Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sunny morning beach walk

Just the other day it was sunny enough in the morning that we felt like taking the dogs to the beach. This lovely stretch of beach faces east and when the tide is out it's a great spot for people and dogs.

The willow has the brilliant yellow green color showing it's about to burst into leaf.

The little creek is running fast.

Geordie loves the beach when there's nobody else there because he gets let off the leash...

To play fetch

and chase the seagulls.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Alphabetical Life

Don't you just love the photo on this cover?  It makes reading look so sophisticated.  When I read I'm usually hunkered down in bed surrounded by a pile of yesterday's clothes and the staring eyes of two Border Collies waiting for their morning walk.

The cover really attracted me and I enjoyed reading this memoir of a life in the book business.  An Alphabetical Life begins with nineteen year old Wendy getting a job in a bookstore instead of going to college.  She has a breezy style even when talking about tough things.  And I really like the title too.

I was remembering my days working in a bookstore when I was at university.  I liked working there because, among other things, I could read books when things weren't too busy.  But what I loved the best was opening the boxes of new books and seeing what treasures there were inside. 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Searching for sunlight in the south

In our search for sunlight at the front of our house we asked if we could cut down a spindly maple tree on the boulevard right in front of our door. (That's the maple tree to the left of the arbutus. You can see that when its leaves unfurl another area of sky will be obliterated.) The Saanich arborist refused to cut it down, however he did promise us that the "guys" would come out to do a little trimming of the cedar trees in front. They arrived the other day with their huge truck with the cherry picker and a big grinder on the back.

I was so excited that we might be able to get a bit more sky view from the front of our house. But it didn't turn out that way. They trimmed a few little cedar branches around the incoming wires and took some dead wood off the arbutus and then left.

They weren't here for long--maybe 40 minutes and 20 of that was spent standing around talking to the arborist who told them what not to cut. I'd kind of been hoping that I might charm them into trimming back a few more branches but they were clearly under direct instructions.

At the end of the job I could see perhaps two square feet more of sky from the front of the house. It was a bit of an disappointment.

Ah well. You can't say we didn't try. We're still waiting to hear from Saanich about our request for a permit to change the driveway. I'll call them on Monday to see what's going on.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Shadow Shots

I love the synchronicity of blogging. I've been seeing a lot of shadows in photographs on some of the blogs I read, so I went out and took a few shots of my own. This morning I tumbled into Harriet's blog where she posts a collage of shadow shots taken by people all over the globe. So I've added a link to her blog on mine and I'm posting a couple of shadow shots here. One taken the other day in my back yard; the other taken on an early morning walk in San Carlos, Mexico.

If you want to find out about it, just check it out.

Morna Tudor's paintings

The other day at my favourite Victoria coffee shop, The Cafe Fantastico, I saw a show of the most beautiful abstract paintings I've seen in a long time. Morna Tudor is an artist who works in glass and who has now begun to do works on paper. She uses oil sticks on watercolour paper and creates the most beautiful pieces that look like little stained glass windows. I'm totally inspired by her work to get back to painting myself. I put all of that on the back burner some years ago when I started training my dogs. But these jewels have my creative juices starting to move and flow. I didn't take photos at the art show but these are images of her two promotional postcards. She's got a beautiful way with colour and form, don't you think?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Equinox

Today is a quintessential March day--and it perfectly marks the equinox with drizzle, wind, showers, sun, more wind and a lovely quiet evening sky. Finding balance in all these conflicting weather patterns is kind of like the challenge of finding balance in life.

I managed to take advantage of the sun to spend a bit of time with Maggie in the back yard and also to take a walk up to the reservoir. Maggie's enjoying the the new agility jumps that Harry just made. It's so nice to have these training aids. You can see that Maggie just loves this game.

This afternoon Donna and I took the dogs on a new route I've found that winds up a path to the reservoir at the end of Wesley. The graffiti artists do a fine job decorating this big block of a building. Here are my two reservoir dogs posing in front of part of the artwork.

I'm glad it's spring.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Too many trees

There are ten tall trees on the boulevard in front of our house. Eight of them are cedars topping out well over sixty feet. And although it gives a nice forest-like feeling, because they're to the south of us they pretty well block out the sunlight for most of the day. The large arbutus and the cedars are here to stay because they're protected trees in this municipality but it occurred to me that we might be able to get the spindly maple tree in the middle taken down to let a bit more light into the yard. So the head arborist for Saanich paid us a visit and informed me that because the tree is healthy it cannot be removed. Saanich's policy is to preserve all trees--and that the homeowners' desire for light is not a factor for them at all.

