Friday, April 29, 2022

A Spring Tonic

 


Tonic: a medicinal substance taken to give a feeling of vigor or well-being.

In spite of the continuing cooler-than-normal temperatures, spring is bursting out in gardens and parks across town. All the plants are in a mad dash to leaf and bloom and grow wildly. In January it was the lonely hellebores on display, followed by daffodils, cherry blossoms, and croci. Now it's a wealth of tulips, apple blossom, bluebells, daisies, and rhododendrons. The sight of all this beauty is a tonic in itself, and hardly medicinal. 


The birds are not very pleased with us lately. We are using up a bag of mixed bird seed given to us by someone who no longer needed it, and it doesn't appear to be as tasty as the one we usually put out. The sparrows continue to come, but not the finches or chickadees. If you'd like to put the word out to the flocks, the less-delicious birdseed is finished now, and tomorrow there will be the usual delectable fare. 


In days gone by, rhubarb was a favourite spring tonic, good for the blood and the digestion according to Victorian folklore. I can imagine how delicious fresh food would be after a winter of preserved vegetables and stodgy fare. I doubt that there is much medicinal benefit in a Rhubarb Streusel Muffin, other than being so satisfying and delicious - surely good for emotional health, if nothing else. One tasted very good with my morning tea. 


When I was a child, my mother would say, "Blue and green should never be seen, except in a washing machine." It wasn't considered fashionable to wear those two colours. I think they go together perfectly, as illustrated above with pale green hellebores, dark green leaves, and stems of bright bluebells. Alas, they are not the famed English Bluebells, but the Spanish variety that lacks scent. They are still pretty, and all we've got here, so I enjoy them fully. 

Spring itself is a tonic, full of life and colour. Now, if only the temperatures would warm up a little.

A number of readers have mentioned that they are unable to leave comments on my blog. I changed the comment format once again - this time to a pop-up box - and I'd love to know if that's better for anyone. I know of one blogger for whom it worked. 

I hope your weekend acts like a tonic to perk you up, whether you live in the northern half of the globe where spring is arriving, or in the southern half where autumn is making an appearance. 



Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Tuesday Evening Thoughts

 


Outside my window the pale blue sky is fading. A sharp wind tosses branches and flower stems to and fro. On dry afternoons it's becoming my habit to step inside the house, change my shoes, and set off on a little walk before returning to prepare dinner. Today I added a pink floral scarf tucked into the neckline to keep that chilly wind at bay. Pink seems to be the colour of the day with the blossoming of another variety of prunus trees. 


These full double blossoms are a froth of pink, and with the wind, pink "snowflakes" are falling and beginning to drift along the roadsides. I'm so glad we have this kind of "snow" rather than the chillier white stuff others are experiencing. 

Warmer weather over the weekend had us working in the garden. Since we took out the hedge, Tim's erected a not-so-pretty chain link fence. We've moved a magnolia tree and a rhododendron bush from the front garden, and after two months they seem to be doing fine. We'll keep them well-watered over the coming months. I've had a hankering for a birch tree and found a paper birch with multiple stems that will hopefully grow into a clumping birch. 

Tiny sprouts of spinach, radish, lettuce, and arugula are appearing in the garden bed; such itty-bitty slivers of green that will grow into lush plants. I'm always amazed by the potential in those little seeds. It's a yearly miracle. 


Soon the fawn lilies will die back, but in the shaded woodland path I take, they continue to dot the ground like stars. Bluebells now step to the forefront. 

Blaise Pascal wrote, "In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart." On Easter Sunday, the house was filled with family. The children played indoors and out. At one point little 16-month Cora disappeared. She loves the stairs so I went up to find her. She was there and greeted me with a big smile. In her hand was a glittered egg pick she had pulled from the vase of flowers on the hall table by reaching through the stair railing. Like a little sprite she waved the glittery egg back and forth, happy as a lark. When I find traces of glitter, the memory of her little face and waving arms makes me smile. 


My reading has been mostly dipping in and out of books lately. I read Patti Callahan's novel "Once Upon a Wardrobe" and loved it so much that as soon as I finished it I turned back to the beginning and read it again, more slowly. It's a wonderful book for lovers of Narnia, Oxford, and C.S. Lewis.

I took a couple of cookbooks from the library. When I began "A Table for Friends" I wasn't very impressed. Roast Chicken, Roast Lamb, etc was how the book began and there was not much inspiration. Then I came to the sides, and discovered several new ideas for vegetables. I do love vegetables, more than fruit, truth to be told.  


I'm getting my garden beds ready for spring and summer planting, so I pulled the last few leeks and made an adaptation of her Creamy Leeks with Mustard and Parmesan. My version included less cream and mustard, and we found it very tasty. 

