Monday, May 31, 2010

Marvelous Monday!

It's Marvelous Monday once again!  And although I have a TON of work to do - it's year end for our business and I have a GST filing due today on top of all the rest of the bookkeeping to catch up on, I am still determined to be thankful.  

And I am truly thankful today for this - 

Our pool! We had our first day in the pool for the season on Saturday. It was a wonderful hot sunny day and I was so glad to have the pool in use in May already!

Our pool is nothing fancy - it's just an above ground pool, but I am so thankful for it. I wanted a pool badly for so many reasons but the amazing thing is that once we got it, I soon realized the biggest benefit is one I had never thought of. It turns out that our pool is one of the greatest "communication agents" in our marriage. I know, I know, it sounds strange. But here's the thing - all fall and winter long, we spend each evening either watching tv, reading, on the computer, or rushing off to meetings. None of those things is conducive to conversation. So while hubby and I do take time to chat, it's usually about business or family stuff.

Then comes the summer - and the pool - and suddenly we are spending every evening floating around in the pool where there is no tv, no computer, no books (well, if I'm alone I do confess that I quite often float on my raft with a book in hand but not when my husband is with me), no meetings, just SILENCE and PEACE.  And suddenly we find ourselves talking about all kinds of things like our dreams, and hopes, and inspirations, the things that tickle us, the things that make us sad, the nonsense things that we don't often have time to talk about and the deep things that we don't always take the time to talk about.  And every summer I find myself falling deeper in love with my husband because the more I get to know him, the more I realize what a treasure I have.  

So this Marvelous Monday, I am truly thankful for our pool and that summer is here again!

It turns out that I'm not as original as I thought I was! Apparently someone else has come up with the idea of Marvelous Monday before me. I thought it was an awfully good idea and I guess too good for only me to have thought of it.  :D  So here's a link to Marvelous Monday at Three Butterflies and a Monkey, someone I don't know yet but hope to get to know - since she's obviously quite brilliant for sharing my Marvelous Monday idea!  :D

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Roses & Rodents & Humans, Oh my!

What a glorious Sunday!  We've been enjoying our ROSES which are just coming into bloom.

I'm particularly happy with this rose that is finally big enough to start climbing over our pool fence and trellis.  I planted it 2 years ago and it is coming along beautifully.

I just love this shade of pink especially against the "aged grey" look of the fence boards and trellis.

I planted this Betty Boop rose two years ago as well.  I love that at different stages of the bloom, some of them have yellow and others are more white.  Really makes a stunning display.

Can't remember the name of this one but I LOVE it!

And now for the RODENT portion of today's post ....

I have to confess that I don't like many rodents, but I am extremely fond of CHIPMUNKS!   When we lost our outdoor cat two years ago, I was heartbroken, but I have been happy to see that our chipmunk population is gradually being restored since the cat's demise.  I have been attempting to tame the cute little creatures so I've been putting peanuts out every so often and I do see one chipmunk quite regularly collecting them.

This morning was a lazy Sunday morning when we got to sleep in and then have breakfast out on the deck.  While we were sitting there with our coffee, we heard a rustling and suddenly not one, not two, not three, but SIX chipmunks appeared!  Actually there were two adults and four babies.  So adorable!    

Here the four little ones are playing around with each other. 

They played very much like kittens, hiding and then pouncing on each other.  Very cute!

Looks like the mother is trying to keep the youngsters in line.  :)

In this picture it looks like she's giving one of them a scolding, or maybe washing his ears!  

I got out the bag of peanuts and convinced one of the adults to come quite close.  I wasn't expecting that he was going to touch my toe though and I was a wee bit nervous he might mistake it for a peanut. 

And finally here's a shot of our home where roses, rodents, and humans all coexist with great happiness.

I hope everyone in blogland is having a wonderful, restful Sunday like we are!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Objet trouve: a natural or discarded object found by chance and held to have aesthetic value (noun, etymology French).

I need some advice!  Today I discovered two "found objects" and I'm not quite sure what to do with them.

The first one is a "volunteer" plant:

It just appeared in the bottom of this unused planter.  I hate to throw it away because I suspect it's not a weed, but I have no idea what it is!

Here's a close up:

I'm thinking that it might be a watermelon, a zucchini, or a cucumber.  Any thoughts?

My next item is totally different.  Occasionally people drop off scrap metal at my husband's shop because they know he takes regular trips in to the scrap yard.  If I have time, I like to poke through the piles because I never know what interesting things I might find.  I discovered this really cool item a few months ago but I haven't decided what to do with it.  I'd like to use it in my garden somehow but I'm not sure where or how.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

It's about one foot in length and is quite heavy metal.  I love the look of it, it sort of reminds me of a violin or treble clef.

