Sunday, January 30, 2022

McKenzie Bight on a Grey Sunday


Bight: a concave bend or curvature in a coastline, usually broad, open, and shallow

While finishing breakfast this morning, he looked at me, and I looked at him, and after a little hemming and hawing, we decided to leave immediately for a little hike instead of waiting until later in the day. It was a good choice, for the afternoon was considerably rainier than the morning. 

Our destination was McKenzie Bight. It's a beautiful trail from the parking lot to the water, winding along a creek bed and alongside a lacy waterfall. It's very steep, about 150 metres (a a bit less than 500 feet), and I always think about the walk back, all up hill, as we descend. 

The view is worth the effort. On this particular morning McKenzie Bight, on Saanich Inlet, was the feeding place for a large variety of waterfowl - Barrow's Goldeneye, Common Mergansers, Buffleheads, and more. Mist drifted down from the forests in silence, softening the colours to so many shades of grey. 

This particular gull was mild and friendly, unlike one of his buddies who, instead of looking for his own food, tried to steal from the various ducks. Luckily, ducks can dive down into the water much deeper than gulls, and the aggressive gull got nothing for his efforts. 

The air and water were so still, rippled only by the ducks paddling and diving. We watched the lighter coloured ducks under the clear water, swimming here and there in search of things to each. One, close to us, brought up a mussel in its bill, and proceeded to swallow it whole, shell and all. After I got home I looked up ducks and mussels, and discovered that they crush the shells in their gizzards and then digest the flesh. That's a strong gut!

Another view, towards shore, showing all the green shades of this misty morning. It does look like a rainforest. 

Earlier in the week I saw Wood Ducks in a pond with Iris. They are so pretty. This one came close, probably because of the oats Iris was flinging his way. 

Other than our early walk, this rainy grey Sunday has been spent quietly. Now it's time for a little supper, and later, an episode of Foyle's War. We've seen them before, but they remain enjoyable to watch. 

Have a most lovely week. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

In My Winter Garden


A winter garden is a subtle thing. There is a spare architecture of bare branches and geometric shapes. Rose bushes show their thorns on greenish stems. Brown sticks thrust upwards from a hydrangea's base, pale against the green cedar hedge. Bright emerald moss covers large patches of brown dirt. Now, in January, in our coastal climate, sharp, pointed leaves of bulbs planted months ago thrust their way upwards. A short excursion around the garden late in the afternoon revealed all kinds of growing things. Snowdrops, the first flowers, are so very welcome in the grey days. 

A small anemone flower forms in a pot where anemones settled on their own last year and seem to like it there, so they can stay. 

Tiny furled blueberry leaves make me smile, and remind me that it's high time to get out there and prune a few things. A week or so ago I finally moved the peonies I'd planned to relocate last fall, and was thwarted by the incessant rain. I don't know how well they will do, but I did notice tiny red points among the tubers which I promptly covered up, but not too deeply. 

The lemon tree is tightly covered and a string of old fashioned Christmas lights winds through its little branches to keep it warm throughout the winter. On cold mornings we see the glow of the lights, attached to a thermostat, and know the temperature is near freezing. Yesterday, I peeked underneath the covering and reached in to pick these bright, little lemons. How good they smell! As well, there are small green fruits forming for summer picking. Lemon trees are amazing things - they can have flowers and fruit at the same time, and are self-pollinating under their winter covering. A little microcosm of the life cycle under wraps.

This lemon tree is our second, as we uncovered the first one too early in the spring and a cold snap took it away. We won't uncover this one until May. 

I read about this book on a blog (I don't remember which one), and added it to my list of want-to-reads. It wasn't available in the library, so I checked Russell Books, our local re-seller, and discovered they had a hardcover version in stock for a very reasonable five dollars. 

