I'm becoming ever more conscious of the effects of fast fashion on individual lives and on the environment. I'm shopping my closet rather than the mall. If I get organized and brave enough, I'll do a post about that. 

There is restlessness in the kitchen, too, with a desire for fresh flavours. I've been roaming through my cookbooks in search of inspiration there, too. Laura Calder is a Canadian cook/author whose recipes I find very appealing and doable. She used to be on television, but now I see her on Instagram. 

We're joining friends for dinner this weekend, and I've been asked to bring dessert. Tim voted for Chocolate Mousse, so that's what it will be. 

Last night for dinner I made a sort of stew with ground beef, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes. It was rather blah. To accompany it I found this Skillet Cornbread recipe. It's a yummy one, with a mildly crunchy texture and a buttery flavour. The cornbread made up for the stew!

There is more than half of the cornbread remaining, so for tonight's dinner I'm planning to roast a large tray of vegetables - zucchini, onions, peppers, maybe eggplant or cabbage - then toss them all with feta cheese and olives. The bread will finish it off well. Simple and just the thing for a Friday night. 

Finally, I bought some tulips that are opening in exuberant free form style. They sit in the entrance hall and cheer my comings and goings.

The weekend is supposed to be sunny and I'm hoping to get out into the garden for a bit. There is clean up to do, and a few early seeds to plant. Dinner with friends on Saturday, and on Sunday I'm cooking dinner for 45 at church. I hope to do a little sewing and reading, as well. As always, we'll see what actually gets done! 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Stormy Sunday

The wind is tossing trees and shrubs mostly violently this afternoon. Rain pelts down. It's a good day to stay inside by the fire. We had to drive up Island earlier in the afternoon and within an hour of leaving home the sky showed blue patches and a rainbow arched over the mountains in the distance, giving us hope that the bad weather had passed. Alas, no. Still, we're warm and dry, and I have a big mug of tea alongside. 

Recent reads. The Marcia Willett books are easy and gentle reading. Entry Island was fascinating, alternating between Scotland in the early 19th century to the Magdalen Islands (also known as Iles de la Madeleine) in Canada in modern times. A murder combined with history and interesting characters made for a story that I stayed up late on Friday night to finish. 

Hannah Coulter is a wonderful story of a woman looking back on her life in Kentucky. It's a story of courage and wisdom, of mistakes made and lessons learned, and of intense love of the land where she lived. I'll be looking for more of Wendell Berry's stories. 

Death's Door has just been opened, so I have nothing to say about it quite yet, except that it was recommended by another blogger. 

I picked up a bundle of these pretty pink tulips on Friday. I love their colour and shape. 

My Valentine flowers are lasting and lasting. Against a rain-spattered window they are bright and cheerful. 

Pistachios. I recently read that just a few pistachios eaten before bed help with sleep. Apparently they contain more melatonin than almost any other food. I don't know whether they help with sleep or not, but I like them. They can be rather addicting and it's hard to stop at just a few. 

A new week begins. Hope it's a good one for you. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Butchart Gardens and Family Day Weekend

On Thursday afternoon, when I left school, the sun was shining and I got the hankering to visit Butchart Gardens. It's a beautiful place even without the flowers. The lines of paths and trees and shrubs undulate through the landscape. It's a place of harmony and loveliness.

A couple of the earliest rhododendrons are just beginning to open, pink and pretty. 

Clumps of hellebores bloom so luxuriously that I think I'm going to show my own single hellebore this photo to encourage it to do as well. 

Here is a look at the famous rose garden, bare now, but the bones are there, and it won't be long until swaths of colour fill this view. 

Between January and March, the Blue Poppy Restaurant is converted into a Spring Prelude garden. Here, pots and pots of orchids show off their forms and colours; hyacinths, daffodils and irises fill the air with their scent, and it gives one hope for springtime outdoors. 

