Monday, May 31, 2010

May going on November

The weather here has turned absolutely horrid. At the beginning of May it was hot (so hot that we actually found it uncomfortable at night) and sunny. I planted a bunch of stuff out in the garden and things were looking good. It was even hot enough to cause my spinach to bolt.
Then, a couple weeks ago, the temperature dropped. It has been cold and rainy. It is like spring is turning into winter not summer. It's hard to believe that it will be June tomorrow. The cold, damp weather means that my garden is suffering. The wetness has caused the slugs to go nuts on my garden and have eaten all my beets and chard to the ground and have started in on my broccoli and brussel sprouts. Even the stuff in the greenhouse has sort of stopped growing because of the lack of sunlight. Hello, summer? Are you coming?? I'm not sure how much more of this cold and rain I can take! It just feels wrong to be wearing 3 layers to go outside in June!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I'm surprised I haven't done a post about this yet. Music is a huge part of my life. I've been playing the piano since I was four or five, singing since I was 8 or 9 and played a variety of instruments in between. Music was my savior getting through school. Whenever things were overwhelming or I felt stressed I would sit down at the piano and just play or hop in the shower and just sing. Music used a totally different part of my brain than homework did and it was quite literally a break for my poor tired brain. It was the perfect outlet for rage, sadness and every creative idea I had. I've tried many instruments over the years; viola, harp, ukulele, guitar, but my favorites (that I still play) are my piano, singing, and cello.
I'm classically trained. I play Bach, Mozart, Schumann and I sing Purcell and Mozart. Yes, I love to listen to opera and classical music but I have a deep appreciation (and maybe a little envy) for people who play other types of music. I wish I could play jazz, if fact I tried for about a year to learn jazz but it was so hard.
Music was not something that just came easily to me (perhaps singing was a little easier for me because I was genetically predisposed to being able to sing) and still doesn't, I've really had to work hard to reap the rewards. I will definitely admit that there were times that I wanted to give it all up because it was too frustrating. In fact I did give up piano for a full year but I missed it so much that I couldn't stand it and now the longest I've gone without playing was the 5 weeks I spent in Europe. I had this idea that music would be easy for me because my paternal great-grandfather was a professional opera singer with the Philadelphia Opera and my maternal great-grandmother was also an opera singer. My paternal grandmother was an accomplished pianist and even taught lessons. I really thought it should just be in my blood but it wasn't. It was a lot of work and a lot of time. But it has really paid off. I can now sit down and play almost anything I hear, or sing most pieces that are put before me and that it a good feeling.
If I love music so much, why did I not pursue as a career? I sing and play music for me and only me. If someone enjoys listening then that is great and flattering, but I do it because it makes me happy. I feel like if I did it for money, as a career, it would lose that ability to relieve my stress and make me happy. Plus, it is so personally. I feel like it part of who I am. Every time I would go to an audition and they would critique me, it was surprisingly hard to take because it felt like a critique of my personality. It disappointed my father very much when I decided not to enter the music department at UVic but I couldn't handle losing myself by making my music work.
I believe that music is healing. I believe that it makes you better able to handle life's challenges. Even if you do not play, listening to music can relieve your stress. I think that all children should be exposed to music and given the opportunity to try creating music. I feel like crying when I hear of music programs being cut from our schools. How can they take away from children such a wonderful opportunity to be creative? If there are any parents that are reading this, my hope is that you offer music to your children. It doesn't matter how old they are or if they are "musical", it is important to all of us. If you would like to read more about the importance of music to children, this is an essay on The Importance of Music in Early Childhood or this article called Music and the Mind.
Because I know there are not many people who read this blog, I've decided to share some of my music with those select readers. Here is a piece of music I composted for a contested on the piano, click here. This piece is one that I would use for auditions, click here.  And here is a taste of my opera selections, click here. Sorry about the quality, they all were recorded on a mic on my mp3 player that was about the size of grain of rice. Hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Durrance Lake

We decided to take advantage of mutual days off and go for a hike. We had wanted to do Mount Work but it started to rain as we pulled into the parking lot so we decided to just do the hike around Durrance Lake instead. The rain let up for the first half of the hike which was perfect because that was the part with no tree cover. The lake itself is really nice. It is stocked with rainbow trout so there were a fair number of people out fishing. It is apparently also a popular swimming place in the summer.

The hike starts out really easy.  But that was ok because there were lots of flowers to look at. I took a plant guide with us but without color pictures or detailed drawings it was really hard to identify what we were looking at. Of course we recognized some of the things we were looking at but others I never bothered to learn the names. I think it is time for a better plant guide.
We also came across something that looked and smelled like carrot. But when you pulled it out of the ground it had only wispy roots.
The trail then changes. It disappears into the forest. It gets narrow and becomes hilly. It is still really nice though and not too challenging. I think the most challenging part was trying not to fall in the lake at the narrowest parts.
There were lots more flowers and this giant skunk cabbage. I loved all the flora. We saw lot of nurse trees and plenty of blackberry, huckleberry, several types of ferns, oregon grape, etc.
I was really disappointed that we didn't see more wildlife. We stood by the lake and watched the trout jump at the mosquitoes but that was it. No birds or squirrels. I heard a hawk and we saw a bunny on the side of the road (but it wasn't a wild rabbit it was someones pet that I guess got loose).
It was actually a really nice walk and seemed that we came at just the right time of year for flowers. I think we will go back to Mount Work another day and do one of the more strenuous hikes and I'd like to come back to Durrance Lake in the summer because it looks like a really nice swimming lake.

