This and that

wreath in window

Advice on how to be a good blogger often suggests your posts be timely; write about something in the social consciousness. For example, the Holidays are fast approaching. Now’s the time to inspire readers with gift giving ideas, a seasonal recipe or instructions on how to make your own gift wrap.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for the Holidays is in the very early stages. I’m still seeking inspiration and slowly finding it here and there. While I conjure up more enthusiasm I’ll share with you five things that caught my attention lately:

1.this juice

carrot, oange and ginger juice

because it’s an elixir when I’m feeling less than vital – 3 carrots, 1 orange, 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger.

2.these candles

bees wax candles

because I love the smell of bees wax and how it burns.

3.these wee poinsettias

tiny poinsettia

because they’re precious and I’ve no space for bigger versions.

4.this food waste bag

saving eggshells for the garden

because it’s perfect for storing egg shells for the garden.

5.these shingles

turquoise peeling paint

because they inspire me to embrace imperfection.

 

Noticed elsewhere:

favourite colour palette lately
this is sure to kick start my Holiday spirit

Flowers in the home elevate mood

carnations, flowers in the home to elevate mood

I received much-needed emotional support this past week from photographing a bunch of grocery store carnations.

Displaying them about the house helped ensure my whole family reaped their mood-elevating benefits, too.

Handling each flower, cutting the stems and immersing them in water, and arranging them to be photographed draws my attention to colour, texture and pattern, to the softness of the petals and the particular green of the leaves and stems. It helps me recognize the beauty of flowers, which opens my heart to feelings of joy and love.

orange and pink carnations

orange and pink carnations

fkowers in the home to elevate mood

flowers in the home to elevate mood

I bought three bunches of orange and pink carnations for $20.00. A bit of baby’s breath was mixed in each bunch.

I like to break up the flowers and arrange them in separate vessels of varying sizes.

Place your bouquets in rooms where you spend the most time, and in areas where everyone can see them and benefit from their beauty.

Seeing them first thing in the morning is important since they help set your mood.

The kitchen is an excellent spot since it’s where we tend to gather before we start our day. Plus it’s most convenient room to change the water!

flowers elevate mood in the home

flowers elevate mood in the home

flowers elevate mood in the home

carnations, flowers in the home to elevate mood

flowers in the home to elevate mood

carnations, flowers in the home to elevate mood

 

Pink and orange carnations; flowers for the bereaved

 

pink and orange carnations

 

Michael leunig, selling violets, flowers heal

See that character selling violets? That’s me.

I’m not so naive to think looking at photos of flowers can repair the blow to the spirit you might be experiencing today, as the results of the US election sink in. Still, I offer you these pink and orange carnations, styled specifically with you in my mind.

Flowers to comfort the bereaved.

xo

pink and orange carnations
pink and orange carnations
carnations
pink and orange carnations
pink and orange carnations
pink and orange carnations
pink and orange carnations
pink and orange carnations
pink and orange carnations
pink and orange carnations
pink and orange carnations

Air drying chamomile, mint and sage

 

dried chamomile, tea

November arrived and I’m giving myself a pat on the back for getting the garden to bed before things freeze up.

Potted hostas are in the garage covered with a blanket. Pots of mint and catnip are safe in the ground until I retrieve them in the spring.

I hate to waste so I gathered the last of the chamomile, mint and sage, and I’m air drying them.

Air drying takes longer than using an oven or dehydrator, but it’s an easier method for preserving fresh herbs. Plus air drying means the oils in the leaves (wherein the flavour lies) aren’t depleted and you get more pungent herbs.

air drying herbs, chamomile

air drying herbs, chamomile

Any herbs still growing in your garden? Harvest them now and air dry them before it’s too late.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Remove only the healthiest blossoms and branches.
  • Lay chamomile flowers in a single layer on a flat surface and store in a container once thoroughly dry.

drying herbs from the garden, sage

air drying herbs, mint

bundle of sage for air drying

air drying herbs, sage

  • Cut mint and sage branches, give them a good shake and remove any discoloured or damaged leaves. Rinse in cool water and pat dry with a clean towel.
  • You can strip the leaves from the stalk and allow them to dry individually, laid flat on a clean towel.
  • Or, bundle four to six branches together, securely tie, and hang in an area free of dust, moisture and direct sunlight, with plenty of air circulation.
  • Hang undisturbed for 1 to 3 weeks. Bundles shrink as they dry so check every so often to ensure branches are secure and not slipping.

