Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Garden Report #30

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

This photo is a wonderful screen saver-Tulips in my back garden

• Writer’s write: It is Sunday afternoon, Boxing Day. The two extended family suppers are finished. I am well fed. All three of the boys are home, except now they are men. Two are taller than me. All three say they are smarter. I don’t argue. Christmas is one of those holidays that I pick and choose what is important to me. The tree, the poinsettias, the fruit cake, the cabbage rolls are all traditions that I keep because I value them. I got to sit with my mother for a Christmas meal, realizing that very few of my friends still have their mothers with us. The family and the friends gathering around the hot apple cider are the essence of the season, almost a Norman Rockwell picture. These are the scenes that I choose to paint in my memory. Change gears: One thing that has always bothered me is the feeding frenzy of gift opening. I have never grasped the concept. I can only wear one shirt at a time and I am left wondering, how much ‘stuff’ do I need? George Carlin did a poignant bit about ‘stuff’ and how we accumulate so much ‘stuff’ that we need houses to store our ‘stuff’ and then locks on the doors to ensure no one steals our ‘stuff’. I have never understood why someone would line up at four a.m. on Boxing Day, so they can get the best price on some more ‘stuff’. I have never gone to a Boxing Day sale, and my plan is to never go. I don’t understand the concept of pushing and shoving and arguing with store staff and other customers over who saw something first. As I watch those scenes repeated every year on the television news, I have a sense of revulsion. These scenes are the worst of our culture, not our finest moments. Where is the kindness and the spirit of compassion in a consumer riot. Has materialism truly become our new religion?

A vase filled with spring tulips
• Readers Write: Georgia Hearn wrote “Once again, I got great pleasure from The Garden Report.” Chris Pasterfield, feeling a little on the petulant side wrote “Pulitzer…pure Pulitzer.” Shelley Kelln totally supports giving a donation at Christmas to The Humane Society as mentioned in #29. Ann Anderson declared “You really are a treasure…” and she didn’t want to borrow money from me either. Denise Mirva wrote “a treasure trove of marvelous memories.” John Ciotucha loved the Christmas photo of Murphy, as did Lynn Goldman, Marg Hryniuk, and Sherri Tutt. Murphy gets more fan mail than I do. Joan Kortje writes “thank you for keeping me entertained every Monday morning.” Roberta Nichol wonders why they are called ‘Chinese Chews’ when they have absolutely nothing to do with China. Maybe she should contact The Department of Cookie Names. Paula Grolle suggested “you should really write a book about growing up in the fifties, sixties and seventies.” That sentence assumed that I ‘grew up’. John Huston writes that December 19th, 1843 was the publication and release date of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ John has been touring that show for seventeen years now. Peggy St. Goddard writes in that the poinsettia care tips in #26 saved one of their plants at Government House. Some of you actually listen to my advice?

• This message arrived from a reader. I pasted it, intact: Merry Christmas Rod. I look forward to another year of wonderful Garden Reports. Thank you for bringing so much to our community and sharing stories that bring a smile to our Sundays. The Garden Report is like a window into the parts of our lives that we sometimes don’t consciously value enough and your stories remind us of how wonderful life can be if we let it. Humor is your philosopher's stone.
All the best in the New Year from Bagel my dog, Emma my cat, Po and Yoco my rescued crows, my various tropical fish......and me, Marsha Kennedy

• Winter Soup: When there is snow on the ground and the wind is howling, nothing tastes better than a bowl of homemade soup. And nothing is easier to make. Really. I was inspired by Triple D to make this one on Wednesday, and it was delicious. It’s called ‘Cheeseburger Soup’. I browned a pound of ground beef along with a medium sized, chopped onion and two good sized carrots, cut into coins. When this was cooked, I added in two cups of tomato juice, four cups of water, a dash of hot sauce, some Worcestershire Sauce, some garlic, some cracked black pepper and I simmered this for an hour. To finish it off, I added in some hot, pickled peppers, some diced up sweet pickles, a squirt of yellow mustard and about four ounces of shredded cheese. After giving this another fifteen minutes to simmer, I chopped up some lettuce and tomatoes and placed them uncooked, into the bottom of a large soup bowl. I then ladled the soup over the two veggies. Served it up with some hummus and pita and it was delicious.

