Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tea Ceremony

One of the girls demonstrated a tea ceremony for us last night.  It was very interesting.

We had to use rice bowls because they were the only Japanese bowls I had, but they were perfect..  The tea is a bitter green tea called Matcha.  It comes in a powder form that had to be whisked before it was served. The whisk is carved out of bamboo.  As she served us she explained some of the customs surrounding this ceremony, like turning the bowls three times.  Tiny sweet, sugary candies are served to offset the bitter tea flavour.

The students learn this ceremony at their school in order to keep the tradition alive.  It is performed in a special room that has a tatami mat on the floor.  This mat has traditionally been made out of rice straw.  You can see an example of a tatami mat on my table.  A student from a previous year gave me that to use as a hotplate.

In the tea room, the guests and the server remove their shoes and sit on the tatami mat during the ceremony. The girls have to learn about flower arranging and pottery making in order to perform the tea ceremony.  I think that is because those elements are part of the ceremony.

I just love having the girls come from Japan and stay in my home for a few days.  I learn so much from them about their culture and traditions.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Yum! Yum!

We ate dinner at my DD's house last night.  She had made bruschetta, spaghetti with meat sauce and a mesclun salad.  Then she took the girls to the 'Putting Edge' to play some glow-in-the-dark mini golf.  Sorry, I have no photos of that because I didn't go.  DS and I went to Demetrie's to wait for them to finish their game.  At Demetrie's we ordered some huge ice cream sundaes - lots of ice cream, syrupy sauces, whipped cream, waffle cones and a cherry on top.  And as amazing as it may seem, the girls ate it all up.  Yum!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wasaga Beach

What do you do on the coldest day of the summer?  Why, you go to the beach of course!  We had decided to go to Wasaga Beach on Sunday because that was the only day we could.  It is too far to go up for a couple of hours after school and by next weekend the girls will be at camp.  So we packed our things and hoped for the best.

Unlike the gulls, it was too windy for us to sit on the beach, so we found a nice grassy spot beyond the trees that surround the beach. We had some shade there, but we really shouldn't have worried about getting too much sun.

Every ray of sunshine was welcome.  Instead of a bathing suit and cold drinks, I think it would have been better to bring a winter coat and hot chocolate.  The temperature was only 19C. But the water temperature was 21C, so the girls and my DS went for several 'swims' in the lake.

The girls and DS tried to throw a ball around, but it was too windy for that even on the grassy spot where we had set up our stuff, so they found a better place, farther away from the water, in a secluded area.   These girls have so much energy!

We left Wasaga around 5:30pm.  When we got home I quickly threw together some dinner, stir-fried veggies and chicken fried rice.  Then it was off to take a shower and fall into bed. Even though it was a cold day, it was a lot of fun!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

At the Club

It rained yesterday - not until the afternoon, but it put a damper on doing outdoor things.  So we decided to go to the Franklin Club for dinner.  It's a fishing club that we belong to.  They serve excellent food in their dining room!

When we got to the club, the doors were propped open and there was lots of noise coming from inside the clubhouse.  The music was loud and there was lots of laughing and talking. There was a party going on!  It was someone's birthday and we were invited to join in the fun. Someone had made a home-made tossing game.  The girls were thrilled to be asked to try it. Here is one of the party people showing them how to play it.  "You toss the washer and aim for the round PVC pipe in the centre of the box.  Two points if you get it in there."

After the party-people had gone into the dining room for dinner, my DS and the girls played on. It was a great game and DS has decided to make one for himself.

Dinner was delicious and the girls tried and ate everything they were served.  Today we are planning another excursion.  Our heatwave is over, which is a relief.  It is much cooler, but we still plan to go to the beach for a picnic.  I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Beach's Jazz Festival

The Jazz Festival was amazing.  The girls loved it and DD and I did too!  My student danced the night away! I couldn't take many photos because there were just too many people there.  Mostly just got their backs of their heads in the shots.

A Mime gave one of the girls a good laugh.  She had put a few coins into his hat and as a reward he shook her hand and wouldn't let go!

It was a great evening, although very tiring.  We took a rest and watched the show from the sidelines.

