Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday: Food, Flowers, and a Good Book


Spring, for me, brings a renewed interest in cooking. I crave fresher, lighter meals with lots of fresh vegetables. Asparagus is one I've learned to appreciate. It's not a dish that we had when I was a child, yet alongside the road where I walked on my way to school, an asparagus field flourished and many stalks escaped outside of the fence and were free for the picking. Any asparagus we did eat was usually canned and I found the flavour strong and the texture mushy. 

These days I usually roast asparagus coated with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt. Patricia Wells, in her cookbook, Vegetable Harvest, suggests braising it with rosemary and bay leaves, then letting it brown just a bit. I did that recently and was very pleased. 

Roasted carrots with cumin, and roasted broccoli are so good with toasted almonds, a squeeze of lemon juice and some lemon zest on top. Underneath the vegetables is a thin layer of Greek yogurt. No other dressing needed. At room temperature or cold I could make a meal out of this dish. 

Rhubarb is flourishing in my garden. I made a pan of Rhubarb Almond Crumble Squares that tasted delicious. The recipe is found here on the Canadian Living site. Tomorrow I plan to make a Rhubarb Cream Cheese Pie. Do you enjoy rhubarb? What's your favourite way to prepare it? We enjoy it stewed with some yogurt, as well. Simple and delicious.

I finished this book and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It's the story of Mary, the middle sister of those five Bennet girls, told very much in the manner of Jane Austen, but in a more modern style. I thought the author did a wonderful job of evoking Austen's writing without imitating it. 

Beautiful Mountain Cornflower (centaurea montana) is blooming just now. The green foliage is so pretty and I just love the blue and pink flowers. It self seeds and comes up throughout my garden, but is easy to pull up if not wanted. 

We had rain last night and when I went out this morning such freshness filled the air. Birds sang and the last raindrops clung to leaves and flowers. White strawberry blooms show good promise of berries in a few weeks. I netted the plants against the invasion of birds and bunnies. Lilacs are opening. I have a vaseful on the dining room table and their sweet scent floats on the air as I walk by. 

This morning I baked Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies from an old recipe, then went out into the garden to work for a bit. I'm moving a bit slowly today as I received my first C19 vaccination yesterday. A sore arm, body aches, and a headache convinced me that I should just take it easy for a bit after lunch. I watched Escape to the Country, edited some photos, and took a wee nap. By tomorrow I expect I will feel just fine. 

Happy Weekend, my friends.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Thoughts on Decorating a House


Good morning. Outside my window the wind is tossing the just-opening lilacs. Puffy clouds move steadily across the sky. It's a much cooler week than last, and there's been needed rain. The colour of the week is green, green, green. The blooms in my garden are mostly blue - bluebells, blue mountain cornflower, and blue forget-me-nots. A few pink tulips and white candytuft add a bit of contrast. I'm enjoying clipping a few blossoms here and there for bouquets in the house. 

For as long as I can remember I've loved the colour blue. Blue for my wardrobe choices, blue for my home decor. My mom always thought I looked best in pink, and my family tells me red suits me. I do wear those colours, but when I'm shopping for clothing or fabric I naturally gravitate to blue. 

In my home I've flirted with green and pink and yellow, but here, too, I remain faithful to blue and cool greys, whites, and beiges. There are so many shades of blue, from sea glass turquoise to rich teal to crisp navy. I love them all. 

I recently replaced the curtains in the living and dining rooms. The procedure took much longer than I'd planned because I did a lot of thinking about what I wanted and then what I wanted took a lot of work. I found some panels at Home Sense in a cotton jacquard from Portugal. They were just to be gathered onto rods, but I first thought of putting grommets into them. Then I thought about lining them. In the end, I ripped out the seams down to flat panels, lined them, and used shirring tape and hooks for hanging them. 

It was difficult to get a proper photo with the light from the window, but you get the idea. I'll keep trying. Perhaps at night.  I had some navy blackout curtains before, and I prefer these softer looking ones. 

While at a consignment goods store in Oak Bay (Good Things) I saw a whole set of Royal Crown Derby Mikado Blue porcelain for sale, individually priced. I indulged in four dinner plates and love the way they look on my china dresser. 

