Tuesday, May 26, 2015

France 2014 : Medieval Rennes

My daughter and I spent some of last night cuddling on the couch looking through the scrapbook I had made about our recent trip to Normandy, France.  I took a lot of pictures on that trip and I realized I haven't shared many of them here.  Soo...
Most of our French holiday was spent within the confines of Normandy - not because we had set specific "rules" about where we would spend our time, but simply because there was just SO MUCH to do within this area that there was no reason to leave it!
However, one of the main places I wanted to visit was the historic city of Rouen.  However, after calculating distance and driving time, my dear hubby told me that Rouen was just too far from our home in Vire. We would spend 1/2 of our day in the car and have very little time actually enjoying the city.  I was a bit disappointed, but he told me that he'd make it up to me by finding a similar medieaval town closer by.
And the town he found was in nearby Brittany - and only an hour away.  
So here's our little tour of Rennes.  

Oh! the timber-framed buildings! They were everywhere!  Most were original and maintained their slantly door frames and over-hanging second and third floors.  

And the wood-carvings!  This one was attached to the converted church that had been turned into the town's tourist office.  
Pretty fancy, eh?

Some of these carvings were nearly 6oo years old.  They had been re-painted in the early 1900's, emphasizing the ins and outs of the carvers craft.  

After an hour of walking the historic streets, we came across a boulangerie  that seemed to sell every kind of bread under the sun.  And it was sold by weight!
Pick what you like - a small chunk or a big, pop it on the weigh scale and we'll tell you how much to pay!

We bought some bread for that nights' dinner, for breakfast the next day and several morsels to enjoy immediately, sitting
on the sidewalk outside the bakery. 
These buildings below are the most famous ones in Rennes.  Found on La Place du Champ-Jacquet, they are 16th century homes built in the traditional half-timbered style.
If you look really closely you can see that age has caused the buildings to lean very much to the left.   When the windows were replaced during modern times, the windows were made straight and upright, even though the window frames lean crookedly to the side.  It was almost dizzying to look at!

Throughout our trip around France, I tried to take many pictures of our three kids in front of historical buildings. And every time, dear sweet Camden made a grumpy face and tried to pretend he wasn't enjoy the sightseeing at all!

Don't worry - he loved every minute of it - even though the picture above gives a different indication!

This is my sister, Stephanie.  She spent one week with us in France the kids loved having her along.
By the time everyone was hungry for lunch we found our way to the city's "Thabor Gardens."  We found a lovely walled area where we could perch and eat our baguettes and fruit and enjoy the surrounding flowers. 
I love watching my 3 children interact and have deep conversations about what they've seen and done.  They really are each other's best friends and even during our three weeks of travel in France, we rarely had any negative interactions.   I'll hold these French memories especially dear - my three beautiful children, growing up together and seeing the world!
Aren't these hydrangea gorgeous?  I don't know what they do differently in France, but I had never seen such beautiful colours.  Purple, blue, fuchsia - all in the same plant!!
If you ask my youngest son what his favourite part of the Thabor Gardens was he would say "THE BIRDS!" They had a huge assortment of feathered friends in a huge aviary which fluttered around and sang lovely French  songs.  :)

Our final walk, returning us to our car, took us along the canal that runs through the centre of the historic part of Rennes. 
Looks a those buildings!
And gorgeous flowers as far as you could see!

Oh! So such sweet memories of Rennes. I would return there in a heartbeat.
Actually, our whole trip to France was so marvelous.  The kids keep asking if we can do the whole thing again.  I'd love to, but there is so much of the world that is left to be explored. 
Who knows? Maybe one day, they'll return with there own children  - and maybe take Grandma Bronwyn along for the ride!
Hugs to all,

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Story of BlueBell, the Little Knit Bunny

How about a quick little story about a cute little "make?"
Well, here it goes.....
Bought this magazine off of a newsstand in a Waitrose in London  while we were visiting the UK in March.  I had fallen IN LOVE with the knit bunny that sat quietly on the corner of the front cover.  Once I peaked through the mag, I saw there were plenty of other things that would make me happy to "make", too. 

Within days of arriving home from our trip, I dove into my yarn stash and pulled out some ancient rag yarn that I had bought from the thrift store several years ago.  It was the perfect weight and the perfect colour. 
Time to knit!!

This pattern was very well written and helped create a bunny body as you would crochet "amigurumi."  I've made several crocheted animal toys in this style, but I have never knitted one.  I was a bit nervous, but within one evening I had created  a head and body for my dear little bunny!

