March 11

March 11, 2010

March 11, 2010

Rainy and quite chilly this morning.  Nothing near freezing, but quite bracing first thing.  It’s supposed to clear later in the afternoon.

Here is a little technique that I have developed for repairing loose plaster.  Sometimes in areas around a crack you can feel the plaster move when you press on it.  This usually means that the keys have broken away on the primary layer of plaster and there is nothing holding the plaster to the lath any more.  This example that I encountered in my renovation of room 8 shows an area where the top layer of plaster has broken away; and right beside it is an area that has broken away right to the lath.  I use a 1 ½” stainless washer and a drywall screen and screw into the lath underneath.  This should pull the plaster snug up to the lath and hold it firmly in place.

Hole resulting from loose Plaster

Hole Resulting from Loose Plaster

Stainless Steel Washer and Drywall Screw

Stainless Steel Washer and Drywall Screw

Plaster it Over

Plaster it Over

Add Another washer and Screw

Add Another washer and Screw

Plaster Over the Whole Thing

Plaster Over the Whole Thing

The hole can then be filled in with plaster.  If the whole is large enough, obviously you would want to cut out all the plaster and replace it with a piece of drywall, but this area is only about 4 x 4”.  After getting some plaster into the hole, I add another washer and screw in the area that had exposed lath.  I put this through a piece of mesh tape.  You can see it in the last photo if you look carefully.  This is just to give something to hold the plaster to the lath, to give it a bit of strength so that it is no longer bouncing against the wall.

The frustrating thing about holes like this is that they take time to fill.  You have to add the plaster bit by bit and give it a change to dry before you go on to the next layer.  It takes a couple of days to get it completed.  But the process seems to work well.  I have used it in a number of places in the house and so far it is working extremely well.

Nothing in the garden for the last couple of days because my attention has been on room 8 and getting that done as quickly as possible.   Fernando is under the weather again and has been in bed for the last 3 days which doesn’t help matters at all.  He is painting the exterior door and I don’t want to hang it until he is done.  Not that I am ready to hang it at this point, but I hope he’s up and around soon so that he can get on with it.  How’s that for a sympathetic partner!

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March 10

March 10, 2010

March 10, 2010

Beautiful day today, lots of sunshine and very few clouds.  A bit nippy in the morning, but becoming very pleasant as the day goes on.

For the last few weeks, I have been doing some fixing up in room 8.  The bathroom door that was installed by the previous owner was very badly done and reflected badly, I thought, on the quality of the Manor.  And the exterior door to the patio was in very bad condition and the casing did not match the casings in the rest of the house.  So I decided to rebuild and re-hang the bathroom door and fix up the exterior door.  A couple of months ago, just before Christmas, I found 3 panels of stained glass which we bought for the purpose of installing them in room 8.  One of the panels is the correct width to go into the door and the other 2 panels will go into the bay window.

The Old Door and the New Door

The Old Door and the New Door

One side of the old bathroom door was a single flat panel; the other side is a mirror.  The mirror is fine, but the single panel was not in the style of the rest of the house so I decided to add some moulding to break it up into several panels.  I had to rely on glue alone to hold all the new work in place because I didn’t want to do any nailing because of the mirror on the other side.  The last thing I wanted was to have to replace the mirror.

Rebuilding the Bathroom Door

Rebuilding the Bathroom Door

This is a photo of me working in the living room of the cottage because it is too damp in the studio for the glue to dry in a reasonable time.  I had to lay in ¼” flat sections to create the panels and then I milled some existing mounding to get something as close to the existing mounding in the house as I could.  It is not perfect, but it is pretty close.  The one compromise that I made was with the bottom panels in the door.   Although the other doors in the house have the bottom panels running horizontally, the exterior door has vertical panels.  So, because these 2 doors will be side by side, I decided to so vertical panels in the bathroom door.

Albion Manor Room 8 Renovation

Albion Manor Room 8 Renovation

As with all projects like this, once you start, you end up re-building the whole house.  There were some cracks in the old plaster that didn’t look very nice so I thought that while I was at it, I would have a go at them as well.  Here, I have dug out the loose plaster and cleaned the crack so that I could begin to fill them.  But that will have to wait until tomorrow.

