Sunny South Beach Weekend
Happy Friday everyone!

Friday has a different feel to it--at least I think so.  The sun seems just a little brighter as it streams in to touch my face and rouse me softly from sleep.  As the day ticks along a sense of anticipation builds--that slight excitement you used to feel as a child at the final school bell on a Friday afternoon when the weekend stretched in a ribbon of endless possibilities before you and anything could happen.  The expecation of time spent in pleasurable weekend pursuits and sleepy mornings when you wake up thinking you're late and then remember that it's the weekend...  sheer bliss.

Saint John River at flood level
Unfortunately this is not going to be a breezy, carefree weekend for me.  In a small corner of Maritime Canada, nestled in a river valley, lies a little place that I call my hometown.  A shockingly blue river winds its way through some of the most beautiful mountains that you will find in that part of the world.  A haven for bass fishermen and photographers, it glimmers enticingly during the summertime, reflects the amazing colours of the autumn leaves, and lies dormant under a pristine blanket of snow during the winter months.  But it is spring when it becomes a deadly force. 

Beautiful, Deadly ICE
During the spring thaw, inconceivable quantities of water and ice move through my hometown--sometimes the ice goes out smoothly and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.  But some years, it lets go with a fury and grinds its way along the banks, driving huge chunks of ice high up onto the shores and catching up in ice jams that cause the water levels to rise to alarming levels.  Sadly, this is one of those years.

Under Water--notice the water height on the houses
I got the news this morning that my town was under an evacuation order--via  facebook, can you imagine?  I found out about the evacuation before my family did,  and they live directly in front of the river.  The power of social media really  is amazing. 

I have spoken with my family, and  they are now safely on higher ground, but the town is in lockdown and the roads  into town are closed, as well as the bridge that links the two sides of the community.  It is frustrating to be sitting in  the sunny south knowing what they are going through and I can't be there for  moral support.  I have personally been through countless 'almost' floods, as  well as four actual ones, and it is always stressful and emotional. 
The worst flood in my lifetime was in 1987 and it deposited 5'3" above the main floor of our house.   Yes, that's five feet and three inches.  Taller than my Mum. 

Mum's building on the far left.... luckily she doesn't live there at the moment!
My town has now declared a state of emergency.  I've been on the internet and the phone with friends and family all day, and apparently it is worse than the 1987 flood when the ice swept away our train bridge and devastated the whole area.  If you have never been through a flood, all I can tell you is that it is so frustrating to be sitting and waiting when you just wish you could do something.  Anything.  But at this point, there is nothing to do but wait.  Wait for the water to subside.  Wait for clearance to go back into town.  Wait for the aftermath of nature in all its fury. 

Wait for the hours of clean up and frustration... the tears and the hope. 

All my love to everyone sitting and waiting it out... my prayers are with you all.

A sad day today at Zoo Miami where Roshe, a 19 year old female tiger, was euthanized due to her declining health.  The average lifespan of a wild tiger is 10 to 12 years, so it's not surprising that this elderly girl was suffering from kidney failure. 

I've visited Zoo Miami several times, and one of my favourite exhibits is the Tiger Temple--and looking  back through some of the photos I have kicking around I found Roshe, which makes me sad to think of her no longer lazing on the 'temple' steps, soaking up the sun.

19 year old Roshe (taken in February)
19 year old Carlita (taken in July 2011)
Roshe's exhibit-mate Carlita is an elderly lady herself and has been retired to a nearby private area to live out her remaining time in peace and quiet.  The temple will now become home to two highly endangered Malayan tiger mates in the hopes of baby tigers in the future.  

There's just something about tigers, don't you think?  The power in their beautiful bodies, the intelligent look in their eyes, the distinctive markings that identify each one as surely as a human's fingerprints...  The World Wildlife Fund does great work with an aim to conserve these prescious creatures, and if you're looking for a unique gift for the animal lover in your life, why not adopt a tiger?  With the amount of problems with tiger poaching at the moment (and only 3,200 tigers left in the wild today), doing something concrete is essential to save this endangered species from extinction.  Check out the WWF's tiger section to learn more about these  beautiful animals and the challenges they face.

Roshe was born in captivity and never had to face the threat of poachers... but alternatively, she never roamed her native habitat and experienced the life of a tiger as it was meant to be lived.   Rest easy, old girl... and enjoy exploring the wilderness in your afterlife.
Fashion Star
What an absolutely brilliant marketing tie-in to update the standard reality contest show!  The fact that the winners' garments are available for sale at either Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, or H&M (in NYC stores and online) the next morning is a stroke of genius.  Am I wrong in this?  I've read some pretty disparaging reviews of the show, but really?  I love the concept. 

Maybe you have to have been involved to some degree in the industry to appreciate it?  Could be.  Either way, I am inspired to stop procrastinating and start sewing up the funky shirt for J that I've had cut out and sitting impatiently in pieces for two weeks now...  thank you, Fashion star! 

The birthday surprise shirt that I made for J back in January was a huge hit--brown fabric with  a subtle pattern combined with a contrasting inside cuff and collar band paired  with pale blue piping detail at the western-style front and back yokes.  He has  worn it frequently and always gets compliments on it... which alwas makes me  smile. 
The Surprise Birthday Shirt
New Shirt In Progress
Pumpkin Pancakes (made from scratch) consumed--check. 
Costa Rican Crack Coffee x 2 cups--check. 
Walk around the neighbourhood with the furry boy-check. 
Procrastinating about heading out for a swim... well, yeah.  But in fairness, the sun is too high and I'll burn to a crisp at the moment, so I plan to go later.... really.  So technically that's almost a check--right?  Check.

