Friday, July 31, 2020

Five on Friday: Last Day of July and Poppies

" Through the dancing poppies stole
A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul.

We have arrived on the last day of July, and what a beautiful week it has been. Lots of sunshine and even some hot days—even reaching, for us, a heady +30℃ (86℉)! We'd go out in the garden early in the mornings to tend to weeding, tying up loose vines and stems, as well as transplanting struggling annuals that needed a patch with more sunlight to properly flourish.

Sometimes when a person plants in the early spring, you just don't know exactly how tall a neighbouring plant will bloom or spread out, suddenly crowding or shading what had seemed the perfect spot for some sweet annual. And for some reason, I think because we're close to home this summer, I've been more aware of the needs of my little flowers. Some of them require more elbow room—a little social distancing of their own. And some really must have their day in the sunshine, although I don't have complete control over that, but I can give them room where, when the sun does shine, they'll be able to turn their faces upward and take it all in.

In the afternoons, we'd sit in the garden, reading, watching the squirrels (we see two now), listening to the birds vying for spots at the feeders. The season is already changing, the birds always give the cue. Their songs change, their busy nesting and feeding young shifts to training and teaching them to find their own food. We watched one young crow begging on the fence : But, Mom, it's so much easier if you just put it in my mouth. And, she says : the food is here in this tray, eat it!  At least, that's what we imagined was said.

Last evening, the crows were gathering in flocks to roost for the night. That creates a slight shiver if I let myself think about what that means. In not too many weeks, they'll be heading southward. BUT, before we let ourselves go there, let's stay put right here in the deep of summer—it is still July for a few more hours and summer for a few more weeks.

Because the weather has been so lovely, yesterday I took a short trip to visit my mom and sister. We had a delightful social distance visit sitting in Sis's beautiful garden, which included seeing this amazing patch of poppies in the middle of her hubby's vegetable garden. I was smitten. She said, "All this gorgeous beauty for the cost of a couple of packets of seeds. The best $2.49 I ever spent." Should you be interested, the name of these poppy seeds are Falling in Love, and you can order them HERE.

" Summer set lip to earth's bosom bare,
And left the flushed print in a poppy there.
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one. "

" As for marigolds, poppies, hollyhocks, and valorous
sunflowers, we shall never have a garden without them,
both for their own sake, and for the sake of
old-fashioned folks, who used to love them. "

" When in these fresh mornings I go into my garden before
any one is awake, I go for the time being into perfect happiness.

In this hour divinely fresh and still, the fair face of every
flowers salutes me with a silent joy that fills me
with infinite content ; each gives me its color, its grace, its perfume,
and enriches me with the consummation of its beauty. 

All the cares, perplexities, and griefs of existence, all the burdens of life
slip from my shoulders and leave me with the heart of a little child
that asks nothing beyond its present moment of innocent bliss. "

American writer Celia Thaxter often mentions poppies in her charming classic An Island Garden. You may remember me writing about her book earlier in the spring - you'll find the post HERE. I think she especially loved the Poppy, sometimes even calling the white ones the Bride in the garden. Ms Thaxter often waxed eloquently about the flower's delicate beauty, mentioning how they require a certain soil and how they lift their heavy furry heads towards the sun when they are ready to open, how much care is needed in transplanting or when picking blossoms to bring indoors. 

Here, listen to a couple of passages:  
Then, with what fresh wealth of color and perfume the garden will meet the resplendent sunrise! Every moment it grows more and more beautiful. I think for wondrous variety, for certain picturesque qualities, for color and form and a subtle mystery of character, Poppies seem, on the whole, the most satisfactory flowers among the annuals. There is absolutely no limit to their variety of color. ...
On one low bookcase are Shirley Poppies in a roseate cloud. And here let me say that the secret of keeping Poppies in the house two whole days without fading is this : they must be gathered early, before the dew has dried, in the morning. I go forth between five and six o'clock to cut them while yet their gray-green leaves are hoary with dew, taking a tall slender pitcher or bottle of water with me into the garden, and as I cut each stem dropping the flower at once into it, so that the stem is covered nearly its whole length with water ; and so on till the pitcher is full. Gathered in this way, they have no opportunity to lose their freshness, indeed, the exquisite creatures hardly know they have been gathered at all.

