Almost home

Scout and I enjoyed a couple of almost warm and mostly sunny walks one day earlier this week. We rounded the last bend of the street just before home and found we liked the way the smoke from a nearby chimney was wafting through and across the treetops.

Almost home (and two Narnia streetlights)

The second of our two walks that day took us along the coastal path to a sunny little spot that is often warm in the sun even if the overall air temperature is low. It proved to be so that afternoon, and we enjoyed a pleasant few minutes in the sun. Never one to be still too long, Scout was soon pushing for us to move on.

“Let’s go!” (I like how Scout almost matches the diagonal lines in this one – but as far as Scout is concerned, it’s about her, not the lines…)

I was surprised by how low the sun was, although I shouldn’t have been given we’re approaching the shortest daylight hours very soon. The next photograph was taken before 2pm but seems later:

1:37 PM

We hurried along the path for a few more minutes, wanting to enjoy more of the sun and sparkling water before darkness fell and winter returned. Yes, the rumour is that we’ll be experiencing a little more snow sometime next week. I’m trying not to get too excited, but please let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, as somebody once sang. Not me.

1:35 PM (I couldn’t think of a caption)

Almost home! Not too bad. I’ll leave it here this week, and wish you a wonderful weekend ahead!

PS For anyone excited by the baking adventures I’ve been having as prompted by Nigel Slater, I had a go at his banana and cardamom cake, and it was pretty good. Banana and cardamom cake

A pinch, a dash, a dollop…

I was happily engrossed in making mincemeat for festive pies the other day, noodling away in the kitchen, mostly adhering to Nigel Slater’s instructions as written in “The Christmas Chronicles” and letting my mind wander in between the more precise measurements. At this point, I should say a huge thank you to Mrs. PC. She knows I’m not overly fond of the Christmas season, although I do like an excuse to cook something seasonal, and she knows I’m often most contented in the kitchen. On top of my usual lack of enthusiasm for “all that tinsel and other shiny stuff” – I don’t know who said that – I’ve also been moping more than normal for the time of year. Mrs PC’s excellent solution was to give me a copy of the aforementioned Slater collection.

Highly recommended

Aside from the off putting (to me) title, this is a wonderful book. I love Nigel Slater’s descriptive writing, meticulous, maybe even overly fussy and fastidious approach to cooking and life, as well as his dry British wit. Oh, and his recipes are always interesting. Mr. Slater says he’s not so much a Christmas enthusiast as a winter enthusiast, his favourite season, and all this is explored throughout the pages of the book. Christmas is in it, but it’s more a wholehearted embrace of the colder months and how to enjoy them from a kitchen and cooking perspective. (I have to say, as he gets older, it’s clear he enjoys Christmas rather more than he might want you to think, and I suspect it is all to do with the rituals. Having the “right” tree, bringing the box(es) of tree ornaments down from the attic, taking the time to send individually chosen and handwritten – with a fountain pen – cards, making the cake several weeks before, and preparing homemade mincemeat for mince pies. Is he right? Hmm…)

All the right trees

Mrs. PC says of course you like Nigel Slater, you share some of his traits. Do I? I’m not so sure that’s true. I’m a little obsessed by certain rituals. I mean, there is the delight I take in properly preparing coffee, a beer needs to be poured a certain way and in a certain glass, the left sock is always before the right, and doesn’t everyone weigh pasta precisely before cooking it? I think we’ll leave this paragraph here, and move on.

Highly recommended – just the right tasting glass

Where were we? What’s with “a pinch, a dash, a dollop”? I was coming to that. Remember ages ago, at the start of this piece, I mentioned I was letting my mind wander? A few years ago I was chatting with a friend about various chefs, and we agreed Jamie Oliver was a personable chap and had many great recipes. I like his approach – he is quite happy to add a glug, dollop, pinch or dash of an ingredient to his dishes. There are measures given, especially and quite rightly for baking, but there is a freedom with some additions. Our friend said she found that infuriating, and could not get her head around it. How much is a glug or splash? How big of a pinch, and what size is a dollop? What even is a dollop?! She is way more meticulous than me, with a mathematical and scientific mind, and she could not get a handle on Jamie Oliver’s approach. Her frustration makes me appear super-chilled (because I am, of course) and as I added a pinch or two of nutmeg this week, her laughing disbelief at a lack of precise measurement came back to me. I smiled, then added another dash of nutmeg and a glug or two of brandy.

