Thursday, July 29, 2021

Friday Favourites


Here we are at the end of July already. As Shakespeare noted, "Summer's lease hath all too short a date". I want to laze around and soak in the beauty and warmth, but I also want to make the most of summer weather. Bright colours fill the garden beds - zinnias, echinacea, rudbeckia, and more. Tall white phlox tones things down, and the big bushes of blue hydrangeas dominate other areas. The garden is very, very dry. We've not had any measurable rain for 50 days, and there's none in the forecast. 

Our weekend camping trip was a lot of fun. It was impossible to find four campsites in our provincial parks due to incredible demand, so we settled for a private campground alongside a river. The three eldest grands had a wonderful time exploring the rocky shoreline. They were gone for long lengths of time, and it was a delight to see them engaging with the natural world so freely. They created a little "fort" in the woods that we were invited to visit on the last day. 

Here at home the garden is producing beets and carrots, lettuce, zucchini, and Swiss Chard. The other night I roasted baby carrots and beets, and set them on a spread of drained plain yogurt, and topped them with lemon zest, chopped cashews, and a good sprinkle of snipped chives. A squeeze of lemon juice over all added the finishing touch. It made a good accompaniment to grilled chicken.

I've had grands visiting this week during the day while their parents work. On Tuesday we baked and decorated a cake, on Wednesday they created a fort in the living room with the sofa cushions and happily read for quite some time. We played Set, a matching card game. Thursday we went to the beach where they discovered a driftwood structure and added to it. It was big enough for both of them to sit comfortably inside. They are growing up so quickly. 

This morning I made apricot jam before going to the beach. It's my mother's recipe and has pineapple and a hint of orange in it. The golden jars will sit quietly on the basement shelves until we open them and spread summer on buttered toast. 

We're in for a few very hot days again, but nothing like the heat dome we had last month. It's a long weekend here and we're planning a walk with friends on Monday morning when it should be a bit cooler. Happy Weekend, dear friends!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Friday Five: Memories New and Old


While her mother looked at the cookbooks on the library shelves recently, Iris pulled out a little book with a pink cover. "We Love Madeleines" was the title and she insisted it go home with them. 

Several recent birthdays introduced her to CAKE (always said in full capitals). She loves looking at the little cakes in the library book. So today, Iris and Nana baked madeleines. We didn't use a recipe from the library book, but one from my French Patisserie book by Will Torrent. 

Oh how well they turned out! It was hard to finish lunch knowing that the CAKE was waiting. We each ate one and shared one, then sent some home for after dinner, and saved a couple for Grandpa. 

This week marks our 44th wedding anniversary. We met in junior high school and were friends long before we courted. Back in those days, we had professional studio photos taken. They were expensive, but worth it. 

I loved my bouquet, and the long veil I wore. When our youngest daughter married, I removed the daisy trim from the veil and hand-beaded the edge with little gold and silver beads. I'm glad it was used again. 

Here we are with our best man and matron of honour. It was the era of brown tuxedos and huge bowties, and floppy hats. It reflects the fashion of the time and I'm quite happy that it does. 

Marriage is full of ups and downs, hard times and good times. I'm so glad that we are still best friends. When disagreements come, we can discuss and come to a compromise. There is no one I'd rather share my life with, and I thank God for my husband every day. 

In spite of the dry, dry weather, Queen Anne's Lace and wild Sweet Peas flourish. I picked this little bouquet for the boat last weekend and it lasted a long time. In my garden zinnias and dahlias are blooming. 

This weekend we are going camping with the family. There's been a fair bit of texting/calling/e-mailing back and forth as we arrange the next few days. I'm looking forward to it so much. 

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Sea Sights


British naval officer Captain George Vancouver spent three summers (1791-1795) mapping the jagged coastline of what is now the province of British Columbia, and the states of Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. He is famous for naming one section Desolation Sound, because of the unending forests and seemingly uninhabitable land.

When the expedition first entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca, "very thick rainy weather" met the crew and dampened their spirits. However, the very next day, Thomas Manby, master's mate on the ship Discovery, wrote "It had more the aspect of enchantment than reality, with silent admiration each discerned the beauties of nature, and nought was heard on board but expressions of delight murmured from every tongue. Imperceptibly our Bark skimmed over the glassy surface of thedeep, about three miles an hour, a gentle breeze swelled the lofty canvass whilst all was calm below." 

