Monday, April 30, 2012

Outdoor Art in Toronto

My drawing course has made me more aware of "art" all around me.

Recently in Toronto, I photographed some "street art": chairs... in the shape of hands...

... and interesting reflections...

... in windows.

Painting pictures on buildings is an old tradition... (I've seen old decorated buildings like this in Germany.)... I suppose store billboards, like those under the painting above, are street art too!

Toronto has its share of art-decorated buildings, like this one outside a kitchenware store.

Tasteful paintings on walls make streets more vibrant...

(though it's possible to pass by without paying much attention).

Statues are harder to ignore. They also add an interesting atmosphere... The street never seems "deserted" with statues of people around!

This one reminds me of a giant dog!

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite kinds of street art is potted plants!

Flowers always have the knack of brightening my day!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why Go to Church?

Why go to church?

It's really a mystery...

In her book, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, Kathleen Norris calls communal worship a "wonder":

"the land of western Dakota ... has taught me that communal worship is something I need; ... it is an experience, not a philosophy or even theology... It seems a wonder to me that in our dull little town we can gather together to sing some great hymns, reflect on our lives, hear some astonishing scriptures (and maybe a boring sermon; you take your chances), offer some prayers and receive a blessing."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

ELEGANT... at 100!

My daughter forwarded me this You Tube clip - a photographer she admires taking pictures of a beautiful woman... who just turned 100!

(I'd love to look that good right now!)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Enjoying Exhibits at the Shenkman Arts Centre

The city of Ottawa has art galleries in many public buildings.

Recently Terry and I drove across town to the Shenkman Arts Centre...

 ... to see an exhibit of botanical drawings by local artists.

We discovered a number of other exhibits as well.

I was particularly impressed by these giant portraits...

 I'm not sure if they were done by a local artist...

But the detail was amazing... even though the paint had been applied in thick gobs!

Eventually we found the botanical drawings...

The three above are among my favorites: leeks, asparagus, and leaves.

There is a difference between Terry and me when we find a painting we really like: I am inspired to learn how to paint like that; Terry simply wants to purchase the painting!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Signs of Spring Downtown

Driving downtown, I couldn't help but notice a few more signs of spring...

Daffodils in a park...

Bike rentals ready to go!

Tulips beginning to bloom. (You may have to click on the picture to enlarge it in order to see them by the path.) Ottawa's tulip festival isn't scheduled to begin yet... Not until May 4th... Thousands of visitors are expected, all hoping to see these gorgeous beds of blooming tulips... and dozens like them throughout the city. (But flowers don't follow anyone's schedule!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sign of Spring: Putting Away My Knitting

One of the beauties of living in a climate with four distinct seasons is that every season has a different focus. As spring arrives and I spend more time outdoors... the knitting needles and yarn are moved to the basement... until cold weather arrives again!

 Well... not everything is put away! I still have a few unfinished projects I want to finish...

 ... like this entrelac scarf...

 ... and this double-knitting sample.

Yarn crafts are very portable, and I like to have a bag of knitting or crochet to bring along if I anticipate waiting - in a doctor's waiting room, for example.

(So for me, knitting and crochet are never totally put away! I always have a bag or a basket somewhere in view!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spring Snow - A Canadian Tradition!

Yesterday I awoke to discover my spring blooms covered in snow!

Fortunately by early afternoon, it was beginning to melt.

Now we can believe that spring is really here - we've had our spring snow!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring in Andrew Hayden Park

Not long ago, my son and I took a walk in Andrew Hayden Park on the Ottawa River.

We used to come here for picnics when our children were small. There was plenty of space to run around.

At this time of year, when trees have no leaves...

... I pay more attention to the rocks...

... the streams...

... the ducks...

...and the geese!

Parks should be beautiful all year long! This one is!  This is what the park looked like in autumn, 2009 - just before the first snow.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kitchen Duty - With A Difference!

During my first five months in Israel, I lived on a kibbutz (a communal farm) in the northern part of the country. I was there to study Hebrew while I worked half-days to "pay" for my course. It was an interesting volunteer experience. Every week, our work-study schedule would alternate, from mornings to afternoons. Like all the members of the Kibbutz, once or twice a month we students had kitchen duty, either preparing food, washing dishes, setting and clearing tables or serving - pushing large aluminum carts laden with steaming serving dishes into the dining room and putting them on the dining tables. All kibbutz members - whatever jobs they normally did - shared in these routine kitchen tasks... a sign of equality in their status-less society. The purpose of this was to keep all grounded: No one could be viewed as superior or inferior if we all took turns serving each other.

