As you can imagine, I get so crazy busy in the Spring and I was completely remiss in not sharing this story with you. I hope you can forgive me and go there yourself next year.
Back in May I was driving along Old Forest Hill Rd. and nearly caused a traffic accident (and nearly gave Ozzy whip lash). After I rubbed my eyes to make sure I wasn't dreaming, I fell completely in love. I would personally like to thank the lovely people who created (and paid for) such a gorgeous Spring display of colour. Without further ado.....Here are the pictures I took that day.
Here is a link to the intersection
It is just west of Spadina on Old Forest Hill Rd. Enjoy for next year!
I don't think that this would be a personal blog if I wasn't going allll the way and adding something personal. One of my customers, and you know who you are, gushed to me about a cheeky plain British singer named Susan Boyle. Yes, I know I know I know enough about Suan Boyle. But have you really heard her sing? I can honestly say this with out any shame. I have listened to this video about 20 times and I still get goose bumps. I don't love everything that she sings but I have to say that she nails this song. GO ON have a listen. This is for you :)
This past winter, my husband and I went to Jamaica for 10 days of fun and sun. We got off the plane changed our luggage, and got right back on the plane and went to England. Before going to this tropical paradise I started to do some research beyond where to stay and where to rent a car. I began to look at native brids, native trees, native butterflies etc... There is a question that always fascinates me. "What is it about this landscape that contributes to the particular adaptablilites of these species?" Of my findings I discovered that Jamaica has a native 6" butterfly, and that their national fruit is the Ackee. I had never heard of this fruit before. I resisted the temptation to look at it on the internet, when I discovered that it would be ripe just at the time that we were there. Better to see it in the flesh, so to speak.
It turns out that getting any ackee would be a little life risking. With out knowing what the tree looked like "in person" we had to rely on the fruit stalls along the side of the high way. So, here was the dilemma. Have you ever driven in Jamaica? I thought not, so let me tell you it is no easy feat. People only honk in Jamaica to let you know that they are passing you at break-neck speeds. So, trying to find a fruit stand on our way to the Blue Mountains (grogeous coffee) that had the fruit, and there was a safe place to pull over was not for the faint of heart. We perservered, and I was for the princely sum of 100J ($1.39 CAD) the proud new owner of a dozen fresh picked ackee fruit.
Here are 4 things that we didn't know about ackee before eating it.
1. It is extremely poisonous in the very center if you eat the red bits.
2. It should not be eaten raw, (avoiding the red bit) not that you'll get sick, it just that it tastes utterly terrible.
3. The fruit must naturally open from it's skin to to be considered ripe.
4. It is THE strangest looking fruit we had ever seen. Science Fiction couldn't create a funnier more terrestrial looking speciman.
After spending 10 minutes just gawking at it at the side of the road, pulling back each layer of flesh and photographed it, we finally held a piece excited and ready to know what it would taste like. We counted to 3 and each ate our piece, and immediately spat it out and started laughing. Some thing wasn't right, who would eat this rubbery, saw dust tasting fruit? A moment later 2 kids on bicycles stopped to say hi, and we asked them if they would like our ackee, cause it just tasted terribble. "You dont eat it raw, you have to boil it and eat it with salty fish!" ooohhhh.......
A few hours later safely tucked away at the most gorgeous hotel in the Blue Mountains, we showed the kitchen staff our ackee. They laughed and made for us the most delicious salt fish and ackee dish, my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. Sadly, in the diaspora you can only get it in tins.
So if you ever go in February to Jamaica, you must try Ackee!
This is the ackee with the skin on and a huge black shiney seed poking out.
This is the ackee fruit. This is quite possibly the strangest looking fruit in the world. You can only eat the fleshy white part.
Here she is, close up and personal.
This is the poisonous red center bits.
This what it looked like just before we ate it, and then spat it out.
Other amazing highlights of the trip are....................
The Blue Marlin at Treasure beach
Murray's Jerk Shack on the main HWY from Mandeville to Kingston in Clarendon. Chicken cooked right over Pimento wood. Gorgeous! best Jerk chicken in the world.
The glowing waters of
Falmouth Bay/ Luminous Lagoon
Rent a car and drive the island, It is so beautiful!
The world around me in Toronto is blooming like crazy. The Magnolias are finished, and the Lilacs and Lily of the Valley are at their peak. It is a sweet sweet time to be in the garden.
More to come. Beth
There are so many reasons I love to garden, the satisfaction of a design being in my head one day and the execution of it several days or weeks later depending on the intricacy of the job. It is also intensely satisfying to go back to a job a year later and see how it is all filling in.