I recently skimmed through "Decorating a Room of One's Own" by Susan Harlan. It's a series of imagined interviews with literary characters such as Jane Eyre, Miss Havisham, Marilla of Anne of Green Gables, and others. It's witty, and in places very funny, but it got to be too much after awhile. Perhaps it's a book to pick up and read in bits and pieces.

In the introduction, Harlan writes "In the end, decorating a house is a lot like writing. You are arranging things in relationship to other things in a precise and thoughtful way in order to create something beautiful." That's an excellent way to describe both writing and decorating and the quotation went into my journal immediately.

Do you have a most favourite colour? Do you enjoy decorating your home and arranging things to suit you?

Thank you for your lovely comments on my last post, especially from readers I've never heard from previously. I wasn't eliciting praise, just setting out a thought I've been having. I don't plan to stop blogging, but I wonder if I'm repeating myself over and over. 

Also, Betsy J in PA - I can't find a contact for you, and you can find my email by clicking "my complete profile" on the right hand side of the blog under my photo. Also I'm on Instagram as lorrie.orr.creative and you can message me there. I'd love to answer your questions.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Friday Favourites: Rhubarb, Spring Blossoms, and a bit of Music


Along the street where I walked yesterday (pushing Iris in her stroller), this tree stopped me in my tracks with its abundant blooms. Pinks from blush to fuschia filled every branch. I just had to stop and take a photo. Are they not marvelous? 

Our walk took us to the park where we played on the swings for a bit and then we walked to see the ducks. We had no food with us so the ducks soon lost interest in us. The play of light on water is mesmerizing. I'm so glad that I can spend one day each week able to care for this one grandchild so that her mother gets a bit of a break. 

I don't often speak of my husband on the blog. He works in long term health care administration and this pandemic has increased his work load (along with that of many others) exponentially. It seems that outbreaks occur, requiring his attention, on so many of holidays and days off. Christmas Day, Family Day (February), and Easter required phoning in to numerous Zoom meetings because of cases. Last Sunday to Monday I planned a little local getaway and it felt like a tiny escape. We stayed in a local hotel where every precaution was taken, swam, walked in the sunshine, and had a very relaxing time. I love the above photo because it says much about my husband. He's curious about many things, with a very analytical mind, and loves the ocean and nature. 

I read about this cookbook in the My French Country Home magazine and decided to order it. My preferred way to cook is Western European/Mediterranean, although I like Mexican and some Asian food, as well. I tried one recipe (below) and have marked a few more to try.

What style of cooking do you prefer?

Our rhubarb has exploded with the warm and sunny weather we've enjoyed for the past 10 days or so. I was intrigued by the addition of rhubarb to a chicken dish in the cookbook, so I tried it last night, with a few variations. I don't know how much the rhubarb actually adds to the dish other than a hint of tart. The broccoli is the last from our winter crop and the plants are now in the compost bin. 

In my garden I've begun using forget-me-nots as underplantings under the roses. I hope I don't regret it, but for now they are well controlled and ever so pretty with their clouds of blue. 

My father celebrates 87 years tomorrow and it makes me very sad that we have not seen my parents for ever so long - since last August. If things go well with vaccinations, and people behave, perhaps we can make the ferry trip at the end of May. Our vaccines are scheduled for next week. 

Our summer-in-April weather is ending this evening with rain moving in. We need the moisture. Plans for the weekend are loose, but there will likely be some house-keeping and gardening. 

Thank you for reading my blog. Sometimes I think I've run the course here, but then I think about the friendships made and the interesting blogs I read, and I keep on. Have a most wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

This and That, Woods and Shore


Our current high pressure ridge brings day after day of blue skies and warm sunshine. I know it won't last long and I'm enjoying it immensely while I can. Trees are leafing out at a tremendous rate - that bright acid green that is so beautiful in springtime. 

On a recent hike around Matheson Lake my eldest daughter slowed on a certain part of the trail saying that in previous years she had seen Fairyslippers (also known as Venus' Slippers) (calypso bulbosa) growing along the mossy bank. We were rewarded by finding several of these showy little flowers, along with other wildflowers, including a Western Trillium.

 Perhaps most magnificent were the woodland clearings carpeted with Fawn Lilies. How beautiful they are. 