When we got home we just fell into bed.  Now the girls are sleeping in and I am going to whip up a batch of blueberry muffins for breakfast.  Yummy!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rouge Beach

What a great evening we had last night!  The girls cooked dinner for us.  We had a delicious noodle dish. The sauce was so tasty.  I could eat this stuff every day.  There were also some little soy pockets filled with rice. They had a sort of sweet flavour.  At the end of the meal there was one left over.  The girls insisted that I have it.   Yum!  Lucky me!  I did not disappoint them, nor did their meal disappoint us.  I contributed some edamame to our meal.  And some salmon steaks so that my DH would have something for his lunch today.

It was still early when we finished our dinner, so we decided to go to Rouge Beach for a walk along the lake. The city has built a new path there.  We walked quite a way along it, but did not come to the end.

We took a short rest and then the girls and my DD climbed to the top of the rocks that were part of the breakwater.  Here they are with the Pickering Nuclear Plant in the distance.

On the way home we stopped at Tim Horton's for some Canadian maple donuts.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

More Adventures in Toronto

A second post for today....

I slept in this morning.  Didn't sleep well last night, but normally that doesn't present a problem. I am a morning person and I almost never sleep in.  Guess I should be setting my alarm clock while my Japanese student is here.   We ate breakfast without delay and she was ready to go when my DD came to pick her up for school.  So everything worked out okay.

We took the girls to Rosetta McClain Gardens after dinner last night.  It is only a few minutes from my house and it has lovely gardens and a beautiful view of Lake Ontario.

Tonight the girls will be preparing dinner for us.  I have no idea what they will be making, but I am sure it will be delicious!

No one is making any demands on me today.  My DD is getting together with a friend, so she will be busy, the girls are at school, and I don't have to cook dinner tonight.   Yippee!  .I am just working on some UFOs and doing a bit of gardening this morning.  This afternoon I think I will take a nap and/or read my book.

I leave you now with a lovely, tranquil view of Lake Ontario, taken from Rosetta McClain Gardens.

Wildflower Wednesday on Thursday

I want to show you some Vetches and other plants with clover-like flowers.  There are many and I don't have pictures of all of them.  They are in the pea or bean family, Fabaceae or Leguminosae .  This first one is Crown Vetch, Coronilla varia.  The flowers are bicoloured in shades of white and pink.  This plant is widespread in our area.  It is usually planted on steep hillsides along highways because of it's root system, which grows into a sturdy mat that holds the plant and surrounding soil in place.

The leaves are divided into small, paired leaflets.   

Another vetch-like plant in the pea family is Yellow Sweet Clover, Melilotus officinalis.  It is a tall plant with long, tapering spikes of yellow pea-like flowers.

This plant grows in just about any soil, but it loves alkaline soils the best.  It is mainly grown for agricultural purposes, even though it contains a toxin that can turn into an anticoagulant if it gets moldy.  This can cause internal bleeding or even death in cattle.  It must, therefore, be properly dried and cured.   It is also a good source of nectar for bees.

A closely related plant is the White Sweet Clover, Melilotus alba.

The last clover-like plant I have to show you is the Birdsfoot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus.  This is an herbaceous perennial.  Its flowers develop into small pea-like pods.  The name comes from these seed pods when they are on the stem.  They have five leaves, with three at the top of the stem and two more at the base.  This is where the word trefoil comes from.

This is an important forage plant, used in pastures, hay and silage.  It is also an important nectar source for insects.

Its lovely yellow flowers brighten up any roadside or pasture.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Slight Deviation from Wildflower Wednesday

Our 2013 group of Japanese students are here, so I have decided to postpone Wildflower Wednesday until later this week.  I have one girl staying with me and my DD has two others. They arrived on Monday evening, so this is their third day in Toronto.  Here they are with my DD in my back yard early this morning. Flowers among the flowers!

We went shopping at the Scarborough Town Centre after dinner last night.  Tonight we will eat dinner at our house and then we will take them to a waterfront park for a walk along the lake. Our weather has cooled down significantly since yesterday.  It was cool enough for a sweater this morning.