I could not be happier with one particular job that we did last year in Riverdale, in Downtown Toronto. This garden is full of different textures. From the furry leaves and orange blossoms of the poppy to the deeply viened leaves of the white raspberry bush. I also love the simplicity of the stone work. I get really excited when a customer says that the they no longer want any grass......all garden :) mmm I love that challenge, starting from scratch.
In this garden we did just that. We spent 6 days just clearing the land. Unbeknownst to us when we began this garden it had a VERY well established crop of Campanula whose roots reach very far down into the soil. If we didn't take the proper time to get rid of it would just keep coming back no matter how many times you pulled the top foliage off.
While we were busy weeding a fence was being erected all around us and the screenings were being wheel-barreled in for the little flag stone sitting areas. Once we had all of the luscious poopy soil brought in, we were planting up a storm. We definitely had to put down mulch to help with the customer's lack of time to weed and water.
We had one other challenge, the property line. If we were going to put in a fence it only gave the person entering a 2' walkway. If you can believe it, the next door neighbour gave an 8 foot long by 18 inch wide piece of her property to this customer. She basically said "My grandparents bought this house, and both my mother and now myself have lived mortgage free for all of our lives, so why not?" It was incredibly generous of her. As a way to thank her, we made a garden bed on her side of the fence, and divided all of her 50 + year old Peonies and Irises and replanted them.
Well, what are you waiting for? go look at this year's pictures!
Where did the time go? It feels like it was just yesterday that it was January. Well you see it all started in January. I got home from Alberta and found out I was pregnant! and the world suddenly became a much more exciting place. I couldn't stop noticing all of the changes in my body, wondering about this new life inside of me. The nausea was something I definitely could have lived with out, but it was for a good cause. I often had intense cravings for oranges and sesame snaps.
I also had an exciting trip to Europe planned! 3 weeks in England and 2 weeks in Greece. I pictured myself blogging my way from Wells-next-on-sea, Norfolk, to the remote Agean island of Chios. The trip was extraordinary, and If I hadn't been SO unbelievably tired I would have made a much greater effort. I couldn't believe how exhausting making another human can be.
At 3 months I lost the baby, and then I didn't feel much like doing anything. Sad was I. Time slowed down and I watched my brain kick into gear as it tried to figure out how I was going to get throught this.
People I know and love, said many profound and wonderful words, but I couldn't help feeling like I was in a Charlie Brown movie, and all I could hear was WHA WHA, WHA WHA WHA WHA.
I soon realized that I was on my own, and thus became my own search for the ways that genuinely keep me truly happy and grateful.
Here is that list.
I live on farm land on the very outskirts of Toronto. Very often cheap and lazy Torontonians who can't be bothered to wait in line at the dump feel free to throw their garbage at the side of the road. My street this past winter had 6 separate dump sites and my street is only 200 feet long! So who is this man in the picture? He's just a guy. Just a guy who thinks that every Spring he should go out and clean up other people's stupid messes. No one pays him, and in his trailer he has an organized system of separating the recycling from the garbage. I rolled down the window this day and told him "on this day you are my hero! can I write about you in my blog?" "sure" he said, and I drove off. This man's selflessness makes me very happy.
This is my niece. She reminds me of a garden gnome. She talks out loud to herself and says the funniest things. She is 10 and showing significant signs of becoming quite eccentric. I listen to her as she can recall past conversations almost verbatum, and knows where all of the family's lost things are. She is so super smart. When I think about her and her vast wide open future, this makes me happy.
This is a lone country road in Norfolk, England. My husband and I were driving around a bend and there it was! T-REX waiting to swallow our car. How cool is that? It is a dead Oak tree, that has Ivy tangled all over
it, and this is the shape that occured. Nature makes me happy, funny
anomolies in nature.
This would be a good time to point out that there is only one lane to drive on? if some one comes towards us in the opposite direction, where do we go? the sides are banked up about 6 inches of soil! I am convinced that the English road system is what originally caused the British people to be so polite. Constant travel on roads where one has to wait for the other to pass. This makes for a very patient disposition, or at least the appearance of one. Thinking silly hypothetical thoughts makes me happy.
This is my husband, he definitely makes me happy. He also has a way better camera than I do, and I love that he never gets impatient when I ask him, please take a picture of this? he never says "what do you want a picture of that for?" he just takes his time and takes the best picture he can. He has a lovely sense of humour, sometimes he is so funny that I can't even laugh my funny bone just vibrates. Know what else? he got a degree in astro physics just for fun!