I picked the first rhubarb of the season, chopped it up and cooked with a little sugar. It's in a jar in the fridge, and lovely to eat with plain yogurt. Seasonal food is such a treat.


This has turned out to be a long and meandering post. I'll close with these little daisies dotting lawns all along my walk today. Iris loves to pick them and make bouquets, and I have one of hers in my kitchen. That's another bit of beauty that I carry with me. There is so much beauty when I am attentive to my surroundings. 

Wishing you joy and delightful moments. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Friday Thoughts Among the Flowers

 


I live in a very ordinary house, with neighbours on all sides. It's a plain jane 1980s house with little to distinguish it from other houses on our street. My garden is not large, but nor is it a postage stamp. It's the house we chose via the Internet, from Ecuador. It's the house that I did not see until the day we moved into it. I trusted Tim with the final decision, and he told me afterwards that he didn't sleep well the night after signing the papers because he was worried I wouldn't like it. Over the almost 20 years we've lived here, we've changed a number of things and made it our home. It's comfortable, it's safe, and most of all, it's where we laugh and cry, love and rage, take comfort, eat, and are restored.


I'm feeling pensive this morning, watching puffy cumulus clouds drift slowly across the western sky. Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Chickadees flit in and out of the tightly closed lilac buds, soon to burst into fragrant colour. 


Tim and I were talking this morning before he left about the plans we have for renovations over the next year or two, and for a vacation this summer. It's hard to reconcile these plans with the horrors occurring throughout the world, and in Ukraine in particular. 

I read an account of a 16 year old girl in Mariupol (now evacuated), and I wept for her lost youth. Her mother died in a basement, hiding from the invaders. She writes, "...hug your children. Otherwise, you may be gone and they will not remember your smell. If I endure and later have children, I will be hugging them all the time." 


I hardly know what to write these days. In our western culture, avoidance of pain and grief is often recommended as the way forward. But perhaps we need to sit with grief, not just our own, but the grief of the world, not that it would overwhelm us, but that we would empathize deeply and be motivated to act in ways that bring healing and kindness. 


I am ever so thankful for my home and my country and the freedoms I enjoy. And I will enjoy them even as I weep for Ukraine. 
 

This weekend I hope to spend some time in the garden. There will be a little housekeeping in our ordinary home, as well. It's also report card time and so I'll be finishing up those this weekend. During this past week I've been coming home around 4, changing my shoes and going for a walk. Spring is rushing in with all sorts of wonderful sights and scents. 

Sending you wishes for a peaceful and beautiful weekend. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Easter

 


Here I sit on Easter Monday - a day off school for me. It's not a statutory holiday in Canada, but the public sector has it off, so Tim is home, too. After yesterday's sunshine, we awoke to grey skies and fierce wind today. No rain yet, although it's in the forecast. 


Easter is a season of hope, which is found by Christians in the Resurrection of Christ. It's one of my favourite holidays. We gathered for dinner in the late afternoon (nap schedules have to be taken into account), preceded by an egg hunt in the garden. I always include packets of goldfish snacks, granola bars, and other individually packaged items to hide along with the chocolate. Non-sweet items are appreciated by the parents. It was fun to watch the older children racing around the garden at warp speed, while the two younger girls wandered at a much slower pace. Some treats were hidden in easy-to-find spots and left by the older ones for the younger. 

Then dinner. I roasted a spatchcock turkey which cooked much more quickly than a regular one. I did the cutting the day before and broke my kitchen shears. So I zipped up to the kitchen supply store for some poultry shear which worked much better. 

I love that tablecloth of pink and yellow. It's an old one of Tim's mother, of soft thick rayon that was popular in the 1950s. We set another table in the kitchen for the three older grands who like to be off by themselves sometimes.


A little collage of the grands. How quickly they are growing. Cora might look like she's been eating chocolate, but no, that's dirt. We're always scooping something out of her mouth, but she never shows any ill effects. I asked the children to sit on the stairs for me to take a photo of them, but I never got one with all of them looking at me. A squirrelly bunch, but maybe that was due to all the chocolate!


A friend passed along a link to a cute bunny bag pattern last week. On Sunday I decided to make one for each grandchild. I spent every free minute until Wednesday stitching the bags. They are so cute with the egg and the bunny ears. 

I hope your Monday is going well, no matter the weather. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Filling the Creative Well

 




I once read about a woman who cared for her mother, who suffered with dementia. The mother had been a quilter and very artistic. As her confusion increased she could no longer create in a way that was meaningful to others. For awhile, she sewed simple squares together on the sewing machine, day after day. Each night her daughter washed the squares to release the water soluble thread with which she had threaded the sewing machine. The mother stitched the same squares day after day, unknowing of the subterfuge, but happy to be creating. 

