Tuesday, March 24, 2015

More Photos from Barcelona

After laundry and waiting for suitcases Sunday, we jumped back into work Monday.  I finally have a day off tomorrow, so hope to get a lot of errands done, and feel settled back, and caught up with things in my life.  At least mostly caught up.

So tonight I can relax and post a few more photos from Barcelona.

Human statue in gold, Las Ramblas district of Barcelona Spain.
We saw a few of these people on Las Ramblas, who looked like statues, and posed for photos with passers-by.  Pretty cool, isn't she?

La Senyera Catalonian / Catalan flag at the Montjuic Castle, Barcelona Spain.
I took this funky photo near the top of the Montjuic castle.  I liked the purple-blue grape hyacinths, in contrast with the red-yellow Catalan flag.  According to my quick google-research, the flag is named "La Senyera", and "La Senyera is the official flag of the Spanish Autonomous Communities of Catalonia, Aragón, the Balearic Islands, Valencia and the historically Catalan-speaking city of Alghero in Sardinia. It is also included on the flags or coats of arms of Pyrénées-Orientales, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, the flag of Roussillon, Capcir, Vallespir and Provence in France and is a quarter of the coat of arms of Andorra."  

There is also another Catalan flag, called "L'Estelada", which looks similar but has a white star on a blue triangle added to it.  "The full name of the Estelada is La Senyera Estelada, which means starred flag, and is normally a Senyera with a white star superimposed on a blue triangle at the top although a red star on a yellow background is also common.  It is an unofficial flag and is generally waved by supporters of Catalonia's independence from Spain, which is why you see so many of them hanging from balconies in Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia at the moment.  Inspired by the stars on the Puerto Rican and Cuban flags, who gained independence from Spain in 1898 and 1902 respectively, Catalan independentists began including stars on their symbols from the early 20th century onwards."

If I had known any of this earlier, I would have paid more attention to which flags I saw hanging in Barcelona.

Beautiful lady statue at Montjuic Castell, Barcelona Spain.
I was drawn to this statue of a beautiful lady at Montjuic Castle....

Big cannon on Montjuic Castell / Castle in Barcelona Spain.
... while the boys were attracted to the big guns.

Fun and joyful statues in Barcelona Spain.
This was a fun and joyful grouping of statues on the way down the hill from Montjuic Castle.

Inside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Spain.
The Gaudi-designed Sagrada Familia (sacred family) cathedral, which is still under construction after more than 100 years, was so grand and awe-inspiring, that photos really don't do it any justice.  But here is a shot anyhow of the interior.

I was fascinated to read a little note in a kids' book about Antoni Gaudi, the famous Spanish Catalan architect whose works are all around the city of Barcelona.  At the age of 73, he was out for a walk and was hit by a tram, and died in hospital three days later.  Apparently, he used to dress so shabbily that he was initially mistaken for a beggar, and given only rudimentary care.  By the time he was recognized, his condition had deteriorated so much that he was unable to recover from his injuries.  A sad ending to his life.  Although by 1926, he would have had the satisfaction of seeing a fair amount of the Sagrada Familia taking shape.

The Sagrada Familia sacred family detail on the exterior.
Here's a closeup of the sacred family, on the exterior of the building.  I love the detail, it is so intricate.  Such beautiful stone work.

Beautiful light from stained glass windows in Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Spain.

One final photo from Sagrada Familia, this one of the light streaming in through some of the many stained glass windows, and casting glowing shadows on the ceilings and walls inside.

Funky floral fashion clothing in Barcelona storefront, Spain.
Finally for tonight, on a totally different topic, I was amused by this floral fashion for Spring/Summer.  (The pattern is not only on the clothes, but also on the storefront window, which is why the photo is so funky to look at.)  This one was in Barcelona, but I saw some similar floral prints in one of the other cities (in Italy, I believe) which we visited also, so maybe this is a fashion trend to be noticed.

Funky floral fashion clothing in Barcelona storefront, Spain.
I took photos of both window displays, and even stepped into the store to look at the clothing.  But even if I could have been tempted, they were all in too small of sizes for me.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sample Photos of Mediterranean Cruise Vacation

We just returned - and our luggage finally returned also - from our Spring Break vacation with the kids in Barcelona and then on a Mediterranean cruise.  I spent most of the day today doing laundry and transferring photos from my camera, so here is a small sampling of my photos, which feature a lot of statues and other architectural decorations.

sculptural detail of Saint George in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Spain
I assume this sculptural detail in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Spain is Saint George, since he is shown conquering a dragon.

Stained glass window from the Sagrat Cor cathedral in the Tibidabo area
This beautiful stained glass window is from the Sagrat Cor cathedral in the Tibidabo area of Barcelona Spain.  It looks to be the story where the devil is tempting Jesus, and Jesus is saying "Away from me Satan!" (Matthew 4:10 - No, I don't have this memorized, I just know how to look it up.)  This very decorative church also features a beautiful statue of Jesus at the very top, with outstretched arms, something similar to the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro.

