Tuesday tidbits: food and other assorted ramblings.

I have realized the benefits of carrying around a couple of folded brown paper bags in my book bag. (I don’t usually carry a purse. You can’t fit enough books in the ones I own so they’re pretty much useless to me. And if you’re going to carry around a ginormous purse, you may as well lug a sizeable, sturdy book bag, right?).  You never know when you might be strolling around and see seeds that need collecting or just enough ripe rose hips for a cup of tea or a leaf that needs identifying or pressing….  I’m certain my neighbours just shake their heads when they see me toodling around. At least I’m entertaining to others!  Do you forage in your neighbourhood as well?

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The apple trees on the property where I live have produced like mad this year so I’ve been picking and processing over the past few weeks.  I’ve made a bunch of unsweetened applesauce, a carrot/applesauce blend, some jars of apple jelly, and infused a few slices with whole cinnamon, allspice, and anise in vodka in preparation for the winter warm-ups that will certainly be required within the next few months.  (Perhaps sooner: we have snow in the forecast for this week!).  I wanted to make this apple jam but it will have to wait until next year; sadly, I cannot hog all the apples to myself.

Juicy, sweet freestone peaches from our neighbouring province, British Columbia, have been so inexpensive this year – I suspect they had a bumper crop over there!  I mixed up a bunch as pie filling and froze them for use later in pastry or over top of ice cream, breakfast oatmeal, etc..  But I also made this peach barbecue sauce, which was fantastic!

And…I made blueberry soup.  I didn’t know that was a thing, but apparently, it’s a common dish in Sweden.  You can eat it either chilled or warm (we opted for the latter).  If I had enough blueberries in the freezer, I could see eating this every day – it’s so delicious!  The recipe I used isn’t quite traditional – I was eager to try this one because it has maple syrup and cardamom in it.  If you’re nervous about fruit soups, don’t be – this is a great breakfast meal and not too sweet. Actually, it sort of makes your tummy smile. Which is weird, but comforting. And comfortable, at the same time.

If you remember this entry I posted I about the non-book items our public library carries, you’ll recall that I mused aloud-ish about trying out a musical instrument.  True to my word, I carted this splendid item home on the train late last week:

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Now to find some good beginner keyboard tutorials on You Tube!  Or, I’ll just have some fun and mash all the buttons for the “crazy noises” feature that the machine sports (those are the librarian’s words, not mine, but it’s the description I would have used as well). My neighbours will be elated with my efforts to learn new skills. I can already hear the knocking on the door, the broomstick tapping on the ceiling. If I can just get them to time it to my playing, we’ll have a band and we can go on tour tomorrow.

And, in the “Endlessly Bragging” Department, I have not one, but two, articles in the Fall 2018 issue of Herb Quarterly magazine: “Rock Your Garden!” and “Dooryard Garden Design.” The magazine is out on newsstands all across North America.

Share any new recipes you’ve tried recently or let me know what new ideas or fun things you’re working on this week!  

Book review: On Not Losing my Father’s Ashes in the Flood by Richard Harrison.

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On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood – Richard Harrison (2016, Buckrider Books, Ontario)

Calgary poet Richard Harrison has carefully stitched together memory, reflection, and perspective in his newest collection On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood (for which he won a Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2017).  The profound effects of his beloved father’s suffering and death from dementia and the loss of personal property and goods in the devastating flood of 2013 (which I write about in a post here) shape nearly all of these poems in some way, raging and trickling and dredging the reader in emotion and silt.   Accordingly, they’re not beautiful poems – they’re ragged and raw, but you can visibly feel the catharsis and healing within them.  From “Prayer”:

My father taught me the poem was a bed of gravel

the rain could not wash away….

 

 

Book review: Countertop Gardens by Shelley Levis.

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Countertop Gardens: Easily Grow Kitchen Edibles Indoors for Year-Round Enjoyment – Shelley Levis (2018, Cool Springs Press, Quarto Publishing Group USA, Minnesota)

If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know that we have teeth-chatteringly, bone-chillingly long winters here in Alberta.  Six months isn’t an overstatement, and it can stretch even further than that on occasion.  Accordingly, our growing season is short (and often brutal).  Planting outdoors is a challenge…one that we never back down from but occasionally must grin and bear.  Given the vagaries of gardening in our climate, growing edible plants indoors is a very tempting option.  Yet…growing plants indoors isn’t foolproof – there are so many factors to consider, such as heat, humidity, light, and space.