When we travel the same waters of the Salish Sea, I often think of those European explorers. What would they think of the enormous bulk carriers such as the ones above? When we pass by them on our little boat, I am staggered by their size. I looked up the size of one when we arrived home - 229 metres long and 32 metres wide. A soccer field (football pitch) is 90-120 metres by 64-75 metres. 

These ships are bound for the port facility near Vancouver, on the mainland. Because rail transport has been disturbed due to the wildfire that destroyed the town of Lytton and the railway bridge near it, ships cannot dock and unload in a timely manner. Everything is backed up. I counted 8 of these bulk carriers at anchor during our 4 hour trip to Ladysmith. 

We usually drop anchor in a quiet bay, but for this trip we were meeting up with a group of friends who have the same kind of boat. We pulled up to the dock at Ladysmith and enjoyed visiting and seeing the sights on shore. There is a float house beside the marina and the owner has colourful pots of flowers decorating the outside of his/her home. 

In the evening light, tall masts look even taller when reflected in the smooth as silk water. 

Queen Anne's Lace is in bloom, dancing along the edges of roads, rail lines, and shorelines. 

I'm sure Captain Vancouver and his crew would be astounded by the current population of this island that bears his name. They spent the summers here, but returned to Hawaii to pass the winter (the first snowbirds?). All kinds of houses dot the coastline, ranging from ramshackle dwellings to magnificent mansions. I like the cottage above, tucked away into the woods with a small protected harbour for the boat essential for access to the home. This house seems to fit the landscape well. 

Near home again and majestic Mount Baker floats on the clouds while sailboats tack back and forth, taking advantage of the wind. In spite of the terrible wildfires not very far away, our skies continue to remain clear. Currently the smoke is drifting east across the Rocky Mountains into Alberta and creating dreadful air quality. 

Dry conditions prevail and we have not had any rain for over a month. Our lawn is dry and crispy and fire danger is extreme. We are all being very careful. The garden is surviving with regular watering and I've been harvesting a few more vegetables. Lots of zucchini! 

Friday, July 16, 2021

A Look Back Over the Week


We are fortunate to not have deer problems in our garden. However, last Saturday morning while eating breakfast, we noticed a pair of them just across the fence in our neighbour's garden. They were sniffing at the tomatoes and raspberries. I went out to gently shoo them away. I don't know how they got into the garden as it is fenced and hedged, and deer like to see through whatever they are jumping over. They were uncertain about how to leave and stood in this corner for several long minutes before finally figuring out a way through the hedge to the right. 

That same morning we saw a raccoon meander through the garden. I wonder if our extremely dry weather is forcing wildlife to find food outside of their normal routes. 

One granddaughter spent a couple of hours with us while her parents ran an errand. She ate a piece of dessert (blueberry square), played Blokus with us, and read her book. She's an avid reader, like all three of our school aged grands. Although bookish, she's also a strong and able girl in martial arts.

Thursday was Iris day. I made a little outfit for her - a top (seen above) and shorts, from a pattern given to me by a friend more than 35 years ago. My friend Emma used the same pattern to make an outfit for my eldest daughter. 

Pouring beans is a fun activity and the cloth on the floor helps me to pick them all up more easily. I love those little toes. 

Last night we went out to watch Adria's final softball game of the season. She is looking too grown up! I was impressed by the way she throws the ball, and was happy to be there when she hit the ball and ran to second base. 

I'm harvesting beets and zucchini from the garden, along with lettuce and swiss chard. Tomatoes are slow and the green beans are beginning to entwine themselves up the trellis. 

The double poppies come up throughout the garden and are easy to transplant to where I want them or pull up if I don't. A friend told me that the seeds are edible so I'm going to save them this year. I like a subtle crunch on bread or buns. Lemon poppy seed loaf is a treat, too. 

Today I did laundry, changed the bed linens, and am preparing for a short boating trip this weekend. I'm making Vietnamese summer rolls for tonight's dinner aboard. 

