My Ordinary/Extraordinary Summer Days, 2014

While downloading pictures for my blog today, I received a text from my partner.  He was reading the paper and found an article that he thought sounded as if I could have written it.  At the beginning of the article was a quote that summarizes how I view my life’s work.  The quote epitomizes what I believe to be my purpose.

I am not a scholar, I do not possess endless amounts of money and I do not have any claim to fame but I do believe I know my purpose here on earth.

I am a teacher, in every aspect of my life, not just in my professional life.  I like to use  my everyday experiences to teach myself, my children, students, friends and relatives or anyone who is interested, about life and what it means to me to live a good life.

My post today is going to be another photo essay but I will use the above mentioned quote to lead into the photo essay whose theme is My Ordinary/Extraordinary Summer Days, 2014.


Do not ask your children

To strive for extraordianry lives

Such striving may seem admirable,

but it is the way of foolishness.

Help them instead to find the wonder

and the marvel of an ordinary life.

Show them the joy of tasting

tomatoes, apples and pears.

Show them how to cry

when pets and people die.

Show them the infinite pleasure

in the touch of a hand.

And make the ordinary come alive

for them

The extraordinary will take care of


William Martin


Finding joy in my ordinary life…….



Saying goodbye to the incredible place I called home for the last year.





Creating a new home…….again


settling into a new home….again


My Summer Home at The Lake



Magical Moments with Nature




Taking time to rest and play



Special Moments with Family


unnamed unnamed


Growing some Food



A Little Worse for the Wear (Advanced Powerwashing)


Note to Self….wear shoes while power washing


Prisine again


Harvesting and Putting By




Making Kefir…my new obsession





Restoring side of the road finds, otherwise known as Upcycling










Gathering Season


There I am in the tree


The apricots are beginning to ripen here in the Okanagan and so a few days ago a friend I and headed to our favorite picking site.  The area is the site of the first apricot orchards in the Penticton area and many of the trees have long been abandoned.  The owners of the land are either absentee owners or owners who cannot be bothered with the old trees and fruit.  Luckily for us, this situation provides free fruit for us each year and I always look forward to seeing these old trees showing their strength by producing fruit long after anyone has pruned, watered or cared for them in any way.

As you can see in the picture above, I was  able to climb one of the trees to get at the really good fruit that remained intact after the deer harvested the low fruit. It made me feel like it was really summer as I stood in the tree balancing while reaching for the best of the golden fruit., just as I had when I was a kid raiding the neighbours trees.  I picked about 30 pounds of apricots and am in the process of dehydrating a second batch.

Today I am going to make apricot chutney which I love with Babotie , a South African sweet curry dish made with ground beef that I serve in the winter.  I am looking forward to sharing it with my children so they too can prepare the comfort food of their childhood when they are away at university this winter or living in the north.  The recipe for this favorite meal came from a family friend that  we spent many a weekend and holidays with.  They had three girls all about the same age as our three children and as we shared our lives, traditions and many meals together we came to have favorite foods we shared. One of the couple being from South Africa and wanting to enjoy some ‘comfort food’ from home caused  Bobotie to be a regular on our menus.   Preparing and eating Bobotie brings our family back to a time when we shared many good times together sleigh riding, hiking, skiing, swimming, bike riding and sharing special events  and meals together with our good family friends.

I found a simple recipe for chutney on My Recipes that I will use but one of  my favorite sites for preserving and canning these days is Food In Jars, so I looked up apricots and came across a unique way to use apricots.  Check out the description given for roasting apricots with honey and spices and then preserving that mixture in jars.  I am going to give it a try and afterward will post the quantities and names of spices I choose to use.  For now, here is my Bobotie recipe and you can find the chutney recipe by clicking on the My Recipes link.


My first batch of dried apricots



1 kg ground beef

1 slice of bread

1 cup milk

1 medium onion

1/2 c raisins

1/2 cup blanched, sliced almonds

3 tsp. apricot jam

3 tsp. fruit chutney

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. herbs

2 tsp. curry

1 tsp. tumeric

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. oil

3 eggs

4 bay leaves


Place milk in a shallow bowl and place slice of bread in to soak.

Chop onion and saute briefly in large frying pan.

Add beef and continue to stir until it begins to brown.

Add spices and mix thoroughly.

Add jam, chutney and jam, raisins and soaked slice of bread.

Stir mixture until all ingredients are well blended.

Place beef mixture into oven proof casserole dish with lid.

Add eggs to milk left from soaking bread and whisk.  Pour over top  of beef mixture, sprinkle almonds and lay bay leaf on top.

Cover and bake at 350F until custard is set.

Remove lid and allow the custard top to brown by cooking a further 10-15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve with rice and peas.


