Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Garden Report #40

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

My garden
• Writers Write: It has been thirty-eight years since I started living on the corner of Regina Avenue and Angus Street. I moved in February 26th, 1973. It is a wonderful neighborhood. One that I have come to appreciate over the years. I have often written that you have to live somewhere and wherever that somewhere is, then it is best if you enjoy the area. My neighbors have always been good to me. They too enjoy the area, filled with trees and bounded by two beautiful parks, Wascana and Rotary. We have a decent social scene in the neighborhood, with Christmas and New Year’s celebrated at different houses. And the summer barbecues can fill a backyard and sometimes we spill over into Rotary Park for our get together. People tend to stay a long time in the area. Athol Forbes lived across the street for seventy-five years. I mention this because I have read that in some neighborhoods, an average stay is somewhere around three years. There are neighborhoods where you can live for several years and no one will ever knock on your door to welcome you to the block, let alone extend an invitation for supper. I originally started this blog for my neighbors and a few friends who live close by. It has now grown in its first year so that we have over a thousand regular readers in Germany, Russia and Denmark as well as all across Canada. That’s nice but I still have to live somewhere. Somewhere for me is this corner of Old Lakeview. I have never regretted my choice.

Pascal in a sweater (our youngest reader)
• Readers Write: June Mayhew writes: “Pascal is too cute. Thanks for another delicious blog.” Kate Berringer writes “I laughed out loud” regarding the thought of putting Clearasil on Murphy’s chin to hide his zits. Cheryl Hutton out of Calgary wonders why I spell it theater instead of theatre? Good question, no answer. Marg Hryniuk agrees with me that acne and crow’s feet should not occur at the same time. Reader and actor, Colette Nichol has been residing in Ecuador for the last few years. She sent an email this week letting us know that she got married at Christmas! Congratulations. Joanne Terry writes that she is looking forward to seeing me perform on March 25th at The RSM. Reader Ann Anderson wishes to confess her sin. Even though she fully realizes that I am a proponent of the slow food movement, she admits to every now and again, enjoying Hamburger Helper and Kraft Dinner. Good grief, our sins are certainly boring these days. Our resident Reader/Doctor appreciated my editing of her advice on how to recover from disease. She wrote “you did a wonderful job of summarizing.” Not surprisingly, our readers who are living with cancer were most interested. I have included another photo of our resident cute baby, Pascal, in the attachments. Nothing sells like a cute baby, right? Reader Wendy Richardson who resides in London, Ontario writes that she is tired of snow and is looking forward to seeing the green, green grass of spring. For those with long memories, Wendy used to be Wendy Campbell who was in Fine Arts School with me during the sixties. Along with Wendy in that class, there were two other readers of this blog, Penney Pike from Calgary and Susan Patryluk. Reader and artist Marsha Kennedy was at school with us but she was a year behind. Marsha wants that noted as she prefers to be seen as the punk kid of the group.

Winnipeg Parks Rose
• Garden Tip: Rob van Zanten’ from Pan American Nursery Products wrote: “I have been looking over our 60+ prairie hardy selections and keep coming back to one variety that has been my favorite over the years.” Rob’s favorite is Winnipeg Parks and I have included a photo of this Morden Rose as an attachment.

• The Casino Blues: Reader Greg Morley had a story to share in regards to the rude drunks we experienced at the Johnny Winter gig. Greg was at The Casino last year, for a blues night. Seated beside him were three drunks who talked loudly throughout the set. He asked them to stop. It escalated. Greg asked the security officer for The Casino to intercede. He did nothing. It almost came to blows. As I wrote before, I really think The Casino should have two sections: One for people who want to listen to the music and a separate one for the drunks who wish to talk throughout the show. I am not certain if that qualifies for a ‘win/win’ solution?

Orange Boot: I have tried the whole wheat, the Volker’s Rye, the Bird Seed and the Sourdough. All are well baked with great crusts but the hands down winner is the Sourdough. I didn’t include the baguettes because that is a totally different category.

• Le Macaron: I have been hearing good things from our readers about this place. I was in the neighborhood so I decided to check it out. As I was on the fly, I got a couple of things to go and I shared them with a friend. The first treat was the three dollar, poppy seed Danish. It was good but not great. It did not compare with the Danish I had from la Baguette in Vancouver. The second treat was their namesake, a macaron for two dollars. I have never had this French cookie before and I found it quite tasty. I will stop in again and check out some of their slices which looked lovely, especially a coconut/lime piece in the display case. As well, they bake fresh bread on Wednesdays and Fridays.

• Garden Tip: I mentioned in a previous Garden Report that alstromeria is one of my favorite cut flowers. The bouquet that I purchased for Valentine’s lasted a full three weeks. Now that is good value!

• Listen to your elders: In 1964, The Beatles swept North America with their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. We were in Grade Seven and our teacher told us that in one year, no one would remember who The Beatles were. He assured us they were nothing more than a flash in the pan.

