Thursday, April 18, 2024

A Bit of This and That


Off in the distance Mount Baker, in the USA, gleams in the sunlight. My best guess is that it's about 100 km away as the crow flies. To drive, it's 263 km, including a ferry ride. On Sunday afternoon we visited a new-to-us park, Mill Hill. The trail to the viewpoint was steep, but not too long. It's always good to stop and take photos along the way (and to catch my breath). 

I've been admiring (with some envy) photos of bluebell woods in England and Wales via social media. Then I realized that we have swaths of Blue Camassia (camassia quamash) currently covering sunny slopes with their star-shaped blossoms. A native perennial, the blue camas bulbs were an important food source for First Nations Peoples. On such a sunny day it was difficult to capture the fields with their haze of blue. 

Rhubarb is growing fast, as it always does in early spring. I've made this Rhubarb Cake twice already, once for coffee with neighbours and once for dessert with friends. It's so good, a seasonal treat. I know that I can freeze rhubarb and make it year round, but eating in season is appealing and there is always something to anticipate. It's a recipe from a cookbook printed in 1980, and I probably first made it within a year or two of that. Yikes. 

The sun's been shining although the wind is chilly. Every day seems to warm up just a bit more. I've been working in the garden, cleaning out a few beds, planting a few seeds, and pulling LOTS of weeds. This little patch of tulips with bluebells (not the English ones) underneath is a happy spot. One rogue orange tulip is determined to fit in. 

I recently read someone's thoughts about Artificial Intelligence - they thought real AI would be useful to do the dishes and the laundry so that we could spend time writing and doing art - it seems that AI isn't so good at the practical things, is it? Another person said that AI is really Artificial Plagiarism rather than Intelligence, for it can only produce from what humans input. I know that AI has its uses, and I'm happy for that - but I really hate the idea of creativity and hands-on work and art being replaced. Am I old-fashioned? Yes! 

We're off to the mainland for a few days to celebrate my father's 90th birthday. A milestone, for sure! 

Friday, April 12, 2024

On a Morning in Spring


"Nothing is so beautiful as Spring - 
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;"
Gerard Manley Hopkins

I awoke in the early morning darkness to the sound of gentle rain, promptly rolled over and awoke again, this time to light and the sound of merry birds singing their sunup songs. Breakfast was eaten while watching birds at the feeder and the delicate new birch tree leaves swaying ever so slightly in the breeze. The House Finch pair above puzzled me for a bit - usually the head of the male is a bright red whereas this one is orange. And still very pretty. Soon the lilacs will bloom, just a hint of them visible now. 

On a recent walk, I was delighted by a large and lovely patch of  Pacific Trilliums (trillium ovatum) in the woods, almost a carpet of them stretching in every direction in a clearing. A common name for this creamy white native flower is "Wake-Robin" for they appear when the first American Robins return from their winter getaway. How charming. 

Bright acid green maple panicles brighten a grey day. So hopeful. Don't they look almost like lilacs? We are fortunate to not be bothered by pollen (other than my husband complaining about it getting all over the car). When we walk by the water and look towards the land, this shade of green brightens the dark mostly coniferous forest. 

The Downy Woodpecker and his mate are regular visitors to our suet block. Soon we will stop putting out food for there is plenty to eat in the garden and we want to discourage the birds from devouring our blueberries later. Outside my window, at this very minute, gulls soar high in the sky, riding the thermal air currents. A tiny hummingbird sits at the very top of my neighbour's tree, visible across the fence. I see him turning his tiny head from side to side. Soon, I expect, he will zoom down, looking for food. Oh, there he goes in a blur of wings. 

Clouds of blue forget-me-nots bloom under the rose bushes with their new leaves. A peony leaf is seen in the background. I have one peony that appeared on its own and blooms much earlier than the others. It already has fat round buds with a hint of colour. 

In spring every bloom is cause for exclamation. They march in a reliable parade, first this one, then that one, each in their turn. Isn't it amazing?

No big plans for this weekend, although we are going out to a Persian restaurant with friends. Laundry, a bit of house-tidying, and I hope to spend a few hours in the garden for tomorrow sunny weather is predicted. 

I hope your days are filled with small delights. Happy Weekend!

Friday, April 05, 2024

Things I Like Today


It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.
J. R. R. Tolkien

In The Reading List, by Sara Nishi Adams, a found list of book titles inspires others to read and reflect. List-making has a curious appeal, a way of ordering tasks, grocery-shopping, or just for fun. Several weeks ago, Brenda posted a list of things she liked, and I am copying that idea today. This is a changeable list; if I wrote it tomorrow, it would surely be different. 

