Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blueberry Season

One of the first places I discovered when we moved here last year was the blueberry farm just a few kilometres south of us. Last week they opened for this season, and as I drove down the country road on opening day I was so happy.

I love blueberries in any form - pies, crisps, smoothies, and best of all handfuls of fresh berries that have been picked that very day.

I thought I had picked and frozen enough blueberries last year to feed an army, but I underestimated my consumption levels. Early in April I ran out, and it has been a long wait for this year's berries to ripen. One mistake I made last year was not keeping track of how many pounds of berries I picked and froze, so this year I am being more diligent. As of yesterday I've picked 76.25 pounds. Twenty pounds of those are for a friend, and another ten or so are for my mom. The question is, will the remaining 46 pounds see me through until next year? The farm will be open for another few weeks, and I'll be back many times to pick berries for eating fresh out of the fridge, but I don't dare put too many more bags of berries in the freezer. I have a meat order coming this fall that I need to save room for, and between the frozen strawberries, raspberries and now blueberries my freezer is already halfway filled.

The first thing I made was a fresh blueberry pie. The great thing about this recipe is it works for just about any fresh fruit, but blueberries are my favourite filling. You bake a pie crust, then fill the bottom of it with fresh berries.

 Then you cook a blueberry sauce until it looks like this.

You let the sauce cool for a bit, then spread it carefully over the top of the fresh berries.

Top with whipped cream and prepare to fall a little bit in love.

One of the things that makes this pie so special is you have to have fresh berries. This means it can only be made in season, so go ahead and have a second piece while you can. Better yet, make a second pie!

Fresh Blueberry Pie

Bake one pie shell and let cool completely.

Put 2 cups of fresh berries in the bottom of the pie shell. 

Cook until clear and thick, stirring frequently:

¾ cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
¼ cup water
2 cups fresh berries

Remove from heat and stir in:

1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Cool the cooked sauce, then spoon over the top of the fresh berries. Refrigerate pie for several hours. Serve with whipped cream and a smile. 

Just in case you are wondering if I'm still knitting, the answer is yes. I have several major projects on the go and several smaller ones as well. My current sock seems to fit in with this post's blueberry theme.

When I looked back at my post about the blueberries from last year I noticed I was knitting blue socks then too. This might mean I had some subconscious longing for blueberries when I started the socks. But probably it just means blue is my favourite colour. Please let me know if you try the pie recipe. I'll be interested to hear if you like it as much as I do.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July Hygge

Today is the one year anniversary of our move to our cottage here at Cultus Lake. As I drove down the lake towards our new home on the day of our move I remember feeling so incredibly lucky that everything had come together and we were actually going to be living here. And I can honestly say that one year later there hasn't been a single day when I haven't been overwhelmed with that feeling all over again.

So given the fact this is our cottage anniversary, it seems fitting to have this month's hygge post focus on home. For new readers who aren't familiar with the term hygge, here is the definition that seems to best sum up its meaning:

Hygge is usually inadequately translated as cosiness. This is too simplistic: cosiness relates to physical surroundings – a jersey can be cosy, or a warm bed - whereas hygge has more to do with people’s behaviour towards each other. It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.

Contentment is a key component to hygge, and I have to say I feel more content here than any other place I have lived as an adult. However, I have to confess that I'm still trying to make this cottage feel like home. Yes, I love it, and yes, the surroundings are beautiful. It's a place people spend a lot of money to come spend a week or two, and I have the incredible privilege of being able to live here. I wouldn't trade being here for anything (well, maybe a croft in Shetland or Scotland).

The thing is though, for the past three decades our home has always had children living in it. We went from adding one child back in 1981 and by the time we finished the expansion we had five. Then the gradual contraction started, and now we are empty nesters. It's very different being empty nesters. Please don't misunderstand. Different isn't bad. In fact, I have to say I quite like buying groceries and cooking for just two people, being able to narrow down who Mr. Nobody is, and not having to worry about other people's schedules.

So now I'm learning how to make a different kind of home. One that is smaller, quieter, but hopefully still warm and welcoming. A place that friends will want to visit. A place that everyone from my eighty year old mom to my one year old granddaughter will feel at home and want to come back to again.

