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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Healing Silence

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.”

– Caroline Myss

creek

Silencing the mind can be one of the most difficult tasks we as humans have to undertake. It sounds simple yet, if you are anything like me, the brain is usually swimming with “stuff”.

I honestly don’t recall a time in my life when I have been pulled in so many directions at once like I am at present.

Silencing the mind feels like an insurmountable quest lately. When things become so overwhelming I just want to escape, that’s exactly what I do. I find myself walking or surrounding myself with nature in some form or another.

There is nowhere indoors that can possibly come close to the uplifting and enlightening experience of being immersed in the great outdoors.

I feel part of a whole when I am outdoors. Infinitesimally small, yet connected to a web that’s never-ending.

Mother Nature instinctively wraps her loving arms around me and settles my heart and instantly quiets my mind.

It is in this peaceful embrace that my soul begins to heal.

Beach Bliss

 

 

 

Snack Shack/Restrooms

 

Have you ever heard the call? The call to head to a certain location?

Do you listen?

This morning, although the temperature was frigid, the beach called to me.

I have not been spending as much time as I desire outdoors lately so when the beach called, I dropped everything and went directly there.

Wind blown sand and snow

Wind blown sand and snow

 

Nature holds many surprises if you look around and notice the details.

The windswept sand and snow is a temporary painting on the landscape.

I dare not walk past without admiring its beauty.

swim at your own risk

swim at your own risk

 

 

 

 

trees along the pier

trees along the pier

“Of winter’s lifeless world each tree
Now seems a perfect part;
Yet each one holds summer’s secret
Deep down within its heart.”
~Charles G. Stater

 

beach volleyball

beach volleyball

 

 

 

 

Winter Beach

Winter Beach

 

There is something so mystical about the beach in the winter.

It is other-worldly. The sights, sounds and scents are very different from during any other season.

I stood in this spot for an extended period of time. Taking it all in until my face started to hurt from the cold.

With my ear buds in, listening to music I found myself dancing. I know. Weird, right?

I was alone on the beach without a soul in sight and here I was dancing!

I rejoiced in the sensation of pure bliss – of Spirit and surroundings.

Think I’m odd if you want to…whatever. Before you pass judgement though I dare you to give it a go for yourself.

Glimpse of Summers Past

Glimpse of Summers Past

 

 

 

 

snow fence

“Land really is the best art.” – Andy Warhol

 

 

Winter Sun

Winter Sun

 

 

 

 

Bench

 

 

 

 

[W]hat a severe yet master artist old Winter is…. No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.”  ~John Burroughs, “The Snow-Walkers,” 1866

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

 

 

 

 

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 

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 

 

 

 

Melancholy Weather, Meditation and Mraz

Upon waking this morning I was greeted by melancholy grey skies that eventually broke open, spilling heavy  drops down on my already muddy side yard and gardens. The work day was called off due to a 90% chance of rain all day. Rain days are always a mixed blessing. I can always use “alone time” and relish the freedom to do whatever I so choose without interruption. Sadly, that usually ends up being laundry, dishes or some other equally mundane task. On the other hand, I seriously enjoy my job and my co-workers so a day that is normally a work day without being on the job feels strange.

 

 

Today I decided not to feel any guilt and use it as a Me Day. To get back to certain past-times I love but have set aside for a while in pursuit of other things. I started my day with a glorious hot mug of Starbucks coffee and some reading material. I do love a good read yet I tend to only read at bedtime, having convinced myself that reading during the day is simply too indulgent. Not today it isn’t. I have devoured numerous different forms of written word today – fiction, blogs, words of wisdom collections, and health reference books in my library. I refer to my large bookshelf in my living room as my rotating library. Books are always coming and going either on loan, new additions, or rotated from boxes in the basement to refresh the material occasionally. I love books. The feel of old paper scented from years of  habitation in musty basements or my fresh-air and cooking smells infused home. There is nothing quite like the feel of holding a real book in my hands. E-readers are great tools but don’t give me quite the same satisfaction as an old, well-loved novel or heavy reference journal. I guess I’m a book-worm. I do feel somewhat guilty at the use of excess paper so I tend not to purchase a lot of new books but either borrow books from friends and family or purchase used books in the name of reusing an existing product. I ponder over which is worse; the use of paper for books, either recycled or new as opposed to the plastics and other resources used to manufacture e-readers/tablets and the electricity to run them as well as the disposal of the battery and the item itself upon its’ completed life span. Books are mostly 100% recyclable and last for incredible lengths of time if treated properly.

