Thursday, October 13, 2016

Friends are Life's Gift of Love

If you're a regular to my blog you may notice it's not wonky looking any more. For a few weeks the white strip down the middle was shrinking and shifting. At first I thought it was my computer but it turns out it was a Blogger glitch. A quick email to Karen Valentine, my blog designer and it was fixed in no time.
The Canadian Thanksgiving is over and we were thrilled with the autumn colour heading north to our oldest daughter's home for the holiday.
Heading into the house one morning I noticed the beauty of fallen leaves windswept onto this chair and couldn't resist taking a photo.
A few thank you cards that went to friends from the Michigan tea tour. 
Violets are my birth month flower for February and I was touched to receive this plate (just because) from my friend Gloria with the quote "Friends are Life's Gift of Love" ~Helen Steinier Rice~ inside the card. Such a lovely quote and sweet gesture of friendship. 
Take Time for Tea
I make myself afternoon tea every day around 3 pm and sit and relax for half an hour or so. A homemade scone with lemon curd and pumpkin chai one day with my new funky teapot won during games on the tea tour.
Linking with Amy's Five on Friday.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Five on Friday

I've slowed down on joining blog parties but do like to keep in touch with a couple of hosts like Amy who has Five on Friday for sharing photos, life events....anything at all.
Ever had the feeling you're being watched? Some prankster put a plastic goose or swan head high in this cedar tree and I found it funny and worth sharing.
Apparently the spring show of lilacs is amazing on Mackinac Island and I purchased a souvenir teapot with them on during my trip. English Breakfast tea is in my cup, a gift from Nancy who owns The Rosemary House Tea Room.
Some of my friends will already have seen my autumn theme mixed berry pie on FB. Making an easy pastry dough and learning to use cutouts were the topics for a workshop I attended. 
Recently I babysat grands and Topaz came along to help. It sure tuckered him out!

October 10 is our Canadian Thanksgiving and I'm looking forward to turkey with all the trimmings.
Linking with Five on Friday

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Opulent Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

We were blessed with gorgeous weather our entire time during the Michigan Tea Tour.
Taking the ferry over to Mackinac Island the opulent Grand Hotel stands out like a beacon to visitors. Each room is decorated differently and above is where a couple of the ladies stayed.
We had reservations for afternoon tea and were delighted with the background music of a talented lady on a harp. Posing in all her splendour is Linda P. whose signature tea attire is a hat (or fascinator) and scarves.  She certainly was an inspiration to be our best at all times and I have to admit I purchased a couple of fascinators and some scarves on the trip.
Afternoon tea was served on low tables and included champagne. To be honest, the tea was brewed too long for most of us but the dainty fare, delicious.
Here we are at our tables and Nancy from Two Cottages and Tea (second from left, in left photo) was able to join us to make 11.
Dinner at The Grand Hotel was an elegant affair and waiting for the rest of the group is my friend Gloria and I.
One can only get about the island by foot, horse or bicycle and while walking to explore the boutiques before leaving I captured this charming old stone church.
 Our last dinner together was spent in Frankenmuth with a little shopping afterwards.
One final shot of the group of us together. Thanks again to Phyllis (centre) with help from her good friend Lori (3rd from left) who arranged a memorable trip of tea rooms and shopping. It was nice to make new friends; laugh, eat, shop and sip tea together.
Take Time for Tea

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Concentration Creates Perfection

Continuing the Michigan Tea Tour....
Before we entered the Japanese Cultural Centre for the much anticipated Japanese Tea Ceremony we strolled the grounds which had scenic vistas and an aura of tranquility.
It was a beautiful sunny day and as you can see, the bridge beckoned one to cross and meander along the path.
The demonstration station was prepared upon our entry and our tea specialist was this charming 83 year old woman in her ceremonial kimono. Always a beautiful smile and the explanation that the ceremony is an exact tradition that requires her concentration for perfection. 
Usually the ceremonial tea is prepared kneeling on a tatami mat and it is still done this way when delegates from Japan visit. The raised area behind is not measured by feet but by how many mats fit  and this is a large tea house with 8 tatami mats. Our specialist is grateful when she can prepare the ceremony sitting on a stool.
Even though prepared many times over the years, her eye for detail was watched in awe by the 10 of us where you could have heard a pin drop. We were served matcha tea and sweets afterwards.
Please visit my blogging sisters and fellow travellers for their posts on the tour as well.
Phyllis at Relevant Tea Leaf
Linda at Friendship Tea
Tea at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island will be my next and final post of the tour.
Take Time for Tea

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Michigan Tea Tour

I've been absent for a week as I've been away on a tea tour in Michigan....and it was wonderful!
Let me introduce our hostess, Phyllis Barkey who blogs at Relevant Tea Leaf. Phyllis was busy planning a year ahead and had pretty gift bags waiting for each of the 9 ladies arriving to join her.
Our first evening at a hotel in Utica, MI we had a tea and chocolate pairing presented by Teresa (top left) from Ohio. It really was a lot of fun tasting three different varieties of tea with each of the three chocolates. Teresa also gifted each of us with a box of goodies.
 The next day saw some shopping and almost everyone at the Victorian Rose tea room for an afternoon pot of tea and a scone.
Top photo l-r is yours truly, Linda P, my friend Gloria, (we were the Canadians in the group) and Barb. Bottom left is Joan and Lori. Bottom right is Nancy who blogs at Rosemary's Sampler, Phyllis and Linda J who blogs at Friendship Tea.
I'll continue our tour in a post next week where we enjoyed a Japanese Tea Ceremony and time on Mackinac Island.
Take Time for Tea!
Linking with Mosaic Monday.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

