Thursday, October 20, 2016

Five on Friday: Apples

Apples come into their own in autumn. Some varieties ripen early, others later. They are so versatile; suitable for desserts, but also add a bit of sweetness to savory dishes as well. I like many varieties of apples, but they have to be crunchy, not mealy. And I'm not very fond of Red or Golden Delicious apples, are you? Here are five (plus a half) things I like to do with apples.

1. Photograph them. Red apples in a green tree against a bright blue sky are the prettiest things. 

1.5 Eat them raw. I like them cut into wedges when I'm at home where a knife is handy, but while out and about, if an apple tree (not on private property) makes itself known, I'll happily pick one, rub it on my shirt, and take bites all around the core. 

2. Bavarian Apple Torte - Cream cheese, almonds, a buttery crust, and apples make a wonderful dessert. I've found that Granny Smith or Transparent apples work best in this recipe; others tend to stay a bit crunchy, and for this dessert, fully softened is best. My cousin first served this recipe to me, and it's now in one of our family compilations. Always a winner. 

3. Apple Crisp with Creme Anglaise - Apple crisp is a classic autumn dessert. I used to serve it with ice cream, and it's certainly yummy, but once I served it with creme anglaise (aka custard sauce), I never looked back. 

I like to keep a mixture of the crisp topping in the freezer so that I can bake up a crisp on a whim. It's also good if I want to make a dessert for just two of us - sliced enough apples for two small dishes, sprinkle sufficient topping over, and bake. I confess to liking a high proportion of topping to apple.

4. Apple Pastry Squares - Easier than making apple turnovers is this version of apples and pastry. The pastry has milk and an egg in it and is easily patched. It's rough looking and made even more delicious with the icing sugar glaze. 

5. Peanut Caramel Dip - For a snack, or if you are bringing something to a party, this dip is always a hit. What's not to like about caramel and peanut butter? Rather than unwrap dozens of those little caramels, I came up with a "from scratch" sauce that takes no more time. 

Clicking on the links will take you to the recipes.

What's your favourite way to eat apples in the fall? 

Linking with Five on Friday, hosted by Amy at Love Made My Home.   

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hailes Abbey: Mosaic Monday

In 1535 Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Henry's right hand man, Thomas Cromwell, went on a royal tour. Henry and Anne stayed at nearby Sudeley Castle, while Thomas lodged at Hailes Abbey, founded in the 13th century.

Below the center arch of the ruins in the photo above is a long washbasin. The refectory door, where the monks dined, is on the right. Before entering the refectory, the monks would wash their hands in the basin, which was supplied with rainwater from pipes on the roof. 

Perhaps Cromwell also washed and ate there, enjoying the hospitality of the abbot and the monks. Yet, on Christmas Eve in 1539 he sat on his horse on a hill above the abbey and watched as the destruction he had ordered began. 

The history that led to the dissolution of the monasteries is long and complicated, with intrigue, greed, desire for control, lust and romance tangled together. Hilary Mantel authored Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which tell the tale of Thomas Cromwell, his ascent to power and his decline.

On a warm July morning we wandered through the ruins, mostly alone, passing under arches and through doorways, trying to grasp the enormity of this place and something of the everyday lives of those who once lived here. 

I had always assumed that these massive ruins and others like them were constructed of cut stone. How wrong I was. Rough stones are mortared together in thick walls as seen above, which are then faced with cut stone. Much more efficient.

Over the years, seeds lodged in the stones, took root, and grew so that the ruins appear to have tufts of fine, golden hair growing atop. 

Sheep pasture undisturbed by history on the hills above the ruins. There is an informative museum on the site that explains the Abbey's story in more detail. 

Water trickles through channels constructed long ago. Cow parsley waves in the wind, much as it did centuries past. Visiting history always leaves me with an awareness of my smallness in the grand scheme of things, but also aware that although technology advances, people's motivations and emotions remain the same. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Five on Friday: Autumn Delights

1. As I write, the rain drips trickles through the gutters. It's been dark and wet most of the day. Not much wind, but it's beginning to pick up a little. A candle burns (for atmosphere) and the gas fireplace has been on and off (automatic thermostat) several times. 

