Sunday, November 29, 2015

Travelling. Landscaping. Quilting.

There is always a point in November when I completely lose my mind for an hour or so. 

The conflict between secular and faith values during Advent, between my current employment in newspaper advertising and my aversion to rampant consumerism ... let's just say that a week's vacation at the end of October was sorely needed in order to bolster my reserves and get me safely through to January 1.


The Husband and I spent a weekend with Friends Brian and Cheryl on the Naramata Bench. It's a great wine district as well as a beautiful place to visit almost any time of the year.

Don't you think this is an apt way to begin a week's vacation?
Touring the Naramata Bench vineyards.

Then we popped over to Vancouver Island for a few days. I love visiting the Island although I'm seldom tempted to live there. If I could find a spot along the coast, with a beach and a view to the ocean, then I'd be perfectly content. Strange for a prairie girl to say, but I suppose it's the wide open views that call to me.

I'd long been wanting to visit Butchart Gardens. The Husband was underwhelmed (the admission fee almost gave him a cardiac arrest) but I was glad we went.

Fall colours are impressive in their own right

Glorious Japanese maple

View through the hedge to Brentwood Bay

We visited Craigdarroch Castle, had dim sum at Don Mee's in Chinatown (I love Don Mee's - I dream of Don Mee's) and attended the play Loon at the Phoenix Theatre at the University of Victoria. Then it was time to bust out of town and go up-island for a day.

Thirty years ago, we spent four months of the winter living on the island on the Saanich Peninsula. Our son celebrated his first birthday there. So this little trip was a lot of "remember when's." One of them was a little place called Whippletree Junction south of Duncan. It was a trashy place in those days. Today it's collection of trendy shops and interesting venues. I of course was drawn to the weaving shop.

Weaving studio at Whippletree Junction, just south of Duncan

And when I walked in, I was consumed with longing to sit down at one of the looms and get straight to work. It has stirred the long-suppressed urge to sit at my own loom again. There never seems to be enough time in my life to do all the things I want to do, and retirement is within sight but still just beyond my reach.

The weaving shop

The Husband finds it difficult to walk for long distances and that determines our activities. I did get in a bit of beachcombing time, with him watching over me. On our last day, we went to the Royal BC Museum to take in the Gold Rush! exhibit and then one of the Imax shows. Then we went out to Fort Rodd Hill. I wanted to walk out to Fisgard Lighthouse but he was loath to make the effort. Just too much walking in one day. Another time perhaps.

It was almost exactly 30 years ago that I saw this lighthouse for the first time, from Ocean Boulevard along the Esquilmalt Lagoon. I have photos of our little son and his daddy feeding trumpeter swan youngsters and mother while the gander looked on anxiously.

Fisgard Lighthouse


The debris on the fire hall lot next to ours has been a sore point for a long time. It was unsightly, a constant source of weeds and a potential wildfire hazard (and wouldn't that be ironic - a fire ignited on municipal fire hall property due to their negligence).

The Husband and Friend Hal are both on the Fire Suppression Committee (provide oversight to the volunteer fire department), and after I brought the issue ... again ... to the regional district's attention, and nothing was done, the Dynamic Duo stated their intent to do the work themselves and bill the costs to the district. Approved.

The firehall lot before - if I'd thought about it, I would have taken
more extensive 'before' photos. This was an impulse shot from our deck.

Hal starting the long job of cleaning up an old construction dump site.

And the same - sort of - view a week later.
The work was done just as the autumn rains began.

FINALLY a neat, tidy lot - free of debris and weeds, easy to mow

This view was impossible a week before, due to the mess.

Looking north towards our house, top right-hand in the trees.
The first photos were taken from that position.
You can also see the gypsum mine and large Canada flag on the slope behind us.
Isn't this lovely?

Hal placing the drainage gravel around the pavement perimeter.
The soil will settle and compress over the winter and early spring. Then the guys will rework the surface before seeding it. And next summer we will be able to mow and generally tend the site completely, not just the fancy sodded grass out front that most people see.


This has been a long project, for no other reason than that other activities such as watercolour painting, gardening and that ever-present joy-killer called 'work' compete for my attention. It was almost finished last spring, and then summer with all its lovely diversions and company and, well, SUMMER came along.

So last Monday, which was a snowy, blowy, stay-inside kind of day came along. A perfect day to binge-quilt. I whipped through my morning chores, then brewed a pot of coffee, popped the first DVD of 'Justified' Season 3, and settled down to work.

Eight hours saw the last thread set and the quilt ready to be washed (to remove the marking chalk from the front and bloodstains from the back). 

