Sunday, December 13, 2009

Scenic Sunday #74

It's getting more and more difficult to get around these days. I am restricted to my scooter and the weather has been awful. The sidewalks are covered in hard lumpy ice and snow and a cold wind blows from the north! There have been no photo shoot opportunities for me lately. So I bring you this photo I took when I was in Chicago a couple of years ago. I was mesmerized by that city! I loved this view of what looked to me like a parking garage. If anyone knows any more about it please let me know. I also posted a picture on SkyWatch Friday this week. (On my other blog)

If you want to see more Scenic Sunday photos just go here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scenic Sunday #72

Taking the grade 3 class on a wagon ride through Pioneer Village in Toronto. Great memories!

If you want to see more Scenic Sunday photos click here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Scenic Sunday #71

Here is another picture taken on the island of Bonaire a few years ago. This is the Atlantic side of the island. The waves here are huge and the beaches extremely dangerous. Swimming is not allowed in many places because of the undertow. This is a photo of a huge water spout that erupted from a 'blow hole' in the rocks. The noise was deafening.

Want to see more Scenic Sunday photos from around the world? Just go here to Scenic Sundays.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Scenic Sunday #70

Here is my photo for Scenic Sunday. It was taken on our last visit to Germany. The town is called Fussen. It is in southern Bavaria just minutes away from Austria. This is the view from the home of the family we went to visit. It was raining the day I took this photo, but still it is a beautiful place to live.
For more Scenic Sunday pics, just click on the icon below.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Scenic Sunday #69

I know this isn't the most scenic of scenic shots, but an interesting one, non-the-less. This is not just a tree that has been chopped down. This is the work of a beaver. You can see the huge chips that are on the ground around the stump. Beavers live throughout Ontario and most of North America. I am not sure of the exact number, but it is in the millions! They are the second largest species in the rodent family. Beavers cut down trees to build dams and lodges and to store them as food for the winter. This tree was likely cut for food purposes since all the branches had been taken and only the trunk was left. Beavers are very active at this time of year, harvesting branches for their winter survival. The lake this tree watched over is a very deep one. It is part of the Trent System. I doubt if any of the branches were used to build a dam, but they could have contributed to building a lodge. Beavers spend the winter in the lodges and need water to be deep enough for them to be able to swim out from under the lodge and swim to find their food cache. Ice can reach a thickness of 3 or 4 feet, so the water levels have to be higher than this.

Family: Castoridea. Genus: Castor. Species: C. canadensis.
Common Name: Beaver

To see more of Scenic Sunday just click on the link below.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Carving a Pumpkin

My dear friend in Japan once asked me how we carve our pumpkins for Halloween. I was never able to show her because I couldn't get around in my wheelchair and didn't feel like carving anything, let alone a pumpkin. But this year is different! So here goes.......

Cover your working area with newspaper. This is going to get messy! Then cut the top off the pumpkin. Taper it a bit so that the top doesn't fall down into the pumpkin when done. There are lots of special tools for pumpkin carving. Unfortunately I have given them all of mine to my DD so that the students in her class could carve pumpkins. So, I used a knife, but be careful! Pumpkin 'skin' can be really difficult to cut!

Next, hollow out the pulp and seeds. I used an ice cream scoop. This is a kind of messy step, so get the kids to do it! I don't have any kids and Mimi would not even come to take a look, so I guess I'm on my own.

The seeds are edible and can be roasted in the oven. Just spread them onto a baking sheet and bake at a low temperature for a couple of hours - like 275F. Sprinkle with salt and eat! I decided that I didn't want to eat them this year. (I am trying to cut down on salt) so I put them out for the squirrels. After all, it's Trick or Treat for them too, isn't it?
Draw a face on the outside and cut it out. There are lots of really fancy ideas for spooky Halloween faces out there in cyber space. If you can't decide what your pumpkin should look like, do a web search for ideas. I'm calling my Jack-o-Lantern Herpes because my pumpkin was starting to decay in the corner where his mouth is and it looks like a cold sore to me. But you can do anything you want and call it anything you want. That's the fun part!
Place a light or candle inside the pumpkin and set it outside, or somewhere where it won't catch anything on fire. I just used a little votive candle. And tonight my Jack-o-Lantern will sit outside my door to welcome my Ghoulish visitors!
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Block #7 of A Tale of Two Cities

This block is called 'Churndash'. It is block #7 for the Toronto/Yokohama wallhanging. To hand piece this block you will need the following.


1. a square template measuring 3in. by 3in.

2. a rectangular template measuring 1 1/2in. by 3in.

