Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Hike, A Make and A Cake

Hello everyone! I hope you had an amazing weekend! The weather was spectacular around here and we took full advantage.
We bought new outdoor dining furniture and dear hubby spent hours putting it together so we could use it right away. I finally got out into my gardens and did some much needed clean-up while the kids frolicked on the trampoline and were entertained by the dog's antics.  Every meal was eaten al fresco and hubby and ended off a fabulous Sunday sipping mojitos on the deck.
This blog post is three parts as its title indicates.
Firstly  - The Hike. 
We recently bought a year-long pass for all the nearby conservation areas. We've used this pass every weekend since it arrived. This time we checked out Rattlesnake Point.
Created on top of the nearby Escarpment, it has spectacular views and on a clear day like today, you could see for miles!
We climbed rocks and hiked hills for over an hour before the kids complained about oncoming exhaustion. 
I was pleased to see the Trilliums up already.  I was sure they were July flowers, but with the large groups of blossoms we saw today, I was definitely proven wrong!
Secondly - The Make 
My husband and I have done a fair bit of travelling.  Now, often, our children attend these educational and cultural experiences with us.  I was looking for another way to celebrate and remember  these vacations other than our photo scrapbooks.  After searching Etsy, I came across the perfect thing - cross stitching patterns that encompass the attractions of many of the cities we have visited. 
I particularly loved this shop - Happy Stitches 4 You. I ended up purchasing patterns for Paris, London, New York and Amsterdam. 
I eagerly got started on Paris because of the cute little hearts and Eiffel Tower.  I worked on it, off and on, for about a month....

....and now it is finished.  I plan on stitching up all the cities and framing them in a matched set for our home.  Perfect little reminders of our trips abroad!
Thirdly - The Cake
After being in the UK back in March and consuming a lot of cake and tea along the way, I realized how much I really like the stuff and how rarely I make them!
I'll bake a cake for a birthday, and maybe if friends are coming for dinner. But I never baked a cake just for the sheer pleasure of mixing the ingredients, watching it get golden in the oven and eating it on a Sunday afternoon just because it tastes good! 
So to change all that, I've challenged myself to bake a cake from scratch, each and every weekend all year long. So far I've baked a Victoria Sponge, a Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake and a Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cake.
This morning I whipped up a Summer Berry Upside Down Cornmeal Cake. I found the recipe in the book, One Bowl Baking.
Her recipe called for plums and blueberries, but I modified it and went with a mix of berries instead. 
And boy,  was it good!
I wasn't sure how the cornmeal would taste and whether I might find the texture strange.  Nope.  It was perfect.  It gave the cake a little bit of a gritty texture that balanced the sweet, jammy layer of berries.


I ordered a couple of new baking books this past week written by the pastry chef at the Bea's of Bloomsbury tea shops.  I cant wait to flip through those and figure out what I'll make next week!
Thanks for popping by my blog today.
I'd love for you to leave a comment.  I checked out my blog stats recently and saw that I had many, many visitors come by here everyday but only a very small fraction ever leave any commentary evidence!
Hugs to all,

Friday, May 1, 2015

Five on Friday - Pictures from My Phone

Hurray! It's Friday!
We made it.  Another busy week is under our belts.  Is everyone else as ready for a weekend as I am? And it's fo y favourite months!

Before heading to work this morning I'm going to post my five pictures for  Amy (Love Made My Home) and her Five on Friday linky series. 

Number One: My mother bought a cool hair pencil so that she could jazz up her own hair for a recent event.  While visiting her home on the weekend, we gave the pencil a try and gave Afton a few pink-ish streaks in her hair. We all loved the resulting highlights.  Apparently you can buy these pencils in a handful of colors so Afton has put her order in for every single one! 

Number Two: Speaking of home - while we were visiting my mother in my hometown of Exeter, I took an hour or so to walk the Main Street seeing what was new and what had changed.  I had not done this in ages so it was very refreshing.  I took this photo of the Old Town Hall while the sun shone and the white clouds floated by.  It looks just the same as it always has except that the new library has been built, attached to one side.  Other than that - it is just as I remember it.  Isn't it nice to go home??

Number Three:  This is this week's cake in my "A Cake a Week" challenge.  What kind is it? Well, it's a Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cake taken from the book, One Bowl Baking. Seriously delicious and perfect after our long hike in the forest on Sunday afternoon. 

Number Four: I've been trying to add at least 36 squares (3 rows) to my colourful "Flower Garden" quilt top  each week.  I'd say I'm 3/4 complete now and I am looking forward to finishing it.  I can't wait to  sandwich the layers together and enjoy the summery new addition to our quilt and blanket collection.

