Life of a Bee

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“The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.”

– Jacques Yves Cousteau

 

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“The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.” 

– Saint Francis de Sales

 

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I Dream In Shades of Green

Here in the Northern hemisphere winter has unfolded and Old Man Winter’s icy breath blows relentlessly. The beauty can be awe-inspiring to some, downright depressing to others. I am of the inspired mindset. I tend to do a lot of inner work when winter settles in. Inner as in practicing self-love, or taking care of my Spirit, focusing on what I need to keep joy in the heart and regain focus on health. As an avid gardener, horticultural tech and professional landscaper I tend to yearn for garden time while simultaneously rejoicing in a bit of a break in the schedule. Plants are always on my mind…seriously. I dream in varying shades of green. I long to get my hands in the soil and mud on my boots. To smell the earthiness of freshly cultivated soil.

 

Something I had failed to ponder, which now occupies my mind almost on a daily basis is what exactly is going on within the garden while we are, for the most part, forced out of it. There is surely magic taking place. I find it fascinating to think upon what is shakin’ underground that we never see. The slowing of the biological processes of what we are aware of that is above the soil line while life force is still maintained. The energy that is still flowing constantly while for the most part we as humans deem the garden to be resting until we get back into the garden to assist; as if plants were relying solely on our actions.  I am humbled by the realization that we are merely a player on Mother Nature’s stage. 

 

 

winter garden

 

 

 

 

Inner Child Visits Disney

Success at last!

 

 

After years of hearing, “When can we go to Disney, Mom?” and months of planning the dream finally became a reality. This was the only thing my kids had ever really asked me for and I was determined to make their dreams come true. I persevered through setbacks over the years while keeping the prize of Disney in my sights. It became about more than a child’s request. It morphed into a personal feat of determination to accomplish something that was slapped out of the air whenever the words were spoken by negative thinkers. Those that didn’t personally enjoy Disney, had already been there and lost their Inner Child somewhere along life’s path, or were hell-bent on being a dream crusher. I ignored them all…even though their words and actions hurt me and my kids I stayed focused. I reiterated over and over to my children that I was taking them to Disney. Then I went one step further and committed – I gave them a time period. I was now tapped into the reality and was not going back on my promise. It was happening.

“Determination gives you the resolve to keep going in spite of the roadblocks that lay before you.”

– Denis Waitley

I am thrilled that it came together the way it did. My children are no longer tiny Beings that need to be toted or pushed in strollers, thank goodness, which made everything more enjoyable all around. I thanked my lucky stars whenever I witnessed parents struggling with over-tired and cranky wee ones, juggling diaper bags and strollers, and having to pretend they were enjoying all the kiddie rides when I know they were secretly longing for the Tower of Terror.  There is something to be thankful for in each stage of parenting and at present I am reaping the rewards of kooky teenagers. They are like aliens sometimes but they are so much more enjoyable to travel with than little ones. That said, last week my sister and I accompanied  my two kids on this magical journey and let our Inner Children run wild!

 

 

This vacation was more than just time away for me and my kids. This was about taking time to connect outside of the regular realm of our existence.  I have always had a wonderful relationship with my kids and this was another aspect to explore – travelling together for more than a few hours in the car. It was a fabulous experience! I am a Spirit that hungers for travel, adventure and fun so  who better to share this with? This excursion was also about strength and determination to accomplish a goal. To teach perseverance and to take part in making someone else’s dream come true. To share a joyful experience that they would hold in their memories for a lifetime. Time spent with my sister is always a blessing as well.  My parents gave my sisters and I the love of travel early on and we all feel grateful to them for sharing such a wonderful gift with us. I am thankful I can do the same for my children.

 

 

I have been asked a few times what my favourite part of going to Disney was. Honestly, I think the unspoken energy shift in my kids was the most incredible thing I have ever witnessed. I tear up with love for them as I type now. When a person lets their walls down and just lives for pure joy and laughter it is the most amazing thing to witness.

