Sunday, April 29, 2012

Z - Zambri's

Zambri's is a fabulous restaurant here in Victoria serving Italian food in the trattoria style.  It started in a little hole in the wall in a strip mall and the food was so good that Victorians beat a path to the door.  A couple of years ago they moved to a classy location downtown.  It's a lot more elegant and the prices are a bit higher.  But the food is as good or better than ever.

If you're looking for a lovely evening out I recommend Zambri's for its authentic food and its attentive service.

And so we finish this A to Z challenge.  It's been a push for me this year because I'm super busy with promoting a dog event, designing our fireplace, plus the spring garden work.  But I made it to the end.  I'm thinking I'll take a little blogging break for a few days.  I've been remiss in visiting other blogs but when I come back I'll make a point of hopping around a bit to see what others have been up to.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Y - Yogurt

When I was a kid yogurt was a health food faddist joke, but now it's totally gone mainstream.  The grocery aisles are full of dozens of varieties.   Now that we're on a bit of an eating program, this nice thick non-fat yogurt is part of our regular breakfast now.  Greek yogurt is thicker and tastier than the sugary kinds we used to get.  It feels healthy and it has about 15 grams of protein, which is a boon to dieters like us.

This kind is a real treat--date and fig. We often mix it with cottage cheese, a bit of granola and chopped nuts and whatever fruit we have around.  Mango and orange are nice with it.

X - xu

With X being such a tough letter to work with, I'm kind of doing a repeat of last year's post.  Xu is another little-known word that Scrabble players use.  Last year I thought the only two letter word that started with X is xi (a Greek letter) but with another year of online Scrabble under my belt I've learned that the word xu is also acceptable.  It refers to an old form of Vietnamese currency.  But of course the meaning is irrelevant.  What's important is the placement of the x on a double or triple scoring square.

I have to admit that I now play either Scrabble or Lexulous (a somewhat similar word game) through my Facebook page with seven people.  That's seven or sometimes more Scrabble moves a day.  I find it keeps the brain cells popping.  Plus I get to learn more archaic two-letter words.

I took this image from Google images because it's such a nice fit for the A to Z theme of this month.   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W - Weeds

If I'm looking for something for my W post, something that's around me a lot these days, the winner would be weeds.  Tulip time is also the time when the weeds take hold and grow like crazy.  I've been spending pretty much all my spare time out in the garden weeding.  So just for fun I took some weed photos. You'll likely be familiar with most of them if you have any kind of a yard at all.

Some, like the daisies, buttercups and dandelions look lovely in a meadow but not so nice in your lawn.

And others sneak up in the flower beds, hiding their little leaves underneath a twig while they gather their strength to show themselves.  

And then there's this one that doesn't hide at all but bursts through the ground all over the place.  It's some kind of version of bindweed (also called Morning Glory) and it's my mortal enemy.

If you know me at all you'll be aware that I'm pretty much obsessed with photographing flowers, trees and plants.  So why should I leave weeds out?  I admire all growing things, even weeds.  Well, especially weeds, because they're so strong and tenacious.

I'm not a compulsive gardener; my garden is for fun but I do find myself fighting these intruders.  If I let them go for too long they really do start taking over. 

So after enjoying the specialness of these weeds for a few moments, I'll be heading out to haul them out of the ground.  The whole idea is that plants like these tulips that need some care will have space to bloom.

How do you feel about weeds?  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

V - Victoria (of course)

Here's a statue of the young Queen Victoria, the British Monarch that my city is named after.  So many people think of her as the aging dowager but here in this statue on the front lawn of the Legislature she's presented in a much younger, although still very formal aspect.

Victoria, British Columbia has a reputation for two things:  one, being more British than the British (which actually isn't true) and two, being the home of the internationally famous Butchart Gardens (maybe I'll do a blog post about that one day).

We are also the capital city of the province and home to the Francis Rattenbury designed Parliament Buildings.  That's where I went with my camera today.  And it was perfect that it was pouring rain... because it's often like that in April.  I'm taking Kat Sloma's online photography course, A Sense of Place, and this week's assignment is to take some photos of a location that's somewhat of an icon and and make it our own.  So that's what I was doing standing in the rain this afternoon.  

Here are a few scenes of one of Victoria's icons that don't look like the postcard views.

Workers with umbrellas heading out for a smoke break.

More workers doing some kind of boot camp exercises on the back promenade.

The carved doors leading inside the west wing.

A glimpse of the stylized carvings on the column tops.

A gardener working in the rain.

Looking way up at the golden boy that adorns the top of the ornate copper cupola.

The view from the bottom part of the Queen Victoria statue (pictured above) that welcomes people to Victoria's Parliament buildings in the rain.  (Well I guess this last one kind of looks like a postcard except for the rain!)

U - Underneath

I've been struggling to find a topic for the letter U so I've decided to write about Underneath.  Underneath the tongue that is.

"What?"you say.

