Kick It!

What am I kicking you may be asking. Well, it just so happens to be list making time. While I’ve never really jumped on the Party Your Face Off on New Year’s Eve bandwagon, I do like to use January 1st as a sort of stock-taking day. To scan both the vibrantly glowing and the dusty, cob-webbed corners of my mind in search of what I learned from the previous 365 days and how I choose to move forward through the next 365. An intriguing individual that I have come to know in the past year made a statement that hit the nail on the head, so to speak. I summarize when I say that he stated that each day is a new chapter not each year. Very wise, and the truth as I’ve always believed it to be. We don’t live year by year as those that seem to pivot their lives around New Year’s Eve would lead us to believe. We live day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second. Each fragment of time is unique and within it holds incredulous moments. When my eyes open each morning, I give thanks that I have another day to experience joy. This is always my first thought. Seriously. This may sound hokey to some of you but it gets every day started on a positive note and in a forward direction.

 

 

Kicking it means two things to me – getting rid of something that is no longer of use to me and my journey and to initiate action to the extreme. Those of you that know me well know that I can be a bit hardcore with certain things so kicking it up to the extreme means a whole heap of willpower has to be employed. Let’s  just get right to the list, shall we?

 

 

 

Kick It Style #1 – Don’t bring me down.

 

 

1. Usually external things get to us all and create unwanted stress. Little things like someone cutting us off on our way to work or plain old rude behaviour. I’ve worked on taming the tigress inside of me over the past few years as far as not allowing others to get to me and stress me out as much. I’ve noticed my tigress stretching occasionally  as of late with the desire to lash out (both internally and externally) over menial things to which I would rather use control and poise. I accept my inner tigress and value her greatly but there is a time and a place for her abilities and power. That said, I am all about allowing irritation from others roll off of me. Meditation comes in handy here.   Letting it go.  To realize that some individuals are just moody bastards or buzz killers and frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that! 

 

 

2. Don’t push your agenda or religion on me or others…we all have our own. Just yesterday a patronizing individual tried to verbally overpower me by trying to force their agenda on me. This is more than a simple ruffling of the feathers here folks. When “No, thank you” was not working I had to pull out the big guns…yup, inner tigress. See, there is a time and a place. No stress, no raised voice just simple eye contact and force of character.  Say goodbye to Mr. Irritating!   I would love to hear what others have to say and I highly respect your opinions. However, respect mine as well. Thank you.

 

 

3. Bad vibes. I will merely smile at you until you feel like a tool or scram. Complaining and whining is ugly. I need to mentally tell myself to stop if I head down this path too. There is no use for such things. Let’s just stick to good vibes or if that’s too difficult, neutral vibes.

 

 

good vibes only

 

 

 

4. I am nobody’s doormat. I love the quote by Pablo Picasso, “Women are one of two things, a goddess or a doormat.” I choose to be a goddess.

 

 

Photo from Pinterest

Photo from Pinterest

 

 

5. Goodbye laziness – hello action!

 

 

6. Coffee as the first thing that hits my stomach in the morning. I know, I know. I am a severe addict where coffee is concerned and this is going to command a LOT of willpower on my part. This practice is doing me no favours so it is being kicked. Simple as that.

 

 

 

Kick It Style #2 – Here We Go!

 

 

1. Since the end of the work season (landscaping ended at the beginning of December here), the ladies I call co-workers/friends and I have been discussing ways to stay strong and fit during the winter months. Interestingly we have all taken a different route. I have embarked upon a mixed martial arts style full body workout daily for three months. After this time, I will be back at work and I’m sure I will still be kicking my own butt at home. Just for the record, I am not sparring or fighting. I’m a lover, not a fighter. I just like the defined muscle and definition of a fighter’s physique which will be mine with much hard work and dedication.

 

 

2. The volume of Life is being cranked! I am ready to ROCK!

 

 

3. I am realizing a few dreams this year that I have carried in my heart for many years. I will share them with you as they come to fruition.

 

 

4. I love, seriously and completely, love to be silly and live and laugh with abandon. Not in an embarrassing immature fashion but in a “let’s not be so serious all the time” sort of thought pattern.  This is not new to me but is a must as this is one of my defining characteristics. It is refreshing to be surrounded by friends of a similar mindset. If they are going to stare, give them something to look at. Or as Bonnie Raitt so superbly stated, “Let’s give them something to talk about.”

