Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I'll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged--though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.” 
- Robert Frost


Yes, we finally got it yesterday and it was a topic of conversation everywhere I went.  Complete strangers talking to each other at the grocery store, exclaiming their satisfaction with much needed water coming from the sky.

Angelina and I were running some errands when the worst of  the storm came and got completely soaked running through the parking lot.  Oh, but it was heavenly!  It was still hot and the asphalt was steaming beneath our feet.  A good soak on a hot day.  Felt wonderful.

Today is quite a different story.  It's still raining but the temperature dropped to unreal 7°C. Apparently we will not get above 8 today and for the night we can only expect 5-6°C.  What's up with that?  How can we go from 30° yesterday to only 7-8° today?  Unbelievable.  The plants will love the rain but they won't like this cold.  Quite a nasty end to otherwise beautiful month of May, would you say?  I am not impressed.

Impressed or not, it looks like Mother Nature ordered a day for staying indoors and enjoying whatever home has to offer: read a good book, watch a good show and maybe even play a video game.  I can't say that I suffer from lack of interests so I'll have no problem finding something to do indoors.  And then there is that laundry that has to be done.  Yeah.

Now I'm going to finish my morning tea.  Golden Monkey still has a lot to offer and gave me another flavourful cup.  Have a wonderful Sunday my friends.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk: Golden Monkey from Teavivre

The soil.
The elevation.
The climate.
The sunshine.
The rain.
The tea.

- The Minister of Leaves

Happy Saturday my dear friends, I hope you're having yourself a great start to the weekend.

It's hot and humid in my neck of the woods today but nevertheless, the morning tea was in order. Just like a cup of morning coffee for a coffee drinker, a cup of morning tea makes the world spinning in the right direction.  It's refreshing, calming and very much a way of life.

Today I've reached for one of my samples from Teavivre again: Golden Monkey Black Tea.  The leaves are absolutely beautiful.   It's a mixture of mature leaves and buds, and buds are the lighter ones in colour.  Both buds and leaves are delicate and have claw like appearance.

The leaves look great and smell great too.  The moment I opened the sample pack I had a "wow" moment.  Most delicious scent of caramel and honey with wood and smoke hit my senses and gave me a good indication of what my taste buds are about to experience.  

I steeped about 4 grams of this tea (1.5 teaspoons) in a cup of boiling water for about a minute.  Oh, what an aroma!  Honey, fruit, maple, earth and so much more.  This tea smells amazing but what about the taste?

No surprises there.  It's delicious.

From beginning to end this is some great tea.  It's everything I would want my black tea to be.   It's earthy and sweet with notes of caramel, honey, fruit and molasses.  I usually add just a touch of honey to my black teas but this one doesn't need it.  It needs nothing.  Just to be drank.  It's perfect.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Happy Birthday Derek!

At 19, everything is possible and tomorrow looks friendly. 
– By Jim Bishop

Five kids, four birthdays and today is the last one of them for this year. My only son Derek is turning 19.  Important age for a young person.

Derek's coming to this world was far from what one would normally expect and troubles started months earlier when at only 3 months of pregnancy I rushed to my doctors office with cramps and bleeding. I was diagnosed with premature separation of the placenta and prescribed a lot of rest. That was easier said than done.   When you have three other pumpkins at home already, the rest is hard to come by. Just as expected, the pregnancy proved to be a difficult one to carry and despite everyone's best efforts, Derek came into this world at only 30 weeks gestation or about 7 months.

I have never seen a baby so little, helpless and hooked up to so many tubes.  It was heartbreaking but at the same time I was happy and grateful that his prognosis was excellent and it was only a matter of time before he would be allowed to come home.  The day following his birthday, he was already breathing on his own and allowed to leave neonatal intensive care unit.  He remained in the hospital for the whole month of June and I visited every morning and evening to try and do as much for him as I possibly could.  The weirdest thing I remember about that time is the intense fog that blanketed the city for the longest time.  It almost seems like the entire time Derek was in neonatal care, the city was covered in fog.

The day he finally reached the desired weight and was allowed to go home was a celebration.  I will never forget it as long as I live.  Having a weigh in with the nurse, watching that scale and feeling the happiness, the relief and all sorts of other emotions, that was unforgettable.

Today Derek has grown up into a handsome young man.  He has a heart of gold and remains very close to us all.  I am convinced that I have the best son in the world.  I'm so proud of the wonderful, kind human being that he has become.  Couldn't ask for more.

Happy Birthday Derek!  I love you!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rain... Where is the rain?

“It's so dry the trees are bribing the dogs.” 
- Charles Martin

Good afternoon my dear friends, I hope this day finds you in great health and spirit.

My day has found me in excellent spirit as I freed up some extra time on my schedule and I'm able to put it to a good use in the garden today. I'm especially happy because some extra gardening attention is needed. The weather has been beautiful around here and if I didn't know it was May I would think we were already in the middle of July.  It's hot and sunny every day which fills me with hope that this is what we can expect for the upcoming season.  After the crappy summer we had last year, heat and sun is very much welcome.

