Wishing you, dear readers, all the lovely blessings of spring!

While walking along the harbour this morning, the tops of the guard-rail posts caught my eye. Old and weathered, the posts were hosting a variety of moss and lichen – each post its own little landscape. Purely delightful.

We are very lucky here on the Canadian south coast to receive the gift of Spring much earlier than our neighbours in the rest of the frozen country. On February 13, 2021 we woke up to a reminder that it was still technically Winter – a beautiful blanket of snow. This February however – at least so far! – has been lovely. Flowers are popping up all over and we have had a good number of sunshine days.

The other day I saw some early cherry blossoms delightfully teasing the last little bit of downtown Winter festive decor. (I do love that the greenery baskets were left up around the city!)

As much as I love Winter, I am happy that the days are becoming longer and warmer.

Here’s a photo of the Inner Harbour from February 13, 2021:

Most Fridays, I head out at 7:15 to meet a lovely friend for a walk. We choose from a few different favourite routes. It’s been fun to see how the light changes each week.

The last three Fridays have provided a variety of weather. January 21 offered the most beautiful sunrise. We took the Westsong Walkway around the inner harbour to Esquimalt. The bird watching is particularly good along this route.

January 28, we walk through delicious fog downtown and along the outer harbour walkway to James Bay.

Last Friday was just a late-winter cloudy day, but it was so much brighter when I set out!

The seasons of darkness and light, never more pronounced for me than last year. November was filled with making festive cards and gifts. I baked four large fruitcakes, used my new press to make images for cards, started knitting again, and began the festive season enjoying the twinkling lights as they began to appear.

Then, at the end of the month we lost one of the brightest lights of our lives. Our dear friend Hilarie Ann was one of the most authentic artists and humans we have ever known. She had an infectious laugh and was beautiful in every way. Her art and creative vision through word, voice and magic transcended this earthly plane and will be forever missed.

We entered December mindful of our own loss – and all the loss and sorrow the world over – but also the promise of brighter days and the blessings that surround us. So we embraced all the joy and love of the Yuletide, our favourite celebration.

For the first time, we bought an amaryllis bulb and what a beauty it is! The second flower spike is still showing off six gorgeous blooms. There were some amazing weather events and sunsets in December, and many beautiful light and decor displays all through downtown and all the other neighbourhoods.

Christmas came and brought with it some intense feasting. Friends shared one of their traditions by bringing us a biscotti tree which we enjoyed on Christmas morning. And, Father Christmas delivered my favourite gift: snow! Such a rare treat for Victoria, there was just enough to delight, and not so much to make life too hard. I was very thankful for it.

Our greatest blessing throughout the whole year: our sweet cat – loving companion, comedy relief, joyous creature.

Summertime! – a pretty magical season in Victoria – flowers, flowers everywhere; an abundance of opportunities to indulge in ice cream; amazing walking and cycling; not too hot, not too cold. For me summer also means Birthday! My 2021 Birthday was mostly about cakes and tea parties. There were several picnics outdoors with friends, and special treats at Abkhazi Gardens and Butchart Gardens (where I won GJ over to the high tea experience!). My other big birthday treat was gifted by my sister: a teeny tiny printing press by Open Press Project. I am still learning all the processes I can use with this press, and getting used to the tiny size, but I truly love it!

As summer begins to wane in late August and early September, sometimes fog sits beautifully over the harbour and among the 100+-year-old buildings of Old Town. Morning walks become extra special with a hint of autumn in the air, and the turning of the leaves.

The weather was beautiful in early October. We were thrilled to have a day adventure to French Beach, about an hour west of Victoria by car. On the 8th we journeyed by bus out to Butchart Gardens to take in the autumn colours. We bought year passes to the garden so we could experience it in every season.

Later in October the days grew stormier. We feasted with our bubble for Thanksgiving (I made a pear-cranberry-frangipane tart), and enjoyed the cozy nights around All Hallows’ Eve.

Happy New Year!

I find it hard to fathom that any year could have been stranger than 2020, but then there was 2021. In spite of it all, I continue to seek out beauty in the mundane as well as in the ethereal and extraordinary. I thrive in the comfort of it, in the smallest miracles that abound.

On the third of January, the morning brought an extremely vivid double rainbow over our beloved neighbourhood. Two days later we celebrated 12th Night with a cranberry orange cake decorated with a marzipan persimmon which was as delicious as it was beautiful. A lovely shop near us brings in a spectacular display of marzipan fruits especially for the festive season from an artisan in Italy.