Things I like Today

Rain-washed mornings. Neatly folded laundry. 
Popcorn. Pink tulips. Freshly laundered sheets.
Perfect by Ed Sheeran. Fluffy towels. Chocolate. Hummingbirds.
Marching bands. Fresh mint. Walking barefoot in the house.
"One day, you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again." C.S. Lewis
Dorothy Sayers. Agatha Christie. Louise Penny.

Nachos with guacamole. Laughing so hard I can't talk. 
ABBA music for housecleaning. Reading. Writing. Singing.
Pretty tables. Butchart Gardens. Walking with friends.
Chicken noodle soup. Fresh bread.
"Tea! Bless ordinary everyday afternoon tea! Agatha Christie
Running hot water. Book of Psalms. Grace. 
Houseplants. Candleglow. 

Birch trees. Blizzards of blossom. Waves lapping on shore.
"little mannerly murmurs of daily life" Garrison Kiellor
Blue hyacinth scent. Roast chicken. Homemade jam.
Dabbling in watercolour. Sewing. Embroidery. Creating.
Conversations with my grandchildren. Silk. Hugs in the kitchen.

Writing notes by hand. Sharp pencils. Sky-blue. Turquoise. 
Navy Blue. Polka-dots. Swishy skirts. 
"Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine 
are hard to beat." Laura Ingalls Wilder
Louisa May Alcott. C.S. Lewis. L.M. Montgomery. 
Reflections. Woodland flowers. Mossy rocks.

A gently rocking boat. Cozy fires, gas or wood. 
Tidy kitchen counter tops. Presents. Books. Poetry.
"Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself
running with them." Marcus Aurelius 
Dinner with friends. Riesling. Quilts. Roses.

What do you like today? I'd love to know. All photos are from Butchart Gardens where I walked yesterday with a friend.

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

April Begins with Sunshine


I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter. I love the celebration of the Resurrection, full of hope and joy. 

We had a crowd over for dinner on Easter Sunday - 14 of us. The weather cooperated beautifully for an egg hunt before sitting down to the table. For the preceding weeks I saved all the egg shells I used, cracking just the tops and gently prying a minimum of shell loose - just enough that the egg could drop out. I rinsed the shells and then hot glued them together in a circle and filled each shell with water and a tiny posy. It's an idea I saw online. Simple and fun. 

"Spring is singing in my blood today, and the lure of April is 
abroad on the air. I'm seeing visions and dreaming dreams,...That's 
because the wind is from the west. I do love the west wind. It sings 
of hope and gladness..."
L. M. Montgomery

Fawn Lilies (erythronium) are blooming like stars in the woods. I've been taking more walks without my camera, but I was determined to capture these short-lived beauties, and off I set, my camera dangling by its strap. 

I must crouch low to the ground to capture the showy side of the lilies, for they are shy things. Do the insects crawling around underneath the lilies ever look up to see the intricate beauty above them? 

In the same patch of woods where the fawn lilies bloom, an old apple tree is just beginning to produce blossoms, and several unknown prunus trees are bright with creamy-petalled flowers filled with gold-tipped stamens. I stood under the tree looking up into the blue sky. A trio of Chestnut-Backed Chickadees flitted among the branches, not bothered by me at all. They were busy chattering to themselves, perhaps remarking on the warm afternoon, and where to find the best nest-building materials. 

I coloured eggs late last week, put them into a carton in the fridge, and promptly forgot about them. No pretty display this year. Yesterday I peeled some of them, halved them, and placed them on leftover roasted asparagus.

A warm Bechamel sauce and grated Gouda cheese covered the eggs nicely before sliding the dish into the oven. A perfect simple supper for the two of us, along with salad, and buttered carrots. 

I had my hair cut today and am so happy with my new hairdresser. She listens my inadequate explanation of what I want and then creates something lovely. My hair feels bouncy and alive. Isn't it amazing how our hair can influence the way we feel about ourselves and our day? 

"Spring has a special effect on us in the valley. The whole 
beautiful world invites us out, and we have an urge to wander. The gentle, rolling hills, the clear, winding brooks, the bright, rushing streams: all are filled with the rhythm of life and we 
move with it too."
Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Calendar

As Spring comes into her own in April, I wish you days of sunshine and increasing warmth, gentle rainfall, and not too much wind. That's what I'm wishing for myself, too. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

A Wander Through my Mind


Nothing is so beautiful as Spring - 
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Gerard Manley Hopkins

When I opened my bedroom curtains this morning the fat golden full moon looked at me directly, as if to say, "Wake up, sleepyhead!" Now I sit here at my computer looking out on a cloudy morning that will surely brighten. One fat robin, red breast highly visible, sits in the neighbour's blossoming plum tree. Daffodils are nearly finished, and hyacinths soon to follow. A dark-eyed junco perches on the deck railing. I see the tiniest buds of lilacs beginning to form. Hooray for spring flowers. 