So all input, advice, suggestions would be greatly appreciated! 

And finally, I "found" this item 

Over at my friend Java's awesome blog "Never Growing Old".  If you want to participate (and you're lucky enough to be over 40) head on over and check it out!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm ma bee, I'm ma bee, I'm ma bee the flyest chick!

I have a thing for bees, I admit it.  It all stems from this book I read as a child called "The Keeper of the Bees" by Gene Stratton-Porter that made beekeeping into some idyllic, mysterious pastime that had magical healing properties. When the bees arrive on our blossoms in Spring, my heart leaps a little inside knowing they are home. When fumbling bumbling bumble bees alight nearby, I can't resist the urge to reach out and stroke their soft fuzzy bodies for a second before they move on to another pollen-filled flower. Bees just fill me with an inexplicable feeling of peace. I like bees.

So you can imagine my excitement a few years ago when a bee swarm appeared in one of the trees in our orchard! I rushed over to the shop to tell my husband. I rushed back home to show him the bees. I rushed to the house to phone my dad. Really, I was buzzing around pretty much like a bee myself. Fortunately my dad is an experienced beekeeper so he came and caught our swarm and installed it in a hive for us. We were so excited! We had bees. We would have honey! Oh, my little world was now complete.

For the entire summer the bees buzzed happily gathering pollen, making honey and making the hive into their new home. Periodically I would go and stand all brave and courageous beside my bee hive, thinking sweet thoughts of honey and feeling spiritually in tune with my bees. But then it came time to harvest the honey, and suddenly the idyllic feelings came to an abrupt halt. The bottom line is that neither my husband or I has any experience with bees and it became alarmingly apparent that we were both very afraid of being stung!

We had no beekeeping equipment, but still I forged naively on. I know enough from watching my dad when I was a kid that even if you don't have an official smoker, you can create the necessary smoke to subdue those stingers with some rolled-up newspaper and a couple of matches. We both donned pairs of my husband's overalls to ensure that minimal amounts of our skin would be exposed to potential stings. I have a couple of bug hats with netting designed to keep out mosquitoes, so we put those on too along with work gloves to protect our hands. And then, quaking in our rubber boots (I figured they would cover more of our bodies than mere shoes), we ventured forth from the house looking, I am sure, as bizarre as we ever have done.

We marched resolutely to the hive, smoking newspaper waving to and fro like a sad imitation of an olympic torch. We encircled the hive with smoke, we thought the bees were subdued. With great trepidation and a heart that was pounding with nerves, I lifted the lid off of the hive. The bees began to get agitated! They were not sufficiently subdued at all! Someone, make that two large someones, were invading their hive and they were not happy! The buzzing escalated quickly from a gentle drone to the loud harsh tones of a chainsaw! The bees were no longer flying happily in and out of the hive - they were circling like warplanes looking for a target!

And somehow, in spite of our many layers of protection, a number of bees managed to find their sneaky way underneath my overalls and into my bra! Yes, into my BRA!  I began shrieking madly and jumping up and down hysterically! My husband was circling me frantically wondering what he was supposed to do. I ran for the house, pulling clothing off willy-nilly as I went. Then suddenly I heard a howl from my husband. They had found him too! He also began running madly for the house and as I watched him I was surprised to see how high he could jump midstride whenever a bee found a home for its stinger! He would run two or three paces and then leap wildly into the air with a shout before landing on one foot and continuing to run. Meanwhile, I was still hauling bees out of my bra and slapping madly at my body with my bug hat which, having failed to keep the sweet innocent insects out of my clothes, was now being used rather ineffectually as a sort of "bee swatter." I have no idea if any of the neighbours were watching but I can only imagine how it must have appeared had they have happened to look out the window at that particular moment. Finally we collapsed in the house in hysterical laughter, covered in bee stings in unmentionable places, high on adrenaline, and relieved to be safe inside and far from the hive.

I would like to say that we waited a couple of days and returned to the hive once we had figured out a better plan of action, gathered the honey, leaving enough for the bees for the winter, and then closed it up safely for the season, but truthfully we decided that the bees could have all the honey to themselves. I did gingerly sneak over and replace the lid so that the bees would be protected from invasion by mice, etc. However in the Spring, we discovered that all the bees were gone, along with the honey that they had obviously consumed over the winter. I suspect they waited out the season and then took off in the Spring in a fit of disgust over having such ridiculous humans in their vicinity.

