Friday, April 26, 2024

Friday Favourites


Today I awoke to the soft beat of rain punctuated by a chorus of birds singing their morning songs. It's a soft rain, soaking into the welcoming earth. With the rain warmer temperatures are here and I've been putting my tomato plants outside each day. 

The lilacs are opening and look beautiful with raindrops hanging like crystals. I love the scent of lilacs, do you? They are such old-fashioned flowers, and the bushes live for a very long time, often outliving the houses they were planted near, a testament to someone who craved a bit of beauty. 

I am thinking about a question I read recently - "What do you look forward to each day?" I confess that I mostly go about my days not anticipating very much, but taking each moment as they come. I think there are many pleasant moments in my days, but I let them pass by without acknowledging them. I don't want merely to look back and see them, but to anticipate moments with a small, or large, measure of excitement. These things don't have to be amazing or momentous, but they should fill me with a bit of joy. For example, I have one square of dark 78% chocolate after lunch and another after dinner. Looking forward to that melting bit of richness will only add to the delight of it. 

I am thankful that my dad's 90th birthday party was a great success. We had an open house for friends, neighbours, and extended family, followed by a dinner with my siblings, and their children and grandchildren. Four generations, in all, about 36 of us. Not all could make it. Dad was very pleased, as was my mother. Katie, our daughter-in-law, made the beautiful cake. 

I am doing a bit more sewing these days, using up fabric. Hopefully I'll finish a few things soon and show you what I've made. It's always more fun starting projects, I find, than finishing them. 

I am reading The Secrets of Winter by Nicola Upson. There are several books in the series; this is not the first. If I like it I'll order the remainder in order from the library. It's a mystery set in the years between the First and Second World Wars, portraying the writer Josephine Tey in a fictional setting. 

In my kitchen today I roasted a chicken and am now simmering the carcass for stock. I do love making soup. The one pictured is a beef vegetable soup with ground beef, onion, carrot, green beans, rutabaga, tomatoes, and oregano. Soup-making is a creative venture. I made Vanilla Pudding to use up egg yolks I had in the fridge. Iris and Cora will enjoy it when they visit this afternoon. 

In the garden, besides the lilacs, pink rhododendrons, tulips, and bluebells provide colour. With all the rain everything looks fresh and vibrant. 

How are things in your corner? Is your garden coming awake? 

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. 

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-...