Saturday, October 31, 2009

Do You Know Your Halloween Candy?

It’s Halloween, as you all know, so in a few hours, witches, skeletons, goblins, zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, devils, mummies, ghosts and many other scary beings will be showing up at my front door – and even yours - in search of some treats, particularly cool treats, which according to my 12-year-old daughter, include chocolates (hands down winner for most popular treat amongst kids – adults too), chips (always rank high), cool candies like Skittles, Starburst and Icebreakers (kids absolutely, positively love these, especially the sour-flavoured) and gum (not really as popular as the rest but well-liked). She felt compelled to tell me all this when I took her along with me to shop for Halloween candy because, according to her, I was making bad choices and obviously needed some serious help in understanding “what kids like and don’t like”. I was, it seems, “out of touch with her generation”.

“A box of chocolate bars is a good choice” She said. “A bag of strawberry-flavored Twizzlers isn’t”

“Is that right?” I asked. “Kids don’t like this licorice-type candy?”

“Not really”

So into the shopping cart it went.

“Mo-o-oooom. What are you doing? I told you we don’t really like that”

Oh well.

“I think we should get some; most of the kids I grew up with liked them”, which really meant ‘I love this candy and Halloween is a perfect excuse to pick some up. So if you kids don’t like it, great, that just means more for me!’

“Yeah, that was like a loooong time ago”

Ouch.


So now I have a box of potato chips, and a couple of bowls filled with sour-flavoured candy, licorice-style treats (for me, of course), an assortment of chocolate bars and sugar-laden gum; all highly in demand (cavity-inducing) treats that will make us one of the coolest treat-giving houses in the neighbourhood tonight. With the help of my daughter we are in touch with today’s generation. We’re cool. We're happening. And we’re going to be number one with the kids, which according to my neighbour, will number around 100 or so.

As long as nobody touches my Twizzlers, we’ll all get along just fine.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Beautiful Blue Jays

My backyard, once brimming with an assortment of colourful and often amusing critters, is a little quieter now; many of my feathered friends have migrated to warmer regions (smart animals). The squirrels are still here, obviously. The squirrels are always here – year round. “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the squirrels from invading the bird feeders, destroying the garden, chewing holes in garbage can lids and basically running the show.” You think you’re in charge. Silly you.

There is also, Mr. Inski, the vivacious little chipmunk that still shows up for the daily treats that I offer him; the shy cardinals that I barely catch a glimpse of because they bolt at the slightest threat (real or imagined); the pigeons that I’m constantly chasing away; the sparrows, which I’ve discovered, are bullies at bird feeders; and a few other winged and wingless creatures showing up in search of food, including the Blue Jays.



With their beautiful blue, white and black plumage, their perky crest and their noisy calls, Blue Jays are one of the most familiar birds. And since they’ve been dropping by frequently lately, and adding some colour to an otherwise drab back yard, I decided to learn a little something about them. And to share it with all of you.

Aren’t you lucky to have me?

Anyway.

Here are some interesting things about these attractive birds:

- They are part of the Corvidae family of birds, which includes relatives like ravens, magpies, rooks, crows, jackdaws, treepies, nutcrackers, choughs and several others. A common name for this group of birds is “The crow family”

- Very clever, if not downright smart, Blue Jays in captivity have been know to use tools for problem-solving, such as strips of newspaper to rake in food pellets outside of their cages.

- Blue Jays are monogamous. A couple will stay together until one of the pair dies. (Isn’t this the coolest thing?)

- Extremely protective of their family members, particularly their young, they will not hesitate to attack large predators – including humans – when intimidated by them. Several Blue Jays will also band together, when a stronger force is necessary, to chase away intruders.

- Excellent imitators, Blue Jays frequently copy the sounds of other birds, including the cries of hawks, which is done to a) warn other Jays that predators are around and b) to deceive other species into believing that hawks are close by – so food sources will be abandoned and made available exclusively to the Jays. (Smart, huh?) So, if you ever see a Blue Jay fly down to a feeder immediately after the smaller birds abandon it in fear, well, you’ll know what that’s all about.