 

 

The gloomy day has also brought me the joy of reconnecting with my love of meditation and kundalini yoga. I enjoyed my hour-long session of awakening my kundalini energy. Blissful. I now feel as though I am glowing and warm with energy. I forgot how incredible the feeling of the warm energy rising up the spine feels and how alive I feel after practicing. Perhaps my early mornings will start with a yoga and meditation session instead of racing to the kitchen for coffee as soon as my feet hit the floor. That would be a much better start to preparing myself for the day. My body will thank me profusely for cutting my caffeine consumption, I’m sure.

 

 

kundalini awakening

It was time to infuse my environment with music. Jason Mraz’s music has aroused my senses this afternoon with his gloriously uplifting music. His cd “LOVE”, is definitely one of my favorites and always makes me swimmingly happy. Check it out.

 

I seriously love this song –   93 Million Miles but my fave pick would be Living In The Moment. When I’m feeling stressed out, “Living in the Moment” always brings me back to reality. Interesting how music can speak so strongly to our emotions, isn’t it? While my musical tastes are very eclectic there are certain artists and cd’s I reserve for certain types of days, moods, and activities. Sometimes I insist on loud and proud ZZ Top or Stevie Ray Vaughn when I’m feeling feisty, or perhaps a hit of Ella Fitzgerald when I feel strong yet sentimental. I think the only type of music I don’t listen to regularly is country.  After growing up in a home where country music was the only type of music my parents listened to, I have had my fill. My sisters and I would escape to our rooms to fill our ears with artists like Wham, A-Ha, Madonna and Michael Jackson (that was me) to Duran Duran, Billy Idol, and Ozzy Osbourne. We tried our hardest to steer clear of country music and still do! I am not a country music-hater per say, just not a fan. You certainly would never find me screaming over some country stud muffin yammering on about dogs, trucks and his long lost girlfriend, that’s for darn-tootin’! There is a time and a place for every genre of music and I wholeheartedly appreciate the creativity and artistry of musicians. The world is richer because of music.

 

 

Today continues to be a day of things that bring me happiness and uplift the spirit. We all need to take a Me Day now and then. I think I’ll go give my kids a hug and tell them how loved they are. After that I will go to my other happy place, the kitchen. I’ll pour myself a glass of red wine and start on some onion bhaji, aloo ghobi, daal, a salad and homemade naan for dinner.  The perfect rainy day meal.

 

 

 

 

 

“Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.” – Plato

Jumping the Gun

Spring has arrived, at least the calendar tells us so. Here in southern Ontario (Canada), it feels a bit more Spring-like than winterish. Is winterish a word? No, you say? It doesn’t matter, I like it so I shall use it. Signs of Spring are starting to become more obvious. The air smells different – earthy and wonderful, yet there is still a chill in the air when the breeze blows. Yesterday I pointed out to my daughter that the narcissus’ in the front garden have started to laboriously push their way up through the mulch to reach for the sun. We were perhaps a little too excited by this as we clucked like hens loudly about the coming of Spring flowers and warmer temperatures while hovering over the tiny green shoots. I felt as though we may just break out in song and dance! Perhaps we should cut back on watching Glee for a bit. The appearance of these tender green shoots encouraged me to look around a bit more at things we take for granted when the seasons change and life-force starts to become evident in the plant world. Yes, this is the plant nerd coming out in me again. I could inspect plants in minor detail for hours on end and never lose interest. I am utterly fascinated by the tenacity and instinctual intelligence of the botanical world around us.

 

 

 

Spring shoots

 

 

 

Although Spring is definitely my favourite time of the year (and not just because my birthday is in the Spring), there is a phenomena that always irks me each and every Spring. I am about to share with you one of my greatest pet peeves so get ready. It may not seem like much to most of you but to me this is HUGE. After a few nice days in a row, people start to flood outside into their gardens raking like fiends and start working in their gardens. Hey, I am as antsy as the next person about getting out in the soil and getting dirty but slow down!  This, my friends and readers, is my pet peeve. Over-zealous gardeners that are starting too early and possibly doing more harm than good. This won’t ring true world-wide obviously, but here where we enjoy four distinct seasons we need to stop rushing the next one before Mother Nature is ready. We are pouncing on Mother Nature as she is stretching, waking from her long slumber through the winter and demanding that she perform her magic instantly. I would think she would like to enjoy a cup of coffee before she gets down to business, just like you and I would. We need to focus not so much on getting things in order but instead enjoy the order of things that take place. Think about that a moment.

 

 

 

Non-gardeners and gardeners may view nature differently but we often have something in common. The desire to keep nature in its place or to tame it. To use it for our own purposes whether it be for cultivation of food or aesthetics. This has both pros and cons and I think has inspired another post at another time. Instead of rushing things to the next stage, why not watch the splendour that nature offers at this most magical time of the year. Have you ever noticed the formation of a flower bud? How the small, hard green bud slowly alters into a tightly wound group of petals that unfurl until its beauty is on full display. If that weren’t incredible enough, pollinators like bees start to notice this gorgeous display and come in for a landing. This whole process is mystical and hypnotising…I’m surprised I accomplish anything in the Spring!