Being creative. Taking nothing, and creating something beautiful.
What makes you happy?
Two days after Christmas I unexpectedly found my self in Alberta. A close relative had passed away. Thankfully, it had been a while since I had been to a funeral, and I had forgotten the uplifting side of some one passing, the opportunity to reconnect with so many people I hadn't seen for a very long time. It was really nice to check in.
While I was there, I headed south for a few days and drove down into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. At 5,000 feet above sea level and straight ahead the mountains just sat there. It felt at times proposterous to do anything else other than stare. The beauty is pretty intense, but I did manage to get in a few games of cribbage, which seems to be the provincial sport. I have included some photographs of this incredible landscape.
I'll give a brief description....The Foothills is a smaller mountain range that boundaries the actual Rocky mountains. When I go to the highest elevation of my friend's place you can really feel the change. The terrain as described sounds a little like this.
Prairie Prairie Prairie, the hill you are sitting on, a valley and then the Rocky Mountains begin. The actual distance of this changing edge environment is only about 10-20 kilometers.
One really cool aspect of this phenomenon are the craggy rocks and trees that dot the foothills. They are a haven for Mule deer, birds, bears and cougars. The wild life is quite incredible. It is also very remote. The human population density is completly over shadowed by the cow population, and the RCMP travel in pick up trucks.
(I Just googled "images" for cougars, and mixed in with the photographs of very beautiful cats, are some fairly ex rated images of very fiesty older woman WWWWwwrrrrrr!)
I love it out here. Enjoy the pictures.
Waldron Flat Rd facing west.
heading north on the Snake Trail.
In this photograph I am facing north in the valley, with the Rockies on left and the Foothills on my right. As I am driving I noticed that I could not see any houses. Only if you blow up this photograph can you tell that far up on the hill on the right are about 50 cows. For 45 minutes no other cars passed me.
This is the view as I am descending from the Foothills into the valley and I am heading back to Calgary. In the foreground there is a rectangular building. That is the original mill of this Douglas Fir forest on the left. Unfortunately on this trip I couldn't go on one of my famously long walks, there was a mountain lion reported on this property and I definitely prefer my limbs attached and unconsumed. One winter when I was out here, I tobaggoned down this road. It was so much fun!
Isn't it gorgeous?!
Stunning! Just a few more to go....
I think this image shows the Foothills I am standing on, the valley below and the Mountains beginning. Pretty cool eh? Often I will be sitting looking out, and there will be tons of storm activity in the valley, but none up here above the clouds, it's amazing.
As you can see I got to see some wildlife just outside of Canmore!
Last picture! Are you ready? This is part of the mountain range inside of the town Canmore.
I hope you enjoyed our visit to Alberta.
I have had a wonderful festive season full of entertaining and feeding the people I love. I am truly blessed in good friends and family. So far I have hosted 3 Chanukah parties, 2 lunches, and last night's Christmas Eve celebrations. It has strained every dish and bowl in the house, and left me exhaustedly happy.
I know I have been remiss about writing on more gardening and plant related topics, and I think it is a direct reflection of hibernation. I am feeling in love with being able to see my friends and really be able to talk to themwith out this little voice inside of my head saying "oh &*%$! Iforgot to call _____! hhhmmmm should I get the yellow or orangeDahlias for Louise?I am sorry what was it that you were saying?"
After working 24/7 for the last 8 months I am just enjoying the simple worries in life, like what rights do armless snowmen have? And do 8 year old boys really know how to stop themselves when you say STOP in a snow ball fight?
Last year I started a tradition of hosting Orphan's Christmas Eve Dinner. Which was a lot of fun. If you are Jewish Muslim, Buddhist, far from home or just annoyed that everything is closed...come and have dinner with us!
This year Gary made Toad in the Hole with organic lamb and beef sausages. We listened to Dave Cooks the Turkey from the Vinyl cafe Christmas collection and sang Christmas carols. We were all pretty impressed when my mother could recite O Come All Ye Faithful in Latin, which she learned in High School! Michael Holt and Hose also played for us their own original songs. I rocked out to the Transiberian Orchestra's Ring Silver Bells and Straight No Chaser's 3 1/2 minute video of the 12 Days of Christmas, which is hilarious. Late into the evening we played Blokus, and talked about our lives by the fire.
From the time I was young I could remember my Rabbi's voice at Passover saying "Let all who are hungry, come and eat!" I still believe the real meaning of these words isn't just referringto actual hunger, but the hunger to be with people at special times.
