If you like to find new ways to support creativity and the arts in your community, there's no better place to look than Kickstarter, which has finally arrived in Canada. Using the "crowd funding" concept, it allows innovators and artists alike to pitch their projects, and seek support from the great online public, in a time targeted manner. Do check out this project, currently seeking funding, by my friend Blair Fukumura, a highly talented, but unconventionally trained animation artist, whose previous work has been featured at multiple festivals, including LA Shorts. Only a couple of weeks left until his target deadline, so check out the cool givebacks you could receive for supporting him in this endeavour.
Tuesday, 22 October 2013
Sunday, 10 March 2013
We had a lovely weekend in Toronto - blue skies, plenty of sunshine, and temperatures a few degrees above freezing. The snow is finally melting, and since we had snow on the ground for several weeks this year, it actually does feel like spring is arriving quite properly. In the last couple of years, we've had rather sparse snow cover, so the bite of winter was less harsh, and consequently, the joy of spring, whilst welcome, was somewhat diminished.
We had a quick visit to the Toronto Botanical Gardens this weekend, more just to stretch the legs rather than in anticipation of any flowers to see, but there were some nice drifts of snowdrops (too far through the bushes to photograph clearly), lots of bulbs poking their noses out of the soil, and some very cheerful wych hazel. Naturally, a quick scout around the shop resulted in some impulse purchases, in the form of seeds and summer bulbs/corms. The seeds are all "Renee's Garden" - not a brand I've tried before, but the very pretty watercolour designs on the packages reeled me in, and I snagged Painted Lady sweet peas (apparently dating back to 1737 and heavily fragrant), lacinato Kale (which I've had my eyes on for a couple of years, but never found seeds in Toronto), lemon cucumbers (no idea where I'll find space), a type of Italian salad leaf called "garden ferns" and mesclun mix named "Paris Market Mix". On the tender bulb side of things, I got some classic "Lucifer" crocosmias (very common and popular in my hometown of Aberdeen, where they seem to grow like weeds despite being too tender to withstand a Toronto winter), two types of gladioli (Prince Claus and Byzantinus), some scented and exotic looking acidenthera, and another fragrant bulb, Polianthes tuberosa "The Pearl". I haven't grown any of these before, but since I've had reasonable success in the last couple of years with tender bulbs in pots, and they are easy to bring down to the basement for overwintering, it seemed like a good idea!
|The brook that runs through the Toronto Botanical Garden was in spate with melting snow .|
|These dogwoods were absolutely glowing in the sunshine.|
Talking of overwintering in the basement, I started looking at what has been lurking down there since the fall. The pelargoniums that I just dumped down there, still in the window boxes in which they were planted are springing up, and so it's time to get them properly into life. See below for the method I've used in the last couple of years, which is very little work. Cannas were also excavated from their pots and inspected. They are all looking nice and healthly, and I've cut up the huge tubers into smaller pieces, each with several strong, fat buds and some good roots. Will leave the cuts to dry off for a day and then should get them planted up. Haven't got to the dahlias yet, but did see at least one good shoot poking up, so they will also need attention this week. So much going on....fingers crossed for no more snow (good luck with that!).
|Pots waiting to receive the awakening pelargoniums|
|Once I've got the poor things out of the soil, I soak the roots in water for half an hour or so.|
|These were the plants I overwintered, which in turn had been overwintered the previous season, to good effect.|
|Cannas, awakening after their winter dormancy.|
|A sturdy, if chlorotic leaf is emerging from this tuber. I sliced the large parent into 4 good sized pieces, and will let the cuts dry out for a day or so before planting them up in pots.|
|More Cannas - not sure where these are all going to go!|
Sunday, 24 February 2013
Although it's most definitely still winter here, and I awoke to see huge fluffy snowflakes slowly drifting downwards, I have a sort of "the end is in sight" feeling, and a sense that spring is not too, too far away. Last year, spring arrived in early March, but it was highly atypical and I shouldn't really expect a repeat performance this year.
