Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Quiet Street Work

Toronto's Yorkville neighborhood has some lovely features - like brick streets.

This definitely makes for a different kind of street work.

No jackhammers needed here. Just a lot of patient workers...

An hour and a half later, I passed the street again. Progress had quietly been made as they worked with hand tools...

The way things were done a hundred years ago, I guess!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Strange... But True in Toronto!

Walking through Yorkville, an upscale Toronto neighborhood, I couldn't help but notice...

A wall of surveillance cameras along one side of a house...

The other side - the side with the steel stair fire escape, where you would expect to need them - had none!

Was this merely a camera collection? What about the shelves of books visible through the windows of the house? Are these a collection, too?!?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ottawa's Poutine Fest

I had no idea that Ottawa had not one - but two - Poutine Festivals. This is all news to me!

Apparently the fall one was so popular - they added a spring fest as well!

For those unfamiliar with "poutine" - it's Quebec's favorite fast food sold from a "chip wagon"... a fancier version of French Fries. Ottawans braved the cold and rain to stand in line for the best.


This is what it looks like: French fries covered with gravy with fresh cheese curds sprinkled on top! New flavors are sprouting up with these festivals. Soon original poutine will no doubt be called "classic." Call me old fashioned, but that's the one for me!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

God is ... Fire

The only "fire" I light these days is an occasional candle... (And a few of these are battery operated!) I haven't lit a bonfire or a campfire in years. So the powerful image of fire is almost lost to me.

I realized this when I came across this comment made by a Desert Mother (the name given to women hermits and monastics who lived in the deserts of Egypt over 1500 years ago.)

One of the most famous Desert Mothers, Amma Syncletica said: "Great endeavors and hard struggles await those who are converted, but afterwards inexpressible joy. If you want to light a fire, you are troubled at first by smoke, and your eyes pour water. But in the end you achieve your aim. Now it is written, 'Our God is a consuming fire.' So we must light the divine fire in us with tears and struggle."

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Indoor Blooms

Sometimes my African violets bloom in winter, when everything outdoors is snow-covered. I really appreciate them then!

This year I have several that are just beginning to bloom - with pink and the purple flowers.

Another plant in the my upstairs landing has delicate pink flowers in bloom, too.

I don't want to sound unappreciative - but in an ideal gardening world, the indoor plants would bloom all winter and then take a well-deserved rest in summer. After all, my outdoor perennials hibernate all winter long!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pottery Inspiration

I'm trying to decide whether to take pottery classes in May and June (my traditional gardening time).

One recent Saturday I attended a local pottery show and sale.

My instructor, Colette Beardall, was there selling some of her pottery. She loves to make dogs and horses.

Here is one of her pottery dogs.

When I see all this, I realize that I have so much to learn!

That settles it - I can't quit now! I'll try to fit a pottery class in, even during gardening season.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Haven't Eaten Green Almonds in Years!!

One of the foods my Arab roommate introduced me to, in our university years, was green almonds.

Early in the spring, when the almond tree begins to produce fruit (the almond nut) - before the nut ripens and the shell gets hard, it is green and fuzzy... and edible!

If memory serves me right, you wash them and eat them as they are. I think they are eaten with salt. Sprinkle some salt in the palm of your hand, dip the green nut in, then eat it.

It has an interesting taste that some people love. But beware - eating too many at once (like eating green apples) can cause an upset stomach!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2014 Flooding in Tweed, Ontario

Last Friday we drove to Toronto, passing scenes of river flooding along the way, caused by melting snow and rain.

None we saw was worse than the downtown park in Tweed, Ontario, a town known locally for its colorfully painted fire hydrants.

Water from the Moira River had covered the park and was approaching the motel next door.

(Terry wouldn't be sleeping at night if we had a flooding river running that close to home.)

We stood at the edge of the parking lot, now under water.

These gates mark the park entrance - for cars, not for boats!

Rivers were still running high when we returned home a few days later. Rain was in the forecast. No telling how long this flooding will last.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fresh Dates

Fresh dates are hard to find. One local grocer carries them in spring. I often go there specifically to get them. The ones he caries are imported from Iran.

Last time I was there, I bought several boxes.

Seeing my purchase, the cashier commented: These are from my country. These have to be refrigerated or frozen. If you freeze them, they taste just like fresh when you take them out. You don't even have to wait to thaw them. 

A fresh date and a bit of yogurt after a meal aids with digestion.

There! Advice from someone who knows dates well! (I plan to try her suggestion, though I admit I don't usually suffer from indigestion!)

Monday, April 21, 2014

First Painted Pots

I tried painting designs on some of my pots recently. Using underglaze, I dabbed color onto them. One of the more experienced potters in the studio suggested that, for best results, the pots should be smooth - not rough and textured (as mine were).