Any plans for the weekend in your corner? 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

A Quiet Sunday


It's a slow day around here. We had our second vaccinations yesterday, and I was warned that since I had reacted with aches the first time, this second would be similar. They were right. I moved slowly this morning, and took a long nap after lunch, followed by reading and blogging. Tomorrow will be better. 

Hydrangeas are such lovely flowers, beautiful in all of their stages. Here I'm admiring the cream and blue shades of a new head of flowers, so tender and sweet. 

My sister called me before we went to the mainland a couple of weeks ago and offered me this cradle. It was built by my father-in-law for one of my own nieces. When I explained the origins of the cradle to our children, they all scratched their heads for a moment, wondering why Grandpa made a cradle for one of the cousins on the "other side." Our families have known each other for a long time. 

My niece's children have outgrown playing with the cradle, but Iris and Cora will enjoy it. I stitched a mattress pad and little pillow for it, and will give it to Iris when next I see her, along with the scrap quilt I made for her. Scrap quilts were made for all the grandchildren, and I just have one to put the final stitches into before giving them all away. 

Blueberries are in season and I've picking ours regularly. A lot of them go into the freezer for the winter, and others are eaten fresh with our morning yogurt and granola. This week I made Blueberry Squares. It's one of our favourites. I've linked to the recipe on my other blog. The recipe makes a large pan, but it freezes well and that's what I've done with half of it. 

As well, for those of you interested in the Blackberry Shrub, from my previous post, I've put it up on the recipe blog as well, with a link above. The link will open in a new window. 

And now I'm going back to my book. Have a great week, my friends.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Around Home on a Friday


That was a fast week! After being away it's good to get back into a routine. The intense heat is gone, and the weather is very pleasant. Unfortunately, the wildfires are increasing and we might be in for a smoky summer. 

I've been admiring the vivid chartreuse vine against the cobalt blue container. It's a new plant that I'm trying this summer and it won't be the last. What a shot of vibrant colour to set off the usual pinks and blues of my pots. The sweet peas in the back pot have many sunburned leaves and I thought I might lose them, but the new growth is fine. No blooms there yet, although the ones planted elsewhere are just beginning.

I made a batch of blackberry shrub - a syrup concentrate that one adds to plain water (or club soda, I suppose). It's very refreshing and when I enjoy it on the patio, surrounded by blooming roses and hydrangeas, it's like a mini-holiday. 

Marian Parsons of Miss Mustard Seed fame has an e-course on Jeanne Oliver's site. I signed up for it knowing that we'd be gone for the start, but it's all recorded and self-paced. It's about painting with a limited palette, just three shades. I made these colour wheels using just three paints for each one. It's kind of addictive and I did another one yesterday. These are plain watercolour and my next one will include gouache. It's been fun to try something new. I'm itching to try some landscapes. 

Lavender bushes line the driveway and tend to overgrow there. I cut it back one sunny day and tied bundles together with string. They will dry and I'll use them in sachets for the linen closet. The bees are crazy for lavender and I found myself apologizing to them for cutting it. I did leave plenty for them to use. 

My reading stack, picked up from the library this week. I've finished
Hamnet and Judith - such a sorrowful tale, and am about half-way through The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh. What a tortured soul he was, so lonely and eccentric, yet so very gifted. He expressed emotions such a range of emotions: "Life is after all enchanting" to "I can see no possibility of again having hope or courage."

This morning I've made a pot of soup using up leftover vegetables, and I plan to go for a walk before cleaning bathrooms and tidying up. We're meeting with friends this evening, and tomorrow is second-vaccine day. We'll see how the weekend plays out after that. 

A lovely summer weekend (or a winter one) is what I hope for each of you. Do you have plans?

Friday, July 02, 2021

The Dinner Party


Presented with a day off work (Canada Day), Tim suggested we invite some friends for dinner. Two quick phone calls and everything was set. One friend offered to bring appetizers, the other a salad. We provided the rest - grilled steaks with basil garlic butter, new baby potatoes, crispy roasted tomatoes, and a green salad. Oh, and let's not forget dessert - a frozen blueberry concoction. 