 

 

 

When we slow down our need to control the elements of nature in our yards we allow nature to do what is intended without our interference and interruption at a critical time in its life cycle. For instance, if I rush outside today and start raking leaves that have blown into my garden over the winter, I will be removing the protective barrier that keeps tiny shoots from being hit with frost or even being damaged by me raking over them. Fresh shoots are immensely strong to push through soil to reach the sky but are also extremely fragile. Being mindful of the growth cycles in your zone and garden is a much more logical way to plan your tasks than rushing out and being a weekend warrior and doing everything at once. Treat nature with respect, supply the correct care and you will be rewarded.

 

 

 

Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.
– H. H. Williams

To begin your gardening year off on the right note inform yourself as to what zone you live in. This is imperative to proper plant selection and care.

Click here for North American plant zone map.

Click here for Canadian plant zone map.

Click here for European plant zone map.

Click here for Australian plant zone map.

Click here for African plant zone map.

 

 

 

Take the time this Spring to inform yourself about correct timing for garden tasks in your zone before jumping the gun. Your garden will thank you. It also gives you time to enjoy the show!

“If you really want to draw close to your garden, you must remember first of
all that you are dealing with a being that lives and dies; like the human body,
with its poor flesh, its illnesses at times repugnant. One must not always see
it dressed up for a ball, manicured and immaculate.”
– Fernand Lequenne,
Botanist

Inner Wisdom

night buddha

snowy buddha

 

 

 

“You are far from the end of your journey.
The way is not in the sky.
The
way is in the heart.
See how you love.”
– Buddha

Why look outside ourselves for direction on how to live life when our heart and Soul already carries this wisdom?

Breakfast Bliss

breakfast with Buddha

breakfast with Buddha

 

Breakfast this morning was a blissful start to the day.

What could be more sinfully satisfying than a bowl of warm chocolatey, coconutty sumptuousness?

A few days ago I happened upon a recipe for chocolate banana breakfast quinoa that made my taste buds dance at the thought. While reading through the ingredients I mentally omitted certain things and added others.

The original recipe can be found here. The first ingredient to hit the chopping block was banana. Over the past couple of years I get this weird mouth-feel from bananas that makes me highly uncomfortable. Okay, that sounds kind of weird. I guess I should be more specific. I may possibly have a slight allergy to bananas or at least an intolerance since my mouth and throat get a tingly, fuzzy feel and my stomach feels as though I swallowed a bowling ball. Does that explain why the banana was axed?

Instead, I aimed for pure gastronomic pleasure and substituted with coconut.  Gosh I love coconut. I would lay in a tub filled to the brim with coconut milk and drink pina coladas if the situation ever presented itself.  Yes, I am mad for coconut.

I think I need to stop and compose myself with a sip of coffee. Or three.

Let’s get down to business now, shall we? Collect your ingredients and let’s get the quinoa simmering so you can make yourself a cup of coffee while its doing it’s thing.

Fixin's for chocolate-macaroon breakfast quinoa

 

Quinoa

Coconut milk – read your ingredients before buying since most coconut milk contains preservatives. Find one without if possible.

Honey – unpasteurized is my preference. I want the “good stuff” that’s meant to be there.

Cocoa – I am trying to use up a large canister I bought for Christmas baking. Choose an organic, fair trade cocoa if you can.

Water

Coconut – shredded, unsweetened and preservative-free.

Sliced almonds

Now that all the ingredients are collected, let’s put the quinoa on to cook.

Make sure to rinse the quinoa well before using to avoid the bitter taste from the protective layer of saponin that covers the grain to repel birds and insects. Put 1/2 cup of washed quinoa into a small pot and add 1/2 cup of water, a handful of shredded coconut, and 1 cup of coconut milk. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. I covered the pot but you don’t need to. Watch it doesn’t boil over and make a mess of your stove top like I did.  The smell of burning coconut milk is not pleasant. This is where you can make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and relax for a few minutes. When the liquid is almost fully absorbed, remove from heat.

 Add 2 tsp of cocoa and 2 tsp of honey. Stir well. Top with a little coconut milk, shredded coconut and slivered almonds.

Find somewhere comfortable to sit while savouring your morning meal. Lingering over each bite and being mindful of enjoying the goodness of sustenance makes it all worthwhile. When we rush to consume “whatever” in the morning we are doing ourselves a disservice. I know I feel so much better and more clear-headed when I sit down, put on some music or just enjoy the silence while eating instead of trying to multi-task while walking around.

” To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha