Monthly Archives: May 2013

Tuesday was wet, but that didn’t stop us from getting out. We headed out for a walk with friends up at the top of the Scarborough bluffs. One of the children picked up snails that were in the path (it was good as it made us look for them instead of crunching all over them) and let them go at the end off the path. I think they liked her:

#30x30Challenge Day 28 snailsThe walk was rather lovely, as all of the recent rain has made everything so spectacularly green, and it’s  a nice path:

#30x30Challenge Day 28 pathWednesday I was out for the bare minimum of 30 minutes, I think, spending a little time after my yoga class with my neighbour showing and telling about our gardens. I have to say that I am so glad this year to have the time to tend to some plants. I’ve always had a few plants but they are usually sorely neglected. No illness, no big trip (we took off last year for 3.5 weeks at the beginning of the summer to camp the maritimes, which was amazing), and kids at a more independent age means I have more time to focus on the garden, which makes me very happy.

And today, the last of the 30×30 Nature Challenge, we were out of the house and heading to Bluffers Beach before 10am to check on the progress of the tadpoles and meet with friends. It was just starting to heat up as we got there, which meant a fog had rolled in. It wasn’t actually a fog, it was the water from the soaked sand evaporating, so it actually hung around (although not as thick, as the sand dried) all day:

#30x30Challenge Day 30 misty beach

And the tadpoles (which were conceived on day 3 of the challenge, and we saw on day 7 and then again on day 16) are doing great – and they are huge!

#30x30Challenge Day 30 tadpoles

A great day was had by all, with much sand play, frisbee tossing, volleyball, climbing, kite flying, splashing, and chilling in the shade. We got home around 4pm.

So, on the last day of the challenge, I guess it is time to reflect. What did I learn? I learned that when I don’t get outside, I get cranky. But I actually already knew that. I didn’t realize just how acute it was, however. I learned to do the things that bring me out, whether it’s just a walk to the grocery store or library, mowing the lawn, hanging the laundry, or weeding or watering the garden. And whenever possible, get out for an early morning walk (or walk/run/yoga), as it puts a really great start to the day.

I found myself looking around more and noticing what was going on around me in nature. The tadpoles are a great example. I have learned a few more birdsongs and learned to recognize a few more birds as well. I am recognizing more plants than ever (and found a secret stash of raspberries I’ll be back to in a month or two) before (okay, that’s not saying that much, but it’s a step in the right direction). And I am feeling great.

So, many thanks to the David Suzuki Foundation for the fantastic month. As I said at the beginning, 30 minutes isn’t such a stretch for me, but it was a great push out the door on days when I may not have gone out, and the beginning of a great new early morning habit.


#30x30Challenge Day 20 - seagulls at Harbourfront - Toronto International Circus Festival

Day 20: The Toronto International Circus Festival down at Harbourfront was such a blast that we went back again the next day and caught the big finale show. My husband joined us this time and he managed to get a great shot of two of the women on the ring. It was stunning. And outdoors! On the lake! And did I mention it was free? (Yes, I was inspired to drop a few bucks into the Harbourfront donation box so that we can keep seeing fantastic free programming like this.) The photo above was taken down there. The seagulls were clearly enjoying the day down at Harbourfront as well.

After the big show we walked around the area a bit, and the boys had fun on the Simcoe Wave Deck down there, which is great fun for kids, and just lovely to look at:

#30x30Challenge Day 20 - Simcoe Wave Deck

Before we went downtown I managed to clean up the yard and mow the lawn. And eat a meal or two outdoors. So… pretty much the whole day was outside. And I felt great for it.

Day 21: A lovely morning walk/run and yoga to start the day. Later that morning my eldest and I went up to the Farmers’ Market, then a quick trip to the nearby library there with friends, and afterwards the kids played outdoors for an hour or so before the rain came.