 

 

I must admit that I was a bit distracted at times with the beautiful plant life. So many gorgeous specimens that we don’t have here in southern Ontario. I was forever taking pictures of vegetation and spouting off Latin names as my kids just rolled their eyes at me and tuned out. Except when I said Monstera…that caught their attention. Go figure.

 

 

 

garden at resort

tree person

As we walked by a stand of trees in the Animal Kingdom Park this leafy figure stepped out of the gardens. They were on stilts and moved slowly and fluidly along the edge of the greenery.

These are just a few of the photos I took of the plant life – I wouldn’t want to bore you by sharing all of them. The gardens at Disney were spectacular and the amount of lush foliage and trees surrounding all the resorts, hotels and parks was a sight to behold. Disney certainly does it up right.

highway signs

Disney, here we come!

disney arch

It was all I could do not to squeal as we went under the arch. Seriously! I’m a big kid.

I think we were more excited than the kids!

I think we were more excited than the kids!

 

We have arrived!

Join me again next post when we get off the bus and get crack-a-lackin’ at having some serious fun!

 

“You’re dead if you only aim for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”

– Walt Disney

 

 

Riotous Explosion

Burning Bush - Euonymus alatus

Burning Bush – Euonymus alatus

 

 

 

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”  – Albert Camus 

 

 

 

As the garden season is winding down and Mother Nature is tucking many types of flora and fauna in for a long nap, the last burst appears. A riotous explosion of colour that delights the senses.

Thanksgiving Challenge

Last year at this time I was in full-out Thanksgiving dinner mode. See last year’s post here. This year I thought I was going to cruise through the weekend with absolutely no stress in sight. Alas, here I am on Thanksgiving Monday in the throes of assembling something “wow-worthy”. If not for my family’s enjoyment then at least my own sense of accomplishment. Here’s the thing…since we went to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving for a couple of days I figured that I wouldn’t feel like preparing one myself so I didn’t fill my fridge and pantry with any of the necessary ingredients. This Thanksgiving Day I have decided to challenge myself by putting together a full spread with a near empty kitchen. I seem to like this type of challenge since I do this type of thing frequently. I cook with the spirit of adventure – trying new things is great fun and I seldom use recipes except to bake.  I am sticking to an Autumn harvest theme in celebration of the season.

 

At present I have a luscious smelling pot of pumpkin and roasted garlic soup simmering on the stove. It is chock full of delicious organic ingredients and fresh herbs from my garden. In the oven is a cauliflower roasting away with real butter (mmmm…) and a sweet mesquite spice blend.  I have yet to sort out a main dish but I suspect a chickpea something or other is about to be concocted.  I’ll report back on that if anyone is interested in the comments below.  Cyndi over at Healthy A-Z inquired as to whether I would be making the gluten-free pumpkin pie that I made last year. She inspired me to do so. Sadly, my cupboards were void of the necessary items so I have decided to whip up a spiced custard and serve with baked apples. 

 

This time of year encourages me to get busy in my kitchen and get back to the simplicity of great food using what is being harvested. Soups and stews fill my foodie brain and I enjoy the run out to the back garden to snip herbs for whatever is in the works on the stove. I am usually hopping from stone to stone down the garden path in my bare feet and quickly darting back into the warmth of my fragrant kitchen with my arms full of healthy goodness.  

 

To all of my fellow Canadians, may you be filled with thanks for all of your blessings and enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. To all the non-Canadians, let the spirit of gratefulness bring you peace at this splendid time of year.

 

 

 

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”  – Oprah Winfrey

 

 

 

 

I Dream of Gardens

 

 

I am in a gardening frame of mind at present. I eat, breathe and sleep gardens during the summer months. Yes, I even dream of plants in my slumber. I am always grateful to get dirty and breathe fresh air.