Today I am finally taking the time to post a blog. Over the past six weeks I have moved house from the cost to the interior. Worked like a madman on the unpacking and decorating the house, hosted my parents and picked 150 pounds of cherries from our little orchard, hosted the previous owner of our new house and his niece from England for dinner, installed and picked lights in the house with my partner and then travelled back to the coast with my parents to spend time at the lake with my children, parents and friends. Since arriving at the lake on July 2nd I have been power washing and leaning out some of our outdated and worn out things here while making dinners for my family most nights. I am not sure why I am surprised that I snapped at the wrong person last night when they made a comment I interpreted as condescending.
You see I prided myself on all the self-reflection, counselling, mindfulness and intentional thought I have been working on over the past several years. Although I knew life would always toss me the odd challenge and painful situation just to keep me on my toes and allow me to continue to grow, I thought that being self aware and engaged in life would cause me to recognize my needs and attend to them before a crisis point was reached.
Last night stands as proof that old habits die hard and that sometimes even when we are equipped with a vast array of skills and tools to deal with life in a positive manner, we will be unable to access the right tool, at the right time for the job that needs repair. In my case I can see clearly now that allowing myself to be vulnerable and communicating it clearly to my partner could have saved us both from the barrage of nasty pejoratives, verbal diarrhea and hurt caused by me skirting the opportunity to practice being vulnerable.
Brene Brown has spent years researching shame and vulnerability and I have learned much from her book, Daring Greatly,as well as from her TED talks. Brown comes from a tough Texas family whose motto of ‘lock and load’ is second nature to her so she understands how difficult it is to reveal vulnerability . Like most people I tend to interpret vulnerability as weakness. Brown’s research reveals that is actually our vulnerability that allows us to ‘dare greatly’ and move towards livings life authentically and experiencing greater joy and happiness. Nowhere does her writing reveal this more than in the quote she chooses to epitomize the value of allowing yourself to be be vulnerable and dare greatly.
So to my partner, I apologize for being afraid to be vulnerable and to my readers I leave you with this fantastic quote by Theodore Roosevelt that Brene Brown uses to replace the ‘lock and load’ motto.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt

Unfinished Business


How many of us complicate our lives with unfinished business?  I’m sure at one time or another all of us could admit to having the heavy burden, guilt or pressure of such things as: telling someone something difficult to say, finishing a particularly difficult assignment, paying a bill, exercising or any myriad of things left undone.  We have all seen movies, read books and perhaps personally experienced the feeling of leaving unfinished business so long that it gets too late to complete.  This is a story of unfinished business on many levels.

Allow me to go back to the beginning of this story, exactly ten years ago.  I was raising children and working off and on and had decided to take up the hobby of weaving.  I had a loom and had dabbled but my results were inconsistent and somewhat dissatisfying.  I belonged to the local weaver’s guild and decided to participate in a one-day course they were offering on dying silk.

Off I went on a Saturday morning with my silk warp that I had prepared ahead of time as instructed.  We had an expert come in and instruct the course and I was anxious because first of all, I didn’t really feel like I was a good enough weaver, secondly, I was terrified of the fine silk threads and didn’t think I would ever be able to get them sorted and on my loom and thirdly, I knew nothing about dying fibre.  Needless to say I was the perfect student as I had much to learn.

After a day of theory and experimenting and carefully following the procedure the instructor gave us, I came out of the science lab of the local college with a beautifully hand-dyed silk warp for a scarf.  As I was creating it and choosing the  colours I was doing so with my Mom in mind.  I was excited that I would be able to present her this exquisite piece for Christmas that year.  That gave me about 6 months to complete the warping and weaving of the project.

Fast forward to now, ten years later and as of two weeks ago that warp was still hanging in my weaving room.  I had moved at least 8 times since completing that warp and still I had not woven it.  Somewhere in the chaos and complications of my life I grew incredibly fearful of that warp.  To me it signified all that I wasn’t; a craftswoman, creator and proficient weaver who was able to handle any fibre. Getting the gorgeous silk warp onto my loom seemed like a hurdle I just could not attempt.  I asked friends to help me sort the hundreds of fine threads in order to get them on my warp and they willingly agreed.  Somehow, I always seemed to justify putting if off for another time.

In the last few years I have missed my Mom and family greatly, as I  lived in a different part of the province than them.  Some days I looked at that warp and reminded myself what an  unaccomplished, unfocussed, procrastinator I was. When I was feeling especially miserable that warp served to remind me that I had failed on so many levels, as a weaver, a daughter and the list goes on.

