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

1 1/3 cup evaporated milk
2 2/3 sugar

Mix together in a large pot. Turn on a medium to low burner setting. Stir constantly. It will start to boil and then boil more. It will then go to a frothy rolling boil. At that moment start ten timer for five minutes.

Remove from burner and add:

3 cups mini white marshmallows
3 cups chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla

Stir well until all melted and mixed together. Pour into a 15x10" pan. I use my old glass Pyrex pan. I put maraschino cherries or nuts on top. Sometimes I leave it plain. Let it sit at room temperature until cool and cut. I take it out of the pan and then refrigerate it.

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.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pitt & Hobbs Christmas Window

Every year my family heads to the store to help Jess put together the Christmas window. We eat, laugh a lot and listen to the movie The Grinch while we work. This year we wanted to do a lovely window as a gift to all the people strolling by and our wonderful patrons. My sister and I have been feeling very nostalgic the past few years so we wanted the window and the store to reflect that. We hope you love the window as much as we loved doing it.

The Window !!
Behind the Scene !!


Thursday, November 26, 2015

I thought these skates were goners !!

These are my skates. I used them last in the 60's. We want to use them in a store display, but when we pulled them out of the crawl space my heart sank. These skates are actually in worse shape than they look here. This is mould. Thick, brown, musty smelling and gross. The leather tongue is cracking and the lining has turned to dust. I decided I had nothing to lose so I brought out my secret weapon. Bar Keepers Friend. These were my tools!
A bit of elbow grease and lace soaking this is how the skates looked right after their washing. More to follow.
The promised after picture. How cute do my old skates look in our Christmas window!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Painting a chair for the store.....

I spent this afternoon painting this chair for the store. It is for a display of sorts, but exactly what, is a secret until Saturday night. I don't know what I used to do with my spare time before my painting addiction kicked in.

After two coats of FAT Paint Cream




Monday, November 16, 2015

A cold, windy and rainy day. Perfect for changing a blog !!

You may have noticed that today I have changed the name and format of my blog. I made the decision to let this blog evolve and be about all aspects of my life and not just the gardens. All the things I love. It often drifted that way anyway, so now it's official. You will find posts about my beautiful garden, my home and store Pitt & Hobbs, cooking, painting, needle arts, my cats, friends and family. Whatever strikes my fancy. Enjoy.
Oh look, my first post is about the garden. I had a dozen of these beauties, butternuts, left in the garden. With frost this morning I knew I had to get out in the pouring rain with blasting wind to pick them. They need to finish ripening in the house. I was so cold my fingers, soaking wet through my shabby gloves, could hardly move. The butternuts made it to the deck, I pulled the spent vines into a pile and left them in the garden to rot there this winter.
I then ran to the greenhouse and watered everything. I noticed a spray of burgundy orchids about to bloom. Right on cue. I love to put them in the arrangements I make for the store for Christmas. Holly, cedar and orchids.
I put an another coat of Cream colour FAT Paint on the cute little table for the store. It will be ready to sand and distress tomorrow. Then I'll top coat and take it in. It is going to be adorable. Wait until you see what we are going to do with it.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bindweed garden. Nuff said.

So this is the Bindweed Garden at the end of the season. The pumpkin patch planted to suppress the Bindweed was a dismal failure. The Bindweed was laughing at me behind my back. What actually happened was the Bindweed twirled around the pumpkin vines and made it's way into the squash area before I even knew it was happening. I ripped out the pumpkins and pulled back the Bindweed from the squashes. Jeez. It really is the weed from hell. Bleach seemed to have the best result so far. This week I am noticing that it is now fading as its getting cooler. I guess the battle will resume in the spring.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Our first apple!!! OMG it was delicious.

This bowl of cut up apple is the first apple out of our garden. We have nine apple trees and about 50 apples ripening right now on two trees that were planted last year. This is an Ambrosia. It was big and delicious.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Garlic planting day

Today I planted one long row of garlic. There are about 40 cloves planted. First you clean your garlic. Mine has been hanging in the shed for a few months and is a hard neck garlic. I cut the stems about 2-3" from the cloves. I then trim the roots and rub any little dirt lumps off. Then I pull off the dirty outer layer of skin leaving a lovely white clean garlic. You must leave some skins on to keep them dry and clean in storage. I then take the biggest and best cloves and replant. I have a full planting guide here.

I sat in the garden to clean garlic. Left the white skins lying there to break down and moved the stalks to compost. Very satisfying.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Orchid Transplant Day

I seem to always forget to take pictures. I always think of it after I'm done. I've been blogging since 2011 so you would think I would have this down by now. I don't, so here is a picture of my transplanted orchids. They were in tight little pots with no rigidity. They were weird and wouldn't stand up on their own. The sphagnum moss was so tightly packed I was sure that the centres would never dry out, hence, rotten roots. One of them was exactly like that. All the centre roots were rotted. I cut out the dead roots and placed the plant in front of a fan for about an hour. Nicely dried out, I put them in the only clear pots I could find. They were a bit bigger than I wanted, but they would do.

I found this sphagnum moss at Dinter Nursery. It is a small, thin, hard block that you put in water to hydrate. When I first grew orchids, you only used mixes of bark mulch or my old favorite, Tree Fern. This orchid potting medium is new to me. I am a convert.

Tree Fern

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Making a batch of Vanilla Extract. I smell wonderful.

Making your own Vanilla Extract is so easy. Here's my recipe. Buy a bottle of vodka. This time I bought a 1.14 litre bottle. I have tried multiple brands and Smirnoff is definitely the best. I add 20-30 Madagascar Organic Vanilla Beans. {I get them on eBay} For this larger batch, I used 30 beans. Split the beans. Pour about a cup of vodka out of the bottle and start adding the beans. When the beans are all in the bottle pour the vodka back in to the bottom of the neck which gives you the space in the bottle so you can agitate the beans. You just tip the bottle gently end over end. I do this every day for a week or so and then a few times a week, and eventually I just do it now and then when I walk past it down in the larder. A lot of people consider it done in a few months, but I age it for a year. Drink the remaining vodka.
You would not believe how good I smell right now!!! Vanillaaaaaaa.
Closeup of beans. Aren't they beautiful.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

OMG, Swiffer's are washable !! Not garden related, but pretty exciting.

Yes, that's right, they are. Swiffer's are washable. Just throw them into the wash with your laundry, flatten them out and let them air dry. Not only are they washable, but they work better after washing. They fringe out more and get fluffy which makes more dusting surface and they actually pick up more dust.

Here is a Swiffer before:


And here is a Swiffer after washing.

I had already decided to create a pattern and sew some fabric Swiffer's in the winter that would be washable and reusable as well as being a much more environmentally friendly material. {Which is actually what initially got me thinking.....what would happen if I put one in the washer?} We go through a lot of these in the store so I will be thrilled to see the end of these altogether. I will share my pattern when I make it.

Monday, September 07, 2015

New potatoes and new {old} Corningware

Today I grabbed my mandoline and sliced up four cups of our beautiful potatoes right from the garden and made my first Scalloped Potatoes in about thirty years. A few weeks back, my friend Leslie found a couple of Cornflower Corning pieces at a thrift shop for me. Thank you Leslie. You know I love vintage kitchen things. So I dug it out and this was the result.