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Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Friends' Gardens

My Friends' Gardens

These photos are from my friends' gardens, a source of great envy for me!  Their Daylilies are everywhere in myriad colours, undemanding, tough and beautiful.

They also have Asiatic Lilies which bloom in an impressive array of colours; here in favourite yellow.

They grow a clump of bright False Sunflower in the middle of one of their beds. These flowers bloom for a long period and have great resistance to pests and diseases. 

At their front yard, there is a stunning display of Black-eyed Susans.  These gorgeous flowers bloom all summer and into fall.

I love their gardens.  I feel so happy and peaceful when I am there.  It is a gift they share with the whole neighbourhood, and with anyone who walks or drives by their lovely yard.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Anger in the Rain

Anger in the Rain

Parking lots are dangerous and interesting places.

I often sit in the car and write, while others go into the stores to do errands.  Consequently, I have an opportunity to observe many bizarre driving and walking behaviours.

For example, today was rainy—hard, straight-down bucketing rain, the drenching-you-in-two-minutes kind of rain.  The kind of rain  that creates all sorts of driving and walking problems.

Add to that, everyone is rushing, searching for the closest parking spots, or running in the rain to reach shelter, running in front of cars...creating dangerous, near-miss situations for both drivers and walkers.

This kind of rain tends to bring out the “asshole” in people.

Cars circle the parking lot close to the market, going round and round, futilely waiting for a parking space.  There are impatient drivers honking, giving each other the finger, yelling out their windows at each other, blocking traffic, seething with anger.

It’s just rain, people!

Goodness knows; we’ve had enough of it this summer, so it shouldn’t be a surprise.  It has rained a portion of nearly every day since spring.  Rain is an expected part of daily life here.

So—grow up, dress appropriately for our weather.  Park a little farther away where there are lots of spaces; wear a hat, or rain jacket, or carry an umbrella. 

Act like an adult, instead of an “asshole” in the rain!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Neighbour's Cat

The Neighbour’s Cat

Last evening after supper, as Mum and I sat on the deck chatting, we noticed an odd looking white bird on the neighbour’s roof.  At the same time, we heard uproar from a robin in a tree near the roof.

Putting on our glasses, we looked again.  It was the neighbour’s small white cat on her roof.  It wasn’t after the robin; it was crying piteously and walking all around looking for a way to climb down from the roof.

Cats are very good at climbing up and not so adept at getting down.  We sat and watched for a few minutes, thinking that the house must be lower to the ground on the backside, and that, likely, the mewing white kitty would tire of this and climb back down.

This neighbour and I are not close buddies; we’re merely across-the-road neighbours, who occasionally wave, if we see each other. But, thinking about the pitiful white cat wandering, crying on the roof made me remember that though I’ve often seen the cat at the windows, I’ve never seen her outside before.

Perhaps the cat had escaped and no one had noticed.  Hard for me to believe because I have indoor cats and am always panicking if I can’t find one or the others, searching until I discover where they are sleeping.  I suppose I’m hyper-vigilant about my kitties.

Enough dithering.  I went across the street and to the front door of the neighbour’s house.  No door bell, so I knocked loudly.  After a wait, she came to the door, looking like she had just wakened from a nap.  I apologized for disturbing her, reminded her that I am her across-the-street neighbour and told here that her cat was trying to get down and appeared to be stuck on her house roof.

Her reaction?  She got angry and accused me of harassing her and making jokes that weren’t funny, declaring vehemently that her cat never went outdoors.  She was upset and agitated. 

I was startled.

I decided that being really calm was the answer, as my aim was cat rescue, not a disagreement. 

I had been out talking to Mum and taking garden photos for my blog when we had noticed the cat, so I had taken photos of the escaped kitty, too.  I realized I still had my camera around my neck and so while she continued to berate me, I showed her the photo of “her roof with her cat on it.”

The angry lecture stopped.

Her door slammed and a moment later opened again.  She came out with a small ladder, went round to the back of the house and coaxed the cat down off the roof.  Since the cat was being rescued, I left; I hadn’t been enjoying myself on her front porch, with her screaming and scolding and the cat crying.

Mum and I watched from the safety of my yard until we saw the cat get down.

