Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday September 28. Biking the KVR Railway

Another wonderful weekend. Wish weekends lasted 5 days...OK, 7 days, really. Went to bike KVR, haven't been there since before big fire 5 years ago. Remember watching with boys as two of trestles went up in flames. All repaired now, very impressed. Lovely time of year to go biking there - not too hot, not too cold, nice fall colours.
Drove by lake, noticed how sparkly water looked with low angle of autumn sun on it. Drove up through orchards to get there. Could smell apples on trees. Lovely area to live in. Feel very lucky. Noticed carpet of baby pine trees coming up through burned out areas. Interesting to see nature healing itself.

First wipe out (not me! and, surprisingly, not husband either) in parking lot before even started. Probably best to get it over with there -then can have attitude that can only get better, plus rest of ride has steep canyon walls going straight down of right side of trail. Keep Left youngest child! Keep Left!!
Easy level bike ride along old graded railbed. 18 trestles to cross. 2 tunnels. Smiled as E counted off kms at start of ride. 1 kilometre...2 kilometre...3 kilometre...(reminded me of the Count on Sesame Street. Had not heart to tell him that we were going 22 kilometres...wha ha ha ha)Reached Ruth station end and had moment where actually considered going down alternate mountain biker trail with oldest son (he of disc brakes, full face helmet and suspension - me of crap old bike - much encouragement from husband to take trail call Bail Out) but decided best not to begin mountain biking experience that way.Lovely ride back past green of pines, colours of deciduous, reds, grays and browns of rock walls and dark brown of trestles.

Lovely views down to valley and lake. Used zoom to see bridge across lake. Wont be long 'til old bridge is completely taken apart and gone.

Very educational too. Human body study - all got a real "feel" for where gluteus maximus is located. ;-)

Stopped for ice cream and enjoyed it at beach of sparkly lake. Saw people swimming and enjoying hot weather. Stick with ice cream as hot weather pleasure not swimming.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Bit Nutty

No, not me. I'm not a bit nutty (ha, ha, ha very funny - keep it down you there in the peanut gallery, I know what you're thinking) I'm talking about my yard. My yard is a bit nutty.We started collecting the hazelnuts and soon the walnuts will be ready. And me with 7 pounds of dark chocolate on the way. What providence.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A plaid quilt for my 13 year old boy (AKA - a John Boy Quilt)

My first born baby is almost 13. The boy who made me a mother, who made me re-think most every thing I'd ever thought, who taught me more about myself than I knew I had to learn is almost a teen. I can't believe it. It feels as though a blink ago he was a tiny little baby in my arms. I can still see so much of his first year so clearly that it seems as though it was yesterday..but it wasn' was 13 years ago. How does that happen?

This seems like a big deal to me...I think more so than it is to him. I want to mark it in some special way. I think it is important to have rites of passage...certain milestones in life marked with some kind of ceremony or special recognition. We have always had certain birthday rituals but I want something really special for this one. A special friend sent me a wonderful idea for something I could do with beads. Each bead stands for a particular thing that I wish for him in his life as he heads towards adulthood - strength, wisdom , compassion, kindness and so on for 13 beads...13 hopes for him. W has always been such a wonder to me, such a wise old soul from the very beginning of his life that I feel certain that he will do well in whatever life brings to him.
He and I have been enjoying watching The Waltons together and he mentioned how much he liked their quilts. I decided to make him his own John Boy quilt. I've never quilted before but have wanted to since seeing the amazing creations my friend Katherine makes. She inspired me to try my hand at it. If you know me then you know that I am a slap-dasher...that I am quite content to be so...and have always been so. I was talking to my folks on the phone last week and mentioned that I was making a quilt. My mom asked me if my squares were nice and straight (poor woman is still recovering from teaching me how to sew and knit when I was a child) and my response was "ish." I heard my dad chuckle on the other line. And am surprised he managed to restrain himself from an outright guffaw or even a snort. My dad is a just-so kind of person and our different approaches to getting things done has always been a joke between us.
At any rate, the quilt is on the go. It has 13 squares across to signify his 13th birthday. It is made of plaid shirts and some fabrics from the thrift store (as well as one shirt from my husband). I am very pleased with the way it is turning out. Is it perfect? Do my corners line up perfectly on each and every square? No, they don't. Nor do I want them to. It is important to me that my sons learn to live with joy and to try all kinds of things in life...not to wait until they can do them perfectly...because perfect might never happen, but to take joy in what is and what they can do Now. Because life is short...and it can be beautiful...if only we are willing to see the beauty in all things, not just the "perfect" things.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Autumnal equinox

