Tuesday, March 13, 2018

On a Quiet Evening

My bag had to be at school this morning, along with my sleeping bag, so that the vans could be packed. We will be driving, in 4 vehicles - 3 large vans and a small bus - for three long days to Mexico. I have a little tote bag and my pillow to take tomorrow. 

As part of the team of chaperones and drivers for this trip, I had to get my commercial driving licence. That meant a computer knowledge test (which I failed the first time because I didn't study enough about engines and torque and shifting), plus a driving test that included a vehicle inspection. That I did pass. Then, I needed a medical sign-off from my doctor assuring the licensing office that I was of sound mind and body. Also passed.

In a recent conversation with a friend, (actually, with more than one friend), she expressed both admiration and not a little horror that I would do such this - both go to Mexico and get my licence. To summarize what my friends said: "I've decided I'm too old to do things that are out of my comfort zone." 

My response is that I never want to feel so old that I'm not going to challenge myself. I am cognizant of my age and I won't be attempting foolish behaviour, such as bungee-jumping, but I'm not willing to stagnate. The students will have a day at Six Flags on the way home, but I won't be riding any roller coasters, thank you very much. 

I don't consider myself particularly adventuresome, and I often have to push through fear and worry to do the things I do. I pray. I trust God. I ask for strength to do whatever it is I need to do. 

On this quiet evening at home, I'm pondering a lot of things: a friend from my high school days is dying, and an uncle is also declining. Life is indeed uncertain, and all too short. Even as I write these words, I push away fear and uncertainty, entrusting my days and this trip to God's hands.

How do you feel about new experiences? Do you find that you sometimes have to acknowledge fear and then decide to not let it stop you?

Several weeks ago I mentioned a sewing challenge - 6 items in 6 weeks. I did finish. Tim took photos of me on Sunday afternoon when the sun shone beautifully warm. Yellow is out of my comfort zone, but I made the vest reversible in case I wanted to push myself a little. 

The family who live nearby came over on Sunday afternoon for a casual dinner. I've been wanting to try Brenda's Sour Cream Lemon Pie ever since seeing it on her blog. It was delicious and a big hit. Those pretty blue napkins are from my cousin from Wales who was here on a short visit and stopped in for breakfast on Saturday morning. They are from the Burleigh Pottery makers in England. 

The weekend's warmth and sunshine has dissolved into cooler temperatures and drizzly rain. I'll be at the school very early tomorrow morning as we plan to catch the first ferry off the island. The house is clean, there are some meals ready for Tim, and there's nothing left to do. 

I may not be able to blog much (or at all), but I'll look forward to reading your thoughts on my return.  

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On a Sunday in Spring

Charles Dickens knew spring well. He wrote, in Great Expectations "It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade." This was our weekend. Beautiful sunshine, but chilly air and when it blew, a biting wind. 

In the grounds of Government House all kinds of flowers are blooming in clumps and beds among the pathways and rocks. My camera worked overtime, finding colour and texture everywhere. 

The sun played peek-a-boo, but when it shone, how the light glowed among the petals.  

Not all is in bloom. The stark architecture of Garry Oaks reminds me that spring unfolds gradually.

Hellebores bloomed prolifically in the Lieutenant Governor's garden. I met her, Judith Guichon, walking with her dog, and we exchanged a smiling hello.

Warm yellow beehives stand off the beaten path. I studied them for a few moments and was happy to see a goodly number of bees flying about.

Today, Sunday, was warm and sunny. We switched to Daylight Savings Time last night. I think the combination of the mellow sunshine and the time change had us feeling a wee bit tired. Family came for Sunday supper and our children confessed to the same feelings. I'm not a fan of the time switch - choose one or the other and stick with it is my opinion. 

So many varieties of hellebores, and all of them beautiful. I've not had much success in keeping my plants alive and wonder what I'm doing wrong. Too dry in the summer? I'll be doing some research.

I'll be away from my blog for a few weeks, chaperoning a group of Grade 12 students who are going to a needy area in Mexico for a service project. We leave early Wednesday morning, in time to catch the first ferry at 7 am. By the time I return, I expect more spring growth to have burst out. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Gardens, Yogurt, and Tulips

Are the days and weeks flying by for you, too? Do you find it difficult to believe that it's March already? Tick, tick, tick. Time passes. Dull days have given way to a few with more sunshine. When I wander around the garden, I see more and more signs of life. It's so uplifting.