Number Five:  While out for hike on Sunday afternoon, I came across this heart-shaped leaf resting quietly on a cut tree stump.  It struck me as very artistic  - as if someone had laid it there, resting on the edge.  I like the mix of textures, too,  especially when  there is hardly any colour in the image.

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else posts for their Five on Friday.  I see some tea-drinking and blog-reading in my future!

Off to dinner and the theatre with my hubby tonight.  Then tomorrow my mother is helping me get another stage of our camper-caravan renovation done. 
I really must share some pics of that soon, too!

Happy Friday!



Monday, April 27, 2015

A Ride on the Tall Ship Kajama

Have you ever rode on a Tall Ship?  You know- the ones that used to tear up the oceans carrying people, parcels and pirates? 
Recently I was able to get my hands on some tickets to take a ride on the "Tall Ship Kajama" that sails out of the main quay in Toronto's harbour.  It was  biting cold that day, but the kids were eager!!

This is what Kajama looks like when she is at full-sail on a glorious blue-skied day. 

Unfortunately there was no sun or blue skies on our sailing day, but that didn't stop the kids and my husband from helping to pull the rigging and  lift the sails.

Out of the harbour we went.  The sails flapped in the strong winds and we searched for the perfect vantage points in which to view the  water and the city of Toronto.

This was obviously some well-used rope. It was frayed and sea-scraped, but still strong enough to lace the ship to the dock while it rests between journeys. 

This box made my oldest son, Bryn, a little nervous.
"Are we going to need them, Mom?"  :)

We were chased throughout the harbour by several smaller crafts that sped through the water with the aid of the high winds.  A few tumbled over with less-experienced drivers.  Brrr... that water would have been terribly cold!

The views looking back at Toronto were amazing. We could see and name many key buildings like the Rogers Centre, The Royal York Hotel and of course, the world-famous CN Tower.   
Overall, it was a marvellous outing though we all agreed we wished we had worn more clothing. 
Luckily the ship ride itself was exciting enough that any memories of the frigid cold are but little ones in the scheme of the whole afternoon!
Thanks for visiting!
I love your comments --please leave one.   : )
Hugs to all!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Five on Friday - Pics From My Phone

Happy Friday everyone! Another week complete.  It's been a busy one with meetings, doctor's appointments, teacher learning  sessions and big school events. 
And now we are ready for the weekend!
After school is done for today, I will take the kids to visit my mother for the weekend.  Hubby is going to stay home with the dog and try to get one of his papers written for his Master's course. The weather is supposed to be pleasant so hopefully we'll get to spend some time outdoors enjoying the spring breezes and sunshine. 
Before I go and get the last of our things packed, I thought I'd pop in here and share my Five on Friday photos and join in with Amy from Love Made My Home.

Number One:  We went on our first picnic this past week.  We put together a yummy hamper of food and took the kids and the dog to a nearby park where they could swing and climb in between their bites of sandwiches and cookies. I took lots of pictures on my phone, but this one really warms my heart.  We've had Casey for 3 weeks and already Bryn and he have cemented a tight bond.  Bryn is a gentle soul and Casey knows it.  So, he is hardly ever rough with Bryn.  They are more apt to cuddle and snuggle and go on meandering walks.  If Casey really wants to "tear it up," he knows Camden is a better choice for action!!

Number Two:  Speaking of Casey - he likes his walks EARLY!  This photo was taken as the sun came up at about 6:15  the other morning.  Luckily it wasn't too cold, and I had dressed appropriately so he and I took a good long journey through our neighbourhood and watched the sun come up in a pastel sky. 
Number Three:  Camden can be quite a handful.  He has always been so.  We've struggled with his level of energy since the beginning and always considered him a spirited child.  Lately he's been having a lot of trouble concentrating during his 1/2 hour long piano lessons.  He's been wiggling all over the piano bench, kicking and stamping on the pedals and plunking on the keys while his teacher is trying to talk to him.  So, during the last few lessons, I have sat in the piano room during the lesson in  hopes that my little reminders can help refocus him while he learns.  As a kindergarten teacher, I know this level of energy is typical of a 6-year-old boy.  All I can hope is that he grows and matures, he'll find sitting still at the piano a bit little easier!

Number Four:  I love cake and I love to bake.  So to bring the joy of both into our home, I've decided I will bake a cake from scratch each and every weekend.  Last week I made a traditional Victoria Sponge and this week I made a "Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake." I used THIS RECIPE and it turned out wonderfully!

