Friday, September 25, 2020

Five on Friday: Between Raindrops and Sunshine


Outside my window this Friday afternoon the trees are swaying in the wind and the sky is blue. How different it is from when I left this morning in the midst of pouring rain and dark skies, with the windshield wipers flapping madly. We've been through a few days of this back and forth weather. Summer has slipped quietly away and autumn's mercurial moods have replaced her. 

Yesterday when I arrived home, I took my camera out into the garden for the light was slanted and golden. Blossoms are dwindling, but the ones that remain are truly lovely. I planted a pot of pansies for the back patio and they are thriving. So much so that I believe I will fill another planter or two with them. They provide colour throughout most of the months until spring. 

Late raspberries continue to ripen. There are tomatoes, as well. I thought all the rain might split them, but so far, so good. Several plants are under shelter and they will provide us with tomatoes for another month or so, I think, unless it becomes very cold. I picked another zucchini, a few more green beans, and some blackberries. 

One of my parsley plants went to seed early in the summer. I've left it to grow tall and spindly because of these wonderful seed heads. I clip them for bouquets and love the shape that evokes stars and snowflakes in a mellow shade of green.

While driving today I noticed that pale brown leaves, crisp and dry, are tumbling along the roadways and drifting along the curbs. 

The hydrangeas above look a bit dull - there was no golden September light when I photographed them in between raindrops this morning. There continue to be a few new blossoms on these bushes - no dwindling light and copious rain seem to bother them yet. 

When I hear the rain pounding in the night, I think sometimes about my flowers - like the zinnias - wondering if they will be battered down when I wake up. However, in the morning they are standing tall as ever - bright spots on dark mornings. 

Another hydrangea mellowed to soft colours, and bright yellow rudbeckia beyond. The garden is thriving with this combination of rainfall and sunshine. I'm not minding it, either. I love hearing the rain outside and feeling the gusts of cool air through the open window against my face while I'm snuggled into my blankets. 

Weekend plans include some housekeeping and laundry, and I'd like to tidy my potting bench for the winter. A little reading and some sewing are also planned. Another quiet weekend at home, such as I find utterly satisfying. 

Wishing you the joys of autumn in your own corner of the world. (or spring, if you are from down under)

Monday, September 21, 2020

Autumn Magic


I had such a lovely weekend. No alarm clock, just time to lie quietly and wake up slowly. Leisurely meals. Clear skies. I spent some time in the garden, clipping flowers and gathering tomatoes, beans, zucchini, berries, and squash. The zinnias are magnificent, as are the few dahlias I planted. Rich shades of pink, magenta, fuschia, crimson, orange, gold, and fire-engine red. Rich shades that I plunked into vases and placed around the house. 

The grapes are ripening nicely and I have a recipe for roasted grapes with balsamic vinegar that I want to try soon. How beautifully the clusters hang from the vines, half hidden by leaves moved aside for photos. 

On Sunday afternoon we walked at Tod Inlet. The sun's warmth was just perfect and the light shimmered on the water and shot the changing leaves with gold. A long skein of Canada Geese trailed across the sky in a ragged V formation. 

Arbutus trees shed their bark in curls of papery red to reveal smooth, pale green trunks. 

After descending these stairs I turned around for a photo and it was only then that I noticed the tree curving in an arch over the path. It seemed to me almost Narnian - one of the dryad trees, perhaps, leaning to protect something unseen. 

We wandered off the main path - to look at the stream, virtually dry just now - to explore a new view - and we dawdled in the loveliness, a bit unwilling to leave. 

Home, finally, to bake a Peach Custard Tart. It was so good. Some family joined us for a light supper and we devoured most of the tart. The peaches have been spectacular this year, full of summer sweetness. I adapted a number of recipes for this tart and I'll try to write down what I did so that I can post it on my recipe blog to replicate another time. 

And now Monday is gone - a busy but satisfying day at school. I'll close with a line from Emily of New Moon, a Lucy Maud Montgomery character who is not as well-known as Anne of Green Gables, but equally lovely and incorrigible. 

"Good-bye, and may you always see a happy face in your looking glass." 