Here’s my question:  If you own a pet and someone comes to tell you it is in trouble and to offer help, wouldn’t your first reaction be concern for the animal, not yelling at the person at your door?

I guess it doesn’t matter.  The point is that her cat is safe again and back inside peeking out the windows.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Time to Stop

Time to Stop

I’ve often heard my husband say, “It would be great to have everything in the yard done, so that I could just sit and relax.” 

This is an unrealistic and impossible wish, unless we live in an apartment or condo.  Living as we do, in a house with a multi-treed and multi-gardened yard that is 120 feet by 150 feet, that also features three hedges and many flowering vines and shrubs, there will always be yard-work to do.  Always…the chores are cyclical!

The key to sitting and relaxing is simply to do it.  He doesn’t listen to me when I talk to him about the necessary balance between action and rest, in the relentless busyness of yard maintenance.  He doesn't listen when I say, "We'll never be finished."

Everyone needs rest to gain nourishment, wisdom, courage and clarity, to heal from care and work and worry.  There is a rhythm between striving effort and “Sabbath time.” 

The original meaning of the word “Sabbath” (in Old English, Latin, Greek and Hebrew) was “to rest.”  We have forgotten that and believe that “Sabbath” refers only to a religious concept.

Dear sweetheart, since you won’t listen to my words, perhaps you’ll listen to these from Wayne Muller.  This excerpt is from his book, Sabbath, Restoring the Rhythm of Sacred Rest.

I quote Wayne Muller here:

Sabbath is not dependent upon our readiness to stop. We do not stop when we are finished. We do not stop when we complete our phone calls, finish our project, get through this stack of messages, or get out this report that is due tomorrow. We stop because it is time to stop.
Sabbath requires surrender. If we only stop when we are finished with all our work, we will never stop--because our work is never completely done. With every accomplishment there arises a new responsibility.
Every swept floor invites another sweeping, every child bathed invites another bathing. When all life moves in such cycles, what is ever finished?
The sun goes 'round, the moon goes 'round, the tides and seasons go 'round, people are born and die, and when are we finished? If we refuse rest until we are finished, we will never rest until we die.
Sabbath dissolves the artificial urgency of our days, because it liberates us from the need to be finished.

Liberate yourself from the need to be finished! 
Take the Sabbath time and stop to rest.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tickseed or Coreopsis

Tickseed or Coreopsis

Tickseed (Coreopsis) is a favourite in our garden.  It is a long-blooming perennial that has a profusion of bright yellow flowers in summer.  The plants grow in tidy, airy mounds that need little care and are rarely bothered by pests.

Two large clumps grow in sun to light shade in the flower bed on a steep slope that edges our driveway.  It is drought tolerant and grows well in the average to poor soil that often occurs next to a driveway.

We have the variety “Zagreb”.  These masses of bright, golden-yellow flowers with thread-leaf foliage grow into plants that are fuller and more compact than other varieties.

This plant blooms well all summer, but less profusely as summer wanes. For more flowers, we deadhead the spent blooms or simply cut the plants back half and get a second show of flowers.

Tickseed requires patience as it is one of the last perennials to emerge through the soil.  However, patience is rewarded, as the sight of a breeze rippling through the feathery foliage and caressing the sun-bright flowers is well worth the wait.

Reference material was taken from Lois Hole’s Perennial Favourites, published in 1995 by Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Monday, July 25, 2011

After the Party

After the Party

This afternoon, I sat outside on the shady swing seat, sheltered from the street by the elm hedge.  It was a perfect July day, true blue sky, cloud puffs, dry heat, quiet except for the occasional birdsong and the sound of the breeze rustling through the lawn and trees, bringing the fragrance of heat-warmed grass and leaves.

Peaceful, quiet!  Wonderful!

I spent a busy morning, cleaning and completing “after party” tasks, sorting which items need to be returned to whom. After hours of tidying, I welcomed the pleasant weariness coming over me as I sat in the swing seat.

Mum enjoyed her birthday party yesterday.  There was enough time and leisure and space in the afternoon and evening to allow her plenty of time to chat and to visit and to enjoy her friends, children and spouses, grandchildren and partners, and great-grandchildren.

