December 29, 2013

What I did with my December

Vanilla caramels
I always seem to go a bit off the grid in December. I'm a far cry from the 80 pounds of candy Grandpa made one year, but I do seem to get lost in the kitchen just the same.
chopped almonds
Nuts to chop, sugar to caramelize, chocolate to melt.
naked English toffee
 dipping English toffee
English toffee
tempering chocolate style=
This was the year I learned to temper chocolate. Also, silicone molds are better for shaping ganache centers for truffles. Turtles should be made with two pecans instead of three, only 24 turtles fit on a tray and I probably should have made at least 30. Dipping is much easier with an actual dipping fork, and, yes, you really should clean the fork between dips.
Maybe some year, I'll keep a count of how many pounds of butter, pounds of chocolate, jars of corn syrup I use between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But probably not. It seems perhaps wiser not to know, exactly.
drawstring bags
Although, I think won't wait for November on the bag-making, as has been my habit in previous years. There's no good reason to put it off (other than sheer seasonality), and I might benefit from not adding more stress to my life. November was a rather full month, and I just kept not getting to the bags (Lined Drawstring Bags from In Color Order). They got done, eventually, but a bit closer to deadline than I would have liked.

It's time for a little post-Christmas cleanup around here. There are a couple unfinished bags to sew up, and several pounds of caramel. The bags I know what to do with. It's the caramels that might cause trouble.

December 06, 2013

Field Trip: Rockridge Orchards

Farmer Wade of Rockridge Orchards has been a fixture at the Columbia City Farmers' Market ever since we started being market regulars; he likes to say he's known Caitlyn since before she was born (which could be true since he appears at other markets in Seattle which we might have visited prior to Caitlyn's arrival - I don't remember). Caitlyn calls him "my favorite farmer".

Back before the economy declined and budgets were cut indiscriminately, there was a King County Harvest Festival. We meant to visit other farms, but we spent the whole day at Rockridge. Caitlyn was about 2. I've always thought we'd go again some year, but I finally gave up waiting for the Harvest Festival to come back.

Enter Homeschooling and the ability to go on any Field Trip I can organize.
Wade grows apples and Asian pears in Enumclaw, WA. We drove down in the rain but got a window of clear skies for our farm tour. Wade walked us through the orchard, pointing out which trees produced which kinds of apples. Caitlyn and her friends got to pick and sample lots of fruit right from the trees, stuffing extras of favorite varieties in adult pockets. We sampled sweet apples, heirloom apples and cider apples. We saw what frequent hailstorms do to tree fruit.
There's 1000 pounds of apples in this bin. They are destined for apple juice or cider, too small and too dinged up by hail to be marketable as eating apples.
Caitlyn, of course, thought the empty bins were fun to jump in and out of.

In addition to a lot of apple and pear trees, we got to see where the apple juice gets made. One of those bins of apples gets dumped into a funnel, then the apples trundle down a conveyor belt, get mashed into sauce and strained for juice. Wade showed us the casks where the Rocksalmic vinegar and various ciders are fermenting and the kids got to try fresh honey.

I may have set the bar a bit high for future field trips. The kids got to slip and slide in 3 inches of fresh hail, eat a lot of apples, climb on the truck, and see where one of their favorite market treats come from. I'm not sure anything else I come up with in the next year or so is going to come close.
Best of all, we had Wade's (nearly) undivided attention for hours. That may have been Caitlyn's favorite part.

November 25, 2013

Not Stashbusting

I've been very bad.

Stashbusting takes two forms: First, sew up what you have. Second, don't buy more fabric.

Not only have I not participated in or paid attention to the Stashbusting Sew Along since June, I haven't sewn much since then either. Nothing much has happened with this pile of fabric. I've got a skirt cut out and the darts pinned... and that's as far as I've gotten. So, no points for me.

Also, I've added all this to the fabric pile:
more fabric
On the left, that's a blue chambray for me for a shirtdress, two shirts for Ian and a pair of pants for Caitlyn. On the left, that's three long sleeved shirts for Ian. There are two printed knits at the bottom (green and purple) for shirts for Caitlyn and me. You'd think I had time on my hands or something.