I admired this pot set among the greenery against the red fence panel. I'm always looking for ideas for my own garden. Inspiration abounds at Butchart. 

Spritely Siberian Irises fit so well with daffodils. Blue and yellow - a perfect match. 

On this Family Weekend (Monday is a holiday in our province), our Vancouver family came over. We got together with most of the local family, as well, although some were sick and stayed home. An Iris of another sort stayed with us and delighted us all with her smiles, giggles, and sheer happiness. I snapped this photo just before they left - she's wearing a sweet handknit sweater, a gift from her mother's sister's talented mother-in-law. 

This afternoon I did some laundry, sorted through the photos I took (over 100 - most of them of the baby :), and Tim and I went for a walk. A lovely way to spend a February holiday. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

A Sunny Weekend

Staying indoors was not an option this weekend. After weeks of rain and gloom, the sun shone (albeit intermittently) and the rain ceased to fall. A tiny bit of warmth from the sun caressed our faces and we smiled. 

On Saturday I spent some time in the garden, trimming bushes, yanking some weeds, and harvesting the last of the carrots I planted late last summer. There were more than I thought, and very muddy. I rinsed and scrubbed them before drying them and storing them in the fridge. We'll be having some of the smaller ones, roasted whole, with our dinner this evening. Others will go into a carrot ginger soup. We ate a few raw, crispy, crunchy, and oh, so fresh-tasting. 

On Sunday afternoon we walked around Thetis Lake(s). It was cooler in the woods along the shore and I was thankful for a warm scarf and gloves. 

It was very peaceful in spite of the number of people on the trail, couples, families, dog walkers, and even a few runners. Everyone wanted to be outdoors!

Water ran in rivulets and streams, trickling, gushing, racing to the lake. It pooled in shallow, moss-lined depressions. There has been so much rain recently. In places along the trail, the force of water washed away stones and gravel, leaving exposed roots and jagged rocks to cause us to watch our footsteps carefully. 

I made a rich Flourless Chocolate Cake over the weekend. It's in one of Laura Calder's cookbooks, but I found a link on-line, if you would like to try it. Easy and gluten-free without all the folderol of strange flours. With it I served a blackberry and raspberry sauce with berries from the garden, frozen last summer. And softly whipped cream. I love whipped cream, and much prefer it to ice cream. 

There was some sewing over the weekend, dinner with new friends, reading, and a very little bit of house-keeping. The Christmas cactus that was given to me a number of years ago by a friend has decided to bloom and is brightening up a corner of the living room. 

So here we are at the start of another week. No rain, for the THIRD day in a row, but it will likely begin again this evening. I'm glad the wild storms predicted for the UK and Europe have abated. I'm off to school soon, and looking forward to another week. Next weekend Iris is bringing her parents for a visit, so I have some preparations to make for their stay. 

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, February 07, 2020

On Friday: Flowers, a Poem, and Light

The few wet flakes that fell on Tuesday hardly constituted a snowfall, but it was awfully pretty watching it come down. Morning snow is a gift of beauty, particularly when enjoyed from the inside a cozy home with a mug of tea to hand. The pansies have been torn and shredded by the wind and rain, but their colour is a welcome note in all the grey outside. 

Just this morning, without snow, and surprisingly, without rain, I read a poem by Malcolm Guite, an Anglican priest in the UK, that speaks, in his own words, "to those of us who crave the light and are naturally, and seasonally, cast down by the darkness and drench of winter, those of us for whom there is a hidden pact between the outer and inner weather." Here is his sonnet - and I confess to tears pricking my eyes as I read and remembered my own winters of the soul.

These bleak and freezing seasons may mean
When they are memory. In time to come
When we speak truth, then they will have their place,
Telling the story of our journey home,
Through dark December and stark January
With all its disappointments through the 
and dreariness of frozen February,
When even breathing seemed unwelcome work.