- In addition to other birds, Blue Jays can also imitate human speech and meowing cats. Most sources of information state that this is mostly done by captive Blue Jays. Still, that’s pretty impressive.

- A Blue Jay raises or lowers the crest of feathers on its head according to its mood. A fully erected crest, forming a prominent peak, indicates aggression or excitement. A crest that is laid flat on top of the head is a sign of calmness and relaxation. And a crest that spreads outwards, resembling a bottle brush, reveals that the bird is frightened.

- The lifespan of these birds is about 7 years. The oldest Blue Jay in the wild (studied by researchers) lived to be 17 ½. And the longest-lived, a female in captivity, lived to be over 26 years old. Wow.



Blue Jays are not welcome by everyone because they have a reputation of being bullies at the bird feeders. Not everybody agrees though. According to some sources of information, these birds may not be as aggressive as they are made out to be, which has certainly been my experience. I personally don’t have a problem with them. In fact, the other critters in my backyard, including squirrels, mourning doves, woodpeckers and even the shy cardinals, have often dominated the Blue Jays, preventing them from obtaining food. So, I welcome these beautiful birds, particularly this time of year, with one of their favourite treats – peanuts.



Monday, October 26, 2009

Cutting Back The Lilac Tree

(Warning: the following post contains a photo of a mutilated lilac tree that may be disturbing, offensive and cruel to some readers, especially very sensitive gardeners. Read at your own risk.)

Okay.

I may be quite experienced and comfortable with caring for houseplants, but when it comes to outdoor gardening, which I’ve been away from for many years, most of the time I honestly don’t know what the heck I’m doing. This can be quite scary for the plants in my garden, especially when I get the urge to do some serious pruning, which I know nothing about aside from some quick research. Add to that multiple yard waste bags, pruning tools, a motivated husband and a chainsaw looking for some action and you’ve got a nightmare in the making for the plants.

And worse than all that, I’ve discovered that I get some kind of sick pleasure cutting back greenery, especially bushes that I don’t like or trees that are growing out of control. There is evidence of this type of callous behaviour here and here. What kind of person have I become, I ask you?

(Mouhahahaha...)

Oh my, was that me laughing like that?

Anyhow.

There is a lilac tree growing in the back of the house, and since the day we took possession of our home, I’ve been debating what to do about it. For one thing, it’s been severely neglected. The previous owners of our place were much too busy for gardening, so everything, including this tree, pretty much went to pot.

Well.

Even though I spent the better part of the summer cleaning up almost every planting area on our property, most of which is now completely bare of greenery, I never went near the lilac; I simply ignored it. So while trees and shrubs were screaming in terror as I hacked them away, the lilac tree grew happily, convinced it was spared this evilness

Until recently.

A couple weeks ago, while standing outside overlooking the condition of the garden and wondering what I should take care of before the winter arrives, I pointed to the lilac tree and said “Your number’s up buddy”

“Why me, water roots lady? Why me?” The poor lilac asked.

“Because” I answered, “You have grown out of control and you look awful”


So I gathered up the necessary pruning tools, including a husband who was more than eager to use his chainsaw on larger tree limbs, and went after the lilac. When my husband asked “how much do we cut?”, I said “most of it”. An hour later (that included bloodcurdling screams from the lilac and surrounding vegetation), three yard waste bags had been filled...


...and the lilac tree looked like this:

Did we overdo it? I don’t know.

But one thing’s for sure.

“You got some kind of sick pleasure cutting it back?”

[Blush]

Yes, but what I really wanted to say is this:

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine what needs to be done in the garden, and when it needs doing. There are plenty of sources of information, each one contradicting the next one. And when I searched for information about lilacs, a few sources mentioned cutting the lilac back in spring, others suggested the fall. Some said ‘cut back hard’ while others said ‘don’t cut too much’. There was even the ‘you have to prune regularly’ and ‘you should not prune very often’ debate. The only thing most of them agreed on is that if you do cut back a lilac, you shouldn’t expect flowers for quite awhile, perhaps 2 – 3 years.

