Friday, July 21, 2017

Rambling Here and There

On Saturday, the wind blew in from the Pacific; a steady stream that boded ill for the wildfire situation in the interior of the province. The fires continue and about 45,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. We here on the Island are a bit distant, but no less concerned. Thankfully, no lives have been lost.

Saturday evening Tim and I went downtown. It's fun to mingle with the tourists and walk along the waterfront. The world comes to Victoria in the summer, via cruise ships, bus tours, and independent travelers. We welcome them. Dinner, for us, was at a favourite Mexican restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf, a bustling community where commercial fishermen dock their boats, people live on float houses, and a number of great seafood restaurants ply their wares. Combine that with live entertainment and the dramatic skies seen above, plus fish tacos, for the makings of a fun and casual evening.

On Sunday evening friends came for dinner. A pitcher of mint-raspberry water was both pretty and delicious. Next time, I'll put the raspberries in overnight - by the next morning the water was delicate pink with a marked taste of fresh raspberries. 

Paella was on the menu. One of my friends wanted to learn how to make it, so we worked together, chopping, sauteeing, and stirring. It turned out very well and the six of us went through an amazing amount of it. 

I went to Butchart Gardens two days in a row - once where I met a friend (previous post), and the second day with a favourite little man. I use my annual pass well. Mr. F's mother used to work at the gardens and, as a result, has a lifetime pass, so the gardens are very familiar to Mr. F.

He was quite clear on what he wanted to see. "I want to see the (s)pitting frog. I want to see the (s)pitting snail. I want to see the garden in a big hole (sunken garden). I want to see the (s)pitting dragon." So we crisscrossed the gardens to see what we wanted, without following much of the prescribed route. In the Japanese Garden, we walked over bridges and stepping stones, circling back around to do it all over again. Several times. All the (s)pitting things (s)pitted admirably. 

He drops the initial s and it makes me smile.

Backtracking a little to Sunday afternoon - we went blueberry picking. We eat a lot of them, mainly with yogurt or granola in the winter. Our bushes can't provide enough for us, so we went to a U-pick farm, and picked 40 pounds. They are all in the freezer now. 

Fresh dill and pickling cucumbers at the market inspired me to put up a few quarts of dill pickles.

I rambled around my garden this morning, admiring the flowers, the bees in the lavender, the squash flowers and small fruits. The sweet peas are gorgeous this year and I keep them blooming by clipping regularly. It's a double win - sweetly scented bouquets in the house and more blooms in the garden. 

The sweet peas at Butchart Gardens are also doing well. I overheard some visitors saying, "oh, let's pick one and eat it," so I cautioned them that they are not edible. 

There's been some reading. Armchair travel via the two bottom books, and light mysteries via the first two. I can't decide if I like Dominic LeJeune, the protagonist of this series. He's a bit too moody.

The week also included tea with a cousin. She and I are both fond of blue. So I end this rambling post with a blue hydrangea blossom. The weekend holds ramblings of a different sort. How about you? Have you rambled near or far?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Floral Bliss in a Large Garden

Since I didn't seem to be accomplishing too much at home this afternoon, I decided to take my camera to Butchart Gardens. En route, while waiting to turn left, I glanced at the car to my right and encountered a friend. A quick chat and Sandi met me at the gardens for a stroll. 

This is, of course, the time of year when many, many people from all over the world visit the gardens. I enjoy mingling with the crowds and hearing all the different languages. Everyone, it seems, loves flowers.

Bees, of course, thrive on flowers. The dahlias are just beginning to bloom and this particular bee is very happy about that.

A richly coloured Black-eyed Susan (I think) grew in a raised bed at my eye level. Blue eyes met Black eyes..

Every rose bush is blooming with colour. I particularly like the pink of the Frederic Mistral rose above.

The Butchart's home (now a tea-house and restaurant) seen from the Rose Garden.

Arches in the Rose Garden are appropriately covered with roses, great sprawling bunches of them.

For more wonderful floral photos, visit Floral Bliss, a link up hosted by Riitta in Finland.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Abandoned Dreams

One might think, traveling off the beaten path, that few people have been to certain places. But up and down this coastline of ours, all 27,200 kilometres (16,900 miles) that wind in and out of deep inlets and fjords, and around some 40,000 islands, big and small, one finds evidence of past human activity. 

Midden beaches mark the spots where First Nations harvested shellfish. Crumbling villages and rotting totem poles are all that remain from many settlements. 

