Saturday, May 20, 2017

Spring Stunner


by A.A. Milne

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
"Winter is dead."

All these years and this is the first time I've planted daffodils! What was I thinking? For a deer ridden neighborhood, they are a must!! They pop they're lovely heads up through snow or spring muck and worship the sun. Their showy bright yellow blossoms last for weeks giving us hope that summer is just around the corner. They give us visual interest while other plants are just waking up AND they multiply so that there will be more next year. How great is that!!!
I suppose that to anyone south of the 49th parallel this celebration of daffodils on the long weekend in May would seem strange, but such is life in the land of the short growing season!

For some good info on daffodils, check out the American Daffodil Society!

American Daffodil Society

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

There's an App for That!

I had my first big day in the garden on April 24th. Did mostly clean up and planted my Johnny Jump Ups in the planter out side my kitchen window. I started a few things from seed indoors and put out a pot of Calendula that I hope will survive and blossom in a few weeks.

Every year I try to remember when things were planted the year before and when various perennials start to bloom. And every year I keep saying that I should record these things in a journal. I could get a book and jot down notes, but it would be really great to be able to put pictures with them. Somehow I couldn't see printing photos and pasting them in a scrapbook. Thus, I went in search of some kind of electronic type of journal so I could easily merge photos and notes.

I shouldn't be surprised, but believe it or not there is actually all kinds of software for gardening journals compete with spread sheets and charts. However, just being a casual gardener, I was looking for something simple where I could just add notes and photos as the season progresses. So, I went shopping at the Google Play Store (free shopping that is) and found a simple but very cool journal app. It's called "Journal" .. how about that? (just type "personal diary or journal" in the search bar)

As you can see, above, the screen shot of my electronic journal shows both pics and notes. I can also create different chapters complete with tabs. When you begin using the app there is a great tutorial and so far it seems to be very user friendly. This can all be saved and printed .... and you can fill more than one journal!

I should wait until I've used this for at least half the gardening season before I give my stamp of approval, but it is just so darn cool I couldn't wait to post about it!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Signs of Spring

Spring arrives late in our neck of the woods so when we see little signs that it is just around the corner, we are excited. I planted about fifty daffodils last fall and I was anxiously waiting to see their little shoots poke through ...... so here they are! I've also been having fun "forcing" spring to jump the gun a little.

Oh the things you learn at the gym! Besides learning how to get buns of steel do squats so you can hover over a toilet seat in a public washroom, or at least get yourself back up from a stooped position, you can also learn how to force branches!

While doing my usual routine on the elliptical, I was intrigued by an interview on "Your Morning CTV" about clipping branches from your yard, that look as dead as doornails, and "forcing" them to bloom. You simply cut branches from flowering shrubs and trees, bring them indoors and stick them in a container of warm water and in a week or two you have spring blossoms indoors!

Your Morning CTV Forcing Branches

As soon as I got home from the gym I dug out my pruners and headed out over the crust of snow in my yard to take some cuttings for my experiment. The best specimens are early bloomers such as forsythia, azaleas, magnolias, various fruit trees etc. I didn't have any of these, but I did have lilac and spirea, which were also on the "best to force" list.

I followed the recommended procedure and in a week the spirea was sprouting and the lilacs were going crazy. I could actually see little tiny clusters of lilac blooms, still green but definitely visible.


After a couple of weeks or so, the lilacs ran their course. (I didn't really imagine that a large cluster of purple blossoms would actually form on these branches sitting in tap water.) The spirea and potentilla, however were still showing little green leaves and looking very spring like.

Recently, on Easter weekend, my daughter in-law was able to use the "greenery" branches, along with some pussy willows, that we found along the side of the road, to create this lovely Easter bouquet for her grandmother.

So, each day I look for new spring surprizes in my garden, and continue to clip bud bearing branches and bring them indoors to see what they will produce.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Roughing It In The Bush

When I was in school I remember reading excerpts of Susanna Moodie's book, Roughing It In The Bush and passages by her sister, Catherine Parr Trail in a Social Studies text. Both depicted pioneer life in Canada from the perspectives of female British immigrants. Catherine wrote about the beauty of her new wilderness home while her sister, Susanna, held nothing back in her description of the hardships of making a go of it in the woods of Southern Ontario in the 1830's. If anyone would have suggested that I read Roughing In In The Bush this time last year, I would have said that I'd rather poke my eye out with a stick! And, needless to say, the idea of reading it when I was in school was definitely out.