Day 22: Another early morning walk. It was misty and quite lovely, and the lilacs are fully in bloom now. I love this spot (below) in a nearby park that is lined with 6 different shades (white, light purple, mid purple, light pink, mid pink, dark pink) of lilacs. Turns out they smell slightly different, too. Mid pink is the strongest.

#30x30Challenge Day 22 - misty lilacs

I noticed that someone has planted some delicious looking lettuce in their front yard, making me think I’m not so crazy to plant edibles out front.

#30x30Challenge Day 22 - lettuce front garden

I had to get downtown for some thyroid tests so I took the streetcar. I had the chance to check on the progress of the Saskatoon berries down by the hospital. Hopefully they’ll be ripe for my follow-up appointments in a week.

Later that day I drove out of town with the kids to visit family and had a walk in the woods by the river, which is always a treat.

#30x30Challenge Day 23 - walk in the woods

Day 23: The only outside time I managed that day was walking to do errands after driving home, so probably I only had the required 30 (or maybe 45) minutes.

Day 24:  Another day where the only thing that got me out was walking to errands in the neighbourhood, so I was limited to about 30 minutes outside. After 2 days of this, I was feeling pretty low, to be honest.

Day 25: I made sure to get up early and go for a good walk. I felt like I had to make up for lost time since I was so grumpy after a few days of not enough outside time and I sought out all of the little hidden green spaces in the neighbourhood (there are many within 3 or 4 blocks). Not official parks, but little woodsy areas that grow wild like this one:

#30x30Challenge Day 25 hidden woodsy spot in the city

In the afternoon I rallied the troops and we hopped on the streetcar to Riverdale Farm, because it’s  nettle season. I had my thick canvas bag and some thick rubber work gloves for picking, and my pruning shears. I remembered to avoid the stinging nettles that have gone to seed, and brought home a good amount of nettles for soup. Delicious!

#30x30Challenge Day 25 stinging nettles for soup at Riverdale Farm

We also walked around the farm taking lots of photographs. Hubby got a good one of a sheep shown here on his photo blog. I think I had the most fun watching the painted turtles sunning. There were the 3 adults to start, and eventually the 2 smaller ones joined them as well.

#30x30Challenge Day 25 painted turtles sunning at Riverdale Farm

It was a wonderful day. I was feeling good again and fully made up for those lost 2 days.

Day 26: Another great early morning walk/run and yoga. It was also the first day of our local farmers’ market! I took my youngest to see who was selling what and meet a friend and her daughter for a little outside time. Later it was time (again, after lots of rain this week) to mow the grass again and putter around filling the watering can from the overflowing rain bucket to water the new and old plants, which include onions, chives, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, coral bells, sage, spearmint, “mojito” mint (that’s what the label said!), tarragon, cherry tomatoes, flat leaf parsley, cilantro/coriander (I’ve finally learned that the trick to keeping these going is keeping them well trimmed – i.e. make sure I use some every week and they’ll just keep sprouting and not go to seed), curly parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, English lavender, and Provencal lavender. All still alive despite the crazy weather we’ve had in the past week. Another perfect day to make up for those two indoorsy and down days.

Day 27: Today it was time to deal with the winter woolies and do my hand washing. Which brought me outside for the drying.

#30x30Challenge Day 27 hand knit laundry

I also took the boys outside to do their studies in the afternoon, which was a real treat. The weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, and no bugs yet.

Day 18 I woke up bright and early all ready to go for my walk/run and do yoga, but I had forgotten that I’d made a plan with a fellow homeschooling mom to meet early at the library and wait for Museum + Art Passes. (If you don’t know about these, do click on the link as it’s worth knowing!) So I got a text at 6:45am and got myself up there about half an hour later. My friend brought chairs, and I had blankets. I wore sandals, but to keep my hands busy, I brought knitting and luckily it was nearly-finished socks so I got them done and put them on my cold feet! It was a chilly morning, but we kept each other company and had some good discussions during our wee hours of outdoor child-free time.