air drying herbs

air drying herbs, mint

 

dried mint leaves

  • You can also place bundles inside brown paper bags and hang to dry if dust poses a problem. Make sure to punch a few holes in the bag for good air circulation.
  • When leaves crumble between your fingers your herbs are ready to be taken down and stripped from the branch.
  • If using the bag method vigorously shake the bag and a give it a few squeezes. The bag is great as it catches all the dried leaves.
  • Store herbs in a tightly lidded container.

dried chamomile, tea

Beat the winter blues; visit a greenhouse

government of canada tropical greenhouse

I think I felt my psychological reaction to winter shift from acceptance to slight dread.

In preparation for the inevitable, I’m reviewing my list of ways to stay cozy and beat the winter blues.

Other than the usual items – dietary strategies, steam showers, naps, extra layers of blankets and clothing, etc – I’ve added to the list a visit to the Government of Canada Tropical Greenhouse.

A greenhouse, I recently experienced, is both a physical and psychological oasis in the dead of winter.

For starters, it provides you with a potent plant fix. Plants are proven mood enhancers and this heritage greenhouse houses more than 500 lush tropical varieties.

The building itself is a sight to behold. It’s a soaring web-like structure made almost entirely of glass and metal, a seemingly too thin separation from the realities of a harsh winter day. Yet inside you’re guaranteed the air is warm and humid. You can ditch your winter duds, close your eyes and be momentarily transported to somewhere tropical.

Here’s hoping there’s a greenhouse somewhere near you.

P.S. Planning your garden for next summer is another good way to get a psychological lift during the doldrum days of winter. Would you like some of my marigold seeds?

government of canada tropical greenhouse

government of canada tropical greenhouse

government of canada tropical greenhouse

government of canada tropical greenhouse

government of canada tropical greenhouse

government of canada tropical greenhouse

government of canada tropical greenhouse

government of canada tropical greenhouse

government of canada tropical greenhouse

government of canada tropical greenhouse

Marigold, the perfect fall flower plus a giveaway

 

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

It’s October and, while most of the garden is shades of solid greens, the marigolds are multi-shades of vibrant yellows, reds and oranges in stunning single and bi-colour patterns. In this growing zone marigolds start blooming in late June or early July and by the fall are really (as Beyonce might say) feeling themselves.

Marigolds are the perfect fall flower for their colour palette alone, but also because they thrive in spite of chilly temperatures and shorter days.

The first hard frost hasn’t hit yet. Before it does, I’m cutting marigolds for vases and bringing inside potted marigolds so I can enjoy them for even longer.

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

My very first plantings of marigolds were store bought but now I only plant marigolds from harvested seeds.

It was never my intention to harvest marigold seeds. It’s the blooms, at the height of their beauty, I can’t resist and I collect them by the basket full. I discovered the more I pluck, the more and more marigold blossoms produced. Magic!

October and while most of the garden is different shades of solid greens, the marigolds are multi-shades of vibrant yellows, reds and oranges in stunning single and bi-colour patterns. They start blooming in June and by the fall, at least in this growing zone, are really (as Beyonce might say) feeling themselves . Marigolds are the perfect fall flower for their colour palette alone, but also because they thrive in spite of this season's chilly temperatures and shorter days. The first hard frost hasn't hit this region yet and before it does, I'm bringing the potted marigolds inside so I can enjoy them just a little longer.

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

Inside the house I watch them dry and change colours – to mustard yellows, burnt oranges and burgundies. Then I discover seeds inside the pod, at the base of the blossom.

Now I always save the seeds. Saving seeds for planting draws my attention to how great nature is. It’s a comforting micro ritual – harvesting, sowing, planting, and enjoying marigold blooms.

dried marigold petals

dried marigolds

dried marigold petals

It’s trial, error and learning as I go. I read you only get viable seeds if you let them ripen on the plant before you harvest. Ooops! I didn’t know this and I was plucking them long before they died on the plant.

However, my experience tells me you can harvest early as long as you allow the plucked flowers to dry, and you leave the seeds undisturbed to ripen in the pod. I’ve had very good luck growing seeds harvested this way. Still, I always assume not every seed will grow and I plant them extra thick. Lord knows I have plenty!