The only thing missing so far is the rain.  As much snow as we had in the winter and as much rain as we had in April, May has been relatively dry.  I actually don't remember when it was the last time that it rained here, I think it was somewhere around the 10th or 11th.  Especially in the tiny little area surrounding our property.  I kid you not, there was a great big pour down 5-10 minutes from us on Monday, but completely missed our little village.  It rained at my friend's house, it rained at Angelina's school but it remained bone dry here.  Life is not fair sometimes.  By this time last year we've received 89 mm of rain (during May) and April 2015 yielded almost 50 mm.  So far this May we've managed only 14mm.  Rain, pretty please.

So as you can see garden needs some extra attention because without all that watering I'm doing, everything in sight would die especially plants in containers and the new transplants in the ground.  I'm hoping Mother Nature will turn a loving eye on us sometime soon and sends us a great big thunderstorm with some good deep soaking.  Just to be clear though, I want the heat and the sun to continue... That's been great so far.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Messenger by Lois Lowry

“Now he knew that there were communities everywhere, sprinkled across the vast landscape of the known world, in which people suffered. Not always from beatings and hunger, the way he had. But from ignorance. From not knowing. From being kept from knowledge.” 
- Lois Lowry, Messenger

Another book read, so many more to go.  Yesterday I finished Messenger by Lois Lowry, the third book in The Giver quartet.  Once again I wasn't disappointed.  The book was interesting, easy to read and closely related to the previous books in the quartet.  The story in Messenger happens eight years after the events in The Giver and six years after the events in Gathering Blue.  The characters from The Giver and Gathering Blue reappear in Messenger, linking the novels more closely. I was especially happy to find the character named Leader who first appeared in The Giver and I've wondered ever since what happened to him.

Summary from the back cover:

"For the past six years, Matty has lived in Village and flourished under the guidance of Seer, a blind man known for his special sight.  Village was once a place that welcomed newcomers, but something sinister has seeped into Village and the people have voted to close it to outsiders.  Matty has been invaluable as a messenger.  Now he must make one last journey through the treacherous Forest with his only weapon, a power he unexpectedly discovers within himself."

Messenger was short, only 169 pages but I didn't mind that because I'm so busy these days, I only have time to read before bed.  Still, some days I had to pace myself to not finish it too fast.  A good book is like a great adventure and I want it to last for a while.  This adventure lasted only several nights but I'll remember it for some time.

If you haven't read any books from the quartet yet and you love thought provoking, inspirational writing, I strongly suggest you give The Giver a try.  It will take you on the journey and make you question yourself, society around you and the world in general.  Much recommended.

Now that Messenger is done, there is one last book in the quartet to read: The Son.  I don't have this book at home so I'll have to get my hands on one sometime soon.  In the mean time I'll be reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy which I've wanted to read for quite some time now.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Garden Update

I'll plant and water, sow and weed, 
Till not an inch of earth shows brown, 
And take a vow of each small seed 
To grow to greenness and renown: 
And then some day you'll pass my way, 
See gold and crimson, bell and star, 
And catch my garden's soul, and say: 
"How sweet these cottage gardens are!"
- Edith Nesbit, the poem Seed-Time and Harvest 
from the Pomander of Verse, 1895

Now that I got my Murhpy's law rant out of the way, I'm ready to talk about all the wonderful work I did over the weekend.  I'm feeling much better now, almost back to my old self although my back is going to take a little longer to recover.  No worries though, it will recover, it feels better with each passing day.

The bulk of the work during the weekend was transplanting all the tomato seedlings.  I have about 30 of them, 13 went into the ground and the rest was planted into the big containers on the deck. We have a huge deck which receives a ton of sunlight and it would be a shame for all that space to go to waste.  That's why last year I started planting into the containers and filling up all that deck space. 

Tomatoes, sweet yellow pepper and cayenne pepper in containers
I'm not done all of the container work yet.  There are still few to be filled.  I have few leftover brussels sprouts plants, cucumbers and kale to be planted.  I've never grown brussels sprouts in the container but since I have few left over seedlings for which I don't have space in the ground, why not try a container, right?  Gardening is all about experimenting sometimes.

Tomato plants in the containers
I plant a lot of tomatoes, much more than what we will eat during summer but then all the extra I freeze for the winter.  I thought about canning and maybe in the future I'll give canning a try but for now I just freeze them.  They are just as delicious in soups, pasta sauces and sauces in general.  As a matter of fact, since we've been using our own frozen tomatoes, the pasta sauces we make are so much more delicious.  Go figure.

The picture below is of a veggie patch on the side of my house.  It's sectioned in four.  At the very top are tomatoes (10 of them), on the very right broccoli (still very small, hardly visible from distance), on the bottom you can see the red lettuce and on the left which is not quite visible is my herb garden.  Parsley, oregano, rosemary, echinacea, chives, sage and cilantro live here.

Tomatoes, red lettuce and broccoli
Cucumber plants are extremely productive and I plant about 20 of them.  Once again, more than we can eat during summer but then I dill pickle whatever we don't eat.  Last year I managed more than 20 pickle jars.  We are just finishing our last ones.