A light frosting

I’ll end with a mince pie story. Or a missed pie story. It’s not terribly exciting – feel free to jump off or head out now if you’re still here.

As a child I absolutely loved mince pies, particularly the ones my mother made. She’d bake a batch and then fend off her four greedy boys with a spatula, telling us to wait until they were cool enough to eat, and eventually letting us try one, even though they were far too hot. Serves us right, and let that be a lesson, laughing at us all teary-eyed and trying to hide how we should have waited a few more minutes. Anyway, too hot, just right or even slightly stale (not that many sat around long enough for that to happen back then) I adored mince pies. One year, early January, aged 11 and about to turn 12, I was draped across the sofa feeling sorry for myself (some things never change – Mrs.PC) and saying I was feeling sick. My mum wanted to use up the rest of the mincemeat, and asked if I’d like a batch of pies for my birthday. Unbelievably, I said “no thanks” and that’s when my mother knew I was truly unwell. To this day I often think about those missed pies, and I’ve made every effort since to eat an extra one or two to make up for the lost ones. I never seem to catch up… Anyway, isn’t this where we came in? Me, in the kitchen, making a few mince pies…

Super chilled

Gosh, is that the time? I’ll finish up now, get this posted, and then settle down with a cup of coffee and perhaps, I don’t know, a mince pie? Coffee first. Start by measuring the beans…

Super chilled! Might as well if he’s started on the coffee and pies. Not going anywhere too soon…

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

PS The Slater pies are good, but not as good as the ones my mother makes!

Growth

This summer, it’s all about growth! It could be the children and youth engaged in summer learning programs, or it might be me engaged in my little herb garden. Culinary herbs, just so we’re clear about that, given the fairly recent relaxation in laws related to herbs some folks like to smoke.

Thyme to grow

One program this summer will have teens learning to use a 3D printer, coding to program a remote vehicle, building and managing a website, constructing go-karts for a soap box derby, and converting a regular longboard to an e-longboard. All being well, I’m looking forward to seeing great growth connected to science and technology. I’m also looking forward to trying the longboard – provided there’s someone nearby with first aid training… Anyway, we’ve sneakily hidden lots of education stuff inside the general youth and recreation programs this summer, and we don’t mention the “s” word. School…shhh!

New growth oregano

At home, Scout likes to keep up with the growth in our little herb garden. She’ll eat pretty much anything – the temptation of the seaweed and fish bone impregnated soil was almost too much for her, but she did resist – and she’s been smelling the herbs, but doesn’t want to nibble any.

Me? Eat anything? As if…

Our recent ridiculous hot spell did do a bit of damage, but most of the young plants survived, and in addition to many happy herbs, it looks like we might double our tomato crop over last summer. Yup, I can see two green tomatoes already. Two! That’s some progress and real growth around here.

A growing yield

There has certainly been quite some growth in the numbers of visitors to town, and it was fun the other morning to see a small flotilla of recreational fishing boats heading out of the harbour. The people aboard seemed very happy to be bobbing along, and why not after months and months of restrictions?

An early start

I don’t want this post to grow any longer, so we’ll leave it here for now. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Distractions

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been looking for distractions. How is it possible to follow the daily news and not need them? So here are a few of my current distractions, ones that help pleasantly while away a few shutdown hours.

Navajo mug rug (and time ticking on)

The Tony Hillerman Navajo tribal police series. I’m halfway through the first book, The Blessing Way, and I’m really enjoying it. I get a kick out of recognizing some of the places where the story is set, and I like the dialogue of the Navajo characters – it is full of respect between generations, even when there is disagreement. The details about ceremony and song are a plus. I think there are quite a few books in this series, so I’m looking forward to spending more time down in the desert Southwest.