I have no idea whether we’ve done right by the lilac or not. We’ll just have to wait till spring and see what happens.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It Is With Great Sadness...

...that I announce the passing of my backyard marigolds on Thursday, October 22, 2009 after a courageous battle with Canadian-style frosty weather.


I will be receiving condolences throughout the day in front of my house - until the garbage truck arrives to take away the deceased.

(Is that the truck? Oh...well, there they go...)

In lieu of (more) flowers, donations can be made to the TDCFA (Too Damn Cold For Annuals) foundation; a non-profit organization that helps annuals relocate to warmer regions.

The marigolds are survived by all the perennials that they shared space with, including the Anemone sylvestris (snowdrop anemone) that is blooming abnormally this time of year, causing suspicion and paranoia that the plants are taking over the world.


Seems to me that the marigolds were just a decoy. It’s been the snowdrops, all along.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Annual Swarm

Around the end of October of every year, Asian lady beetles begin to search for a place that is dry, cool and concealing where they can spend the winter hibernating. In their natural habitat, they do this in cracks and crevices within cliff faces, huddling together by the thousands. In the city, where cliffs are not prevalent, they seek out shelter in houses and buildings, entering through doors, cracks, crevices, vents and windows.

Well.

Yesterday was our annual Asian lady beetle swarm. By noon, the back of our home was crawling with these bugs. I wondered why only the back of the house was infested, so I decided to do a little research. What I learned is that lady beetles congregate on the south-facing side of a house (that would be the back of ours) because that’s where it’s warmest.

“Well, duh, water roots lady, you couldn’t figure that out on your own?”

Hmpf.

Anyhow.

The first time I witnessed a swarm of lady beetles, it sort of freaked me out. I mean, I like these bugs and all (how can you not like a bug that devours aphids?), but when there are a gazillion of them crawling all over the exterior of your home (and even you if you happen to be outdoors during this madness), well, it’s rather unsettling.





This phenomenal swarm is kind of, you know, Alfred Hitchcock-ish. It reminds me of the movie ‘The Birds’; a suspense film that Hitchcock directed. Do you remember that? Or know of it? It’s about the residents of a small town in the San Francisco Bay area that are suddenly being violently attacked by swarms (there’s that word again) of birds that have inexplicably declared war on the human race. And it’s not just one type of bird; all the different species have teamed up to take over the world.

“So what are you saying, water roots lady? That sweet little Asian lady beetles will join forces with bees and grasshoppers and dragonflies and declare war on us? Aren’t you being a little paranoid? Come to think of it, didn’t you recently mention something similar about marigolds and houseplants and even tiny little chipmunks, of all things? Maybe you sniffed one too many garden weeds this summer”

Hey, anything’s possible.

"Well this isn’t. Bugs do not possess the intelligence to team up with other bugs to take over the world"

[Snort]

Sounds similar to what the elderly woman in the movie said about the birds. Oh come now; you know who I’m talking about: Mrs. Bundy, the amateur ornithologist. Well, she insists that birds of different species do not flock together, “the very concept is unimaginable” And to plan an organized attack? No way. “I would hardly think that either species (referring to crows and blackbirds) would have sufficient intelligence to launch a massed attack. Their brain pans are not big enough…”

Well, despite her words, a motorist is attacked right outside the window while he’s filling his car with fuel, he’s knocked unconscious, gasoline is spilled on the ground when he drops the hose, which ingnites when another man lights a cigar near it, and mayhem ensues with people dying all over the place. And poor Mrs. Bundy is now red-faced.

“For heaven’s sake, water roots lady, it was just a movie”

That’s what they want us to think. I bet there’s a lot more to it than the government is letting on. I read Dean Koontz books, you know. I know what’s going on.