I asked them to do their signature peace-sign thing for the camera.  I just love it when they do that.  My DD is being a good sport and joining in.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Busy, Busy

My Japanese student is arriving this evening.  So I am busy.  But I just can't walk past my sewing machine without wanting to sew something.  The 16-patch is now a flimsy.  It's going to have to wait to be quilted though.  There are a couple of other quilt tops that I want to quilt too.

I am planning to work on the Wiggly Whimsy this week.  I want to get it finished.

I wasn't going to start anything new until I had finished some of my many flimsies.  But then I saw the split nine-patch on Bonnie Hunter's blog.  This is the 2013 Leader and Ender Challenge - Split 9 Patch.  It's to be an ongoing project.  There is no hurry.  Since I use leaders and enders all the time, I think I will try this challenge.  Here is the first block I made just to see what it will look like.   Not bad.  I think it's doable.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday

Today's flower is Chicory.  You probably know why I picked this one.  Because it's blue, that's why! 

Chicory,(Cichorium intybus) is a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae) and a close relative to dandelions. It is a herbaceous perennial and can be found just about everywhere, in fields, roadsides and ditches.  It can be mowed down and survive because it's primary leaves are produced in a whorl, only a couple of inches off the ground.   The flower stems can be 2 to 3 feet tall.  The flowers open in the morning and close around noon when the temperature rises.  Seeds are spread by wind much like dandelion seeds.

This plant was originally native to Europe, especially Southern European countries.  It is thought that it was brought to North America in hay that was used to feed cows on their journey.  It has now become naturalized here.  This plant is not only a great food for cattle, it is also used as a salad green and a cooked vegetable.  The roots can be boiled and eaten, but, perhaps the most common use for them is in the making of a coffee substitute.  Chicory, historically, has had a wide array of medicinal uses, including everything from a tonic, a diuretic and a laxative.  

Hope you have enjoyed this lovely blue flower.  Now I am going to hide out in my basement for the day. We are in the middle of a heatwave.  The temperature is above 32C and with the humidity it feels more like 40C. And wouldn't you believe it!  My airconditioner is not working!!!! The service guy won't be here until tomorrow morning. 

Why do things always break down when they are needed most?


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hot and 16-Patch Blocks

I made the last of the 16-patch blocks yesterday.  I would have started to sew them together, but it was too hot in my sewing room.  I plan to do it today, even though it is not any cooler.  The city has declared today a 'heat alert' day.  They do this only when it is really hot!  But if I don't start sewing them together, Mimi will re-arrange them for me.

I left them on my design floor overnight.  Or as Mimi calls it, 'her design floor'.  I can see that she played on them, but she didn't roll them into small, tight sausages or mess them up too badly like she normally does. Maybe it was too hot for that.

Here she is, behind my half dead plant.  I wish I had trimmed those dead leaves off.  Thanks for not messing up my blocks last night, Mimi.  Was it too hot for you?

"Meow!  It was 'H-E-double hockey sticks' hot!  That's why I am hiding under this dead plant.  Thanks for not trimming it.  I love it this way!  Meow!!:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Flower Power

I have been busy with my 16-patches and I now have only a few more to complete.  I took a photo of them, but it was very blurry.  I think that's because my batteries are just about dead.  So they are plugged into the charger at the moment and I will try again another time.

But I do have a few flower photos to show you.
First is my Yucca plant in the front of my house.  It is gorgeous this year.  It has at least 8 flower stalks.

Last year we cut the Corkscrew Hazelnut tree that was growing in that area.  It was infected with Eastern Filbert Blight and was dying a few branches at a time.  It used to cast shade on my yucca, but not any more.

My double day lily is also in bloom.  It is spectacular!  My favourite day lily of all.

My lovely Mimi is sleeping in the sun in the solarium.  It is too hot for me out there at the moment, but Mimi loves it.  Cat were originally desert creatures, so they love the heat and Mimi is no exception.

See that piece of nylon netting behind her?  She is guarding that.  It's a piece left over from when I made a few pot scrubbies.  She loves to play with it and she gets very upset if her brother, Felix, tries to take it from her.  Isn't she my prettiest flower of all?

And I leave you with a photo of a Goldfinch on a bag of nyger seeds.