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Octavio’s

March 9, 2010

Ottavio Italian Bakery & Delicatessen
2272 Oak Bay Avenue
Victoria, B.C
At the corner of Oak Bay Avenue & Monterey Avenue
(250) 592-4080

Ottavio's Italian Bakery & Delicatessen

Ottavio's Italian Bakery & Delicatessen

We were shopping for something or other in Oak Bay, I think we had been into the nursery to look for perennial primroses, and decided to come up to Octavio’s to get some lunch.  We have been past here a couple of times but for various reasons it had been closed, Christmas holidays etc.  But it has a great reputation and so we wanted to try it.  Octavoi’s is a bakery, deli and cafe all rolled into one, which is easy when you consider what is required to run a cafe: you need breads, cheeses, great meats and other delicacies.  Well, here, they’re all in the same place.  Not that they serve only items from the deli in the cafe.  On the contrary.  They make their own specials every day.  However, these always include a creative selection of panini, salads, soups & mixed plates created from their wide selection of artisan cheeses & charcuterie in the delicatessen.

A Small Selection of the Many Cheeses at Octavio's

A Small Selection of the Many Cheeses at Octavio's

I had the Bosco Panini which included mushrooms, zucchini and smoked mozzarella.  Fernando had the pasta Special which had cheese, tomatoes, basil pesto, artichokes, olives and a salad.  Lunch was under $20, but we didn’t have anything to drink.

The Deli Counter at Octavio's

The Deli Counter at Octavio's

The deli has an incredible selection for Quebec cheeses, and of course cheeses from many other places.  And many really speciality items like French lavender flowers, George Watkins pickled walnuts (England), red onion marmalade (Victoria) and preserved lemons and harissa (Morocco).  While Fernando and I were in Sevilla in January, we had an opportunity to try, once again, carne de membrillo (quince meat) which his aunt makes from her own quinces.  It is a kind of jam, very red and rich and thick.  It is so delicious.  We wanted to buy some to bring home for friends, but couldn’t find any in the shops.  I finally found some in the duty free shop at the airport.  Imagine our surprise though when we found it here at Ottavio’s.  It is from Portugal, but better there than none at all.

Octavio's Vespa

One of Octavio's Vespas

They make their own Italian ice cream from local organic milk as well.  And don’t miss the couple of Vespas, one full size and the other a model.

View Driving from Albion Manor to Octavio’s in a larger map.

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March 9

March 9, 2010

March 9, 2010

Camellias in the Garden at Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast in Victoria

Camellias in the Garden at Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast in Victoria

Camellias.  These beautiful flowers have unfortunately become associated with death.   Most famously of course by Alexandre Dumas Jr., French playwright and novelist, illegitimate son of Alexandre Sr., whose novel La Dame aux Camélias brought him great fame in 1848.  He subsequently turned it into a play which no one wanted to produce and it didn’t have its stage debut until 1852.  Of course it has been made into about 20 different stage versions and about as many films with Sarah Bernhardt and Greta Garbo, among many others, playing the title role.  I saw a production back in the late ’70 at the Vancouver Playhouse which was sensational.

The symbolic meaning of camellia flowers is admiration, perfection, loveliness, a good luck gift for a man, gratitude, nobility of reasoning or longing.  All this depending on the colour.   Ours are red symbolizing ‘you are a flame in my heart’.   So the association with death is really unfortunate.  It is also possible that the association is only in my mind and not generally accepted.  This would hardly be surprising.

This beautiful bush is on the east side of the house.  It gets quite a bit of competition from the cedar hedge that is about 10 feet high on that side.  Nevertheless, it blooms faithfully each year.  When we were in Burnaby, we had huge camellia bushes on either side of the front door.  As much as I dislike saying it, they were a problem at all times of the year except when they were blooming.  They were so big they had become a real nuisance.  But when they flowered they were spectacular.  But then the petals fall they sure made a mess.   This one I love because it can make all the mess it wants and there is no problem.  All we have to do is enjoy the luscious flowers and the sensuous colour.