What fun to set a pretty table outdoors. It was a baby bear temperature - not too hot, not too cold - just right! Music by ABBA played in the background. The six of us, long time friends, laughed and talked about how much we had missed these get togethers. It has been well over a year since we last met, although we've gone on walks with one or the other. As the sun slid behind the hills, the air cooled, and around 9:30 our guests left, for some had to work the next day.

After a dinner party Tim and I work together to clean up the kitchen. It doesn't take long, and it's a wonderful time to chat together and go over the highlights of the evening. Everything but the glassware and big platters goes into the dishwasher. I wash the crystal in hot soapy water and he dries them to a fine finish with a linen tea towel. Going to bed knowing that the kitchen is tidy is such a great feeling. In the morning, all that's left to do is unload the dishwasher. 

This morning I received a text saying thank you (and a link to the warm cauliflower salad), and "we love eating your food." Such a lovely compliment from someone whose food I love to eat in return. 

Tonight we'll have another party on the patio to celebrate a son-in-law's birthday. There will be laughter and conversation, and I expect our guests will go home a bit earlier to put little ones to bed. And afterwards, Tim and I will chat together as we clean up. 

Do you enjoy having guests for dinner? 

The rose above is sunburned from the intense heat earlier this week. I'm happy that most of my garden fared well. 

Happy weekend, dear readers.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Cool (Finally!) Morning in the Garden


Late in the evening a gentle breeze began to fill this overheated house with coolness. Such relief. We slept in our bedroom last night and I even pulled up a light blanket towards morning. Ahhhh. Rose Gertrude Jekyll this morning, seen with a few water droplets from the watering system, looks very happy. I will have to do some hard pruning today or tomorrow - I read that will encourage more blooms to appear over the summer. Here's Monty Don's advice on this. 

Some have asked about how hot it actually was. Here we reached 39 degrees (102 F). In the interior of British Columbia 46.6C (116F) was the record shattering high. 

I should have been picking blueberries and raspberries, but I couldn't face much time out in the heat. They are holding their own, though, with many berries still ripening. 

Yesterday I had Iris picking blueberries for a few minutes. She is very careful about getting only the purple ones, and they go straight into her mouth. She LOVES blueberries. 

The cosmos are putting on a show in their corner. The heat didn't seem to bother them too much. We have an automatic watering system and most of the plants did well. In the front garden the heat is more intense and the hydrangeas didn't like that. 

This hydrangea is more shaded and is just beginning to open. Such lovely creamy whites and blues. Today is hair cut day. I thought my appointment was yesterday, so I showed up at 10 AM, only to discover that perhaps the heat had addled my brain. I took the opportunity to walk in the cool mall, since I was there anyway. 

As of tomorrow most of our Covid19 restrictions will end. Masks are no longer mandatory in indoor spaces, although they are recommended for those who are not yet fully vaccinated. Social gatherings are back to normal. Church services, too, I believe. And we will celebrate Canada Day!

It will be a quiet celebration everywhere this year as we reflect not only on the very good things that define Canada, but also the very bad things such as the residential schools and the children taken from their homes, many of whom died there. We feel sorrow for those who suffered so, and look forward to a more understanding way of going forward in this wonderful land in which we live. 

As of tomorrow the email option on my blog is going away due to Feedburner discontinuing the service. I don't know how many of my readers used the service. I won't be signing up for another one, so you have a couple of options to continue reading here (and I hope you do). One is to visit my blog directly (you can bookmark it). Another is to use a subscription service such as Bloglovin or Feedly. I use the latter and have found it very useful. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Let's Think of Cooler Days


You may have heard that western Canada (and parts of the US) are undergoing an extreme heat wave. Records are falling all over and this system is not predicted to ease until Wednesday. We returned from a wonderful visit with my parents on the 11 am ferry today. Where they live is even hotter, and I am happy that they are staying with my sister and her husband for a few days, as they have air conditioning. 

I'm writing this sitting in our travel trailer with the AC blasting. Most homes here do not have air conditioning. We came home to a very warm house. Tim went up on the roof and covered the skylight with a canvas dropcloth. I have the start of a gazpacho chilling in the fridge for our supper. Appetites decrease in the heat as we drink more and more water. So, let's think of cool things, like boating!

