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.

Of Spare Rooms and House Guests

  If you've ever read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables , you'll remember the importance of the spare room. It was a long-...