Saturday, June 29, 2013

Strawberry Picking

After spending this morning at an auction, I decided to take the boys strawberry picking at a farm down the road from us.

With all the rain we've had lately, the fields have been really wet and picking conditions haven't been ideal.  But as the season is quickly coming to a close, I put their rain boots on and out we went.

The berries were a little sparse from being picked over, but the few quarts I could get were well worth the effort. Plump strawberries, perfectly sun-kissed and sweet, are the perfect reward.

Though the boys were no help with the actual picking, they kept themselves entertained by climbing fruit trees and playing in the grass (and eating it).

He was so content when I finally let him out of the buggy.

Sweet Cherries are also in full swing! The trees are just exploding with bright red fruit. Last year, unseasonably warm weather and then a hard frost wiped out most of our cherry crops. So this is a welcomed sight.

I wasn't ambitious enough to pick any cherries, though it would have been much easier. I just picked up a quart on my way home (as well as a flat of already picked berries!).

I came home and spent the evening hulling berries and making jam. My 12 little jars of sweet, strawberry jam are under a towel on my counter. Every now and then I hear a pop. One will most definitely be opened with breakfast tomorrow.

And with that, canning season begins.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Montreal Part Two - Chateaux Ramezay

Tucked in the middle of Old Montreal, down the road from Notre Dame Cathedral, across from Old City Hall is the Chateaux Ramezaey garden.

This beautiful oasis is hidden behind ivy-covered walls. Upon opening the gate, you feel as though you've left the city and been transported onto the grounds of an old Chateaux in France.

It's beautiful.

In 1705, Claude de Ramezay arrived in Montreal as governor. He commissioned his home to be built on Notre-Dame Street in the midst of the city's social scene. This garden, done in formal French style, consists of a kitchen garden, potager, a pleasure garden, jardin ornemental, and an orchard, verger

The ivy-covered walls and old fountain.

A small walk through the orchard at the back which consisted of a few fruit trees, a wall of espaliered pear trees, a few rows of grape vines and a few rows of raspberry bushes.

The middle consisted of a formal walk with manicured shrubs and perfectly kept boxwood.

The perimeter was a pea stone walk.

Around edge of the garden was a simple border of Ferns, Lily of the Valley and Solomon's Seal. A few of my favourites.

The front kitchen garden consisted of rhubarb plants, vegetables, and fragrant herb borders.

It really was a highlight of my day spent in Montreal. And, though you pay to tour the actual museum, touring the garden is free.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Weekend in Montreal

A couple weekends ago we got an unexpected surprise.

Ryan had been invited to the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal with Mercedes Benz. This was an event he's long wanted to go see, and with a free hotel room and a beautiful city to explore, I tagged along.

It was a short trip, only one night, but I had a wonderful time walking around the city.

I accomplished more than I could have hoped for in such a short time. I saw the major districts, dined on fresh bread and cheese, toured a historic garden, walked the old port, and snapped photos until my heart was content. It was as though I had spent the day walking the streets of Paris. I even got to practice a bit of french! Une petite peu.

It's a gorgeous city.

The first night we arrived, after a wonderful nap, I walked around until I came across the Griffintown District. This is an up-and-coming area of Montreal which was formerly populated mainly by Irish immigrants. It had been recommended in a recent issue of Chatelaine and I was so excited to have stumbled upon it! After window shopping for a while (everything was closed by this time), I made my way to the recommended place to dine and couldn't have been happier with what I found. The Griffintown Cafe was a welcoming place to rest after a couple hours of walking in the drizzling rain. It was full, but I found a seat at the bar and enjoyed my wine, a plate of cheese and a fun jazz band. After a cappuccino and some delicious tiramisu, I caught a cab to a theater near our hotel and met Ryan for a late showing of The Great Gatsby.

The antique shops in Griffintown were so gorgeous. It was probably a good thing I could only window shop!

The view from our hotel. We stayed at Le Westin in Old Montreal.

The next morning, after a late breakfast with Ryan, I set out to explore whatever I could fit into that day. I began in Old Montreal and saw Notre Dame. Next I toured the Chateaux Ramezay kitchen garden, and then made my way down to the Old Port. I wandered around and then made my way up to the shopping areas and finally caught a cab to Outremont. 

The architecture in Old Montreal feels very European. It's beautiful. There are gardens everywhere and it made for easy touring.

The Ritz.

The buildings were just gorgeous.

This is Marche Bonsecours. For more than a century this was the main public market in Montreal.

I came across a newly opened donut shop and picked up half a dozen of the most beautiful gourmet donuts! We enjoyed one (and a half!) with a coffee on the trip home. They were so delicious.

The Old Port was very interesting to walk around.

I just loved the old buildings with their beautiful gardens.

The city was filled with gorgeous statues.

I found this cheese shop in the basement of a store in Outremont. It's another district more up on the mountain. I also picked up a baguette and some french macarons at another pastry shop.

This is the park in Outremont. I believe it was designed by the same person who did Central Park in New York.

As you drive up the mountain, the hillside is full of beautiful old homes that belonged to the more affluent residents of the city.

I came across some charming little shops including this bicycle shop (above) and this used book store (below).

Tomorrow I will show you the historic garden at the Chateaux Ramezay Museum. It was beautiful and one of my most favourite sites I saw.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Birthday Willen

This is the first time I saw my son. 

The first time I felt his warm, wet skin against mine. The first time I heard his piercing cry.The first time I could see the beautiful features of the baby I had been carrying for nine months.

Nothing in the world could prepare me for how much this little boy would fill my heart with joy. I truly had no idea the blessing he would be and had no clue as to the amount of love I could have for him.

It's strange that something can seem like forever ago, and at the same time like just yesterday. First nights awake, first naps, first baths, first everythings. Then came first words, first steps and a world to explore.

And today you turned four. 
The firsts continue: being a big brother, riding a bike, going to school.

I can't wait to see what the next year brings.

You will always be my beautiful boy.

Monday, June 3, 2013

To Market

On Saturday morning the boys and I went to the market. Our town has a market, however at this time of year it's still quite small. In the city, the St. Catharine's Farmer's Market is quite decent. 

They have a few produce vendors (some of whom are actually right down the road from our home), a flower man, a few different types of cuisine, gourmet coffee, cupcakes, cheese and cured meats, homemade ice cream and of course fresh breads and pastry.

One of my favorite bakeries is De La Terre in Vineland. Originally they were right down town here. I managed to resist the sticky buns and beautiful pain aux chocolat, but I did take home a fresh baguette.

I also picked up a quart of the first local strawberries! I'm so looking forward to strawberry season, however it's still a bit early. Pick-your-own will start in two weeks and that means I need to organize my jars for making jam.

As expected, the cut peonies were finally available. I brought home enough to fill each room of the house.

There are few other flowers that I love as much as these.

I also love a fresh baguette, especially when it's accompanied by delicious cheese. The French are clearly onto something!

And who doesn't love fresh picked strawberries?

A simple snack of a few berries, cheese and some fresh bread with oil and balsamic vinegar. Delicious.

The peonies didn't stay tight for long. By the end of the weekend most of them were unfurled and in full bloom.

Each room is filled with their beautiful scent!