10 of the cucumber plants are present in the picture below.  There is another bed on the side of the house where I planted another 8 and then several in the containers on the deck.

I did nothing to romaine lettuce this weekend except for some weeding and it's growing so well. Very soon there will be enough for a salad. :D

Romaine Lettuce
Green beans also got transplanted this weekend.  What you see in the picture below is 36 green bean plants.  The more the better.  We all love them here and eat a lot, raw and cooked.  My goal this year is to be able to save a lot for winter.  Last year I saved some but not enough.  This year I'm hoping for more.

Once I plant a green bean, I always put a border around the plant (small planting container with a bottom cut out) to discourage pests such as earwigs.  If earwig problem is particularly bad, as it was couple of years ago, I smear some petroleum jelly around the container edge.  Earwigs hate going through that.  You would be surprised to know how much damage earwigs do.  It's quite astounding. Two years ago they got rid of two rows of carrots I planted.

Green bean plants
There are few more green bean plants I have in the containers and I'm also preparing some space on the side of the house for some yellow beans.  Like I said... the more the better. :D

The picture below shows one of the prime spots in my garden.  Centre top are the green beans, top left are the strawberries, right below them are the brussels sprouts (still small but growing) and right in the centre are my onion soldiers.  The very bottom is where calendulas (they are still tiny), day lilies and some hostas grow as well as couple of blueberry bushes which can hardly be seen because the bunny chew them almost to the ground during winter.  Uh, oh.  They will recover though.  Oh yes, and on the very right, right beside the gazebo I'll plant couple of sunflowers.  They love it there.

I absolutely love this stage of gardening.  It seems like my work never ends these days, there is always something to plant, weed, water etc, but I can hardly call it work because I enjoy it so much. I guess who ever said "do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life" was very right.  I think it was Confucius.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Murphy's Law

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
- Charles R. Swindoll

Hello my dear friends, I hope this new week is treating you good.

Do you know what Murphy's Law is?

I do and I know it rather well because sometimes it seems like Murphy is alive, living in my house and sticking his law in my face every chance he gets.

"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

Case in point this weekend.  Those of you that follow my blog know how much I've been looking forward to this weekend.  It was the weekend when I was supposed to transplant all my seedlings into the garden as well and prepare numerous containers for the seedlings on my deck.  Planting the seedlings into the garden beds is not that difficult, although some extra weeding and mulching can be a tad time consuming, but preparing numerous big containers with soil for the deck is a lot of hard work and requires one to be in some sort of good working shape.

Come Saturday morning, I had my tea and I was all ready to go.  Our friend just delivered over a yard of soil to our backyard and it was all waiting for me to grab the shovel and get to work.  Friday night was bitter cold with a risk of frost so I covered all my newly emerging potatoes with some blankets to prevent possible damage.  I was just picking up one of the blankets off of the potatoes when I felt an electricity go through my back and all of a sudden I could hardly stand up.  "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."  Oh, yes Murphy... I remember, go back to sleep now.

Somehow I got my back to relax a little and worked hard all Saturday.  I was a little sore but surprisingly, it was not that bad.  I promised myself to get some nice rest in the evening and get some extra sleep at night which I did.

On Sunday my back felt a lot better.  I made it, or so I thought.  I was more than excited to get back into the yard and continue my work.  That's when I started feeling tummy cramps. Interestingly enough, Angelina was out of school on Friday with a tummy ache and now it looked like this could have been a stomach virus of sorts.  Once again I told myself to look beyond it and got to work as if nothing was wrong.  It was not as easy as it was on Saturday though.  Sore back I can handle but stomach ache has its ways of bringing me down.  I had to take frequent breaks.

Thanks to my inborn stubbornness I got everything done that I set out to do this weekend.  Or rather, almost everything.  I'm sure I could have done more if I felt better but I'm not complaining.  As to Murphy though, all I can do is shake my head.

I don't even remember the last time I had a stomach ache, and the last time I had a similar back spasm was back in 2007.  Why in the world would this happen to me on one of the most important weekends in the season, and two different things on two separate days to boot?  It's not like I believe in Murphy's Law and consciously worry about it happening.  I don't even think about it until it strikes, but when it does it's seriously annoying.

I looked up Murphy's Law on the internet today and found several different versions of it.  Here they are for your entertainment.  I know I had a chuckle when I read some of them.
  • If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong
  • If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then
  • If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which a procedure can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, which you are unprepared for, will promptly develop
  • If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something
  • Nature always sides with the hidden flaw
  • Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first
And last but not least my favourite one for it has happened to me so many times in one way or another:
  • When there is a very long road upon which there is a one-way bridge placed at random, and there are only two cars on that road, it follows that: (1) the two cars are going in opposite directions and (2) they will always meet at the bridge
No kidding.  Whenever there is a blockage on the road allowing for only one car to pass and I see another car coming from the opposite direction, no matter how much I try to adjust my speed to ensure a smooth passage, the other car will arrive at the blockage at the same time as me.  This particularly loves to happen when there is a bicyclist that needs to be passed.  Seriously, I'm not making this up.