The daffodil bulbs planted last spring are spiky stalks with a few buds and one open flower. Pointed red ovals of peonies thrust upwards toward the sun. Lilac, blueberry, raspberry, and more show the promise of life. 

I mentioned making yogurt last week and a couple of readers asked for my recipe. It's not complicated, but I did a little research into why the process is as it is. 

Many recipes call for the milk to be heated to 175-180 degrees (Fahrenheit), then cooled to 110-120 F before adding the yogurt culture. I wondered why the heating was necessary because the milk is pasteurized. If you Google the question, you'll get lots of answers, some more scientific than others. Basically, though, 180 degrees is hotter than pasteurization, and the heating alters the proteins in the milk to enable the yogurt to become thick. I'm certainly no expert as I've just begun making it, but it's worked so far!  

Here's how I do it:

Heat the milk (I do 3-4 quarts at a time) in a heavy pot over medium heat until 175-180 degrees (Fahrenheit). 
I run a sink full of cold water and set the pot into the water and let it cool to 115 degrees or so.
In a small bowl or cup, mix 1/4 cup plain yogurt (I use organic) with a 1/4 cup of the cooled milk. Whisk well.
Add the yogurt mixture to the rest of the milk and stir. Pour into clean jars. Screw on the lids.
I set my jars into my electric oven, turn on the pilot light, and go to bed. In 7-8 hours the yogurt is done and ready to chill. You can leave it to culture longer for a tangier flavour. I've left mine up to 12 hours. 
It tastes best if allowed to chill before eating. 

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a short boating trip to take the boat to the marine shop. On Saturday we did the reverse trip. This long pier, seen from the water, caught my attention. 

Tulips are adding colour to the house these days. I do love pink flowers, particularly in the spring when I get tired of the grey weather. Soon there will be lots of colour outside; I can hardly wait.

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.  

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Warming meals and bright flowers

In contrast to last weekend away, this one, also delightful, was spent at home. I puttered in the kitchen on Saturday, making vegetable soup, yogurt, and cabbage rolls. 

Making yogurt is a new thing for me. I've been trying to minimize the plastic in our home; making yogurt eliminates a big tub every week. I use the oven light in my electric oven and it works so well and is so easy that I wish I'd started long ago. 

Chillier than normal temperatures persist and many pots of tea have been brewed. A jar of honey and a bowl of teabags is handy on the counter top, and a vase full of daffodils is a cheery sight. 

I'm realizing now the stress of an extremely challenging class last semester. My current classes are delightful and I come home with enough energy in the evenings to do something other than collapse. I'm sleeping better, too. Stress is an insidious drain on an individual's well-being.

We missed the snowfall that blanketed much of our province over the weekend. Instead, a chill wind blew, but Spring's imminent arrival is evident in fresh green shoots on various shrubs, and in the appearance of sharply pointed tulip, hyacinth, and daffodil bulbs in the garden. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Five on Friday

1. A cold snap arrived over the weekend and lingers on. Yesterday afternoon snowflakes wafted outside the classroom windows, distracting students and teachers alike. By late afternoon the snow was beginning to stick and this morning there was a fresh white blanket covering the ground. My little pot of spring bulbs didn't seem to mind the chilliness.

2. Beautiful pink streaked just above the horizon this morning. Each window had a different, and equally lovely view. I took this from a back bedroom, looking out over the Sooke Hills. 

Students were really distracted this morning and I think I earned a few points with my French 8s by letting them go play in la neige for the last 10 minutes of class. They were quite surprised when their teacher threw a few snowballs at them, and a few retaliated in kind. It was great fun. 

3. This is another photo from our little getaway last weekend. On China Beach this log looks to me like it bit off more than it could chew. That rock is firmly lodged and not going anywhere. 

4. This evening I made Ginger Snaps, the first in a long while. They come from an old cookbook - The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes, a forerunner of the Mennonite Girls Who Can Cook, perhaps. I like them because they are assertively ginger-flavoured and are crisp and snappy, but can soften to chewiness over time. I put the recipe below.

For a number of years, every time I baked these cookies I would package some up for Tim's mother. This is the first time I've baked them since she left us, and it made me a little sad. She liked them as I do, snappy! 

5. My Christmas cactus decided to bloom in January, and now in February, it has a few more blooms and is growing rapidly. I'm happy to see it flower whenever it chooses. 

Although the Five on Friday link up is no longer happening, the format is fun, as Brenda mentioned the other day. 