SW desert visit – one day?

The Adrian McKinty series about a Northern Irish Catholic policeman, Sean Duffy, serving in the RUC during the 1980s. I think I’ve now read all the books so far, and given I remember many of the events used as a backdrop for the crime stories, it’s like a strange trip down teenage memory lane. McKinty uses musical references from the time pretty frequently – I often have to follow up a musical lead after reading, see if the tunes were as good, or bad, as the musical snob policeman thinks. It’s a matter of (poor?!) taste. The dialogue is often witty, black humour in dark times, and the frenemy relationships across the divide are interesting.

Alright, away from the book reports. How about my exercise regime? That’s a scary distraction! I’ve been doing some very heavy lifting in the garden, or what is better described as my orchard. Yes, I have an orchard. I was eating an apple and one of the seeds fell on the floor. I picked it up before Scout could snag it, and decided I’d plant the seed. This is what boredom does. I planted it in an empty egg container. Daily watering and conversations worked, as I now have an apple tree. See picture below. Yes it is a tree. Let’s not argue.

The orchard. My apple tree. Yes, it is.

It’s important to have long term and realistic plans, to think beyond the crisis, and the plan here is to make an apple pie using my home grown apples. If you’re free that day, it’ll be baked on 15 September 2030. Please do drop by for a slice of pie. Oh, c’mon, that’s realistic. I have an orchard now. Let’s not argue.

Distancing

I get the sense that these distractions aren’t really holding your attention? Are you looking for a distraction to get away from here? I get it. I’ll stop now – I have to tend to the orchard anyway, you understand how it takes quite a chunk of my time and physical energy – and perhaps I’ll post some more handy distractions next week? I have dozens…

Another handy distraction

Thanks for reading, stay safe, and enjoy your weekend!

Today’s soup is…

Beer?! No! Not yet…

Soup, of course! More about the soup below. I know, you want to bail out now – but then you’ll never know about the soup. It’ll eat away at you…

Did you really think it was beer? It’s not like this blog posts a seemingly endless stream of beer photos.

Oh. Erm, a hop forward soup?

We walk past this chalkboard at least once a day, and if the current specials aren’t too inspiring, I find the soup of the day makes me smile.

Why not?

At PlaidCamper Towers, yesterday’s soup was a rather good homemade tomato and lentil, cooked from scratch with love and care, and the need to do anything except read another online article about how to improve oneself during the enforced sabbatical. I mean, if I read one more thing about how making your own soup from scratch with love and care will help you cope with hours indoors, and help me reach my potential, why, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll start writing about how making soup can help while away hours spent indoors. Is it too early for beer yet?

This blog is meant to be about the adventures of an almost outdoorsman, but given the current situation, I may have to rename it. Ooh, rebranding, isn’t that a thing, like conservatives suddenly loving public health, and finding the magic money tree is actually a magic money forest?! Time to start over, a new identity. Maybe, the adventures of a confirmed indoorsman? Indoorsman – is that a word? Adventures in dusting behind the books, vacuuming the baseboards twice a week, sweeping the little deck, and some updates on how the paint is drying where we’ve fixed a couple of drywall dings. I might even start some deliberate dinging of drywall just so I can fix it, and then write about it. Did I mention yesterday’s soup already?

A brief escape for the indoorsman

Anyway, I’ll leave it for this week, as I’ve got to go and find the hammer, plaster, paint and brushes Mrs. PC hid while I was writing this.

I do hope you’re keeping well. The current crisis is very serious, and frightening for so many. I admire and thank all the people who are doing all they can to keep what is necessary going. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.