Happy days to you all. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Friday Five: Filling the Pantry


Last Saturday morning we woke up to a strange greyish yellow light. Smoke from wildfires along the western USA coast is drifting north, blanketing much of British Columbia and obscuring the sun. The smoke has drifted around for all of this week, and may stay longer. It's hard on throats and eyes. My heart hurts for those who have lost loved ones and homes in these dreadful fires. 

I've mentioned my slow and minimal crop of tomatoes this year. I bought a box of plum tomatoes and put up 12 pints of Mexican salsa, then 10 more of diced tomatoes. 

In my childhood home we had a small cold room in the basement where outside air entered through a small vent. My father installed shelves and my mother canned peaches, cherries, jams, pickles, and vegetables for our winter eating. The potatoes grown in our garden were also stored here. If vegetables weren't in season we ate frozen or canned produce. Things like fresh broccoli were rare. 

I devoured books from the time I could read, and sometimes those books were beyond my maturity. When I was 10 or 11 I read a book called "I am Fifteen and I Don't Want to Die" in which a young girl describes life under siege during World War II in Budapest. I remember going down to the cold room and looking at the food stored there and wondering if it would last the winter. We never went without, but the stories of hunger during hard times, even today, are haunting and move me to do what I can to help. 

Putting food into the pantry is something my mother, aunts, and grandmothers all did, and I like to do the same, all the while knowing that there are grocery stores nearby to rely upon. 

With our homegrown tomatoes I roasted two pans full with a bit of onion and garlic, some fresh thyme and rosemary and a hefty drizzle of olive oil, for an hour or two at 400 degrees. The time really depends on the juiciness of the tomatoes. I let them cool, then blitzed them in the food processor until a chunky sauce formed. They went into the freezer in mason jars. 

Dinner the other night included more tomatoes - this recipe for Crispy Baked Tomatoes has become a favourite. With green beans from the garden and freshly made applesauce along with Mennonite Farmer's Sausage and Rice, it was a delicious homely meal.

While I'm linking to recipes, several people asked for the Date Loaf recipe from a previous post. I've put it up on my recipe blog, so just follow the link. 

I've been doing some garden trimming and cut back an enormous hydrangea bush. There were some lovely blooms that I hated to throw into the compost, so I put them into a vase on the dining room table. I love the way the colours change from blue to green or pink or pale violet as the seasons advance. 

Today's five photos have sparked another chatty post. I'm looking forward to two days at home after the first full week of teaching. There will be some housework, hopefully time in the garden, and relaxation. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend with moments of loveliness. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020



I think, sometimes, how surreal the world feels just now. Did you ever imagine that you would live during a global pandemic? I never did. Life goes on, but normality is overlaid with strangeness. Physical distancing, masks, sanitizing, and lineups are becoming the new normal. 

We've moved from spring through summer and now autumn is upon us. A new school year is underway and students are learning. Still the strangeness continues. For how long? This is the question of the day. No one knows. 

I just finished reading Louise Penny's latest novel "All the Devils are Here" and it has me thinking of life as novel, as it parallels this particular novel. 

A few weeks ago another blogger, Brenda, quoted from the beginning of the novel and it's such a wonderful piece of advice that I'm going to quote it again.

"Life can be cruel, as you know. But it can also be kind. Filled with wonders. You need to remember that. You have your own choice to make, Armand. What're you going to focus on? What's unfair, or all the wonderful things that happen? Both are true, both are real. Both need to be accepted. But which carries more weight with you? The goodness or the cruelty? Your life will be decided by that choice."

In the midst of this strange time in which we live, late roses bloom. Tomatoes ripen juicy and sweet. Hydrangea blossoms mellow into dark purple and pale green. I pick a crunchy apple and bite into its crisp tartness. Children laugh and grow. There are all sorts of wonders. There is much beauty. 

Penny's novel quickly darkens and the characters are caught up in a whirlwind of events that worsen with time. What will happen? How will things be resolved? We must read on, paragraph after paragraph to discover the end. 

Pandemic, devastating wildfires, personal tragedies - all of us are caught up in the maelstrom of life. Some experience hardships more cruel than others. We must live day by day, in hope, in trust, in faith that God is working and that we will get through this time in the world. 