He was pretty adamant about the maple tree however he did agree to send out his crew and cut back a few of the dead branches on the arbutus and the cedars that were interfering with the power lines. I don't know if it will make any difference to the sunlight but I have my fingers crossed.

Grey and grey and grey

It's not that I don't like grey; I do. It's a wonderful colour made from all the colours mixed together not just black and white. So many lovely tones. I once painted my bedroom a soft dove grey with hints of silver and it was beautiful. BUT--the unremitting grey of the sky for the past few days is so dreary. The cold has gone and we're back to cloudy skies and drizzle, and it's keeping me from me from doing what I want to do. All my paperwork is up to date and I've finished painting the bathroom ceiling and I'm ready to get outside. But it's just grey and chilly and unispiring.

We're waiting to hear back from Saanich about the permit to change the driveway. We're waiting for the paint to dry in the bathroom. We're waiting for spring to arrive. I guess while we're waiting we might as well take the dogs out for a walk.

Oh my, I just have to add something to this whiney post. What can I be thinking of whining about grey skies when a beautiful talented young woman, Natasha Richardson, was killed in a little fall on a bunny hill. And there are so many people who would love to be able to just get up and walk out the door to take a walk with their dogs in a peaceful country. OK, I get it. I'll enjoy my moments today.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Exercise motivators

This is what I see if I turn my head from the computer screen. The dogs are waiting, waiting, waiting for their walk. Eight beady little eyes staring at me make it hard to focus on my screen or keyboard. Ok then, I say, Let's go for a walk. Instantly they all rush down the stairs barking and congregate by the front door. Doesn't matter what the weather, we'll be getting our exercise again today.

Today is the last day for our doggie visitors so we'll make it a good one.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The garden design

Yesterday Jonathan, the garden designer, came over with his concept plan for the front yard. My first reaction was, "Oh it's way too formal." But after looking at it and discussing it I can see just how this design works to solve the problems we have with the yard.

The problems are the shade and dryness created by the line of cedars and other trees on the boulevard. Also we wanted to find a way to screen the traffic and the road from our view. But there are many rules in the municipality of Saanich that limit how high fences and screens can be in front of the property. And they also refuse to cut or allow us to cut any trees in front. Either they're protected of they're on Saanich property. We thought of putting a berm on the boulevard but that turns out to be a no-no as well. The weight of the soil will harm the roots of the sacrosanct cedars.

So the designer has used layers of plantings with boxwood hedges to form a garden room with a grassy area and then placing behind them along the boulevard some trees and shrubs set among various drought-tolerant native plants. The more I look at the plan the better I like it.

It also includes the change of the driveway from the front to the side of the property with plantings all along the front to shield us from the road. So now we have to proceed to ask permission of Saanich to move the driveway and landscape their road frontage. I have no idea how this will go. I'll be contacting them on Monday. Here's hoping they'll approve.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Border Collies in the snow

We still have snow and cold here and spring seems far, far away. But the dogs love it. Because we have four of them with us still, we spend a lot of time walking (or for the dogs, running) at Beaver Lake Park.

The game, of course, is to see who can get to the toy first, and then keep it away from the other dogs.
Here Sophie has it, chased by Maddie and Maggie.

Here Geordie has it, flanked by Maggie on the left and Maddie on the right (the two older dogs) who are waiting for the slightest sign of weakness on Geordie's part.

Sophie's giving us "the look" and snapping her jaws to let us know she's ready to catch the ball.

Here all four dogs are waiting for the ball; waiting to get it and run straight through the puddle.

The snow makes the woods look very pretty...

but here's what happened to the crocus and primula that I photographed on Saturday.

Both my garden and I are ready for some warmer weather.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Now I'm in France

I'm back from a morning trip to dentist on this snowy day. It's time to make lentil soup and hang out at home and check on blogs. The dogs (all four of them) have had a little play in the snow in the back yard and are resting now. My new game is called, for lack of a better word, blog hopping. Start with one, read for a while and then choose from that blog's list of blogs, to hop to another one. The title of the blog may give you a clue as to where you're going, or it may not. I hopped through a few where people were writing very personal stories and then surfaced in France with a blog called Tongue in Cheek, with the most amazing photos and descriptions of life in France. Just the place to hang out for a while until the sun comes out and we can take the dogs for a walk.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Blogging Addiction

I can feel it happening--the beginnings of a blogging addiction. What started as a little travel blog is now taking over my life. Yesterday I redesigned my blog and added some gadgets. I also strolled from blog to blog noting and checking out blogs from their lists of blogs. It's like a treasure hunt but you don't know what you're looking for or what you'll find. There are so many talented and interesting people out there who take the time to share their thoughts and interests. Some discoveries I'll add to my blog--and so it goes.