 

 

Last weekend I felt the urge to get out into a garden that I could savor its beauty with no strings attached. To walk among the greenery, stop to smell whatever flower caught my eye, and sit still and let my senses lap up all that was on offer.  I figured that the best location to do this was at the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden that is about a fifteen minute drive on the highway from my house. I hadn’t been in this particular garden for a few years so I thought it was high time I check it out again. I am never disappointed by the gorgeous planters and urns that dot the walkways. They are a symphony of colour and textures that are pleasing to behold. Despite the plethora of planters, my timing was not great since many of the show gardens, the rose garden in particular, had just finished blooming and had been recently dead-headed. The Parks had planned well and planted adjacent flower beds with eye-popping colour in hopes of detracting away from the blah vista of non-blooming rose bushes. Candy-coloured annuals distracted me from disappointment.

 

 

There is one area in particular in this 100 acre property that calls to me through the treetops and beckons me to make a beeline directly into its inner sanctum – the herb garden. This garden is walled by cedar hedges that were planted in the 1940’s and still stand, perfectly manicured to create not only a mini micro-climate but also creates the feel of an outdoor room that quite honestly, I would be more than happy to stay in for hours.

Herb Garden

Herb Garden

 

 

 

After the herb garden, a nice stroll through the arboretum was in order. Don’t you just love the cool shade beneath the trees? My inner child wants to run from one shady spot to the next by the feel of the shades’ coolness alone while the sun shines in my eyes.

 

 

arboretum

arboretum

 

If you plan on visiting the Niagara Region, I highly recommend both the Butterfly Conservatory and the Botanical Gardens on your list of places to see.  Who knows, you may even bump into me taking in the gardens in every season!

For more info on the botanical gardens, visit this link.

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

 

 

I bid you farewell and many enjoyable hours in the sunshine!

“When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.”
– Minnie Aumonier 

Rolling Storms & Tomatoes

What a week it has been here in the Niagara Region of Ontario. The heat and humidity have been unbearable with  most days this week over 100 degrees with the humidity. It’s been draining working outside and quite irritating to hear those that work indoors complaining about the heat while sitting in their air-conditioned splendor. It’s unnerving how heat and humidity can turn the gentlest of souls into cranky bizatches at the snap of the fingers, myself included. I was teetering on the verge of insanity a few times this week…it was not comforting, let me tell you.

 

 

Thankfully, the rains finally came last night helping to rid us of some of the humidity and the accompanying suffocating heat. Although it came at a price. We had rolling lines of powerful thunderstorms, severe winds, and tornado warnings. There were a few times we ran to the basement for cover when the rains pelted down so heavily that we couldn’t hear each other speaking and the winds contorted the trees like seasoned yogis. We had just sat down to dinner when the first wave of storms rolled in with huge dark clouds, whipping winds and rain that hit the windows like rocks. At one point the rain ceased between storm surges and a flock of seagulls took to the sky above our neighborhood, circling overhead like a warning.

 

 

Throughout the night my mind kept going to my garden. Hoping my tomato plants were holding up. I had noticed while closing up before the first rainfall that one of the plants had been bent by the winds, putting it in jeopardy of snapping off. A few stakes were strategically placed to try to stop the toppling of the tomato cages in hopes of preserving the easily snapped stems. Early this morning there was a clap of thunder so loud that I sat straight up in bed. What was my first thought? My tomatoes. I was thrilled that the gardens were getting a thorough watering but at what expense? I certainly wasn’t about to trek out into the storm and it was still dark outside so I couldn’t see if there was any destruction in the veggie patch.  I am definitely a gardener to the core…or perhaps just anxious for homegrown, plump and juicy tomatoes.

 

 

First thing this morning before the neighborhood started to stir, I tiptoed barefoot out to the garden with a mug of steaming coffee in my hand to check on my little lovelies. Phew! Everything had weathered the storm far better than expected. One of my Brussels sprout plants had been partially uprooted but was easily re-positioned. Two tomato plants were tipped but not broken, thankfully. One of my potato plants’ top growth was flattened by the pelting rain but all-in-all everything looked happy to have been saturated and refreshed. I took this time to get cracking at pulling weeds while the ground was soft and still have loads more weeds to pull today since they are easier to pull out of mud than dry, compacted soil.

 

Interested in what it looked like around these parts? Check out this link on The Weather Network. There is a brief video and loads of pics sent in by Ontario residents.