I hope that all of your celebrations were special too. I wish for you a year of growing and eating beautiful food, no infestations of Asian Long horned Beetle and lots of happy memories.
Happy New Year!
Every year for about the last 10 years I have hosted my favorite event of the season. My annual potato latke competition. What a better way to pay tribute to the humble potato, Judah Maccabee and the story of Chanukah. My friend Ari says that every Jewish holiday can be summed up this way...
They tried to kill us, we won, lets eat!
Now I would love to insert the photograph here of me making my latkes, or images of me announcing the winner. But I wasn't even there. two things happened this week which prevented my obsessive documentarianism. 1. a surprise visit to the emergency room and 2. I was having way too much fun at the party to think about it. Which was very freeing, cause ever since I started blogging, my whole life became about taking my camera with me EVERYWHERE!. So, it wasn't even until today that I sat down and thought to myself. Holy ^%$*. I forgot to take pictures! Kinda cool.
Here is how it works. You can enter your potato latkes in one of two categories. 1. The most traditional latke (which essentially only has about 4 ingredients, potatoes, onions salt and flour) and 2. the most gourmet latke. The sky is the limit and you can see from some of the descriptions, that is no exaggeration. Nancy and Marty made what I call kitchen sink latkes. Their's is the one in the middle written with red marker. But what stood out were their sauces. Mushrooms fried in (oy gavult) bacon, and a lovely horse radish and sour cream sauce. But sauces aside the latkes that won were entry #2, by Carrie and Mira and family. They were the best textured, the least oily and the most crispy.
I entered entirely organic latkes with sweet pototoes and dried cherries with a goat cheese cardamon, cinamon and maple syrup sauce. Very delicious! but even I had to vote for #2. This year NO ONE entered a traditional
latke.In the gourmet category, the creativity was amazing, delectable and incredibly varied. Walter's latkes were literally like breakfast pancakes, and Lewis and Sandi's latkes had chocolate in them!
Every recipe gets a number so you don't know who made them, and then everyone gets to vote by secret ballot, and there better be prizes! You can't rely on competative spirit alone. This year the prizes were organic chocolate, Damn Fine Decaf from the Ideal cafe, Burts Bees lip
balm AND a Shiatsu massage by the best in the city, Miss Natalie Ryan.
This is the winning recipe!
I thought a great photograph would have been a picture of the aftermath of 50 people in my little house! oy vay it was such a mess, but a happy mess. We drummed, sang songs, we lit the menorah, played the didgerdoo and ate ourselves silly. My mom brought over this chanukah themed ginger bread house, and I am not sure what to call it. Do any one of you out there have any ideas for what you would call this mixing of cultures? I thought about the Chrismikkah Cottage, What would you call it?
On a final note. When ever I write the word potato, I always think of Dan Quail!
Happy end of Chanukah Everyone!
I must admit that I was reluctant to leave Martha's Vineyard. As much as I love the Big Apple I was seriously enjoying the ocean, bike rides, the clean air and the utter remoteness.
Off we went for another kind of adventure and as you can see from this picture to achieve remoteness in New York City, it is of the inner kind. We arrived somewhere around 10:00 pm, got lost a bunch of times and then finally found our friends in Harlem. After we unloaded our gear, and with sense of humour in tact, we went out to navigate and conquer a parking space. Try parking a full size pick-up truck in Manhatten! After 30 minutes of searching we finally found one on the street, GOLD! Who knew that an empty 12' long and 6' wide piece of asphalt could create so much joy? It was then I was told about the 8 am to 10 am rules about shifting parking spaces. I won't bore you with the details, but like most large cities where you can pay some one to do anything, there are those who's sole job it is to find parking spaces for car owners!
What I love about New York is the incongruousness of daily life. In amongst the severity of concrete we found this wee blade of grass trying so hard to make it in the big city. I had to stop and admire its strength amongst all of the city's other floating detritus. "Grow little blade of grass, grow".
There were so many cool things that we saw, like this Star Wars mail box.
And this beautiful Rosa Rugosa that we were so happy to see blooming at the beginning of November. I am not sure if this is funny, but as Gary said to all of his friends "If this gorgeous weather is the effect of global warming...Hummers for everyone!"
The night life was amazing and after a lovely Italian dinner we went to see Blue Man Group. Gary took this great photo of me and one of the actors.
Even the way stores advertise is so amazing. Visually the way this the neon sign moves along the sidewalk as well as along the wall is so well done. However...at the end of the day...I can't remember what the name of the store was.