“Crazy as a loon...”

What did you say?

“Er...I said it was a hazy afternoon....”

Well, we should have some sunny breaks tomorrow morning.

“I GOT IT! In the movie there’s more than one type of bird, right? Well, you only saw the Asian lady beetles. No other bugs. So there’s no plot to take over the world because the bugs have not united. They’re just not smart enough! Ha ha ha…I got you!”

Well, not exactly. There were these bugs too:




Runs away screaming... “AHHHHHHH....she’s crazy!”

Oh well, there goes another one...

Incidentally folks, even though significant numbers may congregate inside walls if they manage to find a way in, they’re more of a nuisance than anything else. They won’t harm you or feed on the wood of your home or eat your food or damage your clothes or reproduce while indoors. Still, you should make sure to seal all outside cracks and crevices to prevent their entry. After all, two or three lady beetles is cute, a hundred or so is, well, Alfred Hitchcock-ish.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Woolly Bear

Yesterday was such a gorgeous, sunny day that my husband and I decided to take advantage of it by taking a nice long walk on the K&P trail, a 15 kilometer, multi-use, semi-urban trail that is available to the public for a variety of uses, including walking, hiking, cycling, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.

Along the way I took a few dozen photos, some of which I’ll undoubtedly share at some point (if ever I’m done sorting through them). But for now, I wanted to share a photo of a fuzzy little critter that fascinated me when I spotted it.


(Isn’t he the coolest-looking thing? His black and (slightly reddish) orange shades fit in perfectly with the Halloween holiday, don’t you think?)

Anyway.

I’d never seen this caterpillar before (shows how much I get out), so later at night I plunked myself down in front of my computer to search the internet for an ID. Not sure how to being my search, I decided to simply type in what the caterpillar looked like, so I wrote “black and orange caterpillar”. And POOF, google (unsurprisingly) came back with a gazillion hits (something google does very well) and after checking out a few web pages, I finally identified the little fuzzball.


Apparently, this little guy goes by the common name of “woolly bear caterpillar”, and he grows up to be the Pyrrharctia isabella,, commonly-referred to as Isabella Tiger Moth. That’s too bad, cause once again, I’d really hoped for a butterfly. Oh well.

There’s more.

These caterpillars are often seen crossing roads and paths on warm days in autumn in search of a dark and sheltered spot to spend the winter, which can be under bark or inside the cavities of rocks and logs. We spotted a few along the way, in the middle of the road, slowly, ever so slowly making their way across. It goes without saying that I had to stop every time we saw one, so I can move it to the side where it would be safe. I couldn’t just walk away, wondering if it would get crushed by the people, dogs, horses and bikes going by.


At some point, it dawned on my husband that we were never going to get anywhere if I was going to stop and ‘save’ every caterpillar from possible death, so he said: “You don’t need to stop for every single caterpillar; they’ll be fine”

To which I answered: “They’re in the middle of the road; how can they not get squashed?”

And he said: “They’re not going to get squashed. Let’s just keep going”

I decided he might be right, so I quit the ‘save the caterpillars’ mission and picked up the pace. And wouldn’t you know it, a couple of minutes later we happened upon a dead woolly bear. Squashed. Like I’d said.

(Words of wisdom to husbands: When your wife wants to move caterpillars to the side of the road, let her. It makes for a much more pleasant walk.)

Okay, so...

In the spring, the woolly bear caterpillar wakes up from its hibernation, feeding for a brief period before spinning its cocoon. A few weeks later, it emerges as the Tiger Moth, which, if you ask me, is rather dull-looking compared to the caterpillar stage.

Then there’s the superstitious stuff.

According to folklore of eastern United States and Canada, the amount of black stripes found on a woolly bear caterpillar in the fall is an indication of the severity of the winter. In other words, the longer the black bands, the more severe the winter will be; longer, colder and snowier. And just to complicate matters further: if the bands are brown instead of black, it also indicates a milder winter. In that case, how the heck does the orange fit in if the bands are brown?