Summer used to be a hard season for me to let go of but these last few years I have been coming round to the beauty of Autumn. Our backyard continues to provide in abundance and keeps me busy putting aside pears, apples, grapes, plums and ever more tomatoes for the Winter. Summer seems to slip away as we enjoy walks in the sunshine, fresh fruit off the trees, baking treats in the cooler weather as well as a last burst of busyness before a frost takes the remains of the garden. The coldroom starts to fill up and the freezers are bursting. Soon we will be collecting the walnuts and hazelnuts. It really is a gorgeous time of year. Last night we celebrated with a good dinner, yummy dessert (made by S) and a fire outside. We'd had an incredible weekend and as I sat out on stools and a bench (built by my lovely husband) with my family it really did seem to me that life just doesn't get any better.This has been an unusual year for my family - full of challenges but full of incredible learning experiences too. I happily say good-bye to this past year and look forward to moving on but I also really appreciate the lessons I learned this year. Here's to a wonderful Autumn.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Roasted red peppers for the freezer

My neighbour gave me a big box of pimento peppers the other day. Yesterday I spent the morning roasting and peeling them to get the ready for the freezer. I love having these for the winter months.
I put them all on baking pans and roast them at 450 for about 30 minutes. (normally I would cut out the stem and pop the seed core out but for some reason that step completely missed in my brain yesterday...and if you miss that step it makes for a lot more fiddly work)

Once they are roasted I put them in my big cast iron dutch oven and put the lid on. They steam in their own heat for about 10 minutes and then the skins just slip right off. I spread them out on cookie sheets and freeze them then pop them into containers with lids. They are very handy to have on hand,I often make soups with them but will also just eat them as is too.
I also like to take some of my peppers and chop them raw and tuck those in the freezer for winter cooking too, that way I never have to but peppers off season.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A very good day

What makes a good day for me? Well, most days are good days really, but you know how some days at the end of it you just think "ahhh, what a lovely, lovely day"? That was what I felt last night at bedtime.

My day started out early with some coffee and some quiet time before anyone else was up. I spent some time in the garden gathering tomatoes and basil to make sauce. E helped me out with running the tomatoes through the mill. (if you want your boys to help you with preserving just get yourself a contraption like this - they won't want to quit and will be looking around for other things to run through it. I actually had thought of this as only a tomato mill until I noticed yesterday that it says on the box that it can be used for many different fruits. When E was helping me he immediately came to the conclusion that we could use the mill for all sorts of different things so I think he will be trying it out on apple and pear sauce next)
With this contraption it doesn't take long to process these tomatoes into sauce and all you are left with is this little bowl of seeds and skins.I spent some time working on a quilt for W, we're calling this his "John Boy" quilt. He and I have been enjoying watching The Waltons on DVDs from the library. He wanted a quilt for his bed that was similar to what the Walton kids all had so we have been picking up plaid shirts at the thrift store. We were laying out the squares the other night to try to figure out a pattern (although we still need a solid soft green fabric too) and realized that if we had one more plaid it would make it much easier to make a pattern. We looked to S and asked if perhaps he had any shirts that he would be willing to part with. :-0 This one met the scissors pretty quickly.

And this is what we have to work with. We will search out a solid green today when we go into town and then every other navy one in the picture below will actually be a green. We depends if he wants the solids to run in the same colour diagonally or if he wants them to run the same across rows. Too many choices! I can see that deciding on the pattern might be the trickiest part of quilting for me. I don't do well with too many choices.