So there you have it, here is my rant for this lovely Monday afternoon.  I'm feeling better today by the way, not 100% yet but the worse has passed.  Of course, it's not weekend anymore and Murphy is back asleep.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings

It is always exciting to open the door and go out 
into the garden for the first time on any day.
- Marion Cran

Good morning my dear friends! Second day of the weekend is here and it's just as gorgeous as the first. According to the forecast we can expect summer like temperatures this whole upcoming week with night lows not dipping below 14°C. That is really a music to my ears as I'm transplanting all my seedlings into their permanent locations and wouldn't want night temperatures like what we had this past week. Friday low was only 1°C. Oh, horror.

The best thing about warm late spring nights is that in the morning the temperature is comfortable enough to go outside to the back porch, bask in the early morning sun before it gets too hot, and listen to the birds sing. And oh, do they ever sing.  Especially one of them.  I don't know what bird it is, I can't clearly see it through the tree foliage but it's been singing its little heart out all morning.  It's quite beautiful.

So far I'm on the mark to achieve what I set out to achieve this weekend.  Half of my tomatoes and cucumbers as well as all of the green beans have been transplanted and mulched.  Many big containers with soil are already lined up on the deck ready for the seedlings to be planted which will be done today.  Today the rest of the tomatoes and cucumbers will go in as well as the broccoli, swiss chard and sunflowers.

And now of course, before I start anything I'll make my morning tea and take it to the back porch to drink.  The concert is still going on outside and I don't want to miss much of it.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk: What is your favourite hot beverage?

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea
T.S. Eliot

Good morning my lovely friends and happy Saturday.  What a glorious Saturday morning it is. Today I'll be transplanting my seedlings into the ground and some into the outdoor containers.  I can hardly wait to start.

Before I grab a shovel and get to work however, I have to have my morning tea.  Today instead of trying something new, I chose to indulge in my all time favourite green brew: the Dragonwell.

The funny thing about Dragonwell green tea is that I didn't like it the very first time I tried it.  I have just given up the tea bags and was making a switch to the loose tea.  I wanted some good loose green tea and a lot of people out there raved about Dragonwell which is one of the most popular green teas in China.  I figured it with such a popularity, there must be something good about it.

I ordered my first batch from David's Tea and anxiously waited for the shipment to arrive.  I was thrilled when it finally got here.  I opened the package, threw some leaves into the teapot, heated up the water and steeped it all for several minutes.  Then I lifted the cup to my nose and took a whiff.

What in a world is that?

I wasn't impressed.  My green tea smelled like spinach, sautéed vegetables or something of that sort. At that time I wasn't sure if my green should be smelling like that.  None of the tea bags ever did.  I didn't know what to think about it and I didn't like it.

Utter disappointment.

Couple of days later I found myself thinking about Dragonwell again.  Despite the initial disappointment I wanted to give it another try.  For some reason I was strangely drawn to this tea so I steeped another cup. This time, the aroma didn't outrage me.  It soothed me.

The rest is a history.  Within days Dragonwell got deep under my skin and I couldn't imagine starting
my day without it.  I went from hating the smell to craving it every morning.  How absolutely weird is that?

Today Dragonwell is a staple in my tea cabinet.  It's a tea I start most of my days with and can't imagine running out.  Speaking of running out, my stash is currently at dangerously low level and just few days ago I placed an order with Teavivre for a new shipment.  It should get here in about 3 weeks but I think I have enough left to sustain me until then.  This coming shipment will be very special because it will contain this spring's harvest of Dragonwell, harvest which took place April 12, 2015. Now that's some fresh green tea!

How about you my friends?  What is your favourite hot beverage?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Kitty Corner

Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want. 
- Joseph Wood Krutch

Good afternoon my dear friends, it's Friday!  I am ridiculously excited at the prospect of this upcoming weekend.  Besides the regular sleeping in, it's also the weekend when I'll be transplanting all my seedlings into the garden.  I can hardly wait.

It's been a while since I talked about our kitty cats.  Ever since Nibble took residence in our home, their lives have been turned upside down with a little squirrel running about the house and them not being allowed to touch it.  And that said squirrel has been stealing all the love and attention that they have been enjoying exclusively until now. I can imagine, that must be very hard for a cat.  I do what I can to ensure them that all the love and attention is still there for them but I have a sneaking suspicion that emotions are running high sometimes.  Especially with Oliver.

Hercules is of a mellow nature and handles added temptations and adversities pretty well. I often find him sprawled in front of Nibble's cage, observing him closely and thinking his secret cat thoughts. Once Nibble is out of the cage however, Hercules gets out of the way and observes him from a distance.  I don't really have to worry about Hercules attacking little Nibble although I never take that chance.

Oliver is quite a different story.  I always thought that Hercules was the THE hunter around here but it turns out that Oliver has him beat. Or maybe it's that Hercules is getting older and doesn't want to bother the way that he used to. Either way, I'm quite sure that Oliver's heart desire these days is to catch Nibble and teach him a profound life lesson that a cat is only capable of.  When we take Nibble out of his cage we always have to make sure that we know where Oliver is and if he is close by we don't let Nibble to roam freely. Oliver is extremely fast and it would only take a second for Nibble to get hurt.  As a matter of fact, we had a little scare last week when Oliver came out of nowhere and attempted to pounce on our little friend.  I was outside with Nibble, letting him run in the grass for a bit, and I thought Oliver was in the house.  Apparently not.  Nibble realized the danger and assumed a battle pose with some grunting sound effects included, but I was there to stop Oliver from fulfilling his desire and it all ended well.