This past year has been a difficult but gratifying year for me.  I chose to leave my work and move  back to the island to be closer to my Mom and the rest of my family and friends. Through many days of self-loathing, copious cups of coffee, miles of wilderness and beach walking, infinite reading, time spent with family and friends and some counselling thrown in for good measure, I arrived at the place in my mind where I could believe that I was a person of some substance.  With that came the steps that lead me to realize I must leave again and go to where my work is and be satisfied with the fact that I am an adult who is able to choose to be where I want, when I want, while still  being a good daughter, mother and friend. This holds true, even when I do not live in the same location as the people I cherish most.

Having waded through the mental mire and mud I found myself, (two weeks ago) standing in my weaving room beginning the process of once again packing my supplies, readying for my move back to the Interior.  As I contemplated what to pack first my gaze  cast upon that beautiful silk warp.  For many reasons, some unknown to me as of yet, I was able to view that warp through new eyes.  What I saw was an incredible opportunity to create something beautiful out of something that had for so long seemed far too daunting to even imagine.  I looked at the hundreds of threads and saw my opportunity to create something uniquely beautiful, not because I had suddenly gained far more skill and talent but simply because it would be created and produced  by me for someone that I love beyond measure. No matter that it might not turn out perfect, the fact that I would  face my fear and do something difficult because I wanted my Mom to know I love her and am willing to tackle hardship, uncertainty and confusion for her, would make it perfect, whatever the weaving quality turned out to be.


the silk threads are tied on the loom

As I threaded and untangled the threads and then wove the scarf with patience and more care than I had ever put into a project, I thought of how pleased I was as the fabric slowly appeared and unfurled with each throw of the shuttle.  At one point I  contemplated giving the scarf to one of my daughters because I wondered if my Mom would actually ever wear the scarf as lately she is less inclined to dress up and go out because she too has lost her belief in herself.  I quickly caught myself making excuses to leave the complicated business of my relationship with my Mom unfinished and carried on, determined to present this piece to my Mom, complete with the story behind it and as much love as I could possibly envelop her with. No more excuses about the quality of the weaving not being good enough, which is a direct translation of  ‘Im not a good enough daughter, mother, friend, blah, blah, blah.’



As I untied the piece from the loom and laid it out along the hallway floor to inspect I was amazed, stunned even.  The piece was exquisite, my best piece ever.  I marvelled at how I had untangled and threaded 20 ends per inch of hand-dyed silk and carefully thrown each pass of the shuttle thousands of times to create this ‘piece de resistance’ for my mother, just as I had intended so many years ago. In my eyes, it really was perfect.


The daunting project is complete

I continued to finish the piece by carefully twisting the loose warp threads on either end of the scarf into many finely twisted fringes and then I submerged the piece in water to allow the threads to relax from the tension of the loom and glide into a more natural weaving of threads laying over and under each other.  With growing confidence, I carefully pressed the wrinkles in the scarf with a warm iron to assist the intricate weaving of threads to be  presented in the best light possible.  As I tentatively draped the scarf around my neck and looked at my reflection in the mirror I could not help being pleased with myself.  I did it and it was worthy.

On so many levels this process is a metaphor for the journey I have travelled over the last ten years.  The journey marked with self-doubt, hardship, resentment and the process of me coming to terms and recognizing that I am worthy, not because what I do or say is perfect but simply because I am who I am. This process  is mirrored in the story of this silk scarf. Today I am proud to present myself to the world; uniquely coloured by my spirit, carefully threaded through the experiences of life and finely woven with just the right tension from the relationships I have known.  I can release myself of the tension created by expectations of myself and others and just be me, exactly as I released the scarf from the tension of the loom and bathed it in water to allow the threads to slide comfortably into position.

I have relieved myself of unfinished business with my Mom and myself and I am exactly where I need to be at this moment, physically, mentally and spiritually…….. and I am ok.


The Rhubarb is Ready


Freshly chopped rhubarb

Each spring I look forward to a good rhubarb harvest.  I planted rhubarb from the island in our last place in the interior of BC but have since moved back to the island and so this spring I was without a rhubarb patch, or so I thought.

When we arrived at our newly purchased ‘Portuguese Palace,’ I was so pleased to see that hidden down on the flat part of the property was a huge rhubarb patch, bigger than any I had ever grown.  On the day before we were to depart for our return trip to the island I harvested a large amount of rhubarb.

Once home, I was able to prepare 2 rhubarb custard pies.  I shared these with my children, parents and extended family.  I even splurged and had a piece myself. (definitely not Primal)  


After that I still had a lot of rhubarb remaining.  I remembered that a friend had given me a jar of Rhubarb Ketchup that her father had made last spring.  I got on the internet and found a recipe I liked and tried it out.  The results were fantastic and so last night I sealed up 6 jars of Rhubarb Ketchup and I have already given one away to our landlord.  I think this is a fantastic way to use this unusual vegetable in a way that can be preserved for the long winter months.  As with other ketchups, this sauce is a  great condiment for meats and  veggies and I look forward to making more with my next harvest of rhubarb. 



