Hello from Sunday night, yes I know it’s Monday morning

You know what I discovered recently?
I actually only have two hellebores in my garden and they’re not very exciting hellebores at that.

Out at my favourite nursery, Southlands, Thomas had all sorts of these beautiful guys. I love winter bloomers.

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Is it me or have I blinked and suddenly there are about a million exciting new cultivars from the boring old Winter and Lenten Rose types? Look at the ruffles and spots and variegation! Have to look around my own hood for houses which will be demolished this spring and go steal save a few.

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The Southlands neighbourhood is a very bucolic country gentry life neighbourhood, with horses and stables and rural life right in the heart of a big cosmopolitan city. It ends at one arm of the Fraser River and the Vancouver airport is on an island just beyond.

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It might look bucolic and country charming, but the average price of houses starts somewhere around $5,000,000 and goes up from there. One particular house overlooking the path and river is listed at $12,000,000 and has 5 bedrooms 5 bathrooms, about 5000 square ft, and an average city lot. Buying a house in Vancouver means that you can probably afford a house anywhere else in the world…except maybe New York, London or Tokyo.

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But it is beautiful here. Blooming trees and pussy willows and horses in back yards.

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Sharing with Judith and the mosaic bunch. :D

Birthday cake, Katrin’s drawing challenge, and a little tutorial

I have three children and they were all born as very special presents to me. Jonathan, my oldest, was born in July, and I took him home from the hospital on my birthday. Kerstin, my middle child, is a February baby, and I took her home on Valentine’s Day, Chloe, my baby, was born on Easter Sunday. All three had their favourite birthday cake which I always handmade for them. For Jonathan it was usually tiramisu, for Kerstie, it was fruit flan, and Clover wanted black forest cake.

But it’s still February, so we will focus on Kerstie’s birthday and and I’ll tell you what I used to always do for her.

Kerstie’s favourite flowers are violets; so much so that she named her middle child Isla Violet, and, here in the West Coast, they come up around her birthday. As a special treat, and if spring was threatening to be late, I used to cover and force a few buds, pick them, and candy them to add them to her birthday cake.

You all know that loads of flowers are edible, don’t you? And you all know how dead easy it is to do this, don’t you? Of course you do, you’re flower savvy like that. :D

So it’s been years since my girl has been home for her birthday…she’s the mom of my three precious granddaughters and rather busy these days, but because it’s February, and because it’s tradition, I decided to candy some violets anyway for the next time I see the gang.

So here we go, this is all you have to do: Grab some violets from the garden. Equally easy to do this with violas, pansies, rose petals, borage, calendula…the list goes on. Grab a very fresh egg, and some super fine sugar. Grab a small paintbrush and your manicure scissors.

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You only use the egg white, but what’s the point of separating the egg for the infinitesimally tiny amount you use? And, besides which, you’re going to scramble that delicious egg for breakfast tomorrow anyway, aren’t you?
Just get your brush and brush a bit of the egg white on the flower. It doesn’t have to be all Martha complicated….sheesh!

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Now sprinkle some super fine sugar on it. Don’t have/can’t be bothered with super fine sugar? No problem, use ordinary sugar, just not icing sugar or you’ll obliterate the violet.

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Now put it on a dry plate and snip off the stalk.

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It takes almost no time at all, since we’re all a crafty and clever bunch, to get a whole plate full of sugared violets.

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Now they just need to go in the cupboard overnight to dry. Then they can go into an airtight container where they’ll keep for a while. Not sure how long because they just never last round here. They look and taste so great on everything from ice cream to creme brulee.

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But wait! This is a drawing challenge. :D

I’ve been dying to do some more lino cutting. I’m not that good at it, and the more I practice, the better it gets, so, in honour of Kers’ birthday, violets it was and a hand made birthday card to go with the cake.

I drew some little violets on a piece of transparent paper, copied them to the back of the paper, and traced them onto a piece of lino. The pencil mark really transfers easily.