Illustration from Roughing It

My recent discovery of specific ancestors who arrived in a part of Ontario, not that far from the Moodie's home in the bush, just a year before the arrival of Susanna and her family, motivated me to pick up this thick book, first published in1913. Mrs. Moodie was an experienced writer before she and her husband decided to immigrate to Canada to seek a prosperous life. Thus her descriptions of sailing up the Saint Lawrence past Grosse Isle and Quebec City and eventually to the "back woods" of Southern Ontario are vivid. While her passage on the ship was more comfortable than most, being upper class, the journey was rough and dreaded Cholera was rampant. Her arrival among the hordes of immigrants in these eastern Canadian ports disgusted her and she describes these lower class newcomers as,"uneducated barbarians, who form the surplus of overpopulated European countries".  (Surely she can't be referring to MY ancestors?!!) In fact she describes in vivid detail her experience with many of the "lower class" neighbors she encounters in her back woods home. The "Indians", however, she refers to as "Nature's gentlemen".

"There never was a people more sensible of kindness, or more grateful of any little act of benevolence exercised towards them. We met them with confidence; our dealings with them were conducted with the strictest integrity;"

While the book was long, it was an easy and entertaining read. The author describes an interesting character who attended their family's "logging-bee" (similar to a barn-raising that included lots of whiskey). She describes his attempt to entertain the attendees like this:

"Arrah. ladies and jintlemen, do jist turn your swate little eyes upon me whilst I play for your iddifications the last illigant tune which my owld  grandmother taught me.

I learned a lot about the tough life of pioneers in the late 19th century in Canada. And, of course what my ancestors, who lost two children on the passage over must have went through. The author and her family suffered greatly in an attempt to create a successful farm in the back woods, and eventually left the bush for a more prosperous life in another part of Ontario.

So, if you are interested in the "unromantic" struggles of a pioneer woman .... check out Roughing It In The Bush by Susanna Moodie at your local library  917.13042 MOO !

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Scavenger Hunt

What do fun loving fifty and sixty year olds do on the coldest night of the year? Go around town on a scavenger hunt of course!
We could go bowling, see a movie, or stay in where it's warm and play a board game ....... but why do those boring things when you can climb on playground equipment, pump gas for strangers, gather pine cones or squeeze into a shower with three other people?

In the shower with my teammates, Nancy,(me) Danny & Richard. We got extra points if someone wore a shower cap, so Dan volunteered .... doesn't he look great?

Ha! You thought the "shower thing" was going to be risqué!

So, how did this all start, you might ask? Well, our "queen of party planning", Cathy, got the idea and somehow convinced our "let's stay indoors and have wings and beer" group to break out of our comfort zone.

Cathy, adding up the score card!
We did, actually, end up enjoying wings and beer but not before each team of four set out into the cold and dark to check off all the items on our list. Here are some examples:
  • get a vinyl record (extra points if the cellophane is still on)
  • get a purchase receipt for $1.00 worth of gas
  • get a pinecone, takeout menu, fortune cookie (extra points if the word "happy" is in it)
  • group picture on playground equipment, in a shower, at an ATM (extra points for a withdrawal receipt)
  • photo of a team member pumping gas for a stranger, behind the counter of a coffee shop (Tim Horton's, Second Cup etc.)
We had twenty items altogether and two hours to complete the tasks. To our surprise, both teams were done well before the time limit and both teams managed to check off everything on the list! So we had to share the trophy!

Team 1: Dan (bottom) Cathy, Ross, Juliette  Team 2: Richard, Nancy, me, Danny

So here are some of the shenanigans we got up to in -17 C (- 24 C with the wind chill!) temperatures, out and about in the beautiful  Kennebecasis Valley! Thanks Cathy for a great night. A good time was had by all!

Richard pumps gas for a stranger.
Danny finds a nice stranger to pump gas for.

Danny makes a cash withdrawal at the ATM to get the receipt for extra points!

Our group pic with a stranger .... extra points because he has a beard!

Team 1 with bearded stranger. (we thought our guy had a better beard lol!)

Group pic with a piece of sculpture.

Group photo (Team 1) of all members drinking out of one can of Coke with their own straw.