I do see lots of bees on our property every year and I wonder from time-to-time if they are part of the same swarm, now living wild and free in some hive they've found for themselves in an old tree or something.  I do love to take pictures of bees and I do still pet the occasional bumble bee. But otherwise, I leave the bees alone to do their work and collect pollen and produce honey without any interference on my part. And so far I haven't been stung again so I think they are quite happy with this "I'll leave you alone if you'll leave me alone" policy that we have adopted.

Which leads me to this great parody of the Black Eyed Peas - and a great reminder that bees are not totally innocent and idyllic.  :)

Imma Bee, Imma Bee

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Donkey Sanctuary

Today I visited The Donkey Sanctuary for the first time, something I've been wanting to do for a few years now. It has been an unseasonably hot day so it was a bit uncomfortable unless you were right in the shade, but other than that, it was a beautiful day to visit as there were hardly any people there and everything is so lush and green right now.

If you're interested in more information, you can find their website here:  The Donkey Sanctuary. It is really quite heart-warming to see how this organization is helping to rescue unwanted and abused donkeys and give them a wonderful home. Right now they have around 100 donkeys, 60 of them on the sanctuary property and 40 of them fostered out. The property itself is absolutely beautiful and I definitely want to go back when it's not such a hot day to explore the hiking trails and the duck ponds.

But for now, here are some shots of our day:

The sanctuary is a lovely 100 acre farm situated in Puslinch, Ontario.

The philosophy of the sanctuary is to allow the donkeys to live as naturally as can be. Unless an animal needs special attention, they are left in a herd to come and go in and out of the barn as they wish. This picture shows an area of the barn where around 25 of the donkeys were standing in the shade.

The Gandhi quote in the background reads: "The greatness of a nation and it's moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated."

Drowsy in the shade.

It was fun to play with their huge ears, especially on this donkey since she loved having her ears scratched.  However it was horrible to see some of the donkeys were missing ears they had lost to frostbite when they were neglected by previous owners. 

Apparently donkeys form an egalitarian herd without the pecking order that horses have.  However, they do tend to seek out one particular friend that they become closer to and those two will spend time grooming each other and generally looking out for each other.

A strange "wooly donkey" has snuck in the barn to have some hay!   I particular liked the sign in the background which reads "Please do not feed fingers to the donkeys."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Archeological Dig in my Garden

Yesterday when I was planting our garden, I came across a selection of broken china shards that have surfaced since we last cultivated.

It reminded me so much of when I was a child and would spend hours playing outside in the summer. One of my favourite "games" was to play with all the pieces of broken pottery and china that would turn up every time some part of the farm was tilled. This was especially true of the garden closest to our house.

I loved to play with each piece of china and imagine what it had been in its previous life - a tea cup?  a dinner plate? I would spend hours making designs with the broken pieces - temporary mosaics that changed at a whim. And then I would try to imagine the very first person who owned the china and wonder what they were like and what they served to eat on the china. I think this is probably where I started to fall in love with fine china. And now, years later, I have many lovely (and unbroken!) tea cups, plates, etc. to play with.

And yet, still, when I came across these pieces yesterday,

they caught my fancy in a way that the cherished fine pieces that fill my china cabinets don't quite do. These two pieces look like they might have come from a plate. They are fairly heavy china and remind me a bit of the kind of plates that were used in old diners. Perhaps they belonged to my mother-in-law. I wish she was still here so I could ask her, because my husband is not likely to remember. He will remember a delicious meal in complete detail but never notice the plate it is served on!

It's probably partially caused by nostalgia for my childhood, but I still think there is something special about found china pieces. I think the mystery of the broken pieces is what attracts me ... I know that they were once something of beauty, treasured by a household and if they could speak, they would tell me the story of where they have been and whose lives they have touched. Which inevitably leads me to wonder who will find my pieces of china one day down the road? Will they turn up in some garden hundreds of years from now, shiny surfaces and colourful prints hidden beneath clumps of dirt?

I hope someday that my china will give another little girl great joy. That she will find the pieces and play with them, solitary games that fill her with a sense of beauty and of history, and teach her to love vibrant colours and delicate prints they way I do.  It almost (almost, but not quite) makes me want to leave a codicil in my will, that all my china be broken into pieces and discarded rather than leaving it intact to sit unused and bored on a cabinet shelf, when it could be scattered like seed in a garden, waiting to be found.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Marvelous Monday!

