Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Garden Report #110

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Canadian Artist Rose 'Emily Carr'-a good one
• Writers write:

“Better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness.”

It was Christmas eve of 1995 and I was closing up the garden center. I was looking forward to that evening’s celebration with my family. The phone rang. It was John Wolkowski, my spiritual friend and occasional conscience. He asked me if I had had a good year and if so, then perhaps I should write a check to The Marian Center, to share my blessings. “Make it a good sized one” instructed John, quite pleased to offer that advice. Just what the world needs. A Catholic giving advice to a Baptist on responsibility. Where are the Mennonites when you need one?

Since that conversation, I have been writing my annual check. I don’t know if I make a difference. I often wonder if I am subject to a bit of Baptist guilt for living such a comfortable life. My check being an appeasement to relieve my conscience. I do know that the people who run the soup kitchen work in poverty, taking nothing for themselves. I know that they are trying their best but I am still plagued with the idea that we are only offering Band-Aid solutions. I really wished I had a solution, even a magic wand. I don’t know if one is to be found. The men being served have suffered years of abuse, neglect and often addiction has ravished their existence. Their life is not an easy one. Their poverty is one that reaches deep into their soul. In the absence of a permanent solution, then perhaps a bowl of stew and a warm smile at The Marian Center is all that is available. It is one little candle.

Readers raised $1000 for The Marian Center
Please share your blessings with The Marian Center this year and share the blessings of your soul and spirit. Donate a smile to someone who needs one. We all have something to give.

• Readers write:
• Ingrid Thiessen wrote “I was saddened to hear that there had not been an organ donation in Saskatchewan in two months. Why can't we be the first province to adopt Spain's opt-out model?”

• Jennifer Cohen has a concern with the phrase ‘adult children. “I'm on a mission to stop the term and see that you do it, too: What exactly is an ‘adult child’? A good substitute is son or daughter. We just can't let the kids grow up it seems.”

• Not surprisingly, CJ Katz writes to us about food. “Gee Rod – such bad luck getting good fish and chips. I hope you complained loud and clear to La Bodega. Soggy fish – ewwww. In the meantime, I’ve been perfecting a great recipe for fish cakes ‘Sask style’ since I got back from the Maritimes. Yum!”

• David Calam is a big fan of good food as are most of our readers. He would like to recommend the Chinese stand in the food court at The Golden Mile. Usually, the food stands are nothing more than basic, but Dave assures us that this one is special. “The couple who took over the Pin Ling food concession in the Golden Mile earlier this year have some great, authentic, southern China dishes. The place is a favorite lunch spot for many in Regina's Chinese community. Liz and I try to get there once a week for soup or a soup and noodle dish. The wonton soups are excellent, spicy or mild. My favorites include the Hunan Beef soup bowl and the ground pork soup bowl. But there are so many great choices and prices are very reasonable. Make sure to ask for the spiciness level you want or you may have a new experience! Sodium levels may be a bit high but once a week? No problem!”

• Jim Gibbs, from Winnipeg, also knows a thing or two about the history of language. “It has been a while since I have written but John Huston’s comments compelled me to write and confirm that the use of X for Christ has been common for more than 1,000 years. There are references to Xmas in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles dating to the year 1021. (I read history for relaxation.) There were also usages of XP and Xt although they have fallen out of use. There are many Eastern Orthodox icons which incorporate one of X, XP or Xt. Apparently it was not uncommon for names such as Christina or Christopher to be written as Xina or Xopher, respectively. Even the O.E.D. does not malign the use and that has always been my barometer. The recent controversy about the use of Xmas has been propagated by a few religious leaders looking for a cause. In 1898 the Canadian Post Office issued its two cent Christmas stamp with the notation “Xmas 1898”; I have one in my collection.”

• Marg Hryniuk always has an interesting take on things. “Wow! The story about the X in Xmas. I did not know that. Wonderful. Now I can go back to X, this time with a clear Presbyterian (the most militant) conscience. Nicholae would be mine in a heartbeat. He's beautiful, has a fabulous name and is probably house-trained. Gosh I hope your blog finds him a home. That would make a truly heart-warming Xmas story.”

• Joanne Crofford has a tip on good f and c. “I love the fish and chips from Burger Baron. Yes, Burger Baron. I buy them on any flimsy excuse. Enough food for two people in the take out packs I have bought.”