Most recent completed quilt project - roughly 1.5m x 1m
This shows why the quilting takes time to complete
Happy boy Jaxson on HIS quilt.
Pieces for one of two new quilt projects. This one is a 'memory' quilt for a
co-worker whose parents have both passed. The other is for the youngest man
in my life, who will hopefully get his 'baby' quilt before his 2nd birthday!

Is quilting, and the time and detail I put into each quilt, worth the investment? Most assuredly. 

We are the current caretakers of a hand-pieced quilt that was made almost 90 years ago by one of my mother-in-law's aunts. At the young age of 28, she worked on the quilt while she slowly died from tuberculosis. It is a tangible link to the family, to their history, and a daily reminder that they were real people, not just stories. It says, "I was. I mattered to someone."

Jaxson will probably never remember me, but he'll have that quilt for most of his life and maybe sometimes wonder about the person who made it for him. And that's good enough for me.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Today's Giggle

I know - I'm lagging again. So while I rearrange the calendar to find time to post, here's a little something to make your day a little more surreal.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thanksgiving Reflections

There is much to be thankful for on this Canadian Thanksgiving Day, the second Monday of October.

I have health, family and friends.

I live in a beautiful country that is (mostly, compared to other places) free of conflict and full of opportunity.

I am employed (although that loses its shine some days) and I have gifts that bring me great pleasure.

So on this day of reflection, let me show you some of the beauty and joy that have been in my life these past few weeks.

The colours turned last week, seemingly overnight.

Looking east across Swan Lake on my way to work.
The sharp contrast of still-warm water and much cooler air
makes fabulous interplay between early morning sunlight and  fog and cloud-wisps.

We had a one-day rodeo in town in late September, a fund raiser for the skating rink roof project. I don't know how much money was made; the turn-out was a bit disappointing but this was the first fall rodeo for this town. It was fun anyway, and I look forward to the next one.

Team ropers in the chutes waiting for the buzzer.

The Husband was up north most of September. I work Tuesday-Saturday, so Monday is one of my days off - a good day to run errands and do 'weekend things' without the weekend crowds. One of those Mondays, I drove up to Salmon Arm with my travelling watercolour kit. Spent an hour or so at Waterfront Park, up near the pier, to work on some small en plein pieces.

Looking northwest over Shuswap Lake from Waterfront Park.

The Husband came south for a few days last weekend, partly because his work was in a hiatus waiting for parts, but mostly because I had tickets to Festival of the Grape (FOG) in Oliver, and was going whether or not he was home.

Loving this little display.

FOG was FABULOUS! We had such a good time. The weather was perfect. The venue was lovely. And the event itself was a whole lotta fun. It's a celebrate of the harvest, one of the first fall wine festival season events.

One of the three large tents containing the tasting tables.

There were 50 wineries at the event, each with four of their vintages available for tasting.
Grape tokens were $1 each, and one token could be redeemed for a one ounce wine sample. Do the math, and you'll realize this rapidly becomes a wild time! One must learn to pace oneself.

Getting tasting samples, talking to the proprietors, chatting with new friends.

The Whine Police keep everyone happy by letting no one get out of control, as it were.
And they are just happy people. Period.

It didn't take us long to devise our strategy: share and compare. We would each get a sample from wineries set up beside each other, taste our glass, then swap glasses. Great way to get through a lot of samples with little collateral damage, and if there was something we really didn't like, there wasn't much wasted.

Sharing and comparing.
There were about 5,000 people at the festival. The nice thing about an outdoor venue is that the noise is not so intense as the winter indoor events, and there is plenty of room to take sanity breaks, have a bite to eat to sober up, watch the events and just relax.

All the cool kids were at FOG.

Besides the wine, there were a host of food vendors, the trade vendors, Bacchus and his Maidens paraded in with drums and pomp, a wine stomp competition and music - this year provided by Brandon Isaak & his Saints of Swing.

Can you imagine a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the autumn?

Messy fun.

So, it's been a somewhat trying few weeks at work. Our department manager had a family emergency that called her away from work for several weeks. We can function quite nicely in her absence, thank you for asking, but another co-worker was away last week on vacation (scheduled a long time ago, and involving travel to Nova Scotia) and it was the shortage of manpower when we were under a particularly heavy workload that created much stress and long, long days.

It was a relief to finally get to this weekend, to relax and enjoy the season. Neither the daughter nor I wanted to travel any distance to enjoy our feast, so on Saturday afternoon we roasted a chicken and a pan of potatoes and onions, steamed some veggies and had our own Thanksgiving Feast for Two.