I realized I forgot to do a June Hygge post. Between being sick for most of the month, going to Victoria, and then having our friends from England visit time sort of got away from me. And also, Blogger messed up part of this post, so my apologies if what you see is rather garbled.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Double Drinks

Today has been a nearly perfect summer day. We are in the midst of a heat wave, and as I sit on my front porch writing this blog it is 33C (91F) in the shade. This is when it pays to be an early morning person. I started watering as soon as I got up at 6:00, and after moving the two sprinklers multiple times to be sure everything got a drink, I finally finished around 9:00.

I used that time to make some scones. Probably not the brightest idea since it meant turning on the oven, but I couldn't resist since I had some Devon English Cream and freshly made raspberry jam in the fridge. I'll let myself believe opening the fridge and letting the cool air out cancelled the heat that escaped the oven when I took out the scones.

I also had time to make a batch of ginger syrup. You start by peeling about a pound of ginger. This is sort of a tedious task, but I had some entertainment out my kitchen window while I worked. Two squirrels were having a great time chasing each other around and around the trunk of a fir tree.

Next you chop the ginger into small bits. I measured it when I was finished and I had around 2 cups worth.

Ginger Syrup:

1 pound peeled and chopped ginger

4 cups of water

⅔ cup of sugar

Simmer on low until reduced by half. We mix this with bubbly water from our Soda Stream and it makes a very refreshing drink on a hot summer's day.

Once the watering was finished Jay and I headed to the lake. I wanted to see if I could get the kayak on and off my vehicle by myself. Of course, this made Jay look like a total loser to the people at the picnic area who observed a rather small woman manhandle a kayak while her 6'4" husband stood on the lawn and watched without a single offer to help. Ha! I'm happy to report that I was able to do it, and had a lovely paddle out on the water.

My favourite sighting today was this clump of trees dangling at the water's edge, with their roots intertwined and working together to keep them from toppling over. I'm sure there is some sort of life metaphor there somewhere, but it's too hot for me to figure out what it is.

After lunch I made another drink, this one with limes. The only tricky bit with this one is peeling the limes. I had never tried peeling a lime before and was surprised the peels didn't pull off easily like they do with an orange. If you know a trick for making them easier to peel I would love to hear it.

Frozen Mint Limeade:

¾ cup water

4 limes, peeled, seeded and cut in half

Just under ½ cup sugar

a few fresh mint leaves (if you aren't a mint fan you can skip this ingredient)

3 cups ice

Blend for about a minute. Serves 4.

This is seriously good stuff. Our heat wave is supposed to last a few more days, and I will definitely be making this again. Plus I have a bottle of the ginger syrup in the fridge, so it shouldn't be hard to stay hydrated.

Thank you everyone for your kind comments on my last blog post. Your friendship and kindness is very much appreciated.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Long Drive

I've just returned from a short (in terms of time away) but long (in terms of distance and emotions) road trip. My destination was Nelson, a place we called home for fourteen years. It was a wonderful place to live, and to raise a family. But that story is for another time.

The drive to Nelson might seem to go on forever, but so does the scenery. Unlike the drive to my mom's in Spokane, there isn't a single section of the road that isn't surrounded by beauty. So many times I found myself thinking that I should stop and take a picture for my blog. Nelson itself is spectacular, surrounded by mountains and filled with brightly painted heritage buildings, and there were so many pictures I could have taken while I was there as well. But I just couldn't.

You see, this trip was to visit a very dear friend who is unwell. We had a wonderful time together, and I'm so glad I forced myself to make the epic trip. It isn't always an easy thing for me to drive long distances, but I knew my friend would appreciate having me there, even if it was for such a short time. I also knew it was something I needed to do for myself as well as for her.

So there you have it. I have no pictures and no funny stories to share about my time away. What I do have is an even deeper appreciation of the fact that life is short, and a lot of it is hard. I think that is why I like this picture on my dining room wall so much.

The words might at first seem ludicrous.

Of course we can't always sit around drinking tea and discussing lighthearted things. Life just doesn't work like that. But when we do have the opportunity to take a deep breath, sit down with a friend or a good book or a knitting project or whatever else makes us content and happy, I think we need to remember that doing so is every bit as important as all the other busy things we could be doing instead. It is the very thing I intend to do this afternoon when some friends come up to visit us at our cottage. Life is short, and I want to cherish every single good moment it has to offer.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Thimbleberries and Tea

Back in May in this post about Ten Random Things I mentioned how much I was looking forward to when the thimbleberries were ripe, and I could walk out my door and pick a handful to eat. Well, that time has come!