Social distancing

Or, in my case, being something of an introvert, anti-social distancing. Silver linings…

Silver linings

Clearly there is plenty to be concerned about presently, what with Covid-19 and the toilet roll fights in supermarkets. They cut those scenes from “Mad Max” didn’t they? I imagine John Woo or Sam Peckinpah could have had a slow motion field day with scraps and shreds of toilet paper floating through fight scenes of suburban scrappers going toe to toe over the last packet of spaghetti. Pasta pugilists…

Back to the social distancing. I don’t mind if that’s the way it has to be. Avoid large crowds and social gatherings? Oh, alright. Drive thru virus testing, then a quick stop at the drive thru growler refill station. Doesn’t sound too bad.

Another growler? No!

Oh gosh, I just sneezed. I’ll keep this brief, as I suddenly feel the need to google the early onset symptoms. All photographs this week are from Florencia once again, and if you’ve got to be socially distant, this seems as good a place as any!

Anti-social distancing? If I must.

Flippancy aside, please be well, look after yourselves, family, friends and neighbours, and remember pasta shouldn’t be overcooked and is best enjoyed with a glass of red wine. Or two.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Log? Dog? Soup?

Check, check, and check!

Other than a brief snowy interlude, the past two months have seen rain, rain, and rain. So much rain! Then, the other day, there was a hint of sun, a short glimpse of spring, so we made the most of a lunchtime trip to the beach.

Logs

Although the temperature was actually colder than the norm – according to the reading on the Jeep, it was 2C – it felt warm as we drove off, sun streaming in through the windows. I had to blow dust and cobwebs off the sunglasses. This was sunshine!

Dog!

Scout was very happy, nose at the small gap in the rear window, enjoying the warmed up damp scents wafting in as we headed to the beach.

Soup and log

The beach! It looked like a water colour painting, where an enthusiastic artist had loaded the brush and said “this is going to look wet!” It did, with the sun slightly hidden behind an offshore haze and the tide in retreat. The blue skies were behind us and above the trees as we sat on just the right log, and enjoyed just the right soup. Homemade tomato and lentil, if you were wondering. Not Scout’s favourite, so perfect for a beach outing, where the dog can dig under the log, and you enjoy your soup dog nose free…

Water colour

What a break, what a delight, and how it seems a distant memory already. As I write this, the rain has returned, but the promise of a few sunnier days is in the two week forecast. We have our checklist – log, dog, and soup! I’d best start cooking…

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Canada

It’s almost Canada Day already?! Monday July 1st, if you were wondering…

Sunny ways!

Canada! It’s not a perfect country, not by a long way, but in the years that we’ve lived here, it’s always seemed like a country striving to improve. Much more needs to be done related to environmental concerns, and more to eliminate poverty and raise the standard of living for all residents and citizens. There is a challenge in achieving a successful and sustaining economy that isn’t simply a resource extraction economy. Why further erode the land, air and water that sustains us just to make more money than a person could possibly need, and at the health expense of fellow citizens?

Not always sunny…

Warts and all, I can’t imagine living anywhere else, and Canada Day is a time for us to feel grateful about being Canadian. Our citizenship here is something we don’t take for granted.

It can sometimes seem the world is falling into madness, what with demands for walls, the deliberate undermining of alliances that were originally made to prevent conflict, and what feels like an unhappy lurch to the right and a tendency to blame everyone else at the same time as failing to take responsibility or action for planetary woes. Goodness, long sentence there. In that light, Canada makes a sort of sense to me. As I said, not perfect, but not likely to cause global ripples – or worse – due to destructive childish tantrums designed to fulfil the narcissistic need for attention at any cost. I’d better stop with these long sentences, and the content, not good for anyone’s wellbeing.

Medicinal, take after reading news…

Yes, enough of all that. Every day is Canada Day around here, and that makes me (a bit of a curmudgeon from time to time) smile. All the photos are images from the past week, and they have a Canadian flavour – mostly because they were taken in Canada!

Canadian flavour – it has been so dry, we resorted to breeze blocks for the salmon berry stakes! Rained the day after, but wonderfully sunny for lunch in the school garden.

