The big old pine tree outside my office window looks like a flashback to an early 1970s Christmas when those cans of spray snow were popular and some drunken uncle would go overboard coating every branch of their tree with the sticky fluff, likely made of chemicals that would be banned today.
(Nope… so wrong, it still exists, and appears to be popular, given how many sites seem to be sold out of it. I’m not sure if that makes me happy or worriedly bemused.)
In any case, the real stuff, on the real tree outside, hangs in huge fluffy clumps. It’s perfect snowball snow, and I want to reach out and grab a handful, but the tree is too far from the window.
As the sun rises in the sky and shines directly on the tree, the snow reflects blindingly. Then… plop, the snow on each branch is warmed just enough that it melts slightly and slips down the long needles to the ground below.
Soon the branches will spring back up, no longer heavy under the weight of nature’s first attempt at holiday decorating.
I like winter less that I used to. It makes my bones ache now, and my little dog hates the snow and cold, making walks more of a chore and less of an adventure. But there’s still something magical about that first snowfall; no matter how much traffic it bungs up, or how cold it gets along with it; when the first snow of the year arrives with such drama, it’s hard not to find some joy and beauty in it.
By the end of the day, the tree will have lost its snowy flocking. A rise in temperatures tomorrow and rain the next day will quickly disappear nature’s grand gesture before it becomes too tedious. But I will appreciate it while it’s here. Because the second snowfall (or the eighteenth) is never quite as gorgeous.
They were late this year and it seemed as if they knew the current state of affairs and just decided to bypass Southern Ontario for safer places up north. But then the first “ocaleeee” rang through the trees of the Victorian neighbourhood near us, from a high branch or the peak of a gingerbread-trimmed rooftop, flashes of red catching the eye as they moved about. And then there were more, and more again, like incidents of this virus, multiplying exponentially, so the cacophony is now almost deafening on certain blocks. Turns out, the blackbirds don’t care about current affairs. They return every March, regardless of whatever is going on with the humans they encounter, here to scream their fool heads off, decimate bird feeders, terrorize local cats, and generally welcome spring, pandemic be damned.
Despite the freakishly empty streets, this is heartening. Likewise the songs of the bluejays, chickadees and the laser blast of the male northern cardinal looking for love. Snowdrops and early crocuses are appearing in front yards, buds are close to bursting on various varietals of trees. The tips of privet hedge branches are a greener shade of grey than they were a week ago. The raggedy green leaves of the first dandelion burst from a crack in the soil against a sunny, south-facing wall.
Festive gourd season! I know. It brings up images of dusty gourds, arranged in a basket, maybe with some Thanksgiving or Halloween tat to dress it up. But these are not the festive gourds of Grandma’s autumn table setting. These little guys are way cooler.
I came across this collection of festive gourds in a produce shop on Roncesvalles Avenue. $4.99 for the lot, they’re from a company called Sunrise Greenhouses and are marketed as “living decor”. They come packaged in a bubble tea cup and when arranged in a dish look like a cross between a bowl of fruit and a terrarium. They’re actually a selection of gourds, cucumbers and melons, and each container includes a red one, a white one, a green one, and five spiky/fuzzy ones. No, I couldn’t discover what each of them are called and the Sunrise website, sadly, has no info.
Why they’re awesome: because at any point, one of them might hatch an alien, or at least a small dragon. Also, because it’s a fun twist on a terribly twee tradition.
Bonus awesome: the fantastic green pressed glass dish that I scored for $2 at the big yard sale at Trinity Bellwoods park back in the spring.
The installations of floral artist Rebecca Louise Law require a lot of patience and absolutely no fear of heights. Law has done a variety of work for companies such as Jimmy Choo, Max Mara and others, and most of her work involves suspending individual flowers from very high ceilings. Amazingly beautiful, particularly the cathedral installations. [Via This Is Colossal]
You know when you bite into a persimmon and it makes your mouth all “sweatery”? Here’s betting that all of the food created by artist Jessica Dance does that as well. Dance works in set design and in collaboration with food photographer David Sykes has created a series of pieces reminiscent of classic meals including a full English breakfast and Christmas dinner. [Via This Is Colossal]
How is it that Paris, regardless of the image in the photo, always looks so romantic and intriguing? Now, get a daily dose of old French flavour with Charmade – Vintage French Photos, a Tumblr full of rare vintage French photos. [Via Messy Nessy Chic]
Parkdale, my neighbourhood since 1993, is known for its many characters. People who make the place unique and colourful, people who definitely dance to their own drummer. For 90 some-odd years, one of those characters was Annie Ross. Born in the building that stands on the south-west corner of Queen and Dunn in 1913, she lived there her entire life until her death in 2004. Miss Ross never married, instead running her family’s flower shop at the front of the building, and spending her retirement years in a small apartment at the back where she was known for feeding the local pigeons; thus her nickname, The Bird Lady.