Next came his big long ears and then his chunky, little legs.  These needed a bit of concentration to stick with the pattern (and I'll admit, I had to pull one leg out several times!) but in the end they came together, too!

Once I had mastered shaping his legs, his arms felt much easier. It took one evening to sew all the body parts together and I really enjoyed adding his cute, little facial features. 
But by far, my favourite part of this whole project was adorable little pom-pom tail!

My daughter pointed out, after the fact, that I had sewn it on slightly askew and left of centre. 
I don't mind a bunny that's a little off kilter.
Adds to the cute factor, don't you think?

Speaking of cute..... looks like my youngest boy is in love. Actually, this boy adores anything that is knit or crocheted. 
He'll tell you it's his "favourite texture."
 In fact, if we ever lose him in the craft store, we always know where to find him - in the yarn section, where he'll be cuddling the biggest and fluffiest balls of yarn just like they were kittens or baby lambs. 
I wasn't planning on keeping BlueBell Bunny in our home for very long.  One of my friend's sons was going to adopt him soon.  However, now that I have seen the love my own boy is showering on him, he may end up sticking with us after all.
Hugs to all,

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What a Busy Long Weekend!!

It has been a 3-day long weekend here in Canada.  We had originally planned to go camping in the US  but after spending the week watching the weather predictions, we ended up cancelling our campsite.  We are so glad we did because it ended up thunder-storming ALL weekend in the place we were scheduled to stay.   

So instead we kept ourselves VERY busy closer to home enjoying this perfect, summer-like weather.

On Saturday morning, we got up, I packed a picnic and we headed to the nearby city of Hamilton.  We had chosen to hang-out first at Gage Park in the more historic central part of the city.  Here we parked the car and took an closer look at the Tropical Greenhouses I had read about online. 

The kids loved seeing the green, leaf-covered animals as well as the real turtles and exotic birds.It was pretty warm in here, and we were very glad that we weren't visiting during the deadly heat of July!

Before enjoying our picnic (which included Pimm's for hubby and I!) we took a walk around the park. The kids spent a good chunk of time on the play structure before we went to play INSIDE a dry fountain and they let me take some pics in front of tulips. 

After lunch we went to explore a nearby avenue called "Ottawa Street."  It is famous for its boatload of fabric and sewing stores so a lot of the street décor is "stitching" themed. 
The kids  found button man-hole covers, spool-shaped road barriers and thimbles on the benches.  Even the sign as you enter the street is covered in buttons, a needle, thread and a spool. 
And every popular street has its share of cafes and bakeries, too.  This street was no different.  We bought fresh bread and cookies from the "Quality Bakery" and dark chocolate gelato  and cheesecake cups from "Sinfully Sweet."

On Sunday morning we met my mother and  her boyfriend at the Princess Café in nearby Waterloo.  We hadn't been able to get together the previous weekend for Mother's Day, so we made the extra effort this weekend.  We dined on paninis and excellent lattes and had some low-key, relaxed family time where no one had to cook or clean-up afterwards!

On Monday morning we awoke to our 13th anniversary!!
Kevin and I were married in 2002 on a cold and blustery day.  In fact, the morning after our wedding it snowed! It was oh-so-different than the weather we had THIS weekend! Hubby I planted trees, filled our pots with flowers and trucked dirt around the yard in the sunshine.

The older two kids had a playdate booked for the afternoon of the holiday Monday so youngest boy, Camden, requested that we have a little "mom and boy date" to a local fun-farm right near our home.  We visited geese, turkeys, goats and singing chickens.  He also took full advantage of the big plastic slides and the really tall stacks of hay.  It was a glorious afternoon finished off with a popsicle under the big, blue sky.

And of course I didn't forget my "cake a week" challenge.  I think this is week 6 and I made an "Almond Tea Cake" from this Bea's of Bloomsbury baking book.  My daughter and I had enjoyed tea in one of their tearooms while we were in London back in March so when I saw this book available on Amazon.com, I jumped at buying a collection of recipes for all the delicious things we had eaten there.  
And this recipe was a winner!  It was moist with a good crumb and just the right amount of almond flavour!

Have on wonderful week everyone!

