Monday, June 27, 2022

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. Summer arrived this weekend with three gloriously beautiful days. In my garden the last peony buds opened and I quickly clipped them to enjoy in the cooler indoor temperature for a few days. 

Today, I picked the first small bowlful of raspberries, and more strawberries. With the heat the garden is taking off - I'm sure the tomato plants grew visibly after such a long cold spring. Weather is a funny thing, isn't it? We talk about it often, and it does make a difference to activities and emotions. Summers here are short in Canada, and Canadians tend to make the most of them. Weekends spent camping, afternoons at the beach, lots of barbecues and picnics fill the calendar. 

Summer food is so wonderful, too. This evening I made a watermelon and feta cheese salad to go along with our grilled steak, couscous, mushrooms, and roasted vegetables. The crisp, cold sweet watermelon is a perfect foil for salty feta. 

I cut several branches of John Cabot, our climbing rose that is extremely thorny. Don't they look elegant on the mantel? I'm feeling the need for more colour these days, hence the blue vase in place of a clear one. 

A cooling breeze fills the house and our three hot days are ending overnight. We are not returning to the chilly wet days, for which I'm extremely thankful. 

"It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside." (Maude Hart Lovelace of the Betsy-Tacy books)

Friday, June 24, 2022

Friday Favourites


Our peonies are almost spent, but now the roses have their turn in the spotlight. Secret, Boscobel, Gertrude Jekyll, and Bolero above delight me with their colour, fragrance, and form. Both Boscobel and Bolero have slightly different colours this year than last. Bolero (bottom right) is especially different. Usually pure white, these blooms are creamy pink with some yellow. The plant is not near any other roses, so I wonder why? 

My classroom is tidy, my keys are turned in, and I'm footloose and fancy-free. Sort of. Mary Oliver captured the feeling of freedom in her poem "'Just as the Calendar Began to Say Summer". 

I went out of the schoolhouse fast
and through the gardens and to the woods
and spent all summer forgetting what I'd been taught - 

two times two, and diligence, and so forth,
and how to be modest and useful, and how to succeed 
and so forth,
machines and oil and plastic and money and so forth.

By fall I had healed somewhat, but was summoned back
to the chalky rooms and the desks, to sit and remember

the way the river kept rolling its pebbles,
the way the wild wrens sang as though they hadn't a penny
in the bank,
the way the flowers were dressed in nothing but light.

Mary Oliver

After weeks of cool temperatures and lots of rain, we're in for a bit of a warm spell and all I can say is "hooray"! I'll revel in it while it lasts. 
I collected the creamy white umbrel flowers of elderberry this week to make an Elderflower Cordial. 

The syrup is mixed with Club Soda or Tonic Water, or white wine for a refreshing drink with a floral flavour. I'm looking forward to sipping this on the patio. We finally put up the canvas gazebo and pulled out the patio furniture. It's just not been pleasant enough to sit outside until now. 

Lavender buds are opening and the bees are busy there. We're enjoying lettuce, radishes, spinach, and strawberries from the garden these days. It is all so achingly beautiful. Not an ache that goes away with Tylenol or Advil, but an ache that creates longing for something, an emotion that awakens passions, and causes us to dream about life the way it could be. It's fleeting, this ache, but oh, so memorable. Do you feel that way, too?
I think it's a reflection of the way we're made in the image of God, who is the ultimate Creator of beauty.

Feverfew. Simple and sweet, and very friendly. Little plants spring up throughout my garden. They are easy enough to pull and discard, or transplant in a blank spot in the garden. 

So the weekend begins. A weekend without a Monday schedule to anticipate. I'll definitely be outdoors while the warmth lasts, at least until Wednesday. Then, who knows? 

Monday, June 20, 2022

A Weekend Away


Along the highway curving up our Island, daisies wave in the wind among the long grasses lining the road. In a few places, purple lupins stand tall, just beginning to bloom. And everywhere is green, from chartreuse to emerald, all joyous in the sunshine. 

Our anniversary isn't until next month, but this was the weekend that worked for a family getaway. Sadly, one family had to cancel at the very last minute because of illness. Oh, how we missed them. They are recovering well, and we are thankful.
Above is the view from our hotel. At low tide the beach was exposed almost to the point of the nearest bit of land on the right. We walked out one afternoon, over a kilometre, wading through sun-warmed tide pools and squelchy sand. 

Along a log visitors pile up stones and leave them all in a row for others to add to. 

The weather was not terribly warm, but we did manage both beach time and pool time. Here are the littlest ones enjoying the mud on the beach. I love their hats that protect their delicate skin both back and front. 

Tide pool art. There is so much life to observe - tiny crabs, sand dollars, determined snails, waving eel grass - it's a miniature world. 

There was a visit to the wonderful playground in Parksville - definitely the best playground I've ever seen. So many activities for kids of all ages. And an ice cream truck. Grandpa treated the grands. This picture makes me both happy and sad, as one grand is missing. 