(Actually, I have a theory: I plan more projects and buy more supplies for them when I'm overwhelmed with other things to do. I suspect that when I don't make the time to be creative or to keep sewing, I compensate by coming up with more projects. It's like I unconsciously figure I don't have sewing projects or I'd be doing them, so clearly it's time to come up with more. The sensible thing to do would be to shed the commitments that are eating my time and keeping my from sewing rather than buying more fabric, but I don't think I've ever claimed to be sensible when it came to fabric.)
more fabric
I haven't limited myself to garment fabric either. This spectrum of batiks has been calling to me ever since I started working at Stash.
more fabric
And I've justified this pile of fat quarters by looking at my current fabric collection and figuring these will fill in "holes" that I'll discover as I continue making blocks for Sew.Quilt.Give.
more fabric
This pile is all half-yards of Painted Summer from In the Beginning. I'm thinking about a Trip Around the World quilt (maybe scrappy? maybe standard?) from this collection.

I have at least modest hopes of converting my piles of raw material into finished objects next year.

Because if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, right?

November 20, 2013

Acknowledging the milepost

This is my 600th post.

Convention suggests I should give something away. I'm not sure what it should be, though. Maybe next time, I'll have that figured out.

In the meantime, I will happily accept your congratulations. Or baked goods.

November 15, 2013

One Crazy Pillow

When Caitlyn was younger and invited to birthday parties, shopping for a gift was pretty straightforward. I'd set a budget, we'd talk a little about a theme and then go to the book store. She didn't always choose a book for her friends but Barnes & Noble does have a ever changing collection of activity books and small toys; it was a system that kept things fairly simple and contained. No popping indecisively in and out of stores, minimal distraction from other items that maybe weren't right for the birthday person but just perfect for Caitlyn.

Not to say that we won't ever go gift shopping this way again, but Caitlyn's also of an age where it's not unreasonable to ask her to make a gift, to invest a bit of herself on behalf of her BFFs. So when a certain friend announced a birthday party, a friend who has handmade gifts for Caitlyn in previous years, I told Caitlyn that a handmade gift was the way to go.

Because her friend is obsessed with Little House era stories, Caitlyn and I agreed on a crazy quilt. Handmade, from scraps, just like Laura would have done (but with a sewing machine and a steam iron). To keep it to a non-intimidating size, we made it a pillow.
Caitlyn's first patchwork pillow
I worked hard at not taking over the project and also at not abandoning Caitlyn to something she wasn't feeling confident enough to tackle on her own. She picked out the fabrics, placed them on our foundation squares, and did all the ironing. When we were sewing with my machine at home, she sewed many of the seams. When we were working while at Stash, I did the sewing (the shop's machine is a bit intimidating if you're even slightly concerned about sewing through your fingers). I sewed the four blocks together, and quilted the top. She helped with sewing the backing on; I serged the seams; she turned it right side out and pushed the corners out; I stuffed the pillow form inside.
Caitlyn's first patchwork pillow
I'm really pleased with how this came out and how we truly did this project together. Caitlyn said she enjoyed making the pillow (although she hasn't asked to make another). And I think her friend likes the pillow, too.

So, a win!

November 07, 2013

Bee Blocks

I've been a bit of a slacker about getting my blocks for Sew.Quilt.Give. posted. So, three months worth, all at once!
SQG Sept Block
In September, we did "slabs", a term I've never encountered before for a large, single color block. Our inspiration/example quilt came from Dining Room Empire. This block is 21 inches square... trust me, that's big. But I don't think I have any red bits left in the scrap basket!
SQG Oct Block
Next up, we made Xs and Os (or Kansas Dugout, depending), with a white background and "boy" colors. I don't know if these are boy colors, exactly, but it's not pinky-princessy-girly. I always forget I've got a small collection of silly juvenile prints (Hatching dinos! Jungle explorers! Bubble-blowing frogs!) since I sort them into a "multicolored" bin. Fun to make a block that used so many of them.
SQG Nov Block
November's Wonky Cross blocks were really easy. Although I wonder if I made them a little to "x"-like and less cross-like?

