by Suzanne Stengl | Jan 8, 2022 | Christmas
There was a time—a long, long time ago—when I used to get home from Wherever, and rush over to the computer. THE computer, because there was only one. THE computer was shared with my hubby and two sons.
I would turn it on, listen for the beeping and humming and whistling of the modem, and watch the little bar move slowly across the screen . . . until it finally (hopefully) said, “YOU’VE GOT MAIL!”
Those were the days of loving this technology.
Now, I avoid email. I have three accounts—one for personal, one for business and another as backup. I suppose I could delete that one, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Not just yet.
I do enjoy the personal account—when there is email from my sisters and cousins. But mostly, that account gets ads: some things I’m interested in, some things I’m semi-interested in, and some things I don’t even remember signing up for.
If I go back even further in time, to when I lived on a little farm in southwestern Ontario, I remember the Mailbox. No, not the InBox, but the actual metal mailbox sitting atop a wooden post at the end of the lane. The long, often muddy, sometimes snowed-in lane. On rare occasions, I GOT MAIL!
Those were exciting times. While I lived on the farm, I had three pen pals. (Not to be confused with PayPal.) A pen pal is someone you met in the classified ads of the London Free Press. If their little blurb interested you (it would be called an “elevator pitch” nowadays) then you could write to the magazine and they would forward your letter. After that, if you were still interested, you exchanged slow mail addresses with your pen pal.
I say “slow mail” but in those days, there was no other kind. I had a pen pal in France, another in Greece, and one in Regina, Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is a province of Canada, a “prairie” province, also known as “the one in the middle” on occasion. (Check your atlas.) (Or, more likely, GoogleMaps.)
At the farm, there was also mail in the form of birthday cards. And, at Christmas, there was a multitude of Christmas cards. They were strung on ribbons in the kitchen. I can still remember my mother, sitting at the kitchen table, writing notes in the cards she would send, and addressing each envelope in her beautiful handwriting.
One of the things about COVID is that we seem to be doing more Slow Mail. I got more physical Christmas Cards this year than I have in ages. Thank you very much! It seemed every day, there was another card in the mailbox. The actual mailbox at the front of our house.
In many parts of the city, we have Super Mailboxes. But we still have a mailbox attached to our house. Eventually, I suppose our neighbourhood will get Super Mailboxes too, since most of the stuff that arrives is not urgent—things like flyers, catalogues and “buy this” type of guidance.
You could pick up those items weekly. Or less often.
Or maybe not. In times of COVID isolation, maybe people will start using Canada Post more often. Who knows?
Do you get much Slow Mail? Do you remember a time when that was the only kind of mail? Do you have a Super Mailbox, or do you have a mailbox at your house? Do you think it’s amazing that for about one dollar—much less than the cost of a latte—you can send a hard copy letter or card from Victoria, British Columbia all the way across Canada to St. John’s, Newfoundland?
by Suzanne Stengl | Jun 7, 2019 | Garden
I have always loved the smell of lilacs, especially in the rain.
It’s raining in Calgary today. Not just “showers” or “chance of showers” but “rain”. This is unusual because it only ever rains for about an hour, maybe two, and it’s been raining all morning.
Today is welcome rain, soaking the lawns and flower beds, and clearing the wildfire smoky skies.
Into each life some rain must fall.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I grew up on a farm in Southwestern Ontario. When it rained, we didn’t have to hoe beans or pick cucumbers. There were multiple indoor activities on a rainy day – a game of euchre, a jigsaw puzzle, a pie to make. Once my brother built a telegraph from the house to the barn and we practiced Morse Code for hours.
At any rate, I still associate rain with rest. Today I sit in the kitchen and enjoy the view.
The backyard is mostly perennials because who has time to plant each spring? I suppose a gardener does but I’m not really a gardener. I am an Enjoyer of Gardens.
Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.
— Roger Miller
This bleeding heart comes back every year—
—and so do the Saskatoons.
These two bushes were recently planted. They are Haskap berries. Apparently, Haskaps are higher in antioxidants than blueberries. Behind the plastic is the strawberry patch. The plastic keeps the birds away and also keeps the plants a little warmer.
This is the new grapevine, with accompanying trellis. The backyard is on a slope—a sort of hillside. Grapes grow on hillsides, right? Even though Calgary has a short growing season, we can always hope.
I do plant a few annuals in pots on the balcony—mainly because I can bring them indoors when Calgary has snow late, or early, in the season.
A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning.
At the beginning of each spring season, we put the concrete birdbath outside. It’s in the basement over the long harsh winter and now it is enjoyed by the birds—
—and by the humans watching the birds.
I hope you are enjoying this rainy day!
by Suzanne Stengl | Jun 30, 2017 | Travel
The Tuesday Café is rather quiet these days. You may have noticed that I’ve only been posting monthly for the last little while.
That’s because I’m hard at work on the next book in my WEDDING series. This one should be available by October 1st. It is the prequel to ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING. I’m just wrapping up the final chapter and then I’ll let it simmer for a bit before sending it off to my editor. Next, the fun will begin with choosing a cover.
Besides writing, I’ve been doing some traveling. At the beginning of June, I spent a week in Regina and the Saskatchewan countryside.
Nothing but prairie for miles and miles.
Here is the grain elevator in the little town of Limerick. The hotel in this town makes the best chicken wings in the world.
Saskatchewan’s provincial flower is the western red lily, also known as the wood lily or prairie lily.
western red lily
Last week, I was in Ontario for the annual family reunion. We are fortunate to have a great photographer in the group who happens to have a “drone” and so we even got some aerial shots this year.