We ate well, slept well (mostly), and enjoyed each others' company. I cut a bouquet of peonies before leaving home to place on the table of our suite. How beautiful they are, so elegantly ruffled and fragrant. 

School is now finished and I have completed my reports. I still have to tidy up my room, and attend graduation on Wednesday. I'm looking forward to spending more time in my garden, and at my sewing machine. Our weather is still rather cool with much cloud. I keep hoping for sunnier, warmer days, but will have to make do with what we have. Experts say this system might break mid-July! That seems very far away. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Strawberries, Spanish, and Flowers


Twice last week, I rode a small school bus down to Fisherman's Wharf with my students. Grade 11s on Monday and Grade 10s on Friday. Fisherman's Wharf is a bustling place where working fish boats tie up, where elegant float homes bob in the water, and where there are a number of great restaurants. 

My students line up at the Mexican restaurant where they can practice ordering their food in Spanish. It's hard to have an authentic Spanish-speaking experience here, but the staff at Puerto Vallarta Amigos are so kind and accommodating, allowing the students to interact with them in Spanish. The food is also very good - my go-to order is Fish Tacos. We've not been able to do this for a few years because of the pandemic, so I was happy to give the students this experience. 

Classes end on Friday, and next week is graduation and tying up loose ends. I'm happy to say that the school has found a good Spanish teacher - someone I know very well - my eldest daughter, who is shifting from teaching English and Humanities to Spanish, the language she grew up with, although we always spoke English at home. Retirement beckons once again for me, and I'm looking forward to it.

In spite of our continuing very chilly spring, the strawberries are ripening, ever so slowly. We're enjoying them sliced onto our breakfast bowls of yogurt and granola. Here they are fresh from the garden, still with a bit of soil on them. I rinse them just before using them and they keep for several days. 

Gertrude Jekyll is opening beautifully, with many more buds to follow. I love her fragrance and pink colour. In the background you can see small buds of peonies still waiting to open. It's a rather topsy turvy spring. 

One of the few open peony blooms. They smell so wonderful. I read recently that peonies are edible, but I've not tried them, nor do I think I will. I'll just enjoy their blowsy blooms and sweet fragrance. 

Is it chilly or warm in your corner? How is your garden doing? 

Friday, June 10, 2022

Friday Thoughts- Things that Matter


Dense fog greeted me when I pulled back the curtains this morning, brought on by yesterday's steady rain. How un-June-like this weather is. Weather experts tell us that we are experiencing La Niña - a cooler than normal weather pattern. El Niño years are generally warmer than normal. 

For many, many years South American fisherman noticed periodic warmer ocean temperatures occurring in December, hence the name "Little Boy" or "El Niño" because of the celebration of Jesus' birth around that time. Colder years were then named the opposite "Little Girl". 

Enough about the weather. In spite of it all roses are blooming! Boscobel, above, is a little droopy because of the rain, but isn't she a beauty? 

Peonies are just beginning to bloom, too, and we'll soon have pink and white blossoms galore. 

In a moment of extravagant faith I clipped the few roses that are in bloom, along with a couple of peonies. There are more buds forming and I am confident they will soon open. 

At the time of our second wedding anniversary, Tim and I were directing a children's camp. It was intensely hard work with long, long hours. We had two days off over our anniversary weekend and spent them away from the camp, in a small hotel in the town of Revelstoke. We mostly tried to catch up on sleep, but we did go out for dinner, and shopped for gifts for each other. Tim wanted a pair of binoculars, so that was his gift (still being used), and I had my eye on a crystal flower vase. It's the perfect size, as you can see above, for a small garden bouquet. 

Last summer, I filled the vase with roses and took it to our friends from Iran. Her mother was very ill with Covid-19, and Ate felt very far away and lonely. In September Ate returned home to Iran as her mother passed away. When our friends present us with Persian food or other items, they always arrange everything beautifully on pretty dishes. No paper plates or tin foil! I've taken to doing the same, and the dishes are always returned. However, although other dishes came back, my vase did not.

I told myself, "It's okay, Lorrie, it's just a piece of glass." But it was the one piece of glass that held many memories. Eventually, over the months, it became okay, although I did miss it.

Imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when our doorbell rang and there stood Ate and M with a tray of Persian baking, and a crystal vase with flowers. My vase had returned! But wait...M pulled another vase from behind his back - that was my vase with a long crack in the glass. They told us how awful they felt for breaking my vase and had looked through thrift stores for months and months, hoping to find something similar. Finally, they did. It's not the same vase, but very, very like. 

Now when I look at the vase, I remember the story of our second anniversary, but I also remember the kindness and persistence of dear friends. 