And there they all are. Sew.Quilt.Give. is taking December off, so no more bee blocks til January. Maybe I'll finally finish my quilt from March?

November 01, 2013

Costume Evolution

Used to be, I wouldn't ask Caitlyn what she wanted to be for Halloween, I just put bunny ears on her. In more recent years, we'd have conversations, usually in late summer, about costume options (although I'm fairly certain she didn't request the fairy princess costume, I just wanted to make it), settling on a tiger or a pioneer girl.

Last year's FireCat was a collaboration. This year, it was all Caitlyn.

She started planning back in early September. Her dragon costume went through a lot of mental permutations before taking shape, with big black wings (from her dress up box) and a mask she made from craft foam and glitter glue.

But a costume party demonstrated that her dragon costume wasn't a costume for wearing while playing. So, revision, adaptation. She started by putting on all of the pieces from her fading tiger costume. Mama vetoed the full costume (I made it big when she was four, but that was several years ago) but pointed out that certain elements could be used with other things.
Caitlyn as a cat
The result: There were originally four kittens in The Aristocats. Some time before the movie opens, Edgar the butler managed to lose the fourth kitten. She came home eventually, after having her own alley cat adventures and spending some time as a witch's cat.
Caitlyn as a cat
Caitlyn assembled her costume herself this year, either making up new parts or drawing on (sometimes reinterpreting) things she already had on hand. She built her own narrative to answer the ubiquitous Halloween question, "And what are you supposed to be?", referencing The Aristocats to explain her shiny collar and adding the witch to explain our trick-or-treating companions.

I suppose it's another bittersweet parenting moment. She's resourceful and capable and didn't need me at all in putting together this year's costume (pinning safety pins doesn't count). Yay! But I'm that much farther from the little girl she was. And while I don't exactly miss Preschool Caitlyn, I'm reminded that Teenage Caitlyn (and Twenty-Something Caitlyn) is not that far away, really, and I miss my eight year old already.

October 21, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Growing up, I didn't like school much. Which is too bad, I suppose, since I was so good at it. The academic part, I mean. (When I received a "B" in college, I believe the general response was, "Thank the Lord! She's human!") It was dull and slow most of the time; I read novels during spelling tests, I invented extra layers to projects to make them interesting and challenging, I demanded extreme levels of perfection of myself (a habit that's not serving me so well in the rest of life). I spent a lot of time hanging around my teachers. At home, I complained about the general immaturity of my peers. Fart jokes? In fifth grade? When will these people grow up?

Sending Caitlyn off to school was almost an exercise of faith. It's been 30 years; maybe we've updated how public schools teach children. She's her own person; maybe her experience will be different. But I had to trust that she and I would recognize when traditional schooling wasn't working and that we'd be able to act on that information when it arrived.

I suppose I needn't have worried. I think it was mid-March, at dinner, when Caitlyn announced that she'd like to homeschool. I'm paraphrasing her list of reasons here, but she had come up with more or less my old complaints:
  1. She didn't like the schedule, being constantly yanked off a project because the clock said it was time for something else. Nothing was ever finished the way she wanted it finished.
  2. Similarly, the proscribed order of topics meant that she wasn't free to explore something as deeply as she wanted or chase down an connection to an new topic.
  3. Everything moved so slowly. Material had to be explained and reexplained and then explained some more to be sure that every one of her 23 classmates understood it. This applied to everything, from facts and concepts to instructions.
  4. At least some of those classmates seemed to have a hard time respecting the school environment, preferring to disrupt the learning time of others out of their own boredom or immaturity.

We told her that she'd need to finish second grade, and finish like she cared about it, before she could "level up" to homeschooling for third grade.