So, it's Marvelous Monday take two --- a tradition recently started which you can read about here if you are so inclined. Oh, I've had a WONDERFUL weekend so it's very easy to find lots of things for which I am thankful.

I am thankful for amazing Greek food...

eaten at one of our favourite beach side restaurants...

followed by a peaceful  lakeside walk with my husband.

I'm thankful for white sailboats against a blue sky...

that I can admire from afar while my feet are firmly planted on the shore, so there's no risk of me getting horribly seasick!

I'm thankful for my beautiful purple bearded iris that popped open this weekend...

and for our newly-planted garden and it's promise of delicious things to come.

I'm thankful for our first campfire...
and wiener roast of the season...

and for this male oriole who sang such a beautiful love song to his mate, providing us with the most incredible dinner music that no money can ever buy.

But mostly this long weekend, I'm thankful for this lady...

because even though I'm a complete anti-monarchist, I love having a long weekend in May. So Happy Birthday Queen Victoria! God save the queen. And God save the peasants from the queen. Because peasants rock and queens don't. The end.  :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fiction Addiction

Oh, I just found another author to fall madly in love with and I can't put her book down! Well, actually, I am now at the stage in the book - the very last chapter - wherein having read madly through the entire book, I now want to put the whole thing into slow-mo and make the rest of the book last as long as possible.  

Do you ever fall so head-over-heels in love with a book that you just don't want it to end? The characters are now like your very closest friends and the thought of closing the book on them is so very sad. It's terrible having to acknowledge the reality that they really aren't living next door and ready to pop over for a cup of tea at a moment's notice.

Part of the intrigue for me is that this particular book is set in Wales and everything Brit just seems so much more  wonderful. When the characters meet up in the local "pub" I just know it is that much more picturesque and cozy and everything-wonderful compared to say, a bunch of my friends hanging out at the local Tim Hortons! And the characters are just so incredibly endearing with their British accents - okay, so I totally have to imagine that since this isn't a book on tape but still, I just KNOW they sound incredibly witty and brilliant even when they're just asking for the loo!

Which has made me really stop and think - what is the matter with my own friends? They are a terrific lot - loyal, funny, kind, thoughtful. But something appears to be lacking since I am drawn over and over again to fictional characters as if they are the answer to my soul's need. If only my friends could stir their stumps and learn to speak with a British accent, or throw themselves madcap into some wild adventure. Perhaps if they could go back in time and create a little intrigue with a dirty weekend that produces an illegitimate child or two. Really, my friends are quite boring now that I think about it. Where is their sense of adventure???? Can they not see the need to sacrifice for the sake of our friendship??? Really!!  :)

All this makes me consider, however, how I would feel in real life if "Fran March" (heroine of the above pictured novel) really were my best friend and it occurs to me that the character I am drawn to in the pages of a book would probably irritate me to no end in real life. I mean the whole time I was reading the book, as much as I loved her character, I was given to sudden overwhelming urges to slap her upside the head and say "WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE - your husband is an ass!" And in real life, I'm pretty sure I would not be able to control that urge which I suspect might lead to the end of any budding friendship between good old Fran and I (not to mention an end to any cozy little pub meetings!). And then there's the whole - "I had a one-night stand and have no idea who the father of my child is" blip in the plot line. Oh, it makes for riveting reading (and hours of fodder for horrible day time TV) but in real life I just might be looking askance at any of my friends who actually found themselves in this unenviable position.

So I'm going back to finish the book now that I've given myself a little pep talk about not getting too emotionally involved with fictional characters. But just for the record, I still think at least one of my friends should consider adopting a British accent for the sake of the cause.  :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Recipe for a Fun Spring Day

I'm so glad my Mum and I were able to head to Niagara-on-the-Lake yesterday for our postponed "birthday trip" (her birthday, not mine.) The weather was perfect and because it's early in the season, there were no crowds - just a nice amount of people on the street for a change. In fact, when we first got there, it was almost like we had the whole village to ourselves!

We had fun window shopping. I was extremely tempted to purchase one of these "vintage-style" tea towels but at $7.00 a piece, I couldn't bring myself to do it. They were lots of fun though! My favourite read: "I do believe it's important to eat 3 square meals a day - that's why chocolates come in a box!" 

I did buy a new pair of sunglasses - Yeah for purple sunglasses!

We had lunch at the Shaw Cafe (chicken salad with walnuts, blue cheese, and poached pear for me, turkey club on a ciabatta bun for my Mum). It was so peaceful to sit on the patio listening to the fountain in their courtyard and enjoy the sunshine. Felt like a mini-European holiday! 