And there’s even more.

If the woolly caterpillar’s head is dark (black), the start of winter will be severe, and if its tail is dark, then the end will be very cold. In addition, since this Halloweenish fuzzball has 13 body segments, it’s believed that each segment forecasts one of the 13 weeks of winter. Now, judging from the photos above, I should be expecting a crappy start to winter, which will depress me. And right before I hit rock bottom, the mild weeks will kick in, reviving me and giving me hope. And as soon as I’m happy and feeling good, the weather will turn on me once more and I’ll be depressed again. Just great.

Why couldn’t fuzzball be more orangey? I suppose I shouldn’t complain cause it could be worse; woolly bear might have been mostly black.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Don’t You Hate When...

...you’re walking around the supermarket, minding your own business, picking up your weekly groceries and everything you need for the turkey pot pie and the turkey soup and a whole bunch of other turkey recipes that you plan to make, which will hopefully use up some of the 8 pounds of leftover turkey meat from Thanksgiving day that’s taking up precious space in your freezer, when all of a sudden BAM, this jumps into your shopping cart:


When you try to put it back on the shelf, the Amaryllis bulb sobs that all it wants is a “forever home” and that "you seem like such a kind and loving plant grower” and that’s why it jumped into your cart. And that “you don’t seem like the type that would coldheartedly leave behind a poor and helpless bulb” that might end up being bought by a cruel and inexperienced grower or that might never be bought and end up dying a lonely death in a supermarket of all places, all of which makes you feel guilty enough to take it home.

Don’t you hate that? Yeah, me too.

That’s what happened to me yesterday. An amaryllis bulb jumped into my shopping cart, recited its sob story and ended up going home with me. It’s now planted in clay pellets and I hope to have beautiful, bold flowers for Christmas.


There is one thing I just don’t understand. Why do these kits include cheap, plastic containers that would never in a million years be able to support an amaryllis that can easily tip over a clay pot with its large, heavy leaves? It’s really lame.


Anyhow, be careful out there folks; the amaryllis incident could happen to you!

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Good Plant To Start Hydroculture With

As some of you already know, I grow my indoor plants in clay pebbles, not in soil. And the system I follow is hydroculture, which is related to hydroponics but lacks all the automated equipment that is commonly associated with hydroponics. Yadda, yadda, yadda...

So.

Most people that visit my website have never heard of hydroculture or, if they’ve heard of it, have no idea how to grow plants in it. Occasionally I receive emails from individuals curious to try their hand at this soilless system, and one of the questions that many of them ask is: “I’d like to start with one plant and see how it goes. What would you recommend?”

My answer: “Something tried and true, of course”

“Get a little more specific, Water Roots lady”

“Alright, alright. Sheesh. Talk about pushy...”

If you’ve never grown anything in hydroculture, the first thing you need to do is get a feel for it with a plant that is able to handle just about anything you throw at it – including the kitchen sink… Ha ha ha…sorry, couldn’t resist.

Anyway.

There are a few great candidates that I will list over time on this blog, but for today’s post I will recommend the Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’, a hardy, highly-tolerant plant that is also very attractive with its striking dark green leaves that are variegated with silver.



Choose one that is small to medium-sized and visibly healthy. Remove it from its pot and wash the roots completely free of soil. When the plant is clean, pot it up in clay pellets, add some water to the container, making sure that it’s below the root system and place the whole kit and caboodle in a bright, warm spot that is out of the direct path of sun. Aglaonemas tend to grow succulent, water roots fairly quickly, so you should see them emerge within a month or so. But if they don’t, don’t panic; sometimes it takes a little longer.

That’s all there is to it folks.

Whatever you do, don’t start with something more complicated if you’re just starting with the hydroculture system, because you don’t need to be discouraged by a plant that’s fussier than most no matter where it grows. For example, gardenias would not be a wise choice. They have hissy fits over everything.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Woke Up This Morning...