Homeschooling has been part of our family culture from the beginning. Ian was a homeschooler. For years, we'd talked casually about homeschooling in the future, usually in context of middle school and the ridiculously early start times expected of eleven and twelve year olds. Time to walk the talk.

Fortunately, it isn't nearly the extreme fringe thing homeschooling used to be. Caitlyn already knew kids her age who were homeschooling. The school district has a resource department for homeschoolers. There are several part time programs around Seattle for "full time learners". There's a statewide advocacy organization, with a trade show. There are lots of resources online (the internet changes everything, again). Most days, I'm only mildly panicked about this project we've started.

The goal is to be sure that Caitlyn knows how to learn what she wants to learn. That's the critical skill. If you know how to learn, then you can pick up whatever you need to know when you need to know it. I'm insisting on building a strong foundation, which means Reading, Writing, Arithmetic. Everything else can come as interest and circumstance require. That's how it works IRL, anyway. I can't think of any time in my adult life, professional or otherwise, when I've needed to know the exact dates for William Wordsworth or Grover Cleveland.

So these days, it's all cats and dragons. Caitlyn's reading (and re-reading!) novels and, while the official biology may be somewhat off (eg, feral cats don't make clans), she's getting a nice dose of Narrative Structure and Story Arc, Drama, Politics, Sociology, Ecology, and Leadership.

Not bad for third grade.

October 15, 2013

Harvest Time: Onions

How long do red onions keep? I suppose I could have left them in the drawer in the fridge to find out, but then I wouldn't have this:
onion marmalade
Red Onion Marmalade! Actually, there's only a very tiny amount of citrus in this at all, so I'm not sure it's really a marmalade. But that's what the recipe called it, so there you have it. It's amazing with creamy, spreadable cheeses, layered on bread. I think we almost ate a whole jar in just one of our last farmers' market picnics. Slightly tangy, slightly oniony, definitely sweet. Even the kids ate it.
pickled onions

The adults made the picnic marmalade sharper by layering on a scoop of quick pickled onions. These are also tasty in sandwiches (ooh... hummus and pickled red onions on fresh pitas...) but you should eat the sandwich soon. Don't pack it - the whole thing gets uncomfortably soggy.

October 08, 2013

Harvest Time: Apples, part 2

The second picking from our apple tree did indeed fill the box again. As predicted, the apples were a bit bigger the second time, too.
What to do with them all? I mean, I've already done apple preserves and there's still plenty of applesauce in the pantry. I've already baked more apple things beyond what we can eat, although I suppose a couple more batches of apple muffins tossed in the freezer would have been ok.
apple juice
I borrowed a juicer (thanks, Erin!) and we drank lots of homegrown apple juice. While tasty, I don't think I'm going to pursue this option beyond the occasional season of desperation. I felt there was a lot of wasted fruit in making the juice (I think a traditional press would have less waste, but I'm not sure of that), and I think that would have bothered me if I wasn't just trying to Deal With Apples.
apple pie filling
My favorite solution: prepping for pie. I now have about three apple pies worth of fruit in my freezer. This may be more apple pie than we can eat, although I'm sure Caitlyn is more than willing to give it a try. Fie on Nutrition! Let's just all eat pie!

October 03, 2013

Dinnertime Inventions

Tonight at dinner, Caitlyn announced that's she half dragon. "And 1/4 and 3/4 cat."

After some back and forth ("You don't understand what I'm saying!" "That's right, maybe you could say it differently?"), she finally got a sticky note and drew a pie chart. We talked it through and when we were done, she said, "I'm one-half dragon, seven-sixteenth cats, and one-sixteenth human. Because otherwise, how would I be talking and eating with you?"

Of course.

She then decided that such a being was properly called a "drat." This felt weird to me - although I opted not to explain why - and I countered with "feligon". (Now that I think about it, I probably should have suggested "felico" to stay somewhat consistent with my vague ideas about Latin. Felis + Draco = Felico or Dralis?

Caitlyn drew a picture of a feligon, which apparently has two forms (half cat, half dragon AND a shapeshifter?). Both were winged quadrupeds, one with extra pointy teeth, one with jewels on the wings. I suppose if you're a winged quadruped, everything else is just gravy.