Folks from various locations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario shared the day with us here.  “Happy Birthday” wishes arrived from this local area, as well as from Long Island in NY, Quebec, Ontario and Mexico.  There were messages, gifts and cards from all over.

It was a great day—perfect weather, great food, music, laughter and stories, as family and friends gathered to honour and to celebrate Mum’s 85th birthday.

A wonderful happy time!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to Mum

Happy Birthday to Mum!

Today, we are having a celebration.  The matriarch of our family is 85 years old!

She doesn't like big parties or huge fusses.  How is it possible to NOT have all of that?

My mother had five children; we birthed seven grandchildren and they, in turn, have produced nine, any-day-now-to-be ten great-grandchildren.

If you add in spouses, step-children and step-grandchildren, the family explodes exponentially.  It is impossible to have a small party!

Throw in siblings, cousins, friends, you have an ever-expanding crowd of folks; a huge boisterous, bubbling happy fuss is the result.

Everyone wants to wish her "Happy Birthday" and to tell her how much she means to each of us.  She has steered the family through births, moves, floods, job losses, marriages, divorces, re-marriages, illnesses, deaths, near-deaths, accidents, bad times, stupid decisions, good times, great decisions and extraordinarily joyful times.

Each of us knows that if we need her, she is there.  If we need a place to shelter in a crisis, she is there.  If we need a loving hug or a boot-in-the-behind, she is there.  If we need advice or if we're avoiding the truth and need to hear it, she is there.

So--now, why wouldn't we make a huge fuss and have a big party?  There's a lot to celebrate in those 85 years!

Happy Birthday, Mum (Margaret, Nanny)!

She is the mother of us all and we will be a huge, happy celebrating family today.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blue Jays, Beautiful Bullies

Blue Jays, Beautiful Bullies

On our property, resourceful Blue Jays are everywhere right now.  I hear their noisy screams of “jay-jay-jay” and their nasal-sounding “queedle- queedle” in the yard.  They fly from tree to tree; flashes of vivid blue crests with the black bills and black necklaces.

They are beautiful birds nearly 31 centimetres long, with white under-parts and striking electric-blue backs decorated with white bars and flecking on their wings, and white corners on their summer-sky-coloured tails.

In this yard, they are often in the company of Common Grackles.  Perhaps these two breeds are chasing each other; both types of birds are given to bullying behaviour.  Blue Jays will harass other birds and will steal eggs and nestlings.

The Blue Jays and Common Grackles spend time in our hedges, the tall bushy Siberian Elm at the back and the fledgling lilac hedge at the side.  They’re foraging for nuts, berries and insects.  The Jays’ vibrant blues and whites make them easy to spot amongst the bottle green foliage and on the emerald lawns.

The Blue Jays aggressively chase cats away from our yard.  The neighbourhood cats regularly range through, hiding in the long grass near the feeders, hoping for a feathered breakfast.  I chase the cats away too, protective of my chickadees and finches. The town by-law against having unleashed, nuisance cats running free is largely ignored, to my frustration and to the detriment of small birds here.

Perhaps the Blue Jays and I can keep the roaming cats from the feeders and the tinier birds.  Then who will keep the Blue Jays from attacking their nestlings and eggs?

NOTE:  You can link to another of my posts about Blue Jays by clicking here.
Photo is mine.

Under Fire by Margaret McLean

Under Fire by Margaret McLean

Have you read Under Fire by Margaret McLean?  It was published in June this year by Tor Forge Macmillan, New York, NY.

If you relish mysteries, courtroom battles, intriguing stories about fires, firemen, lawyers and corruption, you’ll enjoy Under Fire.

Margaret McLean brings years of her own experience as a criminal prosecutor to her writing of this first novel.  Under Fire portrays the raw underbelly of brutal crime and dangerous prejudice, as the slowly-revealed truth and suspenseful writing push and propel the reader through this mystery-thriller. 

Every detail, of the courtroom battles, entices one to keep on reading, reading, reading, as the contradictions and surprises rush toward the deadly truth about a Boston firefighter who is shot and killed in the line of duty.

Get it!  Read it!