We spent our whole day just puttering at home. I had a good chat over the phone with a wonderful friend and then started making a simple dinner while the boys played with their friend. We had lots of zucchini so I made the Disappearing Zucchini Orzo again from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Amanda, you should try it, it's true that it has zucchini don't even know it's's disappearing. ;-)The plums are ripening on the tree so it was finally time to make my favourite September pie.

And then, I topped off all this goodness with Northanger Abbey. I'm not sure how things could get any better. ;-)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Huge tomatoes

I know, I know, enough with the tomatoes already, but look.
That's a quart jar. I just love these tomatoes. I only wish I knew what they were called. I looked online to see if I could find out and learned that there are quite a few different kinds of really large paste tomatoes. Why have I been growing regular Romas all these years? It makes it hard to want to grow regular Romas anymore when I can grow these ones.

Sandi, I did save some seeds for you and some of the Franchi ones too.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Heirloom tomatoes and, of course, more zucchini

It never ceases to amaze me just how abundant a backyard garden can be. I just love spending time in the backyard garden but even more I love watching E in the backyard. He wanders around snacking here and there, watching spiders and other critters.
This time of year becomes a blur of veggies and fruit to be processed and tucked away for later use. I love working with each as it ripens and then moving on to the next harvest. Lately I have been up to my ears in tomatoes and these show no sign of slowing down.I especially like the colour of these heirloom tomatoes and want to be sure to grow them again next year. I'm pretty sure it is an Old German tomato. My planting chart (which my son made for me) shows each plant by initial and I think this one is marked O.G so it must be (unless it is an R.M which means I have no idea what it is or it could be the one that looks like it is marked scribble, scribble).They are so pretty and tasty as well so they will make the cut of the ones that we save the seeds of.The freezers are quickly filling up, I have no saved yogurt containers left and have had to move on to jars. Today I will start making tomato sauce with whatever ripens this week. I love having jars of this handy in the coldroom for quick dinners. I seem to be doing well at using up all our zucchini this year and it is completely due to the fantastic book Simply in Season. Yesterday I made the Zucchini yeast rolls and they are delicious. I went on a bit of a baking spree because I got a 20 kg bag of flour from Grainworks and wanted to use up all my old flour first. We had Katherine's recipe cinnamon raisin bread for elevenses.
Then the zucchini rolls for lunch. We ate them with some Gort's spiced gouda, tomato and cukes from the garden and some red pepper that I had roasted. Yum! And what do you have at dinner time with the rest of the zucchini rolls? Why, zucchini garden chowder, of course. (also from Simply in Season)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Those last days of Summer

Every year we take a weeklong camping holiday in the summer. (the boys and I do our own camping as well but the week with Dad along is always the best) It is a time to get away - not just from the city but also from our endless round of work and busyness, phones, computers, garden chores, etc. We always have lots of fun and adventuring but we also use it as a time of reflection. A time to think about and talk about what things we would like to change in our lives. I find that just by being away from our usual routine it becomes much easier to discuss "openly and dispassionately" those ruts and habits that we can get stuck in.

So each year we come back feeling renewed with all sorts of hopes and plans for the year. We choose a few key areas where we would like to improve our lives and plan to work on those. ( and more often than not we also often come home with all sorts of grand plans to move to the country and live an even more "down-to-earth" life) Mostly what we are looking for is balance - the balance between work and play; town and wilderness; the need for an income and the need for peace, quiet and time; adventuring and relaxing; time with family and time for self; our need for simplicity and the reality of the sometimes crazy world we live in. That is a lot to balance...and it is taking us a while to find our way, but I think we are getting closer. And life looks pretty good about now.(on the way home I said that since we hadn't seen any moose this trip maybe we would see some big horn sheep. A few minutes later there they were right on the side of the road. I snapped this one in mid leap) The boys are getting older which at times makes me incredibly melancholy but, at other times, fills me with a sense of mmmm...peace, I guess, as I realize that I have more time to once again remember and think about who I am...and what I love.Or to have time to find new kayaking a beautiful mountain lake at sunset and then again first thing in the morn.

Ahhh, life is good.