Thursday, December 21, 2017

Decorating with found greens

Up until last year we went out and purchased a live tree and loved the scent of it and the look of it and the idea of it--but not so much the dropping needles and the need to keep it watered and dispose of it after Christmas. So now that we're in a smaller space it was a no-brainer to purchase a little tabletop artificial tree.  Here it is on the table in the bay window with a few treasured ornaments. So easy. And kind of cute.

So to balance out the lack of natural greens I took a little walk around the neighbourhood with my clippers and a shopping bag and found a few twigs and sprigs and branches that can be used to bring some natural greenery indoors.  First I arranged the red twigs and some leaves and big berries in this simple glass vase. 

The mantel is the obvious place for boughs of fir, cedar and blue spruce, plus some oregon grape  and arbutus unedo. The candles are only lighted when we're in the room though, so don't worry.

This little milk bottle carrier vase is perfect for some greenery sprigs in the kitchen.  I've added rose hips to this for colour-- although I wish I'd arranged them differently before taking the photograph. They're too close together!

The holly-like leaves are from a large Mahonia plant and I like the fresh colour better than holly.  The paper white narcissus came from the local grocery store and also have that bright fresh green that hints of spring. I love their scent and the promise of greener, warmer days to come.  Today is the Solstice so we really are beginning the upswing. Yay!

Saturday, December 16, 2017


When we were in Spain and Portugal we loved the tapas that were served there in the bars, which are ever present there. The photo on the left is a classic bar we attended in Madrid. We were so enamoured of tapas that we've now hosted  two tapas parties.  They're so easy, because the food on offer can be prepared ahead of time in most cases. And unlike a dinner party, there are no courses, no appetizers, no side dishes, and no desserts.

These are some photos of tapas taken from our trip to Spain. Seafood is a really big deal there, even in areas that are completely landlocked.

The one below was taken at a big public market in Madrid.

This one is in Seville, a place that still serves a free tapa with every drink you order.

For our tapas party I scoured the internet and came up with some reasonably authentic recipes. On the left is the traditional Spanish tortilla made with eggs and potatoes, here topped with fresh asparagus.

Other favourites include Ensalada Russo (Russian Salad), which is made with potatoes, carrots, tuna green peas, and mayonnaise--plus whatever else you might like to add (onion, roasted peppers, capers for example).

We also added Capresi salad on a stick and almonds roasted with smoked paprika. If you'd like to know what else we prepared, here are some of them.

Olives, green and black, stuffed and plain
Chorizo sausage
Shrimps cooked in garlic oil
Rustic bread
Manchego cheese
Albondigas (otherwise known as Spanish meatballs), patatas bravas (potatoes roasted in oil and spices), skewers of roasted pork. I'm sure there are others but I can't remember them now.  Pretty well any appetizer you can think of could be served as part of a tapas menu. And of course wine. Did I mention wine? Spain has excellent red wines and good white wines too (they're known as verdejos)

The best thing is that it's easy to do and a fun way to host a few people without stress.

If you haven't been invited yet, don't worry, we'll be doing this again in the new year. Let me know if you're interested.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Carol's ginger cookies

I can't believe that it's been a month and a half since I posted here. But now it's almost Christmas here on Yukon Street and everyone is getting ready. The kids across the street have only one more week of school and decorated trees adorn all their apartments. As for me, I'm baking ginger cookies. It's my most favourite simple recipe because there's no rolling or cutting involved. 
A friend from Jamie's elementary school days gave me this recipe and it was hand written on a scrap of paper for many years before I finally typed it out and stuck it in my recipe file.  
The dough is done with the beater and then little pinches get rolled into balls and then rolled in white sugar and baked. If they're kept in a tin they'll even keep somewhat soft.

To me they signal the Christmas season and I like to bake lots of them to give away. I really have a hard time stopping with just one or two of these delicious morsels though. They're so good.

Here's the recipe if you'd care to try it. I make sure the spices are fresh for maximum flavour. Sometimes I add a tablespoon of orange juice to the dough, which adds a subtle Scandinavian touch.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Hallowe'en on Yukon Street

This six-unit apartment is right across the street from our house. We love having it within our view because the families and children living there add joy and life to the street.  Especially at Hallowe'en.

The kids and parents have been preparing for weeks I think. Pumpkins have been carved, candy purchased and costumes created.

Here you can see them getting ready.  The guy in yellow on the right is dressing up as an aging hippie surfer. He's just putting on his long wig. I thought the little guy on the left was dressed up as a cotton ball. Wrong.  He ended up with a wolf mask on and a tail at the back. He was a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Last night it all culminated in a group gathering on the front stairs for a photograph before the kids set out for trick-or-treating. The kids headed off before it got dark with their parents in most cases. We stayed home to hand out goodies to families with young children from nearby streets.  What fun. I love living on Yukon Street.

This morning the kids headed off to school and the only signs left were the pumpkins on the stairs and the rubber bat flying from my front porch.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

European streets

We've been home for almost a week and we're pretty well over our jet lag. It seems to take longer with each trip. But today was a lovely sunny day so we got out into the garden to do some cleanup. We left at the height of summer and now we're deep into fall.  It's wonderful to see all the colours on the trees in the sunshine. We are glad to be home, but what an amazing variety of places we visited.

I was thinking this morning about some of the things we saw in Spain and Portugal, well London too. And what really stands out for me is the surfaces of the streets. Instead of our boring blacktop, Europe's city's feature cobblestones of many different shapes, sizes and colours. It's only in the older parts of the cities that these exist but they create such an altered feeling to our roads.  In looking through some of the photos I took I see that there's a whole album of these images.

Here are a few of the best.



These photos were taken in Cordoba, Granada, Sevilla, Ronda, Vejer de la Frontera, plus a white town whose name I cannot remember. Obviously the different materials used are due to the stones that were locally available.

In Lisbon most of the streets were black basalt stone cobbles and the sidewalks were made of white limestone cobbles. Sometimes they mixed them together to create wonderful patterns.

This was our street and they were doing some repairs and digging. They could just dig out the stones and pile them up and then replace them when the work was done. I could show you many more but this gives an idea. It's so much more interesting than our cement and blacktop. (Although more difficult to drive on and sometimes to walk on as well.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Farewell to Santos, Lisbon

It rained last night in Lisbon, a real downpour at about 3:00 in the morning. It's the first rain we've experienced since we were in London a month ago. When we awoke the bucket on the little airshaft behind our AirB&B apartment was full of water.  Time to go home I guess. Good thing we're ready with our flight and our taxi to the airport booked. After five weeks we're looking forward to Victoria. This is our elegant flat in the barrio of Santos, facing onto the neighbourhood street where kids sit on the doorstep.

Today, our last day, we finally visited the Marionette Museum, which we've walked by every day on our way up and down the hill. I'm so glad we didn't miss it. It has puppets and masks from all over the world but most of the exhibit focuses on puppetry of Portugal and Lisbon. It seems there's a tradition of puppet making that continues today.

Puppets are made of stuffed and sticked stockings, wood, papier mache and cast resin.

Really inventive puppets. These last ones are used to create an animated movie, very contemporary.  They made several faces with different expressions that they would use for the filming, as well as different props and hand gestures.  (These are for you LainĂ©.)

We enjoyed seeing this fellow introduce puppets to this group of entranced children.

And when we exited we found ourselves in a beautiful courtyard that was in fact the cloisters of an old convent. The building was used as a convent for a long time before it became the Marionette Museum.  What a great way to end our trip to Portugal.

Tonight one last dinner at one of the neighbourhood restaurants and then off we fly on the silver bird.