The daughter also noticed odd placements of objects throughout the house. Disparate objects were gathered together and placed on a table, or the mantel, or the piano. When outdoors in the garden, her mother gathered odd botanical bits and rocks and sticks to arrange and organize, taking time to make them just so. The daughter realized after awhile that her mother was creating. She began to photograph the arrangements as a way to remember her mother's creativity even in dementia. 


The desire to be creative is a deep human need that can be expressed in myriad ways. Writing, fine arts, and music are often the first things that come to mind when one thinks about being creative. For those of us who are not great artists, expressing our creative nature comes in so many ways - the carefully thought out preparation of a meal to nourish people, the beauty of a bed of flowers in a garden, a table set with care and attention to detail, listening with love and care - there is no end to creative opportunities. 


Creativity and beauty seem to go hand in hand. Appreciating the beauty of the natural world and taking the time to look at its intricacies is, as Vincent Van Gogh says, "the true way to understand art more and more." 

When I have not taken the time to nurture my own creativity, I find myself restless and tend towards irritability. It usually happens when I'm busy and have too much on my plate. I've felt that restlessness creeping up on me these last few weeks. 


With Easter approaching I wanted to dye eggs, but as the days marched by, I wondered just when I'd find time. Last night, after dinner my inner creative urge said, "do it now." I boiled up a dozen eggs, and collected my materials. A bit of chopped red cabbage, a few yellow onion skins, some powdered turmeric, and a jar of homemade grape juice from the pantry. I simmered the cabbage and onion skins in a couple of pots of water and drained them. A couple of tablespoons of vinegar went into four quart jars, followed by the dyes. For patterns on some of the eggs, I collected a few snippets from the garden and pressed them onto the eggs, then tied them into squares o muslin. Into the jars they went, some wrapped, some loose. It all took less than an hour, including the clean up. And I felt wonderful!


This morning, I emptied the jars and carefully untied the muslin-wrapped eggs. What rich, yet subtle colours nature provides. I arranged them on a platter with a few bits from the garden before taking a photo. How pretty they look on the kitchen counter. They are there to be admired, and I do. The restlessness is eased for a bit. Making the time to be creative is important. It fills a need within me. 

Are you filled and eased by arranging a pretty vignette, creating a beautiful meal, or puttering in the garden? I'd love to know what fills your creative urge. 

As we celebrate Easter and the hope of Christ's resurrection, I wish all of my readers a blessed Easter, if you celebrate this day, and to all of you, a most glorious spring weekend. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

An Unexpected Easter Story

Spring is bursting out here in spite of the unusually cold temperatures. Snow on the hills and at my daughters' houses not too far away. Sharp wind that drives right through to the skin. Glorious sunshine to temper the chill, and flowers that must bloom no matter what. 



Here I am at 8 or 9. Every year, for Christmas and Easter, my mother sewed new dresses for my sister and me. The outfit above was a tunic type top and a skirt, made from buttery yellow linen. Mom hand embroidered a sweet daisy on a stem on the top. 

The year we wore these dresses we drove from our home in the interior through the twisty Fraser Canyon and its tunnels, for Easter dinner at our grandparents' home. My paternal grandparents lived on a dairy farm. The house was not large, but we all crowded in around the table to enjoy a delicious dinner. There were likely 20 or more of us, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. In the middle of dinner, I had to excuse myself from the table to "use the facilities". There was no indoor plumbing in the house and I had to go outside, down a short path, to the outhouse. My business finished I attempted to open the door latch to return to the house. I couldn't. I jiggled and pulled and pushed, but the latch was stuck. What was I to do? I hollered loudly, to no avail. The dinner table noise drowned out my cries. I thought that perhaps I could crawl under the door, for it didn't go all the way to the ground, but then I would ruin my pretty new dress. I hollered some more, but no one came. Finally, I jiggled, pushed, and pulled the latch some more. To my great relief, it opened. I returned to the dinner table to discover that everyone was so involved in visiting that I hadn't been missed at all.  


 Have you ever been stuck in an outhouse? It never happened again, but I've never forgotten this experience.

The Clematis Montana are draping themselves all over the fence these days, with a lovely delicate fragrance. They would probably be happy to drape themselves over any structure - even an outhouse. I'm grateful for indoor plumbing! 

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Friday Favourites

 


A bit of morning sunshine in the house brightens the entire day. April is capricious and as likely to storm as to shine, so I enjoy every minute of brightness. A friend recently gifted me with the beautiful prayer shawl in my favourite watery colours. "It's like a hug from God," she said as she wrapped it around my shoulders. I have it handy on my chair for coziness. 


