Sunday, August 30, 2009

Heather's flowers

For Today's Flowers enjoyment I'm posting photos from my friend Heather's garden. Heather is an artist is many ways and the garden is one of her best canvasses. She has transformed her front yard into a feast of flowers, complete with gravel paths winding through and flowers tumbling one over another, vying for attention.

It's just a regular city lot but I got lost in it wandering around with my camera. From sky views...

to the tiny bloom hidden in foliage.

I've tried to pick images that show the flowers jumbled together in profusion.

This is my favorite kind of garden, where plants and flowers spread and combine as they do in nature. Heather is a master of creating this experience. She can even do it with bouquets in her home.

You can see flowers from around the world each Sunday here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


What is it about sleep? It seems when you need it most it’s unavailable. At least that’s how it is for me. When my life gets too hectic I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.

Usually I just lie there and…
listen to my husband snore
list in my head all the things I have to do (tomorrow, next week, next month)
mentally write the numbers from 20 to 1 on a blackboard and then erase them
play mental word games and find words that rhyme
poke my husband in the shoulder so he’ll turn over and stop snoring
listen to the automatic sprinklers come on
watch the moonlight on the walls
list things I’m grateful for
think about how tired I am
think about the emails I need to send…

Lately though I’ve been getting up and going into my little office to actually send out the emails. And then I’ve been checking on blogs from around the world. I find it comforting to think that there are people up and about and living their lives and a enjoying themselves at this very moment . And while it’s 4:15 am here, it might be 2:15 in Seville or evening in Thailand … and I’m not the only person awake in the dark

We’re working on the little downstairs suite to get it ready for the young student couple that will be renting it this winter while going to university. Yesterday I painted the walls of the bathroom and tomorrow we’re going to replace the floor—among other things. Well, I’m feeling tired now. Better try going back to sleep.

I know I’m not the only one with insomnia. Any suggestions on how to get through those quiet dark hours are welcome.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Spider web

The morning sun created just the right light to photograph this spider in the process of making her web outside of Jamie's window. We'd never seen this in action before and it was fascinating. The little spider crawled slowly around in a circle, stopping at each cross thread to do something with her two back legs. It was a very deliberate transferring movement that seemed to anchor one thread to another. I'm truly amazed at this process as I had no idea that web making took such a long time. Somehow in my mind I pictured the spider whizzing around in circles. This will make me think carefully before I sweep away any spider webs in my path.

I have one question though: Why is it that we see so many spider webs in the later summer and early fall? Don't spiders build webs all year?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lost pets and other sorrows

Last night while taking our two dogs out for their evening walk we came upon these two posters--both so poignant to me. Both these posters are on telephone poles along the road in front of our house.

Although the road looks quiet in this photo, it can be very busy at some times of the day.

And I fear for the little kitten or pug trying to find their way home. Whenever I see notices about lost animals it twists my heart. I feel so sorry for the poor little creatures wandering around alone, and even sadder about the owners who probably overlooked something like closing a gate or a window and are torn with guilt. The pink poster about the little kitten is clearly written by a young person and that's just so sad.

I think I'm feeling a little vulnerable to loss right now because tonight is the last night that our son Jamie will be living at home. He's heading back to UBC in Vancouver tomorrow and it's quite likely that he won't be back next summer as he'll be involved in a co-op program, which means he'll probably be working somewhere else.

Of course Jamie is a capable young man and not a little lost dog or kitten. He's excited to get back to school but his dad and I are both feeling a little bit at a loss thinking of this chapter in our parental lives coming to an end. We are also excited and looking forward to our next chapter traveling this winter and other new ventures...but there's still a sense of loss.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fenceposts, flowers and ferns

For ABC Wednesday, I'm posting a few photos for the letter F. It's not quite Wednesday here but it won't be long. Already it's Wednesday in London, Paris and New York. So here goes.

F is for Fenceposts (especially old ones) ....

I love old fenceposts. This one is from an old house in Fairfield, a neighbourhood in Victoria where I used to live.

And this one is from a ghost town called Bamberton that I visited last weekend with my friend who lived there as a child.

F is for flowers too. These were behind the first fence.