But I went ahead, trying to create a design - then giving up and just dabbing color on in an abstract way!

Later I painted a clear glaze over the colors (which covered the design and made them look grey). I wondered what they would look like when they came out of the kiln...

They are brighter- but more streaked - than I expected! I'm glad one of my attempts at painting turned out. Not surprising, after all my botanical drawings, it was an attempt to paint a flower inside the bowl!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is really what Christianity is all about! It all begins at Christmas, of course - but this is the holiest day for Christians, when we remember the eternal life of heaven touching earthly clay.

This is still our hope - that our earthly clay bodies will be touched by heaven.

Whatever we do to celebrate God's love seems totally inadequate!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Arabic Easter Cookies

One of my favorite Easter memories from my time in Israel is eating traditional Arabic cookies stuffed with dates or walnuts.

My favorites were the date-filled ones. (On the right in the top photo.)

I was introduced to them when I shared my apartment with a Christian Arab girl, who studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She would bring back samples of her mother's baking whenever she went home. I've never tried making them, partly because I don't have a mold. But I did find this recipe - and beautiful photos - online. I was interested to see that the pastry, made with semolina (cream of wheat) and butter, has no sugar added.


These days I usually buy one or two whenever I see them... just for old time's sake. If memory serves me right, the homemade ones I ate in Israel were really stuffed with nuts. These don't have as many walnuts in them.

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Enriched" Hot Cross Buns

Today is Good Friday, when traditionally people eat hot cross buns. I haven't made them in years, but this year I decided to make a batch.

I chose  my recipe from The Farm Journal's Homemade Breads Cookbook.

When I opened up the page, I noticed that in 1987 I commented that the recipe was "Excellent!" I decided to "enrich" my bread with extra protein, hoping that it would still be as good!

Hot Cross Buns

1. Mix together
  • 2 packages of yeast
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) cinnamon
  • 2 cups (450 ml) flour: To "enrich" the buns, I replaced some of the flour with 1/2 cup (150 ml) of soy flour, 1/4 cup (75 ml) of wheat germ, a few tablespoons (30 ml) of psyllium, and 1/2 cup (150 ml) of whole wheat flour. The rest of the flour needed was unbleached white all-purpose flour.
2. In a saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) of milk and 6 tablespoons (100 ml) of butter - until very warm.

3. Put all the ingredients (the dry flour/yeast and the liquid milk/butter) in a mixer and let them mix for about 6 minutes, first slowly - then sped it up a bit.

4. Gradually add 3 eggs and about 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) of flour - and beat several minutes more.

5. Add 1 1/4 cup (325 ml) of currants and enough flour to make a soft dough.

6. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

7. Place in large greased bowl. Turn dough over so that the top is greased. Cover and let sit in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about an hour. I usually put it in the oven with the oven light on, to add a little warmth.

8. Punch dough down. Let is sit for 10 minutes. Then cut it into 24 pieces, shaping each into a ball. Place these on greased cookie sheets and let them rise until doubled.

9. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) for 15-25 minutes. Mine were done in 15 minutes.

10. Remove from pans immediately and cool before eating.

Delicious! Making these again made me wonder why I bother buying them. They are so easy to make, especially using a mixer with a dough hook - and they taste so much better than store-bought ones!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Will Today Hold?!

A few days ago, I made a to-do list:
  • go to Curves
  • do the ironing
  • clean the bathrooms
  • check the Visa bills
At the end of the day, I realized that the only thing I had accomplished on my list was "go to Curves" (my half hour of exercising three times a week)!

In spite of bad weather, it had been a busy day. I ...
  • went shopping, 
  • did laundry, 
  • made hot cross buns, and 
  • wrote a few blog posts.
  •  I also read and replied to a few blog comments.

It had been a lovely day!

That's the beauty of life: you never know what will come your way next!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April Showers...

"April showers bring May flowers" - I remind myself as I sit indoors looking out at the rain.

And occasionally ... April rain turns into snow!

(It's amazing how weather resistant these early spring flowers need to be!)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How Quickly Spring Arrives!

Spring is late this year. Last week I began to rake around piles of snow.

My goal: to collect pine cones littering the ground.

Then I noticed tiger lilies sprouting through the snow. Better rake the perennial flower beds, too. There I encountered a few more surprises!

I didn't expect to see the Pachysandra green and growing...

The hellebore, too!


A few days later - yesterday - there already were a few blooms!

Monday, April 14, 2014

How Times Have Changed!

I recently came across this old photo of a barn raising in Brampton, Ontario at the end of the 19th century.

Two hundred people are gathered around, some high on rafters I can't imagine climbing!

That wouldn't happen today!

Later, walking downtown, I notice the scaffolding around a tower being repaired on Parliament Hill!

That typifies 21st century construction: Fewer people and a lot more concern for safety. How times have changed!