I confess that Spring is not my favourite season. She's too capricious. On days when the sun shines warm, the wind blows chill. I welcome the change of seasons, and there is much to admire - emerging plants, the turtles sunning themselves on the log in the pond, blossoms galore, and the increasing light. On the flip side, one might wear a down jacket, a raincoat, and go sockless in sandals all in one week. Capricious!

"The world is full of peril and there are many dark places. But still, there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater."
J. R. R. Tolkien

I've been stuck for words lately. Feeling unmotivated. There are ideas bubbling up inside me that are looking for expression. I am learning to wait for them like bulbs forming roots before bursting into colour. I'm also leaning more and more into staying away from media that encourages short interactions, such as Instagram and Twitter, and instead enjoying the thoughtfulness of blogging. But have you experienced how addicting those short snippets of irrelevant information can be? I am taking back my time and hope that it will result in renewed motivation and creativity. 

"You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine."
Annie Dillard

This week is busy with wonderful things. We have a birthday to celebrate (Tim's), Good Friday to observe, and Easter dinner followed by an egg hunt in the garden (weather permitting). I sat down this morning and made a lovely long list of tasks that I will enjoy ticking off one by one. 

I'll leave you with one little Easter memory. We usually visited my grandparents' home on Easter and Grandma had a special large chocolate egg hidden for each grandchild. I was the eldest and no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find my egg. I found my sister and brother's eggs, and those of the cousins, but not my own. As I became more and more frustrated, my Grandma told me gently that since I was the eldest my egg was hidden in a more difficult place, and that I had done well in helping the younger children find their eggs. I don't remember where the egg was finally hiding, but I do remember Grandma's encouragement. 

Then there was the time I got stuck in the outhouse at my other grandmother's farm home while wearing my new Easter dress - a pale yellow linen dress with a hand-embroidered daisy on the shoulder. My mother made us new dresses every Easter and every Christmas. No matter how I loudly I hollered no one came to my rescue. They were all busy eating dinner and visiting indoors. I finally managed to pry the door open and escaped, thinking I had been gone for ever so long only to discover that no one had missed me. 

So that was two little Easter memories. Now it's time to tackle that list of tasks. Have a most wonderful day, and I'd love it if you shared any Easter or spring memories of your own. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Spring of Deception


Unseasonably warm and pleasant temperatures have everyone outdoors. Over the past four days I've gardened, walked along the water, kayaked, and hiked a coastal trail. We all know this false spring won't last, but we're making the most of it. 
Yesterday Tim and I hiked part of the Coast Trail, a rugged path overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It's one of our favourite places, a bit rugged with lots of uneven rocks to scramble over, and gorgeous ocean and mountain views at every turn. 

We met a number of people on the trail, all enjoying this wonderful weather. While walking we both go at a good pace, but we stop frequently to admire sights along the way. One of these serendipitous discoveries yesterday was a patch of Henderson Shooting Stars (dodecathedron hendersonii). It was the only patch I found, a little off the beaten path where we paused to watch a quartet of Black Oystercatchers.

The four of them (only two visible in the photo) were obviously in a meeting of some sorts, taking turns to whistle shrilly at each other through their long red beaks. Things calmed down when two left and only two remained. 

We'd packed a lunch and ate while stretched out on a rock shelf warmed by the sun. What a view!

On the way back we smelled it before we saw it - Skunk Cabbage (lysichiton americanus) - smells exactly like its name. It grows in wet areas and is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring. Do you have Skunk Cabbage in your area? In the eastern part of the continent I understand it's purple, not yellow. 

We met an elderly man walking with his dogs on the trail back to our car. He asked if we had seen the rock walls said to have been built by two women over a period of time, before he moved to the area in 1977. We'd never heard of it, but after he told us how to get there, we took a short detour. There are probably 100 feet of dry stone walls 1-2 feet tall meandering over the hillside in graceful curves. Now moss-covered, no one really knows their history. A puzzle indeed. 

The sun is calling me again. Tomorrow things will cool again, but what a treat to have enjoyed these pleasant days. 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Life These Days


I only listen to the radio while driving. Occasionally I'll sit in the driveway for a few moments to finish a segment. Last Saturday I heard that multiple ferry crossings were cancelled due to an impending windstorm. Tim thought it would be a fine idea to go down to the breakwater and watch the waves. So we did. 