The last chapter of Penny's novel contains these words that fill me with hope as they express the loveliness of home and the peace of homecoming: 

"The three of them stood in the cold October evening. A light snow was falling, and they could just make out the forests and the rolling hills stretching to the horizon. Below them in the valley, as though in the palm of some great hand, was a small village.

Buttery light shone from the fieldstone, brick, and clapboard homes that surrounded the green, turned white with freshly fallen snow. The crisp night air held a hint of maple smoke from chimneys. 

And in the very center of the village, three great pines swayed in the breeze."

Life is unlike a novel in that not everything is resolved satisfactorily. But there are ups and downs in life, and choices to make about where we focus. And so I wish you calmness in the midst of whatever today will bring. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Five on Friday: Abundance, Nostalgia, Beginnings


In many ways, September seems more like the start of a new year than January. We grow up beginning a new school year in September, with new clothes, freshly sharpened pencils, and a stack of clean notebooks to fill with knowledge. As a parent, that rhythm continued through elementary and high school and university. And of course, as a teacher this rhythm defines my years. Now I've come to my last semester of teaching - I will finish at the end of January. But I think that September will always hold that sense of new beginnings. Does it still hold true for you?

We are experiencing very warm weather just now, sunny and golden, with cool nights. Smoke from the state of Washington has drifted north and covers our skies, colouring our sunsets with intense orange and red. Tim and I eat dinner outside on the patio, enjoying the sunshine for as long as we can. 

Every couple of days I pick a small bowlful of raspberries and another of blackberries. Our neighbour planted thornless blackberries (they still have thorns) and they grow luxuriantly over the fence into our garden where we are encouraged to pick whatever we can. Berries and peaches make a fine accompaniment to morning yogurt and granola. 

After a very slow and rocky start we are enjoying bountiful tomatoes. This weekend I plan to make salsa, and perhaps some tomato sauce. There will be roasted tomatoes tucked away in the freezer - perfect for a quick soup. 

Try to Remember the Kind of September, sung here by Josh Groban, evokes memories of my Grade 12 high school year. The lyrics are written in the front pages of my yearbook. That September, a group of eight young men, fellow students, decided to take one last canoeing trip before cold weather set in. They mistakenly put into the river above a log jam and were caught by the turbulent water and debris. All of them died. Our class was a large one (800 students), and I didn't know these boys well, but I remember the pall of unspeakable tragedy that covered the school. I pulled out my yearbook this afternoon and looked once again at their photos, and thought of the grief of parents and family and friends. September is when I remember them. 

I have an abundance of reading material these days. I'm still not ready for anything too demanding and have thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself once again into the English village of Fairacre where Miss Read teaches. The Dutch House was a hold from the library before it shut down last spring. It has reopened in a limited fashion. We can now order books online to pick up in a cordoned off area of the library and that makes me very happy. The two books at the top are ones I gave to one of our granddaughters for her birthday in June. They are about a young girl who wants to become a food critic and are filled with humour and engaging characters. Fun to read and then discuss them with Sadie. 

Another little person will be joining our family in a few months and I've started a fun sea-themed quilt. Can you make out the green whales on the navy fabric? We are all absolutely thrilled that our Vancouver family will be moving to the Island in a few weeks and the baby will be born here, a sibling for Iris. 

My first day of full classes was today. I was knackered by the end of it. Because of the pandemic there are new procedures and an entirely new schedule. My senior Spanish class meets for 2.5 hours every day for 10 weeks. That's first thing in the morning, followed by two shorter classes of Grade 9 and 10 Spanish. The Junior students run on a different schedule than the senior ones and we have no bells. I've set alarms on my phone to remind me when classes change. It was so good to see the students again and to interact with them in person. We do not need to wear masks in the classroom unless I am circulating around. I can keep a good distance from the students from the front of the room, necessary because I teach across grades. Each grade is a "learning group" - a large bubble that can interact freely. We will see how it all pans out, but we sanitize regularly and have extra cleaning staff. 