As terrifying as the concept of Oliver getting the best of little Nibble is, there is a positive side to it all. Nibble has to learn that cats are predators and danger is ever so present and lurking around every corner.  If anything, Oliver is teaching him that.

Our cats are learning a much needed lesson too.  You can't have all that you want.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Who Am I?

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” 
- Aristotle

After reading Jan's beautiful post about who she really is, I knew I had to write a similar post about myself. Maybe through her captivating words, I came to a realization that I know myself well enough and I'm comfortable enough to do it.

So who is it that I really am?  In truth, I'm a spiritual nomad. I don't belong to any groups, I walk my path completely alone. I'm not a practicing witch but I'm a witch at heart who sometimes indulges in Buddhist literature.  One day I feel like a witch, one day I feel mindful like a monk and others I feel like both.  There are also days when I feel like none of the above.  To some people this might not make any sense but to me, it's light as a day.

I was born and raised as Roman Catholic but I've always had questions about my religion that nobody could satisfyingly answer.  Half way through my thirties I realized that Christianity was no longer serving me.  It was time to let it go.  Leaving religion behind was probably the hardest and scariest thing I have ever done.  My parents, devout Catholics, understood and I thank them for that with all my heart.  Being able to be myself in front of my loved ones and be open about who I really am means a world to me.

Today I'm not part of any religion but I'm also not an atheist.  I'm comfortable knowing that I simply do not know who we are, why we are here and what happens to us when we leave this mortal coil. I'm okay with that.  I'm open to all possibilities although I don't hold any firm beliefs.  Deep down inside, I'm very spiritual and I draw this spirituality from the very world around me.  I feel connection with the Universe and every living thing in it, be it an animal or a plant.  When I celebrate, I celebrate Nature. Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Fall Equinox, Samhain as well as every full moon are very important to me but I do not perform any specific rituals (I do dress up as a witch during Samhain though). My celebration is acknowledging what's taking place and my ritual is simply being out there drawing on Mother Earth's energy.  Easter and Christmas to me are family traditions rather than religious celebrations and I enjoy them both very much.

I live my life by one commandment only: Live and Let Live.  I believe that everyone is entitled to freedom and should be able to do what they want to do as long as they don't knowingly hurt anyone. Once you hurt someone, all bets are off and you deserve the karmic lesson that will come your way. My life is full of such lessons and I respect that.  Nobody is perfect.

Although I'm not religious, I respect those that are.  I believe that every religion holds some pieces to the great puzzle that our Universe is.  If only spirituality and science could come together for good, then maybe we could have a better understanding of who we really are and what the world around us is really made out of.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Macro Wednesday: Dandelion Seed Heads

"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”
-Dorothea Lange

Happy Wednesday my dear friends!  I hope this day finds you in great spirit and health.

My field of dandelions in the yard is slowly changing into a field of dandelion seed heads.  My hubby mowed the lawns after Mother's Day was over, but of course they've all come back as dandelions do. Now our lawn is filled with sea of beautiful puff balls and photographer in me cannot just sit and watch without trying to capture the moment.  Please click on the picture to see blown up image.

I believe that beauty is all around us as long as we are bothered to look.  Somebody looks at the field of dandelion puff balls and says they look ugly.  I lower myself to the ground to take a closer look at them and I say they are beautiful.

Mother Nature is the most intricate of all artists.  Her work is an amazing combination of beauty and purpose.  A tiny dandelion seed, equipped with a delicate parachute breaks away from the base and flies in the wind propagating wide and far.  Now, that is art.

Every year when the puff balls form I take my camera and get to work.  It doesn't matter how many pictures I already have, I can't help it.  They are like a magnet drawing me in with their enticing beauty. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Garden Update

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece” 
- Claude Monet

It's been a while since I've updated on my garden and things have been growing like crazy. We've been hit with stretches of hot, sunny, summer like weather and most of my babies have been loving it. Lettuce is the only one that would prefer rather cooler temperatures. Poor things wilt and cry for help when the hot spell hits.

It's such a pleasure to walk around the garden and see everything bloom and grow.  My raspberries have been working very hard, putting out new shoots non stop and now they have started blooming as well. That means some fresh, sweet fruit is on the way!

 Strawberries have not been lagging behind.  They are full of beautiful white flowers which will turn into delicious fruit in less than a month.

Onions look like an army of little soldiers.  Standing on guard in the yard. :D

And here is the lettuce I've mentioned.  Romaine lettuce tolerates heat rather well, it's the red lettuce that is not having fun in hot and humid conditions.  It's growing in partly shaded area so that should help a little I hope.

My sweet peas and pea sugar pods are all out now and growing fast.  I can't wait till we'll be able to go and get a handful of delicious sweet peas for dessert.  Yes, dessert.  Angel and I love to go into the garden after dinner and pick some.

