Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fussing for the Two of Us

A special day. A special dinner. A little fuss. Last night's dinner à deux. A host of memories on the table alone - a pale blue damask linen table cloth given to Tim's parents on their wedding day more than 60 years ago. White linen napkins from the same era. China salad plates and later, for dessert, tea cups from the set started by my mother when I was 16. Flatware given by my parents for our first wedding anniversary. Crystal water goblets chosen for our wedding (I only have 6 for they ceased production soon after.) The table itself, built by Tim in Ecuador 28 years ago. How many people have sat here, lingering, laughing, talking?

Candlelight on a summer evening. White flowers and greenery gathered from the garden. All this fuss for just the two of us.  You know, it didn't take long to pull together. I started cooking and table setting at 3:00 and all the prep was done by 5:00, except for the last minute cooking after he arrived home.

I use to save "special' for company. During our years in Ecuador there were always the special treats brought down from Canada or the USA. I would hoard them in the freezer and use them rarely, then only for company. One day I read or heard, "Use the things you love on the people you love." Well, of course. 

My children remind me occasionally of the time I tried to grow raspberries in Ecuador. Our crop was very very small. I used these same china salad plates, one for each of us, and in the center of each plate I placed one single raspberry. That was dessert. How we laughed. 

First course, Watermelon with Feta Cheese and basil. Simple. Juicy.

Main course: Shrimp with Garlic, Parsley and Lemon, Roasted Asparagus, Sauteed Mushrooms, and an Onion Carbonara from a cookbook by Patricia Wells (The French Kitchen Cookbook) that will be going into my regular repertoire of recipes. He had a glass of Malbec, I had Riesling.

We like to wait a little for dessert. Tim had an exhausting day so he took a little rest on the couch while I cleared away the food and dishes. Very 1950s. Then dessert - a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream and Raspberries. Earl Grey tea. The cake is from Laura Calder's book, French Taste. Dark intense chocolate flavour. 

I let the candles burn down even after dessert was done. We watched an episode of The Good Wife on Netflix. My sister called to wish us Happy Anniversary and we Skyped with our youngest daughter and her husband in Vancouver. There are cards on the mantel.

And so another year is marked. Today I'll be watching two little grand-people while their mother goes to an appointment. Good times ahead, always.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Daisy Memories

"Daisies are such friendly flowers." (Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail)

 Daisies in glass bowls decorated the tables at our wedding, 37 years ago today. My aunt volunteered to do them for us. 

Tim and I looked at each other this morning and marveled how the years have marched by. Those young, young people committing to each other and to God are not the same people as they are now. The years have taken their toll on physical bodies. Careers have changed. Children were born, grew up and now form families of their own. Darling little ones now call us Nana and Grandpa. There's been much, much joy and a large portion of tears during these years. The joy far outweighs the tears, but this morning, I'm feeling a little pensive.

Our dreams were not grandiose. We envisioned a family, settling down in the town we met in, building our own home and living there forever. Tim has his carpentry papers and envisioned himself as a contractor one day. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. 

How God must have smiled at us then. Instead, we've traveled and lived overseas for 21 of those 37 years, raising our family in circumstances wildly different from our own childhoods. Tim now sits behind a desk in meetings that affect many people. He's off to Salt Spring Island for the day for work. I did stay at home while the children were small, later began teaching, and love it to this day.  We never did build our own house and it's unlikely to happen now. But wherever we've lived, we've made a home.

There is no pre-figuring the future. Yet each step we take in life leads us along a pathway. Sometimes, we play the "what if?" game. What if we hadn't gone to Ecuador? What if we had done this, or that? Life would be very different. I don't regret any of the major decisions we've made. Life is richer for our experiences, both the good and the bad.  Thanks be to God.

And so I come back to the daisies. Our anniversary celebration will be on Friday, but for tonight I'm making a special dinner. I think I'll pick some daisies for the table. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

Wildflowers, Summer Eating and a Winner!

All along the roadsides these days there's a blue blur. I've been hoping to see some wild chicory up close and personal. On a walk this past week I noticed some beside a pathway and took a couple of photos. Such a pretty flower.

Summer may not be the greatest time for slaving over a hot stove, but it's a wonderful time for eating. All the fresh produce and seasonal treats must be enjoyed now, not later. Cherry Clafoutis is one dish I make at least once each summer. Cherries are so delicious and these are roasted with a little sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon before the batter is added. A bit more work, but the taste is worth it. Clicking on the link will take you to my recipe blog.

This quick-to-make salad has been done twice here this summer already, once with the feta cheese and once without it. It was delicious either way. The combination of watermelon and tomatoes may seem unlikely, but the pairing works very well. You hardly need a recipe, but here's a link to my version of Watermelon Tomato Salad

The winner for the Jord Wooden Watch is Linda Jo. Congratulations, Linda. I'll send you an email later today. Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. 



Friday, July 18, 2014

Five on Friday


1.  It's been a week of glorious warm sunshine. Maybe a bit too warm at times, but I won't complain. Not much. I spent time with little ones this week, on two separate days. Little Miss S here is waving her pinwheel with great enthusiasm. I get such joy from watching my grandchildren interact with the world. Bugs, water, grass, sticks, rocks - everything is interesting and an avenue for imagination.

2. Yesterday afternoon I walked through the Horticultural Garden of the Pacific with Miss A, her mother, and her little brother. I haven't been there in years and was surprised to see all the development. Another visit will be on my calendar. This garden has lots of fun areas to keep little ones engaged. A play house decorated with toy bugs and other creatures was a big hit. She and I sat down at the little table inside and had a tea party with shell dishes.

