Posts Tagged ‘Home and Garden’

Willful Weigela

In In the Garden on June 21, 2017 at 1:21 pm

When we bought our home, more than 20 years ago, we also inherited a large garden. Planted by the original owner, this once-magnificent pride of the neighbourhood had long been neglected and was now so overgrown and filled with weeds it took weeks of hard labour to regain a semblance of order. In our excavations, we discovered this old Weigela in our backyard. It was my aunt who recognized it for what it was – as it had grown to become more stringy tree than beautiful bush.

Our restoration and redesign of the space included annual and aggressive pruning of the Weigela, which yielded more growth and fragrant pink blossoms than you can imagine. So much so, that during a recent storm, the weight of the blooms caused one of the larger branches to snap right off. It had fallen and lay sadly blocking the back access to the path. The unfortunate task fell to my husband, who was forced to take saw in hand to the broken limb with high hopes it would continue on after the carnage.

Well, lo and behold – just the other day, as we strolled past the sight of former glory, we spotted a fresh, new sprout – right on top of the old branch!


You can’t imagine the feelings of jubilance and rejoice upon seeing such a simple shoot! We should all have such vigour and will to live. You just can’t keep a good shrub down!


The Herbal Goddess Within

In Book Reviews, In the Garden, Recently Reviewed on June 5, 2016 at 9:57 pm

UnknownNow that the warmer weather is upon us and our gardens are beginning to awaken and explode with life Herbal Goddess, by master herbalist and yoga instructor Amy Jirsa, reminds readers how the earth provides us with everything we need. While many of us have forgotten the once common wisdom that knew which plants were used for specific medicines, according to Jirsa, “herbalism is our cultural heritage.” And she believes we all still carry this instinctual insight on how to heal our selves – we only need to find the path back to that knowledge.

Jirsa makes it easy – she’s plowed through the plant world’s overwhelming amount of information and culled the vast array down to 12 of her favourite healing herbs. No home apothecary should be without these select go-to herbs for day-to-day living. No doubt, most of us will recognize popular herbs such as chamomile, rose and lavender, which made the list for their well-known calming properties. And stay the spade: those dandelions and nettles you thought were weeds are also included! You might be surprised to learn that both plants provide valuable nutrients, and can serve as amazing detoxifiers.

While the book can be read in any order, it’s divided into individual sections. Each short chapter focuses on one of the 12 herbs, and includes beautiful photographs so you’ll be able to identify the herb when you come across it. Also provided is basic herb terminology, details on what part of the herb is used, how to harvest it, and preparations such as drying blossoms. There are featured recipes in every section for making teas, body care products, and special dishes plus themed yoga poses.

Whether you’re a total novice or an experienced herbalist, Herbal Goddess inspires you to dig deeper into the world of herbs. Jirsa suggests starting slowly and simply. Her advice is to take about a month’s time, and get to know each plant, one by one. With this type of close examination, you’ll really begin to understand the natural properties and effects of each herb. With these valuable tools firmly rooted, we may once again be able to take charge of our mental, physical, and spiritual health. Unleash the herbal goddess within yourself!

Disclosure Notice: We participate in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program, which earns fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites. Our participation does not influence our content decisions but helps to offset the costs involved in maintaining this website.

Perfect Pansies

In Food, Glorious Food, In the Garden on May 7, 2016 at 11:08 am

What’s not to love about these tiny, perfect pansies just harvested from the garden? This year, we found a bumper crop growing in different clumps in the back garden, so it seemed like a great time for a gathering.


Many people enjoy them fresh in salads and desserts. You can even buy them crystallized to use as pretty decorations on fancy cakes or sandwich loafs. Although you usually need to go to a specialty store to find them…they tend to be expensive, and since most are done with whipped egg whites and sugar – they aren’t vegan. Why not make your own?

Our bunnies love to eat fresh herbs so I thought I’d give them one each to try. No surprise when neither hesitated for a moment — it was just grab and gobble them down. It’s so easy to simply wash and dry them on a baking sheet for later use.

Mock Orange: A Study in Dark and Light

In Easy Elegance, In the Garden on July 2, 2015 at 9:18 am


Our mock orange shrub has exploded this year with its fragrant white blossoms. So lovely to see and smell.

It amazes me how a plant can remain dormant or somewhat unnoticed in the garden and then, suddenly when the time is right, thrusts itself into the spotlight. Perhaps it’s an analogy for us all. Mind you, the endless rain we’ve had of late probably made a huge difference, too.

In any case, we’ll enjoy its splendor while it lasts and hope that with proper pruning it will be just as magnificent next year!

An Easter to Remember

In Animal Kingdom on April 21, 2014 at 5:20 pm

LucianEaster2It was a gorgeous day this Easter Monday, perfectly warm and sunny, as little Lucian ventured outside in the garden for the first time. He scampered cautiously over the flagstone paths and what’s left of the grass after a long, cold winter — initially curious but all the time enjoying the fragrant air and sun on his fur.

All was well and good before he got tangled in the boxwood surrounding the parterre and panicked. Within a flash of his Houdini-like contortions, he was almost out of his harness, and filled with fear in those ensuing moments the entire family struggled to unhook him. If Gaetan hadn’t managed to scoop him up, who knows what might have become of him.

Later once he was brought inside, he needed to lie down – almost like a dog, laying on his side panting heavily and heart racing from the excitement. Luckily, he soon managed to calm down and was safe and sound after his rather exciting Easter adventure.