I have had a finch feeder for several years, but usually the squirrels knocked it down and the finches were left with nothing.  This year my DH soldered some left-over copper pipe and made me a squirrel-proof feeder. The squirrels can't find a way to get up there and that is fine with me.  It was costing me a fortune in nyger socks.  At around $7 - $8 each it was getting out of hand.  But then I found some nyger seeds at the Bulk Barn.  For a couple of dollars I can buy enough to fill the sock up a couple of times.  The Goldfinches love it and I love to watch them.

Have a terrific Week End everyone!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday

I love plants with blue flowers.  Oh, but you knew that already.  Today\s plant is called Vipers Bugloss.  It is blue, but I really don't know very much about it.  So I am learning as I go.

Vipers Bugloss grows in poor, sandy soil.  Its flowers are a beautiful blue colour and it is sometimes called Blueweed.  The botanical name for it is Echium vulgare.  The name 'Vipers Bugloss' comes from the word 'Echium', which is derived from the Greek word, 'Echis' for viper.   Many parts of this plant were thought to resemble a viper and it was historically used as a treatment for viper bites.  The word bugloss is derived from the Greek word for ox-tongue, which refers to the shape and roughness of the leaves.   This roughness can cause an itchy, allergic reaction if touched.

But if you look at the photo above you will see some poison ivy growing right in the centre.  If I had touched the plant and developed a rash I would have thought it was due to the poison ivy and not the bugloss.  Vipers Bugloss is in the Borage family, Boraginaceae.  It is a biennial or short-lived perennial and can produce 500 to 2,000 seeds per plant.  It is just starting to fade in my area, but it was beautiful earlier in the spring.  I don't know why I didn't take a picture sooner.

It is considered an invasive species in many areas, but in some parts of the world it is grown near bee hives since bees can turn the nectar from these pretty blue flowers into a delicious honey.

So, Happy Wednesday everyone!   Go out and enjoy some wildflowers today.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


We got a lot of rain yesterday.  A record, in fact, over 100mm.  That is more than what fell during hurricane Hazel in 1954.  And coupled with all the rain we have had lately, the ground is saturated and the rivers are full, so flooding occurred in many areas.  Although we were not affected, thousands of people were, either by the floods or by the power outages.  This is what the Don Valley Parkway looked like.  The water in the Don River was level with the roadway.

A whole trainload of folks were trapped on a Go train when the waters rose.  They spent the evening on the train and were not rescued until 2:00am.

Today we still have homes and businesses without power.  It has been reported that 70,000 people are without electricity at the moment.  We have been asked by our mayor to use as little electricity as possible, so as to avoid more power outages and rolling blackouts.  So I am using my sewing machine as little as possible.  But I do have some blocks to show you.  Here a few more 16-patch blocks.  I have been cutting more strips.  That doesn't use electricity.

There is more rain on the way.  But I have lots of hexies to add to my basket quilt, so I am

Monday, July 08, 2013

That's Just Me, Ranting

I went down into the ravine this morning.  The sun was shining and the birds were singing.  The forest smelled so nice and foresty and the flowers were blooming everywhere.  I took some photos and said 'Hello' to others who were enjoying the quiet solitude of the woods.  Then I came upon a grassy area of Morningside Park, where there are picnic tables set up, a splash pad for children and washroom facilities for everyone.  It's a wonderful place for a picnic and I have been there with students and family alike.  But what I saw this morning made my blood boil.

Garbage everywhere, left by some messy picnickers.  Maybe they were rained out, but I think the rain would have announced itself long before it started to fall.  Surely they could have put their garbage into the cans provided.  You can see some in the distance, perhaps 50 meters or so away.

They had even left their table cloths.   And stuff on the tables, charcoal brickets and even the hibachi's they used to cook their meal.

Here is a bag, already to go into the trash, but they left it under a picnic table.  The yellow bag is from nofrills, and I know it says, 'We won't be beat', but I am reading 'Don't be neat'.

This was not a small party.  There had to have been many people enjoying themselves.  So why did they leave such a mess?  I can only scratch my head.  The most ironic thing about it all was that on the south side of the tables were eight more garbage and recycling cans, only a few steps away.