 

 

Today has turned out to be a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

“In all things in nature there is something of the marvelous.”  – Aristotle 

If only…

 

 

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Despite the heat and humidity that envelops us at the moment, there is so much bounty to enjoy at this time of the year. If only I could stop a little longer and rest by this beautiful pond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Be like the flower, turn your face to the sun.”
— Kahlil Gibran

 

Visiting History in Niagara

Yesterday, my daughter and I took a few hours and zipped over to one of our local gems…Niagara-on-the-Lake. This quaint little town is a bustling zone of tourists this time of year which adds a bit more fun to the whole adventure. There were a few large groups of tourists there yesterday that seemed to want to huddle in the middle of the sidewalks, talking excitedly to each other or listening as their tour guide and interpreter gave them the historical low-down on the area. All the milling people gave me the opportunity to stop wherever I wanted, look like a tourist myself, and take a few pictures. The Niagara area is steeped in rich history. There is far too much to cover in one post but I will touch on the history of the region every so often so make sure you follow me so as to not miss a thing.

 

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake has had a few different names in its past, the first of them being Butlersburg after Colonel John Butler. Col. John Butler was a fascinating man who was both worshipped and despised. He and his son were known as “the devils of Niagara” by  Americans for generations. Butlersburg was later changed to Newark in 1781 when it became  a British military site and safe zone for Loyalists fleeing from the United Stated during the aftermath of the American Revolution. Once again changing its name, the town became known as Niagara. Niagara became the first capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario) and the site of the first provincial parliament in 1792. During the War of 1812 the parliament was moved to York which is now known as Toronto.  During the War of 1812, Niagara was a central location. The town of Niagara was captured by American forces and burned to the ground.  The citizens of Niagara braved the storm and rebuilt the town. The main buildings were rebuilt out of the firing range of the cannons across the Niagara River at Fort Niagara. Yet another name change occurred in the 1880’s to its present name of Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you are interested in British-Canadian-United States history, then Niagara-on-the-Lake should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

 

 

 

In honour of Colonel John Butler, this tablet can be found in St. Mark’s Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“Fear God
Honour the King
In Memory of Colonel John Butler
A sincere Christian as well as a brave soldier he was one of the founders and the first patron of this parish.”

Ontario Historical Plaque
Lieutenant-Colonel John Butler 1725-1796
By the end of the American Revolution John Butler’s loyalist corps, supported by British regulars and native allies, had effectively contributed to the establishment of British control in the Great Lakes region. After the disbanding of Butler’s Rangers in 1784, many of the men, including Butler himself, settled in the Niagara peninsula.

The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is a fusion of historical references and the bounty of the wine region that surrounds it. The Shaw Festival plays a pivotal role in the fabric of the community as well. There are grand homes of by-gone times that are lovingly restored and maintained as well as original inns and pubs known to be frequented by ghostly visitors. One of my favorites is the Prince of Wales Hotel that sits on one of the main corners of the Old Town. It’s too bad that yesterday was a rainy, overcast day and I only had my Blackberry to capture a few sights.

Prince of Wales Hotel, NOTL

Prince of Wales Hotel, NOTL

 

 

 

 

The Prince of Wales Hotel and the horse-drawn carriages are a beautiful representation of the history of the Town. Just up the street the wine industry makes itself known with the Shaw Café & Wine Bar. I must say, it always seems to be busy. I love the way the “new” presents itself in such a way as to blend in to the “old” to keep the image of the town historically quaint.

 

 

Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar

Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar

 

 

The rich history of the Niagara Region leaves me breathless sometimes. The realization that the area I have the luxury of living in is one of political and personal passion  for freedom as well as a battleground of war is almost surreal. Today the Niagara Region is known for our incredible wine and food industries as well as the gorgeous natural settings that surrounds us.

 

 

One of my favourite aspects of Niagara-on-the-Lake in the summertime is the copious amounts of flowers that the town is adorned with. Hanging baskets, gardens along the sidewalks, window boxes on many of the storefronts and a median down the centre of the streets that are filled to over-flowing with colourful blossoms. It is like candy for the eyes!