* * *

(Contented sigh), what a lovely thing to read on this balmy last morning of July.

Now, I know it's odd to wrap up on a completely different note, but I had to share something else that is on my mind. We'll be attending my beautiful niece's wedding tomorrow, but rather than in person, due to Covid-19 protocols, we'll all be gathering via Zoom to witness the happy couple exchange their vows. We'll party together another time. Congratulations to you, Chiante and Dawson!💞🥂🎕We hope it will be a day filled with special moments for you both even though it's all upside down. We send our full heart of wishes for love and happiness today and always. The Lord bless you both. We love you so much! xoxox

Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.
Happy weekend.

Heart Hugs,

Monday, July 27, 2020

Monday Medley

" In summer, the song sings itself. "

I sit here at my desk on this early Monday morning. All is quiet in the neighbourhood, even the birds are quiet. The sun has risen. No big fanfare this morning, only a hint of peach on the horizon. The sky, cloudless and clear, is a rare treat - for our summer so far has been mostly of unsettled weather and lots of rain. This week, however, we are promised clear skies and sunny days throughout. My struggling sun loving plants shall finally have their day in the sun. Bloom, roses, bloom!  

Today's post is a miscellany of this and that....

A stunning sunrise

Earlier this month, I had the delightful opportunity to write a guest post at InScribe, in which I share an extraordinary experience that happened early one morning some years ago.
"Some of the sweetest, most thrilling, poignant moments of my life have been when God has spoken directly to me..." CLICK TO READ MORE.

Treats in the mail

Beautiful cards arrived in the mail the other day from two lovely friends this week: Barbara in Cornwall, UK, and Judith in Ontario, Canada. Each contained a treat: Twinings Spiced Camomile & Vanilla 'Moment of Calm' tea from Barbara. I'm looking forward to that calming cuppa. And a fragrant handful of lavender seeds from Judith which made the package smell so good. I have the envelope of lavender sitting by my bedside, and in the night I catch a sweet drift of its scent - I'm sure it sweetens my dreams. A huge thank you and heart hugs to you both.

Reading on the deck

Between the rain, we've had some lovely moments to be outside. And when we're not pulling weeds or deadheading spent blossoms, we sit on the deck listening to the birds, breathing in the fragrance, and letting our eyes feast on what's colouring our world in the garden.

And we read.... I'm happily making my way through some of the Miss Marple mystery novels; Penelope Lively's reflections on gardening, art, literature and life in Life in the Garden; and I am now looking forward to a book from the library I had on hold, Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy. I brought it home and put it in isolation for a day.

Sweet peas at sunset

This sweet pea is just starting to bloom. What a jewel of a colour. I usually think of pastels for sweet peas. This is a deep ruby or grape, depending on the light. I couldn't get the camera to capture what I could see with my eye as it glimmered in the evening sunlight. The fragrance is strong and sweet.

" I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this. "

With a little of this and a little of that, I've cobbled together a wee post. I told my sister I should have been a shoemaker - haha. I hope you enjoyed your visit. I also hope you have a beautiful week ahead. Keep safe and well.

* * *

Heart Hugs,

Friday, July 24, 2020

Grilled Summer Fruit With Piquant Drizzle

" Awaking wonder is a continual pursuit and engagement.
While life seems to be the same day after day, I am seeking
to create interest, memories, comfort, beauty, and as much
joy in the menial as I am able. "

These days we take the sun when we get it. We've had many rainy, unsettled days, so we can't really plan ahead - we don't know how any day will turn out, no matter what the weatherman advises. As I say, we take it as it comes, reveling in those 30 minutes here or half days of sunshine there, before clouds gather and overtake again.

There was one balmy afternoon earlier this week that was perfect - we planned to eat on the deck al fresco. Which always adds a certain something lovely that can't quite be put into words. I made teriyaki chicken breast, jasmine rice, asparagus, and grilled stone fruit. It's the stone fruit recipe that I want to share with you today. Such a simple dish, but its mix of tart and sweet, along with the unexpected bite of black pepper gives it its unique deliciousness. Certainly makes my tongue glad to be alive.

You can serve the grilled summer fruit as a side dish with chicken or pork, or as a refreshing dessert afterwards. Believe me, you'll want to double or triple the dressing recipe. And, you'll want to have enough fruit so that each serving has a sampling of whatever stone fruit you have on hand: peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots.