From the nearer past, boarded up and falling down structures are all that's left of many people's dreams. On Tumbo Island, accessible only by boat, a house, a barn, and a tottering stone chimney bear silent witness to someone's hopes. 

Whoever lived in this cabin planted a couple of rosemary bushes that are now sprawling wildly. I picked a few sprigs and took them back to the boat. That same someone planted lavender, too, whose long spires were busy with bees. 

And who chose the colour of this door? She, or he, and I have something in common - an attraction to rosemary and lavender, this pretty blue - yet I know nothing of her. No name remains, only silent buildings and overgrown plants. 

Historical records tell us that the island was once used for coal mining (too deep), fur farming (mink and foxes), and that Chinese immigrants who worked in the mines grew a large market garden and rowed (!) the produce across the Strait of Georgia to White Rock (about 20 miles). 

An abandoned rowboat bakes in the sun. The island is now a park, although a small section is still privately owned and occasionally occupied. Remote settlements such as this became more rare as fishing and logging were commercialized and single operators just couldn't make a living.

It's a quiet place to visit. The big pleasure boats don't stop here, as the anchorage is shallow and crisscrossed by shallow reefs. Across the Strait, the densely occupied BC and Washington coastlines are visible, and tanker boats and container ships sail by regularly, but Tumbo and Cabbage Islands drowse in the sun, hardly noticed by civilization.

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cruising Down Memory River

Just one year ago we were in Europe. I've been reading my travel journal, remembering, and enjoying the trip all over again. Today's post features photos taken during our Avalon river cruise up the Seine. I can't say enough good things about the cruise. It's a good thing we can enjoy it over and over again in memory. The sunflower bloomed in Monet's Garden. 

Close to where our ship docked in Vernon, this house, bordering on the river, had an "Â vendre" sign out front. The gate was open, and the front door, so my friend and I walked into the garden and up the stairs. We were not quite brave enough to walk in the door, but we did peer in a little. Were we brash? The idea of purchasing such a house and renovating it occupied an hour or two of pleasant conversation later. Our husbands were not so enthralled with the idea. 

Wrought iron fences are a weakness of mine, and this one, painted robin's egg blue, went to the top of the list. 

I think my favourite colour is blue. (Any family members reading this are rolling their eyes and saying, "duh.") Isn't this the prettiest window? Blue gingham curtains with a little ruffle, blue shutters, and a pot of white flowers. It just makes me sigh with satisfaction. 

Church steeples dominated the landscape of each village. There is such disdain for the Church in many places today, yet people forget that without it, much of our knowledge would have been lost, health care would not be where it is today, and society would be very different. I'm not excusing the injustices and atrocities committed, but I think that modern society has lost its compass. We have become so arrogant that we believe we hold all the answers ourselves. It doesn't seem to be working so well.

The old mill of Vernon straddles two piers of an ancient bridge. The waterwheel is long gone, but the mill has been preserved. It likely dates from the 16th century, and was painted by Claude Monet. An engraving of the mill is featured on the postal stamp of Vernon. 

The food on the Avalon Creativity was amazing! There was no standing in line at buffets, but instead very civilized dining with various beautifully presented courses, served by attentive waiters as the ship sailed along the river. Buffets were available for breakfast and lunch, but with only 80 people aboard, there was never a wait. 

There were always several choices on the menu, including vegetarian options. What really tickled my fancy was the option for a cheese course instead of dessert. The cheeses and accompaniments varied every night. Oh my, they were delicious!

One last photo of Monet's house as seen from the garden. 

Do you make vacations last long after your return home? What makes a vacation memorable for you? 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Home Keeping

I love teaching, and I also love puttering at home. Balancing the two takes effort. Summers are wonderful times to do the things I don't have the time or energy for in other seasons. 

Tea on the patio with raspberry scones felt like a luxury. I'm planning to do more of this.

On the last day of our boating trip, we met these sweet faces (and their father - their mother was working) at the dock and took them to Sidney Island for a few hours. They were quite intrigued with the little dinghy bobbing along behind the boat. I suggested a little rowing excursion. This is a new-to-us dinghy and the oars are MUCH longer than the old ones. I'm having a hard time getting coordinated and our trail through the water looks quite wobbly. One of my passengers inquired why we were going so slowly! I thought I was doing well just to get back to the boat!