What I Baked with my Apron

The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons used less material.  But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.  
It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. 
From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. 
When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.. 
And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms. 
Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove. 
Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.
 From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. 
In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees. 
When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds. 
When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folks knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner. 
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes. (found on the internet years ago)
I have always worn a full apron for making dinner, baking and yes gathering a few vegetables which is why I like them with pockets. Above is the one I'm wearing right now but will bring out my favourite autumn one soon.
Last week at our local farmers market I bought a bag of Paula Red apples to make a pie and a quart of damson plums from the same vendor. I experimented by adding a dozen or so of the plums, pitted and cut and half and the sweetness they added to the apples was delicious. I hope to recreate the pie (maybe a few more plums) for the potluck lunch after church this Sunday.
A friend shared a recipe video on FB that looked pretty interesting - a cake made with two ingredients. I mixed the angel food cake and lemon pie filling by hand and smoothed it into a parchment-lined 9x13 pan. It baked for 35 minutes at 350° but once cool, mine didn't release from the parchment very well. A sprinkle of icing sugar before serving and although tasty the cake was heavy. Has anyone else tried this recipe? 
It didn't hit home with hubby and I but our 21 year old grandson who came for dinner was quite eager to take the leftovers back to his place and "maybe add some ice-cream Grandma."
Linking with Mosaic Monday.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The New Canadian Garden and Highway of Heroes Tribute

In July I submitted a photo of my front yard butterfly/pollinator garden for consideration to win a copy of Mark Cullen's latest book 'The New Canadian Garden' that came out in February of this year. I was thrilled to be contacted and told I'd won a copy.
For my American blogging sisters, Mark Cullen is our Canadian Garden Guru who shares his expertise through presentations, syndicated newspaper columns, radio shows, television, a newsletter and in several books before The New Canadian Garden.
Mark often addressed us at our annual meeting and luncheon when I was still a member of the Garden Writers Association. When one hears or reads Mark's words you become aware of his passion for gardening.  For myself, being a garden communicator isn't something that ended when I retired from active duty as a Master Gardener and writer.  My own passion persists as I want to share what I've learned and continue to learn.
In the introduction Mark asks if gardeners live longer than non-gardeners? When I started this blog I had in the 'about me section' "I live to garden and garden to live" so if you too are a gardener, think about what your response would be.
Styles and methods of gardening have changed immensely over the years, in my beginner garden adventures back in the 70s one scuffled the soil every spring to break up the clumps and add oxygen. We later learned that this was not a good thing to do as it disturbed the soil microorganisms and the better way was to add a couple of inches of compost and let the worms and insects work it in for us.
We've all noticed how much the typical backyard has shrunk to, postage stamp size is a term frequently used. Gardening in small spaces is what a new Canadian garden looks like and balcony and roofs are being put to use too. The new gardener is not lusting after plant collections such as my (boomer) age group has but is instead more concerned with being environmentally responsible and growing their own organic food. They're also the ones spearheading allotment and community gardens.
I've written before here how generation x and the millennials are intent on social media sharing rather than going to horticultural society meetings. When this 'aha' moment struck home I quickly started a FB group for my community where plant swapping and questions take place.
Farmers markets are springing up everywhere and are successful with people wanting fresh fruit and produce if they're not growing their own and to support local farmers and other vendors.
Mark has quoted Jim Nollman from his book Why We Garden more than once in The New Canadian Garden and truer words were never said..."Gardening is hard work; it doesn't make life easier, although it often makes it more fulfilling."
Basic gardening skills required for soil, starting seeds,  pests and diseases are covered in the book as well as all about biodiversity and the benefits of having children learn to garden from an early age.
The New Canadian Garden is the perfect gift for a beginning gardener and one that will definitely inspire a seasoned baby boomer.
photo from the OHA newsletter
One last thing to share about Mark Cullen, he has been involved from the start as volunteer chair for an admirable campaign called the Highway of Heroes.  117,000 trees trees to be planted on the Highway of Heroes between Keele St (the coroner's office) in Toronto and CFB Trenton along the 401.  One tree for every one of Canada's war dead. Further more, all of the author royalties from the sale of The New Canadian Garden are donated to the campaign.
This summer the Ontario Horticultural Society donated (with a final count) over $28,000 with my own society donating an awesome $1,000. Mark Cullen is third from the right in the above photo.
I wasn't required to write a book review but when your own gardening journey has been affected by a down to earth fellow who has assisted you along the way with his books and presentations, it only makes sense to share Mark's latest book which, by the way, will be useful to gardeners others than Canadians.
Welcome September
Happy Gardening!

Linking with Mosaic Monday.
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