And these were a bouquet at Heather's house.

And F is for ferns. These are in the woods behind the school where we take the dogs for a walk and a play in the evening.

Click on the image in the sidebar for more ABC Wednesday posts.
Happy Wednesday to all and to all a good night.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blackberry Creme Brulee

We had some friends over for dinner last night and they brought us the most fabulous dessert. It arrived inside an insulated bag and it came with a blow torch. Yes, creme brulee--but made with blackberries. I think this is a most inspired combination. The sweet-tart blackberries oozing their juice into the creamy custard. And of course the crust on top which is made by flaming sugar with the blow torch.

I've never made it before but Aaron and Laura told us it was easy and they even gave us the recipe, which I'm sharing with you. If you don't have a blow torch you can carmelize the crust under the broiler of your oven.

4 egg yolks
6 Tbs. sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I think maybe whipping cream)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat egg yolks in a medium bowl, add the sugar and whisk til smooth.
In a second bowl whisk cream, add vanilla then fold together with first mixture.

Place fully ripe and juicy blackberries in the bottom of individual ramekins, then pour blended mixture over top, about 3/4 of the way to the top.

Place ramekins ino a roasting pan and fill pan with water to about half way up the ramekins.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. It's done if the custard jiggles a bit when you shake the pan.
Take the roaster out and let things cool down.

When the custard has solidified, you do the brulee part. Sprinkle 1 1/2 Tbs. of sugar evenly over the top of each custard like Aaron is doing here.

Then either use a small blowtorch to carmelize the sugar (see top photo). Or put them under your broiler and keep watch until the sugar carmelizes.

After that you have to wait until it cools down so the topping crystalizes. If you can wait long enough, then you can break through the crispy crust with your spoon and get into the rich custard with blackberries. Eat this with a small spoon, taking tiny bites to extend the enjoyment of this marvelous dessert. The blackberry blends so beautifully with the rich custard. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Today's flowers--red/orange and blue/purple

Today's flowers are a red-orange zinnia and a blue-purple cornflower. I chose these two flowers because their colours are on the opposite sides of the colour wheel. Aren't they just stunning in their brilliance? The brightness and intensity of flowers continues to amaze me. They are like brilliant gems or distilled poetry. And all they require of us is that we stop in a moment and absorb their beauty.

To see other flowers posted by people all over the globe, go to Today's Flowers. Thanks to Luiz and his team for hosting this meme. I hope others enjoy these as much as I do. Have a peaceful Sunday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Some new/old friends

I had such a great time yesterday visiting an old school chum Ry and his wife Noy. Ry and I were in the same class in Grades 3, 4, and 5 but we hadn't seen each other since then. And that was in the 1950s! We reconnected through a mutual friend from grade school who thought we should meet since we live very close to each other and we both have border collies.

So Ry invited Harry and me out to his home for a Thai lunch and a walk with the dogs. Ry's wife is from Thailand and specializes in Thai cooking. We headed out there with some wine and flowers to meet them. It felt a little bit like a blind date, not knowing who we were going to have lunch with. But it turned out to be a big success. They live in a lovely spot out on the Saanich peninsula, complete with fields of yellow grass and maple trees with a winding road going up a hill to a sweet 1920s house.

We spent an hour or so enjoying Noy's fabulous spring rolls and pad thai and sate and finishing two bottles of cold white wine.

After that we introduced the dogs to each other and headed out through their back gate and over a field into the woods with their border collie, plus our two, plus a neighbour’s dog. Behind the house there are miles of paths through the woods and even a little pond where the dogs could swim.

We had lots to talk about and it seems we do indeed have quite a bit in common. One amazing thing is that Ry and I were born on exactly the same day in the very same hospital. How’s that for synchronicity? We all had a fine time looking at the old class photos and talking about life and politics and travels. In fact Ry and Noy invited us out to their place again this weekend to join a summer party they are holding. It seems we have made some new/old friends.

And--this is the icing on the cake--Noy gives classes in Thai cooking at Kallayanee's Kitchen. Harry and I have been talking about learning to cook Thai food and so we're going to join one of the classes in the fall. How perfect is that?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eating local

I meant to get this posted earlier today for ABC Wednesday but the day slipped away. E is for Eating local--and that's what we do this time of year. Everything is so fresh and tasty--and often free.

