Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Our street mandala

The dead end street behind our park was transformed on Saturday by a neighbourhood project to paint a mandala with help from passersby. This idea comes from a few local artists including the woman behind the telephone pole art in Fernwood. She got a permit from the city to produce this painted circle and it makes a sweet statement in a spot that is often used for piling up trash.

Here you can see Beth starting to create the tree in the center of the mandala and a couple of helpers (including Sue) painting the fern fronds around the edge.

And here are some photos showing the process from the early morning 
until the finished product around 3:00 pm.

The image is a subtle reference to our neighbourhood's name: Fernwood.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Salad on a stick

Here's a great way to use all those fabulous cherry and grape tomatoes that we're seeing in markets this month. It's a tiny Caprese salad on a stick--and so easy to eat without a knife, fork or plate.

Simply cut the tomatoes in half and put a cube of good fresh Mozarella cheese in between them, and a leaf of basil or two. Then drizzle with some good olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

I've been using the freshest tomatoes from my pots in the back yard supplemented with market finds and taking these to summer potlucks.  I just pile them on a long plate and garnish with some additional basil leaves.

They have been a big hit.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Night lights at Butchart's Gardens

These photos were taken the other night of the amazing fountain at Butchart's Gardens. It has an ever-changing display of lights and water streams. Amazing.

We went there to see a concert by a local group called The Bills, globally inspired roots music from the West Coast. It's a cross between gypsy, folk, and rocky funk. They're very good. And they play in an open air stage with benches in front plus a large area where people can sit on blankets to enjoy the show. That's what we did--with a picnic dinner and a discreet cup of wine. What a lovely way to enjoy a summer evening.
And to top it off there were people with a Border Collie and families with kids to watch. We hadn't actually realized it but Butchart's presents concerts every evening in the summer and since we have a year-long pass to the gardens, it's free for us.  What a deal! 

We ate and sipped on the grass listening to music and songs in the warm air as the sun set and the sky darkened. Then we walked through the pathways to the amazing fountain. A beautiful end to a lovely evening. For sure we'll be going there again before the summer's over.  
And for your final enjoyment, a few more images from the fantastical fountain.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The chair project

Today I delivered the painted chair to ReStore for the silent auction next week.

It took a while to find the direction but I'm really happy with the result. I used related colours and a nine-patch design on the seat.

I had a lot of fun with this project. Here's what the chair looked like when finished.

And you can see some of the other chairs here.
Lots of variation in how they were handled.

I created something that I would like to have in my own house, and I hope that it raises a nice amount of money to support Habitat for Humanity projects in Victoria.

One of the side benefits of this project was the impetus to develop a website for my paintings. I used a pre-formated site that worked well to showcase the many paintings I've done in the past three years. It's still a work in progress but I'm quite liking seeing some of the work online.  Here's a link:

I'm still working on selecting and sizing photos of the paintings. There's a lot to learn here. I look forward to your constructive comments as I continue to develop the website.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Malcolm Island Wedding

We spent the long weekend attending a wedding on Malcolm Island, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. The community called Sointula feels somewhat lost in time. It was settled by a group from Finland wanting to create a utopian socialist society in the early 1900s. To this day there are Finnish houses and saunas everywhere.

Our friend Paul lived there for years and his two sons were born on the island at a place called Mitchell Bay.

This is a place where deer are so tame that you can come right up to them and take their photo and the bay is populated by humpback whales.

And that's where Stefan wanted to get married.  He lives in Victoria now but the island is a special place for him and his girlfriend Skei so they invited people to drive for more than seven hours up-island to catch a ferry to share in the celebrations.

And what a fabulous celebration it was! The ceremony took place in a fairyland of a garden in front of Bruce and Holly's fairytale house.

Beautiful driftwood signs showed us the way (past handmade houses from decades ago).

Here are our friends and parents of the groom, Paul and Wendy, and below that the darling flower girl, niece of the bride. The little girl was hesitant about scattering rose petals so her mom had to do it for her.