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Then came the hours of cutting and decision of crossed lines and how to handle the edges…etc.

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Then the exciting part: the first inking and pressing to see what I got!!! :D

I’m always so anxious and excited to do this. Like a kid in a candy store!

Aaannd…there it is: mistakes a plenty. (shrug)

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But, after all, this is a handmade birthday card, so out came the inks, my funky plastic tray, requisitioned for an ink mixing surface, and my small roller.

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Please bear in mind that I have very little idea of what I’m doing…and I should really go and bug our Patrice for some advice…either that or learn reduction lino cutting…but I have a very limited amount of patience…and inks, and so I decided to mix a few inks and go for a sort of green.

Then I decided to wipe off the green from the violet blossoms.

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Now what? I don’t have a super small roller, can’t be bothered with figuring out how to make a mask, so I dragged a firm oil brush into some purple ink and applied it to the blossoms.

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AND: Voila!

One ink mess on the tray, one bespoke violet birthday card.

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Come help blow the candles out on Katrin’s cake and wish her a happy birthday and then stop by the gang and share a slice!

Happy birthday dearest, thank you for a fun and wonderful challenge. May this next year bring you happiness and joy. :D

A randomness on Friday

This morning I got an email from my friend Nancy, who has resurrected her Random Friday blog hop. I used to really enjoy that hop and am really happy she’s made this decision.

So welcome back to the randomness :D

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I’m so sorry about winter out East this year. Completely don’t understand what’s going on in the world. Here it’s mild, early spring, very little snow pack. Loving the sunshine, but am a bit worried about the lack of snow for summer water.

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Tomatoes, organic or not, big or small, roma or beefsteak, tomatoes taste rather bland this time of year, don’t they?

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Clover’s lunch time and after school art classes are going really well. This bunch of self portrait paintings, done by 6 and 7 yr olds are going to be turned into pencil cases for them. Aren’t they wonderful?

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Years ago I’ve lost one of these pots to carelessness and an unexpected frost. I still have the lid and am having the darnest time replacing the pot. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way round?

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Did I mention I’m loving the sunshine? :D

Hello from Sunday night

Hello from Sunday night :D

I’m so excited to report that I saw the first bee of the season this week!

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And the sun continued to shine that cold, brave light, but out at the river it still looked very wintry.

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We had a brave alfresco lunch, seduced by the sunshine and the fluffy red patio blankets, we thought we might be a bit cool, but we were fine. And we love eating outside any chance we have.

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There was also a large home and garden expo downtown, so C and I spent a couple nice hours mooching around.

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There were the usual lovely home displays, but a large amount of the booths were really hard push, hard sell things people never knew they needed. To tell you the truth, it reminded us a little of that “as seen on television” push.

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But there were some lovely bits too.
In the home…

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garden…

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and personal love department. Actually, C and I really loved these bracelets and bought ourselves one each.

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At my local river park the Oemleria (Indian Plum) is blooming. This is always the first native plant which blooms and it blooms everywhere, all over the place, every park, every forest, every little bit of wild land, and, it’s a super good thing because it gives so much value to the first bees and the resident hummingbirds.

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It’s been an incredibly mild winter and there is virtually no snow pack on the mountains. The rivers are pretty low and I worry that there will be water shortages later on in the year.

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But for now the sun is still shining. :D

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Sharing with Judith and the mosaic bunch.

A country seed swap in a hundred year old barn

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Inspiration abounds!

I found a barn built in 1911, next to a beautiful house, in the middle of fields and stream, with a garden show and seed swap taking place inside, and a golden eagle in the trees outside watching over the proceedings. How wonderful is that?

Actually, it’s not all my doing. Michelle, a sweet friend on Facebook, posted about the event in one of my favourite groups, Hometalk Gardening, and then I knew I wanted to go. Also, my friend Thomas Hobbs, whose nursery Southlands I’m always at, was giving a talk which I didn’t want to miss.