Last night I baked Date Loaf. One to eat now and one for the freezer. I cut a thick slice and enjoyed it with butter for a snack. I like Date Loaf better than Banana Loaf. Tim does, too. 

This has been a rather wordy post and I'll stop now. Thank you all for your lovely comments on my posts. I value the blogging community and enjoy my interactions with you all. I hope that your September is filled with loveliness. 

Sunday, September 06, 2020

On Being Open


Teacher in-service began last Monday. It was a week of on-line meetings, face-to-face discussions with a few colleagues, and a lot of room organization. I moved all of my teaching supplies to a new classroom and have it mostly set up. We've been informed about when to wear masks and when not to wear them. There are sanitizing stations in each classroom. The entire schedule has been altered. By Friday my head was swimming. 

We had arranged to go out on the boat on Saturday with a work colleague of Tim's who is thinking of getting into boating. I've met him once or twice, and his wife never. I didn't know if we would have anything in common and I didn't want to find out.  All I really wanted to do was stay home and putter. 

However, needs must and off we went, meeting M and C at the dock. Lovely people. I made some tea and coffee and we chatted as we chugged our way to Portland Island. Once there we set out on a hike across the island. 

Things have changed dramatically since our visit there just 3 weeks ago. The quality of light is softer, more diffused. Bright green leaves are fading to muted shades.

I noticed that C was stopping often to take photos. It turns out that she sees things much the same way that I do. We began pointing out interesting things along the way. What do the drying leaves in the above photo look like to you? C thought they resembled sleeping bats, and I thought chrysalises. 

How still the forest is, with a deep silence broken only by bird song, and our human movements and voices. As we walked, I felt my earlier irritation leave me as C and I often found ourselves stopping to photograph the same things - a shaft of light filtering through the trees, or a twisted leaf on a fir branch. 

We chatted about the intricacy of nature's patterns, and the beauty all around us. 

We shared stories of our past and by the end of the hike, I had made a new friend. I was once again humbled by the way that I was given this gift in spite of my earlier reluctance. I'm reminded of how God often surprises me with good things at most unexpected times. 

Queen Anne's Lace grows with wild abandon. The white umbrel blossoms are so pretty and delicate. As the blooms mature they close into tight bundles to protect the seeds inside. The closed flowers dry out and detach from the stem to blow about scattering seed for another year's blooms. 

This apple tree is amazing. Its trunk is completely hollow, yet there are branches thriving above, heavily laden with ripening apples. This hole in the trunk gives a view through the trees to the water beyond. 

Openness enables us to see things and experience things we might not otherwise have learned. This is a lesson I hope to take into this school year, so full of uncertainty and disruption. 

"There's just some magic in truth and honesty and openness."

Frank Ocean 

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Golden September


September 1. Summer on the wane, but not quite autumn. In the mornings, I put on a little heat in the car and by afternoon I'm using the air conditioner. 

Bees continue to hum about the flowers, collecting nectar against the coming winter. 

The Concord Grapes are slowly turning purple - it will be a few more weeks before harvest comes. 

I've just about given up on my tomatoes. Some are ripening, but there is a critter taking bites out of them - raccoon, squirrel, rat? Many are deformed and not as sweet and juicy as usual. It's been a very odd summer in my garden. 

A few cornflowers continue to bloom alongside the yellow rudbeckias, dahlias, and zinnias. I'm beginning to do some garden cleanup. Most of the stalks and flowers I leave for insect hibernation, but there are a few shrubs to cut back, and roses to deadhead. 

Hydrangeas are turning all sorts of mellow pinks, purples, and burgundies. A few new blossoms continue to appear. I love summer for its headiness - the exuberance of blooms, burgeoning life, and lush growth. I love summer's relaxed pace and warm, sunny days ending in long evenings. When autumn comes, I am ready to say farewell to summer and embrace this new season, also loved. 

The zinnias and dahlias will bloom until frost comes - usually in early to mid October. Until then I'll clip bouquets for the house and enjoy the colour in the garden. 

How is September starting out for you - with golden light, or grey rainy days that invite coziness?

Days at Home

  Last night after dinner the sunshine illuminating the bouquet of peonies prompted me to grab my camera. I love the frilly elegance of the ...