Rhubarb Ketchup packed with delicious flavours from the addition of apple cider vinegar, tomatoes and cinnamon.

Nature Provides


Since returning from my two week ‘renovation vacation,’ I have been completely enamoured with a sense of place.  In the Okanagan, there were amazing skies, dry clean air and the wafting scent of fruit blossoms and lilacs.

Back on the island now, the contrast is profound.The damp earth smell permeates through the blooming Scotch Broom aroma. The hidden Lily of the Valley gently scents the early morning, while  lilacs perfume the air throughout the day. Conifers spray bright, dusty, yellow pollen and burst with vibrant, green, spring growth.  At times my senses seem overwhelmed as I walk through the woods, down a rural road or just step outside my back door. In addition to this, my brain struggles to interpret what I see; layer upon layer of green interrupted by sprays of yellow, white, purple, red and blue.  I find the beauty of Spring on the island intoxicating. It leaves me with a sense of euphoria.

In addition to the beauty of the earth on the island, I am blessed with the ocean just a few minutes from my door.  Most days I make my way through a forest path to the ocean and walk or sit and take it all in.  The skies are amazing and the beach and sea life astounding.  Yesterday I picked up my tidal water fishing lisence and headed to gather our dinner.  We headed to the beach and within 1/2 hour we were able to dig 75 Mahogoney Clams and harvest a bunch of Pickleweed.  After soaking the salt and sand out of them we prepared a delicious meal.

We sat at the table and felt in awe of the feast nature provided.  This caused us to pause and realize that this is what eating used to be; the hunting, foraging and gathering of whatever nature provided at a particular time of year.  How far we have removed ourselves from the ‘source’ of sustanance called nature.  Walmart, Costco and the like just don’t cut it for me anymore.  I am hooked on ‘finding’ food in places other than stores.




Ocean and beach bursting with edible abundance.

Ocean and beach bursting with edible abundance.

sea asparagus just minutes after harvest

Pickleweed  just minutes after harvest

clams being rinsed after just digging them from the beach

clams being rinsed after just digging them from the beach

Garlic sautéed Sea Asparagus, Spaghetti Sqaush with Creamy Razor Clam Sauce.

Garlic sautéed Sea Asparagus, Spaghetti Sqaush with Creamy  Clam Sauce.

Portuguese Palace transforming to Cozy, Scandinavian Acreage.


I have always wondered how difficult it would be to create a photo essay.  The last two weeks of renovation adventures in the Okanagan seemed like a fitting subject for me to attempt such a project.  So, after a little research and a desire to capture the experience thus far without writing a book, here is my first attempt at a photo essay depicting the beginning of the renovations of our ‘Portuguese Palace.’



Leaving Vancouver Island with a load resembling that of the Clampetts moving to Hollywood.



Disguising myself with the cats eye glasses.

Disguising myself with the cats eye glasses.


A trip to town to purchase a power saw and back to saw back the Juniper forest so we can get in the driveway.


Hacking back more Juniper to discover the front of the house.


These things are knarly.


There are stairs under there.





After 2 days of non-stop sawing and clipping and hacking we open up some of the view.


The Juniper forest is gone.



The trees must got says the inspector. I agree.


First, we relocate the birdhouses that were on the trees.


We call in the experts to do the job.





Gaining evermore view and light.



Out come the bay windows, in comes the view.


Note the shag carpet. NIce.


Front of the house needs work.


The office.


Must work among the chaos to fund the project.


Fine dining sans view.


An array of tools, filler and paint.


Hours of door, hinge and handle remover to ready the cabinets for painting.


Dated brass hinges ready for a makeover.



Cabinet doors after first coat of paint.


Check out the sky-blue, jetted tub. We decide to work with it rather than replace right away.


Carpet removal requires lots of muscle, several loads down the stairs and two trips to the dump.






Demolition and vegetation removal complete, view revealed. Now for the transformation……..


Organized Chaos

If you are wondering why it has been about one month since my last post I can explain.  We have purchased a house 600km from where we are currently living and May 1st we took possession of the 1970’s mausoleum, complete with rust shag carpet and sky blue jetted bathtub.



We have spent the last few weeks preparing to camp out in the house with just the bare necessities while the contractors, myself and my partner prepare and carry out the renovations.  We are one week in and things are moving along but not without incident.  We have removed a forest of Junipers that revealed a killer view of the lake and a front lawn we did not know existed.


After days of removing wall paper and patching and sanding I am ready to begin painting.  Unfortunately, there is not time for blogging right now but stay tuned for the full description and pictures late next week.