Saturday, May 29, 2010

The opposite of dreary

I'm posting this photo for Shadow Shot Sunday to remind myself of the warmth and richness of colours in other places than Vancouver Island.  This shot was taken at a little spot just outside of Mazatlan (Mexico), on a late afternoon in January of this year.  We've had two straight weeks of clouds and rain here and the forecast looks to be about the same level of dreariness. Right about now I could use a little bit of that deep saturated wall colour to cheer me up.   Maybe you can too.

To see other shadow shots from around the world, click here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What a difference a year makes

Well it's not quite a year, but it was last June that we remade the front garden and put in some big rhodos.  I just want to show you how they look now that they're blooming for the first time.  We are so pleased to see these gorgeous flowers and the way that shelter us from the road.  Here's a before and after photo so you can see the result.  The rock in the bottom left hand corner hasn't been moved.  But all the rest is new (well, except for that huge arbutus tree of course). 

What a difference, huh?  You can also see my new little Ford Focus in the driveway.

Yes--what a difference a year can make.  Here are some close ups.

By the way, we're still adding shrubs and raking and weeding and watering this front yard.  It's an ongoing job with the arbutus tree that sheds its flowers, leaves, berries, barks and buds.  We're always cleaning up after it but it keeps us in good shape.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Saturna Island weekend

Come along with me for a little getaway to one of BC's beautiful gulf islands.  We have to get up early to catch the 8:15 ferry, which leaves from Swartz Bay and takes us part way across the Strait of Georgia. 

After picking up a few more cars at Pender Island we arrive at the Saturna ferry dock around 9:45. It's a special weekend celebrating Queen Victoria's birthday and in typical island fashion there are events scheduled.  This evening we'll be attending the annual pig roast at the community hall.

And this morning it's the annual spring garage sale.  Absolutely everybody's there scooping up bargains.

This canoe caught our eye but after a close examination we decided to leave it for someone else.  (We have enough projects underway at home!)

After a quick stop at the recreation centre to see the pig roasting for tonight's dinner we head up the mountain. It's quite a climb up through second growth forest, right to the top of Brown Ridge where the cabin sits alone between a grassy field and an amazing view of the islands below. Here's the gate with its utilitarian latch, and once inside we bump along the rutted road beside the field.

No sheep in the field today--just these three deer enjoying the meadow grass.  They jump the fence to get in and out as they please.

Finally we're at the cabin.

But before we head inside you'll want to walk over and take a look at the view.  Maybe even sit for a while.

Eventually we'll be saturated with the view and head inside the cabin.  Here's what we see from the front window through the coal oil lamps.  These aren't for show; we use them for light in the evening since there's no electricity up here.

Lunch will be sandwiches made by my my seven year old niece Callie with the help of her mom--

and supervised by our two border collies (always hoping for a crumb to be dropped).
After lunch we'll head out for a walk along the Brown Ridge trail. 

The dogs will come of course.  This is their favourite part because they can romp and run as far and as fast as they like, and pick up huge sticks.  The scenery is not a priority for them.

So now that we've had our exercise, we can while away the afternoon tending the fire in the wood stove, chopping wood, perhaps reading a book or playing a game of cards.  If you're tired from your early morning, you can even take a nap.

When dinner time arrives we'll head down to the rec centre for the pig roast.  This is a community event with long-standing traditions. The carving is always done by my relatives.  Here's my cousin Nan  and her 92 year old father doing the honours.

Of course there are door prizes and lucky Callie wins the big stuffed piggy.

The sunset marks the end of a special Saturna Island day.  I hope you enjoyed it too.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The joy of childhood

Just the other day I heard some wonderful advice for people who might be feeling despondent about their life.  The prescription was to go and sit in a park and watch children playing and remember the joy you felt about life in childhood.  I think this is such an excellent idea.  So often we get caught up in all the "have tos" and worries and anxieties that we forget to just be in the moment.  These children show us how.  The photo of boys jumping off the stone stairs was taken this winter at the Plaza Machado in Mazatlan.  The other one is an arty shot of my niece somersaulting in the long grass.  Don't they just make you remember how it felt to be a joyous child?

What joys do you recall from childhood?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The new back yard

It's done!  Doesn't it look fabulous?  Talfen and the crew actually came back on Saturday and spent the day finishing the brick laying.  Saturday evening we had our dinner at the table under the plum tree. 

Then on Monday morning they came to clean up and set out the river rocks for the final touch.  And for the icing on the cake, Harry's purchased a little fountain kit so we can have some burbling water in the stones beside this bench.