Fortunately, Shelley Levis has come to the rescue for situations like this with Countertop Gardens! This indoor gardening manual is chockful of inspiration and ideas for turning your indoor living spaces into miniature edible gardens.  From microgreens to herb gardens to simple hydroponic systems, it’s all here.  And there are some surprises, as well: have you ever considered growing mushrooms, potatoes, gingerroot, or tomatoes in your kitchen?  Try them all using Levis’ tips!  She also examines some of the most popular grow-light countertop garden kits available on the market today and discusses ways to maximize their use – practical information whether you’re thinking of buying one or already own one.

Countertop Gardens is a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to grow fresh food indoors all year ‘round – definitely a recommended read!

*The Quarto Group generously provided me with a review copy of Countertop Gardens. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Calgary snapshot: BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project).

FPBUMPNormandeauI love this idea so much!  One of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods, the Beltline, has invited local and international artists to paint murals on the walls of some of its buildings – they call the project BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project).  They are holding their inaugural mural festival this weekend, but as I cannot attend, I took a walk around this morning and checked out some of the artwork on my own.  (I didn’t get to all of them – but as they are permanent installations, I am excited to make more trips to view the others).

The one in the photo I’ve posted is a definite stop-in-your-tracks-and-stare kind of work.  The artist is Faith 47 (XLVII), originally from South Africa, but currently based in Los Angeles. You’ll notice the words on the left-hand side of the work: “Fortes et liber.” The provincial motto of our province, Alberta, is “Fortis et liber” (strong and free).  There have been comments on social media speculating as to why the word “fortes” is used in the work instead of “fortis” (and worrying that there may be a misspelling). I haven’t yet seen a statement from the artist so I’m curious, myself.  I checked the meaning for the Latin “fortes” and came up with “fortune,” or “luck.”  An interesting mystery!

The website for the BUMP festival is here, if you’re interested in taking a look at photos of some of the other work (a few of them are still in progress).  It’s a great initiative and I hope the community will continue to add installations in years to come!

 

 

Peekaboo pumpkin.

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I’m a newbie pumpkin grower (I grew them once, years ago, with mixed results) and so I’m rather proud of these little ‘Algonquin’ plants that have – so far – weathered extreme heat and hail and powdery mildew.  I am anxious for the fruit to ripen before frost hits. Last night, our temperature dropped to a brisk 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit), so I’m feeling a tad worried about the number of frost-free days left in this growing season.  ‘Algonquin’ is a heritage cultivar, and the fruit is quite small and elongated, not round.  You can check out a photo and description here.

Do you grow pumpkins? 

Recipe: Lime and chili roasted pumpkin seeds.  

Book review: The 2016 Long Lunch/Quick Reads Anthology, edited by Lisa Murphy-Lamb et al.

“Book Review August and Possibly Part of September” doesn’t really have a zippy ring, but here goes….  I should note that all of the books I’m going to post about over the next few weeks have been read in the past year and a half, and there is quite a eclectic jumble of genres, audiences, etc..  If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll already know that my reading tastes are pretty wide-ranging.  I hope there will be something here that will pique your interest!  

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The 2016 Long Lunch/Quick Reads Anthology – Edited by Lisa Murphy-Lamb, Paul DiStefano, and Doug Neilson (2016, Loft on Eighth Calgary)

This collection of twelve stories and poems from both established and new Calgary writers is a delicious treat (pun intended!), a showcase of talent born out of the Loft 112 Creative Hive, a local writer’s group.  Put on your walking shoes and explore the city of Calgary, from the hidden spaces of the Calgary Stampede and the end of childhood, to a park bench by the cancer clinic, a suddenly crowded lane in a swimming pool, and the foot of a graffiti-scrawled underpass downtown. It’s all a bit gritty, unsettling, and heart-wrenching – you’ll see.  Standouts (for me): Doug Neilson’s devastating “Hymenoptera,” “At This Confluence,” the eloquent, elegant series of poems by Jessica Magonet, and poet Diane Guichon’s urban snapshots, “Sidewalk Litanies.”

Library loans.

We have a few slightly more “unusual” items available to borrow at the public library here in Calgary, including pedometers, electricity usage monitors, and – at one of our branches – musical instruments of all kinds, which is crazy exciting (and I really ought to take advantage of the opportunity at some point. I can’t currently play any instruments, but what better way to find out which one I would like to take up?).  I know some libraries throughout the world will lend out garden seeds, tools, and household appliances, among other useful items.  At one library in a neighbouring town in Alberta, you can even borrow snowshoes during the winter months.

Does your local library lend out items other than books (print and electronic), audio/visual materials, and access to streaming services and other online content such as newspapers and educational courses?  Have you ever used any of the “additional” items offered?