We noticed this bird on our walk on Sunday by the shore and commented on its manic behaviour. It moved so quickly and jerkily that it was difficult to photograph. When I got home and looked in my bird book I read, "This fairly large shorebird often runs frantically in many directions while pursuing small prey." Yes, we thought, that describes it to a "t", so we're almost sure that it's a Greater Yellowlegs. 

Another group of smaller shorebirds, Long-billed Dowitchers, we think, were much less frantic, but bobbed their heads up and down as they fed. The trusty bird book called this a "sewing-machine" motion, again, very apt.

(note: I'm no bird expert and am always open to suggestions and corrections if I'm wrong.)

A little rowboat made a pretty picture with the water rippling around it.

Ikea Canada has published an e-book called Scrapsbook. It contains ideas for using bits and pieces of leftover food scraps in innovative ways. You can download the book for free and it's interesting to read. Many of the ideas are things I already do, but I was intrigued by a couple of recipes. One is seen above, with leftover meat, vegetables, and herbs/stems rolled into a thin phyllo pastry roll which is then coiled and baked. They were fun to make, and very tasty. I used some ground turkey patties, butternut squash, spinach stems, onion, and a variety of herbs in mine. 

My recent reading stack. The 13 Clocks is a fanciful tale, a spoof on a fairytale and very easy to read. After beginning The Girl From the Channel Islands I debated stopping because I wasn't taken by the author's writing style. However, I'm glad I kept on for the story picked up and became very compelling. It's based on true events during WWII. Who Speaks for the Damned was an excellent mystery and I will be looking for more C. S. Harris books. A Deception at Thornecrest is another Amory Ames mystery, very lighthearted and fun to read. The last book in the stack, The Other Bennet Sister, has not yet been opened. 

Since our weather is so wonderful I'll be spending the day in the garden. A little bit of weeding, some transplanting and clipping, and possibly seeding a few more vegetables. Enjoy your day!

Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday Favourites: Hatley Gardens


No one answered the door to let this little girl enter Hatley Castle. Perhaps the butler was off having a cup of tea in the kitchen and chatting with the cook. Well, let's take a stroll around the gardens, instead. 

I wrote a recent post about Hatley Castle, built by a coal baron in the early 20th century. The gardens were closed last time we visited, so we tried again. There isn't a lot blooming yet, but signs of life are everywhere. The Italian garden is formal, with gravel paths, a beautiful stone pergola (where the little girl's mother had wedding photos taken a number of years ago), and four statues representing the four seasons. I believe the photo is of autumn, with sheaves of wheat in her hand. 

In other, more natural areas, streams trickle down to a large pond. I'm not certain what the flowers are, but they fit in well with the mossy stones lining the stream. 

A narrow section of the pond is linked to an island by an arched bridge. The look reminded me very much of Monet's garden in Giverny. Alas, there were pirates about and we had to swordfight our way to reach safety in the gazebo on the island. Sadie was a good captain and guided us all well. 

Grape hyacinths, hellebores, and daffodils carpeted the woodland area of the gardens. Yellow and blue are such a great combination, especially against all the green. Perfection! 

Many Canada Geese live near the garden and consider themselves the owners, I think. They honked furiously when we got too close, and I wonder if nesting has made them protective and a wee bit cranky. 

Our spring has been very chilly, but this week things are different. Temperatures in the 20s have made gardens spring to life. The sweet peas that I planted on March 17 are finally erupting from the ground. I really wondered if they were rotting and would ever come up. Last night we ate dinner outdoors for the first time. How lovely it was to sit in the early evening sun and relax. 

Weekend activities will include gardening, that's a given. And hopefully a few more meals outdoors. Any plans in your corner? 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Spring's Ache


 "Spring won't et me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again."
Gustav Mahler

Outside my window just now a tiny Anna's Hummingbird flits about the cedar hedge. Tree and hedges sway in the wind. I know it's a chilly wind in spite of the bright sunshine for I was outside thinking I might garden this morning. I think I'll wait until later. A glorious week of warmth and sunny skies is in our forecast, and I couldn't be happier. 

Hendersons Shooting Stars (dodecatheon hendersonii) bloom in a naturalized lawn we pass on our evening walk. They look as though they are ready to take off into the wild blue yonder. 

