Our local weather has been completely conflicted as March draws to a close, flipping from snow and hail to balmy spring temperatures and back to cold again within 24 hours spurts. The other day I snuck out on one of the good days to my favourite botanical garden to look for any signs of life among the often dismal days that have comprised our early spring so far. What I found was far more than I expected: myriad brave flowers lifting my spirits as they lifted their heads to the fickle sunlight.
If you’ve also been waiting impatiently for signs of spring, I hope these photos cheer you up as much as the real-life versions did me 🙂
We’ve been living in a regional sauna lately — heat warnings most days this month. I go out as little as possible when the weather’s like this, mainly for groceries and to water our drooping garden plants.
By late August I’m longing for cool autumn weather — which looks like it’s still pretty far away — so for this post I’ll share some photos I took on one of the rare rainy days a couple of weeks ago, up at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. My brother and I spent some time strolling Hendrie Park, until the rain became torrential, lightning flashed and thunder boomed all around us. We felt sorry for the two wedding parties there that day!
Just looking at these photos makes me feel cooler; I hope they affect you the same way 🙂
Wherever you are, I hope you’re keeping cool while this month burns its way into the history books.
We are on hiatus this week as I hunt down some recipes for the Lunar New Year post, which will be loaded next week. In the meantime, according to our most local groundhog, spring will arrive early this year, so I chose this image to remind you of what that will look like 🙂
“The wind outside nested in each tree, prowled the sidewalks in invisible treads like unseen cats… Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve.”Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree
Finally, October! The month I spend the rest of the year waiting for. I love the moody weather, tinged with a slight chill. Today as I baked some cranberry and walnut pumpkin bread I watched the winds snatch leaves from our linden tree and fling them through the air.
Of course, my hubby was more acerbic about all the leaves on the ground when he was outside grilling sausages for dinner (despite the fact that he hires our next door neighbours’ son to rake them up).
Our leaves are all changing colour early this year, despite a very hot summer, and the scenery is so gorgeous. There are a number of reasons why I chose to retire from a full-time job this year, but one of them was an intense desire to stop living for weekends – to be able to really enjoy each day, and each season. By a certain age you begin to realize that the number of Autumns (or whichever season you love best) you have left to experience is smaller than the number that have gone so quickly by already, and you want to stop wasting time.
This week I celebrated my new freedom by visiting our Royal Botanic Gardens on an autumn weekday, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Although the colours weren’t as intense there, a little surprisingly, there was enough to keep me and several other keen photographers who I ran into occupied for hours, and we had the gardens largely to ourselves, without the crowds that have often made it really challenging to have a flower or vista to yourself long enough to be able to try out different angles and groupings.
I was really pleased with a lot of the photos, and since people have been commenting on my flower photos for years, I think I’m going to start offering a garden photography service now that I have the time.
My house is completely decorated for Halloween, even our bedroom with some chic black velvet skull pillows and a cute satin pumpkin. The framed image over the bed is a fairly new addition. We redid our bedroom last year to accommodate a new king-sized adjustable bed – the walls are a foggy fawn colour that’s very relaxing, but the bedspread I’d ordered from Amazon turned out to be more eggnog than cream. Luckily, while we were in Belfast at the Titanic Museum, there was a print from an artist who paints only images about the famous doomed ship that I fell in love with, and the gold tones of the smokestacks in this image of the Titanic leaving Belfast, where it was built, pulled in the pale yellows of the bedspread perfectly. So every day I get to relive having been able to stand in that very shipyard while I admire how well the print ties in the room colours and now my Halloween accessories.
I’ve been bingeing on Halloween-themed television shows (Halloween Wars, Outrageous Pumpkins and the Halloween Baking Championship) and waiting to find out whether trick-or-treating will be allowed this year. I hope so – another bit of normalcy in our wacky year, and I will diligently make up treat bags with gloved hands. We plan to hand them out with tongs from a Mad Scientist’s Lab table that we’ll set up on our front porch – I promise photos if that all falls into place!
In Canada we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving next weekend, carefully within our family/friend bubbles – ours will be outside on our patio with sweaters on, mugs of hot chocolate, lots of orange pumpkins and potted bronze chrysanthemums, and a little buffet set up with warming pans and crock pots.
Take whatever time you can to enjoy all the sights, scents and delightful shivers of this most engaging of months – October always goes by far too quickly!
Next week, ideas for an Autumn Mystery Lover’s Tea 😊
As always, all photos are by me unless otherwise specified, and all rights are reserved.
I fully support all the measures our government has recommended during this pandemic – I wear a reusable mask in all public indoor spaces, wash my hands thoroughly as soon as I get home and stay home as much as I can without going stir-crazy. In fact, everyone in our neighbourhood seems to be doing the same, regularly hanging out in their yards.
I’m extremely grateful to have a back yard to safely spend time in, and I feel for everyone living in apartments or condos these days. We’re even hoping to eat Thanksgiving dinner with my brother on our patio in three weeks if the weather holds out. We may have to bundle up in toasty sweaters and sip hot cocoa to ward off the chill as we eat surrounded by fall colours, but that will be half the fun.