Daniel Blajan features his garden and the creatures that live there. He's not a life-long gardener; the book was written after five years of moving from the city to the country. Detailed observation of his own garden combines with whimsy, dry humor, and a sense of awe to make for a delightful book to dip in and out of on grey January days. I'm including a small excerpt for you to enjoy:

"It was not yet dark, but the sun had already set and it was one of those rare, serene nights when you feel you could almost catch the light and hold it in your hand like a shimmering violet treasure. A perfect night for the flowers to the still of the night, the flowers of the evening primroses were coming to life. The pale yellow petals were unfolding one by one, flower after flower, like the wings of butterflies. They were unfolding at such speed that they caused the stems - yes, the whole plants - to tremble and quiver like a troupe of nervous ballerinas ready to jump on stage."

I'll leave you to dream about gardening with this photo of the sunset last evening. While cooking dinner, I look out to see intense colour in the sky, and rushed out in my stocking feet to admire it. It didn't last long, but how beautiful it was. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

It's the Little Things


"Sometimes it's just the little things that make you happy." Anon

I'm sitting beside the fire in my comfortable chair thinking about what to write this evening. Tim used up some leftover vacation days last week, and we've enjoyed some long hikes, visits with family, coffee with friends, and time at home. 

On Friday the sun shone, so we packed a lunch and hiked along the Coast Trail at East Sooke Park. Such glorious views over the water. And then the little views like these little succulents growing in wild patches on the rocks. The trail is not difficult, but it requires a lot of scrambling over rocks and exposed tree roots. It's a trail that requires looking down to find good footholds. As a result, we hike a bit more slowly there, and notice the little things like bright, soft mosses, and delicate ferns. 

On another walk we watched an otter fish for a crunchy crab - we could hear him chewing away on it. He was not at all concerned about our proximity, and seemed to turn his head this way and that, as if posing for the camera. 

After all the outdoor activity, how pleasant it is to come inside our warm home. I baked a Sticky Date Pudding from a recipe that Sandi of Rose Chintz Cottage shared. It's delicious, and just the thing for a sweet treat. 

More little things that I've enjoyed this week - 

* snowdrops blooming

* the first shoots of crocuses peeking through the dirt

* picking up my wedding rings from the jeweler. I had some claws replaced and the rings were cleaned. How sparkly they are!

* a couple of American Robins have been lurking around our trees

* broccoli and blue cheese soup - yum!

What is delighting you these days? 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Friday Favourites: On a Winter's Day


Thank you to those of you who suggested this pretty amaryllis might be Apple Blossom or Charming. I looked up both and think it's more likely Apple Blossom, but that's just my guess. All four of her buds are open now and greet me when I come down the stairs, or pass through the front hall. 

Tim's been doing some research on kayaks and during our trip to visit my parents earlier in the week, we stopped by Western Canoe and Kayak in Abbotsford. More kayaks than I have ever seen or imagined are stacked up in a gigantic warehouse. Tim knew what he wanted and they happened to have two of them in stock, one blue and one lime green. Happy bright colours. So they came home with us. And just like a kid with a new toy, we had to try them out as soon as possible. They are fun little things - not professional grade, but suitable for our purposes. 

The sun shone a bit today, and there was no rain, so we paddled a little at Thetis Lake. You can see that I'm well bundled up - there was a cold wind. But! While the wind rested between gusts, the sun's faint warmth caressed my face. So lovely. 

Clouds scudded across the sky. How pleasant it was to stop paddling at times and just rest in the gentle waves and look around. 

A Golden Eagle passed over us several times, and a few other birds flew low across the water. When I paddled too close for comfort, a sleek beaver slid into the water and disappeared. 

Beef stew is a perfect meal for a January night. This is a French version, called Beef Daube, redolent with red wine, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and parsley. I served it with a cauliflower mash and buttermilk biscuits. Warming and filling. 

After our little kayak trip I picked up a few groceries and a bundle of tightly furled tulips. They sit in my kitchen and are already much more open than when I snapped this photo several hours ago. 

Amaryllis, tulips, beef stew, and kayaking - rather disparate topics, but melded together they made for a most lovely day. I hope yours has been equally so.

Monday, January 17, 2022

A Short Trip to the Mainland


On a grey Sunday afternoon we boarded the ferry to the mainland. Fog lay on the way, shrouding the scenery in mystery. One of my favourite sights along the way is the Mayne Island Lighthouse in Active Pass. There has been a lighthouse here since 1885, and this is the third one, constructed in 1969. It's a variation on the "apple core" design, and is considered a "clear expression of functional design" according to the Parks Canada site. The Lightkeeper's house was constructed in 1940, but is no longer used for that purpose. 