The town is beautifully maintained and we enjoyed the flowers so much.

Especially this amazing Japanese Tree Peony in front of someone's house.

Here's a close-up:

Today is a bit mundane after such a wonderful day, but I have had fun making two batches of rhubarb freezer jam. Here's the recipe for anyone interested:

6 cups of finely chopped rhubarb
3 cups of sugar
1 package of strawberry or raspberry Jello
enough water to cook the rhubarb

Mix the rhubarb and sugar and cook in a heavy-bottom pot with just enough water so it won't scald on the bottom. Bring it to the boil and then let it boil for at least 15 minutes. Take off of the heat and add the dry Jello powder stirring well to incorporate. Fill glass or plastic containers. Let cool then refrigerate or freeze.

I also discovered the most AMAZING scone recipe today sort of by accident. I wanted something delicious to bring to my husband for a snack this afternoon that would highlight some of the freshly-made rhubarb jam. So I decided to make scones and couldn't find my usual recipe so I googled one and tried it.

They tasted every bit as good as they look!  Here's the recipe:

Whisk together 2 c. all purpose flour, 1/4 c sugar, 2 tsp baking powder & 1/4 tsp salt.  Cut in 1/3 cup of cold butter (I used vegetable shortening). In separate bowl, beat together 1 egg, 1/2 c milk, 1 tsp. vanilla. Add to the flour/shortening mix. Mix just until incorporated. Make scone size balls and pat them into flat round shape. Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 375 for 18 minutes. The recipe made 8 really good size scones for me. The recipe said to knead and roll out the dough but I've always found that tends to make them a little tougher so I favour the "pat into a glob" technique instead. Although if you followed the original instructions, the scones would probably turn out much smoother on top then mine did. As you can see from the picture, mine look a little bumpety on top.  :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Marvelous Monday!

Don't you love that feeling of energy and "rightness" when you wake up one morning after being ill for a few days and finally feel like yourself?

(almost as much as you "love" ridiculous alliterative post titles?)

Oh, this morning was a wonderful morning!  My fever broke in the night and I woke feeling refreshed and renewed and basically like a million bucks!

So, in honour of this morning, and in the hopes that I won't take stuff (like my general good health) for granted in the future, I've decided to start a new tradition - "Marvelous Monday!" - in which I will commit to blogging every Monday about things for which I am thankful.  Usually I have a tendency to complain about Mondays and everything associated with them, so I might need you to keep me on track with this, but I do think I have a better chance of keeping this resolution than I do some of the others that ran through my deliriously-happy mind this morning.

(like that whole "I resolve to be a better housekeeper" thing which was pretty much doomed right from the get-go!)

So today I am feeling the marvelousness of this Monday and here is what I am thankful for today:  our vacant lot!  Yes, it is for sale, and yes, no one seems to be buying it BUT instead of complaining about this seeming inability of ours to turn this frozen asset into some cookin' hot cash, I am going to be thankful for it!  And seriously, I AM thankful for it because it is the most peaceful little spot you can imagine.

Every morning I walk my dogs over to our shop and visit our vacant lot that lies adjacent to our shop property.  It is surrounded with tall trees.  It has a shady little glen in the centre.

(that used to be the location of a broken-down street car inhabited by gypsies and other assorted alcoholic vagrants who accidentally burnt it down decades ago, but I digress.)  

It is beside our shop property on the east, and on the west and north it is embraced by a 40 acre stretch of nothingness (technically not nothingness, but rather a farm that is partially over-grown shrub land) with a gigantic pond in the centre of it, surrounded by more trees.  The point of all of this description is that I have discovered that our vacant lot is the ideal location for remarkable birds.  I think it's partially because of its close proximity to our neighbour's pond, and partially because of the beautiful trees, and partially because of the shrub land.  But probably, it is mostly because there are no residences near by.

This morning I discovered a cheerful little warbler there!  Here he is:

Well, he is there SOMEWHERE, sort of in a "Where's Waldo" kinda way!

Let's try again:

Oh wait, that's where he WAS -- two seconds before I snapped his photo! Cheeky little bird!

But seriously ....

There! Isn't he marvelous???  And I don't mean "mahvelous" in THIS SNL kind of way either!

Apparently he is a Blackburnian Warbler, and yes, I did have to haul out my Peterson's phone my Mum to identify him.

So on this inaugural "Marvelous Monday,"  I am thankful for our unsold vacant lot and for all the beautiful birds I spot there.  And for feeling 100% better now that I am finally over the flu!


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