Yesterday, whilst chomping down my toast and marmalade at breakfast time, I had my first cardinal sighting of the year. A lovely bright red, cheery looking little fellow was rummaging around in the garden, flitting here and there, and generally having a good scout of the area. For the last few years, there has been a nesting pair in the neighbour's shrubbery, adjacent to my garden, and I always enjoy watching them busily working to feed and raise their chicks.
With thoughts of spring in mind, I did some winter sowing yesterday. Have been meaning to try this for a few years, but never seem to be organized. This year, I had saved up suitable containers, and had seeds at the ready (some self-collected, some purchased). I've sown spinach, beets, swiss chard, thyme, tomatoes, platycodon & echinacea. The last two will likely produce plants for my friend's new country house.
Here are a few spring photos from last year, as a reminder of what we have to look forward to soon.
|Daffodils in my garden. They have been in the wrong location for 3 years, so this year I really must move them after flowering.|
|These muscari have formed nice big clumps after a couple of years.|
|This combination of rich burgundy tall tulips with shorter bicolour ones between comes from the display at the Toronto Botanical Garden.|
|Anemone blanda - I loved these when I saw them at the Botanical garden, and had meant to get some in the fall for my own garden, but it was forgotten. Next year!|
|In a white scheme, some lovely, clean looking anemones formed a carpet under later blooming white irises. I love the upturned habit of these particular anemones....the ones in my garden are lovely, but tend to have their heads cast downwards.|
|Stunning peony at Toronto Botanical Garden|
|Like the anemone blanda, I was really excited about these camasias when I saw them last spring. Must remember to look for the bulbs this year.|
Saturday, 23 February 2013
|Chicken fricassee, interpreted by Bobby, inspired by Joy of Cooking|
|Chocolate pie, courtesy of William-Sonoma "Baking".......YUM!|
Friday was a dreary weather day, and fairly typical of February in Toronto. Grey, with a snow/freezing drizzle mix, and a horribly slow commute. Luckily, our routine Thursday boys night had been deferred to Friday, so at least I had a lovely dinner to look forward to after work. We were treated to a comforting chicken fricassee, with a lovely mushroomy sauce, and a delicious chocolate pie. We've decided to give Survivor a miss this season, but Bobby's Martha Stewart Living subscription provided a catalyst to my outrage, and got the conversation going with a rant from me. Ah! Good times!
Thursday, 21 February 2013
|Chateau du Lac, Genval, Belgium|
So, our Thursday night schedule for 2013 is "all to pot". Last Thursday (number 6 of the year), landed on Valentine's day, so that clearly needed to be reserved for individual plans, and this Thursday (the 7th of the year) has been rescheduled to tomorrow - a real case of "sixes and sevens"! This week's disruption was my fault again, because I had another work trip to Belgium at short notice, and just got back this afternoon. I was worried that I'd fall asleep at the dinner table! I'll report on the culinary delights of tomorrow in due course.
Given the trip to Belgium, and the fact that my return flight didn't leave before 7am this time (!), I was able to pick up some fresh cream Neumann chocolates at the airport - yum! I stayed at the Chateau du Lac in Genval, a quiet little village on the outskirts of Brussels. It was rather a deja vu, as I had been there about 10 years ago...still quite charming, and we were treated to some wintery sunshine and so it was nice to have the chance to walk around the lake before meetings started. I had a bit of a confused history lesson from my taxi driver (could have been the jet lag!), and was amazed to discover from some Googling back home, that whilst the "Chateau" was originally built as a spa, it spent a good chunk of the twentieth century as a manufacturing plant for Schweppes, producing India Tonic Water, and was only converted back to a hotel and spa in the eighties. If only I had known, I would surely have had a gin and tonic to celebrate the illustrious past!
|Le Lac de Genval|
|Blue skies, in February, in Belgium!|
|On first glance, I thought there was truly a stork on the roof of this boathouse.|
|Beautiful waterfront homes in Genval|
Sunday, 17 February 2013
This snippet of Leonard Slatkin conducting the famous "Ode to Joy" from the last movement is about as close as I'm going to get this weekend.