Grilled Summer Fruit

Serve as a side dish or dessert
Grilled on BBQ
(or broiled in oven, if the weather's inclement)

Stone Fruit
Halved and pitted
Note: firm fruit holds up best for grilling

Balsamic Lime Dressing
In small bowl, whisk together:
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce (opt)

1. Spray grill rack or pan with cooking spray.
2. Place halved fruit on rack or pan.
3. Grill or broil for 3 minutes on each side.
4. Remove fruit from grill or oven, place on serving dish.
5. Drizzle dressing over fruit.
Serve as a side dish with chicken or pork.

Or, if you eat it as a dessert, place grilled fruit in individual bowls,
add scoops of ice cream, and generously drizzle the dressing over top

Original recipe idea found in
Cooking Light, Healthy Summer Grilling Magazine, 2009

* * *

Hope your weekend is off to a good start.
I plan to be back on Monday with a Monday Medley post.

Wishing you a beautiful day. Keep safe and well.

Heart Hugs,

Photo Credit: Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2020

Monday, July 20, 2020

Garden Flurry Follow-up

" Right now, more than anything, my garden gives me hope,
gives me purpose and provides a sense of connection
to something bigger than myself. "

Here is the follow-up to Friday's post regarding our nomination in the Strathcona in Bloom Front Yard Recognition Program for 2020. I am excited to let you know that, although we did not place in the Top Five, our front garden received an Honourable Mention, and for that we are over the moon delighted. In the letter we received, the chairperson/front yard coordinator wrote: 
"Your yard is outstanding and has caught the eye of our community judges and social media supporters. They have determined the outcome and I can testify the vote was very close. Strathcona in Bloom has experienced an unprecedented season this year, with over 600 nominations of beautiful front yards . . . . Please accept this gift card from Home Hardware and our sincere thanks for helping making our community a beautiful place to live."
I would guess that the increased number of nominations is due to Covid-19. Lots of people in isolation during the stay-at-home orders used the opportunity to focus on their homes and gardens. I can't think of a better way to spend this time, for in the words of Audrey Hepburn, "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow." And we all need that hope for better days ahead.

I want to share a comment someone named Wally left on social media about our front garden: "A sweet English garden with lots of care and hard work. Makes a blissful piece of heaven." To receive such a lovely compliment makes all the work worth it for me.

On that note, I'm off to fertilize my flowers and tell them well done. By the way, I am remiss if I do not acknowledge that my Rick is the true gardener around here. I potter, but he does all the hard work of our yard—for that dear man I am most grateful. He makes my life beautiful.

* * *
Wishing you a pleasant day.

Heart Hugs,

I forgot something I wanted to tell you. A happy garden moment. The other day I was plucking off a handful of spent Hansa roses. Fingers wrapped around a shriveling rose, I felt this buzzing against my fingertips. Oh my, a bumblebee was still busy inside the fading bloom. I left him to it, plenty of time to trim off later.

Friday, July 17, 2020

A Little Flurry of Excitement

" Gardens, scholars say, are the
first sign of commitment to community. "

One morning we woke to find a sign planted in our yard and a message in our mailbox:
"On behalf of Strathcona in Bloom, congratulations on being nominated for our Front Yard Recognition Program and thank you for working so hard to make our community even more beautiful. In this challenging season we find ourselves in, it is uplifting to see beautiful spaces making a positive impact around our community and we believe it is part of our healing journey going forward."
Strathcona in Bloom, a member of Communities in Bloom for the past 20 years, has worked to beautify our community through the joint efforts of its volunteers, local businesses, and the municipality.

Unbeknownst to us, it was our neighbour three doors down who nominated our garden for the community's annual Strathcona in Bloom Front Yard Recognition. As you can imagine, we were thrilled. It's lovely to think that your neighbours notice. Of course we don't garden for recognition, but we love to think that our yard gives pleasure to the folks who live around us or who walk by with their kids or dogs in tow.

It doesn't stop there - there's more.