October 01, 2013

A Great Big Red Block

SQG Block for Sept.
This block is 21 inches square. That's big!

For Sew.Quilt.Give. last month, we were asked to make one block following these instructions from Dining Room Empire. If I ever do something like this block again, I'll do the math ahead of time and make a 4-patch out of it. Twenty-one inches is almost bigger than my cutting mat - this block may not be properly squared up as a result.

Everyone was supposed to make their block one color, out of lots of scraps. We'll see if my red selections turn out to be more saturated than everyone elses. If not, this quilt should be lots of fun when it's all together.

While I'm thinking of SQG quilts, I'll just say that I'm working on assembling the quilt top for my month (March ::hanging head::). Next time it's my turn, I'll need to sketch out my ideas on paper or pick a block that plays well with itself. I didn't mean this quilt to become such A Thing!

September 24, 2013

Harvest Time: Grapes

This is the third bowl of grapes harvested this year. This is the biggest bowl I have, sitting here in one of our patio chairs. I didn't weigh it but I expect it's about 25-30 pounds of grapes.

At the time I brought this bowl in, I already had 8 pints of home-dried raisins in the fridge.

I now have several pounds of frozen grapes in the freezer.

And I've given away grapes to several neighbors, at least one of whom had jelly ambitions.
I have not made grape jelly this year as we are still eating our way through the batch from a few years back. Turns out I easily make more jam/jelly than we eat.

Clearly, I need to prune the grape back harder. Or I need to know someone with a grape press and penchant for small batches of wine.

Introductions appreciated!

September 20, 2013

Harvest time: Tomatoes

I think I'm going to stop trying to grow any tomatoes that aren't a cherry variety. For the last few years, I've put in a couple cherry tomato plants and a couple of others. I get little tomatoes, Sungolds and Sweet Millions, not loads, but some, but very few of the big tomatoes. My neighbors last year got lots of big tomatoes, so it's probably more my fault as a tomato grower than the fault of the tomatoes or our summers. But perhaps it's time to acknowledge and run with what I appear to be good at.

Because I can still buy boxes of tomatoes from our farmers' market. Since we still have leftovers from last year's canning, I only got 60 pounds this year.

It takes all day and I'm a bit batty by the end of it, but I can process all 60 lbs in one go. I would have gotten an even 24 quarts out of it except two jars didn't seal. But when you add the 22 jars that did seal to the 15 we had left from last year, you're putting 37 quarts of tomatoes in the pantry and that feels pretty good. (I've made a note on my pantry inventory list so that I can note when we use up those leftover 15 quarts, which will help determine if 60 lbs of tomatoes is the way to go next year or if I should continue scaling back.)

The big change in the tomato routine this year was to recapture sauce from what would have previously gone straight to the compost. I got this from Northwest Edible Life last year: take all the skins and cores that would have gone to the compost pile, put them in a pot, cook them down, run it through the blender, then run that through the food mill. The result: 9 pints of pure tomato sauce. From something I was going to send to the compost. I had no idea.

It's a lot of work, hot and sticky and hell on the hands (burned knuckles from packing tomatoes into hot jars, the occasional knife knick, the sting of lemon and tomato juices), and I'm almost always a basketcase when I'm done, but I'm not ready to let go of my home-canned tomatoes. Local organic tomatoes packed into reusable glass. We eat too much pasta sauce around here to give this up.

(Oh, I also made a couple batches of tomato preserves. See previous post on preserves. You'll be coming for grilled cheese sandwiches, right?)

September 17, 2013

Preserving Season

I've discovered Preserves this summer. Sure, I've been "preserving" for a few years now: freezing, drying, canning, etc. And I've certainly preserved fruit before.

But a Preserve. It's not whole or sliced fruit floating in simple syrup. It's not jam or jelly. It's somewhere between the two: chunks of fruit in a syrup, often with additional flavors. I know it sounds strange, but I'm finding preserves to be a little bit more flexible, more "ready to eat" than just fruit in jars.