Find out more about Margaret McLean at:  http://www.margaretmclean.com 

I received a first edition copy from Goodreads.  No remuneration was given for this review; it is merely my opinion.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Gratitude is so close to the bone of life,
pure and true, that it instantly stops the
rational mind, and all its planning
and plotting.

~Regina Sara Ryan

This is the quote for today from http://www.gratefulness.org/

Reading it made me stop all the "To Do" lists in my head. 

I recognize that the "planning and plotting" are of no importance, beside the fact that my mother and younger sister each received great reports from their doctors this week. 

The alternative to great reports could have been a diagnosis of breast cancer, a very real and ever present worry in this family's genetic make-up.

They are lucky, the whole family is lucky and I am so grateful.

Stop a minute. 

What has happened to you this week that caused you to feel gratitude?  For what are you grateful?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Begonias and Calibrachoa

Begonias and Calibrachoa

Tonight the heated heavy wind is tossing the trees, pushing them, bending branches, turning leaves inside out.

The sky has gone dark; the way it does when something is menacing, slowly moving in—maybe rain? Or a thunder shower?

There is a smell of rain in the air, so I’ve taken my tuberous begonia baskets down from the pergola at the back door, and sheltered them safely on the deck.

Because I didn’t do that last time, I lost one of my hanging baskets.  It became too heavy with the rain’s additional weight and dropped, plummeted straight down, smashing into three pieces on the deck.

I rescued the deep red begonias, picked off the damaged blooms and dug the plants into the flower bed that borders the driveway.  Now, these showy, large blooms are safely seated in the earth.  There was no saving the hanging basket’s shattered husk!

Then, there was the dilemma of three spaces on the pergola to hang baskets, with only two baskets to hang.  Returning to the nursery didn’t help, as tuberous begonias were sold out.

Solution: I bought a basket of bright red calibrachoa and hung it between the other two.  Calibrachoa is a trailing petunia with smaller blooms. It makes a great hanging basket plant as it spreads and cascades, and is a healthy bloomer. 

I chose bright red, though it comes in many other shades, because I love red and because the red calibrachoa will attract hummingbirds.

Now the entrance way is cheery with vibrant scarlet flowers in all three baskets—a welcome greeting for all!

The images of begonias are mine.

Astilbes in Bloom

Astilbe is such an odd-looking yet fascinating shade plant!  Our small ones are just starting to bloom.

I don’t think that I have them in the “just right spot” yet, as ours are very slow growing compared to those of our neighbours. 

One is supposed to avoid planting them in dry or windy places, or areas where snow stays on longer, in the spring.  I’ve been careful of that but still they don’t do well.  Looks like I’ll have to consult my neighbours. 

Or just sneak over to their yards and enjoy their gardens!

Astilbes have showy flowers, graceful plumes on tall stems above airy, delicate-looking foliage.  They are really quite lovely in large clumps-- in the neighbours’ yards!  I feel envy…

Monday, July 18, 2011

Party at the River

Party at the River

There was a family party yesterday in Shediac, where my sister has a home by the river.  It was her husband’s birthday and a lovely, warm summer afternoon for a get-together.

In addition to the adults in the family, W & B invited some of B’s friends; friends he has maintained relationships with since high school, over 40 years ago.

It was good to see everyone.  Those who knew each other or could find common conversational ground were able to enjoy each other’s company.

In situations like this, I have to be careful of my shyness and introversion.  They can end up making me misunderstood.  I can appear to be aloof or even rude, I am told.

This is not my intention and I make every effort to get over “this flaw” of mine.  However, yesterday I didn’t do so well with this, I know.

I am extremely tired lately and like the dormouse in the Alice in Wonderland story of the tea party, I withdrew into myself, feeling overwhelmed.  Not an excuse, but a fact.  I spent time in the “tea pot” yesterday, feeling exhausted from the company of so many extroverts, exacerbating my already present weariness.

Perhaps, I would have been better off declaring my fatigue and staying home.  I don’t know.

It is always a struggle for balance in these situations.  Yesterday, I wasn’t at my best!  There will be other days…

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Porsche and A Party

A Porsche and A Party

It’s early morning and already the sun has heated the air to 20 degrees centigrade.  The skies are pale blue, nearly cloudless. 