 

 

Ooo...so tempting.

Ooo…so tempting. Photo taken by unknown.

 

 

 

5. Staying in touch with nature and spending time outdoors is vital to my wellness. I feel drained when the connection with nature has been severed too long…like more than a day.

 

 

 

Each and every day I plan to make a difference in some way. Whether it be putting a smile on someone else’s face, sharing limitless love, helping others when needed with no expectations, or simply being a shoulder or an ear when such is needed. By bettering ourselves, it becomes easier to be there for others. We have more strength, love and compassion to share when we feel good about ourselves. I challenge you to do something each day that makes a positive difference in your life or someone else’s.

 

 

 

Let’s KICK IT! 

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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.

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…

 

 

IMG-20130708-00005

 

 

 

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

 

Sounds of Nature

crabapple - Malus

crabapple – Malus

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colours, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.”  – Rainer Maria Rilke

Have you ever thought of what it would be like if all of the actions of nature were accompanied by sound? I hadn’t until I read this quote and honestly, the thought is quite unnerving yet fascinating simultaneously. Just consider this for a moment. If left to its own devices with no interference from humans, nature works perfectly. Everything has its task to do and all functions as it should. If each blooming flower, for instance, made a series of sounds while opening would that particular progression meld beautifully with the growing and lengthening sound bite of a blade of grass? Or would the audio be off-putting? Perhaps Nature does provide a soundtrack, we just don’t hear what’s playing.

Viburnum

Viburnum

 

 

 

 

 

Tick Alert

There has been a subject that keeps popping up in a lot in conversation lately…ticks. Just the thought of these horrid wee creatures sparks frenzied responses from people, myself included. For good reason too. Ticks can carry disease and cause chaos within the body without us even knowing we’ve become a host.

 

Let me freak you out a bit with a couple of tick photos. You’re welcome.

 

 

blacklegged tick

 

 

 

 

 

tick sizes

 

 

 

 

Ticks generally reside in tall grass and bushes, but this year they seem to be popping up everywhere.  It is a common thought that ticks are found only in the country or in wooded areas but lately have been spotted in city gardens and lawns. A warmer than normal winter has encouraged an increase in the tick population. Great, now I feel itchy. Ticks do not fly but they seem to have, in my experience, a great ability to jump as though they were spring-loaded. Once on the body of a human or animal ticks will find a prime location (usually armpits, groin area, scalp and the nape of the neck are preferred locations) and make themselves at home by boring into the flesh. Scratch-scratch. Tick bites are generally painless so aren’t always detected quickly which gives ticks ample time to get to work. For your viewing pleasure, I present to you a burrowing tick.

 

 

burrowing tick - source unknown

burrowing tick – source unknown

 

 

 

 

Once the tick has started to burrow into the flesh, there is a proper technique for removal. Trying to flick the tick off or scratch it off is the wrong method as the mouth-parts need to stay connected to the body for proper removal. If the head and/or mouth-parts separate from the body the bacteria will remain possibly causing infection. Removal with tweezers by holding as low on the head as possible and pulling back gently to extract the tick is the correct method. Removing with dish soap or Basic H on a cotton ball also facilitates proper removal, or so I am told by those that have tried this method. Putting a squirt of dish soap or Basic H (see side link to my website Live Love Be Green for more info) then placing the cotton ball over the tick for a few minutes will supposedly draw out the tick by making it stick to the cotton ball and make it slide out easier. Hope I don’t have to try this method out. I have however, had to use the tweezer-method. Last summer I had a tick attach itself to my shoulder blade. Of course one of the only spots not easily accessible for me to remove it myself. I had been working at a place known for ticks and had performed a tick check on myself before jumping into the shower after I got home. I was good to go – or so I thought. The next morning while getting dressed for work I had an itch on my back. I turned and looked in the mirror to see something dark stuck to my shoulder-blade. Ack! Thank goodness help was close by to remove the tick easily for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a diagram of the proper tick removal method using tweezers:

 

 

tick removal-courtesy of yahoo.ca  images

tick removal-courtesy of yahoo.ca images

 

 

 

Ticks can carry bacteria that leads to such illnesses as Lyme disease. Be aware of any strange symptoms you may experience if you have been bitten by a tick and report them to your doctor immediately. Early detection is vital with any illness. If possible, keep the tick in a jar with a lid after removal in case you develop strange symptoms. Your local Public Health will test the tick for Lyme disease if necessary.