See, I canned apricots back in 2010. Almost 20 pints of golden orange yumminess. We're still eating them. A pint is just slightly too much, so a jar gets opened and then it gets ignored until, in desperation for fridge space, I make a smoothie. (No, I'm not going to pack apricot halves into half-pint jars... that's just crazy.) Canned apricots go well on yogurt, but not on pancakes or ice cream. And they've already been cooked (via the canning process) so they don't really work in tarts or pies. I suppose I could make an apricot cobbler out of them by cooking them down some more.

But with preserves, it's all ready to go. Warm the preserve gently, add topping and pop it in the oven. It can also be a pancake topping. A yogurt stir-in. A toast spread. And a cake upgrader. All in one jar! With this approach, I might actually stockpile less food each year.

peach preserves
Besides, they are just pretty! These are peach preserves. I've got apple and tomato as well in the pantry (no, I'm not likely to put tomato preserve on ice cream, but it's amazing in a sandwich), and plans for several berry varieties. I'll probably stop there... I expect I'll be out of jars!

September 13, 2013

Harvest Time: Pumpkins

Some people grow enormous squash. This week at our farmers' market, our favorite farmer brought in a squash so folks could guess its weight. It was a funny looking thing, about three feet long, a foot tall, just over a foot wide, with a all-over bumpy surface. I watched a man lift his son, then lift the squash, to better gauge the weight of the squash.

I guessed it to be 96 lbs. Caitlyn refused to guess, although she admitted to wanting one of the farmers' market t-shirts that was the prize. The farmer told me (later, not near the squash) that my guess was a "little high".

Of course it was. I only grow tiny squash.
The pumpkin on the right is about 4 inches tall.

You should see my butternut squashes. They are even tinier. Single-serve, even. Except I might be able to eat two of them.

September 10, 2013

A Beach Blanket Quilt

Back at the beginning of the summer, Stash was approached by the local portion of the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases for contributions to their silent auction portion of a fundraiser they were planning for later in the season. We put out a call for donations, and I committed to making a quilt. Since the fundraiser's theme was going to be "Beach Party" (referencing the movies that made Ms. Funicello famous), I attempted to go with a beach blanket theme for the quilt.

beach blanket quilt
I'm not sure I've quite captured the idea, but this is the quilt that resulted. I used a jelly roll of "Salt Air", piecing the strips together lengthwise in groups of 10, then cutting the strip sets into width-wise (is that a word?) strips again, 2.5 inches and 6 inches tall. These smaller strips-of-strips got put back together, alternating heights. I was going for something striped like an old-fashioned beach blanket but wanted to give it a bit of a twist. The final result is about as long as a typical beach towel and just a little wider. Someone (not me!) could totally put this on grass or sand and work on their tan. Or two people could have a side-by-side picnic.

beach blanket quilt
My favorite part turned out to be the binding. I had a couple extra strips of strips which I augmented with strips from the backing fabric. I was a little worried that it'd be weird to sew the binding down with so many seams in it or that it would look strange, but I'm pretty pleased with how this turned out.

beach blanket quilt
My friend Marissa quilted it for me. Usually I'd insist on quilting it myself but since this was destined for donation (and I was on vacation for part of the summer), I gratefully turned it over to Marissa when she offered. She used a water-splash motif that's just perfect for the beachy theme.

Unfortunately, the fundraiser has been postponed (personal drama in the life of the organizer, I think) but I'm still taking this quilt in to Stash. It'll either be collected for next year's fundraiser or go on sale, I suppose. While I'm not unhappy with how it turned out, it's not really singing for me; I'm having no trouble letting go of this one.

September 06, 2013

Harvest Time: Apples!