I think my favorite picture of New York is this one. Here are my two good friends Gary and Gary on top of the Brooklyn Bridge. The wind was howling around me, the traffic was flowing below me and about a dozen monks in saffron robes had just passed me and smiled and waved. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful day to be alive.
I really love Boston. It is such a great city. It is also one of the most historically interesting cities in the United States. On a trolly tour we passed by THE bridge where the disgruntled settlers threw THE (now famous) tea into the Charles River. We also drove past a graveyard whose inhabitants were some of the original passengers of the Mayflower!
This indeed is history of the North American kind, which I think is still quite young, especially, when I compare America to some of the various places I have been lucky enough to travel to. Off the top of my head....standing in the middle of a courtyard at Kings College in Cambridge, England where the date 1499 is emblazoned in gold on one of the exterior walls. Jerusalem, Nikko Japan, cave paintings in Northern Australia and Rome. On a funnier note there, is a sign on the side of a building here in Toronto that houses a school and Native cultural center. The sign reads "Celebrating being in the neighbourhood for over 10,000 years" I'll go take a picture tomorrow!
We had the most extraordinary weather! Long after we up here in the north had our first killing frost, we had temperatures around 20 above and the sun shined almost every day. It really FELT like a vacation. So we had lots of busy ness and learning in Boston and Loads of fun in New York. What I want to tell you about is Martha's Vineyard! What a place. I don't really know how to describe it. Rich in history as a whaling town. Quaint and lovely architecture, which is heavily protected and cherished by the local people. Mostly board and batten, Cedar shake boxy homes with wrap around porches and beautiful gardens. Once you get out of the small towns and out to the country side they become more expansive. We had hoped to stay at an over the top gorgeous modern inn over looking the ocean, but like most places on the island in Late October it was closed. We ended up staying at the most laid back place called the Duck Inn. For the "down end" of the island, it is the epicenter of relaxed in an increasingly gentrified experience of the island. We could walk down to the ocean and the view from our bedroom window was incredible, especially the sunsets. At night the sky was so clear that we could see the Milky Way. This area of the island is called Aquinna, and I wish I had 32 pages to tell you about the native people who live here and lifestyles of the rich and famous who visit here, but I have only 2 more paragraphs for fear of boring you to tears so I have added lots of links.
One of the highlights was the Polly Hill Arboretum. We got some great if not windy footage of the park land and landscaped grounds around the collection of trees. My favorite tree was this enormous Weeping Beech whose age I cannot determine, but a guesstimate would be 75 years, or older.
I have been very busy finishing up the season and I am sorry that there have been some delays in postings. It is going to be far easier to tell my stories now that I have time to report them, rather then being up to my eye balls in busy ness living them.
Enjoy the change to winter, as we to hunker down for the onset of Arctic breezes and YEAH the holidays!
Photos: Gary Marriott and me
I am home now and I had no time to write while I was on the road, I was having way too much fun! I did and learned so many cool things in the last 10 days. Definitely the highlight was swimming in the ocean at Marth'a Vineyard 7 days ago. We also switched servers and was off line for a few days. Got all that fixed, and all is well I am told. Supposedly this move will make things move from page to page more quickly. OK!
The bike riding in New York City was amazing, but after 7 hours Gary and I had some very sore body parts. We went to see Blue Man Group and Ave Q, and as much as I loved the culture and chaos of NYC I completely appreciated my walks through Central and Morningside Parks, and my day of cycling along The Green Way.
My time in Boston was pretty special. I met some a amazing people including Eric Rochow of Gardenfork.tv who's podcasts I am going to be referring to for the next 72 years. What a great collection of "how to" videos. Everything from how to bake a pie to changing your brake pads. He also just started a new podcast called Real World Green which is all about how to green your everyday life.
Hey did you all know that a podcast is video or audio content on the internet? that's what Podcamp was all about. Meeting other people who post their audio or video content on their websites and or have them hosted by someone else. It was all very interesting for a non tekky like me, and I learned a ton. I especially liked meeting musicians who create Podsafe music.
Last Bit. In the Uk there is a farming community who create a weekly audio podcast called Wriggly wrigglers, if you listen in you can hear about the lives of a farming family in Herefordshire, England. Just the accents alone are worth tuning in :) Thousands of people all over the planet tune in every week to their program. You can down load it to your ipod or just listen in right where you are sitting reading this.
Go on and check them out!
More to follow......Beth
Photographs:Gary Marriott Creative Genius Collective