3. a triangular template made by cutting a 3in. square template diagonally in half.

Place templates on the back of your chosen fabrics. Outline templates and cut out adding a 1/4in. seam allowance all around.

Cut 1 piece using the 3in. square template. (this can be the background fabric or whatever you like)

Cut 4 pieces using the 1 1/2in. by 3in. template of your churndash fabric.

Cut 4 pieces using the 1 1/2in. by 3in. template of the background fabric

Cut 4 pieces using the triangle template of your churndash fabric.

Cut 4 pieces using the triangle template of the background fabric.

Layout the pieces as in the block below. Notice that I used a pink for the centre. That was purely for balance of colour in my wall hanging. The original Churndash pattern is done in two colours.

Sew your pieces together.

I have enclosed a suggested layout of four blocks that we have already made. The finished quilt will be 3 blocks by 3 blocks. All blocks are 9in. when finished. (9 1/2in. before sewing together)

Notice the thin blue fabric at the top of the house block. I had to add that to make my house block measure 9in. by 9in. For some reason I had cut it too short.

Email me if you have any problems.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sky Watch Friday - Life's a Beach!

Ahhhhh. On the beach at
Cayo Coco, Cuba! Need I say more?
If you want to see more beautiful skies please go to Sky Watch Friday.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sky Watch Friday - Lovage

I thought I would show you my Lovage plant against a sort of mundane sky. I love the way these seeds look. This plant is well over seven feet tall! I can stand under it and look up to see the wonderful lacy flowers and seed pods!

Lovage is a herbaceous perennial. It is also called Maggikraut or Maggi plant. Its seeds and leaves are used to flavour soups and stews. It is a cousin to celery and has a similar growth habit and taste. I bought this plant at a sale of the Scarborough Horticultural Society. I had no idea what it would turn out to be, but I am really happy with this tall plant. It is considered a good companion plant and is said to have qualities that keep insects and diseases away from other plants.

Lovage has been used as an antiseptic to treat wounds. It has also been made into a tea to treat digestive disorders.

Family: Apiaceae. Genus: Levisticum. Species: L. officinale
Common Names: Lovage, Maggikraut, Maggi plant.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Skywatch Friday

I have always been fascinated with the sky. Whether it is a beautiful cerulean blue or swirling with thunder heads and promises of storms, dark black and sparkling with a billion stars, coloured with an artist's paintbrush, or just there for birds to fly in. I love the ever changing sky! That is the reason why I have decided to join the Skywatch Friday. Go have a look. Beautiful skies from across the globe.

This photo was taken right here in Scarborough, Ontario. I was on my way to McDonald's to buy dinner for my family. I was still gainfully employed at that time and I just didn't have any energy left on a Friday evening to cook a meal. The kids loved my rather sketchy mothering skills. And I had my camera with me! Lucky me. It is one of my favourite photos!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely.
Sunshine almost always makes me high.

- John Denver

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I know that fall is on its way, but let me show you one of my favourite summer garden flowers - the daisy. Daisies are hardy herbaceous perennials and therefore, very easy to grow. They can be grown from seed. but are just as easily grown from container plants available in garden centres in early spring. This first photo is of my tall Shasta Daisies. They grow about 3 feet tall. They flower throughout July and last for a long time. If I deadhead them, they will continue to produce flowers well into September. This tall variety makes for a good cut flower.

It is thought that the name, "Daisy" comes from "day's eye" because the flowers open in the early morning. I haven't really noticed this with my daisies. They tend to open and stay that way for several weeks. The flowers are made up of white petals around a yellow centre. The centre is an assortment of hundreds of tiny tubular Florette's. This makes the daisy an effective pollinator. Over the past few weeks I have noticed that goldfinches come to sit on the spent flowers and eat the seeds. Yesterday I heard their familiar chirping and noticed that I had dozens of goldfinches, black capped chickadees and vireos in my garden. They were busy eating the seeds of my lavender and coneflowers too. It was such a happy sight!

This next photo is of a different variety. It is a smaller daisy, growing only about 10-12inches tall. I planted this one several years ago and I have lost the tag that went with it. I think it is one of the newer varieties, since the flowers are much whiter and larger than my Shasta Daisies. Daisies are in the Asteraceae family. There are over 20,000 species! They include daisies, asters, gerberas and dahlias. Lettuce is also a member of this same family as well as artichokes, sunflowers and endive. Their genus has been under dispute. Some botanists now list it as Leucanthemum but it had earlier been listed as chrysanthemum.