We're spending a couple of days with my parents after cancelling our Christmas week trip due to the pandemic's sudden upsurge. Last night we enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner at my sister's place. This morning we drove down to the Fraser River, the longest river in British Columbia, some 1300 kilometres from its source in the Rocky Mountains to its mouth emptying into Georgia Strait in the Pacific Ocean. 

A cormorant tried to dry his wings on a rock in the river with a white gull for company. 

Once again, the landscape is muted today, shade after shade of grey, skeletal branches reaching blackly towards the sky, and a fine mist in the air. It was raw and cold and austerely beautiful. We were glad to get back home and enjoy warm soup and sandwiches for lunch. Conversation, accompanied by some puzzling, is the plan for the afternoon. A quiet day with people I dearly love. What could be better? 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Friday Favourites: Amaryllis, Snowdrops, Books and a Robot


The Amaryllis (unnamed) that I planted a number of weeks ago has grown so tall that one morning Tim found her lying down. So I've tied her up to the stairs and she has rewarded me with this beautiful first flower. The gradations of colour are so pretty, and there are more blooms to follow.

Now that the snow has melted from my garden I went looking for signs of life. Wispy crocus leaves, clumps of bluebells stems, and the first sign of snowdrops cheered me immensely. January is not yet half over and already I'm pining for warmer, brighter days. 

A small flower bed belonging to our neighbour adjoins our front garden and when I went for a walk today I was astounded to see it filled with snowdrops. Perhaps it receives more sun than my bed. I'm so glad I can enjoy her snowdrops while mine dally along. Such a hopeful sign. 

"Snowdrops. Theirs is a fragile but hardy the very teeth of winter." 
Louise Beebe Wilder

This week's reading. I have not yet begun Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black, but I hope to this weekend. Mary Lawson's Crow Lake is a sad, but beautiful story of sibling love and understanding (and misunderstanding) set in Northern Ontario. I highly recommend it. A Cruel Deception is another book featuring Bess Crawford, a WWI nurse who solves mysteries in addition to caring for patients. 

Young Iris is interested in robots these days, so together we created this fun toy. She loves that the head wobbles when she shakes him. She drew the line for the mouth, and it was very straight, and Iris decided that he didn't look very happy. So Nana drew little upward lines at the corners and that was much better. The robot made little "bee-bo, bee-bo" noises that indicated his contentment. 

These days are grey and dull outside, but with little ones to play with, good books to read, and plenty of things to do, they pass quite happily. How is your January progressing?

Monday, January 10, 2022

A Slow Day


In our grocery stores, this particular tea is available only during December. I discovered it last year and like it so much that I've stocked several boxes to last me through the year. With hints of chocolate, lavender, and mint, it's a winner. 

This afternoon I'm drinking copious amount of tea as I have come down with a cold. I had my booster shot on Saturday, felt achy and awful on Sunday, and this morning woke up with a runny nose. Sigh. It's been a slow weekend, never mind a slow day. I feel fine, but am keeping the tissue box handy. 

This old, cookbook, first published in 1962, followed by at least six editions, is identical to the one my mother has. She probably got hers in the 60s and I got mine in the late 70s.

How many recipes do you use from a single cookbook? From this one, I use about 20, but I so enjoy reading through the book that I won't be discarding it any time soon. There are many recipes from my Mennonite heritage that I remember from my grandmothers' kitchens. There's a section on butchering and preserving, and then a few incongruities like pot-au-feu, Yorkshire pudding (with an explanation of what to eat them with), and a number of dishes inspired by Asian cooking. Those ladies (and they were all ladies who cooked back then) were not afraid to try new dishes. 