Tomorrow may bring more snow, or rain. Possibly some sun. The forecast is a mixed bag.

Here's the recipe for the ginger snaps:

2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
sugar for rolling the cookies

Mix the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg and molasses. Add the dry ingredients and mix well.

Form into small balls and roll in sugar. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool on rack. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Expect Changeable Weather

Birds, from top left Ruddy Turnstone (I think),  a pair of Wood Ducks, a quartet of American Wigeons with feathers ruffled by the wind, a pair of Buffleheads, and a trio of distant Harlequin Ducks
 My husband has been known to quote, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing." This weekend proved the veracity of that statement. We'd planned a little getaway, looking forward to plenty of walking/hiking on the coast. The weather report was grim: wind, rain, cold, possibly snow. 

We packed lots and lots of gear - rain coats to wear over fleece jackets, cashmere sweaters, silk undershirts (me), rain pants, down vests, and down puffy coats. Hats, scarves, gloves. Good thing it was just the two of us!

On Saturday morning we drove out to Sooke, to the southwest of the Island where the winds blow in freely from the Pacific. We walked along Whiffin Spit, a long, narrow curve of land protecting the Sooke Harbour from the wildest waves. Wind lashed the rain into our mostly covered faces, and blew us along the path. Coming back was a different story as we pressed against the wind to return to our car. 

The birds in the photos above didn't seem too bothered by the weather. The ducks bounced on top of the waves. Tim thought the group of four were probably on a double date. 

After eating lunch in a local bakery (fresh soup and bread), we drove to China Beach, one of the campgrounds along the Juan de Fuca Trail. After parking, and being surprised at the number of cars in the parking lot, we hiked down to the beach. About a dozen wet-suited surfers bobbed in the churning waves, waiting for that perfect moment to climb onto their boards and ride the ocean. Huge logs were tossed about like toothpicks. I wouldn't have wanted to be out there.

When we returned to Sooke, we checked into our hotel and relaxed in the hot tub. Our concierge advised us to make dinner reservations immediately as they expected a lot of local people that evening because of widespread power outages due to the storm. 

Dinner was delicious - a Steak Sandwich (knife and fork variety) with salad and wonderful crispy fries for Tim, and Wild Mushroom Gnocchi with Spinach and Garlic Cream for me. We shared a Chocolate Pate for dessert - rich, intense chocolate ganache with a bit of fruit sauce and whipped cream.  

Sunday morning dawned cold and windy. Any clouds in the sky were soon blown away. A bit of snow blew around and settled here and there. We enjoyed the sunshine and blue skies while eating Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Well fortified, we headed out again. No more need for rain gear, but we were very glad for our down winter jackets. 

We visited the small, but pretty Ed MacGregor Park in Sooke, where the camellias and rhododendrons are just beginning to bloom. A long boardwalk took us down to the ocean again, and we walked along the Rotary Pier, then back up via another trail. A few brave cherry blossoms shivered in the cold.  

Heading home again, we stopped at Matheson Lake for another hike along the lake edge, so different from the sea shore. Ferns in the snow, an old beaver dam, and dry grasses coloured our views. 

Home again now, and I feel like I've had the loveliest break. There's something about going away from home to a place where nothing reminds me of things that could be done, and there are no meals to plan or laundry to do. It was just one night, but so refreshing.

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.   

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Bright and Cold

When our temperatures hover around freezing here in the temperate rainforest, we call it cold. Those in more northerly regions scoff. Cold is a relative term. 

Spring is en route, but winter continues to hold sway. Frosty nights are followed by bright sunny days. It's enough for flowers to appear, such as the Henderson Shooting Stars above. The glow of colour in the background is a naturalized lawn of crocuses and shooting stars.

The crocuses are just beginning to open, tentatively unfurling a petal or two. 

In the late afternoon, a gnarled Garry Oak stands out against the clear sky. 

We walked quickly, for we had dressed according to the sunshine, not the temperature. Brrr. It was good to come indoors to the blast of warmth. 

Our Valentine celebration was a simple affair at home, made special by the effort of setting a table with a vintage tablecloth given to my in-laws on their wedding day 63 years ago today. China, crystal, and linen lift a meal to a celebration. 

Tonight we lingered over dessert (chocolate souffle cakes), tea, and candlelight, chatting together about the years we've spent together. No regrets at all about choosing each other.

One more bit of green - I do love moss. Happy Valentine's Day to each of my readers.