Cooking the gravy. Remember - Grandma always said the best gravy
takes 20 minutes to make.

Our festive table - family style with the pots on the table instead of serving bowls!
Who wants to make more dishes?!
Even if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving Day where you live, I hope to pause during this glorious season and give thanks for the blessings in your life. It puts things into perspective.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wine and Fog

Yes, I know. An odd combination of topics. That's how life rolls around here.

I was the 2nd place winner of the Grape Escape raffle sponsored by the Silver Star Rotary Club in Vernon. My prize included a wine and food pairing evening at the Village Green Hotel, two tickets for Festival of the Grape in Oliver on October 4 and … wait for it … three cases of wine. Yes. Thirty-six bottles. Lots and lots of lovely bottles of BC wine.

Friends Elaine and Dale joined me for the evening as The Husband is up north for the month. They said they enjoyed it and helped me to cart my boxes o' wine to the car.

They may perhaps also help to consume said wine!

On a completely unrelated note, autumn brings lovely colours, cooler weather and fabulous morning tableaux.

I'm always on the look-out for 'scenic' shots to use on the cover of our real estate Sunday supplement, and for watercolour painting ideas. The morning fog playing on Swan Lake on my way into work is always a source of inspiration:

*deep sigh of contentment*

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Things Good and Sweet and Spicy

There was a time when I spent hours - nay, DAYS and WEEKS - canning and freezing and butchering and preserving all that we had grown and raised throughout the summer, in order to fill the cold room and freezers and keep the family fed for the next 12 months.

It was hard, hot work and sometimes I got a bit cranky.

The reward was looking at long shelves filled with glass jars of vegetables and fruit, jellies, jams, relish and pickles, all like jewels in the dark; bins of potatoes, carrots, turnips and cabbage; skeins of onions and garlic; freezers with moose and fish, lamb and goat, chicken, perigees and cabbage rolls. 

We were cash-poor but produce-rich, and it's what got us through the lean years when the children were small and we were homesteading.

Now I have the luxury of farmers' markets and abundant fruit close to hand without all the labour ... at a time when there are usually only two of us at the table and we are eating less (or trying to). And so I no longer do all that processing.

Still and all, when I go to the local fruit and veg store and the bins are piled high with produce fresh from the farms and orchards, I feel the urge. Peaches sing the little song, "Peach and Ginger Chutney." The mountains of peppers in all colours and heat intensity whisper to me in a little voice, "Red pepper jelly."

Peach chutney beginning to cook down.

It's far past peach season but I did get several batches of chutney made. I peeled and froze the last few pounds, as other commitments precluded finishing my project. As today is a cool, overcast day and I'm on my own for awhile, it seemed the perfect time to finish my preserves.

Some finished sealed jars of Peach & Ginger Chutney.
I use recycled jars as often as possible, as well as 'proper' canning jars.

The kitchen is awash in the heady smells of hot peaches, fresh ground ginger, red peppers, jalapeƱo peppers, vinegar, mint, sugar ... 

Grinding up peppers, getting ready to cook.

The stove is splattered, the floor is sticky, but the sink is wiped clean and the dishwasher churning away. As I enjoy a hot cup of coffee and put my feet up for a few minutes, the soft *pop*  *pop*  *pop* of sealing lids is a lovely sound. I'll clean the stove in a little while; sweep the floor and then mop it clean.

Finished jars of chutney, red pepper jelly and Moroccan mint jelly.
(I do not add green food colouring - this is the real deal.)
 These are the sounds and smells and colours of autumn at its best.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Do you ever feel this way?

It been a rough couple of weeks at work, which impacts my home life as well … as in no energy left for the things that make my life complete.

This might not be the exact issue to hand, but it still reflects my mindset this past month:

Retirement is looking better every day.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dry Dry Dry

We're getting lots of smoke from huge forest fires in Washington State, just to the south of us.

Looking west, visibility less than 1.5 km.
I think many of those fires were started by lightning, as were many of ours, but far too many are the result of human carelessness. The sign above is on Highway 97 near Whispering Pines, after a cigarette started a devastating fire in 2003.

Aug. 27 afternoon.

Mid-day the sun is a weak yellow, but at sunrise and sunset, it's a deep orange. Beautiful and haunting all at the same time.

Looking southeast towards Vernon
Last night, I took a multitude of photos, trying to capture the awesome, awful beauty of the sunset sky.

The colours, like the photo below, are intense with all the ash in the air.

We're reminded ever again about how helpless we are in the face of nature's fury.