We had a good mooch around and then headed to the relative quiet of the mezzanine between talks to have some lunch.

Just before Tom started his talk, Michelle came over and introduced herself to us. I was thrilled to meet my FB friend, and now can’t wait to see her again, soon. And, the best news ever, Tom announced that he’s writing his third book about his move from the city to 20 acres in the country, complete with pregnant squatters, two grow ops, Corona, an abandoned dog (who is theirs now), 17 broken down cars, and several feral lamas. Hurry and write it Tom. I can’t wait. :D

We came away with a special witch hazel Corylopsis sinensis which Chloe fell in love with, some raw, local honey, two little cowslips, (love those little primroses from the forests of my childhood), and some local spuds to plant between my crazy garlic plants. We also, as it turned out, rescued three vine maple seedlings, which we’ll plant up in pots and eventually plant at the cabin by the pond.

The most glorious day. I really want to move to the country now.

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Vein, a drawing challenge

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Inside I have weak veins. The thin, blue lines lie shallow under my skin. Each time someone needs to draw some blood I become the human pincushion as one vein after another collapses under the pressure. It’s OK, I’m used to it. I breathe deeply and focus on the moment when it’s all over. It takes ages!

Inside I have strong veins. The rich, crimson of my creativity runs heavy and deep. Each time I pick up the camera, a pencil, my brushes, these veins take over, command my hands and stay strong under pressure. I’m hardly aware that I’m breathing, Time stands still.

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Come follow this beautiful vein of creativity to: Ariane, Lisa, Tammie, Renilde, Nadine, Katrin, EricKim, Marian, Roberto, Sharmon, Sabine, and maybe Patrice and Annton.

And Katrin is our host for next weekend, Feb 28th, March 1st with Birthday Cake!

Art: Mixed media painting, collaged paper, acrylics, oils, inks, a few vintage postage stamps

Five minutes of peace…with tea

The roof is done! Hooray!

Oh my gosh that was a couple of days of the loudest, most inescapable noise.
That was two days of scraping and hammering and dropping huge bundles of roofing material, which sounded like an earthquake and made my 1920’s windows rattle. That was two days of nervous, hiding, hissy cats.
That was two days of keeping vigil over workmen who don’t know garden beds from foot paths, don’t know that if you step on the irises and peonies there won’t be any flowers come May. That was two days of not getting much work done at all.

But, hey, minimal disasters, and maximum benefit of a new roof. By the way, a new roof only takes two days! Who knew?

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So never mind the backlog of work, time to take a few minutes and enjoy this peace and quiet.

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All winter I’ve been working on my little collection of indoor plants, but now that it’s so unseasonably warm, my thoughts are with the garden.
So for my little tea break I went downstairs into my library and picked a book.

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Do you have precious books in your collection?
This one is very precious to me.
It used to belong to my grandfather.

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It’s a 1969 edition of Gardening for the West by Robert A Nicholson.
It’s a good and practical book, but what makes it precious is that it’s stuffed full of my grandfathers notes.

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They’re mainly about flowers. The notes are written in English on one side and German or Latin on the other. He translated words, phrases and whole sentences. He made notes and wrote down his thoughts. He underlined tons of words and phrases in red in the book and numbered them with his complicated system of filing.

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His notes seem random, but they’re all organised with another number system, which I suppose, corresponds to his daily entries in his journals and the numbered system in this book. There are tons of notes throughout his books. There are plenty of journals too. Mostly I can read them, mostly they’re in a familiar language I understand, sometimes I can’t.

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But I feel incredibly lucky to have some of his books, his journals and his notes, and I always love to spend some time reading thru them.

One more cup of tea and I’ll put away grandfather’s book and look to see what I can do about seeding some radishes and have a think about starting the beets.

I understand it’s pretty miserable and wintry in some places. Hope you’re all thawing out a little this week. Sending some mild, blue skies and warm sunshine your way. :D

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Hello from Sunday night, and, we have a winner!