Spring can come very early in this part of the world. Snowdrops, then crocus and daffodils are usually seen by January and February. Some newly cut branches we found on a boulevard brought the spring inside for us in early February, just in time for a reminder on February 13 that it was still winter. Valentine’s Day is always a good excuse to bake, not that I ever need an excuse!

On the grey days of March I made time for cozy cups of tea and making things. Fair days were for walking among the daffodils. The famous Victoria flower baskets begin to appear in March, and in March and April the ornamental cherry and plum trees bloom in waves throughout the city, their heady fragrance filling me with delight (making up for my itchy eyes!).

In anticipation of Easter, the bakeries fill with seasonal delights and I seek out all the versions of hot cross buns I can find. More and more cherry blossoms appear and the days are brighter.

By May the trees have been adorned with every shade of green. In June I created a birthday tea party for a lovely friend, complete with tiny sandwiches, scones, a tropical-inspired Victoria Sandwich Cake and other sweet treats. We also began picking up our local organic produce CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from Littlest Acre Farm at Moss Street Market. Every Saturday until the end of October was like Christmas as we brought home a mystery bag of the most beautiful fresh veggies and fruit.

I’ve been going through my photos from the last two years, thinking about creating posts for this blog. I discovered a folder with photos of some of the food I created during our first lockdown in the Spring of 2020. It was fun to remember all the cooking and baking, virtual meals with friends, and searching for new recipes. My friend Sue and I even created a facebook group called Shut-In Foodies, which is still going strong!

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, and the meal we most often eat out. As I still aspire to have a bed and breakfast some day, I dedicated the lockdown to practicing the perfect preparation of eggs. (At first I thought the lockdown would be all about perfecting sourdough bread, but I kept killing my starter!)

Clockwise starting top left: eggs baked in phyllo with roasted potatoes, open-faced fried egg sandwiches; fried egg over left-over over risotto with chives from our window-sill garden; fried egg over rice with two salsas, guacamole and kefir cheese; eggs benedict with blender hollandaise and pesto on homemade English muffins; simple scrambled eggs and cheese on homemade English muffin with baby arugula from the window-sill garden.

Too Many Baked Treats

Still trying to shed a few of these pounds…

Left to right: first ever lattice-top pie (I can’t remember the filling, but looks like some frangipane bubbling up through the pastry!); clafoutis aux cerises; compost cake (a basic cake with whatever fresh fruit you have hanging about!).

Fresh Ideas For Dinner

I find it too easy to get into a rut with dinner ideas, so it was a great time to experiment and go back to a few favourites that I don’t make often.

Clockwise starting at top left: mung bean curry; miso ramen soup with fried marinated tofu; spanikopita with tomato feta salad and lemon roast potatoes; veggie roast dinner with Yorkshire puddings and mushroom gravy; quinoa pilaf with grilled apricots; pesto linguine with tomato salad and homemade slow rise bread.

Tea for Two

I cannot resist a cuppa and all the delicious possibilities which may accompany a lovely brew. I am still working on my scone techniques (mine never rise very high, no matter how carefully I follow the recipes I try!), but I have mastered making luscious, decadent clotted cream. We had one or two virtual tea parties during lockdown as well!

Clockwise from top: Cream tea for two with warm fruit scones and homemade clotted cream; preparing for a virtual tea party (cream and ready-to-bake scones were porch-dropped to our friends on the other side of the screen); and a more casual tea with home-made chocolate chip cookies.

Welcome blessed spring – new life and new possibilities! The cherry blossom season is beginning to wind down on the west coast of Canada. The slightest breeze sends a shower of petals swirling through the air. We feel fortunate to have a predominance of ornamental cherry and plum trees in our neighbourhood.

How can it be almost two years since I have written anything here? Well, the last year I can understand. What was there to write about through a global pandemic that wasn’t the same fear, stress and worry we have all been feeling? The year before that is harder to explain and has a hold on me still. And really, it’s so minor in the big scheme of things. I am healthy, I have a nice home, great family and friends, enough income. Possibly it’s the old stereotype about middle age – What’s left? Will I have enough time? Will there be opportunities to fulfill my dreams? Do I have anything to say and share?

Then I remember the reason I started this blog, as a journal of appreciation and beauty. And there is so much to appreciate, always. Beauty and adventure are my true goals. I have to believe the details will fall into place.

So for now, I leave you with some cherry blossoms which are bursting all around this little city on Canada’s west coast. And as always, thank you for reading!