...to this (the thermostat outside says brrrr…):


And this (the water in the birdbath is frozen):

(Yes, it’s a terrible picture. But it was still kind of dark and I took the photo through my kitchen window because it was freezing outside and I was too cowardly to step outside)

But yet, there’s this?


(music from Psycho movie is heard in the background)

You know, there’s something uncanny about annuals that don’t surrender to the harshness of frost. Kind of twilight zone-ish, in fact. Ever since I read Beth’s humorous (but with a smidgen of truth in it) article about plants (in her case morning glories) bent on world domination, I’ve been watching my own plants very closely, especially the marigolds that refuse to do what is expected of annuals this time of year - like die when frost hits. But noooo.. Instead, they keep growing and growing and growing. And growing.

I suppose I should be grateful for some flowers this time of year, but after reading this on Beth’s site:

“...I found it even more frightening to imagine what might happen if nature took over while humans were still here...”

...well, wouldn’t you be sleeping with one eye open?

(Come to think of it, perhaps I should take a closer look at my houseplants while I’m at it. Lord knows what they've been up to while I've been busy with the move, the garden, the house...)

And let’s not forget the animals. I have a yard full of furry and feathery visitors. I used to think it was the squirrels that were trouble. Then I believed it may be the rabbits. But this morning, as stood in awe of the marigolds, I felt eyes on me:


Sure he’s small and cute, but he may just be the ring leader...


(Incidentally, you should visit Beth’s website if you haven’t already. She’s a great writer and highly entertaining. Well, go already. Go. Why are you still here?)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bromeliads Are Taking Over The World

Alright, I lied. They’re not taking over the world, just my kitchen. But the title did grab your attention, and here you are. Well, you may as well stick around and finish reading this post. What the heck; you came all this way, didn’t you?

Alrighty.

I know I’m playing favourites with my plants, but who can blame me? I’m weak when it comes to bromeliads. And like the Aechmea fasciata, I’d like another of my favourites from the awesome bromeliad family to enjoy some bright light. So today, I moved my Vriesea splendens into my kitchen, not too far from the Aechmena. They seem to be getting along just fine, so far.


You know, for the longest time I couldn’t quite put my finger on what this plant reminded me of, something...gosh...darn it...formalish? I just couldn’t put it into words. And then one day, Mr. Subjunctive over at Plants Are The Strangest People hit the nail on the head in this post when he said that “...if ever a plant naturally looked like it was wearing a tuxedo, Vriesea splendens would be that plant as far as I'm concerned. Which is enough of a reason right there to call it James Bond...” And I thought “That’s it! That’s what it reminds me of!” Someone in a tuxedo. No, I wouldn’t have thought of James Bond, although I agree that that’s a perfect fit, but the tuxedo image was lurking somewhere in the black hole in my mind. Okay, maybe not a tuxedo but definitely some type of suit. You know, the formal thing I mentioned before.


Anyway, the point is that I can always count on one of my favourite bloggers to unleash those wacky thoughts. Thanks Mr. S.

So, getting back to the part about moving the Vriesea splendens into my light-flooded kitchen...

I’m hoping that it will also bloom at some point. The mother plant was shed a long time ago and this pup seems to be growing happily on its own; I see new leaves growing every now and then, although hardly enough to get really excited over. Still, a leaf or two from time to time is better than no leaf at all. And together with leaves, I’m hoping my Vriesea splendens rewards me with an awesome flower, although I’m not holding my breath because, apparently, this plant does not bloom easily indoors. Nevertheless, one can hope.

Should my James Bond bromeliad go into bloom, you'll be the first to know.

Oh, and speaking of James Bond:

I’m not a huge fan of action-packed, testosterone-loaded movies, but, occasionally, I do (force myself to) sit through one for my husband’s sake because he really likes these types of films. And it seems only fair since he’s sat through some chick flicks and tear-inducing dramas and romantic comedies (which aren’t that bad, if you ask me). And he hasn’t fallen asleep on any of them. Impressive.