Autumn is well and truly here. The golden leaves of the Garry Oak tree show one side of this changeable season; today's views show another. A bit moody, autumn is. 

2. On a recent walk we spied this fat bunny. She was a little skittish and scampered over to the blackberry bushes in case she needed to make a fast getaway. I've never seen such a large bunny with such a thick coat of fur. The black outline of her ears is striking - is it natural, or did she use some mascara?

3. Our fair city with a bank of fog over the Strait beyond. In the foreground is Swan Lake Nature Preserve, shining in the sunlight. There's a height restriction for building, and I'm glad of it - who wants to block out the view with skyscrapers?

4. Late summer I picked up some fabric remnants to make new cushions for the living room. Finally, they are finished. I've piled them all onto the couch, but some belong on the love seat, as well. It's a good feeling to finish a project, even one as simple as these cushions. 

Some people don't like or use cushions on their couches, but I find that most seating is too deep and I slouch or else can't touch the floor with my feet. I like a squashy cushion that I can place behind my back. They're also great for those times when I just can't keep my eyes open and I softly collapse for a nap. 

5. This evening I baked a Pear Upside-Down Cake using a recipe from Canadian Living. You can find it by clicking on the link. It's too dark for a proper photo. The cake tastes delicious - I had a piece straight out of the oven. 

And I'll sneak in one more - I collected a few leaves on a recent walk and stacked them into a vase. The textures and autumnal shades appeal to me, and nothing could be simpler. 

Linking with Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Calm Before the Storm

Sunshine on autumn crocuses (colchicum autumnale) along the path where we walk. They look a bit out of place to me with their pale colour more reminiscent of spring. How pretty they are.

I just love Sunday nights with the prospect of a Monday holiday. We had a beautiful weekend (after rainy Saturday), and I clipped some hydrangea stems for the dining room table, and poked them into recycled bottles of various shapes and colours. 

The colours are wonderful - ruddy pink, pale green, deep purple, and pale blue. 

"October was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in the aftermaths. Anne reveled in the world of color about her..."I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it?..." (L.M. Montgomery)

"Listen! the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves.
We have had our summer evenings,
now for October eves."
Humbert Wolfe

Fun with photo editing - a coloured pencil sketch done with a few clicks of the mouse. 

The wind is rising tonight. Our weather forecast is for a few stormy days with winds coming in off the Pacific in a series of storms.

October is one of my favourite months. It might be at the top of the list. I do love summer, but October has Thanksgiving, changeable weather, lovely colour, and my birthday. What's not to like? 

What do you like about October?

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving. One of my favourite celebrations. October is the perfect month. The harvest is mostly finished, autumn has arrived, and it's good to gather with loved ones and acknowledge our many blessings. Although all of our dreams and hopes may be fulfilled, there is always, always something for which we can thank God.

We celebrated with our children and grandchildren yesterday, Saturday, so that they could be with other family today. 

This afternoon Tim and I went for a ramble around Rithet's Bog. There is colour if one looks for it, and that I did, finding golden trees that glowed in the sunlight, red leaves that swung gently back and forth, and plenty of pale brown stalks of grass and fat, ready-to-explode cattails.  

Recent rains have begun filling the bog that was dry and bereft of ducks for the summer. The ducks have returned to splash and swim, not minding the debris and pollen in the air. 

A crow cawed from behind a curtain of yellow leaves shimmered and caught the light. He was a shy bird, not a show-off at all.

Our three little grand darlings. The girl cousins play together so well, and Mister F. follows them around saying, "me, too," "me, too." How I love them. 

After our walk, I took my basket to the garden and discovered a few ripe figs, one zucchini, bunches of grapes and cherry tomatoes, and lots of lettuce. The kale and carrots I left for another day.