Number Five:  I bought  this issue  of Prima Makes while I was visiting the UK last month.  I spied it in a Sainsbury's newsstand and the first thing that caught my eye was an adorable knit bunny on the cover.  I began knitting the body parts last weekend and now I almost have him sewn together.  Here's just a peek of some of the cute little guy.  I'll share the finished product one day next week (once he has a face and a fuzzy little tail!)
Thanks for coming by and visiting my little part of blogland.  I love the comments you leave, so please, let me know you've visited and leave a little word for me!
Have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Beauty of Salisbury Cathedral

 I have so many pictures to share from our recent trip to England back in March. I have been slowly showing them all to you in little packets of photo pleasure. 
In an earlier post  I shared the photos of my daughter and I exploring the town of Salisbury and its famous Close. 
Today is part 2 of that day out - the part where we discover Salisbury Cathedral.
Here was our first view of the Cathedral:

It is easy to see why, centuries ago, pilgrims were overwhelmed by the sheer heavenly majesty of this church. 

Salisbury's spire was added between 1300 and 1320 and is the tallest in the UK (123m or 402 ft). It is probably the heaviest too.  In fact, if you stand under the pillars that stand directly below it inside the church, you can see how much the pillars are buckling under the weight!
As is typical of most gothic-style cathedrals built during this period, the front fa├žade is covered with ecclesiastical carvings of every kind.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I'm always blown away by the sheer talent of medieval stone masons who worked with nearly primitive tools to create these arches and entryways.
I love the juxtaposition of these two carvings - scary looking gargoyle and elegant angel.

Reminders of "who's in charge."
By far, the most impressive part of the cathedral for me was the Cathedral Font. 
It was designed  British water sculptor William Pye and was installed in September 2008  during the celebration of the 750th anniversary of the consecration of the Cathedral. 
The water within it is completely still even though small waterfalls run off each of the four points of the cross-shape at all times. Because it is so still, it acts like a mirror, allowing visitors to view the soaring ceilings of the cathedral by looking down instead of craning their necks upwards. 
Afton and I had some fun trying to take the perfect "reflection" picture.
The afore-mentioned arches and ceiling mosaics.
It was a pretty gloomy, grey day outside the cathedral, but light still poured in, illuminating the windows and lighting the beauty of the church for all to enjoy.   
One of the guides inside the cathedral told us the story of this particular wall decoration we found behind the main altar.
Do you see how the centre cross-shape seems dug out and roughed-up?  It used to contain a cross of pure gold that had decorated this wall for a few centuries. Then while King Henry VIII was in power, he ran a little low on cash and had all the gold decorations removed from his churches and added to his own coffers. It was never replaced and  the loss was never rectified. 
I guess no-one gets to tell Henry VII what to do!!
Besides the stone tracery found in these old cathedrals, my second favourite aspect of an ancient church is the cloisters.  It is magical to think about who walked here before me, over the centuries.  What did they contemplate? What were their beliefs? Did they think of who would walk here AFTER them? 

After seeing the inside of the church, it was lovely to emerge back outside to a new blue sky and the songs of happy birds. 

I'm told I am never in enough of the pictures. 
Here I am.   (Photo credit : Afton)

I hope I've shown you a big enough variety of Cathedral pictures as to not bore you like a school history lesson might!
Salisbury was day two of trip to England.  Just think - I have 6 more days of photos to show you!!
Next up - the Columbia Road Flower Market!
Have a lovely week everyone!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Five On Friday - A Few From My Phone

Joining in again today with Amy at her blog, Love Made My Home and her Five on Friday photo linky party.

Just like last week, I have chosen five pics from my phone to share with you today.  I tend to use my phone's camera much more often during the week, capturing the little "daily" details that happen during every day life.  I tend to save my "big" camera for weekend outings and events where I take multiple shots of  the "action." I try to dump my camera photos onto my computer's hard drive each weekend so that my phone stays clutter-free and I never lose any precious photos by accident!

Here are my favourite five from tonight's photo"dump":

Number One: This week's manicure.  I went subtle this week opting for some "bridal" colours that my manicurist was dying to try out.  It's mostly just some glitter on four fingers and some daisy-shaped sparkles on my index finger only.  Pretty, huh?
 (The girls in my kindergarten class ADORED it!)

Number Two:  Doing some summery sewing.  I've been seeing so many bloggers making beautiful, flowery quilt tops that I decided I HAD to join in.  The toughest part is always picking the fabrics - making them match, or balancing the colours.  But not this time. I simply cut squares out the fabrics I liked best, whether they went together or not! The way I figured, flowers always look good mixed together in my garden, why can't it be the same way on a quilt!?

