Friday, March 22, 2013

Allan Gardens Conservatory

Burro's Tail, in flower!
     Last night, I stayed in Toronto for my book club and on the way over to the host's house, I stopped in at the Conservatory in Allan Gardens for a breath of fresh air.  If you have never been, I would recommend you stop by some time and check what's going on here:  They had a display of Hydrangeas, but I went straight to the cactus room, to check out the various cacti and succulents.

     Many are planted in the ground in raised beds, but there are also some interesting ones in hanging planters.  I love how architectural they look and am always amazed at the varying shapes, sizes and colours.  I also, to my delight, found examples of succulents that I have bought over the years, WITH name tags, so now I know what they are: Crassula rupestris, Hatoria salicornoides or Senecio serpens anyone?

     There were so many plants that I would love to have cuttings of, and I did ask one of the workers there if they ever have plant sales, but it seems you have to be part of an organization to have access to any parts of the plants.  A good thing really, or there wouldn't be anything left there for anyone to look at and enjoy, especially when it doesn't look like winter is leaving us any day soon!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

MORE plants!

     Some people go for a drive and bring home a box of kittens or puppies to fill their lives with joy, CC and I bring home a box of plants - cute little plants mind you - go figure.  We went to St. Jacobs, had a quick look around and were underwhelmed, so headed to Belgian Nursery, yet again, this time to find some more pots for our plants, but didn't see anything that grabbed us.  I did see some little Christmas (Easter?) cacti in colours and leaf-shape I don't yet have.  I already have white, white and pink with serrated leaves and pinky-orange with rounded leaves.  Now, I have red and pink with rounded leaves as well.  They have been forced to flower soon, so I just put them, as is, in larger terra cotta pots in the front window and will transplant them once they have finished flowering.  Just so CC didn't feel left out, I bought him a teacup African Violet in white that fit perfectly in the Celadon teacup I bought him for Christmas.  We are supposed to get more snow and it doesn't look like it's going to warm up in the near future, so this is our way of dealing with it.  I did see some Snowdrops and a lone yellow Crocus coming up in the garden, so there is hope.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tree Walk

Norway Maple
     The other night, being restless and having eaten a much too large dinner, CC and I went for a long walk.  The snow was starting to melt, so the grass, brown as it was, was making a much-appreciated and anticipated reappearance.  In addition, the sun was starting to set (an hour later for the first time this year due to daylight savings!).

Black Locusts
     Along the way, we passed many grand specimens of trees.  I enjoy stopping and looking up at the shape and silhouettes of trees, something which is much more readily appreciated at this time of year when they have yet to leaf out.  Near the Speed River, I was quite taken by the gnarly, colourful specimen up top and asked CC what type it was.  I was surprised to hear it was a Norway Maple as CC's influence has taught me to think of them as "junk trees".  This one had lots of lichen on the bark and the setting sun made it practically glow.  I loved the many branches that split off from the trunk, giving it a full and strong appearance.  Further on, with the sun rapidly setting, we encountered the above silhouettes of Black Locusts.  The branches seem to haphazardly zig-zag off the main, erect trunk giving them a very wisened look.
European Larch
     Another great thing about tree silhouettes are their seed capsules.  European Larches, being coniferous (no, they don't eat meat CC!) have cone-bearing branches and at the time of the evening I took the photo, looked as if they were full of birds.  Catalpas, on the other hand, have bean pods that elegantly hang from the branches, finger-like.  One day, I will gather together the pictures of trees I have taken over the years and pick the best ones for printing, framing and hanging so I can bring some of the outside world in.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

LB's 50th Birthday Dinner Party

Appetizer Plate
     Last night, five couples got together to celebrate LB's 50th birthday.  B Lovely and Mr. B Lovely hosted the dinner party at their warm and inviting house and we all made different courses to help LB ring in this milestone.  First of all, Mr. and Mrs. B Lovely set a wonderful table in a large square, which  aided in good cross-table conversation.

     Once all of the guests had arrived, I put out an appetizer plate for each person.  There were 10 people and five appetizers apiece, which makes 50, the magic number of the night!  Trying to be creative, I had each appetizer represent one of the five tastes: sweet, salt, bitter, sour and umami.  Sweet was represented by the triangular peach chutney Hamantaschen, salt was the tapenade pinwheel, bitter was the brussel sprout mini-quiche, sour was the lemon jelly and umami was the won ton flower cup filled with edamame hummus.  Lots of alcohol and conversation flowed forth.  Next up was the salad provided by Mr. and Mrs. B Lovely - a wonderful mix of greens, including baby kale, with a tart but creamy dressing that complemented it perfectly.  More alcohol, more conversation and much more laughter ensued.  We then had the main course - LP made a fantastically rich and creamy scalloped potato side dish and the Mop Philosopher made a Chicken and Clementine casserole with Fennel and Pernod - wow!

     I then served a palate cleanser, a cucumber, grape and ginger granita.

     And then, the piece de resistance, LP's rich, chocolatey gateau topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

     It was a fun-filled, great tasting get-together and my stomach was killing me from Mrs. B Lovely's shenanigans with Sally!  A perfect way to celebrate a dear friend's milestone birthday - intimate, joyful and full of love.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Pretty Snow

     Just when you think we can't possibly get any more snow, we get more!  It snowed heavily the other night - in fact, when I looked out the window it was moving horizontally! Although I thought about staying home the next day, I'm glad I got up and ventured forth.  Everything was covered in a couple of inches of wet, sticky snow.  The morning street lights cast an eerie glow over my morning vista, encouraging me to get my jPhone out and snap some JDPegs, some of which I am sharing with you.  The bus ride only took five to ten minutes longer than usual, and I had a productive day at work, so it was well worth venturing out.  A lot of people I know are not big fans of winter, but personally, I love it, so long as it snows.  I love the cold, the fresh, clean smell of the air, and on a sunny day there's nothing better.  Now don't get me wrong, I understand how days of grey and sloppy, slushy roads and sidewalks can make even the cheeriest soul suicidal, but I find they are few and far between, and as long as we get fresh dustings of the powdery stuff, my inner child and outer (older) man are happy as can be.