But this sudden press of humanity on a daily basis has its pros and cons. We’ve chatted with our neighbours more this summer than any time in the past, from a safe distance of course. The flip side has been a sometimes disconcerting lack of privacy. My hubby and I have remedied that as much as possible by putting a small privacy garden along our back fence, with trees that should grow in fairly quickly so that it stops feeling like we’re in two fish bowls side by side.
No one’s talked about what to do if you have aggravating neighbours, though – in our case, kids who haven’t been taught to respect boundaries. Over the years I’ve loved the sound of generations of kids playing on the large island we have in our cul-de-sac, but this summer with everyone home most of the time, several neighbours have complained to one family in particular about hockey pucks hitting their parked vehicles, toys left all over the road and on other people’s lawns, and repeated trespassing. Not the worst problem to have (judging by what I’ve been reading online), but after several months it’s gotten pretty tiresome.
Yesterday, before I blew my stack and turned into a complete witch, I decided a better idea would be to take a break. Channeling Sheldon Cooper, first I did a restocking run to our local pharmacy. There’s something satisfying about foraging for all the things that help to make your life more comfortable, even in small ways – a sense of accomplishment, especially now when so much is on hold.
After that, I checked out the new Halloween stock at our Home Sense store, then hit the country roads for some fresh-air R&R.
First purchase was an assortment of pumpkins for our front porch – a vermilion Cinderella, a squat blue pumpkin and a fat white one, and of course a big orange pumpkin for carving next month. A small pumpkin pie also came home with me for an after-dinner treat. To me, pumpkins are the icons of fall – so warm and homey-looking, and so delicious in pies and Pumpkin Spice Lattes!
Next I spent some time at our local botanical garden. It must be a well-kept secret because whenever I’ve visited this year I’ve largely had the place to myself, even though the gardens are extensive and free to visit.
The peacefulness of soft sun and a light breeze on my face, the chirping of birds in the trees and bees buzzing around the flowers, never fails to help me decompress, and I love taking photos of all the artistic details – the glow of sun through leaves, the sculptural quality of plants as they bend over the water, a butterfly flitting among the bright fall-tinted flowers.
Next time you’re out in nature, lose yourself for a while in admiring the details – of an intricate flower pistil, the undersides of flowers, bees industriously gathering pollen, the juxtaposition of colours and shapes. Several gardeners were pruning and clearing, and one of them chatted pleasantly with me as I strolled by.
Gardens are magical healing places if you take the time to enjoy all their layers, even if you just sit on a bench for a while and close your eyes to steep yourself in the scents and sounds.
As I turned home, I stopped in at my favourite roadside market to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables – it’s always a treat to see what’s filling their baskets and bushels that can be turned into something delectable for our next few meals.
Feeling much better, my hubby and I had a nice, easy meal topped off with freshly-baked pumpkin pie and whipped cream, and we relaxed for the evening. It’s easy to get caught up in the news and pandemic politics, and in trying to manage daily life while things are all cockeyed, so take a break once in a while and do something that restores your equanimity. And since we’re all in this together, be mindful of everyone around you. Kindness and consideration will help smooth a lot of the journey.
Like citizens of most countries, we Canadians like to gripe about our home turf, but the more we travel the more we realize how fortunate we are — a stable government, a great health-care system, many freedoms, and so much more. In honour of our national holiday coming up in a few days, here is a pictorial look at a few of the things I love about Canada:
I love these beautiful, majestic birds, despite how much they poop — they are a gift!
Fenwick Berry Farm displays some of the lush produce we are truly fortunate to be able to grow and buy
These delicious outings have become popular in recent years
An amazing piece of engineering that has been lowering ships from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie for over 150 years, and that continues to fascinate visitors from all over the world
The Great Lakes
These lakes are so large that friends who visited from Australia asked if they were lakes or oceans!
They shelter us, provide maple syrup, and turn vivid colours in the fall
Autumn is our most spectacular and enchanting season, IMHO
A rich Indigenous heritage and culture
The Indigenous Garden at Niagara College, Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, showing the harmony and respect for nature that permeates Indigenous life
An abundance of bees
I’m always happy to see bees in our ecologically troubled times
Halloween is my personal ‘happy place’, and I’m even happier that this wonderfully wacky holiday is celebrated so widely
A love of Breakfast
We can enjoy this most basic comfort meal at a wide number of restaurants
Gorgeous winter scenery
Even while we curse at winter storms, we can’t help but admire the scenery, as well as…
Mother Nature’s ice sculptures
Poetry brought to life
Outdoor concerts are everywhere, and are a great way to enjoy a nice summer evening
Artisanal wineries, breweries and distillers are livening up our food and beverage landscape
Miles of open road
Thousands of miles of good roads to explore, like the Trans-Canada Highway
…There are far too many things to list here — these are just a few that I happen to have photos of. I invite you to share your own personal favourites with me in honour of Canada Day!