I am sure the park's staff will clean this mess up.  Probably if I had come by again in the afternoon it would have looked as if no one had been there.  But who pays for that?  Me, I guess, as a tax payer.

Didn't our mothers teach us to be neat?  To clean up our own messes?  It's such a small act of human decency.   And it only takes a few minutes.  When I was a Girl Guide leader I taught my girls to take nothing from nature and only leave a foot print.  I think the saying goes, 'Take only photos and leave nothing but a footprint'.  But even that might be too much if the area is a sensitive one.  But take as much garbage out as you can carry.  If everyone did this the world and our parks would be a better place.

Last year my DD took her class to this park as part of a 'clean up our waterways'.  I wrote about it here.  No wonder they collected so much garbage they could barely carry it all.

I\ll get off my soapbox now.  If we don't all do our part, the world will not be worth living in.

Friday, July 05, 2013

This and That

I had wanted to go out this morning, but it is raining, again!  When is this wet weather going to end?

Thank you to everyone who voted for my miniature paper pieced quilt last weekend.  I got 26 votes, not enough for a win, but I'm happy with that.

I also hope that all my friends to the south of us had a great Fourth of July yesterday.

Sorry, I have been missing in action this week.  Monday was a holiday, but that should not have made much difference.  Every day is a holiday for me.  LOL  Then on Wednesday I had a dentist appointment.  Since it only involved putting a filling back in and the fact that I was totally done by 9:00 am, shouldn't have made any difference either.  I guess the thing that bugged me the most this week was trying to locate my photos on my computer.  You see, I sort of, inadvertently, deleted them.  Doh!  How I did that I have no idea.  But they were all gone.  Then last night I was trying different things and I found them on Picassa.  Have no idea how that happened.  Now I have to figure out how access them.

I will now sort of back track over the past week and show you what's been going on around here.  Here is my design wall on Monday.

I am pretty happy with it and think I will sew it together today.  It now measures about 44 in. by 60.5 in.  I may add one more row to the sides and one more row to the bottom.  I'll see how it goes.

I have also been working on another scrappy quilt.  This is a 16-patch.  I have been making these blocks whenever I have a spare moment.  Not too many of those around here, but I do have about 14 blocks done.  Here are 10 of them sewn together.

Now onto Wildflower Wednesday.
The flower for this week was one of the ones I lost.  Actually I found it, but can't figure out how to get to it.  So I have decided to show you the plant, Yarrow.  This plant grows everywhere.  It likes direct sun and fertile ground, but is also happy is less perfect conditions.

This one is growing in my backyard.  I have no idea how it got there.  Maybe I planted it many years ago.  It has soft feathery leaves and that is the reason why it is still in my garden.  One of my old cats, Tobicat, loved to sleep on this feathery plant when the temperatures sky rocketed in the summer.  In fact, we buried his ashes under this plant.  It has great sentimental value and we will never remove it, but I did trim it back a bit this spring because it was getting out of hand.

Yarrow is a very useful plant.  It has been used for food.  The leaves can be eaten like spinach or cooked  in soups.  Plus it has a huge range of medicinal uses.  It has been used as a diuretic, a blood tonic and to treat nosebleeds and menstrual disorders.  Early Europeans took it into battle to treat wounds.  Native Americans used it to treat toothaches and head colds.  A poultice was applied to burns and a tea was made to reduce fever and aid in restful sleep.  And if you could ask Tobicat, he would tell you it makes a wonderful cool, soft bed to nap on.

The botanical name for Yarrow is, Achillea millefolium.  It is in the Asteraceae family.  I also have some light pink ones in my garden and a yellow one which I bought this year.  It is in the front garden and I couldn't get a photo because it meant walking on the grass and that is still difficult for me to do.

My garden is spectacular this year.  I guess it's all that rain we've been getting!  I love this yellow lily.  The colour is so bright and cheerful.

And my first day lily opened this morning.  It is a peach coloured single blossom one.  I love it!  You can see the lavender in the background.  Also very pretty and aromatic.

That's about all for this week.  Wishing everyone a fantastic weekend!