So I find it interesting that this same principle applies in the Rule of Benedict, for the same reason. In a Benedictine community all share in cooking and serving food - and washing up. But there are some big differences. When the weekly rotation changes every Saturday, "Both the one who is ending service and the one who is about to begin are to wash the feet of everyone." (Italics mine.) Then the next day, Sunday, immediately after morning prayer, those about to begin their week of kitchen service ask for the community to pray for them, and they do - commissioning them for this task of service.

The commissioning - as well as the humbling (having to wash everyone's feet) - elevate the daily drudgery of kitchen service, reminding both the servers and the community that they are following in the footsteps of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. They are imitating him in the most humbling of tasks - washing the feet of the others - as they do in the preparing of food, thinking perhaps of the time that Jesus had prepared food (fish and bread) for his disciples.

Benedict's goal is also to create a "classless" monastic community. And then he goes a step further. As well as commissioning the workers, he elevates the utensils in the kitchen, by considering them - as well as all the other tools in the monastery - to be just as sacred as the vessels on the altar.

"Ora et labora" (prayer and work)... Both are equally "holy."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Very Flexible Cookies!

The best cookies are... flexible.

When Natalie forwarded me an Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Chip cookie recipe, I decided to try them. The only problem was I had no dried cranberries...
Why not substitute RAISINS? So I did...
But I didn't have quite a cup, so I added WALNUTS!
And a sprinkle or two of cinnamon...

And they were delicious! I especially liked the fact that they didn't sprawl when baking, but stayed in tidy mounds where I had dropped them.

So here it is - my recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Mix together
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) butter (Yes, I used butter!)
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) sugar (I used 1/3 cup / 80 ml white sugar PLUS 1/3 cup / 80 ml brown sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 ml) oats (I used minute oats)
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 ml) flour (I used spelt)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) of cinnamon (optional)
Then add
  • 1 cup (225 ml) of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (225 ml) of cranberries (or raisins or chopped walnuts or any combination of dried fruit and nuts*)

Drop mounded spoonfuls on UNGREASED cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Let cool before removing from cookie sheet.


*Next time I plan to try other types of dried fruit, like dried apricots cut in small pieces. This recipe is really delicious and really flexible.

Friday, April 20, 2012

More Signs of Spring

More signs of spring around the neighborhood...

 The dome is down!*

 And the dandelions are up!

*If you hadn't noticed... 

 ... a large plastic dome covers the soccer field near our house all winter long, transforming it into an indoor playing field. All winter long, it feels as if we have another "building" blocking our view - a building that disappears in spring.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chasing Butterflies... in April!

A few years ago a neighbor commented that she rarely saw butterflies anymore. I had to agree.

Then last year I read that butterflies thrive on milkweed... so I let the wild milkweed plants that sprouted up in our yard grow.

This year, I am already seeing butterflies... and it's only April! (The one above is resting on a tree stump.)

The snow fountain weeping cherry tree currently in bloom in our front yard always attracts dozens of bees.

This year it is attracting butterflies as well!

Dozens are fluttering around looking for nectar!

I've been trying to get photos - but they move so fast!

I wonder if this orange and black species (called the Red Admiral) will be the only ones we see this summer or if - like June bugs - they will have their season and disappear. Perhaps other species will join them throughout the summer.

I guess I'll have to wait and see!

A further note: It appears that these Red Admiral butterflies are being seen in many parts of Ontario these days, There is an online discussion about whether these Red Admirals were brought north earlier than usual due to warm winds blowing up from the southern USA or whether these, in fact, are among the butterflies (various species) that hibernate in the (mild) Niagara Falls region of Ontario.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Early April Flowers

Spring has arrived early this year!

And so have the spring flowers! These scillas bloom early in the front hosta bed, before the hostas emerge from the ground.

These mini-daffodils have also come up. I think I planted them last year.  They may have survived because of the rocks I put around them... (to keep the squirrels from digging up the bulbs and eating them!)

Two of the three hellebores I planted last year have bloomed. (One of my neighbors said that it took five years for hers to establish themselves and grow into a large mound.) I think they are sometimes called "lenten roses."

 Here is another small flower I planted last year (and surrounded with rocks to keep the squirrels away!) I don't know where I wrote down its name...

 The tulip tarda are also blooming in my back yard near the cedar hedge.

 Also flowering in the back yard is this ivy (a ground cover) that threatens to overtake the north-east corner of my flower bed.

 The tulips in my front yard are blooming - I sprinkle paprika around them every few days to keep the squirrels from eating them!

 Nearby the snow fountain cherry tree is also in bloom.

 The roving neighborhood rabbits hop through the flowers beds, but I haven't noticed any of them munching on flowers!

Indoors I'm enjoying the tulips I bought at the Algonquin College Spring Garden Show. I hope they look as lovely next year when they bloom outdoors!

It's amazing to see how many flowers are in bloom by mid-April... compared to April 2011!