The berries are in varying stages of ripening, which is great because it means there will be waves of berries ready over the next few weeks.

They are delicate, and tend to tear when removed from the stem. Here's an inside and outside view. I tried to be very careful when I removed this one so you could see the inside properly.

I wish there was a way you could taste them. They are one of my favourite summer treats.

On the knitting front, in what has turned out to be a happy coincidence, I just finished knitting this tea cozy in the Beaverslide colourway called Thimbleberry. I actually didn't know the yarn's name until I went to post the project on Ravelry. My original reason for knitting it had nothing to do with berries.

Ravelry details here

The minute I saw Chrissie's project I started digging in my stash to find some yarn to knit my own Westie cozy. In yet another coincidence, it turns out that Chrissie's Westie and Fergus came from the same breeder, and are no doubt related in some way.

I will be away until Tuesday, so apologize in advance if I get behind again in my blog reading and commenting. Happy 4th of July to all my American readers!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Not Quite Chartwell

I always find myself apologizing when showing guests from abroad around our province. We have everything you could ever want as far as scenic beauty goes, but let's face it. We don't have the depth of history England has to offer. There you can go through buildings whose "new" additions predate Simon Fraser's explorations of this province by several hundred years. It might not have been Chartwell, but we did manage to find a few bits and pieces of BC history to expose John and Gill to.

Thursday we drove up the Fraser Canyon to the Hell's Gate Airtram. In Simon Fraser's journals from around 1807 he called the section of water the tram goes over the "gates of hell" because of its "thundering rapids and terrifying white water." Here's a replica of Simon Fraser making his way downstream on log shelves hung above the canyon by the Nl'akapxm Indians who fished the canyon holes.

It doesn't look so bad in the replica, but imagine doing that hundreds of feet above a raging river. It was scary enough going in the tram. Fergus hated the whole experience. Other tourists were actually laughing at him due to his extreme cowardice.

Saturday we went to Fort Langley, a Parks Canada National Historic Site. It was originally set up as a fur trading post. This was at the time black felt hats made from beaver fur were all the rage in Europe. I think it looks quite nice on Jay!

One thing you can count on with fashion is that it is always changing. This was good news for the beavers, as their populations were decimated by the demand for their fur. The fort continued to thrive though, due to the discovery of gold in the interior of the province. Here are Jay and John trying their hand at gold panning.

I would love to have this pile of Hudson Bay blankets! 

Here's John's version of the Luis Suarez World Cup biting incident. You gotta love that British sense of humour!

I noticed there weren't any pictures of Gill from our day at Fort Langley. I think that might have been because she was too busy chasing mosquitoes to pose for pictures. They were in attack mode, and the repellent we bought at the gift shop was useless. I'm sure they were scratching bites all the way across the Atlantic on the flight home. The people sitting next to them probably thought they had cooties.

In other news, today is Canada Day, and I finished these socks just in time.

Any guesses as to what makes them "Canadian?" Hint: if you look at my pictures from this post you will find the answer.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Quick, Quick, Quick

Our English guests are here and I only have a few minutes before we need to pack a picnic lunch and head out for the day. I thought a short post would be better than no post at all, so here goes. I picked John and Gill up in Spokane and we headed directly to Kath's home on Lake Pend Oreille in Northern Idaho. At the end of our time with them in Wales last September Kath had issued the invitation, so it was fun to see it actually happen. Here we are, along with Kath's husband Jack.

The visit included an introduction to both kayaking and s'mores, along with tons of great food. I warned John and Gill that unfortunately there was going to be a downgrade in hospitality when they got to our home here at Cultus Lake. Kath spoiled all of us.

Monday was the long drive from Kath's home to ours. We did manage to see a few interesting things along the way. This is a viewpoint overlooking the Columbia River.

We've been up Teapot Hill.

Here's John imitating a teapot.

There's been more kayaking, and when we were out we spotted this mother merganser and her duckling. I wish I had been able to get a better picture. The duckling was adorable - it had spots on its back, and when we got close the mother had the duckling jump on her back to protect it.

That has me caught up, and now I need to go throw some lunches together. I'll be back in a few days, and hope to catch up on my blog reading then too.