Thursday, December 31, 2015

Moving into the new year. A time of reflection and gratitude.

As we move into the new year I find myself thinking about the past year. Was it what I thought it would be? How am I feeling about my accomplishments? Did I spend as much time with my friends and family as I had hoped? Is everyone well? Is the store still a source of joy?

I never use the answers to beat myself up, rather an instrument of guidance for the next 365 days. The answers to these basic questions allow me to alter my course a bit to live a fuller and happier life. That is always my goal.

There have been a lot of changes the last year. I have more than enough garden area now and it brings me joy. The store has changed into a true reflection of who I am and is bringing me joy. I have started painting and being creative and that is bringing me joy. I have spent a lot of time with my family and that brings me joy. My brother and I have really connected through our mutual love of gardening. That brings me joy. My sister as always brings me joy. I am happy and content. That sounds like a year well spent. I have a feeling that this is going to be a great year. One I will always remember. So here is to 2016. Cheers.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Blizzard of '96. I think of it every year at this time.

I love snow, as you well know, and I was in my glory during the Blizzard of '96. The city was shut down and our area was dead quiet and nothing was moving. We live not too far from the airport, highway and ferries. Even though you aren't really aware of noise, once it is completely silent, you realize how much noise there is. I came downstairs knowing that something was different. When it snows we can hear the snowplow at the airport. I hadn't heard it so I didn't look out the window. When I got to the deck door, what I was looking at was so surreal I couldn't take it in. When I went to bed there was a bit of snow, as it had been snowing a bit for a few days, and now I was standing face to face with snow about five feet deep against our glass balcony door. I honestly could not wrap my brain around it.


Those are cars in this snow

I ran and got Allan and we assessed what was going on. Quickly we realized that there was snow up the sides of the greenhouse almost to the roof and once it got wet and heavy it would cave in. We literally pushed a path through the snow to the shovels and started shovelling toward the greenhouse. We shovelled a trench around it. A very light rain started to fall as the temperature crept above zero, and the snow was getting so heavy we could barely shovel it. When we got to the back/south side I noticed there was about a three foot drift on the greenhouse roof. Allan was ahead of me and I took my shovel handle and gently tapped the drift. Tap...tap, tap, tap, swoosh, the whole wet heavy drift came down on Allan's head. We just kept shovelling. On our return down the path after we finished the greenhouse, we could see an even worse catastrophe in the making. There was a drift on the same south side of our house roof over six feet deep. Allan went straight up and spent hours clearing it. It was still raining lightly and the snow acted as a sponge and was extremely heavy. The men on our block started shovelling the roofs of the seniors on our street and not one roof collapsed. Next came shovelling a trench along the curbs on both sides of the street, as the quickly melting snow was threatening to flood the area's houses as the drains were completely blocked. The men on the block shovelled all day. Most greenhouses in greater Victoria collapsed. Our Rec Centre rink roof collapsed. Thrifty Foods Broadmead store had a partial collapse I believe. It was quite a disaster. We found out that Victoria had two snowmobiles and CFAX radio was organizing people who needed to get to hospitals, or to appointments for Dialysis etc. Nurses and Doctors were matched with people in their area who needed help. There was a woman in West Shore whose home was command central. Apparently she had huge sheets of paper, laying out people's needs and volunteers and matching them up by area and accessibility. It was an amazing experience. The best in people shone over that few days.


This video was put together by CHEK6 after the blizzard hit our area. The video's snow scenes are in somewhat chronological order and quite beautiful.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day !!

Last night at midnight I made my cranberry sauce. I use my vitamix after it cooks and it is more like jelly than relish. Just a hint of Grand Marnier. Yum.
This is my largest Mason Cash bowl. We really love stuffing. I make it from fresh bread, onion, pecans, sausage and herbs. Everything is chopped in my old food processor to make the pieces so tiny!
Pecans. Nothing to add to that! Family will start arriving soon, so I must cut this short.
Merry Christmas everyone.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wrapping gifts in an old fashioned way

As you know I have a nostalgic way of approaching the holidays. I like homemade Shortbread, the Fudge I've been making every Christmas for 48 years, bottle brush wreaths and trees, candles, my parents old German Glass ornaments, my beautiful tree, Christmas Eve at my sisters where the whole family exchanges gifts and then Christmas Dinner at our house. A very traditional turkey dinner. I love it.
This year I decided to use a basic and old fashioned way of wrapping my gifts. I found some lovely red embossed paper. I then tied a simple bow in green in the gifts. Of course you can't tell from a photo, but this ribbon is exquisite. It is bright, thick and as soft as silk. It is stunning. So if people want to, they can use it for something else when the gifts are opened. Like tying up a stack of letters from a much loved grandmother.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bottle Brush trees and Wreaths

I love bottle brush wreaths and trees. I was born in the 50's and it was very much a part of Christmas for me. Last year I asked my mom if she still had the wreath. She said no, but I still have high hopes that it will turn up some day. She surprised me last Christmas with this lovely green one in amazing condition. This year I am going to find the red berries that they used to have on them so it will look authentic.