A-ny-way.

I’d never watched a James Bond movie (yes, really), so, when my husband recently asked (pleaded) to watch one, I said “Sure, why not? I’ve never seen one; it may turn out to be fun”

Not.

I really meant to stay awake throughout the whole movie but found myself slowly nodding off halfway through, which if you ask me isn’t bad, considering I was ready to do so after the first half hour. And for about 15 minutes or so, I battled, futilely, to stay focused. But self said “I’m outta here; deal with it” So the eyes closed and I began to slowly slide down until I became one with the couch. Zzzzz…

So.

A few days later, I asked my husband “What do you guys like about James Bond, anyway? I found it painfully boring, and the guy’s got an ego the size of an elephant.”

The husband smiled and said “Oh, I don’t know. Good looking guy. Loads of confidence. Strong. Great fighting skills. Lots of action. Fast cars. Guns. Beautiful women...”

Oh.

(I must confess that I did find Daniel Craig...rather...um...interesting...)

As an actor, of course.

[Cough]

Monday, October 12, 2009

Giving Thanks On Thanksgiving

"Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted" ~Aldous Huxley ~

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. There is a turkey roasting in the oven, the pumpkin pie is in the fridge, the pumpkin bread is sliced and waiting to be devoured and the side dishes are being kept warm on the stove.

But that’s not what’s important.

What is important is taking a few moments to reflect on all the blessings in my life; things that I sometimes take for granted.

So.

10 Things I’m Grateful For

1) Two Beautiful Children

I have experienced a few things in my life but nothing has brought me more joy than being a mother; it is the greatest adventure of my life. No matter how many years go by, I can never quite get over the astonishment that I created two human beings that lived inside me at one time. Their birth, their very existence, is a miracle.

2) A Loving Husband
My husband is the love of my life and my best friend. I am grateful for his generosity, sensitivity, kindness, patience and unconditional love. He is one of the best people I know and I am proud to be his wife.

3) A Wonderful Childhood

I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in a happy home with loving parents and two wonderful brothers. We had few luxuries in terms of material goods but, as far as I’m concerned, we were the richest family; our home was overflowing with love, warmth, peace and stability. My childhood has helped shape the person I am today.

4) A Caring Family

I am surrounded by a very loving family that is always there for me should I ever need them. Even my father who has passed away is still a huge part of my life, having left cherished memories and wonderful lessons on how to be a better person for me to pass on to my own children.

5) Good Friends

I’ve never needed a lot of friends, only good ones. And I’ve been fortunate enough to have run across some of the most genuine, honest and thoughtful individuals. Their friendship is a blessing in my life, something I must never take for granted.

6) A Peaceful Life

With so many terrible things that people experience around the world, I am grateful to be living in a safe and peaceful society, where I can walk outdoors alone at night and not be afraid.

7) Having Enough To Eat
I have never been hungry. Even during my childhood when my parents experienced hardships, we always had enough to eat. A full fridge and a stocked cupboard is something that most of us take for granted, forgetting that there are so many people around the world who have nothing to eat.

8) Being Healthy
I am thankful for being healthy and having a healthy family. Without this, nothing else would matter.

9) My Home
Every day, I wake up in a warm, safe home and thank the good lord for that. There are people living on the streets, homeless, cold, hungry and lonely. I remind myself every day to never take for granted what so many people are missing.

10) My Spirituality

In my teen years, I set off on a journey of spiritual exploration that lasted for many years, and it wasn't until my late twenties that I formulated my own belief system, based on everything I’d researched during that period. My self-defined spiritual beliefs work for me, and they give me a sense of comfort.

===========

My life is filled with blessings and I’m grateful for each and every one of them.

To all my fellow Canucks:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Bromeliad Basking In The Sun

My kitchen faces south, and now that the sun is lower with the arrival of the autumn season, the room is flooded with sunshine. There was a sunny spot available on my kitchen table for a houseplant, and what better plant to place there than an Aechmea fasciata (Urn plant), which happens to be my favourite bromeliad and my favourite indoor plant.