 

 

 

 

A few rules to deter and detect ticks while out and about:

 

– wear light coloured clothing to be able to easily detect ticks

 

– wear long pants and tuck them in or secure if possible to avoid ticks climbing up inside your pant leg

 

– spray boots/shoes and legs with DEET or a natural tick repellent. You want ticks to think you smell unappetizing.

 

– check yourself and family members for ticks after outdoor activity

 

– keep your grass cut short and dispose of unnecessary debris

 

 

 

Don’t let ticks deter you from getting out and enjoying the beauty of Nature. Simply be aware and be proactive. Now quit scratching and go enjoy some fresh air and sunshine!

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t make us bite you in hard-to-reach places!” – The Tick (comedic superhero)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day of Smells

Yesterday. The Day of Smells. Every day is filled with smells you may say, but yesterday seems to be especially poignant in my mind. Let me explain.

 

 

 

Daffodils - Narcissus

Daffodils – Narcissus

 

 

 

Although the day was filled to overflowing with scents, there were a few that really stood out.

 

 

 

Starting my day as usual…freshly ground coffee. Mmmm, my favorite smell to start the day. Without coffee’s mouth-watering aroma my day is not the same. I even ran in to Starbucks yesterday for an extra fix on my way to work which is highly unusual. Alright, alright, I really needed a washroom before jumping in the work truck due to an overabundance of coffee already but I just can’t resist the deliciousness of wafting coffee aromas. “I’ll have a Venti Tribute Blend black, please.” Ah, just what I needed. Smell #1.

 

 

 

Smell #2 – crunchy, decaying leaves on the forest floor. I just love that earthy, rich fragrance. Breathe deep.

 

 

 

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood

The fragrance of Spring is in full force. So many wonderful smells at this time of the year. More so than at any other time, I would say.  Hyacinth’s distinct smell perfumed the air yesterday. Such a heady fragrance.  The only issue was that while the hyacinth perfume was filling my nostrils another odour wafted in and altered the experience – skunk. Cough, cough…ew. There was obviously a skunks home in the vicinity. Wowzers, it was extra odoriferous.

 

 

 

The best smell of the day was a first for the season and another of my favorite smells – fresh-cut grass. Oh my. My head was swooning from the green ambrosia. Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me? Ahem, sorry.  There is something so mesmerizing about the first whiff of cut grass for the season. Oh who am I kidding, I am always affected by it. Always have been. So much so that years ago two friends of mine from high school (yes, I’ve love the fragrance that long) gave me a fresh-cut lawn scented candle as a gift. It was pretty darn close to the real thing too.

 

 

 

The worst odor of the day was also the last. There was a strange, funky smell in the hallway outside my office door. It was a strong iron-like stench with undertones of wet pennies. Gag. I was on a mission to find what was causing the rancidity and I eventually found it. Uh-oh. My daughter’s hamster had died and left behind wafting lines of stank. It is shocking how quickly dead animals start to decompose. I had heard him sifting around through his bedding the day before. Perhaps poor little Marshmallow was preparing himself for the inevitable. Sniff. We have had a few hamsters as pets over the years and each of them had unique personalities. Marshmallow was by far my favorite. He was a gentle little creature and will be missed. Many tears were shed last night over not being able to say goodbye. Sometimes a final farewell is within the heart, not with words. This morning I had the task of burying Marshmallow in the garden. I chose his final resting place in a small garden filled with Black-Eyed Susan that my daughter and her best friend planted two summers ago. What did I notice while fluffing the soil afterward? The spicy aroma of cedars and warm earthiness of the soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 “Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” – Gustav Mahler

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Brassica oleracea

Kale, beautiful kale. This year was the first time I have grown kale in my garden. To be honest, it’s the first time in my life that I have ever eaten kale as well (to the best of my knowledge). I love leafy greens such as chard, spinach and those delectable dainty salad greens such as arugula, but had surprisingly never been enticed by kale. Now I love it!  It is such an incredibly lush looking specimen with its large blue-green leaves. I am fascinated by its natural waxiness that makes water bead and roll off its leaves upon contact. Yes, I enjoy the little things in my daily life to the extreme. Makes me appreciate the world around me more when I take the time to notice the minute details.

