Friday, November 17, 2017

Rambling On

Friday morning. The end of a busy couple of weeks. Report cards were due this week and there is a huge sigh of relief when the grades and comments are finally submitted. Done! 

Another thing that's done is most of the autumn colour. Those glowing red maple leaves are sparse on the trees and soon the last one will fall, whirled away by the howling wind and lashing rain we've been experiencing. 

This paler version of leaves in the woods is now more dominant. With all the dreary weather, I've been feeling paler, too. One morning sunshine streamed in the windows to lift my energy. I seem to accomplish much more when there is sunshine, do you?

Christmas is not far away. I'm in favour of a slow run-up to celebrating the season. Anticipation and soul preparation are enhanced, for me, by waiting a little. So I watch what goes on around me, and I stand back, thinking, hoping, planning. 

Last night I finished up two soft and pretty flannel nightgowns for two grand girls. A pair of cozy pajamas is on my worktable for the grand boy. What fun it is to prepare in this way. 

Our new fireplace is taking shape. Tim framed it in, applied cement board, then stone to the surround, and drywall above. For the past two weeks there hasn't been much point in dusting, so I didn't. That will need to be done now that the primer coat is on, and the wall will be painted this weekend. He's working on a mantel, too, a live edge piece of maple. I think it will be lovely.

I signed up for an online course (free) from Future Learn, called "The History of Royal Food and Feasting" from the University of Reading in the UK. The first week was all about Tudor times, focusing on Henry VIII. This past week looked at Queen Elizabeth I's reign. I'm finding the course extremely interesting. Recipes are provided for participants to try. Above is a photo of my attempt at a Tudor "Tarte Owt of Lente." 

The "Tart out of Lent" is so-named because it contains many of those ingredients forbidden during Lent - butter, cheese, cream, eggs. Another participant mentioned that she makes these tarts frequently as part of her job at an historic site. She suggested that some onion marmalade or mustard adds to the deliciousness of the cheese and cream. So I added a layer of onion jam to the crust before putting in the cheese mixture. It's not really like a quiche because the tart is lidded, and because it's not eggy at all, but very cheesy. And delicious. It didn't last very long around here. 

This is the book I'm currently reading. Victoria's Castles - a bit of local history. I'm out of fiction just now, although I just re-read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, one of my favourite books. Do you re-read books? I find them comforting. In spite of knowing the end of the story, I still delight in the characters' thoughts and actions.

I'll leave my ramblings here, for now. The sun is shining in the desperately-needs-washing window and I have a pair of little boy pajamas I'd like to make progress on before going to teach my afternoon classes. 

Are you beginning Christmas preparations? I'd love to hear. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fading Autumn

In Rithet's Bog, one of our favourite places to walk, the colour is fading. The brilliant yellow, gold, and red leaves fall to the ground and become dull. Soon grey and brown will dominate the landscape in austere architecture.

Red-winged blackbirds alight onto exploded rushes that sway back and forth. 

Rain fills the bog once again and the ducks return, swimming placidly among the weeds. 

A few wigeon pairs have appeared amongst the mallards. They all seem to get along well. 

An awkward skein of ducks alight on a sunny day. They circle, then land, forward thrusting feet acting as brakes on the water. 

A family walk around the bog yesterday. The three-year old perches on Grandpa's shoulders. Two paths intersect and the train-loving boy calls out, "Junction!" The girl cousins run ahead for a bit, then fall behind and run to catch up, legs pedalling like windmills. They pick "woodland bouquets" along the path for their mothers. 
By the end of the walk, I'm certain that the children have covered twice the distance of the adults. They finish up with a train formed by holding hands: smallest to biggest, with Grandpa included. 

It was good that we walked yesterday. Today the rain fell off and on most of the afternoon. It was a good day to stay indoors. I read and puttered and took a nap. Tomorrow is a statutory holiday here, in lieu of Remembrance Day falling on a Saturday. 

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

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Teacup Exchange

It was lovely to receive a parcel in the mail from Sharon, in Ontario with many pretty things, including the teacup above. It's from Paragon, with pink and blue bachelor's buttons on it. I love the shape and the colours. 

I'm a firm believer that tea tastes best from a bone china mug or teacup. Do you think the material of the cup makes a difference?

Here are some of the other things Sharon included: pretty vintage crocheted items, embroidered linens, lovely pink candles, and a great selection of teas that I'm trying out. 

Thank you so much, Sharon. Sharon doesn't have a blog, so I hope she reads this. I've sent a thank you note in the mail, as well. 

Stephanie, from The Enchanting Rose, organizes a teacup exchange one or two times per year. I think around 200 ladies took part this time. That's a lot of organizing. Thanks, Stephanie. If you click on the link, you'll be taken to a page where you can see the exchanges from all over the world.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

A Week of Contrast

Unusually warm sunshine for the end of October began our week. My eldest daughter and I enjoy birthdays just two days apart and we try to go out for coffee or lunch together during this time. 
This year, we went to Butchart Gardens for a walk and then enjoyed scones and tea in the coffee shop.

I wondered if we would see any dahlias. Yes, indeed. They were still their in all their glowing colour. We were just in time, though, for I noted a wheelbarrow filled with cut plants and tubers. The lifting out has begun. 

Dahlias are so varied. It's almost the end of the fall flowers now and we watched gardeners planting bucket fulls of spring bulbs. One gardener threw them over the beds, letting them fall where they may, while others followed and dug the bulbs in with long-handled tools.