This year I'm growing my potatoes some in containers and some in the ground due to limited amount of space in my garden.  Potatoes are one of those veggies that  should not be grown in the same spot over and over again because they pick up diseases really fast.  The prime spot for my potatoes was used last year and so this year it's containers and a little sunny spot on the side of the house.  It will have to do.

They have already broken through the soil twice.  Last time as soon as they peaked through, I covered them up again with extra 2-3 inches of soil, peat moss and crushed leaves.  Now they are out again and this time I'll let them grow a little before I bury them again.  Potatoes grow in mounds of soil.

This long weekend I planted the brussels sprout plants into the ground.  We are expecting couple of super cold nights this week but brussels sprouts are very hardy and I'm sure they will survive with no problem. I love watching them grow.  They've been in the ground for just couple of days and I already see them getting bigger.  These guys are going to grow fast.

Remember my tiny wee tomatoes?  These sweethearts have been planted in March and have grown into rather handsome studs.  I was planning to get them into the ground this past weekend but because of the cold spell this coming week, I decided to wait a little while longer, possibly until Saturday.

Cucumber plants are not far behind.  They already have a month under their belt which means in less than a month we'll have our first yummy cucumbers.  Their big day will be Saturday as well.

And then there is zucchini.  I've planted six of these guys just in case some don't come out but they've all shown up for duty.  I only need four.  Looks like I'm going to do some gorilla gardening. ;P

Hopefully the cold spell which starts tonight is the last one for this season.  Tonight our temperatures supposed to drop to bone chilling 2°C and that is simply not fun for some of the veggies.  Mother Nature should put her bag of tricks away.   It's time to grow some food.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Nibble Update

“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”
— Terry Tempest Williams

It's time for a little update about our little friend Nibble.  Remember him?

Nibble on the juneberry tree
He is still with us.  Efforts to try and reconnect him with his mother have failed.  Actually, to think of it, I'm seeing precious few squirrels around here these days. Have you noticed that life is always like that?  When you don't need something, it seems to be everywhere but when you do need it, it's nowhere to be found?

All things considered, it looks like we'll be playing squirrel parents for some time longer, although I'm not sure how long.  Nibble is definitely growing and getting more energetic by the day.  He is now nibbling on the walnuts and even tried to get the pistachio out of its shell although without much luck.  His most favourite food is still avocado though.  He is totally crazy for it.  I think I'm going to have to wean him off of it eventually because once he is out there, there will be no avocados lying around.  He has to learn to crack these nuts!

Nibble in the grass
Couple of times a day we take Nibble outside for his daily exercise. He runs really fast and has tendency to hide which is good but he doesn't want to climb the trees just yet. We have a short juneberry tree in our yard that we put Nibble on and most of the time he carefully lowers himself down to the ground.  I have hope however, because yesterday he made a dart for one of the taller branches.  

One of the best places for his daily exercise however, is the trampoline.  We have a big trampoline in our yard with a tall net.  I put Nibble on the net and he climbs up and down repeatedly. On the trampoline, his instinct is to go up and he usually gets to the tallest point and sits there for a while.  When he has had enough he comes to the edge of the trampoline and jumps on one of us. Yes, he jumps.  I'm a lot more optimistic about his future now. :D

Being a very young squirrel, most of his days are spent sleeping and I'm guessing he's doing most of his growing during sleep. I've noticed that he is most active during early morning hours, that's when he is rattling about in his cage, trying to pick a lock with his teeth.  He is a smart little one.

Nibble has made so much progress during his first week with us that I can't wait to see what the next week will bring.  Time will only tell.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings

Of all the days that's in the week
I dearly love but one day
And that's the day that comes betwixt
A Saturday and Monday.
~Henry Carey

Good morning my lovely friends on this Sunday that feels like Saturday.  

Why you might ask?

Because here in Canada we are enjoying our first long weekend of the season.  It's Victoria Day weekend, or May two-four weekend and hence tomorrow we have another day off.

Weather wise it couldn't be better.  Mother Nature has been kind to us.  It's mid twenties Celsius with lots of sunshine but not too much humidity.  It's funny to talk about humidity here in Ontario in May but we've had couple of super hot and humid days already.  Last weekend was pretty hot indeed.  I don't want to jinx anything but it looks like we might have a nice summer this year.  That would be very nice, since last year we barely had summer at all.

I'm probably going to spend an entire day in the garden, mostly weeding and cleaning up a bit.  All my plants are growing like crazy but so do weeds.  It's a never-ending struggle to keep my babies free from uninvited company.

Not all uninvited company is undesirable though.  Here is a photo of sweet violets (Viola Odorata) that grow like wild fire on my back lawn and keep creeping into my vegetable beds.  They are simply gorgeous and did you know they were edible?

Indeed they are.  The entire plant with leaves and flower head is edible.  I love picking a leaf as I walk by and munch on it.  I also put them in my salads.  I let them grow wherever they want except for my vegetable beds. 

Now it's time to have my morning tea and head back outside.  It's too beautiful out there to be stuck indoors. 