Gathering lettuce, radishes and basil from the pots on the deck for a salad...

Cooking with apples from my sister's tree and blackberries from the corner of the yard. Or driving out to a farm stand for tomatoes, corn and summer squash...

All these ways of getting food are so pleasing.

These photos are from a friend's garden. She is actually farming in her back yard. These are her tomatoes and chard and pattypan squash. The colours of these foods are so beautiful; not to mention the taste.

This year it's even been hot enough to grow eggplant. Isn't its flower just gorgeous?

Come winter, eating local is more limited, although still possible. But I much prefer the foods of August and September. What's your favourite local food?

You can click on the ABC logo in the sidebar if you'd like to see some other E posts.

A transformative moment

Steven over at The Golden Fish has invited people to write about a transformative moment. It’s been interesting over the past few days thinking about moments that have changed me--and I’ve experienced quite a few. But looking back I see that many of them are steeped in loss. Now I do know that without experiencing pain and loss we do not grow, but rather than revisiting these times today, I’ve chosen to tell about a small moment that opened a long-closed door for me.

For as long as I can remember, I loved to draw and paint. As a child I dreamed of being an artist. In high school I took art classes and then after a couple of years of university I enrolled in art school. But for me it was kind of a negative experience. I attended for a few months but didn’t feel confident about painting. In fact as weeks went by I became more and more frozen and eventually I left art school knowing that I would never be an artist. I returned to university and in 1969 graduated with a teaching degree. I still did the occasional drawing but I completely stopped painting.

Fast forward twenty years, through a short stint as a teacher, a failed marriage, the loss of a child, many jobs, a second marriage and a new son, Jamie, born in 1988. By then the dream of being an artist had faded far into the background.

When Jamie was three years old he decided he wanted to be a frog for Halloween and so I had to figure out some kind of a frog costume. I decided that I would make a frog’s head out of paper mache and using flour and water paste, just like we used to do as kids, I created a kind of helmet mask complete with google eyes. It came down over his shoulders and he looked through the wide smiling mouth.

When it came time to paint the frog mask, I went to the art supply store and bought some paints. The moment I opened those jars the smell of the acrylic paint transported me back to art school days. I was so excited to pick up the brush and plop the paint onto a board and mix the colours. I just loved painting that frog mask. I was so happy playing around with the paint. And I realized that I wanted-- actually, needed--to do more painting. I didn’t want to do a painting; I wasn’t ready to tackle a canvass. But I could use paints to decorate things. So I built paper mache forms—bowls and trays and urns—and I painted and sponged them with layers of colour.

Once the door was open I began to expand. Before I knew it I was taking an evening painting class, which led to a two-week painting intensive, which led to life drawing and printmaking. It was a concentrated time of self-directed art discovery. Painting that frog mask for my son’s Halloween costume allowed me to break through my fear of painting and begin a seven-year path rediscovering my artistic side. It culminated in two paintings being selected for a juried art show where one of them was sold. The other one (seen above) still hangs on my wall to remind me that left-behind dreams can be picked up again.

Post script: This process of defining a transformative moment has had some transformational effects of its own. Ten years ago we got our first Border Collie, Maggie, and I was catapulted into the dog owner world. Because there are only so many free hours in a day I left art making behind (again) as I learned about dog sports, training, dog behaviour and got involved in an organization that advocates for dog owners. But recently I’ve been feeling a pull to get back to art making. And thinking about the thrill of painting that frog mask is again inspiring me to take some time to for drawing and painting again this fall. Thank you Steven for encouraging me to open that door, once again.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The red tunnel

For Ruby Tuesday I'd like to show you a photo of a little reddish dog running in front of a bright red tunnel. I took this on the weekend at an agility trial. In this NADAC agility game the dogs run a course composed completely of tunnels.

It's a fast game and the dogs just love it. If you click to enlarge the top photo you'll see how avidly the dog is trotting towards tunnel number 10. Going to an agility trial is fun for anyone who likes to see dogs and people enjoying themselves.