Later I got out for an hour or two to put laundry on the line and to plant those herbs I’d bought on Tuesday. Now the trick will be keeping the boys from trampling them. The good news is that I’ve already used some of said herbs in tonight’s dinner! Today my neighbour walked by and thanked me for planting the herbs out front, joking that she knew where she’d come and do her shopping. Which is funny, but to be honest, every since I saw the TED talk on Todmorden’s Incredible Edible “dedicated to growing food locally by planting on unused land throughout the community” I’ve been wondering if that’s something we could do here. If you haven’t seen the TED talk by Pam Warhurst, it is so inspiring and very funny. I’ve put it at the bottom of this post for you. Who knows? Maybe my front yard herb garden can help get the conversation started.
(Apologies for the bad photo. It just wasn’t happening with the light yesterday.)

#30x30Challenge Day 18 herbs

This morning (Day 19) I was back on track with the early morning walk/run. Everything seems to smell great this week, especially the lilacs, which are just bursting, but also these (see below). I have no idea what they are, but if you see a large shrub or small tree with these on it, do stop to smell the flowers. They’re lovely! (And if anyone can identify them for me, please do so in the comments. Thanks!)

#30x30Challenge Day 19 smell these

I also noticed that the irises are out! Gorgeous.

#30x30Challenge Day 19 irises

And at home a bit later as I did a bit more gardening I saw that the our rhubarb (love the rhubarb. It came with the house and it dutifully comes back each year in spite of my neglect. We can usually get 2 crops from it!) is ready for harvesting!

#30x30Challenge Day 19 rhubarb

This afternoon I took the boys down via streetcar to the free Circus Festival down at Harbourfront. En route we noticed that there is a lighthouse downtown, nowhere near any water. On the way home I noticed the Nova Scotia advertising in the nearby subway station. Having just been there last year, I highly recommend a trip to the Canadian maritimes! #30x30Challenge Day 19 lighthouse

The Circus Festival was great outdoor urban fun! And it couldn’t have been a nicer day. Sunny but not too hot yet. My eldest loved the juggling math that Andrew (below) did during his performance, not to mention the performance. Good times!

#30x30Challenge Day 19 Andrew Giordano riding a 5 foot high unicycle juggling 3 flaming batons


I have to mention that 2/3 of the way through, and I am fully noticing when I do NOT get outside for a least a couple of hours per day. And I never would have stuck to the every-other-day early morning fitness regimen without the 30×30 Nature Challenge. So, thanks to the David Suzuki Foundation for this. It’s been great. And the blogging has encouraged me to take photos, which makes me happy. All in all, this challenge has been a great experience, and I encourage everyone to try it, even for a week. 30 minutes (or, you know, 6 hours, whatever) outside. Every day.

TED talk by Pam Warhurst: How we can eat our landscapes. Give it a watch. It is fun and truly inspiring.

Day 16 was just, wow. Spectacular.

I started with the nearly 3km run/walk around the hood (I take a slightly different route every day. There are lots of options to choose from in my neighbourhood) where I noticed the birds. It’s nesting time, and I noticed some house sparrows landing and magically disappearing into the wire cover above my head. I looked more carefully and (although you can’t see it in the photo) noticed dried grass sticking out of the slit in the cover… clearly they’ve built a cosy nest in there. The male is keeping guard:

#30x30Challenge Day 16 - Nesting SparrowsYoga on the deck was great, as usual. Then it was breakfast outside as well!

Late in the morning the kids and I headed back to Bluffers Beach to see the development of the tadpoles, which our friends had moved to a better spot further away from the lake and with greens to eat, where there were a ton of other tadpoles. Here’s a small sample (no, really, I mean it – this may have been 1/10 of the tadpoles I saw in this particular area):

#30x30Challenge Day 16 - American Toad tadpolesAnd they are sooooo cool! Here’s a close-up:

#30x30Challenge Day 16 - American Toad tadpoles up closeWe weren’t the only ones enjoying the spectacular day at the beach:

#30x30Challenge Day 16 - beach painter

We met up with 4 other families and had a picnic and the kids enjoyed a few hours of climbing on the rocks and playing in the sand and on water. It was a wonderful day!