Photo from Strathcona in Bloom site

A few days later, we received a letter telling us that from over 600 nominations this summer, our front yard was selected as one of the top ten Featured Yard 2020. Oh my!
"Your yard has been chosen to represent your area . . . because of its outstanding contribution to the beauty of your street, the uniqueness that catches the eye, the tidy and well-kept appearance, the use of colour and texture and the overall "wow" factor." 
Judges have been coming round to look more closely, taking photos because now five semi-finalist yards are to be selected. The community, including family and friends, are invited to share in the excitement by voting for their favourites online. By the time you read this, the voting for this round will be over. Still, if interested, you can catch a glimpse of the ten featured yards by clicking HERE. Our yard is G.

Photo Collage from Strathcona in Bloom site

We're not worried about what happens next. We were thrilled to be nominated, but we truly aren't anticipating our little yard to be among the top winners - there are some lovely, lovely yards in our community. Still, the flurry of excitement has certainly given our quiet lives something to focus on besides Covid-19 and unruly world events. So, we wait for the next round - just in case (wink). We'll keep you posted. 

When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy,
there is always the garden.

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Heart Hugs,

Thursday, July 16, 2020

I Come To The Garden Alone

Image by K Hillacre

" I listen for the fragrant grace notes."

Going out into the garden in the early morning brings to mind a lovely old hymn I first heard as a child. I always thought the first line was so beautiful.... I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses.

In The Garden was composed by American songwriter C. Austin Miles (1868 - 1946). According to his great-granddaughter, he wrote it "in a cold, dreary and leaky basement in Pitman, New Jersey that didn't even have a window in it let alone a view of a garden." Oh my, talk about needing something lovely to think about in such a dank place. Perhaps he wrote it to encourage himself at the time. Undoubtedly it has lifted the hearts of many who have since heard those gentle words. First published in 1912, the song became popular during the twentieth century. Well known singers sang it and many included it in their own albums - people like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Doris Day, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell, to name some.

I find the words restful, and their sense of beauty makes me long to walk with the One who gave us Beauty in the first place. Should you want to listen, you'll find our very own Canadian sweetheart Anne Murray singing it HERE

Peace Rose, Summer 2020

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing . . . 

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

* * *

Hope you feel the peace deep in the core
of your being. Wishing you a beautiful day.

Heart Hugs,

Friday, July 10, 2020

Not Five on Friday, But Still Nice

'Delphiniums in the front window'

" Keep creating new windows
from which to look at your world. "

My, the week did fly - surely, it's not Friday already? We've had lots of rain, some sunshine, and delightful opportunities to poke in the garden where the flowers have been doing their generous thing of making us happy, happy. It's been a quiet and pleasant week for me, I do hope you've found it to your liking as well.

I've got the start to the July edition of Simple Woman's Daybook plus a new book post underway, but neither were ready for today even though, as I say, it's Friday already. My brain has felt a little skatty this week, and trying to corral thoughts into something coherent has had its moments. So, I am taking the easy way out today with a simple Five Three on Friday, because I didn't want the week to pass without a note from me to you.


" To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere
without moving anything but your heart. "

I recently ordered the loveliest box of notecards from Amazon. Botanical illustrations from the Drawings and Prints collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's a set of 20 (4 each of 5 gorgeous designs). Printed on quality cardstock, they are a delight to write in. I've sent off a few already and am musing about what nice things I could share before mailing more.


" Gardening has this embracing quality
in that it colours the way you look at the world. "
PENELOPE LIVELY, Life in the Garden

What's better than having one book by a good author - how about having two sitting on one's bedside table?

I'm currently engaged in Ammonites and Leaping Fish in which the author addresses aging, memory, time and life in the 20th century from her standpoint as an eighty-year-old. Very interesting, I find it, especially as I begin to relate to some of what she says even though I haven't reached that stage just yet. She once loved gardening but finds her abilities much impeded by various ailments. I like her thought about how gardening is so forward-looking. I'm not sure if I thought about it quite like that before, but it's so true:
Dividing fat clumps of snowdrops: out of many shall come more still. And that was - is - the miraculous power of gardening: it evokes tomorrow, and is eternally forward-looking, it invites plans and ambitions, creativity, expectation. Next year I will try celeriac. And that new pale blue sweet pea. Would Iris stylosa do just here? And what about sweet woodruff in that shady corner? Gardening defies time; you labour today in the interests of tomorrow; you think in seasons to come, cutting down the border this autumn but with next spring in your mind's eye.