We celebrated Tim's birthday on the weekend. What fun to have a house full of people. Here are the grandchildren (and one daughter) gathered round to sing Happy Birthday! Young Iris, who has her eyes closed in the photo, helped decorate the cake. The pink parasol is from another party she was at earlier in the day, and the almonds are sprinkled a bit unevenly. She loves to help. 


We feasted on fish tacos - so delicious, but unfortunately the smell of frying fish has lingered long past its welcome. Vinegar and some essential oils, and fresh air blowing through the house are making things better. Next time the frying will happen outdoors. 


For those who wonder how Ashley is doing after her back issues - she is improving bit by bit with specific exercises, physiotherapy, and being careful. Recovery is going to take a long time - up to a year, but she is functioning well. This week she dropped the girls off early one morning for her physio appointment, and I fed them breakfast. The Easter bunnies were a bit hit, and had to drink and eat along with the girls. 


When Cora saw the bunnies she waved her arms and spoke something unintelligible, but cute, with great excitement. Unfortunately, Cora's bunny had a little accident and has to go to the bunny hospital to have his ear glued back on. 


In quiet moments I've been enjoying this issue of My French Country Home. I've found it in only one bookstore here in town, and it's across town from home, but close to where Tim's office is. He was so sweet and stopped by to purchase it for me, so I didn't have to drive all the way just for the magazine. Aren't those pots of tulips gorgeous? 

A couple of evenings this week I've been working out in the garden after dinner until the light goes just before 8 pm. It's not terribly warm, but spring is calling! The weekend weather is not looking promising for being outdoors, so indoor pursuits appeal. Have a good weekend, dear readers.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Seen Along the Way

 


It's lovely to go away on a short trip, and it's equally lovely to return home again. On this rainy and quiet Sunday afternoon, I'll share a few more thoughts from our recent getaway. 

Late one afternoon we walked along Nanaimo's waterfront. How beautiful to see the daffodils blooming en masse, and more prunus trees. The one above leans over the water as if in conversation with the gently lapping waves.


A close up of blooms against the silky blue water is sheer perfection.


"Sometimes I treat my day like a miniature treasure hunt,
to look a little closer at this diminutive world."
April Cornell

Another bit of perfection seen along a trail - just over an inch in diameter. Little succulents cling to the rocks, growing in profusion in the wild.


We found a wonderful bakery not far from our campsite, and picked up a few treats to tuck into our backpacks. A croissant amadine accompanied by a mug of hot tea while overlooking the water tasted wonderful. 



More delightful succulents in rosy and pale green shades. They would make such pretty little brooches to pin to a jacket or a hat, don't you think? Of course, we left them where they grow, for others to enjoy. 

Spring break is over and tomorrow it's back to school for me and work for Tim. Although the temperatures are still chilly, there's a definite feel of spring in the air, and sights of it in the garden and around town. Is spring showing up in your corner yet?


Friday, April 01, 2022

Soaking in the Sights

 


While on our little getaway, we hiked the Cable Bay Trail to Joan Point. It's a beautifully maintained trail, very wide at first, before narrowing to wind along the water. Our goal was Dodd Narrows. Tim checked the tide table so that we could ensure being there at maximum current. En route, I noticed a few pink petals on the ground and looked up to see where they came from. The blooms are from salmonberry bushes that will ripen in late summer. 


Watching the water swirl and rush by is enjoyable, but how fun it was to watch numerous sea lions cavorting in the current. They swam, lithe and smooth, diving and leaping in pure joy, with snorts and puffs of air as they surfaced. Upstream they went, then turned around and rode the current downstream in the rapids. Occasionally they surfaced in front of the rock where we sat, and regarded us with curious eyes.


(edited) Bald eagles soared overhead. I noticed the white head of the Bald Eagle and photographed him calling out to his buddies, but I didn't notice the other eagle, very likely a juvenile eagle, until I looked at the photo on my computer. 

Thanks to Judy who suggested these might be juvenile eagles and not Golden Eagles. I think she's right. 


Just around the corner from the foaming rapids and sea lion activity is a small cove with still green water. Deep in the water a few bright orange starfish curled against the rocks. Here the water looks green rather than blue, yet this scene is less than 100 feet from the rushing current.


I was so happy to see the delicate fawn lilies studding the forest floor with their star-like beauty. To take a photo of the flower center requires getting right down onto the ground for they are shy and never look up. 

And so begins another month - April - when spring rushes out in full force. 

Summer's Arrival - At Last!

  Hello, Summer.  It's almost 8 pm on a late June evening. The sun slants warm and golden along the Sooke Hills visible from our patio. ...