• May Blois says that you can find good fish and chips at Joey’s. “The best fish & chips I have had are at Joey’s in the East end(not the north). You get 3 huge pieces of fish in light batter and great fries. Far too much for one so I usually go with someone and we share, then have room for dessert. Yummy.”

• Terena Bannerman is not a fan of the chain bookstores. “I was in the city with my 14 year old daughter on Friday and she needed to use a Chapters gift card. After losing a precious parking space to a rude person who slipped in despite my signal light being on, and having to then circle the lot twice until someone else pulled out, perhaps I was not entering the store in the best mood for the 'Chapters experience', but really? Wasn't there a time when Chapters was a bookstore? One has to fight through tables and shelving units full of c@#p to even get to the books. While doing my best to not knock over any of the piles of overpriced, mass-produced treasures, I overheard one of the rather stressed display assistants say to her supervisor "we can't fit the display table with the scarves in there". The response? "Then move some books out of the way". Another reason that it's a pleasure to shop in independent stores, where the owners of a bookstore love books, the owners of a tea shop know and drink tea, and to support the local community.”

• Roberta Nichol enjoyed last week’s blog. “Well, Rod, you were on fire this week. What a great Report! I absolutely loved your Santa Trilogy and I have to say, reading it beefed up my Christmas spirit even more! I set out my garlands first thing this morning, lit them up, stood back, and thought, "You know, I never, ever get tired of this!" The stories just added to the warm, fuzzy feeling we get at this time of year.”

• Sherrie Tutt enjoys a different approach to Christmas trees. “Hi Rod: I have solved the Christmas tree dilemma by decorating an indoor tree. The tree started life as a small retirement gift, twelve years ago and I don't know what kind it is. It soon outgrew its first pot and now stands three and a half feet tall. My son moaned so much about the work of putting up and taking down an evergreen that I started decorating it instead. It enjoys summers on my deck, thrives on a little fertilizer and pruning and warms our hearts as much, if not more, than if I spent $60 on a new one every year. Maybe I’ll get out the decorations today.”

• Some very good news from reader Lisa Koch at The Regina Humane Society. “Hi Rod. Just wanted to let you know that Nicholae, who you featured in The Garden Report was adopted today! He is a sweet dog who was waiting a long while for a home. Thank you for featuring him!”

Sandra's garden is asleep for the winter
• Aubrey Burlock enjoyed the Christmas stories from last week. He writes “Thanks for the memories. Nice to share with the three kids and the seven grandchildren, along with the spirit of our Judy. Keep writing and sending our Sunday morning treat.”

• ‘Tis the season: Food, glorious food! We start off with Laura and Terry Ross’ annual Christmas party. Divine and sublime. Always a great time and the food…well let’s just say I don’t’ eat the day before. This year’s winner was the salmon pate on baguette from Orange Boot. I was definitely in the savory mood as I passed on all of the incredible desserts in order to have more pate.

That was Saturday. Sunday was climb the wall fantastic. Do my readers see a theme here? Maureen got us tickets for The Victorian Tea at Government House. It was decked out in its finery for the season and our table was in the ballroom. The ladies who served us had on costumes from the 1900’s. They brought us a cheese ball appetizer, a chicken and cranberry salad as the main and a choice of three desserts from the cart. At first, I thought we could have all three. When informed otherwise, I felt the afternoon begin to deteriorate. I chose wisely the Snow White cake with lemon sauce. Why wisely? The kitchen at Government House does not make anything from a can or a package. The lemon sauce is made with a secret ingredient, real lemons! There was a pianist knocking out the hits of the season, little girls in curls and dresses and the entire thing is ten bucks. Wowzer! At The Empress in Victoria, a tea such as this one would be thirty bucks but the volunteers keep the cost down. Ask me if I am a fan?

This Saturday was pickup day for the poinsettia fund raiser for The Marian Center. Many, many readers stopping in to support the cause and shared some apple cider and organic gouda cheese. As is the habit of many of the readers, they did not arrive empty handed. Nope. Fresh baking was in abundance and a special thanks to Elaine Wurm for her fresh baked cinnamon buns. They are indeed my kryptonite.

• There is no place like live theater: The Globe’s Christmas show this year is ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and do not go expecting it to be identical to the movie. After all, if you want to see Judy in the movie, then rent the movie! They did a fantastic job of choreography, keeping twelve actors on a small stage from bumping into each other. This is an adaptation, a very creative one and they built ‘The Yellow Brick road’ with lighting. The songs were still there and even after all these years, ‘Rainbow’ brings a tear to my eye, or maybe both of them. If you haven’t seen it, then get some tickets. It’s not just for kids.