Mother Nature Always Wins

In In the Garden, Our Earthly Paradise on January 16, 2014 at 10:07 am

IMAG0801If you experienced any of the extreme weather last month, you know what I’m talking about when I say Mother Nature always wins.

Here in Toronto, we were hit with an intense ice storm the likes of which we’d never seen before. A forced quiet fell over the city. Planes were grounded, travellers stranded and many residents and businesses went without power for up to a week.

IMAG0803The trees in and around our home took a real beating as the frozen ice literally bent our birch tree in half. Luckily it wasn’t to the breaking point but certainly a sight to behold. Mind you, we’ll have to wait until spring to be sure of the damage. Several neighbours weren’t so lucky and lost trees and shrubs galore.

To be dark and cold around Christmas time was a real eye opener. Some without power complained bitterly, others rose to the challenge and extended helping hands to friends, neighbours and family. The adage — times of crisis bring out the best and worse in people — never rang so true. We lived like our pioneer ancestors for a few days and were simply grateful to have our wood-burning fireplace, loads of candles, and a gas cooktop to get us through it all. On a positive note, it made us stop and think how to better prepare ourselves for the next emergency or power outage. Believe me, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of these situations – we’re just beginning to see the effects of climate change.

IMAG0802While we strive to control this world to our own ends by destroying natural habitat, species and ecosystems, we fail to consider that for every cause there will be an effect. How powerless we are in the face of nature’s amazing backlash: The display of brute force, incredible strength and power truly awe-inspiring. Yet, no beauty is more breathtaking.

Wholesome Harvest

In Food, Glorious Food, Recipes on September 30, 2013 at 8:49 am


Call me old-fashioned but I love the feeling of satisfaction one gets from making things yourself. So you can imagine my delight when my husband decided to harvest apples from our own backyard. We’ve had two old apple trees since we moved into our house some 15 years ago. Not sure what variety they are. The local birds and squirrels have always been happy to make short work of them. Not this time though, we beat them to it.

According to my better half — this is as organic as it gets although I figured they’d be wormy from neglect and well past their prime. Much to my surprise, all eleven of the apples harvested were actually quite fine and tasty, too. Have apples? Make cake.



Apple Almond Cake


Beat together

2 cups                   brown sugar

1 cup                     coconut oil

2 tbsp                   ground flaxseed + 6 tbsp water (or 2 eggs)

2 tsp                      vanilla

Mix together

1 ¾ cup                 whole wheat flour

¼ cup                   almond flour

2 tsp                      baking soda

2 tsp                      cinnamon

½ tsp                     fresh ground nutmeg

Add dry ingredients to sugar mixture until well combined. Stir in

4 cups                   apples (peeled, cored and chopped)

¼ cup                    sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare oblong baking pan. Beat sugar, coconut oil, flax eggs and vanilla until combined. Mix dry ingredients then add to sugar mixture. Stir in apples and almonds. Smooth into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven until golden, about 40 minutes. Cool in pan about 10 mins. Sprinkle with icing sugar if desired.

Mind the Weeds…Another (good) Excuse

In In the Garden on September 3, 2013 at 5:17 pm

The back-to-school ritual combined with the Jewish high holidays has my neighbourhood a buzz with activity. It’s crazy busy in the shops and on the roads — thanks in part to the ongoing construction and closure of many side streets where I live. For students and teachers, fall represents the opportunity to start a new year. It’s also a great time for parents and gardeners alike to start new projects as the cooler weather and return to routine provide the perfect conditions.


Now if only I could just get back to work cleaning up my garden and doing some major transplanting! Our newest garden residents were as busy as bees during one of the heat spells as few weeks back, when we were staying cool indoors, and quickly build a large hornets nest before we knew it. As a result, these uninvited visitors have us tiptoeing around the backyard and generally keeping a low profile.

We looked up our unwanted guests who were easily recognized by their black-and-white colouring and discovered they’re the dreaded Bald-Faced Hornet. They’re called hornets but are actually considered wasps. Whatever their name is you don’t want to get too close, as they’re known to be aggressive if disturbed. After a bit of study, I discovered they don’t have a barbed stinger like bees do and thus can sting you repeatedly – so it’s best to remain on good terms. And certainly no greetings with a stick! Don’t try to kill even one of them. They’ll know and you’ll be sorry.

According to various sources, they will die off come winter but who wants to wait until then to do some yard work? Oh well, I guess my efforts to get down to business have been thwarted once again.

Fading Glory

In In the Garden on August 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

Where did summer go? With the hot and humid days almost behind us, I can finally get back to our neglected garden. The weeds have taken over and everything is overgrown. Time to get back to the routine and do a big fall sweep.

While the riot of blooms are behind us, we still have the autumn joy and mums to look forward to. In the meantime, we’re enjoying our lush sanctuary amid the loud chorus of cicadas, while dodging random clouds of insects, and watching the live entertainment provided by bird and squirrel antics and the latest garden bunny who dines nightly by the stone birdbath.


This cool yard-o-rama photo, showcases our garden with its amazing effect.

When a Rose is Not a Rose

In In the Garden on August 21, 2013 at 10:08 am
Our Rose of Sharon shrubs are particularly beautiful this year. The name belies the fact that the flower is from the hibiscus family -- although some people do refer to it as a Chinese hibiscus.

Our Rose of Sharon shrubs are particularly beautiful this year. Their name belies the fact that the flower is from the hibiscus family — although some people do refer to it as a Chinese hibiscus.