Number Three:  Spring has finally arrived in my part of Canada.  That temperature says it all!

Number Four: One of the main reasons we decided to get a dog was to encourage our family to get out more, enjoy the natural spaces around us and to get some much needed exercise.  So this past weekend, hubby invested in a season's pass to all the conservation areas surrounding our home.  After looking into it, we realized we could walk once a week for the next 20 weeks and never see the same tree, rock or root.  
We headed out on a perfectly sunny Sunday with the pooch and a picnic and did our first 3km hike.  The kids and the dog loved it!  This weekend promises perfect hiking weather again, so we will be off and trekking once again!

Number Five:  Victoria Sponge.  
I am baker. A quite experienced and comprehensive baker. However, I have to admit, I had never made a traditional Victoria Sponge cake.  Until now.  I made it a priority this past week and used this Mary Berry recipe.  
And it was devine!!
I guess I'll be  permanently adding this one to my repertoire!

Thanks for all of your lovely comments on my previous posts.  I try to reply to them all as soon as I can.

I'll be back early next week with another post.  Salisbury Cathedral or more pics of the hiking trip? 
Or who knows what we might get up to this weekend?? 
Maybe I'll share that here, too!

Hugs to all,


Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Daytrip to Salisbury

I've finally had the time to sit down and sift through all of the pictures I took while my daughter and I visited Salisbury as a little day trip out of London on our recent vacation in the UK.

We ended up is Salisbury for several reasons.
ONE:  I had been there once before in 2012 with my husband but literally had only 2 hours to eat, check out the exterior of the cathedral and pee.  We were on a bus trip on our way from Cardiff to London and there wasn't any time to stop and see anything!

TWO: I had recently finished reading Edward Rutherford's book, Sarum, which tells the story of the Salisbury Plains from 6000 BC right up until the 1900s. It was a brilliant (and long) book and I couldn't wait to see its central setting in real life. 

And...THREE - my daughter was dying to go on a REAL train ride.  She'd been on short haul steam trains that were meant for children's entertainment, but in her words she really wanted travel a real distance sitting on a train "just like Harry Potter does." 

That settled it. We were off to Salisbury.

The train ride lasted just less than 2 hours across sheep fields and through pretty little towns.  Afton said that it was everything she'd hoped it would be.  She watched the world go by listening to Ella Henderson on her ipod while I caught up on some travel journaling.  
We walked from the train station into the center of town.  Within minutes we were viewing the history and beauty of this ancient town.  

It was a clear sunny day, but the wind was very cold.  We wished had worn more layers but kept moving, in and out of buildings catching some extra warmth where we could.  

We came across the Salisbury main market square - and it was market day!

We bought some yummy cheese and nibbled on it while we circulated through the stalls.  We both wished we could have brought one of these pretty primrose planters back to London with us.  It would have added a lot of lovely colour to our hotel room.  

Once we had had enough of the busy market square, we journeyed down some back streets in search of the quieter parts of the town.  

We soon came across "The New Inn."  Right away I had my phone out in hopes of finding out when it dated from.  

"A 12th-century inn situated in the heart of historic Salisbury, The New Inn offers traditional pub accommodation 10 miles from Stonehenge."

We were too early for lunch, so we had to be satisfied with the view of the outside of this historical public house!

After walking a few more blocks, we entered Salisbury Close through St. Ann's Gate.  Immediately we were greeted by these amazing trees covered in a plethora of  spring blossoms.  

A bit further down the lane, we came across one of the huge green spaces that surround the cathedral.  We had purchased some fruit at the market so we sat down on a bench (cold on the bums!) and enjoyed our raspberries and apples.  

We continued to walk the private roads through the close viewing several gorgeous homes, ranging in date from early medieval times to more recent refurbishments.  Originally most of these homes were built for clergy of the church, but more recently have been leased to private citizens who can afford to pay the incredibly high rents!! 

This was our favourite house (below).  It was hidden neatly behind this metal gate and flint and brick walls.  

And behind the gate.......
(Look at the mix of materials.  A little bit of everything over the centuries!)

By now, Afton and I were famished and REALLY cold, so we voted to head back out of the Close through the High Street Gate
and out into the streets of Salisbury.  

We had a cozy lunch inside a small little restaurant whose name I totally forget!   But-- you can sees it's bay window jutting out into the high street in the bottom of the picture above! : )

After lunch we spent nearly 3 hours in the Cathedral.  But that is a whole other post.  
Share that with you next time?? 
It's a deal!!

Thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad to see so many new followers.  And the comments you leave really make my day!

Hugs to all,