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk: Organic Tian Mu Mao Feng Green Tea

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. 
~Thich Nat Hahn

Good morning my dear friends!  It's glorious Saturday and I'm feeling a million times better today than yesterday.  I feel rested, refreshed and looking forward towards this weekend.  We have some beautiful weather in store, mid twenties Celsius and sunshine.  I couldn't ask for more.

This morning's tea is a lot more special because I'm having it in the tea cup my kids gave me on Mother's Day.  I moved the flowers to another mug and washed the cup for my first use.  I couldn't wait until the flowers died and why should I.  This way I can enjoy the flowers and the tea cup. :)

The tea I picked for this beautiful spring morning is Organic Tian Mu Mao Feng green tea from Teavivre.  I got the free sample of it with my last Teavivre order. 

When I first cut the sample package open I was pleasantly surprised.  The leaves looked and smelled great! They were long, tightly rolled with vibrant dark green colour and they smelled fresh, vegetal and buttery.  Everything I could possibly want in a green tea.

The tea cup my kids gave me is of a fair size, probably about 2 standard cups so I steeped a good amount of tea, about a flat tablespoon (the tablespoon one uses to eat, about 5-7 grams) in 79°C water for about 1.5 minutes.  The resulting brew was light golden in colour with a pleasant sweet, vegetal aroma.  I took my cup outside to drink and sipped it while soaking up sun rays and grounding myself with Mother Earth.

The taste did not disappoint me.  The tea was delicious.  It was sautéed spinach with butter in a cup with added sweetness.  As the tea cooled there was a hint of an astringency that tickled the sides of my tongue reminding me that I am in fact drinking tea.    

I've enjoyed this tea so much that I am considering a purchase.  I'll be ordering my usual Dragonwell from Teavivre this coming week and I will probably order a package of this as well.  It's a great tea for a price, almost half the price of Dragonwell but with loads of great taste.  And organic to boot!  I don't think I can say no to this. 


Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday This and That

“Fridays are the hardest in some ways: you’re so close to freedom.” 
- Lauren Oliver

Happy Friday my dear friends.  The quote is right, Friday does sometime seem the best and yet the hardest day of the week. Especially for sleep deprived silly people like myself. The weekend is almost here but not quite.  

I'm feeling rather exhausted and pulled in million different directions.  Do you ever feel like that? Between the things that have to be done and the things I really want to do, there is simply not enough time in the day to do them all.  Sometimes I wish we could have 48 hour days which would function just like the regular 24 hour days except we would have more time to do things we really want to do.

On the bright note, my garden fills my heart with happiness every time I go out to look at it.  Pretty much everything that supposed to bloom is blooming right now.  Today's picture is of my bleeding hearts which dazzle me with their beauty every spring.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.
–William Styron

Another day has passed, another book has been read.  Last night I finally finished the Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King which is fifth book of his Dark Tower series.  It took me a little while to read it because first of all it has 700 pages, and second of all, I am super busy and don't have much time for reading even though I really want too.  Usually, by the time I'm able to pick up a book, it's night and I'm tired and I can't read for very long.

So far, I'm really enjoying the Dark Tower series.  At first I found it difficult to get into, because the first book in the series, The Gunslinger, was feeling very slow for me.  I picked it up several times but I've always put it away after a little while.  Last year I finally decided to stick with it no matter what, and eventually got past the slow point.  I should have known that was going to happen because King's books are like that sometimes.  You just have to  have patience and see the book through.

The second book in the series, The Drawing of The Three, completely pulled me in and just like that I was hooked on the series.

Wolves of the Calla was an excellent read, well developed and full of action.  I don't think there was a slow page in this book.  Here the story of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy is continued as they slowly make their way to the Black Tower.  Along the way they happen upon the farming village of Calla Bryn Sturgis where they learn of the horrors the townsfolk have been going through for many generations.  Calla's children are being abducted once every generation by the masked and hooded Wolves from Thunderclap.  Only twins are being abducted, one of each set, and taken by the Wolves only to be returned months later, mentally handicapped, destined for much shortened and painful existence. Who these Wolves are and why are they ruining beautiful and bright children, nobody seems to know.

It's hard to read books like that as a mother without reflecting upon my own children and their well being.  Stories like this make me realize how grateful I am for all of my children and the fact that they are healthy and safe.

Now on to a new adventure.  No matter how little time I have, I'll keep plugging along.  Pick up another book and do my best to read it as much as I can every day.

I've been dying to read The Road by Cormac McCarthy for quite some time now, but I think I'll stop off at the Messenger by Lois Lowry first.  This book is next in The Giver quartet and rather tightly connected to the Gathering Blue I've read recently.  At only 169 pages this will be a quick and delightful read.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nibble likes avocados

“Doubt … is an illness that comes from knowledge and leads to madness.” 
- Gustave Flaubert

Happy Wednesday my dear friends, middle of the week already!  Time is running away from me as usual.

Partially responsible for that is of course Nibble who's been taking a lot of our attention here lately.  I was very happy to find out that he is crazy for avocados, because that is one very nutritious fruit.  As I mentioned yesterday, I did get him some puppy milk replacement formula but he doesn't appear to like it very much.  I'm not worried about that though.  So far he's been peeing and pooping regularly so I'm guessing he is getting enough food and drink.