One of the farms I visited had peaches ripening in the beautiful Ontario sunshine.
As usual, I visited Pinecroft for lunch with some of my cousins. And I bought an art card of trilliums, Ontario’s provincial flower. I’m holding the card here.
I intend to frame it, maybe with a double mat, some white and a bit of green. Trilliums have three large white petals and they bloom in the springtime. Here’s a picture of trilliums up close. My sister has some in her backyard. I wish I could grow them in Alberta but we don’t have the climate for it.
Alberta’s provincial flower is the resilient Rosa acicularis, otherwise known as the prickly rose, the wild rose and the Arctic rose.
This little flower starts blooming in late May and will often continue to bloom into August.
Do you know what your provincial (or state) flower is? Got any growing in your backyard? Do you have an annual family reunion?
Ontario trillium from bigstockphoto #164564648
Saskatchewan western red lily from bigstockphoto #164564648
Alberta rose from depositphotos #47112519_l-2015
by Suzanne Stengl | Oct 9, 2015 | Miscellaneous Moments
I haven’t been a regular here for a time. A funeral in August, another in September. Both unexpected. But then, thankfully, we rarely do expect them.
I grew up in a farming community in Southwestern Ontario. Now I live in Calgary, two thousand miles away.
I am blessed with lots of family that still live in the area. And then there are all the friends.
My late brother and late father had lots of friends. They show up and offer sympathy and support. They write interesting anecdotes on the funeral home’s Condolences Page. They send emails. They send flowers and donate to favourite charities.
In a very short period of time, family and friends and funeral directors help us to put together a Celebration of Life. Eulogies are written. People speak about our loved ones and surprise us with stories we’ve never heard.
The waitress in the small town gives me breakfast on the house. Someone else buys dinner for me and all my sisters.
Family shows up from everywhere. It turns into a photo op. My family does an annual family reunion but funerals are another kind of family reunion. Some of our best photo album pictures come from funerals. After all, when you are from a huge family, it’s hard to get everyone together. So we take those pictures and keep those memories.
It is a time for goodbyes, and reconnections.
After it’s all over, the sadness lingers and spikes, sometimes when we least expect it. But I have been to enough funerals in my life to know that the sharp feelings will lessen. The ache will pass. Life will go on. I know it will take time to say goodbye but life is for the living.
Thanksgiving is celebrated on next Monday in Canada. Many people have the turkey dinner on Sunday and then just kick back on the holiday Monday.
I have much to be thankful for and I am going to focus on the good things. In fact, I am challenging myself to write a Gratitude blog for the next few days.
Today, I am grateful for the sunshine, the coloured leaves of autumn, and the love of family and friends.
When life gives you lemons, add sweet tea.
Lemons from Bigstockphoto.com #101320991 and 44177782
by Suzanne Stengl | Aug 30, 2015 | Miscellaneous Moments
I grew up on a mixed farm in Southwestern Ontario.
My dad rotated crops of corn, wheat, beans and occasionally sunflowers. My mother grew a garden of carrots, asparagus, string beans, leaf lettuce and a few tomato plants. There was a flower garden right in front of the living room windows with lots of petunias and morning glories. Mom used to put strings in front of the windows and “train” the morning glories to climb.
One year I saw her sprinkle morning glory seeds at the base of an upright juniper beside the lane. The morning glories topped the trees by the end of the season.
Everything grows well in the rich soil of Southwestern Ontario. Across the road, a few yards away from our lane, there was a ditch filled with orange daylilies. They are not technically wildflowers, but somehow they got started there. Since they are very hardy, they don’t need a lot of care. They manage to survive the intense heat of the summer even if there is little rain. They’re not fussy about the soil and the bugs don’t seem to bother them. And they bloom from early spring until the frost comes in the fall.
Notice that is one word. Daylilies.
The scientific name for these flowers is Hemerocallis. This comes from the Greek words hemera (day) and kallos (beauty). An appropriate name, since these perennials only bloom for a day, opening in the early morning sun and withering by nightfall.
Although they look like lilies, they are not of the lily family. True lilies grow from bulbs and daylilies have tuberous rootstocks. And, of course, the cut blooms of real lilies can last a week or more.
As children, we would pick bunches of daylilies and bring them home where they sat in mason jars and wilted by nightfall. Still, we kept picking them and our mother kept putting them in jars.
Also across the road, and down about a quarter mile, was another farm where the bachelor Gordon lived. He was a soldier from WWII who had taken up farming and, like many farmers, he supplemented his income by working at the steel factory in the city about 30 miles away. He didn’t have a phone so if the factory needed to get a message to him, they phoned our farm and one of my brothers or sisters delivered the message.
Every Christmas, the factory gave him a huge turkey. Since he lived alone, he gave the turkey to my mother and she cooked it and invited him to dinner.
Gordon also had a pear tree—a single pear tree that stood in the middle of a field. He must have liked that pear tree because he drove his tractor around it as he worked the land. Each October, that tree produced the most beautiful yellow pears I have ever seen. We would go across the road and bring back bushel baskets of the pears. We ate a lot of them and my mother canned some.
I was back in the area this summer, and I drove past the old farm. The pear tree is gone. Maybe because the new owner didn’t like the inefficiency of driving around that single tree. Or maybe the tree died.
But in the ditch, although not as abundant as I remember, the daylilies are still there.
Daylilies from MorgueFile
Mason jars from Bigstockphoto #9102760
Pears from Bigstockphoto#98820719
Daylilies from Bigstockphoto #95722331