Sunday, August 31, 2014

The last afternoon in August

I look askance at the sky.  There are clouds, but there is also blue sky and sunshine. 
 The air is cool and inviting.

I have brought the spinning wheel out of the corner it lives in, into a place of prominence.  It is draped with the icy green roving I bought from the Knotty Knitter,
 begging to be made into wispy nests of rolags to be spun.

The spirit moves me, - it even moves me with a yearning to be outside on this lovely last afternoon in August. So I gather lengths of roving in a basket, pick up the telephone and some music and put the 'out in garden' sign on the front door, - and I make myself comfortable on the rocking seat.  I tease out the first length of green fleece and roll it up into a pretty nest...

It starts to sprinkle, - only small drops and scattered.  I have faith, - surely the rain won't continue. 
Look at all that blue sky!!  Ah, but look at the dark cloud right above me.

It starts to rain more.  I gather up the roving and the phone, cover the pillows on the rocking seat with a small tarp, and retire to the garage to watch and wait. 

 I pull open drawers on Charles' work desk, where small things still remain, - I pick out a couple of tiny screwdrivers, a little hammer, a combination tape and level and a leather case with a pair of fold up steel pliers.  I place them in my basket to keep them/him closer and look again at the sky.  The shower has moved on, but will it be replaced by another??

Oh well, - perhaps I will spend the afternoon of the first day of September in the garden instead and continue with teasing my roving indoors.....

Two poems that today catch my eye and settle in my mind and heart.......

the first by Mary Chivers, entitled   'Late August'

It's as if we're always preparing
for something, the endless roll of the earth
ripening us.
Even on the most tranquil
late August afternoon when heavy heads
of phlox bow in the garden
and the hummingbird sits still for a moment
on a branch of an apple tree-
even on such a day
evening approaches sooner
than yesterday, and we cannot help
noticing whole families of birds
arrive together in the enclosure,
young blue birds molted a misty grey,
coloured through no will of their own
for a journey.
On such an evening
I ache for what I cannot keep - the birds,
the phlox, the late-flying bees -
though I would not forbid the frost,
even if I could.  There will be more to love
and lose in what's to come and this too: desire
to see it clear before it's gone.

And the second I find in the 2010 edition of 'The Best Spiritual Writing' ----

A Measuring Worm

by Richard Wilbur

This yellow striped green
Caterpillar, climbing up
The steep window screen,

Constantly (for lack
of a full set of legs) keeps
humping up his back.

It's as if he sent
By a sort of semaphore
Dark omegas meant

To warn of Last Things.
Although he doesn't know it,
He will soon have wings,

And I, too, don't know
Toward what undreamt condition
Inch by inch I go.

I have exhausted the stash of dinners put away in the freezer.  Too many lazy days, -
 but tonight I am going to cook!

Baked Salmon with celery, tomatoes, lemon and mushrooms
Potatoes Anna, and creamed cauliflower - well, maybe just cauliflower with a bit of cheese on it!

Depends upon how the spirit moves me - I
go a lot by 'spirit' these days!

Monday, August 25, 2014

G is for Ginger

ABC Wednesday
August 27th, 2014

The letter is G for Ginger

I love ginger - it is my favourite spice.  

I love ginger-ale, ginger beer, ginger tea, gingerbread and ginger cookies, orange and ginger chicken, my ginger headed great grandson, the ginger skin refresher that lives in my bathroom, Ginger Rogers, ginger cats and just any kind of ginger that has that wonderful exhilarating scent and soothing to the stomach quality. 

And candied ginger - my passion!!!

When the children were all home and we were a growing family it was our custom to make dozens and dozens of bottles of ginger beer in the summertime, and everyone took a turn at capping the bottles.  When one batch was finished we made another, and so it went through the summer - everyone nicely gingerized!

When I was a child ginger was a remedy my mother counted on for settling upset tummies, and I still keep it handy to use for that purpose.

Ginger is lovely in the garden.

Blue Torch

Singapore Gardens

Unfortunately as a tropical or sub tropical plant you are not going to be able to carry it
 safely through the winter unless you live in Zones 9, 10, 11 or 12.  

However it is possible to grow ginger in pots and if you are interested here is a good source of information and guidance.  The plant can't tolerate temperatures under 50 degrees F.  It grows best in well drained rich soil, and spots that receive partial or full shade and would be happy
spending the winter indoors, away from sunny windows.