As the reality of raising a baby squirrel sets in, so do doubts and questions.  As cute and adorable as he is, he is not a toy and in order to live out there in the yard he has to grow and learn a lot of things. Things that I can only hope to be able to teach him.  The best of course would be to reunite him with his momma, and I am trying, but it's not looking so good.  I think the nest he was in got destroyed by the crows because I have not seen any movement on that tree since.

In order to get released back he's going to have to be able to chew, crack open the nuts, and be strong enough to jump.  He's going to have to learn to jump.  That doesn't seem like much but for him it is, and unfortunately I'm not a squirrel and I can't teach him everything he needs to learn.

All I can do is take it one day at a time and see how it goes.  Today I gave him some local twigs with young leaves in addition to the avocado and the water.  I was happy to see that he took an interest in the twig and tried to chew on it.  Squirrels supposed to chew on things... a lot.  Get these teeth sharp Nibble!

Later this week if he is still with us, I'll get him some nuts.  He's going to have to learn to chew on those sometime soon.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Meet Little Nibble

Nature reserves the right to inflict upon her children the most terrifying jests. 
~Thornton Wilder

What a day we all had here yesterday.  Meet our new little friend: Nibble.

Nibble is a baby squirrel that fell out of the tree yesterday.  For real.  Here is the story:

I was tending to new emerging potato plants (yes!) when I heard a rustle in the nearby pine tree and then a terrible screech.  It was comparable to a wounded puppy.  I left my potatoes alone and walked up to the tree to investigate the racket.

I found something I've never seen before.  Up at the top of the tree there were two crows attacking a squirrel's nest and there was a baby squirrel hanging from the branch, holding on for dear life.  One of the crows swooped down and knocked the baby squirrel right off of the branch and the little thing fell from the top of the tree to the very bottom branch.  The crow immediately followed and so did I.  I grabbed the baby squirrel before the crow got to him (I think it's a him) and brought it inside the house with me.  I've seen a crow eat a baby rabbit before, so I knew what could happen to this little guy if I didn't hide him.

What a little sweetheart.

I've never cared for the baby squirrel so I looked up baby squirrel care on the internet and made him an electrolyte solution to keep him hydrated.  He can't drink it directly yet, so I've put the solution in the little shallow bowl and dipped cheesecloth in it to soak up the liquid.  When he is thirsty, he sucks on the cheesecloth.  It works pretty well, I can hear him swallowing. The cheesecloth is of all natural type so he is not sucking up anything harmful.

When Angelina came home she was both horrified of the story and thrilled to be able to see the baby squirrel up close and hold him.  I have to say, I have never seen a baby squirrel in real life either. What a wonderful life lesson.

Nibble was very taken with Angelina and enjoyed being held by her.  At one point he really wanted to climb on her leg so we let him.  As soon as he accomplished that, he promptly fell asleep.

This morning Nibble is doing great and just few minutes ago he peed on my shirt.  I was very happy to see this because that most likely means he is taking in his liquids and is not dehydrated.  I'll be leaving in few minutes to get him some milk at the pet store.  I've heard puppy replacement formula is good for baby squirrels.  He doesn't appear to be wanting solid foods yet as I offered a berry and a banana but without too much luck.  I've heard they love pine nuts and avocados, so I'll be trying that later on today.

Based on the fact that his eyes are open, he has teeth and looks like a miniature squirrel, I've estimated his age to be about 8 weeks.  That's still pretty young and  he has ways to go.

We will try to reunite him with his momma later today.  We've tried yesterday but without much luck.  If we don't find her, we will raise him and release him back to the yard when he is ready.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Monday Thoughts

“It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” 
― Mother Teresa

Welcome to the new week friends!  I hope everyone had a great weekend and all the ladies had wonderful Mother's Day.

It was hard to wake up this morning.  I'm tired but very happy.  We've had a busy weekend here but filled with lots of family fun.  It's great to see everyone ever so often.  The weather turned out simply amazing with lots of sunshine so we were able to gather outside, barbecue and enjoy the garden.

For Mother's Day I got some most precious gifts that I appreciate with my whole heart.

My hubby surprised me with a petite bouquet of beautiful flowers in addition to the fields of dandelions he allowed to grow on our lawns.

My older children got me another petite bouquet arranged in a gorgeous tea cup which I'll be able to use for tea after the flowers are no more.

And then Angelina surprised me with a beautiful hand made card and some creative drawing.  The card had a pocket in form of a teacup in which I found an actual tea bag.  I loved it!

Unfortunately I wasn't able to see my Mom because she got called into work yesterday but my Dad was able to make it and took home the little gift I put together for her.  I hope she enjoys it.  It was a pot of Dark Get Mee Campanula for her balcony and a bottle of red wine.  I heard someone mention once that you should always give your Mom a bottle of wine for Mother's Day, because afterall, she drinks because of you.  Ha ha ha... Well, my Mom happens to love red wine so for whatever reason she drinks, I know she'll enjoy it very much.