Would you like some marigold seeds?

marigold seeds

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

marigolds are the perfect fall flower

Type your name in the comment section and I will randomly draw five names and send you each a packet of seeds. Open to readers everywhere!

I hope you grow some yourself and enjoy them as much as I do.

One final note: not only are marigolds the perfect fall flower but wonderful companion plants for your garden. They balance the garden’s ecosystem by repelling harmful insect pests like aphids and white flies. Even their roots are at work underground releasing into the soil, thiopene, a chemical that repels harmful nematodes.

marigold seeds

dscf3582

 

This and that

suzanne-mccarthy.com

Hello readers. If you haven’t already discovered it yourself, I added a new page to my blog titled “Inspiration.” It’s a list of links to lead you to blogs I love. Who knows! Maybe you’ll find inspiration there, too.

Here are five things that caught my attention lately:

1. these hazelnuts

Porello hazelnuts

because they taste so fresh and good and a thoughtful friend recently gifted me two packages (from Italy.) I’m already on the second bag.

2. these crab apples

crab apples

because another thoughtful friend invited me to pick them from her glorious backyard tree.

3. this crabapple jelly

crabapple jelly

because I love food gifts (see items 1 and 2) and I will never get around to making my own. What about that colour!

4. this palo santo wood

palo santo

because this old house can smell musty sometimes and nothing refreshes it better, faster.

5. these marigolds

marigolds

because removing blooms keeps plants producing more and more. Plus the orange and yellows leave me spellbound.

Noticed elsewhere:

we all live in different ways in different places, according to where we are in time.

I always want to know what she thinks.

school teachers take note! using newspaper text to write a blackout poem.

this house has me feeling all the feels.

party decoration goals

such a beautiful effect

 

A peek inside a beautiful Ottawa home

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

I read if you blog and you’re a woman you blog less in the summer because of attention pulled elsewhere: to gardens, to kids (if you have them) because they’re no longer in school, and to holidays. So true in my experience.

When I think to sit down and share with you a great recipe, an interesting link or opinion, I get side tracked by life. Potted flowers need watering, lawn needs mowing, I need to be outside and take in the beauty of the season, and so on. And kids, even though they may be big (like mine are) need attention, too. (I write this while in the midst of getting ready to join Simon in Cape Cod for five days. Sans enfants!!)

Something else that occupies a good chunk of my time lately is helping to organize the Glebe House Tour. This fall’s group of five homes is wonderful. Before I leave for Cape Cod, how’s about I give you peek inside one them.

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy
It was built in the early 1900’s and recently renovated, guided by the vision of its homeowners, Jenny and Alain.

I love this home. It’s welcoming, comfy and elegant. I love its spaciousness even though it’s not an open concept home. In fact, no walls were torn down during the renovation. However, hallways were widened and openings were created in some walls allowing for very pleasing sight lines into adjacent rooms.

And light! Maybe it’s because I feel I have to wait for or seek out good light in our home that I was so taken with the abundance of beautiful light in this one. Not only light, but beautiful views to the outside as well. In fact, there are window views of Ottawa’s Rideau canal from practically every room.

Add to those qualities a wonderful blend of custom-built and antique furniture plus great finds from Home Sense and Ikea, and carefully chosen fixtures and original art, and you have yourself a very beautiful home.

We’re so happy to have it on this fall’s Tour.

Thank you Alain, Jenny, Tom and Molly the dog!

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

stained glass window glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

family pet glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

AGA cooker glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

glebe house tour| suzanne mccarthy

Glebe House Tour | suzanne mccarthy

 

Easy summer eating: pasta salad, two ways

pasta salad made with soba noodles

pasta salad, soba noodles

pasta salad, soba noodles

Common knowledge suggests people eat less when it’s hot.

After a recent string of hot breezy summer days, I answered the call for lighter fare with pasta salad. I was reminded what a great dish it is for hot weather, and how well it lends itself to variations.

pasta salad made with rotini

pasta salad

 

pasta salad

Regardless of the type of pasta salad you choose to make, here are a few things I learned about how to make it taste great.