Anyone want kale? The garden is producing mountains of it. I'm thinning the plants and making kale chips (no substitute at all for potato chips), kale gratin, kale salad, etc. I asked our neighbour if he would like some and the answer was an emphatic "no!" 

My parents grew a large garden in my younger years and as I shelled those few peas in the container above, I thought about shelling peas as a child. My father put up the old canvas camping tent and we used it for shade while shelling. I've decided that frozen peas are just fine and I won't be growing peas anymore.  

Our temperatures are pleasant - they could be a wee bit warmer for my liking, but I'm particular, according to Tim. Eating outside makes a simple meal almost party-like. 

Making bouquets from the garden is another luxury. The lace cap hydrangea bush is finally doing something after poking along for a couple of years. I look around to see what's doing well and cut a few stems, then plunk everything together - in this case, roses and asters.

Trying out new recipes is fun, especially when they are as easy as this one. I saw it on Madonna's blog Make Mine Lemon, and adapted the flavours a little. Well, a lot, because I wanted to use what I had. And it was delicious!

A couple of years ago Tim and I made a little tent for one of the grandchildren. We just finished another one for a little man who's been requesting one. He'll be coming over to spend the day tomorrow and will see it then. 

En route to Cabbage Island on our boating trip last week, we spent a night in Bedwell Harbour. The resort there is a lovely place for a getaway - we've gone in early spring and thoroughly enjoyed it. The way it glowed in the setting sun is magical. 

The light also reminds me of the precarious situation that many residents of our province are facing with wildfires. One of my cousins has been evacuated from her home, and many are on alert. Over 400 square kilometres of land has been scorched, and 14,000 people displaced from their homes. A state of emergency has been called. Several homes have burned to the ground. The Island is not affected, but there is concern everywhere. This situation came about very suddenly as the temperatures rose and dry lightning strikes lit the dry forests. We are all praying for heavy rain with no lightning. 

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Off the Beaten Path

We had planned an extended boating trip for these first two weeks of July, however, with Tim's mother's passing, we had no time to get ready, and no real energy for the trip. Tim canceled all but one week of vacation and will take more later. Instead, after taking care of things here in the garden for a few days, we took a short jaunt to Cabbage Island Marine Park.

En route we saw seals, cormorants, bald eagles, and of course, plenty of gulls. 

Situated on the western edge of the Strait of Georgia, it's a bit off the beaten path. Reef Harbour lies between Cabbage Island (very small) and Tumbo Island (not quite so small). The islands are long and thin, and there are many rocky reefs to navigate. We paid close attention to our charts while the boat was pushed and pulled by strong currents. 

The first day there we hiked around Cabbage Island; it's about a kilometre - very short. The next day we visited Tumbo Island for a longer hike (about 5.5 km). We circled this beautiful bay with views to Mount Baker in the USA. Stunning, and almost tropical - in looks - the water was chilly!

A salt-water marsh to the left of the bay is home to many Canada Geese. This little family was out for a casual paddle.

When the parents saw us approaching, the goslings circled close to their mother while the father placed himself between his family and the perceived threat.

Beautiful Mount Baker seen from Reef Harbour. We could see across the Strait of Georgia to White Rock, BC, and towns in Washington State that we couldn't identify. One night, in the evening, as we were preparing for bed, we heard loud booms. Fireworks! It was July 4th! We saw a great show all along the beaches of Washington State, exploding light after exploding light, one after another, for at least 45 minutes. Beautiful! And no crowds!

Sunset over Cabbage Island. It was a welcome and needed break. Do you like to go off the beaten path? 

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

Sunday, July 02, 2017

From Here and There

On our way home from Alberta this past week, we stopped for a picnic lunch at Hemlock Grove in Canada's Glacier National Park. The boardwalk is a short loop through the forest, over a stream, and a good place to stretch one's legs after hours in the car. 

A marmot showed up for the picnic, but he didn't want to eat anything we had (we didn't offer). He posed prettily for his photo, standing up straight and tall.

We traveled through several mountain ranges, although it's difficult to tell where one ends and another begins. It's wave after wave of beautiful peaks, fast-running streams and green coniferous forests.

Victoria to Red Deer is 1200 kilometres, and we make very few stops. These photos were all taken from the car. 

I'm always in awe of the early explorers and engineers who envisioned railways and roads through these mountains. What a daunting task.

I've been spending hours in the garden since our return. Thinning, pruning, weeding, deadheading. It's satisfying work. Raspberries are in season and we're enjoying them each day, as well as freezing some for the winter. 

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