• One upmanship: Every group or subculture has their collection of ‘holier than thou’ members. You can walk into any gardening club, and someone will be holding court, on how they grew something two zones beyond hardiness, seven years ago. As if this proves they are the prima donna gardener. It happens almost everywhere the human species assembles. Nothing is funnier to watch than two health food aficionados engaged in a game of brinkmanship, as to who is more knowledgeable or more ‘pure’. One will start in on the merits of niacin and the second will point out that it is only absorbed by the body if taken in conjunction with Vitamin E, to which the first will counter that the E must be ingested two hours prior in order to ‘metabolize’ the inert compounds, to which the second will return volley with an assertion related to the phases of the moon. Gobbly gook, gobbly gook! A bunch of mumbo jumbo put out by people who have no training in dietary sciences, health sciences or basic chemistry. A bit of jargon picked up from magazines does not make one an expert. But of course, these high priests of health will explain my negative attitude as a lack of wheat grass combined with chemical exposure from eating Campbell’s soup. I don’t eat Campbell’s soup. Too much salt. I didn’t take a course. I read the label.

• Ho, ho, ho!: Around 1982, I was Santa for The Big Brothers’ Party. Returning home, still dressed in costume, I decided to pay a surprise visit to the two children who lived next door. The eight year old girl wasn’t buying it. Nope. She knew who Santa was. But her five year old brother was a true believer. You could see it in his eyes. I asked him to sit on my lap. His name was Liam. He looked at me with all the sincerity he could muster and whispered “Santa…I’ve been good. Very, very good. Don’t listen to my sister. She lies.”

• True Confession: There are several readers of The Garden Report who are members of the clergy. In case they do not realize this, as a small child, I prayed to Santa, God and Jesus, at the same time. I somehow thought that they might be one and the same or at least knew each other. It feels good to get that off my chest.

Tulip Time: I rarely talk in my sleep but…according to my Mrs., when I do, I am usually in the greenhouse. This past week, according to her, I was at it again. Apparently, I was ordering tulips. I was issuing instructions that I wanted doubles, not singles. That makes sense to me.

• Nice people: Drew Millard was over for a Christmas visit. Drew owns a small, landscape maintenance company. He has about thirty clients. That’s all he wants. I have never met anyone who goes out of his way as Drew does, to look after his customers. The man writes the book on customer service and decency. Most of his customers have been with him for years. But every now and again, there is someone who pushes Drew to his limit, not appreciating all that he does. I admire Drew because he simply ‘fires’ them. Sounds odd but he actually ‘lets them go.’

• Stress Reduction: I am not certain if this is a function of age or of a personality shift on my part. There was a time in my life when I would meet conflict head on. If someone was rude to me, I would not only confront them, I would view it almost as an obligation “to straighten them out”. Not anymore. A clerk at a local store was rude to me recently. At one time, I would have argued, reported her to the manager, got on my high horse and let the heavens know of my indignation. It’s just not worth it to me. I have options. I went to another store, where they weren’t rude to me. Problem solved. More often, I am walking away from ignorant people and potentially explosive situations. I give them their ground, their space. People who wish to have conflict with me are no longer welcome in my life. I don’t need the stress. Want to fight about it?

Sharon Wallace's back garden

Motto to Live By: In my twenties, my motto was ‘better to burn out than to rust out.’ Now that I am punching sixty, my motto is ‘never pass up the opportunity to go pee.’ Sigh.

• The Marian Center: I dropped by the soup kitchen/prayer house on Halifax Street, The Marian Center, on the 24th. They are such lovely people there. They have been a part of my life since 1971. We were laughing at when they arrived in 1966 with a mission to feed the poor, they were regarded as ‘radicals, far leftists and on the fringe of lunacy.’ Imagine that! Feeding the poor as a revolutionary act! Now forty-four years later, they are regarded as the ‘right wing’ of the church. They are the same people, doing the same thing, carrying out their mission to feed the hungry and minister to those who require food for the soul.

• Breaking News: Reader Jan Dockham was the first, female editor of The Leader Post in that paper’s 125 year history. Until Jan took over, the job had belonged to ‘the old boy’s club’. Jan has now opted to step down so she can spend more time with her five grandchildren. Maybe she can come to work for The Garden Report? The pay is nonexistent but the letters to the editor are much nicer than at The L-P.

Knox Met: We made it out to The Candlelight Service at Knox Met on Christmas Eve. Wonderful opportunity to share an hour and a half with many of you from the community. The soprano soloist was incredible. The night had a magic to it.

• New Year’s Dance: It has become increasingly difficult to find a place to go dancing on New Year’s Eve. The Dewdney Avenue bar and club scene is hardly our thing, so what to do? The Italian Club is hosting a supper and a dance this Friday. The band is Cornerstone and they are a great dance band. I went out on a limb and thought (hoped) that some of you would like to join us. I bought eight tickets for the night. Tickets are $35 each. If any of our reader friends would like to purchase tickets and join us at our table, send me an email. It should be a good time.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

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