Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Home and Garden

I awoke early this morning and quietly dressed and slipped outside to potter in the garden for a few minutes before breakfast. I pulled up the sweet peas that were so pretty and fragrant for so long, but are now a tangled mass of brown vines. Later in the day, I took my camera out and watched a pair of white butterflies flit among the lavender.

A friend gave us a pot of Balloon Flowers (platycodon) that put out bloom after bloom. I'm hoping to do some moving of plants in a week or two and am thinking about where I will place this one. 

Dahlia bloom in perfect symmetry. My dahlias didn't survive our cold and prolonged winter (I didn't lift the tubers), but there was a bag of free tubers in the staff room at school one day, so I took a few, not knowing what would result. These make me very happy. I'm glad they aren't orange!

And another luck-of-the-draw dahlia. They are tall, with spindly stems, but seem strong and aren't drooping at all.

Cosmos growing alongside bright white phlox. This year, the white seems whiter, or perhaps I'm just noticing it more. The blooms stand out so well against our green cedar hedge. 

Faded blue hydrangea blossoms are just as pretty now as when they were bright blue. Each bush is changing in different ways, but all the colours are becoming mellow as they absorb the waning summer sun.

A dozen or so figs found their way into the kitchen this morning. I'm trying to use up supplies just now, before going grocery shopping, so I tried to think what I could make with them. I remembered a fig flatbread that Mary of A Breath of Fresh Air had mentioned, so I looked up some recipes on line. There was some pizza dough in the freezer; I pulled it out and put it on the sunny front porch to thaw. 

I used this recipe as a base. There were enough figs and dough for two flatbreads; both have figs and caramelized onions. One has blue cheese and was drizzled with balsamic reduction and sprinkled with basil leaves.

The second flatbread was topped with cranberry goat cheese. They were both good, but I preferred the blue cheese and Tim preferred the cranberry goat cheese. 

Did you notice the cutting board in the above photo? It's shaped like a book and the title is "Romeo and Julienne." A fun gift.

It's hard to believe we're heading into the last half of August. This has been a different sort of summer, with several shorter trips that make it seem as though I'm always packing or unpacking. The garden has not received as much attention, nor have I accomplished nearly what I'd hoped in terms of house projects. Ah well, there's still a bit of time before school begins. I'll only be teaching afternoons this year, which will free me up considerably. 

"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." Henry James 

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Weekend on Wallace Island

Our little hippie boat takes us to some wonderful places. Wallace Island, not too far away, is one. This was another of someone's dreams - the Conovers wanted to establish a resort on the island. They did, but events conspired to make it a short-lived dream, and the island is now a park. 

Our youngest and her husband came along. They pitched a tent on shore and came aboard for meals. We walked the length of the island, chatting all the while. A good way to spend time together. 

The rusted pick up truck makes a picturesque, if uncomfortable (no seats, just springs) photo booth. 

A heron in Princess Cove had good luck fishing while we watched. 

The contrast between the reddish thin skin of a peeling arbutus tree and the smooth, pale green trunk underneath fascinates me.

Starfish disappeared from our coasts several years ago. They are making a slow, but steady comeback. We look for them along the tide lines, curled together just under water or sprawled on barnacled rocks. This particular variety comes in both orange and purple; we see more of the purple ones.

Our three kids and their families have a bit of a running joke about "making it on to the blog." The adults think they've been completely upstaged by the children, and perhaps they have. I find it quite funny.

So thanks for coming out with us, Ashley and Owen, and here you are - on the blog!

Photos have been difficult with the smoke blanketing the skies these past few weeks. On Saturday the winds shifted and the skies began to clear. 

After the short trip pictured in this post, Tim and I spent one night at home, restocked the boat and set off for a week of adventuring. It was a lovely getaway time, and I'll write more later. 

Today was spent doing laundry, picking green beans, zucchini, and the first tomatoes. I deadheaded the rose bushes and pulled a few weeds. Tomorrow will be a little more of the same. I hope to get caught up with reading about my blogging friends' activities, too. It's been awhile. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Beginning of August

What is it about music that so draws us in and can take us back over the years? Any genre will instantly evoke memory: the 1970s song "California Dreaming" takes me back to high school, hymns such as "Great is Thy Faithfulness" take me back to being a child sitting on a hard pew, Spanish hymns remind me of Ecuador days, "Moonlight Sonata" has me subconsciously measuring the tempo as I once did when learning to play it on the piano, and so on. 

Last Saturday Tim and I drove up to Chemainus Theatre for "Rock Legends" featuring the music from 1955 to 1975. I was surprised that I knew, if not all the words, certainly the tunes to all but one of the songs. Oh, it was fun!

One of the songs was from the group Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Randy Bachman currently lives on Saltspring Island, not far from us. Tim leaned over during the song and said to me, "Randy Bachman uses the same hearing aid clinic I do." And we giggled like teenagers.

In the garden, green beans are producing. This is the third picking, now tucked away into the freezer. Tonight's dinner will be a Salade Ni├žoise with more green beans. The zucchini is beginning to bear, as well. 

Concord grapes are fattening nicely. This is just the second year for the vines and we're pleased about the number of grape clusters. 

Tomatoes are slow this year. These are not ours. Summer calls for sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a sprinkling of basil leaves. 

We're in the midst of a heat wave and meal preparation is kept to a minimum. Lots of fresh salads and grilled meat. 

New blooms continue to form on the hydrangeas, even as other blooms fade. 

Wildfires have been burning in the province for quite some time now. This week, the winds changed to an outflow from the interior and our skies are layered with smoke. The hazy sunset last night was almost invisible because of the smoke. Visibility is greatly reduced.

As the sun drifted down it became less and less visible. You can see the line of smoke at the bottom of the sun in the photo above. Within a few moments the smoke obliterated it.