We're just so pleased with the way everything turned out.  Our outdoor furniture looks as though it was purchased for this location. 

Now we're ready for a big patio party.  Oh yeah!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Patio progress

There's been a lot of progress on the patio since Monday when they ripped the old deck off.  On Tuesday they came in with an excavator and shovels and created the shape, then they began to build the stone walls.

Much of the stone work was done by this lovely young woman, which pleased me no end.  And she did a very good job.

Here's what it looked like yesterday afternoon.

The main part of the bricks are laid and the stairs are just about finished and you can see the basic shape of the ground level patio.  Bricks still need to be laid on the top level and the edges have to be done.  Unfortunately, they ran out of bricks so we're still waiting for it to be completed.  I guess not much will happen now until Monday.  But we think it's going to be a lovely place to hang out this summer.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bonfire party


 On a soft May evening
People gather
Bringing offerings for the bonfire
And food to share

Kids collect wood
The fire smokes
Then settles to burn
Branches, old furniture,
Construction waste
All consumed in the fire

As dusk falls
The fire burns high
Then low
Then settles to embers

The fire draws us together
Gives us purpose
Warmth of fire and friends
This is a bonfire party

Monday, May 10, 2010

The back deck

When we moved into this house almost four years ago there was a little back deck with very dated railings.  We removed the railings and added some lattice and a few potted plants and it's served us well.  
But my dream has always been to have a ground level stone patio where we could have a table and chairs set out for an al fresco lunch under a tree.  And recently I decided to spend the last of my little inheritance upgrading the back yard area.  I may never get to Provence but I can create my own French countryside, right?  This is where we spend most of the time in the summer so it only makes sense to create as much beauty as we can here.

My first plan was for two wooden platforms leading down to a large slate patio.  But when we consulted with the experts, we learned that natural slate is beyond my budget and not very practical either.  Now we've come up with a revised design using stone-like pavers on two levels and a granite wall.  The new design eliminates the wooden platforms (and the maintenance) altogether.  This is a boon!  The other good thing from Harry's point of view is that he won't have  to build the new wooden platforms.

We're going ahead with the design and over the weekend we prepared by removing everything from the deck... 

and today the workers arrived to dismantle it.  Here's what it looks like tonight after removing the deck and breaking out a couple of little concrete areas.  It's very bare and utilitarian looking right now.  (Not at all like Provence!)

Those little temporary steps are the way we get in and out for now.  My dear dogs are having some trouble adapting to this change.  They stand at the back door and look hesitant, then they go carefully outside.  Maggie (the princess) doesn't like standing on the gravel at all and stands way out on the grass waiting for the door to open.

Tomorrow they'll bring in the excavator and begin the real work. It should be done in about ten days.  I hope it looks as nice as it did in my fantasy!

Dog show contestants

I meant to post a couple of photos from last Sunday's dog walk but the week just sucked me in with a whoosh.  So here (a week later) are two of the cutest.  A big feature of our event is the fun dog show with contests for best dressed dog...

and dog that looks most like owner...

This girl won third prize I think.  She made use of the face painter from the kidz zone to help her out.

Our dog walk was a big success in spite of some rather cool weather. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tree peony shadow

Here, for Shadow Shot Sunday, is the very first bloom from my four-year-old Tree Peony.  Isn't it beautiful?  I bought it when we first put some plants in at the back of the house but it's suffered a few setbacks.  First of all it was in a pot, which kept it from properly rooting.  Then for two years in a row its bud was accidently broken off.  Last year it was moved behind something else and didn't get the water it needed.  But now it's found a forever place and it's taking off.

I just love the big floppy petals and the shadows they cast--plus that stunning centre bit.

Gardening just gets better and better for me!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Caffe Fantastico

We've been all over the west side of the USA and into Mexico and we've never yet found a latte that equals one from Victoria's own Caffe Fantastico.  This coffee is so rich and smooth and sweet that I don't even need any sugar with it.  (And that's unusual for me).

The people at the Fantastico are obsessive about coffee roasting--to the point that they won't allow fragrance in their shop, and they will refuse to make certain drinks.  All their coffees are doubles and so I order a "half-caff latte in the biggest take-out cup" to get it the way it like it, not too dark.   Sometimes the barrista will politely suggest that it might be a little weak but I tell them that's how I like it.  And it's not weak at all.  Compared to other burned coffees or weak lattes I've had, this is like nectar.

And look how artistically they create a design in the top.  If you're ever in Victoria, make sure you find the Fantastico and check out their coffee.  It's not a fancy place but the clientele is varied and interesting and the coffee is the best I've ever found.