Temporary Unsettling

After a whirlwind move out of our apartment in Montreal, we’re temporarily in Newfoundland, on Canada’s east coast, for the summer. The glamours of working in a local restaurant (town pop. 400) may be written about at a later date, but for now I think I’ll leave it to a few photos to provide a proper introduction and ambiance to Woody Point, Nfld.

I’m hopeful that I will manage to get some craft time here, especially when the community is more or less fibre crazy – this really could be a crafter’s dream vacation spot. Knitting, crocheting, stained glass, rug hooking, pottery and ceramics, spinning, and sewing are all activities done within a five minute walk of the house we’re staying at. When I pluck up the courage to photography the studios and workplaces of these lovely ladies, I will post them here for the necessary ogling.

As for Woody Point itself, here is just a little sampling from a walk I took the first day I got in (which happened to be Canada Day):


Canada Day in Woody Point, Newfoundland

Roberts House, Woody Point, Newfoundland

Shed, Woody Point, Newfoundland

Little Houses

Into the Bay

Fishing Traps

School's back in

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Baking 101

With the impending move, I’ve gotten on somewhat of a mission of clearing our pantry before we go. And so, I’ve been doing a lot more baking than one would expect of someone with an apartment to pack, gifts to make, and a plane to catch.

Peanut Butter Banana Loaf

Yesterday, I baked this peanut butter banana loaf – and before anyone gets excited, I must say that it is not at all up to scratch yet. I made it because a) we had ripe bananas going nowhere fast, and b) we were out of butter, but not peanut butter. The combo seemed like a lovely idea, but upon tasting it, it tasted more or less like regular banana bread. This could be a good thing, but I really wanted the perfect marriage (such a good combination, right?), so I’m not going to post the recipe until I’m satisfied with this concoction.

Peanut Butter Banana Loaf

On the other hand, I can offer the recipe for the cupcakes that I posted on Saturday. I still haven’t had a chance to ice them (yes, we’re literally slathering cold icing from the fridge on them), but they are delicious and well worth trying.

Without further adieu, here is the recipe that I used to bake Martha’s One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder, salt
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup warm water

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl; add eggs and mix; add all other ingredients. Bake at 350 F in prelined muffin tin for 20-25 mins, or until knife inserted comes out clean. Let cool before icing.

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Lots to Do

We’re in the process of packing up our stuff and storing it for the summer, in order that we can fly to Newfoundland, work in Gros Morne National Park for two months, fly to Toronto in September, and start a new (post-university) life.

Westmount Cross Streets

Instead of packing feverishly, we’ve been trying to get out and see some last places in Montreal before we leave. Earlier in the week, we ended up at the Notre Dame Basilica – the city’s largest and most impressive church. Since it was midweek, it was filled with school children and tourists, but we were so glad we payed the entry fee. It was quiet and ornate and just how I remembered it the first time that I went. The only unfortunate moment was when my camera conked out on me, not more than a few minutes after arriving. A sign, maybe? To just be in the moment, perhaps, and put the lens down for a minute or two.

Notre Dame Basilica - Montreal

We’ve also been exploring the east end of Montreal a bit, as these row houses below can attest to. It was a lovely day, and not at all like the rainy dreariness we’ve been having ever since.

Montreal Row Houses

In preparation for my new(f) job, I baked a batch of chocolate cupcakes, which I will hopefully have time to ice and photograph tomorrow for another posting. They are Martha Stewart’s One-Bowl cupcakes, and let’s be honest people, they’re really just a fancy version of Box Cake. The recipe doesn’t include unsalted butter, but vegetable oil. Seriously? The ‘one-bowl’ name was a hint, but the vegetable oil sealed the deal – this is definitely nothing more than Martha’s own sneaky version of the boxed cakes you see at the grocery store next to the Duncan Hines icings. And of course, like all box cake variations, it’s delicious. Swing by tomorrow for the recipe.

Chocolate Cupcakes in Progress

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On the Needles – Gravel Grid (nearly there)

Linking up with Ginny for this week’s Yarn-Along. What’s on your needles right now?

Hopefully, this is the last time I scold Jake from reading my blog.

Hopefully, by next week, I will have something different on the needles.

On the Needles - Gravel Grid (Part 2)

As it stands, today I am still working on the leg of my second Gravel Grid sock. In all honesty, I am completely smitten with this pattern. When I showed it to my mom, she replied that they looked like traditional haberdasher’s socks. I’m not entirely sure what she meant by that, but I took it to be a good sign that they looked old-fashioned and somewhat posh.

While searching for new patterns on Ravelry, I came across Amanda’s socks, which look rather similar and are called Gentleman’s Fancy Socks, and was immediately even more buoyed up that what I was producing was something rather dapper.