I need a rest after our busy weekend.  : )

Hugs to all,


Friday, May 15, 2015

Five on Friday - Five From My Phone

Is it Friday already?  Man these weeks go fast.  In fact, I've been so busy that I had originally planned NOT to do a Five on Friday post this week because I just didn't have the time or energy.
However, one hour into my day at school today, I received a phone call from my daughter's school letting me know that she was sick and needed to be picked up early.  So, now I'm home with a little girl who is resting comfortably,  and I have several "bonus" hours to use today.
Don't worry -- I'll get some practical stuff done too, but first I'll join in with Amy's "Five on Friday" and link up with her blog, Love Made My Home.
So here they are - five photos from my phone that show how my week shaped up around here:
Number One: Our youngest son, Camden had his first soccer game of the season.  He plays on Team Sunshine and wears a uniform to match.  He was quite disappointed about not winning his first game but he ensures me that he will try even harder next week.  Too cute!

Number Two:  Do you see this temperature? Wow.  We've had some very summery, hot, hot days already in May. In fact, we've had our air conditioning on a few times!

Number Three:  What goes with hot days?  Mojitos of course.  I had some leftover mint and wasn't sure what to use it for.  Hubby came up with the best plan "so we don't waste food," and went and bought all the ingredients needed for Mojitos.  There was NO wasted mint in our house this week!

Number Four:  Still baking a cake a week.  This week my son requested a cake with raspberries in it so I made a Double Chocolate Blackout Cake with raspberry jam in between the layers.  Up on top I swirled some white and pink whipped cream, perfectly feminine for Mother's Day last weekend. 

Number Five: Oh how I love this lilac-y time of year.  I went out and cut several bunches of lilacs this morning and our home smells heavenly now!  My trees are COVERED in blossoms and I look forward to several more days of fresh cut blooms!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.  It's a long weekend around here as Monday is Victoria Day.  We've got some fun and relaxing plans and I am looking forward to sharing some of them with you next week!
Hugs to all!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Date Night at Strewn Winery

Hubby was given some free tickets to the Shaw Festival Theatre in nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake.  We decided to take advantage and make it a night out in celebration of our 13th wedding anniversary.  
My mom agreed to come and babysit the kids, and we were off!
Kevin made us reservations at a new-ish restaurant at the Strewn Winery called Oliv.  
It specializes in food and drinks based on flavoured olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 
Sounds interesting, doesn't it?  
Come along and see what we  ordered......

Being at a winery, my wine-loving husband began with a flight of Strewn's reds.  He really enjoyed sipping them slowly, tasting their layers of flavours and comparing their intensity.  

I, on the other hand, went a bit stronger with my choice.  

I had a coconut cream Pina colada, frothy and sweet, made with just the right amount of rum!

And on the side, I gave the restaurant's specialty drink, the "Balsamic Blaster" a try. It is made with  an ounce of sweetened, fruit-flavoured white balsamic vinegar mixed with soda water.  They had many, many flavours to choose from but I went with a cranberry/pear one and a ginger/honey one.
And although the whole recipe sounds quite weird, they were really good! Very refreshing with a little acidic kick!

For our appetizer we ordered an anti-pasto plate that came served on a slice of well-used wine barrel.  Lots of yummy cheeses, meats and dips here!

For his main course, Kevin was brave and ordered:
Thinly Shaved Beef, Arugula, Olives, Capers, Parmigiano Reggianno, Garlic Cilantro Aioli, Cracked Salt & Pepper in OLiV White Truffle EVO Oil.

That's raw sliced beef for those of you who don't know.  Not my cup of tea, but hubby likes it and feels most comfortable ordering it in upscale restaurants like this one because you can pretty much guarantee that it has been prepared safely. 

I, on the other hand, chose:
Chicken Supreme, Balsamic Cherries & Figs, Chef's Choice Potato & Vegetables in OLiV Roasted Garlic EVO Oil & Cranberry Pear White Balsamic.  

The fresh spring vegetables were so delicious. Look at the size of that brussel sprout!

While we waited for the dessert menu, I stepped outside to take some pictures of the the gardens surrounding the winery.  

I absolutely loved these urns containing all kinds of spring blossoms and a cute little bird nest.  I must remember this for my outdoor decor next year!

This pink magnolia tree was in full bloom and the daffodils were bowing in the light evening breeze.  So pretty.

More drinks to go with dessert?  For sure!

Late Harvest Vidal for Kevin and a decaf coffee for me.  

And what was dessert?  What did we choose?
Kevin is a gluten-free eater so his choice was easy - 
Candied Apricots, Candied Pecans, Honey Chèvre, 
OLiV Black Currant Balsamic Pearls & Caramel Balsamic.