I've been slow reading Life in the Garden over the past few weeks as the spirit moves. It's a lovely memoir in which Penelope Lively reflects on her lifelong passions for art, literature and gardening through her key themes of time and memory. Had a chuckle at this comment of hers:
So far as I am concerned the difference between men and women is that men are interested in cutting grass and women are not. I actually prefer a daisy-sprinkled lawn; Jack, of course, wanted meticulous stripes.


" There are few pleasures like really burrowing
one's nose into sweet peas. "

A single white blossom found last evening - the first of the season - holds in its delicate petals the power to elicit a ne'er forgotten memory of a little girl's first encounter with these sweet smelling flowers. I was about four or five at the time and we were standing in our neighbour's garden, where sweet peas profusely climbed and twined against an old garage wall. My little girl heart was smitten.

To some, like me, the fragrance is the most important aspect of the sweet pea. Don't get me wrong, I love the flowers and the pretty colours they come in. But please don't give me sweet peas where their fragrance has been groomed out of them for larger blossoms. Whoever, in the world of botany, thought for a single moment that people wanted larger blossoms at the expense of the flower's fragrance has absolutely no idea that fragrance is the flower's very soul. And I'm pretty certain it is the sweet fragrance of the sweet pea - or any flower - that engages our hearts as people. A little bouquet can scent a whole room with its fragrance. And we all know how happy that makes us feel.

When we are being introduced to someone's garden, don't we automatically bend to catch the fragrance? The beauty is what makes a flower stand out, but it's the fragrance that gives it heart and soul. Would we love roses as much if they were without fragrance? I cannot imagine it, can you?

* * *

" A flower's appeal is in its contradictions—so delicate
in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big
in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect. "

* * *

Here's wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Heart Hugs,

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Miss Marple, Bookish Sayings, and A Rare Sighting

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

" Books are good company, in sad times and happy times,
for books are people—people who have managed to stay alive
by hiding between the covers of a book. "
    E.B. WHITE

I have disappeared down Agatha Christie's Miss Marple rabbit hole. You may recall I mentioned Nemesis in a recent post chatting about books where gardens weave in and out of the story. I have watched the movie Nemesis with actress Joan Hickson as Miss Marple so many times over the years that I can probably recite lines from it.

As with many books turned into movies, a book holds lovely and/or entertaining passages that don't often transfer well into motion picture. In some cases, scenes are shortened or left out; even characters are adapted, all to make the narrative transfer better to the screen. Which is why it has been lovely to read the book the way Ms Christie wrote and intended it.

Having finished Nemesis, I have now started 'The Mirror Crack'd From Side To Side'. I'm at the place in the story where village do-gooder Heather Badcock has fallen victim to murder. And, Miss Marple's doctor, upon seeing her pink cheeks and bright eyes, recognizes that his quiet, elderly patient has begun to unravel the puzzle of St. Mary Mead's latest homicide. Miss Marple's nephew, Chief-Inspector Dermot Craddock from Scotland Yard has just been to visit and promises to stay to tea the next time he stops in. 

* * *

It was cool and overcast early this morning -- a perfect day to read a mystery novel indoors. But now I see the sun's peeped out while my attention has been keyboard-focused. And it's turned quite lovely. Happy thought indeed. For there is nothing quite like being out on a summer day reading one's book, all the while listening to the birds chatter or inhaling the scent of roses and mock orange and lavender that wafts on the breeze. 

Before I sign off, let me share a handful of my latest garden pics, paired with a few bookish sayings, as well as the rare sighting of yours truly.

" No man can be called friendless who
has God and the companionship of good books. "

" Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that
dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. "

" Detective stories keep alive a view of the world which ought to be true.
Of course people read them for fun ... But underneath they feed a hunger
for justice ... you offer to divert them, and you show them by stealth the
orderly world in which we should all try to be living. "

" Ah, there's nothing like tea in the afternoon. When the
British Empire collapses, historians will find that it had
made but two invaluable contributions to civilization—
this tea ritual and the detective novel. "

" Cosies are comfortable especially on those days when we want
to curl up with a good book. We won't be scared or horrified
by the gory details, but we will be challenged by a first-rate puzzle
to solve. And at the end of the book we will feel good because
the crime has been solved and justice prevails. "

" Read the best books first, or you may not
have a chance to read them at all "

" Reading never wears me out. "

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day.

Heart Hugs,