I could have placed my Adenium obesum (desert rose) in this primo spot, and maybe I should have, but I have five Aechmea fasciatas that have yet to bloom; two of which were given to me as a housewarming gift from friends that visited not too long ago and three of which were pups of a plant I bought a few years ago. What this means, basically, is that I have five chances to witness my favourite plant bloom – from scratch. Because although I’ve bought Aechmea fasciatas in full bloom, I’ve never actually seen one flower.

I intend to leave this Aechmea fasciata on my kitchen table permanently because the light levels adjust on their own with the season, so I don’t need to move this plant to keep it from burning in summer, midday sun or to make sure it receives adequate light in fall and winter when light levels diminish. In spring and summer, the sun lifts so it doesn’t hit the plant directly, yet it is bright enough to satisfy. And during the fall and summer seasons, the sun hits the plant directly because it’s lower, yet it doesn’t burn because it’s weaker. A win-win situation year round, wouldn’t you say?

So let’s see what happens. Hopefully in the next few weeks or months, I’ll witness this lovely plant blooming. That would be really exciting.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Delicious Roasted Peppers

I’ve been wondering what I might want to grow next year in my garden in terms of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Tomatoes are a possibility; so are cucumbers. Basil, which is a reminder of my father, is a must, along with dill, which I love. Onions rank high and so does garlic, which I’ve discovered should be planted in the fall. When it comes to fruits, there’s only one that interests me: raspberries. How can I not grow raspberries? I mean, really.

And along with all the above, I will definitely consider growing peppers. Yellow peppers. Orange peppers. And even red peppers. Because, dear readers, I have this delicious, easy to make recipe for roasted peppers that the entire family loves and I can just imagine how terrific it would be if I made it with my very own homegrown peppers.

What?

What’s that?

Oh, you want to know if I’m going to share this delicious, easy to make recipe?

Well, of course I am. Don’t you know I love you guys? Come on, come on...group hug...

Alright, that’s enough. Here’s how to make the most amazing roasted peppers in the entire world.

Ingredients:

6 - 8 Peppers (Red, Yellow or Orange)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup oil (I use canola but olive oil also works well)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground thyme

1) Cut each pepper in 4 pieces and remove the seeds and membranes. Place the sliced peppers (flattened) on a baking tray lined with foil paper and broil until the skins are black.



2) Remove peppers from oven, transfer them to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (or plate) for 10 - 15 minutes.



3) Peel away the skins, slice each pepper into thin (or thick, if you prefer) slices and place them in a bowl, a plastic container or a jar.


4) Mix all the ingredients together, pour over the sliced peppers, toss to coat and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve at room temperature.


That’s all there is to it!

Enjoy.

You know, I’ve always loved roasted peppers and for years I bought jars of them. Until I ran across this recipe. Now I make my own.

So will I consider growing peppers in the garden to be used for the recipe above?

You bet I will.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

And So It Is Done

I’d rather be planting flowers than emptying out containers, but since I can’t control the seasons or the weather, I don’t have much of a choice. Mother Nature still rules.

The containers that once boasted beautiful petunias and amazing geraniums are now empty. Isn’t the photo below depressing?


I even had to say goodbye to my angels and my garden fairy:


Everything is getting stored in the shed where it will be protected from the harsh winter. (I haven’t told the angels and the fairy that their winter sanctuary is unheated, but I’m sure they’ll forgive me by the time the spring arrives.)



Even the tools have a little spot, although they’re still being used to finish cleaning up and preparing the garden for the winter.


There are still a few items to put in storage like our patio set, the hose, the storage bench, the barbecue and so on, which will get done over a period of a few weeks. I think the last thing to go will be the barbecue. That’s something that we’ll hold onto for as long as possible. For obvious reasons.

It really saddens me to see the garden season coming to an end.

Is it spring yet?

Sigh.