And me - I had a tougher choice, but in the end I went with:
Tropical Passion Mascarpone Mousse, OLiV Caramel Balsamic & Butter EVO Oil. Served with Guinness Gelato.

Both desserts were to die for!

And to think we almost didn't order dessert because we so full from the other 2 courses! But in the end we were so glad we did!

Before we left, rolling ourselves out the car, we stopped and tasted a few more flavoured balsamic vinegars.  I wanted a few bottles to make my own "Balsamic Blasters" this summer.  I also figured it would be good to make some sweeter salad dressings too.  

Overall, it was a lovely night out.  
How was the theatre, you might ask?

Well actually, we didn't make it there!!
  We were enjoying our meal and the freedom to talk and laugh together without the interruptions of our darling children, that we decided to skip the theatre and linger over a long dinner.

We are so glad we did! Both Kevin and I were reminded about how much we LIKE each other. We do have a lot of fun when given the opportunity.  
I guess that is why we've been happily married, through thick and thin, for the last 13 years!



Friday, May 8, 2015

Five On Friday - Flowers from Columbia Road Market

Hi all.  Joining in again on Amy's (Love Made My Home) weekly linky party, Five on Friday. 
I am changing it up a bit this week.  Usually I choose five pictures from my cell phone's camera to share here each week. Not this time.  Today I am going to share the 5 prettiest flowers (in my opinion) from the Columbia Road Flower Market. 
My daughter and I recently visited the UK and stayed in London for over a week.  I had seen so many pictures of the Columbia Road Flower Market showing its colourful beauty that we made it a priority to visit it on the one rainy Sunday morning we had in London.
It was also "Mothering Sunday," so it felt the whole of London was there trying to buy fresh buds for their mummies.  It was crowded and cold-- but totally worth it!
Number One:  Tulips.  Thousands of them in every shade and colour.  This photo shows the flowers belonging to just one vendor.  Imagine 20 more just like it!
Number Two:   Blue hydrangea. I have been trying to grow these in my garden for over 6 years.  I have 4 plants and none of them ever gives me very many flower heads, let alone turn this lovely shade of blue.  And yes -I have added the acid to the soil in hopes of changing my pinks into blues.  Still now luck!

Number Three:  Ranunculus.  These really are the trendy spring flower of the day.  I love how they begin as tight little balls that gradually open into crepe like petals.  And you gotta love this intense pink colour!!

Number Four:   Look at these! Are they the prettiest colour?    They are peach down inside and round the lower bud, then  each petal unfurls itself into the prettiest of rosy pinks. Isn't it amazing?  If my research is right, this could be a "Sheila's Perfume" rose or a "Daily Sunrise" rose.  Who knows? But it is beautiful with such a vintage feel to it....
Number Five:  Now look at these showstoppers! Don't they look like peppermint sticks? They would be perfect at Christmas, don't you think? While we standing and admiring them, the flower seller sold 4 bunches right from under our noses.  They were very popular - it must have been their distinctive look.  (Name: "Ferdinand Pichard" or maybe they are "Henri Matisse?" )
That's my five on Friday, but if you are still interested in a few more Columbia Road pictures, keep reading!
This gentleman was selling crates of primula for 5 pounds each. Five pounds for all of those flowers?  If London was home I'd be  taking two!
Columbia Road was a meeting place, too. I had made earlier arrangements to meet with a bloggy friend, Gemma. She blogs at Gem's Country Life Dream.  Even though she has recently lived in and around London, she had never been to Columbia Road .  She was eager to see its stalls of floral gorgeousness as much as I was. 
After meeting at a nearby train station, we walked to Columbia Road, getting to know each other better and coming up with a game plan to deal with the crowds.
Before we reached the end of the market, Gem had chosen some flowers for her own home and some tulips for her Mum and Nan. 
I had mentioned earlier how wet and cold the day was, so next we searched for the perfect place to have a cup of tea and some cake.   Within minutes, we found this cute little shop:
Here we dined on carrot cake (Gem), lemon tart(me) and a strawberry cupcake (Afton.) Tea and rose lemonade on the side!
It was lovely to be able to spend some time with a long-distance friend. Gem turned out to be just as sweet in person as her blog-demeanor shows. 

Now when are you coming to Canada, Gem??
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!
It's Mother's Day weekend here in Canada so I'm looking forward to a bit of pampering now, too!