Apples from our trees remain in a drawer in the fridge, and they are beginning to soften. Dough leftover from pies made in the autumn lounged in the freezer, so I combined the apples and the dough in a single-crust pie, a recipe from the above cookbook. It turned out well, although I baked it much longer than recommended in order to cook the filling properly. The recipe, with a few adaptations, can be found here

After putting away the Christmas decorations, I set out my ceramic houses representing the old colonial city of Quito, Ecuador. The set was a Christmas present from Tim while we lived in Quito. Looking around my house I see many objects with stories and memories. There's a seascape watercolour picked up on one of our boating trips, framed photos from European travels, the double pedestal dining room table that Tim built 35 years ago, a cabinet that once belonged to my parents, and many more things. 

I like a house layered with objects curated over time and would not want to replace everything with new things that matched perfectly. Our homes should reflect our life stories, in my opinion.

The forced hyacinth bulbs are blooming and perfume the air with sweetness. How I love their colour and shape, all those curly flowers bunched together. It's lovely to have them indoors now, and I look forward to the outdoor bulbs soon sprouting. I took a wander around my garden this afternoon, and there are a few green crocus shoots poking up through the snow, and little else. It's been cold. 

How's winter progressing in your corner?

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Friday Favourites


More snow fell in the night. We've had an unusual amount of the white stuff so far this winter, and the season has only begun! 

Schools delayed their start for a week due to the virus, so two of the grands came to play with Nana while their parents worked. We would have enjoyed the other grands, too, but in a flurry of phone calls this morning we all decided that the roads were treacherous and it was best not to venture too far. 

Tim shoveled the driveway before leaving for work in his 4-wheel drive SUV. He called to say that he'd stopped to help push one car out of the snow just at the bottom of our street, and to not take the car out. 

Adria and Felix and I made snowmen and women this morning. The snow was wet and heavy and packed well. Temperatures hovering around the freezing mark made for an enjoyable time, but also ensured that the snowmen didn't last very long. As of late this afternoon, heads were rolling and carrot noses were strewn on the ground. 

One-bowl meals are something I'd like to try more of. This Quick Vietnamese Pork Pho is a delicious example. I adapted the recipe by adding more vegetables and using some leftover linguine noodles in place of the rice noodles. Warming and delicious for a January evening.

While the snow was pristine this morning, I took my red and white quilt out for a photo shoot. It's very much a scrappy quilt, and I quite like it. 

We have no weekend plans, do you? There will be a little house keeping and cooking here, but nothing out of the ordinary. 

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Settling Into January


Strong shadows play across the furniture this morning. There is little snow left in our yard, but my distant view shows pure white on the Sooke Hills not too far away. 
On New Year's Day, in anticipation of the snow melt to come, we took another walk to Tod Inlet to admire the forest in its rare snowy state. 

Someone built a tiny snowman with a very happy smile. He seemed to beg to have his photo taken. The snow we had was fine and powdery and didn't pack well, so not too many snowmen were built. 

Also on Saturday we undecorated the tree. I collect all the ornaments before putting them into their boxes, and thought they made a pretty sight on the table. 

It's always a bit sad when the decorations come down. I know that some wait until Epiphany, but our tradition has been New Year's. 

The white poinsettia still looks great and sits atop the piano. Green growing things are what I like to include more of in January. It's a quiet month, some say bleak, but the peace of these calmer days is welcome and restful. Tim returned to work this morning and I've been puttering around the house. 

I'm looking forward to the hyacinths, and my one amaryllis blooming. Forcing bulbs is a fun way to hurry spring along, at least indoors. She can't be hurried at all outdoors. 

January is a good time to begin new projects. I have several in mind, a new quilt, and some embroidery. I'm continuing with my writing project based on the letters sent to my mother-in-law over the 21 years we lived in Ecuador.

What about you? Any new projects? 

This is what I've read/am reading. I would NOT want to meet up Helen Turstein's Elderly Lady. She's utterly devious! Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge is a much more likeable character. I have not yet started A Pattern of Lies, with a new-to-me character Bess Crawford. I've barely begun The Last Days of the Incas and think it will add to my knowledge of the history of the Andes region of South America. 

I like to keep a couple of books in circulation, picking them up as my mood suits. Once I really get into a novel, though, I read steadily until it's finished. Last year I recorded 105 books read, and I know there are more unrecorded. 

What are you reading? 

Days at Home

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