Our kitchen table is located in part of the house that used to be a sun-porch.  When we open all eight windows, it feels like a sun-porch again!  The kitchen floods with light and with birdsong carried on the warm breezes.  Our cats are contented sitting in chairs in front of the windows, peering at the activities at the feeders.

Mornings here are peaceful, quiet except for the birds chirping and twittering, and the cats chattering back at them, or at us, requesting breakfast or pats.

Gary is sitting at the table, intensely searching for pictures of an older Porsche 930 Turbo, maybe 1986 to 1988.  He saw one last night at a friend’s birthday party and has been talking about it ceaselessly ever since.  He’s feeling envy; really just loves everything about fast cars.

I wasn’t able to attend the party last night; Gary took our gift and sandwiches. He tells me that it was wonderful, a large crowd of folks all getting together for a surprise birthday party for WM.  Good food, a beautiful home, stunning backyard, great conversation and lots of people he hadn’t seen for awhile and of course, hugs from the guest of honour on her birthday!

I’m feeling envious too, that I missed a good party last night.  Gary can’t stop talking about it.  Hope it was a surprise and a great time for WM.

Happy Birthday wishes, dear friend!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gary In the Storm

Gary in the Storm

After supper last evening, Gary left to go for a short ride on his motorcycle; met with his riding buddy, decided to head for Sussex and a coffee and chat, their usual routine.

All went well until they turned back toward home and ran into a quickly moving lightening storm near Salisbury.

Like all seasoned bikers, they stopped at the first sign of rain under the canopy of a service station and discussed the need for donning their rain suits.  They waited and because the rain appeared to have stopped, they decided “no rain gear” and headed again for home, a distance of 25 kilometres.

Summer storms move fast and can come up suddenly and violently.  Last night was no exception.  They heard the thunder and saw lightening rolling through the clouds over the city, as they approached.  And they got wet, very, very wet.

It rained nearly 30 millimetres in a brief time.  Forced to drive slower than one-third the speed limit because of water on the roads and visibility challenges, not to mention the discomfort of being literally soaked to the skin, it was a most unpleasant ride home.

At 11:15 pm, I saw him driving at the bottom of our street and ran to open the garage door.  Slowly, slowly I heard him navigating the floods of water pouring down our street; finally into the garage he came.  Everything was dripping!

Gary was cheery as usual, exclaiming that it had been an adventure!  And wonder of wonders, his saddle bags didn’t have a bit of water in them; everything in them was totally dry—even his rain gear!

These photos are from Gary’s clothes last night, after he took them off in the garage.  Apparently, his waterproof boots aren’t waterproof.  Note the puddles on the floor after he dumped them out.  He hung his shirt over the garbage can to drip; it too made a puddle.

After a warm shower and a rum and coke, he was fine again.  His leather motorcycle gear—well, that’ll take a few days to dry and return to normal.  However, his rain gear is all ready to go again!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Do We Have?

What Do We Have?

What do we have when we put together—

A cloudless, balmy day in early July
A relaxed visit with family
Easy laughter-filled conversations
A spacious, breezy screened-room
A generous outdoor salt-water pool
Two delightful sun-browned children
Delicious oven-roasted Greek Potatoes
Flavourful, rich home-made yogurt
Mouth-watering Grilled Chicken Kabobs
Succulent grilled onions and peppers
Tangy salad and a dessert with strawberries
Cherished time with playful children
A gift of a vertical chicken roaster and grilling wok combo,
plus spicy rub

We have an enchanting meal and a pleasurable visit with much loved family!

Thank you to J & J & A & E; we both enjoyed ourselves immensely!

The photo of the Greek Potatoes is from http://food.com/  and the photo at the bottom is mine.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What is Blooming

What is Blooming

Gardening is a constant source of humility.  It is arrogance to think that I can ever keep ahead of the weeds!

The best I can do is to appreciate the tough plants and colourful flowers and hardy shrubs that exist around the house, and to tidy the beds and yard. 

Knowing that tub with pansies and violas will always need daily watering and dead–heading, I still enjoy their bright cheery faces.