Daisies have astringent properties and have been used in folk medicine as a skin cleanser. In ancient Rome, surgeons who accompanied warriors into battle extracted the juice from sackfuls of daisies in order to treat spear and sword wounds. This pale yellow one is my favourite!

Daisies are simple, yet sophisticated. They are one of the most beautiful in the floral world - at least in my opinion. They convey cheer and symbolize purity and innocence. According to Celtic legend, each daisy represents a child who died at birth. As the daisies bloom each year it is a gift from God. These are the flower whose petals are picked off one by one as a hopeful young girl yearns, "he loves me, he loves me not, as in Goethe's Marguerite in "Faust". Old wives tales believed that eating daisies would stunt your growth, hence the saying, "please don't eat the daisies". And who can forget the daisy chains we made as children to wear on our heads, in our hair or around our necks and arms? According to medieval tales, a girl wore a wreath of daisies on her head to tell her suitor that she accepted his proposal of marriage. And let's not forget the morbid saying, "pushing up daisies", which came from the poet John Keats when he announced on his deathbed that he could already feel the daisies growing above his casket.

Family: Asteraceae.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seeing Yellow - Rudbeckia

My garden is bright and sunny at the moment. The yellow from my Black-Eyed Susans lights up the flower beds, even on overcast days! Known by the botanical name of Rudbeckia, they are a wild flower in many parts of the United States. There are about 20 species, which include annuals, biennials and perennials. I started with only one tiny plant about 20 years ago. Since then I have divided it many times. My plants are growing all over the neighbourhood! My DD told me that her garden is now covered in them too. And her neighbour also has a whole garden full because of the plants which she gave her a few years ago. I don't know what I will do with all these plants next year. I guess I'll just put them into pots in early spring and set them out by the road for friends and neighbours to help themselves. This is Rudbeckia fulgida Goldsturm.

The next photo is of Rudbeckia hirta. They look very similar to the other Black-Eyed Susans, the R. fulgida Goldsturm, but this one is an annual or perhaps a biennial. It might have come to my garden from the fields and ravines around us. The flowers look the same, but the leaves are very narrow on this plant and it grows tall and lanky. The other Rudbeckia in my garden are more compact. Their leaves are rounder and the plants don't grow quite as high. The R. hirta come up all over in my garden, but the R. fulgida Goldsturm only grow in the established areas or where ever I plant them.

A few years ago I planted a couple of plants in my front garden, right by my front door. These have taken over. They are about three feet tall and blooming like crazy! They are a happy welcome to visitors to my house. These plants are often called cone flowers because of the dark centres which form a high, round centre. Goldfinches love to come to my plants and eat the seeds out of the cone-shaped centres once they have ripened.

Family: Asteraceae. Genus: Rudbeckia. Species: R. hirta and R. fulgida Goldsturm.

Common Name: Black-Eyed Susans.

Friday, August 21, 2009


There are at least 65 species of phlox. Some are annuals and other are perennials. There are also some creeping phlox that bloom in early spring. The ones I am showing you here are the upright, perennial phlox. These plants were in the garden when we moved into this house. I am not 100% sure, but I think the ones I have are Phlox paniculata. I have divided mine many times (by root divisions) and I have given many plants away to friends and neighbours. I have also moved them around in the garden. They have taken over in several locations.
Phlox are a herbaceous perennial. They are very easy to care for. In fact, they almost care for themselves. Once they are established, they will continue to come up each spring. They like some extra water if the rainfall is less than an inch per week during the summer. It is best to water them in the early morning so that the plants can dry before dark. One of the most common diseases of phlox is fungus. Watering the plants later in the day might lead to fungus growth. The leaves will turn white as if covered by dust. Although unsightly, this does not seem to harm the plant however and the following year the fungus is gone and the plants are fine. Phlox attract butterflies and hummingbirds. One of my primary reasons for having these plants in my garden!

I have three different colours of phlox. They are all perennial and grow up to 3 or 4 feet. The white ones are growing in the very back of the garden and are in deep shade now that other plants have grown up around them. I will have to transplant those next spring or I might lose them. I could not get a photo of them because they were too far back. I also have a light pink one that is very pretty. It has a darker rose colour in the centre of each flower. This plant is still small. I planted it a couple of years ago. This one is definitely a P. paniculata.

Family: Polemoniaceae. Genus: Phlox. Species: P. paniculata
Common Name: Phlox

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Two Colour Quilt Tutorial

A few people emailed me and asked for the pattern to the blue and white lap quilt I made for my mother. You can see it here. I decided to put a little tutorial on this blog, because I do not have a pattern as such. I learned to make this quilt at one of our Bee Nights. It is a great way to use up scraps because pieces can be as small as 3 1/2 inches by 2 inches. This quilt is lap sized and will measure about 36in. by 48in. Block size is 6 inches finished.