Now I'm checking out the blogs of note. And on the very first one I came upon this video of a wonderful singer named Ane Brun. Take a look: http://vimeo.com/2632347
I would never have heard of her otherwise.

And I haven't even mentioned following blogs. I can be updated with posts from blogs that I choose. My friend Steph says its like going out in your neighbourhood and having a little chat with the neighbours. But in this case, the neighbourhood is the world. And you get to choose which ones you want to talk to. I love it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

March, the trickster

March had an identity crisis today; it could not decide which season to exhibit. We woke up to brilliant sun and from inside it looked a lot like spring, even though it was still pretty cold. Around 10:00 we heard the sound of the neighbourhood kids on their skateboards and sure enough a big crowd had gathered on the side street, most of them in shirt sleeves and having a great time. A bit later I took the camera out to the garden to record a few spring-like images. It felt like it would warm up and be a lovely day.

Around mid-day we took the dogs and went shopping with the idea of taking them for a walk up Knockan Hill. When we came out of the store it was sleeting--but fifteen minutes later we were able to hike up to the top of the hill with the dogs and enjoy the warmth of the sun.

Two hours later, back at home the wind came up and it began to snow. Here's what the flowers looked like at 4:30.

Now it's evening and the snow is still covering everything. Yup, March is a trickster for sure.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Front yard redesign

Although I love our house and the area around us, there is one thing about it that I really want to change--the front yard. We're located on a somewhat busy road and on a corner lot with our driveway practically in front of the living room window. So even though we have huge trees (including a giant Arbutus--see photo) in front of our house, the view is of cars and roads and there's no privacy whatsoever. You can see what I mean in this snapshot.

After living with this for over two years and going back and forth with ideas of what might improve things, we've decided to consult a garden designer to see what might be possible.

One idea is to actually move the driveway so that we can come in and out of the side street. Last week we trotted down to the Saanich Municipal Hall to see if this would be allowed--and it seems that it may be possible. In fact it turns out that our existing driveway is "not to code" being too close to the corner and we may be able to get a permit from the municipality to move it. This morning I met with the designer and it's really exciting to think that we may be able with plantings and berms to take our front yard back from the street. Of course it will probably be hideously expensive but if we do some of the work ourselves.... Oh I'm getting ahead of myself. There's all the permits and measuring and costing and planning to do first. But even the hope that we might have a usable front yard is beyond thrilling at this point.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mexico obsession?

Just in case you don't know why I would be interested in Mexico blogs, I should mention that Harry and I have spent five of the past twelve months in Mexico (or traveling there and back). These adventures were chronicled in two separate blogs: To Mexico with Mohita, which followed our sojourn to Patzcuaro and back through Zacatecas and Chihuahua in a 19798 motorhome, and Maggie's Trip to Mazatlan, which covers our two month trip to Mazatlan over Christmas.

Since retiring last January we've decided to create two summers in our year by spending a few weeks (or more) in Mexico. From Victoria it's closer to get to the west coast and we do quite like Mazatlan, but perhaps next year we'll visit another place. We're not ready to completely give up our life in Victoria but it's fascinating to learn about how people live there full time. I've been following some yahoo lists too where people who live in Mazatlan exchange information. I have to be vigilant that I don't spend too much time dreaming about Mexico though, as we are now living in Victoria for the rest of winter, spring, summer and fall. And it's a good life too.

Right now we're taking care of two border collies in addition to our own. The visitors are Geordie's sister Sophie and Maggie's sister Maddie, who are staying with us while Mark and Linette vacation in Hawaii. It's our turn to dog sit after they took care of Geordie for two months while we were in Mazatlan with Maggie.

These dogs have known each other from puppyhood so there is great excitement when they all get together. For sure we'll be taking lots of walks in the parks over the next ten days. We do get some stares when we're out with all four of the dogs.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mexican bloggers

What a discovery: I just found a list of bloggers who live in Mexico. Dozens of them. And good ones too. This world of blogging is just so cool. I'm reading blogs by women who are living in Mazatlan, Merida, Mexico City, Cancun and more. Anything I want to know about I can check out via the labels and read all about it. I'd been trying to figure out what the labels on the blog are for, but now I know.

It seems to be mainly women who do the writing and the posting to the blogs. There's even a conference coming up of English speaking bloggers in Latin America. For those who are interested, here's a link to a blog called "Countdown to Mexico" and it includes a list of blogs from all over Mexico. http://www.countdowntomexico.com/
You can be sure I'll be following some of these blogs.