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March 8

March 8, 2010

We have 3 plum trees in the garden, a golden plum and 2 prune plums.  The Golden Plum flowers earlier than the other 2 and for the last couple of weeks it has been in full bloom.  I should have taken photos of it earlier, but didn’t get around to it for some reason.  There are always lots of ‘some reason’.  Anyway, although not golden itself, this tree produces masses of golden plums which are the most delicious things you have ever eaten.  We haven’t always had success with it: some year there are only a couple of plums, but in a good year there are so many that we don’t know what to do with them.  The same is true of the prune plums although they are much more reliable in terms of producing.  Last year we put out boxes of plums on the boulevard for neighbours to take and I ‘m glad to say they all disappeared rapidly.  Much better than having them go to waste.  There is a company, or group, that will collect your ripe fruit to take to the Food Bank.  I contacted them and after saying that they would be by to do the picking, they didn’t show.  I’m not sure what happened.  Probably they had too much fruit for the number of volunteers that they have.

The Golden Plum Tree from the Terrace of Room 6

The Golden Plum Tree from the Terrace of Room 6

This is the view of the tree from the terrace outside room number 6.  It almost looks as though it has just snowed, but believe it or not, those are all plum blossoms.  I don’t know what the proportions are, how many blossoms will turn into actual eatable plums, but I am positive that it is not one to one.   I have also noted this year that there are no bees.  Usually when you walk by the tree it sounds as though it has been electrified, it is buzzing, bees crawling and flying all over it, like the whole thing is moving.  This year, none.  Could be a very bad sign.

One of our guests from Salt Spring Island, Grace, is starting to raise her own bees this year in attempt to combat the global problem that we have with the decline of the bee population.  I should so the same and get some of those bee homes that you see around occasionally.  As with most things, any little bit helps I guess.

Golden Plum Tree through the Bathroom Window of Room 5

Golden Plum Tree through the Bathroom Window of Room 5

Here’s another view of the Golden Plum through the bathroom window of room number 5.  You can see bit of the new buds of the lilac bush pushing through.

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March 7

March 7, 2010

March 7, 2010

What’s going on here?  Blue sky completely covered over with white things.  I’m not used to this.  No rain or anything like that, but just a general cloudiness all round.  Ho hum.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

I have become a fan of Flavia de Luce!  Flavia is the protagonist is Alan Bradley’s new novel The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  She’s immensely intelligent, witty, a budding scientist, innocent, naive, energetic and to top it off, one of the most determined sleuths to come along in a long time.  Don’t let the fact that she’s only 11 years old put you off.  She also happens to love poisons and makes a few of her own in an old chemical lab in the attic of the family’s home, Buckshaw, a multi-winged, sprawling old thing somewhere in England.  I don’t remember if they locate Buckshaw in the novel, but I know there is a Buckshaw in, or around, Chorley in Lancashire.

Now, Lancashire is very important to me and to my family because that is where the paternal grandparents came from.  And Chorley is important if for no other reason than Chorley Market where you can buy some of the best sweaters in the world for about £3 which is about 5 or 6 Canadian Dollars.  I still have a couple from when I was there with the family in 1995.

Back to Flavia. Flavia will win you heart.  She lives with her sisters Daphne and Ophelia and their reclusive Father (her Mother was killed in a climbing accident when Flavia was only one-year-old).   One day, Flavia finds a dead body in the cucumber patch.  To the normal person, this would be quite a traumatic experience, but as she says, ‘I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t.  Quite the contrary.  This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.’

What follows is a great read as Flavia goes about trying to discover the identity of the dead person and why he has ended up dead in her garden.  Alan Bradley does a masterful job in finding the voice of an 11-year-old.  While bumbling along and making lots of mistakes, she is at the same time extremely insightful and you know that this young lady is going to have a very successful career at whatever she decides to do.  And I hope that Alan Bradley will give her a long career as an unofficial sleuth.

Even when it's cloudy there are bright things in the Garcen

Even when it's cloudy there are bright things in the Garden

With this dreadful weather we’re having, there won’t be much work in the garden today so I am back to the renovations in room 8 which I have given myself a deadline of Sunday coming to have completed.  So I’ve got casings to make, one door to rebuild, stained glass to put into the door, sealed glass unit to get for the door, hang the stained glass in the bay window, finish the moulding around the Jacuzzi, re-hang the door to the patio, and a couple more things that I am sure will make themselves obvious once I get to them.  Makes for a busy week.

