Sunday 26 June 2016

Oh! To Be In England

I've been dipping into the Darling Buds of May series over the last few weeks.  I'm currently reading Oh!  To Be In England.  There is something hugely comforting about the stories of family, friends and the countryside as described in the H.E. Bates' stories.

Spring and early summer are filled with memories of primroses, bluebell woods and the early morning dawn chorus, which sounds completely different here.  The rhythm of the seasons is missing for me and with it the traditions of May Day celebrations, harvest festivals and the usual calendar of events.  Even once in a lifetime celebrations like the Queen's Diamond Jubilee of 2012 and more recently, her 90th birthday celebrations.  It is at times like these of national celebration when I feel most out of place.

The H.E. Bates novels are full of love, laughter, pride at being English and a sense of place, which is what I love about them.  I know that it is not possible to recapture the England of a bygone age, but I hope that it will be possible to find my way home.

I'm taking a blogging break now, so I won't be around for a while. 

Friday 24 June 2016

In The Kitchen

I wish that I could claim to have been busy in the kitchen this week, but I can't.  The summer temperatures have been soaring and the humidity has been unbearable.  The last thing that I was planning to do was baking.

These photos are of some of the baking that I did before the mercury started climbing.  A delicious quiche, which we sliced up and took on a picnic.

Chocolate chip cookies and bread sticks, which are perennial favourites.  

Who can resist bread fresh from the oven and still warm?  I have been using the breadmaker during the heatwave, but sadly, it doesn't do breadsticks. 

Friday 17 June 2016

At The Feeder

One of the first jobs after we moved in was to hang our feeders.  In addition to the feeder containing sunflower hearts, we have a hummingbird feeder containing nectar.  The first visitor to appear was not a hummingbird, but a Baltimore Oriole.  We have had some hummingbirds, but they are incredibly tiny and very fast moving, so I haven't managed to get any photos.

The first bag of sunflower hearts has lasted almost six weeks, but suddenly the feeder is busy from early morning and throughout the day.  The birds are now emptying it and then sit in the trees making lots of noise, or pecking around for any pieces that have gone astray.  At this rate, they will eat us our of house and home!

It is difficult to get any decent photos because the feeder is shaded by the trees and seldom gets direct sunlight.  When it does, the birds are easily scared away by any chance that I take to get closer to the windows for a photo opportunity.  This week, we have had a lot of sparrows and the younger birds sit in the hanging baskets waiting to be fed by their parents.  

The purple finch (right) is a regular visitor to our feeder, but does not usually stay long enough for a photograph, so I was fortunate to catch it one morning.  The purple finch was famously described by Peterson in one of his field guides as 'a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice'.  

Tuesday 14 June 2016

St Andrew-By-The-Lake

The Anglican church of St Andrew-By-The-Lake was built in 1884.  The wooden church serves the Toronto Island community, although many parishioners live in the City of Toronto and take the ferry over to the Island to attend services.  

The church architect created a semi-Gothic and Medieval variation on the Stick-Style which was generally used for summer cottages.  In the 1920s, stained glass windows were added.  The church was actually moved to its present location in 1959, by sawing it in half.  Fortunately, no damage was done to the windows.

On this occasion, we only admired the church from the outside, as there was a wedding in progress.  We have been inside some years ago and it is beautiful.  To see what it looks like in all seasons and admire the interior, visit the church website here.

Sunday 12 June 2016

For Queen and Country

As most of you know, today is the Queen's official 90th birthday (although her actual birthday was in April).  I know that many street parties have been organised for today and although I'm far from home, I wanted an excuse to get my bunting out again.

 The easy part of this plan was hanging the bunting and finding a cloth for the table.  I don't have my china tea set, as it is still boxed and inaccessible, but I do have a couple of nice china plates.  The baking took a while, but it was nice to be in the kitchen and making something, as the past few weeks have been too hot for such activity.  I made a swiss roll and put far too much cream in it, so it was difficult to cut, but tasted delicious with an Austrian rhubarb and raspberry jam.  I also made Empire biscuits and traditional finger sandwiches (with the crusts cut off).

  It didn't quite turn out to be the leisurely afternoon tea that I had envisaged, as the European Cup is on and a certain person didn't want to miss the action, though he did compliment me on the tasty sandwiches and had a second helping of swiss roll.  The Empire biscuits went down a treat with a cup of tea later in the afternoon.

Thursday 9 June 2016

A Magical Place

In my first post about Toronto Islands, I wrote about our visit to Centre Island.  Our journey continued on foot and we walked the 2.5 km boardwalk adjoining the shore of Lake Ontario to reach Ward's Island.

This car -free community of cottages is a beautiful place to spend time.  The narrow lanes wind between the homes and can become a little congested on busy summer Saturdays.

We did manage to find a little space and I took these photographs.  You can just glimpse the city skyline in the background.

In his book A Magical Place, Bill Freeman describes the Island and its people and the history of this community.  Ward's Island was undeveloped until the turn of the 20th century, until summer campers started visiting in 1904.  

Within 8 years, there were 685 campers who spent the summer there and the roads were laid out, but it was not until 1931 that the city council allowed the construction of summer cottages.  These were intended for seasonal occupation and were not insulated for winter use.

A shortage of housing after the Second World War led to the cottages being 'winterized' (insulated) and the houses were soon being occupied year round.

There were attempts to remove the cottages in the 1960s, but the Islanders campaigned to keep their homes and in recent years, the homes have been significantly improved.  

I think those who call Ward's and neighbouring Algonquin Islands home are very fortunate.  How wonderful to live in a car-free community with the only sounds being those of nature (apart from power tools used for home improvements!). 

Although I didn't manage to photograph any Islanders, they are easy to spot going about their business by bicycle, many of which have been adapted to carry anything and everything that they need from the mainland.  

Saturday 4 June 2016

Toronto Islands

The last couple of weeks have been hot, with temperatures in the high 20s and hitting 30+ on some days.  We know from experience that the best way to escape the heat is to head over to the Islands.  

The Toronto Islands are a chain just off the shoreline of the city, which are accessed by one of the three Island ferries.  Today, we chose to head for Centre Island, which is a beautiful park with beach areas.

We did a lot of walking throughout the day, from Centre Island, along the boardwalk and down to the residential community of Ward's Island.

As we strolled along the main boulevard, we enjoyed the views of the gardens and the skyline, which is dominated by the CN Tower.

There is a pier on the southern side of Centre Island out onto Lake Ontario and beaches on either side.

The city skyline has changed a lot in the years since we moved away, with a lot of new condominiums constructed and still more being added.

This is the view to the west of the Tower, which was constructed as a communications and observation tower; standing at 553.33 Metres/1815.4 feet high.

There are several yacht clubs on the Island: this one is in a quiet backwater away from the more popular paths, where the only noise is the sounds of the ducks and other wildlife.  It really is the most perfect place to escape and enjoy a few hours of peace as well as the cooling lake breezes.