Pictures from the Garden

This spinach isn't really all that big and it's already starting to go to seed. I think it got really confused by the weird weather.
The pretty lettuce is called Merlot. It is going to be ready way before my Esmeralda lettuce.
My first little peach! Since we just planted the tree about 2 months ago I feel like I shouldn't let it fruit this year but I'm just so excited!
Strawberries are almost ready. I should have 2 next week.
We have mason bees! They hatched from that little triangular box at the bottom right, pollinated my yard and came back and filled the tubes. We have 14 now (we got 3 more after I took this picture) so I got 4 more than I thought I would. I'm hoping the whole thing fills up by the end of the summer.
We have honeybees too. They are loving the fact that my chive is in bloom!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Calling All Market Lovers

I have recently been hired by the Moss Street Market here in Victoria as the Assistant Coordinator for the year. I'm super excited because we attend the market every year, it is essential to us being able to maintain our local diet. We buy our cheese, mushrooms, eggs, honey and berries there. I just would not have the time to drive around to all the farms to track these things down. We love it. Plus we usually just hang out and enjoy the community spirit (and maybe have some local salmon burgers and doughnuts). I'm thrilled to be part of the team that makes this popular market so successful.
If you are in the Capital Regional District and you haven't visited the market, come and visit us. I know there are many summer markets but it's always fun to visit different venues. We are located at Sir James Douglas School in the playground at the corner of Moss Street and Fairfield Road. The market runs every Saturday from May 1st until October 30th from 10am to 2pm.
If you already attend the market or you live in the area, we are looking for volunteers. It is a great way to help out local farmers and artisans and if you are already coming to do some shopping why not stay and lend a hand and help make the market run smoothly.
If you are interested in volunteering or would like to learn more about the market visit or leave a comment for me here and I'll get back to asap.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Recipe: Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli

All I can say is yummy and easy. I have had this sudden realization that I need more calcium (I guess all those osteoporosis ads are getting to me) so I thought this would be a good way to get some added calcium (cheese, milk and broccoli are all sources).

You will need:
2-3 cups macaroni (we used quinoa macaroni)
3 tbsp butter
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan or asiago cheese
2 tsp corn starch
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Grate the cheeses and add together in a bowl with the corn starch. Stir so the cheese is evenly coated with corn starch.
Boil about 2 quarts of water with salt and oil. Add macaroni to boiling water. Cook as per the package instructions. Add the broccoli to boiling water for the last 3-5 minutes. Strain and return to the pot.
Over low heat stir in butter. When the butter is almost completely melted add the cheese mixture and the milk. Stir until creamy. Add the lemon juice and seasonings. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In the Garden...

...are lots of weeds. I can't keep up with it. On top of the on-going morning glory problem, clover has decided to take over my garden. Oh yeah and then there is the dandelion and thistle. Even if I had the time to weed everyday I'm not sure I could take on this massive problem. I need a goat or sheep to devour it all.
So we have expanded the garden. More space for more produce (more weeds too). So far I have in the garden lettuce, spinach, carrots, leeks, beets, potatoes, garlic, peas, cabbage and cauliflower. Things aren't looking good for my carrots, peas, cabbage or cauliflower. Things have been weird here; weather-wise. I just don't think they are getting enough sun and warmth. It has been weirdly windy and kinda grey. My cabbage and cauliflower were really leggy and then fell over. Some of it has been eaten by slugs and the rest has been stomped on my crows stealing the twine from garden for their nest (grrrrrr!). I have absolutely no idea why my carrots are doing nothing! I did exactly as the package said to, I waited until April, I added some of that lovely leaf rot, water and I get nothing. This could be an on-going problem for me; things are just not happy in my garden this year.
In the green house we have strawberries, chilis, onions, scallions, broccoli, pumpkin, squash, scallopini, zucchini, watermelon, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach and mustard greens. Most things are doing well, I gave everything fertilizer yesterday because things were getting kind of on the yellow side. I have high hopes for the greenhouse this year.
Aside from all the veggies, I planted more flowers this year to encourage bees. I planted wildflower blends, sunflowers, candy-tuft, geraniums, roses and there are some nasturtiums in the garden that seeded themselves last year.
Anyways, there is a long update. I'll post pictures as soon as there is something to take a picture of. Happy Gardening!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Leaf Rot

Oh my goodness is this stuff gorgeous or what? Look at how dark and rich it is. I wish I had done this again this year.
This bag is from when we first bought the house in 2008. It is a significant time investment but totally worth it. I had 4 bags from 2008. I used all the leaves I raked up this past fall as ground cover in the garden but it is totally not worth it. Basically all you need to do to get this wonderful compost is put all your fallen leaves in big garbage bags. Seal them up and poke small holes in the bag for ventilation (no bigger than the size of a nickle) then leave them somewhere that gets some warmth (I left my bags against the fence, nothing special) for 2-3 years. I'm so sad that I won't have any next year so I might save a bag from this year to use in the garden next year. Leaf rot, a garden must!