Today (Day 17) wasn’t as good. Mostly because I had a bit of insomnia so I woke up late and had busy day and couldn’t get outside. My plans to go for a walk in the afternoon were foiled so I made a plan to get dinner on the table early so we could all go for a walk afterwards. Because, you know, not being outdoors was really starting to get me irritable.

All was fixed after dinner. We started out with the plan to drop some books at the library an no plan other than that. We ended up walking up the road past some lovely gardens. And I noticed that the lilacs are out!

#30x30Challenge Day 17 - lilacsWe went to the nearby railway tracks as there’s a path that goes next to the tracks that we’ve never explored. It was tree-lined and fenced on the side of the tracks, so this happened along the length of it:

#30x30Challenge Day 17 - fence treeAmazing how nature will just find a way, isn’t it?

We walked along the path to the community gardens, which I’m sure will be planted this weekend. I managed to remember my telephoto lens and get a photo of a robin… I’ve been trying for weeks but I can never get close enough!

#30x30Challenge Day 17 - robinWe walked around a nearby park and the kids played in the playground, and on the way home saw a bunch of fun and bright, colourful things on the way home:

#30x30Challenge Day 17 - butterfly mural #30x30Challenge Day 17 - colourful flowery fence #30x30Challenge Day 17 - colourful post boxAnd I felt much better after some time outside.

Shade tolerant vegetables from Backyard DivaI’ve been getting some interesting links on my various feeds and I wanted to share them with you.

The first one is timely, as it is coming up on the official planting weekend in this neck of the woods (er… country). Our backyard is small, and there’s a big old cottonwood in it. Which means it doesn’t get a lot of sun in the summer. If you’ve got the same sort of situation, and you’re into edible gardents, here’s a list of shade-tolerant vegetables you can grow (3-4 hours of sun).

Next is a cool how-to on regrowing your own celery from the celery base. I haven’t tried this yet, but fully plan to.

If you have kids and are looking for a fun sidewalk activity with them, this DIY sidewalk chalk spray looks fun.

If you live in Toronto, it’s market season again! And the east side’s newest market is near Coxwell and Upper Gerrard at Fairmount Park on Wednesday afternoons from 3-7, starting the last week of May! They don’t appear to have a web page yet, but they are on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m going to start by sharing this infographic from the David Suzuki Foundation‘s 30×30 Nature Challenge site, because I like it so much:

Suggested dosage of nature - from David Suzuki Foundation 30x30 Challenge

My brother told me recently that he has a teacher friend who makes his students run a lap around the track and drink a big glass of water before he starts his lesson in the classroom. That way he makes sure they are alert and hydrated. And, according to the info above, they’ve just had a bit of stress relief with 2 minutes outside, to boot. I love that idea.

Day 13: In the afternoon we met up with friends in a green space and the kids ran around while the moms tried to plan a group camping trip. Scheduling 5 families to get out of town together for a couple of nights is an incredibly daunting task, even if they are all homeschoolers! There was lots of garlic mustard in bloom there, and my youngest gathered some for a bouquet for me. They have the prettiest little white flowers. However I’m going to have to remember not to compost them, lest they get into my garden… As you can see by the half mittens on my youngest, it was still chilly on Monday.

#30x30Challenge Day 13 garlic mustard

Day 14: Up bright and early and a great 2.5 km walk/run in the neighbourhood and back deck yoga on a cool morning. Lots of lovely flowers, including some purple trilliums:

#30x30Challenge Day 14 trilliums

The lavender is out. One of my favourite things is to while walking by the numerous gardens with lavender out front is to rub some of the leaves with my fingers and then smell them. So, so lovely.