This gull perched on the breakwater railing looked for the waves just as we did. Instead, the seas were calm. The evening was lovely, with pinkish skies, little wind, and few people. I think they were all at home because of the windstorm. Out in the strait two large ships sat at anchor. We watched another round the point and slide into the strait, a container ship headed back across the Pacific. 

As we were leaving, a pilot boat left the harbour. We guessed that it was headed for the container ship. Ships coming through the Gulf Islands from Vancouver must have a pilot who is familiar with these waters on board. Once a ship is in the strait, no pilot is needed, and are taken off the ship to return home. As we walked back to the car the pilot boat zoomed across the water and slid in beside the container ship. We were too far away to see the pilot descend into the boat, but soon the boat returned to shore. 

And the wind? It showed up later that evening, howling and whistling around the corners of the house. Fierce indeed. 

A grocery store handful of tulips is nearing its end. I cut off the stems a couple of times as they grow and grow into ungainly length. My parents visited this week and we enjoyed a drive up island and lunch out. We'd hoped it would be overlooking the water, but instead we overlooked a yellow digger working beside the water. 

I made a couple of rice bags for friends this week. Heated in the microwave, they are warm and comforting when one feels chilled or has a sore neck or back. One friend is having work done on her house and has no heat in her bedroom. I suggested taking the heated bag to bed with her, as I do if it's very chilly out. I make the bags from flannel or linen, and then make a cover for them for laundering. 

We are expecting a sudden rise in temperature over the next few days and I am thrilled. I'm looking forward to getting out in the garden a bit. That's life around here these days - pleasant and ordinary. Filled with small pleasures. How are things in your corner? 

Saturday, March 09, 2024

Friday Favourites on Saturday


Spring is slow to arrive. We've had a week with rain, wind, and snow, and hail. And a wee bit of sunshine that I captured as it cast wonderful shadows on the living room mantel. We're happy for all the moisture as it means snow in the mountains that will feed the streams and rivers later on. I am looking forward to warmer weather, though, and am itching to get out into the garden more. We've begun pruning and trimming and I cleaned up one section of the vegetable garden. 

It's been a quiet week of ordinary things, minutes and hours and days falling gently upon each other, piling up in contentment and satisfaction. Here are a few things that have delighted me this week:

- The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams 
I highly recommend this book about books 
and the power of reading

- prunus tree blossoms, pink and white and oh, so frothy

- homemade sourdough bread

- bright patches of yellow daffodils seen from my 
kitchen window

- a little spring cleaning, so satisfying to see tidy shelves and cupboards

A bit of indoor gardening. Basil is leafing out nicely under lights and I'll likely be potting it up this next week.

And finally, one little incident that tickled my sense of humour. When I remember the linens at my grandmothers' homes, I remember how soft the sheets and pillow cases were. Soft and oh, so thin. This week, while changing pillow cases, one case split wide, and I laughed to think that I now had those same soft, thin linens. It's time for a bit of a refresh, I think. 

Tonight the clocks spring forward, not my favourite thing. There's talk of stopping it, but who knows if or when that will actually happen. Meanwhile, we'll change all the analog clocks and the digital ones will take care of themselves.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, March 01, 2024

Friday Favourites


On the sunniest day of the week we went for a little hike. The trail to McKenzie Bight is not long and it's easy going down, but one has to remember that going back it's uphill all the way. We were glad for our jackets and hats. A sharp wind took away much of the sun's warmth. Buffleheads and Surf Scoters bobbed in the water and took off in a hurry when a seal appeared. Gulls soared on the air currents.

Sunlit filtering through the trees is so lovely. And I think my husband is a fine sight, too. He likes to carry his pack even on short hikes, for practice. He's taken to carrying a extra pounds - of water in a jug -  just for the exercise. 

We found a shelf to sit on, slightly sheltered from the wind, and admired the wind ruffling the waves while we drank our tea. That's a very old thermos - he's had it since high school. The cup that comes along with it cracked and split so we bring along other drinking vessels. 

On another day, a friend came for coffee. I made orange scones that disappeared quickly. To a regular scone recipe I added about 2 teaspoons of grated orange rind, and then made a thin glaze with orange juice and icing sugar. 

I couldn't resist this bouquet of white tulips and blue hyacinths. They were tightly closed a few days ago, and now the tulips are almost done while the hyacinths emit their sweet fragrance. The hyacinths in my garden are barely visible, but soon they too will bloom. It's March and spring can't be far away in spite weather that ranges from hail to rain to snow and sun. 