Hello, hello post Valentine’s! :D

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I do hope your Valentine’s Day was a special and a lovely one.
As you probably know, I didn’t have Robert here this year, but we spoke for hours and exchanged cards and love greetings from across the great, big pond. Some years are like that, and, while we’re determined to spend every Christmas together, Valentine’s Day is a bit hit and miss.

But I did wear my red shoes!

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And went for a lovely walk with my mom on the beach.

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I tell you what; the rain let up, but the fog rolled in and stayed over Vancouver. I was looking out toward Vancouver Island thinking of my new friend The Hostess of the Humble Bungalow, and her sunny walk, and thinking, “Typical! And I chose to live under these bloody mountains!”

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But then Kerstie sent me Valentine’s photos of our precious three, Binky, Bunny and Ziggy, and it didn’t really matter if the sun wasn’t out, there was a smile on my face a mile wide. Thank you my baby.That was the loveliest surprise.

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Valentine’s eve was a special time for C and for me. We had a simple supper of great, big artichokes. Nothing so good as that for us.

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Then, what a difference the night makes!

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From gloomy, leaden sky, to morning sun!
I must admit I took a photo and stuck it up on my Instagram with the caption of something like, “What the hell is that bright light!!!”

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Things are just so much better with the sun, aren’t they? For days now I’ve been living vicariously thru my friend Daryl in New York and her sunny, blue skies!

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But now I have a bit of blue skies of my own!

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Oh my gosh it makes such a difference to my seasonal affect disorder brain!

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And to the garden…and to the hummingbird who zips around scolding my cats and trying to get sips of this spirea.

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And I’m able to take stock of the garden. (that’s a lot of garlic)

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And pick a posy of tiny, sweet violets for my bedside table.

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Even though it’s Sunday, I still had a bunch of work to do.

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And so did C, but really, who cares on a day like today where the sun is streaming in thru every window.

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We all get to luxuriate in the sun for a day or two now, and we’ll all take full advantage of that. :D

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And now for that random generator thingie:

Congratulations Julie, from Forest Poppy.

random number Congratulations Julie! Everyone, if you have a minute, drop by Julie’s. She the most amazing knitter, quilter, all round super girl, mom to four, including the cutest forest baby, (who she’s always taking photos of running away down some forest path), living in the highlands of Scotland.

Such wonderful people as we are, should really know each other. :D

Sharing with Judith and the mosaic bunch

Aqua, my Drawing Challenge

There’s legend about an island somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Sailors refer to it as Sham Center and all maps say it is to be avoided, for anyone who comes near risks life and limb. Because, you see, this island is the home to a strange civilization which no one can get close to. Some say it’s paradise on Earth, others say it’s a prison. All that is known about it comes form a few aerial photographs which are usually obscured by a creature so fierce, so territorial, that usually only one partial photograph manages to be transferred remotely before the camera drone is forced down into the depth of the ocean and is lost forever.

This creature is the dreaded Aqua Sham.

No ordinary sparrow, this distant cousin of the common rosy house finch has evolved to live in and around the coast line of Sham Island. Some believe it needs the tropical waters to breed and incubate its eggs, some believe it is a water bird only coming to the air in a massive murmuration when the island is approached by someone or something foreign. Whatever the truth may be, be warned, if you approach the island, it may be the last thing you ever do.
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Joining in with their most Aquanocity:
Tammie, Roberto, Ariane, Marian, Carole, Katrin, Eric, Nadine, Annton, Rebecca, Barbara, Susan, Lara, Melodye, Stefanie, Emily, Linda, Sharmon, KimLucia, Lissa, and maybe Patrice

And remember, there’s still time to get in on my giveaway. Draw this Sunday. :D

Art: Collaged map from pieces of a pretty much destroyed ordnance survey map of Lancashire, tissue paper, inks, different blue acrylics.
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Symmetry, the WordPress photo challenge

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How about one made by me and one made by Mother Nature. :D

Sharing with the WordPress bunch for Symmetry. :D