• Listen to me: Around 1970, I had a friend who was working on a new genre of music that he referred to as ‘country rock’. All of us laughed at him because we knew that rock would fuse with jazz or blues, but never with country. A year later, The Eagles arrived.

• It’s official: Maureen had her hearing tested and the report indicates she is fine. She now insists that I mumble and somehow she believes she has the proof. One day she will discover that I mumble because I am not paying attention. By the way, I am not the only husband with this habit.

• A tale of two hospitals: I spend a fair amount of time at The General Hospital in Regina so when I was booked for a procedure at City Hospital in Saskatoon this week, I took the opportunity to compare them. I arrived at City Hospital at 7:45 a.m. and I had the choice of plenty of on street, metered parking or in the paid parking lot. That was a plus. There was not one soul outside of the main entrance smoking. Another plus. I found the admitting department and expected a twenty to thirty minute wait similar to The General. I was admitted within three minutes upon arrival. I asked the admitting clerk where I should go and she said “the woman behind you will show you the way.” I looked behind me and standing there was a volunteer who guided me to The Outpatient Clinic. She introduced me to the receptionist who immediately looked after my paperwork and then asked me to change into a gown and robe. Now, I had to sit in the patient waiting area for forty-five minutes, not because the doctor was late, but because I was so dammed early. I had not expected to be processed so quickly. I was seen on time, the procedure was carried out and I was sent on my way. I was left thinking, “this is the way it should be done.” Seeing as both hospitals are in our beautiful province, I cannot understand the level of problems at our Regina General. Is it, God forbid, an administration issue?

• Café Sola: This newer place in Saskatoon has come highly recommended. It is an industrial building, across the street from The Bus Depot. I loved the ambiance of the place, so reminiscent of a hippie/beatnik coffee house of many years ago. The pastries looked absolutely divine but as I had had a full breakfast, I had to leave them for another time. After all, I was there for their latte, one that was supposed to be the absolute finest. Sorry to the fans of this place. It was good, very good, but it does not dethrone the coffee from The Broadway at Five Corners which I rate as the best I have ever tasted. What was the difference between the two? The beverage from Café Sola was missing that bite, that slight bitterness that contrasts with the sweetness of the milk that is ever so present in the latte and cappuccino from The Broadway.

• Tasty dives: I love those little, out of the way places that draw no attention to themselves by their presence or their décor. One of my all time favorites is a place with one of the hokiest names imaginable. The Falafel King in Vancouver. There are two locations, both in the West End. One is a modern spot, tucked into a tiny strip mall at the corner of Davie and Thurlow. The other location is much grungier, located in the hubbub of Denman Street, not far from English Bay. They serve identical fare that is incredibly tasty and cheap. For seven bucks, you can get what they call their Shawarma plate. It is a paper plate filled with rice topped with chicken roasted on a rotating spit and then shaved, dressed with a tatziki sauce. A house made humus is the finest I have ever tasted and it is served with a basket of pita. There is also some tabouli salad served on the plate. It is so filling, that if we are not absolutely starving, two of us share one plate. For another $2.50, you can get a bowl of their carrot soup. As with the humus, it is the finest I have tasted. How high do I rank it? Reader Han de Jong, his wife Lynn, and the two of us often celebrate my birthday at a nice restaurant such as The Fish House at Stanley Park. One year, I insisted we take in The Falafel King. Han was a little dubious of the place at first, then he was astonished at the big flavors. He picked up the check and dinner for four came to thirty bucks, a price that makes any Dutchman or Scotsman celebrate.

• Garden Tip: Not so much a tip as a reason to start a vegetable garden this year. Loblaw’s/Superstore has announced a five per cent across the board increase in the price of groceries this spring. I suspect that in the produce department, it could climb even higher. If you are new to vegetable gardening, a ten by ten garden which is approximately a hundred square feet, is more than adequate for your first year. And even if you live in an apartment, if you have a balcony, you can grow tomatoes in pots.

• Garden Tip: I have been seeing potted, miniature roses for sale around town. These lovely little plants will not only provide a breath of spring freshness to your home, but they can also be planted into your garden come the spring. Keep them growing in the sunniest spot you have in the house. Do not overwater and feed them a water soluble fertilizer every week. Plant in full sun after the danger of frost. With a bit of luck, you can get miniature roses to overwinter. I found that your chances of overwintering them in the garden range between thirty and fifty percent. And even if they don’t’ make it to next year, you enjoyed their company this season.

Our Legislative Building
• Can you help? We have a new reader from Toronto, who would love to hear from any reader with stories of either The Adantes or Wascana, dance bands from the sixties and seventies. If you have any, let me know and I will hook you up.

• Thanks for reading this week…Rod McDonald in ‘Old Lakeview’, Regina

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