3.  The lilies were astounding. Huge flowers growing tall, tall, tall. Richly fragrant. Gorgeously coloured. 

4.  What I've been reading. I found the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear in the library on a recommendation from another blogger and I whipped through 8 of the 9 books in the space of two weeks. Easy summer reading. Maisie isn't as compelling a protagonist as others I've read, but the books were light while still providing enough interest to keep me wanting the next one. The only one I have not yet read is, ironically, the first in the series. I'll put it on order from the library.

5.  While I was reading, the zucchini started producing. Penny of The Comforts of Home posted three great zucchini recipes. I'll be starting with the Farmer's Market Salad with Tomato Basil Vinaigrette. Doesn't that sound delicious?

And just a reminder that you have a few more days to enter the giveaway for a beautiful wooden watch. Just click over to comment on this post.

Plans for the weekend include a short boat ride on Saturday and lots of puttering around the house. How about you?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In the Summer Kitchen

Memories of childhood summers include the intense fruity fragrance of jam making on a hot summer's day. Stirring the bubbling cauldron of sugar and berries. More stirring. The caution to "stand back, it's hot," as the pot is removed from the stove. The sound of jar lids popping as they cool and seal.

I learned how to make jam from my mother and have made it for years with commercial pectin. However, I've been experimenting with recipes other than the ones that come with the pectin packets or the companies that have a vested interest in pectin. I took a book out from the library recently called Food in Jars, by Marisa McClellan. She has a blog, also called Food in Jars. Her recipes call for a little more cooking of the jam and fruit and a bit of liquid pectin at the end. But the ratio of fruit to sugar is much, much higher. Both the raspberry jam (Simple Raspberry Jam) and the Rhubarb Jam (Rhubarb Vanilla Jam with Earl Grey) are from her book. 

So. Delicious. I licked the jam pot after both. Yum. Yum. Yum. The Rhubarb Jam is made with a whole vanilla bean that is scraped out and all the bits added to the jam. If you look closely you'll see the dark flecks. And, instead of water she adds double strength Earl Grey tea for just a hint of bergamot. This takes rhubarb to a whole new level. One thing she forgot to mention is to remove the vanilla bean carcass before pouring the jam. But most cooks can figure that one out.
Do you make jam? I find it so simple to do and it tastes so much better than commercial jams.

Last fall's garlic planting shot up garlic scapes this week. I likely waited a bit too long to clip them for tenderness, but I'll just cut off the woody bits and saut√© the tops in a little olive oil or butter. 

Another version of infused water - melissa (aka lemon balm) and cubes of watermelon. So refreshing! 

A question for you. What is your favourite picnic food? I don't mean food to grill, I mean food to pack in a cooler and take along to a park or a picnic site. Potato Salad, Quinoa Salad, Deviled Eggs? I'm looking for some new ideas in the portable picnic range. I know you'll have wonderful suggestions.

Now I"m off to watch a Little Miss while her mother goes to her own eye appointment. My own appointment, last week, went well. I just need to order the new prescription. And choose new frames.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On the Water

Last Friday afternoon Tim arrived home a bit earlier than normal and we set sail for Genoa Bay. I packed a picnic supper to eat along the way. After anchoring Solitude we watched clear light fade to pink and grey as we bobbed on the water.

Full moon? Almost full moon? How beautiful to watch it rise over the trees until its light shone a glimmering pathway to us. 

Mornings are what I love best - hanging over the side of the boat looking into the water and watching the activity on the shoreline. Gulls and a heron in this photo but there were seals a-plenty in the water, and on-shore, a mama raccoon with three little ones. Mama turned over rocks and dug down a little, then moved aside while the babies scrabbled in the hole for sustenance.

We usually anchor our boat in a sheltered harbour for the night, preferring the peace and quiet to conveniences on shore. But on this trip we pulled up to a slip in a marina because we were meeting with friends - new friends - people who own boats similar to ours. It was our first meet-up. Friendly folk with whom we shared dinner on the dock and boat talk. Frankly, the boat talk bored me rather quickly and I returned to Solitude to read while Tim chatted with various boat owners. 

This marina has a Purple Martin Recovery program and have built nesting boxes all along the dock. The Martins know they have nothing to fear from the boaters and remained quite calm while I snapped a few photos.

No breeze. High heat. Silky water. We took a short walk. My hair frizzed and my energy wilted.

Heading home again on Sunday. The sun danced with the water and cool breezes flirted against our skin. 

Seals drape themselves on the rocks, utterly relaxed. A lesson to be learned there, and I did. After arriving home I draped myself on the couch and took a snooze. There's nothing like being out on the water for de-stressing. 

Don't forget to enter the watch giveaway. Just click on the link to comment on that particular post. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Telling Time and Something for YOU!

From time to time I receive email offers to review a product on my blog. I usually ignore them. However, recently, Jord Wooden Watches sent an offer for something really unique - a watch made of wood. I've watched my husband, Tim, work with wood and I was fascinated by the idea of wood being used as a timepiece. 

I checked out the website and agreed to try out the Ely - Natural Green timepiece. It's beautifully made and equally beautiful to wear. Its lighter weight is perfect for summer although I can see wearing this year round. I love the natural look. It tells time, but it's also a wonderful accessory. I wear it loose on my wrist, like a bracelet. 

The band, watch face and case are all made of wood. The clasp and time mechanism are metal. It's really a lovely piece of artistry suitable for men or women. Jord Wooden Watches have kindly offered a watch as a giveaway for one of my readers. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment below. I'll check back here next Monday and pick a name from the comments. 

 As to the keeping cool part - we're experiencing a bit of a heat wave here on the west coast. I'm mostly loving it and stay cool by wearing dresses. Floaty ones like the one above that I made at least 15 years ago. It doesn't get a lot of wear, but each summer, on these hot days, out it comes. Did you notice the watch?

Stay cool and don't forget to leave a comment for the giveaway. I promise, you'll love this watch!