Considering that we are fast approaching September and apple picking time.
 here is a nice gingery pie recipe for you, from the pages of Canadian Living

In a bowl stir a quarter cup of flour with two tablespoons of packed brown sugar, and cut in two tablespoons of butter until crumbly.

Stir in one tablespoon of finely chopped crystalized ginger.  Set aside

On lightly floured surface roll out the pastry to fit a nine inch pie plate.  Sprinkle one and a half teasoons of chopped crystallized ginger over the bottom.  Peel six apples (preferably pie apples) core and cut them into eighths, or thereabouts.  Toss with one third a cup of packed brown sugar and if you are really trying to be classy arrange the wedges upright on ends at 45 degree angle in concentric circles in the shell.  Otherwise you can be more casual about how they lie....

Pour one quarter cup of whipping cream over the apples and sprinkle them with the streusel, which you set aside.

Bake in 425 F oven for 15 minutes, and then reduce heat to 375F.  Bake for one hour or until apples are softened and topping is golden.

This is bound to earn you Brownie Points!

Here is a Ginger that is new to me - Ginger Wildheart, a UK rock guitarist, singer and song writer, and the leader of the band which bears his name, - the Ginger Wildhearts.  This is one of his quieter numbers.....

Tip toe gingerly over to ABC Wednesday and see what else Roger and Denise have
 for you on ABC Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Fig

ABC Wednesday
The letter is F and F is for Fig

A recipe for enjoying this most ancient of fruits. - a gift of pleasure and necessity to humans and wildlife alike;
a main role player in the story of Adam and Eve (with what would they have covered themselves if the fig leaf had not been available? Rhubarb?  I think not.) and in my memory a wonderful delicacy at Christmas time.

The purple, green and white hues,
Tender, succulent.

Cato advocated the conquest of Carthage
to make them the property of Rome.

Sliced on plate, balsamic vinegar
drizzled across their mauve interiors
wrapped in prosciutto di Parma,
as a babe in its blanket,
diced and spread within the salads of the garden
on a platter with goat cheese, thin crackers,

with sweet spices, ginger, cinnamon and cloves,
the sharpness of lemon and orange,
figs and ricotta crostini,
grilled with some tenderness
sprinkled with olive oil,

vanilla pistachio fig tart,

all of this, yet I prefer to sit beneath the tree
my white handkerchief unwrapped
my harvest nestled in my lap
my mind at ease
the fig -
thankful that God did not deign this tree
the forbidden one.

Ray Brown

For more entertainment and to find out things you never knew, pop over here to ABC Wednesday, with many thanks to Roger and Denise and everyone who helps them visit....

Sunday, August 17, 2014


The week has flown by - a little gardening, a trip to Penticton, two sessions in the Bargain Centre and a lovely day in the kitchen,  canning and creating.

Sunday morning, and a quiet, lovely day ahead of me with no commitments
(we have church every second Sunday)

Early in the morning I got waylaid on my way to the compost bin by the sad state
the bee balm was in, after blooming in such a gorgeous fashion
and providing many a sip for the tiny humming birds that have
visited the garden so regularly this past few weeks.

Once started on the Monada, cutting and tidying and noting with pleasure
small new plants just beginning to bloom, I got led along the fence,
appalled at the vines that have grown up from the neighbour's yard,
covering this handy support and sending vigorous tendrils to capture
the roses and wrap themselves around the second growth delphinium 
and the remains of the summer lilies.

The Mister Lincoln has been blooming quite nicely, and Abraham Darby is in his second flush,
but what is most apparent is that the garden is being taken over by
sunflowers and yellow daisies - Rudbeckia?
They are cheery and showy and flourish, but require a fair amount of dead-heading.

I noted that the apricots which are draped over the garden gate and on the roof of the
shed that belong next door have reached that stage of absolute perfection
and are beginning to fall into the narrow space that divides the house from the adjoining building
and I cannot bear to see them go to waste!!!!

I pick two buckets, and then go in to contemplate how I will save them while
I have my breakfast......  Definitely I will fill the ten small jars I have left over from
my last canning session, and I consider drying the rest.  However, the weather
forecast is for rain, and I lost my last attempt at drying when the sun decided to hide awhile
behind last week's storm clouds (the first batch is magnificent though!).

I didn't have any pectin to make jam, - just a couple of lemons, - but I did
have some brown sugar that had stiffened up somewhat, as brown sugar is inclined to do
if you ignore it for too long. And I had a little of the honey syrup I had
been using for canning - and a mango that I bought on impulse last week......