Solanum melongenm

Aubergine, brinjal, eggplant.

I have learned so much this season.  I knew that the eggplant is a member of the nightshade family – a relative of tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. I knew this because, according to a naturopath I consulted with years ago, I was to avoid all members of the nightshade family. Guess I don’t follow advice very well, eh?  I am nutty for nightshades but try to keep my consumption moderate. I used to eat tomato sandwiches every day for a period of time when I was in my 20’s until I realized this was a reason I felt “off”.  Everything in moderation.

Yes, that is an arm in the background not part of the plant. This is an eggplant, not an arm-plant.

I recently learned that the eggplant is not actually a vegetable, but a fruit. I was aware that tomatoes are fruits but never considered the eggplant anything other than an intriguing  veggie. Not only is the eggplant a fruit but (wait for it)…it is a berry! Say what?  The plant world is fantastic, isn’t it?

The lovely eggplant is not a powerhouse of nutrients but does contain fiber and antioxidants.  Plus, it’s nice to shake up the variety of vegetables on offer at the  dinner table.

Cucumis sativus

My cucumber plant is going berserk. It took a bit to get going at the beginning of the season then just took off. I would normally have pinched it off but since it seems to be doing so well on top of the pergola I think I’ll just let it do its thing.  My daughter asked me recently if the cucumber was in the same plant family as squash. She was “bang on”. Squash, melons and cukes are all part of one big happy family.

Useful for so much more than munching on or slapping on your eyes when they are puffy or tired, cucumbers are very versatile.

– cucumber can be used to quickly shine shoes and repel water
– tightens collagen in the skin for instant firming action
– it is suggested that cucumber skin can erase pen, marker or crayon – I haven’t tested this one so try at your own risk
I love cucumber in a glass of water on a hot day instead of lemons or limes. 

Capsicum annuum “Tequila Sunrise”

I am so excited to taste this variety of pepper. It looks so spectacular against the green leaves.

Lycopersicon esculentum  

The tomatoes are starting to ripen. We have harvested a couple of bowls full at this point with a plethora left to pluck upon ripening. I have been enjoying the “chocolate” variety over the past week. I love the subtle differences between the varieties. The distinguishable tastes, acidity, texture differences…oh my!

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.”     ~Hanna Rion

Fruits of my Labour

I’m so excited! I have started harvesting from the garden. It is slim pickings just yet but it is such a great feeling to be picking and eating the fruits of my labour. Last night we ate this beauty – a Purple Beauty pepper. The colour is impressive, to say the least. The inside flesh is green and it tastes like a green pepper with a thinner skin. Lovely.

There were a few jalapenos that were ripe for the picking. Very tasty, indeed. They were included into a big batch of vegetarian chili a couple of nights ago. Tonight I intend to bake some jalapeno-cheddar bread with the two jalapenos waiting on my kitchen counter.

Oh, so soon the tomatoes will be ripe and ready to grace our table. I am most looking forward to my first bite of ripe tomato. All the varieties of tomatoes in the garden are loaded with fruit just needing a few more days. My mouth waters in anticipation.

I have been enjoying the kale for a couple of weeks now in different ways. I sautéed it with garlic one evening for dinner.  Another meal I ate it raw mixed into a salad. And my favourite dish that included kale was a sesame noodle salad. I cooked the kale with the noodles and it turned out perfectly tender without being overcooked. Simply luscious.

The herbs have been gracing our table in different recipes for a few weeks, pesto being the family fave.

I have planted a second row of both purple carrots and beets thanks to one of the neighbourhood rabbits that obliterated the first planting. The rabbit has since taken to the Vinca in the front garden. I am pleased with this so long as he remains out of the veggie garden.

Happy harvesting to all!

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.”- Alfred Austin