If you’re Canadian, know a Canadian, have been to Canada, want to live in Canada, or simply enjoy hockey and maple syrup, then happy Canada Day to you for Monday!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Summer, is that you?

Oh, I surely hope so.

It’s been a busy end of school season wrap up, with exams, transition plans, and celebrations to mark achievements in an academic year well spent.

It’s a tough gig

Yesterday was a beach day, with students, families and teachers having a few hours down by the water, some play time and easy company before all leave and head off into summer, a year older and a year wiser. Certainly older…

Learning!

I’m looking forward to a busy and relaxed summer, if both can happen at the same time. The twin track approach will see me back in Blighty for a swift visit, a chance to catch up with one brother, one father and one daughter in little more than a week. Then it’s back to the island for a few weeks, with beach walks, paddling, maybe a few tent nights if we can find some quiet spots, and, fingers crossed, some time learning to build log cabins in remote parts. Mid August, we’ll be on the road, nothing too long, for a visit to Alberta, just to be sure friends, lakes, mountains, and a few big city haunts are all still there.

Lining up, ready to go

I love being in education, and especially in my current position, finding myself working in schools, the community and (best of all, I can’t lie about this) out in the backcountry. If I ever found myself in an occupation that demanded I work for pay over the summer months, then all would not be well. I did fake being a chef for a couple of summers when we lived in France – I was younger, leaner and hungrier back then – but those few years aside, I’ve had summers off, and for that I’m most grateful! (Apologies to readers who do work summers, and a tip of the hat – like that helps…)

A student has a new young pup – how cute?!

Keeping it brief, as time is short this week, having spent longer than usual days preparing for and enjoying an education celebration. This was a lovely evening where many citizens and residents over the bay were recognized for educational achievements – from pre-school through to post secondary and then all manner of lifelong learning.

Bannock in the school garden

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Look out, look out, the bridge is out

A few weeks back, we arranged to have another gourmet cookout with Wayne from Tofino Photography. Our destination was Second Bridge, and if you need to find it, go down that logging road after the junction, bounce and jolt up past First Bridge, and then…

…well, if I told you where precisely, then it might get crowded in the future. But rest assured it’s out there, and you’ll know you’re close when the road comes to an end because the bridge is out.

Look out, look out!

A quiet spot – we were told it can get busy, and certainly used to be a touch rowdy with party people on long weekends before the road was closed – it made a good place to have a fire and roast some hot dogs. The weekend had been warm and sunny the day before we went, but a change came, with grey skies, lower temperatures, and even a hint of rain. This seemed to have kept people away, and we only encountered a handful of visitors.

One couple had been camping overnight just down the beach. They chatted a bit, and Wayne shared a few stories, and some tips in the event of a cougar encounter (there had been some sightings elsewhere along the lake) and mere minutes after that, the young couple had packed up and disappeared. I don’t think it was the cougar info…

It left an empty beach for us to enjoy, and we had a fine time cooking and eating. Wayne brought high end hot dogs and slices of key lime pie from SoBo. Excellent choice, and we had to be quick about it, because Scout sure seemed to take to the pie.

“Pie?!”

We didn’t see a cougar, or a bear, and thankfully the black flies didn’t follow us down to the beach. They were lurking when we parked up, but there was enough breeze to keep bugs at bay.

A wildlife feature for the afternoon? The hundreds and hundreds of geese passing over in long skeins high above us. We honestly could not count them, but what a sight to see – and hear! Wave after wave after wave.

Wayne knows the area pretty well, and he told us about the great camping spots to be discovered along the shore, and how they can only be approached from the water. They sound rather wonderful, and a compelling reason to return, drop a canoe with camping gear into the water, and spend a little more time out by the bridge and beyond.

Further exploration required…

I don’t know when our next cookout adventure will be or where, but it’s something to look forward to, likely after the summer visitors have headed home and it’s a bit quieter. I do know Wayne has set the gourmet bar pretty high with that key lime pie!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!