More Ruby Tuesday Posts can be found here.

Rust and old machines

Last week while on the way back from camping up-island we stopped by the BC Forest Museum with Callie for a little exploration of the old forest equipment. Callie enjoyed looking at the displays of the bunkhouse and going for a ride on the little steam train. While she was playing at the playground I enjoyed taking some photos of the old rusted equipment. For me the textures and colours of these old machines are so intriguing. I thought I'd share a few of the photos here. Don't you just love the rusty organic colours?

I don't have much time to write today because I'm working on my post for a Transformative Moment meme for August 19th over at The Golden Fish.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Today's flowers - Daisies and Hollyhock

These old fashioned flowers can be found in many yards and they're still some of my favorites. The Shasta daisies are so easy to grow because they just keep spreading, and the Hollyhock colors are so cheerful and reliable year after year. Oldies-but-goodies.

Visit other flower photos here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A blast from the past

This is Mrs. Thompson's grade 3 class at Queen Mary School in Vancouver (1955). I'm the one fourth from the right in the second row; the one with the suspenders and the barrettes. I pulled this photo out of a box today, along with others from my elementary school for a specific reason. I'm trying to find a boy who was in some of my grade school classes. Why? You might well ask.

Well here's the thing. My very best friend, Heather, from elementary school and I reconnected about ten years ago. (She's the one on the far right in the third row.) Heather lives in Toronto but she emailed me the other day to say that a classmate from those days lives not far from me here in Saanich. She had met him at a high school reunion. Now I didn't go to high school with this group because I moved away from Vancouver at the end of Grade 7. So I remember this boy only by his name and a shadowy impression of his eyes--and the back of his neck. I think he sat in front of me in Grade 5 or 6. You know how it is with ten year old girls--they think boys are just a noisy nuisance. But somehow I did remember his name so there must have been something about him that I liked.

Anyway, this boy ( is my age. He lives nearby in a rural area, he has a Border Collie, and he's spent most of his career doing writing work. There are some parallels here. So this guy sent me a note and the upshot of it is that we are going to get together next week to introduce our Border Collies and ourselves. In fact he and his wife have invited us for a lunch of Thai food. She is apparently an excellent cook and gives Thai cooking classes so it should be a wonderful experience. Plus Harry and I adore Thai food.

I used to be kind of shy, in fact I probably still am--but I've decided in recent years to follow whatever paths open up to me. I don't know what will come of this. Maybe he and his wife and Harry and I will really enjoy each others' company; maybe not. But I just think it is so cool that we can connect again with someone from the far distant past and see where our different paths have taken us.

In any case it will be an interesting afternoon. I'm really looking forward to it.

What do I really read?

You know the expression "her eyes are bigger than her stomach"? Well that applies to me when it comes to books. I have so many piles of books I want to read but only a limited time to peruse them.

I end up with these stacks of books because of a probably very bad habit. When I go into a book store or when I wander through blogs that mention books, I make notes of titles that interest me. Then I log onto my library account and put a hold on them. Sometimes the books come in all at once and I'm faced with some tough choices. Should I continue reading the book I'm into now or put it aside and start a new one? Sometimes I do both. At times I have several books going on at once. For example right now I'm reading these four books:

And I'm enjoying each one of them. They're very different. Olive Kitteridge is an excellent novel I'm reading for my book club. Candy Freak is a very funny book about chocolate, On Being Certain is a fascinating look at how our feelings of certainty develop, and Breaking Point is a study of women's transformational crises.

And just yesterday I picked up from another book from the library, The Whistling Season, a novel by Ivan Doig, recommended by a blog friend, Julie King. I know I won't be able to read them all in the two week time period the library allows. At least not if I want to accomplish the other demands of my life. Plus I don't allow myself to read during the day--only first thing in the morning and in the evening.

So what do I really read this week? It depends on my mood. Sometimes just a magazine or the newspaper! Tonight I might finish the easy, funny one, "Candy Freak"...but then again I might just start the Whistling Season to see what that world is like....

Uh, I think I have a slight problem here... with distractability. And I just saw an email from the library that two more books are ready to be picked up. Oh my!