• Writing tip: One habit that most new writers have to break themselves of is, the over use of adjectives and adverbs. Every noun does not need a modifier, clarification or emphasis. Most stand on their own just fine, thank you. Also, an overuse of adjectives indicates that you have a strong bias and many readers will become suspect of your writing. They often think you are on a mission to convert when perhaps your only intention was to describe.

• Good cheese: If you enjoy gouda cheese, and you don’t have to be Dutch to love gouda, then I have a treat for you. I order my gouda from a place called Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm. You can order online. I have been to their farm several times and rest assured, it is spotless. Nothing to hide. The milk for their cheese comes from grass fed cows and the herd is well cared for. For something different, try their cumin flavored cheese. It is quite addictive. If you are in the neighborhood, I have some of Gort’s gouda this Christmas and I am not adverse to letting readers share in a taste. In fact, if you ring the bell, I insist that you have a morsel.

The blue color of the box comes from a hydgrangea
 • Negotiating with God: As a little boy, the week prior to Christmas, before going to sleep, I would always assure God that I planned to be a much better boy in the future. I would not bug my sibs, I would listen to my mother and most importantly, I would keep mom’s kindling box filled without complaint. If you have to ask what a kindling box is, give me a call. I have no remembrances of how that all turned out but I suspect as with most little boys, I slipped a little by the time New Year’s rolled around.

• Looking good for grampa: Every New Years, it was our family tradition to call my dad’s dad in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Calling long distance was so special during the 1950s and sixties, that our mother made us get dressed up in our Sunday finest “to look good when you talk to your grandfather.” Hair was combed, bow ties were clipped on and your new Christmas sweater was worn. My favorite part was when my grandfather would bawl out my dad. I relished hearing my dad say “No sir. I didn’t mean anything by that.” I was just so damned tickled that he had to answer to someone up the food chain.

• Too cool/too hot: If you are watching Access Cable anywhere in Saskatchewan, the Christmas fireplace video was shot at my place. Sooner or later, these obscure references have to stop, unless we are playing Trivial Pursuit.

• Garden Tip: Poinsettias, contrary to common mythology, are not toxic to either people or to pets. Throughout the years, this myth has persisted and every year, I receive several emails asking me to remind people to keep the plant away from pets. Sorry, it’s just not true.

This was Jenny's first year assisting at the poinsetiia sale
 • Lucky guess: I was having a bit of day surgery under a local anesthetic a few years ago. The nurses draped my upper body and face. I could not see the procedure. I said to the surgeon “I suppose this drapery is to protect the surgical field, keeping it sterile?” The surgeon knew me only too well and responded “actually, I had them do that to stop you supervising my work.” Oh sure, he can’t take a little constructive criticism.

• Random acts of kindness: Last week, I encouraged readers to submit short stories regarding random acts of kindness, either as a recipient or as a provider. Paul Grolle was kind enough to submit this one. It is heart touching. “ I loved your story of a random act of kindness. Here’s mine. It was December 23rd, 1994. I was working at the ticket counter for the airline everyone loves to hate when this man walked up. I could tell he was distraught and he wanted to buy a ticket to Newfoundland. Usual response “but sir we’re fully booked until the 25th.” The tears started rolling down his face and he said “my mom’s dying and I need to get home.” I started to cry as my dad had passed away in June and I recollected getting the same call and how endless the flight from Regina to Victoria seemed to take. I walked out from behind the counter, gave him a hug and said I’ve been there and done that, now we need to stop bawling and get to work on your flights. I managed to get seats for him. Thirty minutes later he showed up at the counter with one of those activated figures where you touch the belly and they start singing. We had so much fun that day getting the children to activate him. His mom was able to hang on until he saw her. By coincidence I met his return flight and he gave me the biggest hug.”

Sandy T. helped me with the poinsettia sale
 • Poinsettia fund raiser: Thanks to the generosity of our readers, the poinsettia fund raiser was a success one more year.  I  presented a check for a thousand dollars to Nancy, The Director of The Marian Center. As an aside, the poinsettias sent to us by Calvin and Les Vanderveen were the finest of quality plants.
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in a not so warm Regina

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