Here are Stefan and Skei taking their vows, and then waving to the guests from the upper porch.

After that we headed down the road to Ralph's place where the party was to be held. Ralph has lived in Mitchell Bay for about 40 years and has built an entire village of driftwood structures. Here you see the one that was used as the bar, with the firepit in front.

Another one was like a little house where the children had fun on a kind of stage.

I didn't take photos of the food--too bad, because it was a spread of incredible salads and barbecued salmon, plus home made ice cream and carrot cake, plus wine and more wine. Here are some photos of the guests enjoying themselves.

The kids enjoyed the giant bubbles and the bonfire.

Later on we went down to the beach to see the humpback whales surface. I didn't get a photo of that--but it was amazing. This is the beach. Beautiful, no? And a lot of happy people enjoying the sunset.

This last photo is from a little cafe where we had lunch the following day before leaving Malcolm Island. It's very different from the southern part of the island. It's a beautiful iconic spot and we were privileged to enjoy the wedding celebrations in this close-knit community. Congratulations and best wishes to Stephan and Skei.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Maybe you’ve never heard of this classic French dessert, or maybe you think it’s complicated. It’s not. It’s basically fresh whole cherries baked in a simple custard and I made it this afternoon for a garden party.

Clafoutis is the French spelling but of course it’s pronounced without the final “s” sound. That’s the only complicated thing about it. It’s easy and it features the gorgeous cherries that we’ve been enjoying for the past month or two.

The traditional clafoutis recipe is made with unpitted whole cherries, which are said to give it more flavour—but it didn’t feel that elegant to leave the pits in for a garden party dessert. So I headed out to buy a cherry pitter.  Now you may remember that I have a tiny kitchen and less than two years ago I was deleting all those specialized kitchen tools in the interests of fitting my stuff into one small drawer. So I was happy to find one that won’t take up too much space. This is what it looks like. 

And it can be used for pitting olives as well so it seemed worthwhile.  It was incredibly quick and easy to take the pits out of a big bag of cherries, resulting in a bowl of pitted fruit.

I did a little research online and found that even such a simple recipe has many variations. Some use sour cherries, some use sweet. Some add a little almond extract to compensate for the flavour from the cherry pits. Some suggest macerating the cherries slightly and steeping them in Kirsch, Amaretto or brandy. Some recipes call for white sugar, some brown, some icing sugar for the top. In some the custard is more like a sponge cake, in others it’s meant to be more wobbly, like a flan.

Here’s the recipe I finally came up with, mostly taken from Elise’s Simply Recipes blog ( and from Isabel’s Crumblog (

I doubled the recipe and used a big baking dish. This is the one I chose because it’s low and wide and will hold a lot. But you could do it in a frying pan, or a square baking dish, a pie dish or any type of casserole dish that’s not too deep. If you’re using a smaller dish, cut the recipe in half.

Clafoutis a la Joanna

4 cups of fresh sweet cherries, pitted
6 eggs
1  cup sugar  (plus 1 TBS for bottom of pan)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 (to 1.5) tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract.
4 TBS melted butter

Preheat oven to 350. Butter your baking dish and sprinkle bottom with  2 TBS granulated sugar. Scatter the cherries over the bottom of the dish.

Whisk eggs and sugars together with milk, melted butter and extracts. Make sure all lumps are out. Use a blender if necessary. Pour into baking dish over cherries. 

Bake for 40 minutes or more until a knife tested in centre comes out clean. Tent with foil if it’s browning too fast. (Mine actually took closer to 50 minutes but that's because I doubled the recipe I think.)

When done, place on wire rack to cool. It will be puffed up but will deflate while cooling. When cool sprinkle with powdered sugar.
When it came out of the oven it looked like the photo at the top of this post, but then it did collapse (as predicted) and I dusted it with the icing sugar.

Here’s the final result. I hope it tastes good. I’ll let you know how it tasted once we’ve returned from the garden party.

PS: It was delicious. The custard had the texture a little bit like Yorkshire pudding and the almond flavouring was really good. We served it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and it was a big hit.