Miss Ross could tell you stories of how Parkdale had changed and grown. She could remember when the lot directly across the street from her on Dunn was a field for horses. She could tell about how the buildings went up along Queen, or how the mansions along Jameson came down to make way for apartment buildings. And she could tell you about books. In a 4-minute short documentary filmed before her death, she talks about how she began keeping track of all the books she read in her lifetime, some 8,600 different titles.
I actually came across these dark chocolate and floral bars well before Valentine’s Day, and if I had my act together, would have posted about them before now. The collection is by Belgian chocolatier Dolfin and is called The Parfums d’Eden. It features 4 different flowers (rose, violet, verviene [lemon verbena] and orange blossom), offered in 30g bars of 60% chocolate.
We found these at Aren’t We Sweet in St. Lawrence Market, but they should be available wherever Dolfin chocolate is sold.
All of the bars smelled and tasted strongly of the included flower, although I didn’t get a lot of lemon either on the nose or the tongue with the verveine. In fact, the dried flowers within the chocolate had an almost tobacco-like taste and smell. No sign of lemon whatsoever. I wasn’t familiar with verveine as a flower – didn’t know it was “verbena”, so imagine my surprise to discover that the flavour is meant to be lemony.
If your favourite fish is salmon, tuna or cod (yes, sushi-eaters, I’m looking at you), you’re part of the problem.
It’s not so much of an over-fishing problem anymore, since fishers in most countries adhere to strict quotas. The problem is more that the quota system doesn’t really work.
Trawlers go out onto the ocean, drop net and scoop up everything that gets caught in that net. But they can only bring ashore anything that is within their quota. If they’ve already met their quota of cod, and there’s cod in that net, what happens to it? It gets dumped, usually dead, back into the sea. So besides doing absolutely nothing to stop the “overfishing” of cod, it wastes a lot of otherwise edible fish that could be going to feed people. In most cases, UK fishers are having to dump 50% of their catch because they are not legally allowed to bring it onto land. They can still *catch* it, they just can’t sell it.
In 2002 or so, I was tested for allergies and started immunotherapy. Mold, dust and a few other things were the culprits, and I had been having problems for years, especially in the summer. Unlike many people, immunotherapy (aka, a weekly needle) worked great for me. Except the doctor I was dealing with didn’t really explain the whole process to me. Like the fact that you do the shots for about 3 to 5 years, and then after another 3 to 5 years, the allergies usually come back.
I stopped getting the shots in 2005. I had broken my arm and it was inconvenient. And the program had worked. I thought I was cured. A couple of years ago the allergies started coming back. The first time was when the lunchlady from the daycare directly below us thought it would be a good idea to start an open pit compost system in the garden below our window. If you’re allergic to mold, rotting moldy produce is not something you want under your apartment windows.
This spring, when every person who had ever been allergic to anything experienced symptoms because of the weather, so did I. And it was bad. That whole itchy watery eyes thing became burning eyes, as if someone had thrown cayenne pepper in my face.
Due to the mild winter and early spring, we are about 3 weeks ahead of the season here in Toronto in terms of plants and gardens. I’m hearing stories of fiddleheads and asparagus showing up at farmers’ markets already, and the lilacs (which usually are in bloom for Victoria Day) are fully in flower and smelling amazing. So I grabbed the camera when I was out doing errands earlier – here’s what the neighbourhood looks like right now.
I sometimes call this time of year “confetti season” because as the winds blow the petals off the apple trees, it makes the sidewalks look as if they’re covered in confetti. This apple tree on Gwynne Avenue is particularly fragrant.
Out and about today, I saw a number of signs that winter is done and we’re moving on.
Birds – cardinals in the morning twilight as we walked the dogs, calling back and forth to one another. Mourning doves sitting on a hydro line, cooing softly. And while I was waiting for a bus, a whole swarm of chickadees (a group of chickadees is actually called a “banditry”, which is awesome, but these ones were almost swarming) were all over the pine trees in front of my building.
Flowers – no crocuses yet, but there are tiny white fritillaries in many of the yards nearby.
Spring cleaning – people are out raking leaves, picking up litter and cleaning windows. They’re also blasting the spring cleaning music – on my walk this afternoon I heard Lady Gaga, some funky jazz and Guns and Roses, all playing on radios while people worked nearby.
Drunk guys in the park by the medical centre. Here’s to a summer without setting anything on fire.
I also saw my first pair of sandals, to complement the many shorts that people were wearing.
It wasn’t an awful winter really – not a lot of snow, not especially cold. But spring sure is nicer.