Statue from the cathedral overlooking the Tibidabo amusement park and Barcelona Spain
This is another view from that same cathedral, looking out from the terraza (terrace), with this statue (I don't recognize, but I assume he is one of the saints) looking onto the amusement park of Tibidabo, and into the city of Barcelona beyond.  The ocean in the distance is faded out, since it was a bit overcast that day, and rained later that evening.

Yucca desert plant with graffiti carved names
Since this is a gardening blog, I have to include a photo of this plant (some sort of yucca?), in which people have carved their names along with those of their "true love".  There were many such graffiti'd plants along the very long pathway which ascended to Tibidabo.

Grasshopper / locust gargoyle in Barcelona Spain
This little gargoyle (I haven't seen a grasshopper gargoyle before!) was also in Barcelona, in the upper part of the city (where there were a number of beautiful embassy buildings), where we started hiking up toward Tibidabo.

Ceiba speciosa or Ceiba pentandra tree with thorny trunk / bark
I discovered this very large thorny tree in Palermo Silicily.  It seems to be a Ceiba tree, but I'm not sure if Ceiba Speciosa or Ceiba Pentandra.  It had some dried up fruits hanging in its bare branches also, which is what first caught my attention :
Same Ceiba speciosa or Ceiba pentandra tree with dried fruits in early spring

Beautiful stone statuary in the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa Italy
It will sound funny, but I took quite a lot of photos of the statuary in the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa Italy.  Although I was careful to avoid taking photos of names, and also tried not to look too much like a tourist to the people visiting the cemetery to pay respects to their departed relatives.  Here are a few more photos from Staglieno :
Beautiful stone statuary in the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa Italy
Beautiful stone statuary in the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa Italy - lady with skull and cross

Beautiful stone statuary in the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa Italy - beautiful girl with cross

Cathedral in Tunis Tunisia
And my final photo for tonight, a photo from inside a beautiful Christian church in Tunis, Tunisia.  By God's grace we had convinced our taxi driver to start on the other side of town at Carthage, and not in Medina and the Bardo Museum, which was the site of a terrible terrorist attack that morning, resulting in 23 dead : the 2 perpetrators and 21 victims, most of them from our cruise ship and the other ship in harbour that day.  Very tragic for all involved, and a sad day also for our taxi driver and others whose livelihood depends on tourism, as I believe both cruise lines have already changed their route to bypass Tunis.

No, the final photo will end on a fun note.  I never expected I would actually have an opportunity in my lifetime to ride on a camel, but I was very happy to be welcomed from our ship with that opportunity.  What fun!  Here I am, looking rather awkward, but enjoying my ride along with my 16-year-old (what lucky kids I have!) :
Riding a camel in Tunis Tunisia

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Garden Awakening

I realize it's been a long time since I posted photos of my garden.  And part of me feels guilty for boasting about my spring blossoms, a good part of the continent is still under snow.  But it has been such wonderful blue-sky weather lately, I had to break away from my computer and homework (work has followed me home this weekend) to walk around the back yard and take a few snapshots.

There are all the usual signs of Spring out there...
spring blossoms and blooms
... mini daffs, galanthus (snowdrops), and a Japanese plum in bloom.

My Mom always asks me about my young Hellebores plants.  I have a few scattered around the yard, and at least 3 different colors/varieties...
hellebores blooms
It's funny that the plant with most blooms (top right) is the one in my underutilized kitchen/herb garden.  It has thrived since it has lots of space there, and sun.  Many of my other plants are squeezed among other plants (that is my gardening style), so don't produce as many flowers.

But speaking of Hellebores with lots of blooms, I was walking about Century Gardens (Shadbolt Center) in Burnaby BC today, and they have some mature Hellebores plants with LOADS of blooms.  Look at this one :
beautiful mature full blossomed hellebore

And a look down a path lined in Hellebores :
path with hellebores / helleborus

Here's another look at the Century Gardens, looking back at the Burnaby Art Gallery :
Burnaby Art Gallery and spring blooms

I can't remember if this rhododendron has bloomed before (it's tucked away in my "secret garden" near my exotic Korean lilac), but it is pretty :
pretty light pink rhododendron

And funny enough, there always seems to be a single yellow crocus which emerges near the base of the sleeping monster Gunnera (see similar photo from back in 2009) :
single yellow crocus emerging beneath sleeping gunnera

And speaking of sleeping monsters, I'm pleased but surprised to see that some of our rock creations from almost 10 years ago are still holding up fairly well (I must have really sprayed them well with acrylic coating, since I haven't even touched up the paint since, and these rocks stay in the garden year-round) :
rock crocodile lurking in the garden

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sunflower Seed Color Variation

My mom gave me some sunflower plants earlier in the year, and the ones I planted outside my kitchen window, on the South side of the house, did quite well.  I got three large flowers, and amazingly, this is the first year the squirrel didn't completely strip the seeds while they were still white.  So I just picked them about a week or so ago, since we had some frosty nights already in Vancouver.