Once you have decided on the colours you will be using, cut the fabric into 2 X 3 1/2 inch strips.
You will need 192 of each colour group. In my case, 192 pieces of red fabrics and 192 pieces of off white fabrics. Start by sewing two of the background or light fabric strips together. You can strip piece these if you like. You will need 48 blocks. Press seams to one side. It does not matter which way the seams are pressed. If you are using only one background fabric, you could make this unit by cutting a 3 1/2 inch square and eliminate this seam.Now sew a red or colour strip to each end of the first unit. Iron seams to the red or colour fabric.

Now piece a light strip and a colour strip end to end, like so. You can chain piece these also. You will need 96 of these. Now stitch these units to the rest of the block. Always have the red or colour piece at the top left of the block. That way you won't get them confused. The bottom strip has the red or colour piece at the bottom right, like this.

Sew 48 blocks like this. Each block should measure 6 1/2 inches square. (finished 6 inches square) To layout the blocks rotate every second block so that the red or colour units form a sort of cross or star-like pattern. I have laid these out so you can see the 'cross' but I would not recommend sewing them together in blocks like this. Rather, I suggest sewing them together in rows. That way you can make the seams all go in one direction on each row and blocks will butt together more easily. Good luck with your quilt. It is a very easy pattern. If you need any more information, just leave me a comment and I will get back to you. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. It is also good to have a helper like Oscar!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Evening Primrose - Oenothera

Although we have had a cool, wet summer so far, my plants seem to be happy. I have been taking photos, but have not had time to post them all. Here is one that has already finished blooming.

This is my evening primrose. It is a herbaceous perennial. This plant was one of the only plants in the garden when we moved into this house. I have transplanted it often. Some years I have a lot of them and in other years, like this year, they have been crowded out by other plants. I hope to have more room next year and then I will place these in a better spot.
The flowers on Evening Primrose open in the late afternoon. They have a long history of culinary and medicinal uses. The young roots can be eaten as a vegetable and the young shoots as a salad. The plant has been used to prepare an infusion which is supposed to have astringent and sedative properties. It has been called "King's cureall", because it was used for everything from gastrointestinal disorders to asthma, whooping cough and to treat wounds and bruises.

In the following photo you can see the unique stigma with four branches, which forms an x-shape. Only certain bees are able to pollinate this flower. And given that it only blooms in the late afternoon and evening it would seem that it would never form seeds. But this does not seem to be a problem. It is easy to grow and its bright yellow blooms are a delight. There are about 125 species in this genus, but I have no idea which one I have.

Family: Onagraceae. Genus: Oenothera.
Common Name: Evening Primrose

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lammas - Festival of the Harvest

"If you think in terms of a year - plant a seed, if in terms of ten years - plant trees, if in terms of 100 years, teach the people." - Confucius

As I sat on my DD's back deck this evening I heard the sound of drums. The sound grew louder and louder and I realized that it was a procession of people, led by a drummer, walking slowly up her street to the end and then continuing on up into a wooded area. All this was happening just as the sun was going down. The drums stopped and I could see a large bonfire burning through the trees. After about 20 minutes, the 'parade' made its way back down the street and disappeared into some tents that had been set up at one of the houses on the street.

I had no idea what it was all about, so when I got home I decided to do some research on my computer. I discovered that today at sundown the Celtic celebration of Lammas had begun. Lammas is an Old English word meaning Loaf and (maesse) meaning Festival. This is a time to celebrate the Festival of the First Fruits of the Harvest. It is also called Lughnasadh which is pronounced, Loo-nah-sah.

It starts at sundown on July 31st and ends on August 1st. Originally a Pagan ritual, it is a time to gives thanks to Mother Earth for the year's harvest. The days of summer are coming to an end. Sunlight hours are getting shorter and the weather, cooler. It is a time to bake bread and share it with friends and family. I like the idea of this festival. Being ever mindful of the Earth which sustains us, I am surprised that I had never heard of this celebration before. I am glad I was at my DD's house this evening, because I have learned something new. I think I will bake some bread tomorrow and maybe make a doll out of corn husks to mark the occasion. And be thankful for all the things that come from our earth to sustain us and give us life.

"Faith sees a beautiful blossom in a bulb, a lovely garden in a seed, and a giant oak in an acorn." - William Arthur Ward

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Catnip - Nepeta cataria

This is a photo of a bumble bee on a catnip flower.