The low sedum is a persistent spreader and itself, vigorously wages battle with the weeds, sharing perky yellow with the sun.

The campanula (bellflowers) will need some love and care today to get rid of the weeds and other plants growing close by.  I love the shades of pale violet-blue in the garden, so it is worth every effort.

Our Fat Albert Blue Spruce is terrific this summer, lush and bushy, growing vigorously with all the rain we’ve had.  It holds its own now, having weathered bad winters and some kind of needle fungus last summer.  It is a reassuring sight outside the kitchen windows each morning.

We have clematis and another ancient peony in full flower.

Discoveries of what has come and what is going are always amazing!

All photos are mine.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Today We Gardened

Today we gardened.  We planted a hedgerow of Japanese Willow across the 120 foot frontage of our lot.  At least part of it is done; the rest, the remaining half will wait until some evenings this week.

All garden plans seem to take longer than we think.  We spent all day, from early morning until past suppertime working on the plantings.

There is the prerequisite discussion time and moving of potted willows across the front of the yard to determine best sites and distances between shrubs, followed by the wandering around the yard looking at possibilities from very angle.

We rented a small tiller to churn up the row-widths we needed.  Though we were told that the particular tiller we rented would do the job, we learned differently.  The tiller was inadequate for our yard, acting like a gas-powered shovel of sorts.

Gary was unimpressed, found the tiller very muscle-intensive and useless.  Much swearing and aggravation resulted.

Finally, we got the row dug out, turned over, tilled up, and sworn over, ready for planting!

Still, we had to dig holes.  More swearing!  Sweating!  Discussion!

Lastly, compost and bone meal and watering and raking the soil into place, eight shrubs were planted.  And they look very fine!

The Japanese Willow, “Hakura Nishiki” or White Spotted Willow is an extremely attractive variety from Japan.  It has variegated foliage in creamy white and green; new growth is pink; wine-red coloured branches.

These shrubs are very hardy so will do well in the damp front edge of our steeply sloped yard.  Already the cream, green and pink leaves are lighting up the street side portion of our front yard, gently waving in the last rays of sunshine and the easy breezes.

Gary is having a beer and watching TV; a therapeutic car race is on!  He is tuckered.

At least, some of the plantings are complete.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Roses and More Roses

Roses and More Roses

The shimmering sun has called into bloom the most wonderful display of climbing roses at the back of the garage. 

These John Cabot roses cover the trellis in symmetrical double blooms that are a deep orchid pink, almost red.

They are hardy, sturdy roses with a long blooming season and excellent resistance to disease.

We found this rose amongst some of the overgrown shrubs at the far edge of our property and moved it to a more hospitable site with lots of water and sun. 

It has responded by bursting off the trellis with the weight of its flowers.  So lovely!

Photos are mine.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Balance is What I Need

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”

~Thomas Merton

I have been busy this week; busy enough to interfere with my writing.  That doesn’t feel good on many levels.

I need to write every day; balance amongst the ordinary tasks that one must do, the unusual surprises that arise and the daily discipline of writing.

This week, schedules were complicated. Gary returned to work on a six-month contract, so our routines have changed, and work-at-home-sharing has shifted.  We are both tired from the change, though adjusting rapidly.

Both my mother and I had doctor’s appointments and multiple tests and the resulting trips to the pharmacy this week; many hours of time!

Perhaps the week felt busier because the weather has been delightful; finally lovely melting summer has arrived.  I wasn’t able to enjoy the peacefulness of the yard as much as the weather coaxed me to do, so felt resentful about all that took me away from that pleasure.

As the week progressed, I have become more and more weary until finally today I was in tears over nothing—an unusual situation for me and further evidence of exhaustion and not enough “me” time.

Why do I have to keep re-learning this lesson?  The answer, I suppose, is that I keep ignoring that if I don’t look after my own needs, they will impinge upon the rest of my life.

I’ll do better at this.  It is a growing edge in my life, one that calls for attention and creativity.

It’s time for a “Carol Day” where nothing from the outside is allowed in and total focus can be given to what I need.  From that meditative beginning, I can find ways to achieve balance on a daily basis.

Balance is what I need.  Balance is really what we all need!

photo is mine