Here are the flowers :
Sunflower dried seedheads with sunflower seeds

I found it very amusing that the color of the seeds from each of the flowers was very distinctive.  The one almost reddish, the second one very pale, and the other with the more characteristic black and white markings (except a bit pale since they were not fully developed) :
Dried sunflower seeds harvested from the garden showing color variation
I would think my Mom got all the seeds from the same source, so I was amused to find such variation.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Beautiful and Deadly Amanita Muscaria Mushrooms

I was delighted to discover a large number of Amanita muscaria mushrooms (the classic fairytale "toadstool") growing in the small islands in the parking lot at work, when I went for a walk today at lunchtime.  They are so incredibly photogenic, so I took a lot of photos.

What do you think?  Aren't they delightful?

Sunday, November 02, 2014

After Hallowe'en...

My 15-year-old gave our pumpkin two faces this year.  One was a happy one, greeting the children as they arrived at our door.  The other, knowing his fate after Hallowe'en.  But his sacrifice will make some yummy pumpkin seeds, and many pumpkin loaves.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

I had the pleasure to host a Thanksgiving dinner at my house last night.  In the morning, I went out in the garden, and found some flowers to display in a pumpkin vase :
Floral arrangement in a pumpkin vase, with autumn flowers such as sedum "autumn joy" and dahlias.

I got 5 1/2 cups of cooked pumpkin from cutting up the lid, and a light scraping of the insides.  So today I baked 6 pumpkin loaves :
Pumpkin loaves, and my floral arrangement in a pumpkin, for Thanksgiving.

The house smelled delicious.  I love the pumpkin spices.  Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Last of the Espalier Apples

I thought I took a photo of the last basket of apples I picked from the espalier apple tree, about a week ago now.  They were more ripe than when I picked the previous basket, since the seeds inside are now brown, not white.  However, they are still a bit more tart than I like.  Fortunately, I discovered that if I slice and dry them, the dried apple slices turn out sweeter, and quite delicious.  So my counter has been full of apple slices, air drying, every since :
As they shrink and we keep eating the dried ones, I keep adding more.  Perhaps I should have spent the time to dry them in the oven on low heat, but since I haven't been in a rush, this method has been working for us.  I think this is now the last of my fruit, other than a few more Autumn Gold raspberries, which will probably be turning moldy now that the weather has turned to light rain.  I will miss this steady harvest coming from the garden this past month or two.

After I visited my Mom Wednesday, and saw her sunflower buds, I came home and noticed that one of mine was already in flower.  I had not noticed from the kitchen window, since the flower was facing in the other direction.  I should have taken a photo then, so I didn't need to step out into the rain this morning, to take a photo for the benefit of (bragging to) my Mom.  The two taller ones on the left of the photo are also in bud :
Another one is much shorter, but has a large bud also:
I have a fall crocus (which I didn't intentionally plant originally, but it has been popping up for a number of years now).  It looked better before the rain hit it :
My dahlias weren't impressive this year.  Again, they got off too a slow start due to slugs, and perhaps are a big crowded out now with my other plants.  My banana did re-grow since it was cut down, but didn't get very big.  But at least I was able to create some ceramic leaf platters from it :

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What's Up with the Canning?

Anyone who has read my blog recently will know that I have been doing a LOT of canning this season.  Several batches of grape and apple juice, and a number of batches of mint syrup.  On the weekend, a good friend of mine wanted to make antipasto with me, so we spent the evening together, making a big batch of antipasto, both vegetarian as well as with tuna.

Today was a beautiful sunny September day, and I had the kids (who are still waiting for the teachers strike in BC to be resolved, so they can go to high school!!) help me pick a very large basket of mint, which I brewed into a mint infusion this afternoon (wow, the whole house smells amazing!), and then I made a huge batch of mint syrup tonight :
Jars of homemade mint syrup.
I also have about 6 liters (6 quarts) of mint infusion remaining, but I need to buy more sugar and find more jars before I will be able to process it.

I laugh to myself that I am doing more canning than cooking lately.  Tonight my 13 year old ate before soccer practice, but the 15 year old and I were rushing from shopping and errands, and ate while he was at practice.  This is my "caterpillar roll" which actually looks like a caterpillar!  With food this creative, tasty, and affordable ($7 for the roll, which was pretty much dinner), why would I want to cook?  I need to save my energy for the canning.  :-)
Caterpillar roll sushi roll.

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