This week I made a Brown Butter Rhubarb Cake, posted several years ago on Jean's blog, Delightful Repast. I like it because it's a very tender cake, is not too sweet, and the rhubarb flavour is just perfect! A cup of tea and a piece of cake is such an uplift on dreary afternoons. Today, though, the early morning fog has burned off and the sky is mostly blue patched with white clouds sailing in from the Pacific. 

We're watching a couple of grands tomorrow while their parents cross the water to see the musical Hamilton. There will likely be a walk together, and perhaps some crafting. 

Have a beautiful weekend, my friends. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Parties Galore


Dinner with friends. Three simple words that evoke much delight. On Saturday evening we met with two other couples for a dinner party. (The one scheduled for the previous week was cancelled due to a Covid exposure). We've been good friends for 20 years and getting together is always a treat. The hostess takes care of the main course, someone else brings the appetizers, and the third provides dessert. We all enjoy each other's cooking and are never afraid to attempt something different. 

Because of the Platinum Jubilee celebrating Queen Elizabeth's 70-year reign, I wanted to make a dessert that gave a nod in that direction. I ended up making something very simple, but quite delicious - a Chocolate Biscuit Cake. It's said to be one of the Queen's favourites. 

Julia Child said, "The dinner hour is a sacred, happy time when everybody should be together and relaxed." This was certainly the case on Saturday night. Laughter, good conversation, delicious food and drink, all combined for a most convivial evening.

On Sunday afternoon the family met to celebrate two birthdays. Sadie is now 10 and Iris is three. The two of them are so lovely together. In the above photo, Sadie is explaining about the card she made for Iris. 

This poor-quality photo captures the delight of the two little girls wearing their tutus and fairy wings. Iris is using a water gun (a gift from cousins) while she runs. Their exuberance made everyone laugh. 

There's a party beginning in the garden, too. While I've been watching the buds on the Boscobel and Gertrude Jekyll roses, Winchester Cathedral surged ahead and provided the first bloom. She's a beauty, but a bit fragile so I baby her a little more. 

Here's another view of Winchester Cathedral this morning. We have bright blue skies that are so welcome. Clouds, cooler temperatures, and more rain than normal are forecast for the remainder of June, so we'll enjoy every bit of sunshine we can! 

Are there any parties happening inside or outside at your place? Do share. 

Friday, June 03, 2022

Just Under the Wire with Friday Thoughts


Friday evening, quite late. 
For the very first time this spring, daytime temperatures have reached 20 degrees Celsius this week. (That's 68 Fahrenheit) It's been absolutely lovely. I spent a couple of hours in the garden last night after dinner, enjoying the warmth (although I still wore a light jacket), and the lingering light. I picked the first four ripe strawberries and shared them with Tim. If the warmth continues, there will be more deliciousness to pick. 

Several months ago I mentioned that we took out a very tall cedar hedge. Since then, the plants growing in front of it have flourished like never before. The Siberian Irises are much taller, and white alliums bloomed for the first time in several years. I think the spate of blooms is due to more light and relief from the intense acidity of the hedge. 

My latest reading. Arctic Solitaire is the first person tale of a photographer in search of the perfect polar bear photos. He spent three summers in the northern reaches of Hudson Bay on a small boat. Bad weather, misunderstandings with local residents, and encounters with polar bears made for exciting times. 
A Long Shadow is an Ian Rutledge mystery and this one, like the others, is a satisfying story. 
The Diamond Eye drew me in immediately with the character of Lyudmila, a female sniper in the Russian army during World War II. The novel is based on a real-life character, and much of the story is historically accurate. I could barely put it down. It was made even more interesting by my own comparisons to the current war in Ukraine. 

In 1977, when we married, Tim's parents gave us a rocker-recliner chair for a wedding present. We chose blue upholstery and loved the chair for its comfort. It stayed at my parents' home during our years overseas, and was used very little then. The chair traveled from my parents' house to ours, then to our children's homes to nurse babies, and comfort ailing people. Finally, it came home to us once again, and we debated what to do with it. We've not been able to find anything as comfortable, and so we had it re-upholstered. The padding and cushioning is new, as is the grey/cream linen-blend fabric. It arrived yesterday and I love it. I hope it lasts many more years.

When we moved to this house 20 years ago, there was one rose bush, an unnamed, but prolific bloomer. It's always the first to show colour, and did so in the last 10 days. Mixed with a few late hellebore blooms, Lamb's Ears, and stalks of Blue Camas Lily, it makes a pretty bouquet. 

Here is Gertrude Jekyll, a David Austin rose, covered with tightly formed buds. If the warm weather continues I expect there will be a feast of beautiful pink blooms in the next week. Rain is also in the forecast, so things might be dicey on if the blooms open well. Gardening is always interesting, isn't it? 

I hope to get out into the garden this weekend, although there are several social events to attend, including a family party for a three-year-old and a 10-year-old celebrating birthdays. 

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-...