Monday, February 27, 2017


Recently we went to the theatre to see the movie Lion. Friends of ours had just read the book and recommended it. So, off we went to the early movie  (6:30) after a quick dinner at five .... just in time for us old folks to be tucked in for the night by 10:00!

Lion is an amazing, true, story about a young boy (about five years old), from an impoverished family who, by accident wandered onto an empty train that took him across India, far away from his family home. He lived on the street for a while then entered a detention center, then an orphanage, where eventually an adoption to an Australian couple was arranged. You'll have to see the movie, or read the book (which I am doing now) to see how his life in Australia turned out and if he was ever reunited with his family in India.

Bottomley Orphanage

Many of the scenes from the movie reminded me of my year in Bangladesh. The crowded, chaotic streets, trains with masses of people (including clusters of them sitting on the roof tops of the moving trains!), brought back memories. The one memory that connected me with the movie, however, was from our visit to the Bottomley Orphanage on the outskirts of Dhaka.

Group photo of the girls in the orphanage (our teacher Kris O'Brien behind the sister)

The purpose of our day trip was to deliver some clothing that one of our teachers, at the school I was working at, collected through a clothing drive. During our visit we had the opportunity to meet the children as well as the "sisters" (who ran the orphanage). We also had a grand tour of the building and property that housed and fed 140 girls.
As you can see from the photo, there was a large yard for the girls to play in. Some of the girls in the photo have short hair or bald heads .... victims of head lice! We had the opportunity to see where they slept, metal framed beds jammed side by side in dark stone walled enclosures..... similar to a scene from the movie. Depressing? Yes, but they were safe from the perils of the street!

Ross (my husband) and our friend Paul (the VP of our school) have a chat with the sister in the dinning "hall".

Some of the girls in the orphanage were actually not "orphans", they were there because their parents were not able to feed them. A better life than living on the street. Some children in these circumstances are actually compelled by their parents to forgo school in order to beg or scrounge and bring back what they find to help support the family.

Kris O'Brien, one of our teachers, plays a game of blind man's bluff with the girls.

The movie Lion was, for me, an uplifting story with a happy ending. However, it did remind me of just how privileged we are in Canada (or other first world countries). Yes, we do have poverty in Canada, but not to the extent that it is in other parts of the world. Another thing that struck me in the movie, was the selflessness of the Australian couple who adopted the young boy (as well as another) from India. When the boy, Saroo, was older, he said to his adopted mother that he was sorry that she could not have children of her own. She looked at him and informed him that she was actually able to have children, but she and her husband decided that the world did not need more people and that it would be better to save one or two children from a life of misery. How wonderful is that!

Typical pic that I grabbed of a train going by with a woman giving us a big smile!

Typical street and shopping area in Dhaka.
This movie also reminded me of a photo essay that a student at the school I taught at in Dhaka created. (I posted this quite a while ago in a previous post.) This high school student took photos of some of the "less privileged" people living in our neighborhood. These were common sites! We actually saw many of these people every day as we went about our comfortable lives going to and from work, out to shop or to eat in a restaurant!

Life Without Luxury

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Beach is Like a Box of Chocolates

A beach is like a box of chocolates ....... you never know what you're going to find!

I love beach combing and collecting little treasures along the shore .... sea glass, smooth stones and of course sea shells. The "therapy" is in the hunt. Forget your worries and just concentrate on searching for those unique little gems.

Recently, in Cuba, I enjoyed collecting a small bag full of gorgeous little shells that I smuggled home in my suitcase. A few years ago, at a different beach in Cuba, I found an abundance of sea glass that now sits in a decorative bowl on my coffee table. I've also been know to lug home a few egg smooth rocks from the shores of the Bay of Fundy.

A harmless pastime right? I do know that you are not supposed to disturb the ecosystem, but somehow I just couldn't resist pocketing just a few souvenirs ..... it's only a few! What's one more homeless hermit crab?

After doing a little research, I am now a "reformed beach comber". (Although I think the sea glass is still fair game.) I plan to take treasures from the beach in the form of photos only!

Guide to Ethical Shell Collecting

 (Ethical) Beach Collection Photos

Collections from the Bay of Fundy and Cuba

Sea Glass from Cuba

Photo collections are perfect when the "treasures" are too big to lug home!