Have a beautiful weekend!

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Tell Me What You Read


"I declare after all there is no enjoyment 
quite like reading."
Jane Austen

In my last post I mentioned a book list posted by Brenda of It's a Beautiful Life. I've had a fun couple of days pondering my own responses to her prompts, and here they are. I'd love to read your book choices, too, either in the comments or on your own blog. Or even your answers to one or two of the prompts. 

1. A favourite (or two or three) from your childhood: The Bobbsey Twins series, Nancy Drew series, Eight Cousins and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Nurses Who Led the Way, The Secret Garden, Pippi Longstocking

2. A book you read once that you can't stop thinking about: Time at the Top by Edward Ormondroyd - This was my first foray into time travel and it fascinated me. The book had an unusual yellow binding so it was easy to find on the O shelf in our school library. I did read it many times, not just once, and still think about it from time to time. 

3. One book that shaped your life: Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer

4. A book you couldn't put down: Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams

5. A book that deepened your thinking: Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, A Long Obedience by Eugene Peterson

6. A book with a favourite heroine: I've always liked Emily, found in L. M. Montgomery's books. Emily of New Moon is a more complex character than Anne of Green Gables, much as I admire Anne.

7. A book that creates a safe place when you need rest in your soul: Anything by Miss Read

8. A book that lifts your spirits and makes you feel happy: The Enchanted April, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

9. Something you want to read but haven't got to it yet: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I've read others of his, but not that one.

10. A book you like to read over and over: Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier in the summer, and Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher in the winter. 

11. A book you just finished and loved: Startle and Illuminate: Carol Shields on Writing by her daughter and grandson, Anne Giardini and Nicholas Giardini

12. A book you just started and already know you like: Not sure what to answer here. I just started a so-so book, but I'm picking up The Reading List by Sarah Nisha Adams at the library tomorrow and I'm looking forward to that one. 

"The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched 
the patches of the universe into one garment for us."
Faber in Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Quiet Rain on Sunday Afternoon


Outside my window: Rain blew against the windows much of the night and into today. Trees still toss outside and the rain is a fine mist that comes and goes. Patches of yellow daffodils dot the brown garden, bright and cheery on a dull-sky day. Those patches increase every year as I plant a few more bulbs each spring. I really must take a photo to see just where those clumps will appear, for in the autumn planting season there is no sign of them at all.

I am thinking about books. My friend Brenda put up a post sharing some of her favourite books on a variety of topics and encouraged her readers to create their own lists. I'll likely put up a post later this week. I shudder to think of a life without books. 

One of my favourite things is a quiet Sunday afternoon, like today. I feel no compunction to accomplish anything. As a child, Sundays were for church in the morning followed by a lovely dinner often shared with company. Sometimes I would invite a friend to spend the afternoon and we would play quietly with paper dolls, colouring, or creating something. We couldn't be too boisterous. After a simple supper we would return to church for the evening service and my friend would go home with her family. 

Morning church is still a part of our weekly routine that I very much enjoy and look forward to. However, the custom of inviting people for dinner has disappeared, unless we invite family. After I had children I wondered who on earth thought that a 7 pm service on a Sunday evening was a good idea. Keeping little ones up past their bedtime made for a terrible Monday. I'm very glad that evening services have also gone by the wayside. 

In my garden the peonies are beginning to push up from the ground. It's amazing to think of the potential in those small red buds. Soon elegantly ruffled pink and white peonies will nod in the sunshine. Such a delight to anticipate. 

Now the creamy white Hellebores bloom and a hint of the dark pink variety are seen in the background. I love the way they bloom on and on until the days are sunny and warm. 

It makes me smile to watch the birds at the feeder and suet block. There is a Downy Woodpecker couple who come regularly, never at the same time, he with his red head-patch, and she without. Do they have a nest nearby? I wonder. A Chestnut-backed Chickadee contorts to get the best position for feeding. 

I am finding beauty in the papery dried tulip petals from a bunch I had last week. I let them dry in the vase knowing that a work of natural art would result. And so it did. 

In the kitchen I'm planning to make Mary Berry's Chicken and Herb Casserole, found on Jan's blog. Alongside I'll make rice to soak up all the lovely sauce, and some broccoli and cauliflower, along with a salad. 

I am reading a lot of non-fiction these days. Memoirs, mostly as I plug along with my own attempt. 

Thank you for reading along today. It's time for me to start some dinner preparations. 

Have a beautiful week. 

A Bit of This and That

  Off in the distance Mount Baker, in the USA, gleams in the sunlight. My best guess is that it's about 100 km away as the crow flies. T...