Tomorrow is the actual holiday, but we've always had the tradition of having our dinner on Saturday or Sunday to leave Monday as the day for doing little or nothing.  Wishing all my fellow Canadians a very Happy Thanksgiving. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.

PS. I added a bit of information to my previous post about the memorial stone for Lucy Partington at Hailes Chapel, with thanks to Rosemary of Where Five Valleys Meet 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

It's a Cotswold Mystery

Back to the Cotswolds again. We drove through the picturesque town of Winchcombe en route to Hailes Abbey and Sudeley Castle. It's a town I wouldn't mind exploring a little more thoroughly. Next time!

Our intended destination on this warm July day was Hailes Abbey (also spelled Hayles). Just across the road from the Abbey ruins stood this charming stone church, with its graveyard enclosed in a low stone wall. It begged to be explored.

The church predates the Abbey by a century, and was built in the Norman style, in the late 12th century. I think it's one of the earliest buildings we visited. The stone floor is uneven, the walls rather rough, and there is an old organ that another elderly visitor attempted to play, with some success.

Medieval paintings are still seen on some of the walls, and in other places, remnants of paint confirm that the people of the time used colour for decoration in elaborate ways.

The leaded windows are not highly decorated and were added much later.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, the above window was removed from Hailes Abbey in 1789, then placed into the church here in 1903. During the time of the monasteries, this chapel was used as a place of worship for the public - for visitors and others who were not permitted to worship in the grand church on the Abbey grounds.

This inscription is part of the floor of the church, underneath which John Peak is buried. 

In the graveyard outside, I was intrigued by the inscription on this not-so-very-old gravestone. 

"Things are as big as you make them
I can fill a whole body
a whole day of life
with worry
about a few words
on one scrap of paper; 
yet, the same evening,
looking up,
can frame my fingers
to fit the sky
in my cupped hands."

What could it mean I wonder? I did a little internet searching after arriving home and discovered a very tragic tale - Lucy Katherine Partington was a murder victim who disappeared when she was 21 and no one knew what had happened to her for 20 years. When her remains were discovered, they were buried in Exeter, Devon.

I think the words on the tombstone were written by a novelist, Martin Amis, apparently a cousin of Lucy's. But why, is it here, in this small, out-of-the-way graveyard? That's the mystery. (see note at the end of the post)

And one more detail from the church interior - remnants of rich red paint. How stunning it must have looked to the worshipers who gathered here.

I've not written a post about Hailes Abbey. There are still so many stories to share from our trip - I hope you're not tiring of reading them. We had so many rich and varied experiences. 

I'm off to an educator's conference for a couple of days, then it will be Thanksgiving weekend. I'll catch up with reading blogs later. To my Canadian friends, Happy Thanksgiving!

edited to add: Many thanks to Rosemary, of Where Five Valleys Meet, who lives in the Cotswolds and provided more complete information than I could find on line. The words on the marker are Lucy's own. The marker was placed in this particular graveyard as a memorial stone because it was a place she loved to visit. Lucy's sister wrote a book touching on forgiveness - a most difficult thing after such a horrific tragedy.  

Sunday, October 02, 2016

A Walk on Christmas Hill

The Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary is one of our favourite places to walk. On this sunny Sunday afternoon it was a perfect place for looking over the city. Wooden rail fences keep hikers away from delicate ecosystems. 

En route, we spied this woodpecker, on the ground, busily pecking away at something in the grass.

In the shady sections of the trail, fresh ferns look most un-autumn-ish, but are a result of recent rains and cooler temperatures.

The Garry Oak trees in the sanctuary have already lost most of their leaves. I don't find the trees particularly attractive, but they are highly valued and their ecosystem is threatened.

The hill is very rocky with the thinnest layer of soil that quickly dries out in summertime, resulting in dry, golden grasses. Soon, though, with the coming rains, things will green up again.

Grass and rocks against a blue sky. Autumn is full of loveliness.

Going through some picture files recently I saw this collage from two years ago. Many of the same flowers are blooming in my garden this year. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.