Here's the story.  A couple of weeks ago my dear husband went to the dentist for the cleaning and checkup and came home with an appointment with an oral surgeon.  The dentist had spotted a dark mark underneath his tongue and wanted him to get it checked out.  She said it might be a birth mark that she'd never noticed before... or it could be something else but it might possibly be melanoma!

We weren't too concerned because we feel there's lots of time left ahead, but when you hear a word like that it does niggle.  So today he went to the oral surgeon.  And the oral surgeon says he's 99% sure it's
an amalgam tattoo.  Something neither of us had ever heard of before.

Apparently sometimes the amalgam they used to  use in fillings can get into the tissues and discolour them.  They're not uncommon or dangerous and they're asymptomatic.  So now we can relax about what's happening underneath.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S - Seagulls

I've lived on the coast for my whole life with the exception of two years when I was a teenager and seagulls have always been there.  I rarely even notice them unless they're flying by at the right time to add to a photograph.  But last night when I decided to post about them I realized that they're quite cool birds.    They're brash and pushy, competing with crows for our garbage.

In fact a wheeling group of seagulls above the dump was a constant in Prince Rupert.  They follow the ferries waiting for people to throw them a scrap.  And when I worked in a downtown office building some years ago, there was one that came to the window every day at lunchtime for the crust of my sandwich.  He'd rap with his beak on the glass if I was tardy.

And in flight they really are beautiful.  These sea birds are part of the texture of my life here on the coast.  This last photo is actually not a seagull, but another seabird viewed from a boat off of Mazatlan.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

R - Renovation

We've been talking about doing this for a few years now, and this week we dug in and began the task of renovating the fireplace wall.  Our home was built in 1960 and has undergone some renos and changes since then.  When we moved in we were happy to have a functioning wood burning fireplace.  The previous owners had redecorated it with deep blue tiles and white paint.  Here's what the wall looked like.  You can see the cute little shelves inset on each side.

We liked the fireplace wall well enough but it didn't really suit the house so after six years of wood burning fires we decided to change over to a gas fireplace.  We ordered it last month and so we had to tear off the deep blue tiles and the faux Grecian mantle and see what was behind it all.

Surprise, we found a few more square feet of living room.  A false wall had been built in front of the original fireplace to cover it up.  You can see the garish yellow walls behind where the shelves were--and the additional floor space, that was miraculously finished to match the existing floor. 

After tearing off the false wall and the studs, this is what was revealed:  a classic 1960s brick fireplace.  Well, the 1960s were ok but we're going to update this with something--either tile or slate.  Many decisions await us here.  Do we add a mantel or go right up to the ceiling?  Or both?  Do we extend the hearth all along the fireplace wall? Do we close it in?  What tiles or stone do we face it all with?  Should it all be the same material or different?  What colour?  Oh the agony of it all.

I know that we'll come up with something that we like but the process is unsettling.  How do you feel about renovations?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Q - Quinoa

I've only recently started cooking this nutritious grain and it turns out that we really like it.  It's easy to prepare and it's good for you.   Apparently it's one of the best sources of protein in the vegetable kingdom.  Plus it's gluten free, has a low glycemic index and provides all eight essential amino acids.  
Not to mention that it's grown at an altitude of 12,000 feet and supports the livelihood of farmers in the Andes. 

So far we've had it as a side dish and in salads.  I cook it in my trusty rice cooker just as I do white rice.  I like it's nutty flavour.  Have you tried it yet?

(I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel here for a Q post.  I would have done quail in the garden but I did that one last fall here.)

P - Pink petals

The colour of the month here in Victoria is pink.  Everywhere I look there are pink petals--on the lovely Magnolias, the Camelias and the early Rhodos.

Some streets in the older parts of Victoria are lined with flowering cherry and plum trees.  And what a sight they are in April!

Here's a view down South Turner, a street of hundred-year-old houses near Beacon Hill Park.  The trees are starting to drop their petals now as the leaves take over.  And the result is drifts of pink in the grass and on the sides of the road and sidewalks.  It looks like pink snow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

O - oranges

The orange is the perfect fruit.  So vibrant in colour; its thick skin encloses the sweetest and juiciest deliciousness.   Plus it's just beautiful, whether it's growing on a tree or cut into quarters ready to eat.

And what other thing can you think of that has its colour as its name.  Not only that, it's good for you.  

I love oranges.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

N - New growth

The garden at this time of year is exploding with new growth.  Peonies are budding, tiny stems force their way out of the dead looking wood on the Akebia vine, and the day lilies push up bright green new leaves.  

I've been following these tender leaves and buds for the past couple of days since the weather warmed up.  It amazes me more each year that the dead looking plants come to life with new growth.   I've noticed that much of the new growth has a vibrant red tinge to it.  Like the little curls on these leaves, and the rose leaves...  

and even the sweet little new leaf on the Magnolia tree. 

Spring is such a joyful reminder to celebrate the new growth all around us.

Uh oh!  Just realized that this is Sunday, the day off for A to Zers.  So my post for N is day early.