I will be excited when I have the heel done, I expect. The leg seems to take forever, but once you’re shaping the heel turn and then working the foot itself, the sock seems to take shape quickly. I’m surprised to say that rather than feeling like second sock syndrome is setting in, I feel excited to be nearing the home stretch. I don’t know if that’s because these are a gift, or just because it’s my first pair of proper socks. Whatever the reason, I’ll take it.

This week I finished Henry Green’s Loving, and am now on to Nancy Mitford’s Wigs on the Green, a British satire from (when else?) the 1930s. It’s a novel that was only reprinted last year, and I expect hasn’t been read much in between its publishing date and now. I actually had my heart set on Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, which unfortunately was missing from the library.

Wigs on the Green is a typical societal farce, full of bright young things suffering the usual degree of London ennui while they flirt, marry, divorce, and, of course, party. It reminds me of Adam Fenwick-Symes speech in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies:

“Oh Nina, what a lot of parties… Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Circus parties, parties where you have to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St. John’s Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and nightclubs, in swimming baths and windmills. Dances in London so dull. Comic dances in Scotland and disgusting dances in the suburbs. All that succession and repetition of massed humanity. All those vile bodies. And now a party in a mental hospital… “

Perhaps my gentleman’s sock are a fitting compliment to the Mitford novel this week – fancy gentlemen indeed.

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One last hurrah.

Last Strawberries

This morning, I realized that strawberry season was officially over. Much to my surprise, however, I managed to stumble upon one last hurrah of local strawberries at the grocery store. It’s the small things, right?

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And the livin’ is easy…

A lazy Friday afternoon – too hot to do much, so I’m reading, knitting, and drinking an endless supply of San Pellegrino while we await a thunderstorm. Right now I’m perusing the June pages of Edith Holden’s Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady – a botanical record of the flora and fauna around Warwickshire in England.

The Pond - Westmount Park

Jake and I have had our own botanical adventures recently – perhaps not as refined as Ms Holden’s, however. Hot afternoons we’ve headed over to Westmount Park, one of the loveliest spots in the city for a sit-down, and never crowded.

Sunburst through the Trees - Westmount Park, Montreal

This time, I took my new camera with us and managed to get a few decent shots in. The one above was by far my favourite of the day – a sunburst peaking in amongst the trees. Every other attempt at this shot was thwarted by the breeze, but I was chuffed to capture even one great burst like this.

Loving Henry Green in the Park

I also managed to get a little more of the way through Loving while we were there as well. Knitting did not accompany us for obvious reasons, but I’m happy to say that I’m quite on track to have them finished by next week. I hope that by Wednesday’s yarn-along, I will not only have something new on the needles, but something new in the pages as well.

For now, I think I’ll get back to Ms Holden and see what her July was like, more than a century ago.

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Botany 101 – Peonies

This time of the season ushers in the blooming of one of my favourite flowers: the peony (Paeonia). From its spiky and tough first shoots, to its hard little buds, to its eventual full blooms, the peony is one of the most eye-catching flowers to make its appearance in June here in the northern hemisphere.

Peony Bud

A botanist once described the peony as the flamingo of the garden, and I sincerely believe that she was right. Although the stalks and leaves of peonies give the look of a hardy plant, the actual flower is often so large and so heavy that it requires a stake, or fencing, in order to stay upright. In fact, I’ve noticed that even some of the most manicured lawns in our neighbourhood have rows of peonies lying in gentle arches, with the fully-blooming flowers touching the grass.

Like the previously-mentioned bleeding heart, the peony is not a native flower to western gardens. Although its name comes from Greek mythology (Paeon was a student of medicine who, quite typically, was turned into his namesake when his teacher became jealous of his knowledge), peonies are generally thought to have originated in Asia. The key to healthy and blooming peonies is good soil (slightly acidic), a cold winter that will allow the plant to go dormant, and adequate air circulation around the plant itself.

Peonies in Bloom

Whether you plant bare-root or nursery plants, peonies are generally prepared in the fall. One of the most important tips that stumps a lot of novices is soil depth – as it turns out, a peony bush will not flower if the ‘eye’ of the root (the rounded top) is planted more than 2″ from the surface of the garden. If planted correctly, a peony bush should start blooming in the second year.

Peonies are often seen in Oriental art, as in the example below, which remains part of the Brooklyn Museum’s collection. From a more modern perspective, peonies are one of the most common wedding flowers, especially given that they bloom during June, the traditional month of marriages. Whether you simply want a bunch of peonies to display on a windowsill, or are trying to grow a garden’s worth, peonies are one of the loveliest blooms. In fact, I might just have to head down to the market today and buy myself a dozen, before the moment passes me by.

For more information on peony planting, see The Weekend Gardener. All the images above are either my own, or via Pinterest. Click on each on for its source.

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