I planted bulbs in my own garden last Saturday. What a hopeful thing it is to place dry brown bits into the ground, and cover them up, trusting that they will transform into beautiful flowers in a few months. First, however, they, and we, must pass the winter season.  

We had an unexpectedly early taste of winter this week, too. The temperature dropped to below freezing and the snow began to fall. I was glad to spend time drinking tea while toasting myself by the fire. 

Today the sun returned, but the temperature continues low. A good day to bake a cake and use the copper beating bowl Tim gave me for my birthday. In an odd bit of happy coincidence, my youngest daughter gave me a set of copper measuring spoons. The two givers didn't consult each other, nor had I mentioned a desire for copper items.

I baked a pumpkin chiffon cake and it turned out well, light and airy with a delicate pumpkin flavour. I put the recipe on my other blog. Here's a link. Copper is supposed to give egg whites an edge on beating up. 

Sunshine to snow to rain and back to sunshine. What will this week hold? 

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

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Into November We Go

On Sunday afternoon (after our tea at the Abkhazi Garden mentioned in the previous post), we met up with our eldest daughter and her family for a walk. 

This is the time of year when Pacific Salmon return to their birthplace to spawn the next season's fish, and then die. 

Tall cedar and maple trees line the banks of the Goldstream River. They crowd out the sun and dapple the light on the water. Occasionally, looking up through a clearing, one sees the burnished shades of autumn against the blue sky.

The salmon run is late this year, and although we saw a number of dark silvery fish hanging out in quiet deep pools, they have not yet laid their eggs nor turned red and begun to die. 

Leaves drifted and swirled down from the trees along the pathways, mesmerizing to watch. They came singly at times, or in great flurries when a breeze passed through the branches. 

Here's the November 1st birthday girl hiding behind a big leaf. (edited to add - My birthday is at the end of October; our daughter's on the first of November.)
The golden days of October shifted dramatically with the turning of the calendar to November. Sun and warmth have given way to chilly temperatures, wind, and cold rain, with snow at higher elevations. Most unusual this early. A portent of things to come? We'll see.

How are things in your corner at the beginning of November? 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Abkhazi Garden

The story of how a displaced Russian prince and a wealthy British woman came to build a garden in Victoria, BC is filled with tragedy, war, internment in Shanghai during WWII (the Princess), and a meeting, after years of separation, on the top of the Empire State Building in New York.

The garden that Peggy and Nicolas spent 40 years developing encompasses just over an acre and is built on a rocky slope where bare granite, narrow swaths of lawn, Garry Oaks, rhododendrons, and pools of water dwell in harmony.

On a very sunny, warm Sunday afternoon, Tim and I visited the gardens. The noise of the squirrel caused us to look upwards and we watched him gathering bunches of leaves in his mouth. It didn't look like there were any acorns attached, but he looked like he knew what he was doing. 

Tim had made reservations for tea, and after our stroll we entered the Prince and Princess's house where we sat in their sun-drenched living room and enjoyed tea while looking at the gardens they created. 

Tea was lovely, with all kinds of treats, savoury and sweet, and a delicious tea blended especially for Abkhazi Garden. I felt very spoiled.

We looked at the books, china and photographs displayed on shelves. I was tickled by the title of one book "A Sense of Humus" written by Bertha Damon , and enjoyed reading a little more about the author. 

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Improving Upon a Good Thing

Back in 2010, I first posted this recipe for Apple Cake on my recipe blog. (I like keeping all my recipes together in one spot, hence the separate blog. Makes it easy to search.)

Anyways, I make this cake every year. It's a recipe I first tasted in the jungles of Ecuador, made by a good friend. It's delicious, as is, served with softly whipped cream. 

I've mentioned previously how I love watching The Great British Bake Off, and how inspiring I find it. I know there's a new series going now, not on the BBC, and I haven't watched any of it, yet. I have to find out where to view it.

Back to the cake. Inspiration struck when I thought about apples and apple crisp. For me, the best part is the crispy topping. I make a triple or quadruple batch of the topping to keep in the freezer for quick crisps. 

"What if," I thought, "I put some of the apple crisp topping on the apple cake?" 

I did. It's delicious. An improvement upon an already very good cake. Especially after drizzling an icing sugar, butter and cream glaze over top. 

Apple Cake

1 3/4 cups sugar
4 cups apples, cored, not peeled, diced
1/2 cup oil 
1 cup nuts (I omit, due a husband not fond of the crunchy bits)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda (reduced from the original recipe)

About 1 1/2 cups of apple crisp topping (I use one with oatmeal)

1. Stir together sugar, apples, oil, and nuts, if using, in a medium large bowl. 
2. Add the eggs and vanilla. Stir well.
3. In another bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Stir.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the apple mixture. Stir just to combine. It will be thick.
5. Spread in oiled 9 x 13 baking pan (I use glass).
6. Sprinkle the apple crisp topping over the batter.  
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, then at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.
8. While still hot, drizzle a mixture of melted butter (1-2 Tablespoons, 1-2 Tablespoons cream or milk, enough icing sugar to make a spoon-able glaze.)

Enjoy for dessert with a cup of milky chai tea.

Before dessert, this is what we ate for dinner. 

I've been making a few of these sheet pan dinners lately. So easy. Cube vegetables, or cut into bite-sized pieces - here it's sweet potato, red onion, broccoli, and sweet red pepper. Spread on baking sheet. 
Add chunks of chicken breasts (as above), or sausage pieces, or pork chops. 
Season to taste - today it was salt, a pepper medley, and fresh rosemary.
Roast at 420 degrees for 30 minutes. Dinner is served!