So I chopped up the apricots and put it all together, and sat and knitted on my new
lacy scarf  (that's another story) while it simmered and thickened a little.
It didn't turn out to be jam, but the most delicious apricot and mango sauce
for ice cream and pancakes.

As to the scarf, - one of my dear daughters-in-law came and fetched me on
Thursday and we dallied along to Penticton for an appointment with the
optometrist.  Not that I have been having trouble with my eyes, but I wanted
to make sure that I was going to be able to read the chart when I go for my driver's
medical examination, - something legal and in writing, to foil the young
beaurocrat who will look at my records and say in horror "Ninety years old!!!!
This woman should not be driving"!!!

Since having my eyes lazered a dozen years ago I have not had to wear glasses, and was
pleased to discover the situation has not changed.  So lucky.

But I digress, - the optometrist's office is just two doors down from a dangerous
establishment just started up in Penticton last year - The Naughty Knitter's store!!!
I had vowed I would not go there, but my DIL pressed me............
They have the most gorgeous roving for spinning,
and silks, and cashmeres, and wonderful pure wools of all shades
and thickness.  And how can one resist????

I came away with a beautiful varigated mohair roving to spin, and some lovely
Himalayan dyed silks - two skeins of purple and one of naples yellow.  And two balls of
black silk and wool, very fine, to make this intricate lacy scarf.
Heavenly........I can see ny dear one rolling his eyes!

And then we went to the Used Book Store!!
Stegner, Doig, Berry and a couple of nice beginner's music books
for the great grandson who shows his delight with the piano.

Oh, a most satisfying day.......

Friday afternoon I spent at the Bargain Centre, clearing racks and packing clothing
into bags to be sent to the Gleaners, and from there to places where these
things are needed.  Saturday I was on the cash desk for a couple of hours.

These are all donated items we sell at the Bargain Centre, - it is an Outreach for the Church
and also helps support other things we do, like paying the power bills
and the minister.  We had a couple of sleeping bags whose zippers were broken
but we put them out anyway, as blankets for the many itinerent orchard and vineyard workers
who come in.   A young man approached the desk with one of these bags.  He spoke with an accent,
and explained to me that he only had a large bill, which he extracted from his passport.
It was not one I could change, and so I suggested he just take the blanket/bag.  When he
was reluctant to do this I suggested that if he was in again and had the dollar (which was
the price of the item) he could pay it then.

He was back within half an hour with the dollar, and built a little fire under my esteem
for him, and his colleagues.

And on that nice note I think I have covered most of what has been happening
in my life since I last wrote about Ethelbert Nevin, - except that I have been
practising crossing my hands as I play Narcissus.

And Barb, - yes, I have been playing the organ since May, but am really
retired and just fill in when the regular organist is away, - and I love it!

I remember a picture I saw once of a ninety year old organist, - oh my, I must stop doing this!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ethelbert Nevin

ABC Wednesday
August 13th, 2014

The letter is E

I couldn't think of any really exotic fruits that begin with E, or any commonplace ones that would be of interest..  And Mister Google was not much help when I went to see what he had to offer.

So I left off thinking about fruity E's and went back to sorting my music, which was the BIG plan for the day. I was really looking for a copy of Nola, being in a nostalgic mood, but instead found just one page of Narcissus  from Water Scenes Op. 13. No. 4.composed by Ethelbert Nevin.  This was equally nostalgic, being a piece that both my husband and I played in early years.

I can remember being thrilled when I got to the point in piano lessons when my teacher introduced a few more interesting pieces than what could be found in the Toronto Conservatory books, and Narcissus was one that really appealed to me, - the idea of playing with crossed hands seemed terribly sophisticated and exciting at the time!!!!

You will be asking why I am going on about Narcissus, - no E's there!  Ah yes, it was written by Ethelbert Nevin, a short lived but very popular composer of the late 1800's (he died in 1901 at the age of 39 - probably from a stroke although it was reported as apoplexy ).

Ethelbert Nevin wrote romantic salon music for piano and other instruments - among them  Barcarolle, Ophelia, Water Nymph and Narcissus all from Op. 13, and many songs - The Rosary (my mother's favourite), and most famous of all, Mighty Lak a Rose.  Listen here to Paul Robeson sing it - sends shivers up my spine.

He was also a gifted concert performer and in recognition of his talents and his contribution to the musical world of the late 19th Century a 1940 ten cent stamp was issued in his honour.