In the woods just a bit further along, Fawn Lilies (erythronium oregonum) look like stars facing downwards. Most of the ones I see are white, but there are pink and yellow varieties, as well. 

Taking a photo like this requires crouching low to the ground, and I use the tilt feature on my camera to view it. 

Both the shooting star and the fawn lily are native to North America. The shooting star occurs naturally on southern Vancouver Island, the only place it's found in Canada. 

"Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!"
Robin Williams

In my own garden this morning there are many promises being made. Lilacs and columbines form tight buds, blueberries will soon flower, and irrepressible mint is making a great come back from dormancy. Lemon Balm, strawberries, cornflowers and more are bursting with life. Soon there will be an explosion!

"Pretty? Oh, pretty doesn't seem to be the right word to use. Nor beautiful, either. They don't go far enough. Oh, it was wonderful - wonderful. It's the first thing I ever saw that couldn't be improved upon by imagination. It just satisfies me here" - she put one hand on her breast - "it made a queer funny ache and yet it was a pleasant ache. Did you ever have an ache like that, Mr. Cuthbert?"
said by Anne in L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables

I go out of my way to see this tree on my walks. It's awash with swoon-worthy blooms. This is its high season, lush with soft white and barely pink petals. I can't get enough of it. Like Anne above, it makes my heart ache with its beauty. 

"The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing...

For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not yet visited." 
C. S. Lewis (The Weight of Glory)

This ache of beauty, this longing, reminds me that we are spiritual beings with a desire for something beyond ourselves - for God. It reminds me that that I am merely human. 

One last prunus branch reaching up in evening light to the sky. It's truly a wonderful world, complex and full of brokenness, but utterly magical. Spring magic is some of the very best there is. 

What kind of promises is spring making in your corner? 

Friday, April 09, 2021

Friday Favourites


Rich morning light saturated my photos one day this week. Not today. Instead there's been drizzle and grey and a chill wind. I met with two friends for a walk and then we sat outdoors by an outdoor gas fire near a coffee shop and talked and talked. How good it is to get together with friends and catch up on each other's lives. Texts and phone calls are not the same as face to face visits. 

My eldest daughter painted this beautiful rock with the help of her friend who paints a lot of them. It's so pretty and matches the pansies very well, so I have it nestled among them for now. 

I planted kale early last autumn and it grew slowly over the winter. Some days I could see it curled up and frosty, but it always perked up again. Now it's growing vigorously and I've been harvesting it. 

Kale pucks are good to have in the freezer to toss into soup or a vegetable saute. I chopped, then steamed the kale for three minutes before packing it into muffin tins. Once frozen the pucks easily pop out and I store them in freezer bags.

Some of my recent reading material. The Kinghorn novels are very easy reading centered around the first World War and "The Founding" touched on the controversy of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. It's the start of a long series and I don't know that I will get through them all. Well-written historical fiction. "Where the Crawdads Sing" is excellent, if hard reading, touching on the vulnerability of children and women, and the beauty of natural life in the marshes of North Carolina. 

My husband brought home flowers for Easter and the lilies are opening up beautifully. It's a mixed bouquet and as the various flowers die I like to cut the better ones down and place them in different vases. 

He was out of town last night and this morning called very early to tell me the news about Prince Philip. Not unexpected, but sad, especially for the Queen who has lost her beloved husband who provided her with strength and courage throughout the years. I pray for comfort and peace for her.

I read a fun essay this week by J. F. Riordan about modern appliances that I thought you might enjoy.

Electronic Narcissism 

The weekend forecast is for sun and a warming trend. I'll be gardening, at my daughter's place and perhaps here a little, too. 

Thank you for reading and I wish you all moments of joy and happiness.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Botanical Beach


Easter Monday: I planned to work in the garden, perhaps do a little sewing. Tim looked at the tide tables and suggested a trip to Botanical Beach. No contest there. I packed a lunch while he made a thermos of tea and off we went. Botanical Beach is on the west coast of our island, just where the Strait of Juan de Fuca begins. The point of land barely visible in the above photo, across the Strait, is the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States. 

An easy 20-minute trail from the parking lot leads through quiet and deeply green forest to the beach. A strip of sand littered with driftwood logs is the perfect place to perch while watching the waves roll in from the Pacific. 