The apple tree in the back yard has gone bonkers this year.
apple harvest, round oneI've made a first run at the apple harvest, filling this box more than half way. The apples are small and slightly underripe (read: pleasingly tart) and bake into lovely things.

apple breadLike this yeast-based apple bread, which smells amazing when it's baking and goes wonderfully with cheeses (we've tried chevre and cheddar so far; brie would be delightful).

apple muffinsOr these apple muffins. I may have made 6 batches of these for a neighborhood End of Summer community event, and my neighbors may have eaten every single one.

apple preservesAnd these jars of apple preserve. Slightly lemony and spiced with nutmeg, it's a bit like having a cup of apple pie filling in a jar. So far, we've put these preserves on toast and on yogurt. I bet they'd be amazing slightly warm and poured over ice cream. Or pancakes.

apples saucingAnd there were still apples left over, so naturally I made apple sauce. And an apple cake (doused with brandy).

At the moment, there are no more apples in the house. But there are more on the tree, roughly about the same number as I've picked already. And since there are fewer apples on the tree in total, the tree is busy make the remaining apples larger.

Does anyone have a portable apple press? Or a juicer? I could use one of those... Otherwise, you are all going to have to come over and eat Baked Things With Apples In Them.

August 30, 2013

Summer Journal: Trapeze Lesson

At the beginning of the summer, Caitlyn decided she was ready to check out the flying trapeze at circus class. She took three swings and declared herself ready for a full lesson.

Unfortunately, it took all summer for all the right pieces to fall into place for that lesson. And by the time it arrived, she'd gotten herself worked into a state of simultaneous fear and excitement: wanting so badly to fly and terrified to take that first step off the platform. (Not that I can blame her. As much fun as flying looks, I know I'd be scared silly up there. Not to mention I know I don't have the strength needed to do anything except squeak and fall inelegantly into the net.)

It took the full two hours of her class, but Caitlyn finally convinced herself to make the jump.
Caitlyn's flying!
She starts with her hands on the bar, then - while flying - swings her legs up to hang from her knees. Then it's back to her hands and a back tuck from the bar to the net.

Perhaps we're not there yet, but it won't be long before
She flies through the air with the greatest of ease,
that daring young Caitlyn on the flying trapeze!

August 26, 2013

Summer Journal: Wandering in Canada

Back in July, we took a two week road trip to break in Caitlyn's passport. I mean, Canada is right there. How is it that we hadn't gone yet???

So we raided the library, mixed up some gorp/trail mix, loaded the car and embarked on a trip that turned out to be mostly about boats, trees, and swimming in everything possible. Here are a few highlights:
Caitlyn sights CanadaCaitlyn sights Canada.

afternoon tea, Butchart GardensWe enjoyed an afternoon tea at Butchart Gardens. Food and setting were lovely. I felt underdressed (but then anything short of Lady Grantham would have left me feeling underdressed).

Caitlyn on water taxi to Newcastle IslandOur smallest non-human powered boat: the water taxi/ferry to Newcastle Island from Nanaimo.

shoreline, Newcastle IslandExploring the shore at Newcastle Island Provincial Park.

Little Qualicum FallsLittle Qualicum Falls on our way west to the Pacific.

fog and the Wild Pacific TrailMorning fog on the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet on the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island. The buoys and lighthouse fog horn called to each other incessantly, a bit like confused and lovesick seals.

bog trail panoramaThe Bog Trail in the Pacific Rim National Park between Ucluelet and Tofino. The trees are stunted and tiny but are actually quite old. Turns out, growing in salted, saturated soil is hard work.

Caitlyn thinks the Pacific isn't coldCaitlyn continues to think the Pacific Ocean isn't really all that cold.

The end of the road in Tofino
The end of the TransCanada Highway in Tofino. We stumbled on this while walking around town after some of the best burritos ever. Tacofino is hard to find but worth it!

Rainforest Trail, Pacific Rim National Park
The Rainforest Trail, also in Pacific Rim National Park. Old growth and layers upon layers of green. Walking here will either make you believe in wood elves or convince you that Myst is a real place.

Finding tiny crabsOn the way east again we stopped for lunch at a wide spot in the road by a bend in a river. We picnicked, Caitlyn found tadpoles, and she and Ian swam in the river (quite a bit upstream of a waterfall but I was completely panicked the whole time, nonetheless). It was declared the best fresh-water swimming of our trip.