Here is a nice performance of Narcissus, - at least I think so.  Many, I found, play the piece much too mournfully but this is a more lively rendition.  There is another Youtube performance by a young Asian girl which I found very endearing, but Youtube didn't present  this as an option, alas.  She crossed hands with much elegance and presence and reminded me of how impressed I was with that technique!!!

                                       Grace Notes, in drag, also plays Narcissus on Youtube, 
                   but more in the style of ragtime, which is rather naughty, but you might enjoy the nice swing.

For more interesting E's visit here at ABC Wednesday and give thanks to Roger and Denise and all 'elpers.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Summer's Day

While out in the back garden this morning I caught the lowly Barn Flower
looking splendidly gorgeous, don't you think!

It was a lovely morning, - still a cool breeze and the sun barely up and stirring up the fire he
plans to roast us with later in the day.

I don't have an apricot tree in my garden any more but the neighbours on both sides
have wonderful trees that very generously lean their branches over on
my side of the fence and drop the fruit as it ripens with a rather
disastrous splash. 

To avoid this, and because they are both nice neighbours, they
are also very generous and bid me help myself...
which I do!!!

I have canned a couple of dozen small half pints, just enough for a wintery dessert,
and made three apricot pies yesterday, as well as a crisp.

But this morning I was thinking about our youngest son's passion for dried apricots
and how he used to split buckets and buckets of them, laying them
on the roof of the chicken house (amongst other places)
until they dried in the hot summer sun and were a wonderful
soft leathery morsel to set aside for winter.

I decided I would try my hand at drying apricots again, found a wire cage that
Charles had conveniently included in our move down town.
I picked a pail of beautiful tree ripened cots, hanging over the picket fence
and I sat in the shade, split them and laid them on the wire, in the sunshine.

They are covered with cheese cloth to keep the flies and ants away, and I even saw a small green
grasshopper thwarted by the thin covering.
However, considering the skunks that are growing up under various back yard sheds,
and their night time perambulating,
I think I should probably put the drying cots to bed in the garage tonight.

Hopefully they will dry nicely and I can do more, and more and more,
as long as the sun continues to shine so energetically!!!

We had a lovely sunset last evening - I took my camera when I walked to get the mail
and here is what I saw....


In addition to the wonderful light reflected by these clouds
I walked back through it from the post box with a small parcel containing
five Wallace Stagner books that I am replacing on my shelves.

All the Little Live Things,   Crossing to Safety,
Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Spring, 
Angle of Repose and Wolf Willow

All books that I have read before but have a great yearning to read again, 
along with some of  Ivan Doig's and more of Wendell Berry.

Besides being wonderful reads, they take me back in time.......

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

D fruits

ABC Wednesday
August 6th, 2014

The letter is D and I had to think long and hard before I could come up 
with fruits that begin with the letter D.

All I could think of at first was Dragon Fruit. and I have only tried that once and didn't think it was worth the money I had to pay for it at the Super Store.

So I had to turn to Mister Google, and he came up with all sorts of suggestions.  I was immediately drawn to the Dangleberry (sometimes called the Dingleberry) but when I began to research the Dangleberry I found all sorts of rude allusions to it. 

But here is a Scottish group of musicians known as The Dangleberries, dressed in kilts and playing the kind of music my grandkids go for.  (Except for this one which I really like....)

And besides, I discovered the Dangleberry is known as the good old Huckleberry on this side of the Atlantic, and I'm not sure if huckleberries make good pie and jam or if they are just good for painting fences as in Huckleberry Finn.

Dates seemed quite sedate, and then I thought of Damson plums.  Lots of recipes for Damson jam but I suspect they are not all on the up-and-up as they talk airily about cutting them in two and discarding the stone, and we all know the Damson Plum is a clingstone and the devil to part from it's stone.

However I did find a recipe for Damson liquor that seemed to have a way around this nasty stone business.

What you do is lightly stab your Damsons (with a straight pin, a hat pin, or a rusty nail and put them in a sterilized jar (scratch the rusty nail!) of sufficient size to hold both damsons and alcohol.  Choose your poison (alcohol);  brandy, vodka or gin, according to your taste and pour it over the fruit.

Seal up the jar and set it away in a cool dark spot for a month or two.

Strain it,- discard the plums, taste the liqueur and add as much sugar as seems good to you.

Somewhat the same as making Sloe Gin.

This information came from a blog entitled 'Seasonal Ontario Food' and contained a few more precious tid-bits about Damson plums if you want to expand your knowledge.....

For more about the letter D visit  here at ABC Wednesday with thanks to Denise, Roger and all their darling helpers.