The real draw to this beach is the exposed rocks and tide pools where one can get closer to the ocean's surge and fall. 

Watching the waves build and roll in, then crash against the rocks, and throw up sheets of spray and foam never ever gets old. The beach itself is a geology lesson where all sorts of rock types and formations are found. Some are there because of glacial movement; others formed from weathering and erosion. 

In tide pools, purple sea urchins live in hollowed out sandstone, in perfect circles that fit the urchins beautifully. Granite and sandstone, igneous and metamorphic rock combine to make this a truly diverse environment.

Tim spotted this bird crouched on a rock among the millions of mussels on the beach, just resting. After checking our bird book, we are pretty sure it's a long-distance migrant American Golden Plover en route to the high Arctic where it breeds. It winters in southern South America, so it has traveled a very long ways and deserves a good rest. 

Here's yours truly on the beach changing camera lenses. 

Each time we visit this beach I find something new to enchant me. This time it was a tide pool where limpets lie like scattered and intricate gold coins on richly coloured velvet lichens. We crouched low and watched the action in this one pool for a long time. Tiny snails, ranging from 1/4 to 1 inch crawled with hairy legs in and around the limpets, doing their job of scraping algae. These pools remind me of a Klimt painting with their opulent colours and bits of gold. 

The Psalmist wrote "There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number - living things both large and small." 

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

(nearly) A Week into April


I am so glad that we had sunshine over the Easter weekend. We were able to gather together with our children and grandchildren and enjoy dinner together, and an egg hunt for the littles. 

A new interest of mine is dyeing fabric with natural dyes. To that end I have a collection of avocado pits in my freezer, and I dried marigolds last summer. As of yet, I've actually dyed nothing. Then I saw some naturally dyed Easter eggs, and thought, "aha!" I had already boiled 7 eggs in preparation for dyeing with food colouring, but my thinking took a hard turn toward natural dyes. I boiled some of my dried marigolds in one pot, a few avocado pits in another, and some Concord grapes from the freezer in yet another pot. Finally, I took the grounds from my husband's pour over coffee and added them to some boiling water. After simmering the dyes, I strained them and poured them into deep bowls or cups (large mugs work well), and added a tablespoon of vinegar to each mixture. I picked some botanicals from the garden and placed them against the shells, then tied some muslin around them. Into the containers they went. 

Unlike food colouring and commercial dyes, natural dyes take longer. Mine sat for most of the day - 8 hours, I would guess. What lovely soft colours. The botanical prints didn't turn out very well, but the wrapping gave some nice effects. Can you guess which botanical dye gave which colour? 

The pale peachy pink came from the avocado pits, the coffee yielded pale brown (the egg right under the flower at the top), the marigold yielded the strong yellow, almost greenish, and the concord grape dye, which looked purple as can be, yielded the blue. When I took the grape dyed eggs from the water, I watched them turn from purple to blue with some greenish spots, all due to oxidation. They also had a thin film of fine crystals on them. Fascinating! 

The egg hunt had to be organized a bit differently this year. While the older grands raced around looking in, under, and over, the 22 month old wasn't up to that. So we "hid" some treats in plain view on the block border and told the older grands they were for Iris. That worked well. Everyone was happy with their treats. Rather than all sweets, we hid granola bars, individual packages of cookies and crackers like Goldfish along with the chocolate eggs. They can take those things in their lunches to school. 

We organized tables for the couples, each with chairs, all socially distanced. The children shared a little table. It was great to be together to celebrate this special day. 

Tomato seedlings are sprouting in the dining room where I have a corner window and lots of light. They are much further along than the above photo shows, and I expect I'll be potting them up towards the end of the week when their true leaves fully form. 

Several times each day I brush my hand gently over the seedlings as I read that that mimics breezes and strengthens the plant. The distinctive scent of tomato plants is already evident. I like the smell, do you?

I've been watching Charles Dowding's Youtube videos about starting seeds and gardening, along with a site called "The Middle-Sized Garden." There is so much wonderful information available to anyone. 

Things I'm looking forward to this week:

* reading this latest issue of Country Living UK

* sowing more seeds indoors - Swiss Chard, various flowers

* spreading some compost from the bins onto the beds

* going for walks with friends and family

What are you looking forward to this week? 

Days at Home

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