We thankful for crews from other parts of Canada, and Mexico and Australia who are helping fight the fires. My cousin was able to return to her home, and it's intact. 

In family news, one little grandchild has chicken pox (in spite of a vaccination), and is recovering nicely. We're hoping her brother escapes the virus. We're getting ready for a boating trip this weekend with our youngest daughter and husband. And finally, it's August. That came quickly. I'm not ready for summer to end, but I was in the store today and saw autumn decor. Horrors! I love autumn, but let's enjoy summer for it's all too short. 

How do things look in your world at the beginning of August? 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

New Westminster's Waterfront

Last weekend, before the anniversary party, we spent a day in New Westminster, part of Greater Vancouver, BC. The town stretches along the Fraser River, and continues to be an important shipping port. The north side of the riverfront has been revitalized; a long walkway extends beside the water, with pretty housing, flower beds and baskets, and lots of bird life.

Above you can see a heron, the walkway, a CPR train (we had to cross the tracks to get from our hotel to the town), a tea shop in River Market, and a fence of lovers' locks. 

A very tall tin soldier stands guard over the children's play area. 
In 1859, New Westminster became the capital of British Columbia, a short-lived honour once the Island joined the province and the capital moved to Victoria. The city was named by Queen Victoria for her favourite part of London - Westminster. 

One of the gardens planted along the walkway, with the river in the background. 

I recently discovered a Canadian connection to Highclere Castle, the film location of Downton Abbey. The 4th Earl of Carnarvon served Queen Victoria as Colonial Secretary and aided in the passing of the British North America Act in 1867 that created the country of Canada. In helping construct the Act, Lord Carnarvon wanted to see the Senate have a limited tenure, in place of the "for life" status others argued for. I wish he had persevered. 

Our first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, was a guest at Highclere and wrote that it was "one of the swellest places in England." 

So it tickled my fancy to find a street in New Westminster named Carnarvon, named for the Lord of Highclere Castle. Some of this information I discovered on Lady Carnarvon's blog, and more from history sites. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday (on hiatus until September after this week), hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Summer Days

While walking these summer days, there are so many flowers to see. How colourful the world is just now. We had invasive morning glories on this property when we bought it 15 years ago, and I still find the odd vine sneaking up here and there, so I've been reluctant to plant any type of morning glory. The pretty colour of this blossom has me re-thinking that decision. 

Almost every meal these days must include kale. It's flourishing in my garden. I gave a huge bagful to a Dutch friend in hopes of thinning it out a little. Connie said that it's a Dutch custom to cook kale and combine it with mashed potatoes and eat it with a fat sausage.

I offered a big bunch of kale to one of our neighbours who was visiting with Tim. When I asked if they ate kale, he replied with an emphatic "NO." Do you eat kale? Cooked or raw? 

I've been making kale salads. One trick I learned is to massage the cut kale with olive oil and coarse salt to soften it a little. Then I add other ingredients (cucumber, carrot, blueberries, feta cheese in the photo above) and a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, finished off with a twist of ground black pepper. Kale salad holds up well in the fridge if there are any leftovers. 

On a recent walk I picked a bunch of Queen Anne's Lace and plunked it into a vase with sweet peas. It made such a pretty mix of colour. 

We have 8 hydrangea bushes throughout the garden, some in the front, others in the back. Each one blooms uniquely: dark blue, pink, purple, pale blue. The one above has a variety of different colours on the same bush. 

I took apart the floral arrangement from last Sunday's party in order to replace the wilted hydrangeas with fresh ones. The vase was crammed so tightly that I couldn't get everything back in, so I created two arrangements from one. Then, a photo shoot ensued, using the old fence as a backdrop. 

These summer days are so very pleasant. I found a quote - "I love how summer just wraps its arms around you like a warm blanket." (Kellie Elmore) Ah, summer. I hope yours is filled with lovely days. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

We Went to a Garden Party


My heart is full to overflowing with gratitude and joy. On Sunday afternoon our children threw a garden party. Oh, what a party it was. Beautifully decorated tables, delicious food, and the very best of guests.

The party took place in Vancouver and my siblings and parents from Chilliwack attended, as well as one sister-in-law from Alberta. We were all asked to dress in blue, for this was a "dinner in blue," a riff on the "diner en blanc." 

The three grandchildren were completely enchanted with Auntie Ashley's chickens to the point that they barely engaged with anyone else. Greatest child-minders ever! They picked bits of grasses and leaves to poke through the holes - a sample menu - said the 6-year-old. 

The celebration was in honour of our 40th wedding anniversary. I just can't quite believe that we've been married that long. It's been full of more ups than downs, more laughter than tears, and more joys than sorrows. 

There's something utterly elegant about using china plates and delicate glassware outdoors. I felt like I was in a scene from a movie. Do you remember when Karin Blixen's character in Out of Africa went camping? Mozart under the stars, white linens (and plenty of servants). There were no servants yesterday, just some very hard-working children, but the atmosphere was the same. 

Flowers and herbs gathered from the garden (and the sidewalks) combined in airy, casual bouquets on the table. 

We took some casual photos after dinner - here with my parents, my sister and her husband, and two sisters-in-law. Those who could, came, and those who couldn't sent best wishes.

Then with our children, their spouses and the grandchildren. Happy faces all around, and doesn't all the blue make for a harmonious photo?

Oh, these grands. This was a silly photo, but so full of life and fun. I love it.

Then there was cake - a gorgeous creation by our daughter-in-law. It tasted just as good as it looked!

Tea or coffee and cake in the garden. Simply wonderful. 

There are many superlatives in this post, but I did restrain myself. Really. It was such a special time and I'm so grateful for my husband, our families of origin, and our own family. Truly, we have been given much. 

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

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?