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Breakfast and the ‘Other’

March 6, 2010

There is nothing like breakfast to start the day. Especially if it is a nice gourmet specialty like the one that Don prepares. Also breakfast can help you to know about culture. About how groups of people that we call nations reflect their idiosyncrasy in the way they prepare and eat their breakfast.

In my first visit to Japan many years ago I felt in my skin. or I should say in my taste. a cultural shock when I encountered my first real truly Japanese breakfast in the wonderful city of Nikko. I don’t remember now what did I have but I do remember that after I finished I have to run to find a bakery and buy a nice sweet something. That is how unsophisticated I was at the time and I am glad to say that that would not be my reaction if I happen to experience the same situation today.

This is another example. In a few days I will make for breakfast a “tortilla española” (Spanish omelet). To be sure that I did a good job I phoned my mother for proper directions. I explained the situation and the very first question that came out of the other side of the wire is “A tortilla for breakfast?! You have been too long in Canada son!” (That is a first experience for her in breakfast cultural differences).

I pointed to her that here in Victoria in a Bed and Breakfast it is ‘normal’ to have this kind of food to start the day and that for a change I wanted to do something Spanish for my guests. Then she replied, “If you want to do something Spanish why don’t you made nice toasts with olive oil and rub some garlic on top with a pinch of salt?” (And that would be the first breakfast cultural difference for my guests!)

The situation can get very picky with this issue. Asparagus and lettuces I can use in my ‘tour de force’ dishes. What about Broccoli? Or carrots? Definitely not! What makes a vegetable a breakfast friendly vegetable?

So it can be an important issue especially if ones noted that we are talking about the first meal of the day and we want to start nicely the day. Don’t we? But to me the most interesting thing about culinary differences is that actually it happens and it makes this world a bit more interesting to live and experience.

March 5

March 5, 2010

March 5, 2010

Sun.  What more need saying.  This is Victoria after all.   I love this cartoon from the Times Colonist which I took great pleasure in sending to the family back in Alberta.  I had to change the text a bit, but the essence is the same.  We Victorians like to gloat about the weather, just a bit.   Who can blame us when it is such a beautiful day.

Perfect Spring Cartoon from the Times Colonist

Perfect Spring Cartoon from the Times Colonist

I have seen the cartoon in various other versions, but all with the same gist: it’s nice out here in Victoria and it’s snowing in the east.

Slow progress in room 8 with the new doors and general fix up.  I find this is the way things generally work out here.  It is so easy to get distracted, with the phone, guests arriving, having to go to meetings or appointments, doing the shopping and an endless list.  Every time the phone rings with a guest wanting information, I find myself wandering around afterwards wondering what I was supposed to be doing.  I have really to make a concerted effort to get it finished.  The room has been out of commission for too long and it is one of our most popular rooms.  I have given myself a deadline of next Sunday to have it completed.  That should be long enough given the amount of work that has to be done.  It’s just a question of getting it done.

And I have the additional chore of having to get out into the garden to get the new plants into the ground, the primroses and tree peonies, although I think the tree peonies will have to go into pots.  I will probably put them into the new bed that we are planning for the very south side, right along the hedge and that bed won’t be ready until later in the spring.  I will have to get the maintenance company to remove the sod: I’m not prepared for that amount of work right now.  There are other more important things to be done, like preparing for the summer.  Booking are a bit slow right now, but I am optimistic that they will improve as the season goes on.

Rip van Winkle Daffodils

Rip van Winkle Daffodils

More daffodils.  Don’t you just love them.  This is Rip van Winkle, one that I tried unsuccessfully in Vancouver.  It is quite low, about 8 inches, and the heavy rains in Vancouver tended to be very hard on the poor thing.  The shape of the blossom, with all its little tendrils, tends to hold water and the additional weight then pulls the whole stem over and that’s the end of it.  Here, in sunny Victoria, the rain, while occasional, is not the problem that it is in Vancouver.