#30x30Challenge Day 14 lavender

Good news: One of our local farmers’ markets had its first day of the season yesterday, so we met friends there and I spent a bundle on herbs to plant in my front garden. I think I’m going to try to prune back the maple tree (which will make my tomato and squash-happy gardening neighbour happy) a bit so that I can start a bit of a herb garden beside the front walkway. This may not be ideal in winter when we pile all the snow on our front postage stamp lawn, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take this year.

#30x30Challenge Day 14 herbs

I picked up basil, flat and curly parsley, English and Provence lavender, oregano, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary. Most of which should come back next year.

Day 15: Today I woke up bright and early around 6 to the sound of thunder. Then the pounding rain. It was slightly distressing since the plan with our homeschooling group was to meet at a local park where the kids would partake in some olympic games, as well as celebrate the 10th birthday of one of the boys in the group, before an Ancient Greece workshop nearby. However, by 10:30 it was sunny and gorgeous. Here’s the javelin toss:

#30x30Challenge Day 15 javelinGood fun was had by all on a spectacular sunny day, and we 7 families ended up out there for 5 hours in total.

Yesterday (Day 11) was grey and cool, so I decided to forego the yoga on the deck and just do a run around a nearby park in the early hours. It was me, the dog walkers, and the birds! There were tons of seagulls:

#30x30Challenge Day 11 seagullsAnd a bunch of red-winged blackbirds:

#30x30Challenge Day 11 red-winged blackbirdThere was the swan:

#30x30Challenge Day 11 swanAnd there were even a couple of male mallard ducks:

#30x30Challenge Day 11 mallardsThere were also a bunch of robins, but I couldn’t get close enough to get a good photo with my phone.

I noticed that some of the tulips are done, but most are currently in bloom. The magnolias and crocuses are done, and most of the daffodils, too. But look (below) what’s just around the corner! (Sorry to those who are allergic – I love lilac time!)

#30x30Challenge Day 11 lilac budssI have to make a point here of noting that I love my neighbourhood. It is the most walkable of any place that I’ve ever lived. I can walk to numerous amenities within 10 minutes, including 2 grocery stores, hardware store (2 as well), library, schools, restaurants (Indian, French, Italian, cafés, lunch counters, pubs, gourmet burgers, fish and chips, burritos, sushi, pizza, even fast food and donuts if I ate that stuff), laundromat, dry cleaners, hair salons, butcher, movie theatre, beach, massage therapists, several parks and playgrounds, liquor store, vet… there’s even a police station around the corner. So we generally do a lot of walking around the neighbourhood, or if my youngest is coming, riding our bikes (that guy loves his bike!). If I’m biking (or walking for 20-25 minutes), the list gets even more extensive, including my local yarn shop, optometrist, book stores, clothing shops, antiques, furniture, vintage, garden store, and many more of the above. I feel lucky that we bought in this neighbourhood, as we didn’t do a whole lot of research into the area and I actually had no idea just how close to the beach and all of the other amenities we were. So it’s an easy task to get outside for me, and is a part of our daily life.

Today (Day 12) it is chilly and very windy. Parts of the city (and much of the province) have had hail. So I’m glad I got out early when it was still moderately nice out for my walk/run and yoga. I decided yesterday that I don’t love running, because you aren’t taking in your surroundings, and it’s an effort to stop and go, as I like to when I’m taking photographs. I took more photos today, but because it was so windy, everything but this garlic mustard (shielded from the wind by the fence) was out of focus:

#30x30Challenge Day 12 garlicmustardGarlic mustard is delicious to nibble on in salads and in pesto, but it’s an invasive species, so I don’t suggest planting it. Ever. It takes over. According to wikipedia: “The insects and fungi that feed on it in its native habitat are not present in North America, increasing its seed productivity and allowing it to out-compete native plants.” I just noticed this at my neighbour’s house around the corner. I will warn my friend who lives next to him, as she does NOT want this stuff in her lovely garden.

Last but not least, a shout out to all of moms out there. Happy Mother’s Day. You rock.