  • Give your salad flavour right from the get-go by boiling your pasta in heavily salted water.
  • Short pasta shapes, like rotini, are good choices for pasta salad if you don’t want to eat by twirling with a fork. Their small size makes them easy to serve and eat, and their little folds and crevices provide plenty of spaces to trap dressing, herbs, and small ingredients.
  • Cook pasta until it’s just past al dente. Pasta hardens and gets more chewy as it cools so it needs to be cooked just right, soft but not mushy.
  • Drain pasta and rinse under warm not cold water. Once drained, transfer to a cookie sheet or large platter and dress with oil while it’s still warm.
  • Serve pasta salad at room temperature. It helps the pasta have a more appealing texture (no congealing of oils, no chewiness) and really lets the flavours loose. Make sure you don’t let it sit out for more than a couple hours to avoid food-poisoning.
  • Good quality oils like extra virgin olive oil and are just the ticket. So are fresh herbs and nuts.
  • Don’t dress the salad all at once. Keep some of the dressing and pour it on right before serving.

summer eating, pasta salad

pasta salad, summer eating

Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing

250 grams soba noodles

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 cup julienned carrots (I used the ones that come in a bag already prepared)

1 cup fresh coriander, chopped

1/2 cup chopped unsalted peanuts

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

juice of 1 lime

4 tablespoons sesame oil plus more for drizzling over noodles

1 generous spoonful peanut butter

2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

fresh mint for garnish

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Throw in the pasta, boil until just past al dente, drain and rinse under warm water. Transfer to a cookie sheet and drizzle with oil.

Chop the onions, and coriander. Add to bowl along with carrots and pasta.

Combine minced ginger, lime juice, peanut butter, sesame oil and tamari. Whisk well. Thin with warm water if needed.

Drizzle over the salad, add peanuts and toss well. Transfer to serving platter or bowl. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint, a few extra chopped peanuts and serve.

If not serving right away, save some of the dressing and peanuts to add later, just before serving.

Tabouleh Inspired Pasta Salad with Preserved Lemon and Pine nuts

500 grams of pasta of your choice. I used gluten-free rotini made from corn

1 small container grape tomatoes, halved

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 handful of fresh mint, chopped

1 half of a large red onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced.

1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped along with a good splash of the brine. Or, the juice of 1 lemon

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup pine nuts

crumbled goat feta (optional)

freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Throw in the pasta, boil until just past al dente, drain and rinse under warm water. Transfer to a cookie sheet and drizzle with oil.

Chop the tomatoes, parsley, mint, and onion and add to a bowl along with pasta.

Combine minced garlic cloves, chopped preserved lemon, brine, oil and pepper. If using lemon juice, add sea salt to taste. Drizzle over the salad and toss well. Mix in pine nuts and serve.

Crumble goat feta for folks to sprinkle on top (opptional).

If not serving right away, save the pine nuts and some of the dressing to add later, just before serving.

 

Beauty heals

beauty heals - peonies

“We need more joy to fight all the f-ckery the world keeps serving us.” That’s what one of my favourite bloggers wrote last week and I couldn’t agree more. I would add beauty to that sentence, too. More joy and beauty.

beauty heals- peonies

beauty heals-peonies

beauty heals - peonies

beauty heals - peonies

Our backyard garden is delivering beauty via beautiful blossoms on an almost daily basis and, lately, I’m acutely aware of its calming and grounding effect.

I feel an uncomfortable knot in my stomach and, after a short putter in the garden, a feeling of ease arrives. The tightness dissipates. I can hardly believe how well it works at soothing a dark and fretful mood. It’s one thing to know it intellectually, it’s quite another for the healing power of beauty, of nature, to be a real felt experience.

beauty heals - peonies

beauty heals - peonies

beauty heals - peonies

As I write this, the peonies are fading fast. Those in vases are dropping their petals at a startling rate, and those left on the bush are exploding into beautiful messes.

beauty heals - pink rose

The pink rose bush is up next and from the looks of things there will be plenty of blooms. Soon after, the day lilies start producing their cheery orange trumpets.

beauty heals - marigold seeds

beauty heals - marigold seeds

beauty heals - marigold seeds

DSC_2744

And the marigolds, I can hardly wait to greet the marigolds. I started them from seeds gathered from last years flowers. I was a little late starting them so I have a bit of a wait. But when they do finally flower, unlike the peonies, they tend to stick around longer. Stay tuned!

xo

beauty heals - marigold seeds