Sunday, 10 February 2013
|Three citrus marmalade...looks very pretty, but the jury is still out on whether a set was truly achieved.|
Stayed close to home all weekend....by the fireplace! Eating hearty soup, watching Monty Don wandering around beautiful gardens in France, and breathing deeply of the smell of marmalade boiling in the kitchen. I deviated from my penchant for Seville oranges this year, and went for a three citrus recipe of grapefruit, lemon and orange from "Food in jars". Although I diligently monitored the temperature achieved with a thermometer, and double checked for a set with the old frozen saucer test (and did seem to have a good "wrinkle" going on), the jars don't seem to have much of a set at all. Am hoping that a day or two for rest will be enough....will be very disappointed if a need to reboil.
|Lake Shore Boulevard, Mimico...February 8th, 2013. A good, old-fashioned snowstorm kept much of the traffic at bay. I decided on a walk to the store to gather provisions....pretty at first, but exhausting overall.|
|This picture was taken about half way through the storm...even at this stage you can get the sense that we had quite a depth. In the end, about 25 centimetres.|
|It's been a few years since the window ledges have been piled with snow.|
My turn to host, for the 6th Thursday of 2013. I have realized after 6 weeks, the immense skill of food stylists and photographers in the magazines I love to browse. No matter how delicious or fragrant the food we have eaten on Thursdays thus far in 2013, the photographs do very little justice.
This week, we dined on:
- "toast champignon", inspired by my trip to Leuven the previous week (De absolute bistroklassieker is een smakelijke toast champignon), washed down with a little bubbly to celebrate the recently completed country house purchase of Bobby and Mr. N......a dream regency cottage in Hastings county, which will only be enhanced by it's new owners.
- Abbachio alla Romano (Roman roast lamb).....I've been making this easy-peasy Valentina Harris iteration of a Roman classic for years. This week, it was made with little lamb cutlets, as I couldn't find a roast to cut up into chunks. Results equally gusty and dee-lish. It only contains 5 ingredients - a case of brilliant simplicity.
- Meringue gelato cake. This one came from "Nigellisima". It's also very easy, and takes the prize for fewest ingredients, at a paltry four (cream, shop bought meringues, a dash of rum and some slivered chocolate). Although not the most sophisticated dessert in the world, it went down very well, and the fact that it only took about 10 minutes to make mid-week, was highly appreciated by myself!
|Toast champignon - recently consumed in the Flemish town of Leuven.|
|Roman roast lamb, with roasted potatoes and green beans. This is a hearty, delicious and extremely easy meal.|
|Not exactly the "Belle of the Ball", but it was rather tasty.....Nigella's Meringue Gelato Cake. The speed of preparation on a weeknight scored it some bonus points.......just need to work on the presentation!|
Monday, 4 February 2013
|City Hall, Leuven|
I had to forgo normal service last Thursday, as I was in Belgium for work. The meetings I attended were held in the lovely Flemish town of Leuven, which I had not previously visited. We were housed at a very smart hotel, the Martin's Klooster, a former convent which has been very stylishly re-purposed as a hotel. I had the good luck to be in one of the rooms in the old part of the hotel...lots of exposed beams, high ceilings and leaded windows. Although the days were fully scheduled, I arrived the day before the meeting started and managed to get out whilst the sun was shining for a good walk around the city centre. It's a very charming town, and I am pleased to say that in the couple of restaurants I visited, I was met with very attentive and pleasant service, and lots of help with the Flemish menu. If you ever want a nice homely meal in the centre of Leuven, in a quiet and cozy spot that's obviously popular with the locals, try the Brasserie Foyer.
|A lovely baroque church in Leuven|
|Beautiful turreted buildings|
|Look at the golden boy, striking the clock bell.|
|This church had beautiful clean lines and delicate decoration.|
|There were some very stylish shopfronts in Leuven. Here, a lovely flower boutique.|
|Same flower boutique, different window. A real visual feast.|
|Further down the street, another florist, with a wide variety of spring treats to tempt shoppers,|
|Wish my neighbourhood shops looked this cute!|
|I loved this display of hellebores and other hardy plants, that can survive in the relatively mild winter climate in Belgium.|
After my trip to Belgium, I was able to fit in a flying visit to see my Mum and family in Scotland, which was fantastic.
|We went for a muddy walk in the village I grew up in, close to Aberdeen.|