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Scenic Drive to Butchart Gardens

March 5, 2010

Butchart Gardens

It is difficult to add any more to what has already been written about Butchart Gardens: they are spectacular but what’s more, they can be enjoyed at any time of the year whether it’s mid summer or mid-winter.  Obviously there is more to see in the summer but you won’t be disappointed by visiting at any time of the year.

One thing I often tell guests when they are deciding whether or not they should visit Butchart Gardens: visiting Victoria and not seeing Butchart Gardens is like visiting Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower.

The fastest way to get there is up highway 17 going towards the BC Ferry terminal at Swartz Bay.   Turn left when you see the signs.  The following map though is the scenic route from Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast which is located in downtown Victoria to Butchart Gardens.  The scenic route winds along the coast, through some very lovely, expensive neighbourhoods with lots of trees and gardens, and up through lovely countryside.  The trip will take about an hour, probably less, depending on how often and how long you stop along the way and there are lots of places where you will want to stop and enjoy the scenery.

When you get up to Butchart Gardens, you will want to take the opportunity to visit the Butterfly Gardens and Church and State Vineyards, both of which are close by.

March 4

March 4, 2010

March 4, 2010

Lovely sunny day today, another of many that we have had in the past little while.  It looks like it is going to be a loverly March.  I wonder if our old prairie saying about March lambs and lions holds true on the coast.   Time will tell, but I’m praying that it won’t become too horrible.  We went to a few nurseries yesterday to look at flowering trees.  I want to see them when they are in flower so that when time comes to plant around the new pond we will know what kinds of trees we want.  Still no decisions, but I know that we will want lots of flowering things.  While at one, I found some new peony trees, of which we have 2 in the garden.  One flowers beautifully on the east side but the other was doing really badly under the willow so I moved it in October to the cottage garden.  I am happy to say that it seems to be doing really well right now.  I am also happy to say that we have 2 new tree peonies, Kinkaku and Shima-nishiki pictured below.  These photos aren’t of the new ones, but photos that I got on the internet, but this is what we have to look forward to.  How many years?

Tree Peony Kinkaku

Tree Peony Kinkaku

Tree Peony Shima-nishiki

Last night we went with some bed and breakfast friends here in Victoria, Ian and Anne and Dave and Sharon to The Mark Restaurant.  You can read more details about the meal in our restaurant section under ‘Fine Dining’.  With all of us being b&b owners, I guess it is not surprising that a large portion of the evening was taken up talking b&b business.  Luckily we were the only ones in the restaurant because I am sure it would have been hilarious to any other diners listening to 6 grown adults talking about the relative merits and problems associated with ironing sheets, something that is close to the hearts of all b&b owners.   We did manage to spend some time talking about F’s and my trip to Spain and London, Dave and Sharon’s recent travels to Turkey and Portugal and Ian and Anne’s upcoming cruise on the Mexican Riviera.   And we talked a lot about b and b politics, about marketing, about breakfasts, guests, inn-sitters and all the many subjects that preoccupy us daily.   I was afraid that Fernando was going to leave.  I guess the thought of the coming meal kept him in his seat.  I think everyone drank too much which is easy to do when the company and the surroundings are so agreeable.

Albion Lawns with Morning Dew

Albion Lawns with Morning Dew

The lawns in the morning look as though someone has just watered, or as if it had recently rained.  With the sun coming up from the east, they sparkle with the dew drops.  It’s quite magical- but a bit hard on the shoes tramping to the Un-named Room for coffee.  The storage room has long been known at the Un-named Room.  When we first moved into the bed and breakfast here in Victoria, getting to know all the different places was a bit of a challenge but at least they all had some description that helped identify them: the bedrooms, upstairs, downstairs, laundry room, furnace room.  The storage room wasn’t a storage room at that time; it was more of a junk room.  In the beginning, for the first couple of days, it was called ‘Frank’s Room’ after one of the previous owners.  In that we didn’t want to have anything around to remind us of them, we knew that this couldn’t possibly be allowed to continue, but what with the exhaustion of the move and getting the business up and running, neither of us had the inclination or imagination to give the room a name.  ‘The Junk Room’ wasn’t right: we didn’t want to have the work junk associated with our new home and business.  A couple of other names were tried, ‘That Room’, ‘The Box Room’ until Fernando started calling it the ‘Un-named Room’ and such it has been called ever since.

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