Because through all of these we held together,
Because we shunned the impulse to let go,
Because we hunkered down through our dark
And trusted to the soil beneath the snow,
Slowly, slowly, turning a cold key
Spring will unlock our hearts and set us free.

In the dark mornings it's so lovely to turn on the twinkle lights around the window. I mentioned to Tim that I was more reluctant to use these mini lights than the larger plug-in variety because of the consumption of batteries. It's expensive and not very eco-friendly to replace them. 

So my handy husband did some investigating and placed an online order, and in not very long at all, a small package arrived. Another 10 minutes of fiddling and voila! the lights are now electric. Amazing! He bought enough of the gadgets to do all of our LED twinkle light strings, but this is the only one he's gotten to. Such a smart man!

Although we've had enormous amounts of rain lately, around 8 pm on the past two evenings, there has been a cessation of water, and we've taken walks in the dark. It's squishy underfoot in the woods, with streams of water running down the sloping paths, but the air is so fresh and cool. Along the streets, light streams from houses and I can see bookcases and pictures on the walls, and all the cozy things that make a home. I wish and hope that there is much love behind the windows I see. 

In the dark, after we climbed the little hill to our home and saw our own home lights glowing, I crouched to pick a little bouquet of snowdrops from the patch underneath the holly bush. They are such pretty flowers and their season is almost done. 

It's time now to get on with my day, which involves teaching three classes, two Spanish and one Foods. New friends are coming for dinner tonight, and I hope the rest of the weekend holds some time for creativity and reading and a good long walk or two. 

Happy weekend, my friends!

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Five on Friday (or Saturday)

My goodness, have we had rain! The weather people have aptly called it an "atmospheric river." There have been occasional breaks in the river of rain during which I put on my boots and take a walk. 

This morning, Saturday, the wind blew the clouds away and the bluest of skies is brightening the day and my own heart. Along one of my walking routes, a naturalized lawn is filled with pale crocuses. Snowdrops bloom in clumps in many gardens. Spikes of daffodils, bluebells, tulips, and hyacinths jut upwards through the soggy ground: hopes of beauty to come. 

Last night I finished reading Isabel Tree's book "Wilding - the return of nature to a British farm." It left me with much to think about. What stands out to me is the amazing resiliency of nature and how quickly the agricultural landscape was converted. 

Ferns and moss are some of my favourite plants. I love the curl of ferns and the softness of moss when I brush it with my hand. In my garden a fern has begun, unbidden and most welcome. I've tried to move it to another site, without success. So I'll leave it where it wants to grow and plan my plantings around it. 

On the porch a pot of primroses cheer me up when I come and go. I finished writing report cards this week, and began a new semester. It's a wee bit lighter than last, and I'm off earlier each day. 

Rock flowers grow in the front garden. We saw them at a friend's house and Tim made each of our children and ourselves a set for Christmas. They add a bit of whimsy to the garden. 

Inside the house we've done some moving of furniture and rearranging. I love the more open dining room, and it will make it easier when we extend the table to its full length, which we do more often these days. It's so lovely when so many people I love are seated there. My mom made me the table runner for Christmas. It perfectly matches the blue vase, and the upholstery on the chairs, not visible here. Plants inside the house make me happy, although I'm not the best at caring for them. This fern has lasted quite awhile and it seems happy in its new location. I see that my Christmas cactus has quite a few buds on it, so perhaps it will bloom for Valentine's Day. 

I have a number of sewing projects on the go, and planned to finish at least one per month this year. Alas, it's the first of February and I missed January's goal. However, that's what I'm going to do next - finish a skirt that has been languishing for several months. I think I'll count it as a January project and work on another for February. 

The sun is slanting so gloriously through the living room window. This long post must end and I must move on. Best of the weekend to you, whether it's sunny or snowy or rainy. 

A Bit of This and That

  Off in the distance Mount Baker, in the USA, gleams in the sunlight. My best guess is that it's about 100 km away as the crow flies. T...