 

 

 

Sidewalk flower garden

Sidewalk flower garden

 

 

 

One of the flowerbeds contained this showy number – Brugmansia suaveolens. My heart skipped a beat when I spotted this specimen. I know, I know…I’m a plant nerd. It stunned me how many people walked by without noticing it until I stopped to take a photo. After taking my time inspecting this plant I turned to notice how many others were behind me admiring the plant’s beauty. Sometimes we are all so oblivious to the world around us that until we take note of someone else’s actions we miss the beauty around us. This majestic plant was putting on a show while no one was watching, simply for itself.

 

 

 

 

Brugmansia suaveolens

Brugmansia suaveolens

 

 

 

 

Brugmansia suaveolens

Brugmansia suaveolens

 

 

 

After a wonderful walk in the drizzly rain, scoping out the stupendous specimens along the way and the plethora of little shops we headed home while munching on one of my purchases…a bag of British-import Guinness potato chips.

 

 

On this Canada Day long weekend, I think of the history of not just the area I live but of the Nation I call “home” and all that came before.

 

 

 

 

 

“The upward course of a nation’s history is due in the long run to the soundness of heart of its average men and women.” – Queen Elizabeth II 

 

 

 

MidSummer’s Eve

This past Sunday, three of my fabulous co-workers and I had the opportunity to volunteer for a garden party event  for the Niagara Symphony Orchestra. What a day we had! It has been a long time since I have both volunteered and been immersed in the classical music scene. I loved the uniqueness of everyone we met throughout the evening. So much for the cliché of orchestra audiences being stuffy. These music lovers were wild with passion for the arts! I was intrigued by the colourful outfits, hats and the beautiful smiles that everyone brought with them. I felt very honored to volunteer at an event that nurtures the love of music.

I have included a brief video clip by CogecoTV (a local channel). This gives some background about the event and the Niagara Symphony Orchestra (NSO). * Just a side note – at 3:38 in the clip I am walking across the background. I look like I was on a mission! Eyes peeled for the navy blue long dress and blonde hair darting across the background headed to the back right. Woo hoo! I’m on TV!

Midsummer’s Eve

The lovely ladies I work with and myself had the task of putting together arrangements of peonies for the tables as well as looking after raffle ticket sales and being spotters during the auction. Each of these jobs made for a fun day. The peonies were gorgeous large blossoms that were oh so fragrant.

Midsummer's Eve Peonies

Midsummer’s Eve Peonies

Appetizers and dinner were prepared by chef Oscar Turchi of Savoia in St. Catharines, ON.  My mouth still waters thinking about how amazing everything was. OK, Ronni and I were less than impressed by the goat’s cheese appetizers, I must be honest. We thought we’d break out and try to be adventurous. I actually had a hard time swallowing it without gagging. It wasn’t the appetizer itself but the fact that I know I don’t like goat cheese but thought I’d try it again anyway. I know now that sometimes I don’t have to try, try again until I like something. How Chef Oscar and his staff managed to pump out the amount of food they did in such a short time while working from a tent is beyond me. Kudos to the chef and his team! All of the food and beverages were top-notch. Here is the menu featuring the companies who provided each item which was presented at our place setting:

Midsummer's Eve Menu

Midsummer’s Eve Menu

The evening wrapped up with a performance by the NSO which was beautifully executed. The sound under the tents made for a unique listening experience. Close to the end of the performance people were starting to get a bit fidgety since the mosquitos started to come out for dinner in full force. Slap! – scratchy-scratchy. The next morning I noticed that I certainly got my fair share of bites. The only drawback to the day , other than the mosquitos, was the excruciating heat and humidity. I was flushed from the heat and feeling as though I was melting. I know I wasn’t alone by the amount of programmes that were fanning the attendees and the comments by my friends. I was relieved to lay down in air-conditioned splendour at the end of the evening, that’s for sure!

The Midsummer’s Eve event was made a success by many people but there were a few that worked tirelessly to make this event truly memorable for all.

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” – Ludwig van Beethoven