... on with the day!  Have a great one!
Lovely Mr (or Mrs) Flamingo at Zoo Miami
Mornin' all from the sunny south! 

So far, my day has consisted of:
  1. Waking up from bizarre dreams with my hand completely asleep, thinking that I was paralyzed
  2. Rescuing a baby lizard from Mr Nasty Pants Kitty (I'm getting less squeamish, really)
  3. Drinking way too much Costa Rican Crack Coffee (how did I ever go a year without drinking coffee?  No clue)
  4. A jaunt around the neighbourhood with Mr Charlie Rose (we encountered a beautiful  black bird with an injured wing... poor thng)
  5. Trying to stop Mr Nasty Pants Kitty from swallowing a mouthfull of the dog's pink tennis ball (unsuccessfully)
  6. Contemplating last night's Dancing with the Stars and coming to the conclusion that I will never in my life be able to move my hips in a sinuous fashion

Lovely Mr Flamingo in the back yard
But enough of that.

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite Saturday passtimes was spending the day with my Grandmother--her house was a treasure trove of crafting projects,  baking bread and cakes, and endless summer days playing in her gardens.  In the backyard there was a wilderness of raspberry bushes, and the month of July was spent picking juicy red berries and making them into a variety of delicious treats--everything from raspberry turnover to jams and jellies.  To this day, the smell of raspberries transports me back in time and I am a little girl standing in my Grandmother's kitchen, peering into the oven to see if the turnover is ready.  

Gram's front garden was filled with flowers in every color of the rainbow--the heavy heads of garish red poppies  cuddled up with demure pink geraniums nestled in a hen-shaped planter while exotic tiger lillies stood silent watch from their vantage point by the front steps.  Two trellises rested against the porch, supporting purple and magenta clematis, and to a six year old it was absolute paradise.  My days spent in the company of my Grandmother would prove to be a shaping force in my young life, and would instill in me a love of all growing things and an appreciation for the tenacity of nature.

During those summer Saturdays, our special lunch treat was cheeseburgers eaten at the tiny child-sized picnic table on her front porch, and after our feast we would wander out to work in the cool shade of the front garden.  To my childish delight, some of the most appealing features were the plastic pink  flamingoes lurking amongst the lush greenery.  The wind chimes hanging on her neighbor's porch would drift over into Gram's yard and mingle with the soft buzzing of bees as I furtively snuck off my sandals and buried my toes in the damp grass beside her flower bed.  Those were days to be cherished, and they live in my memory  in a very special place that belongs to only my Grandmother and myself.  We lost Gram sixteen years ago, but when I smell raspberries heated by the sun I am with her again in that corner of my memory.

It is in homage to Gram that Mr Flamingo holds a place of honor in the back corner of my garden today.  It is warm and sunny and the sound of wind chimes on the breeze is calling to me from the back yard.  I think I might just go and tackle some of the vines encroaching on my bromeliads... and spend a bit of time with my memories.

For several days now I've had Desert Rose in my head....  remember it?  The Sting song with the Arabic feel and lyrics that nobody was ever quite sure of?  For some reason, every time I hear this song it gets stuck in my head and evokes images of a glaring summer sun sparkling as it hits an expanse of shifting blue water.  I have absolutely no idea why I identify a song about all things Eastern and desert-esque with summer time in the West, but there you go. 

Long buried memories from another lifetime surfacing in my present existence?  Perhaps.  Whatever the reason, I'm glad to have been reminded of how much I enjoy Sting.

A big shout out to all the Irish descendants out there!  I hope you're enjoying your special day!

Now let's talk food. 

For quite some time now I've been following a very amusing blog called 'Joy the  Baker'... you have to check it out.  Full stop.  She is a lady named Joy Wilson who lives in California and writes chatty, ancedotal recipes and random musings on life, love, and all things food related.  And to my great delight, her first cookbook has just come out!

My copy arrived yesterday, and I've been reading it like a novel.  I find her her real-life, 'chatting to your friend' style appealing, and the recipes.... *sigh*.  I have always tried recipes from her blog, and now here are 100 of them, all bound together neatly with gorgeous photographs to tantalize and tempt.  Everything from Carrot Cake Pancakes to Avocado Fries, and all things in between.  Mouth-watering and totally do-able. 

It's Saturday morning, and as I am reaching the bottom of my first cup of Costa Rican Crack Coffee, the book sits at just to the left of my laptop, patiently waiting to be put to good use.

Carrot Cake Pancakes, here I come!

Happy Weekend everyone!!!

Mr Oliver Puss
Dear Mr Oliver Puss,
The carnage has to stop.  Five lizards in one day--I cannot  be silent any
longer.  The bell on your collar obviously isn't working (are lizards deaf?),
and I am tired of rescuing partly mangled creatures--or worse, disposing of dead
ones.  Please take pity on my squeamish sensitivity and take your aggression out
on your wide variety of toys instead of our backyard wildlife.
The Human

The Cat Teaser aka Mr Blue Jay

The best place to seek God is in a garden.
You can dig for him there.
~ George Bernard Shaw ~

There is no more intrepid
explorer than a kitten.
~ Jules Champfleury ~

Kittens believe that all nature
is occupied with their diversion.
~ F. A. Paradis de Moncrif ~