While shopping with my sister this fall I found this bottle brush tree in a shop in Oak Bay. I thought it looked cute with that fun little red stand. I flipped it over and found this tag. I'm not sure if I screamed out loud, but in my head I sure did. When I was little, I used to go to Woolworths with my Grandmother in Orillia. My time with my grandmother are the most precious memories of my childhood. So, to say this is special to me is an understatement. In my minds eye, I can see this little tree, brand new, priced at .19¢ on a shelf in Woolworths. It appears I am feeling even more nostalgic than usual this year. And that takes some doing.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

I've made this fudge every Christmas since 1967


My mom worked when I was younger, so the cooking sometimes fell to me. Even then I loved perusing recipes and trying new and interesting things. For example, the 60's were a time of cake mixes and no worries about red dye #5. I loved making cake and tinting the cake a pastel green, say, and the icing pink. I remember both my parents looking at these confections with one eyebrow raised sort of expressions. I chose to ignore it and go with my gut.....'that's right you guys, this is the prettiest cake ever made!' I have, as usual, veered off topic. In 1967 I was 11 and found a recipe on a Carnation Evaporated Milk can for Five Minute Fudge. I made it, not realizing that you stirred the marshmallows until they completely melted. It had sort of a marbleized look that I thought was quite lovely. Next batch I made correctly and a tradition was born. I have made it every year since. There is nothing healthy about this recipe, but it is easy and yummy.


Christmas Fudge 


3 1/3 cups granulated sugar  1 2/3

1 1/3 cup Carnation Evaporated Milk  2/3

4 tbsp butter 2

1 tsp salt 1/2

4 cups miniature marshmallows  2

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips  1 1/2

2 tsp vanilla extract 1

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

**Recipe makes a larger rectangular pan. The measurements to the right of ingredients are for a smaller 8” square pan.**


Butter a rectangular or 8” square baking pan depending whether you want to make a large or small batch. 

Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium saucepan; slowly bring to rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallows, chocolate chips, vanilla and nuts (if desired) until marshmallows and chocolate melt and blend. Stir until all the marshmallows are completely melted. Pour into a buttered rectangular pan. I use a clear Pyrex. If you want to put maraschino cherries or pecans or something on top, do it right now, it will harden quickly. Leave at room temperature. Once cooled off cut into squares. Now you can put it in the fridge. 

Eat the warm remnants/leftovers in the pot. It's my favorite part. 

And then it is Christmas!!!!! 

Double yolkers!!

My friend Ellen gave me a dozen of her beautiful eggs for Christmas. She must have the hardest working chickens on our peninsula. There were TWO double yolkers in the carton. We had what we call 'hot eggs' for breakfast this morning. Put two eggs in a fry pan. Stir them so the yolks are dispersed all through the eggs. Put a layer of a good white cheese over it and a liberal amount of Louisiana Hot Sauce. Let them cook, fold in half and cut in half and we share it. I am going to try a frittata this week. Thank you Ellen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

End of an era...goodbye Marigold Nursery

Marigold Nursery was a wholesale nursery until the early 70's when they opened the nursery up for retail. I moved to Sidney in 1979 when we bought our little house. Everything we planted was purchased at Marigold. I have spent more hours than I can count there. I often corner my poor unsuspecting family members, Jess, Mom, Amanda...."do you want to go to Marigold?" We go and look at everything and chat, talk gardens, buy plants. I must admit to feeling a bit heartbroken about Marigold Nursery closing. But I understand. Things and times change. So I wish them well. Thank you for being such a huge part of our lives and landscape for so many decades.

Their last day in business will be December 24th.


Monday, December 14, 2015

The first time I've ever used a shortbread pan

I have had this beautiful Scottish Thistle shortbread pan for about 20 years or so.
I thought it was classic, gorgeous and would make wonderful shortbread. Until today, I hadn't used it. So it languished in the cupboard and I would admire it when our paths crossed. This week I suddenly felt like making shortbread. I got the decades old pan out. Butter, cane sugar and flour...the ingredients in Shortbread wedges. It turned out perfectly!! Doesn't it look delicious. I gave it an extra few minutes because I like my shortbread a bit on the crunchy side. Now, what took me so long!?


Sunday, December 13, 2015

In my mind there is always snow in winter

Growing up in Orillia, Ontario was heaven. I loved it there so much. The snow was so deep and plentiful often the school bus couldn't get through to us. I remember the snowplows would push the snow almost to the electrical wires. It was wonderful. I am a lover of snow and winter in general, so almost any excuse to get on a toboggan, sleigh or go skating. Everyone had backyard skating rinks and our back yard was no exception. I remember my dad shovelling out a small section for the rink and flooding it. Then he would string up a light so we could skate at night. It was perfect. The ice was always rough which lead to falls. I remember going straight over backwards and slamming my head {with a touque thank goodness} on the ice more than once. I can still remember what that felt like. It was so jarring sometimes my ears would ring. Hmmm, that might explain a few things.
So now I live on Vancouver Island where we rarely get snow. If I had to really search for something to complain about, I guess that would be it. I love this island and I love Sidney. But it could use a bit of snow.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

A special gift from my sister

Today my sister Jess came to the store with an open early gift for me. It was this adorable Patience Brewster ornament. What makes it so special is that Jess and I have painted together. We spent a lot of time on vacation in Hawaii this year practicing watercolour painting. It was so much fun. Then this winter we've taken classes in painting and distressing furniture. We have done much painting together this year. So when you merge our passion for painting, with our love of Patience Brewster ornaments, this is the perfect gift.
When I get my craft and sewing room set up early in the new year, I will find a place for this adorable ornament year round.