Really tall Douglas FirOld growth Douglas fir in MacMillan Provincial Park. The tree is probably 800 or so years old. My favorite part was watching the other tourists' minds be blown by the size of the trees. I forget that most people haven't spent years with Coast Redwoods. Tall trees are awesome... and totally normal to me. I remember traveling to New York state as a teenager and thinking all the trees there were short!

strange animalWe kept spotting this strange little animal...

waiting for dinerWe caught a ferry from Comox and crossed over to Powell River and the Sunshine Coast. Dinner at Costa del Sol was fabulous: good food, excellent drinks, in an adorable flower covered building.

the end of the road, LundYou're at the end of the road, again. This time, it's in Lund, on the Sunshine Coast (the west coast of mainland British Columbia). Also, it's Highway 101, which runs along the whole West Coast (US and Canada).

Kayaking near LundIn Lund, we went on a kayak tour of the nearby coast. TerraCentric runs guided tours, something especially nice for people who have never seriously sat in a kayak. It's tempting to say, "How hard can it be?" and that's just the sort of attitude that will land you stuck in a boat, upside-down, underwater. Having a guide with us meant we could look at the scenery (Eagles! Seals! Millions of purple sea stars!) and not think about where we were, how far we'd gone, or whether we'd be able to paddle back. I especially appreciated knowing that if something did go wrong and we ended up in the water, there was someone on hand who knew what to do to get us back out again.

Poseidon with CaitlynCaitlyn was especially taken with this statue of Poseidon. He rests on a tidal island. Caitlyn was able to walk out to him at the beginning of our kayak adventure; when we returned the tide was in and the water level was up to the curve in his tail. (Previous two photos by our TerraCentric guide, Tony Waters. Thanks Tony!)

from the ferry sundeckWe worked our way south along the coast toward Vancouver, taking a lot of ferries. This is the view from the sundeck of the run to Earl's Cover from Saltery Bay.

South of Earl's Cove, near Madeira Park, we found Francis Point Provincial Park. It's a relatively new park, with minimal parking and no services. But there's a walk to a bay for the best salt water swimming of our trip. Quiet, peaceful, unexpectedly warm, and lots of sea urchins.

Canopy Walk, UBC Botanical GardenAnother ferry and we arrived in Vancouver. We stopped at UBC to check out their Botanical Garden. They have a canopy walk where you can get up in the trees and look down at the understory. Fun change in perspective and amazing "tree-hugging" technology - a system to hold the weight of the visitors without damaging the trees. Think really big Chinese Finger Puzzles.

MacLeod's BooksMacLeod's Books in Vancouver. This is the sort of bookstore people dream up to put in movies, where the books are piled on top of other piles of books and only the lone employee knows where everything is. But this is a real store, and it's really piles of books on piles of books. (See this post for more pictures.) I bet the Vancouver Fire Chief has nightmares about this place.

Up close with RosieAt the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park, we had a nice long chat with Rosie, the African Gray Parrot. Rosie's not supposed to get off her perch but she apparently likes to go for walks.

up close with RosieBoth Ian and Caitlyn were able to sketch Rosie, who seems to have not gotten the notice that the Conservatory asks that visitors not touch the birds. She would walk right up to you and tuck her head, presenting her neck and back fro scratches. So tempting!

From Vancouver we continued south toward home, bringing with us a few more books, a bundle of fat quarters, and a new belt. We've demonstrated that we can go north, cross a border, and then come home again. Caitlyn's been exposed to non-US currency, an extensive bilingual system (an official one, not just the "Oh, I suppose we should post that in Spanish, too" that we do here the States), and the metric system for measuring distance, gas and milk. We've confirmed that we travel well, as long as we spend enough money to be sure everyone sleeps well at night. (We've also had a conversation or two about renting an RV and doing a Really Big Road Trip Around the US... which is either a brilliant idea or an insane one.)

Here's to summer and travel!