One morning on our trip we woke up to fog enveloping us. It was so beautiful, and I saw a "fog-bow" - like a rainbow - but with very little colour. The photo above was taken when the fog had just about disappeared. It was a perfect bow, and even more amazing, was reflected in the water. 

Here is a photo of the earlier fogbow. The islands are very faintly visible, and you can see a tiny bit of colour on each end of the bow. It was a unique sight for us. 

That same morning one of these swallows flew into the boat for breakfast. He quickly flew out again and joined his mate on the pulpit (bow railing). They sat there for the longest time, chattering to each other in the dissipating fog. 

Some have asked how we live on the boat. Here you can see yours truly, writing in my journal. This area is our "living area" and can be fully opened on each side, with a fixed roof. We eat at the little table and have the best views of wherever we are. I spend time reading, writing, and sketching on the boat. We go for at least one good hike each day, depending where we are, and travel to different anchorages according to our itinerary. Or according to the whim of the moment. 

The door behind the table leads to a small cabin that can be used for sleeping, but we use it as a closet, a pantry, and general storage. 

In the above photo the dinghy is still on the back of the boat, but it's usually in the water, towed behind. It's what we use to get to shore, unless we are tied up to a dock, which is rare. 

Our lunches are casual affairs as seen above. We have a fridge/freezer. On trips more than a few days we use it as a freezer for storing food, and for making ice for an insulated cooler to keep produce and other groceries refrigerated. We eat well. There is a small gas barbecue on the railing where Tim grills meat, and in the galley I have a two-burner gas stove with an oven. I made muffins, soups, pancakes, and even a stovetop pizza on this trip. 

Isn't this columbine a pretty colour? Tim's nephew lives on a small island, away from any towns or villages. We stopped in for a visit. He and his girlfriend have a garden and I was charmed by the delicate pink of this blossom. 

More foggy beauty. Still morning water, an old dock with trees growing in it, layers of mist between the mountain folds and everywhere the tall green trees reach for the sky. 

Do you feel cooler? I do, but it's because of the noisy air conditioner, not the photos. Still, it was a beautiful morning with many marvels. 

Stay cool (or warm) wherever you are. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Friday Favourites: Five Scenes from Sea and Forest


After eleven nights on the water I was glad to arrive home and sleep in my comfortable and spacious bedroom. The trip was wonderful; relaxing and interesting. We boated and hiked, read a lot, met some fascinating people, ate well, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing more of this part of this world. There are thousands of islands and islets between our home island, Vancouver Island (distinct from the city of Vancouver on the mainland), and the rest of our province of British Columbia, Canada. It's a popular place for boaters, but with the border still closed between Canada and the USA only Canadian boats were seen this year. 

There were plenty of scenes like the one above, mountains and ever-changing skies, forested islets and islands, and water that varied from choppy to rolling to smooth. Layers and layers of texture and colour. 

During the last century, this region was populated by fishermen, loggers, trappers, guides, and people just wanting to get away from civilization. Many of the small towns and settlements have disappeared, and the coastal population is much less than in the past. Remnants of settlement linger on abandoned docks like the one above, where a wild rose plant has somehow found enough soil and nutrients to grow and bloom. 

With the availability of satellite internet connections, and the ability to work remotely, more people are moving back to these remote areas. Many are accessible only by water - boat or seaplane. 

From our boat on the first day of our trip we spied the osprey above checking things out. I guess we must have passed inspection for he flew off, looking for fish elsewhere, I assume. 

We watched the heron and the merganser approaching each other from opposite directions and wondered what interaction they might have. Zero. Like ships that pass in the night they gave no indication of being aware of each other, both intent on their own plans.

The world is full of so much that astonishes. "It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world," poet Mary Oliver writes. Tim saw the elaborate spider web on a sailboat (not ours) and pointed it out to me. Each fine filament is beaded with moisture. Such a wonder. 

As Mary says, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."

We're off again to see my parents (hooray) this weekend! It's been 10 months since we've been together. The next few days are predicted to be very hot, so I'm sorting out the lightest summer clothing to wear. 

Have a most wonderful weekend, dear readers.

Friday Favourites

  Here we are at the end of July already. As Shakespeare noted, "Summer's lease hath all too short a date". I want to laze aro...