A bumble bee - a bug.

A catnip plant - a weed.

Obnoxious things? I know this is what it looks like, but my thinking has changed over the years. Most people don't want catnip in their garden and I didn't either in the past. It can be very invasive! But bees love it and anytime I can lure a bee to my flowers I am happy. They are amazing pollinators.
Although it is a weed, catnip has several good uses. It has been boiled to remove the oils. It can then be used to produce an insecticide. It has also been used by humans for its medicinal effects. It has been made into soothing teas, tinctures and poultices. It has also been mixed with tobacco and smoked. It apparently has a minty flavour and a mildly intoxicating effect. I am not a smoker, so I have never tried it. So why do I have it in my garden? Because it is a 'recreational substance' for my cats - mildly hallucinogenic. Kind of like dope! Nice, eh Mimi?


I used to spend hours pulling this stuff out of my garden. I really didn't want my cats rolling around and eating it. I dug many of the plants up in springtime and gave them to my sister who said that she wanted this stuff so she could dry it and use it in cat toys. I had my entire garden clear of this weed, but then Mimi objected!

She wanted me to go out and get her some. She wanted a 'high'.

So I looked this plant up on the internet and found out that it is non toxic to cats. So I asked my sister to bring a couple of plants back to me, so that I could re-introduce it into my garden. Now I have several plants. Funny how the circle of plants goes around, isn't it? Apparently only 2 out of 3 cats are affected by the scent of catnip. Well, I have three cats and they all go crazy over this stuff! Here is a photo of Mimi. She has not had any catnip before I took this picture. She really doesn't need any. She can be quite silly without anything hallucinogenic! Give her some catnip and she goes absolutely insane! But she is still my sweet kitten!

Family: Lamiaceae. Genus: Nepeta. Species: Nepeta cataria.
Common Name: Catnip, Catmint.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lilium - A Garden Tour

I love lilies! I have several in my garden. Come take a walk with me and visit them. Lilies are summer-flowering herbaceous perennials. They grow from bulbs. The bulbs are scaly. Some lilies are grown for their edible bulbs, but mine are just for show. And it is quite a show that they put on each summer!

The first on our tour is a white variety. I have three different white lilies in my garden. Here is one of them. This is the one that had its buds chewed off. (on a previous post) There were still several more stalks of them, so it didn't really matter. This one has a fantastic fragrance, which is especially noticeable in the evenings.

This is another one in a different area of my garden. This one has brown speckles. Can you see the damage done by the lily beetles? Those holes in the petals. I will have to be more observant next year and make sure I get all the beetles and their larva before they can do so much damage.

This third one is very beautiful. There were no beetles on these plants. I have no idea why not. Perhaps they just hadn't gotten around to these yet. This one also has a lovely scent.

I also have a few of the pink variety. In this photo it is easy to recognize the sexual parts of the lily plant. The stamen is light coloured 'knob' in the centre. It sits on top of the style. These are the female reproductive organs. The stamens are the six, brown rod-shaped anthers, each held up by a filament. These are the male parts which contain the pollen.

These salmon-coloured ones are really pretty. They are speckles with dark brown flecks and remind me of the old-fashioned tiger lilies. These plants are really tall. I love the way the petals curl to the back!

Here are some more salmon ones. For some reason these plants are shorter. All of my lilies go dormant in the winter and come back up in the spring. There are about 110 species of lilies within the genus Lilium.

And last, but not least, are some huge yellow trumpet-shaped lilies! Fantastic, aren't they? I love this one! I only have three stems of this variety. But that could change. Next year I plan to put a lot more lily bulbs into my garden. I can hardly wait!

Family: Liliaceae. Genus: Lilium.
Common Name: Lily

Friday, July 24, 2009

In the Eye of the Beholder

Sometimes gardening can be difficult. Oh, I don't mean the digging and planting. I mean trying to decide what is a weed and what is a garden plant - what should go and what should stay. Here are two pretty purple flowering plants. They are both blooming at the same time, just feet from each other. This first one is a Creeping Bellflower. Nice, eh?

The next one is a Hosta. So what's my problem? Well, you guessed it. I am sorry to say that the Bellflower has to go. I doesn't really seem fair. Both are pretty. Both are similar in shape. Both come up every year without any fuss.
But the Hosta will stay and the Bellflowers will be pulled out. But I know that won't be the end of them. They are very hardy. You can read all about them here, on a post I wrote a couple of months ago on my other blog. I know I will be battling these things for many years to come.