The gardens at Government House have long been a favourite place of mine. Since we moved back to Victoria, and especially since our little one arrived, I’ve been enjoying the gardens at least a few times a week.
The gardens at Government House are particularly gorgeous in the spring. It’s been such a treat to watch the season unfurl during my daily walk.
Everyone warns you about the challenges of a new baby, and sometimes I think we have an extra tough case. Walking has saved me these past few months. Even in my most frazzled, sleep-deprived state, I can breathe fresh spring air, stand among the drifting flowers and say, I am one with the cherry blossom trees.
And mean it. :)
Here’s a sample of what’s growing in my garden right now: a handful of blush pink tulips, big clumps of bergamot and bluebells, bleeding hearts in the shady spots, narcissus and what I’ve been told is a flowering orange.
More research is required to know exactly what everything is in our new garden, but suffice to say I’m in heaven with all these gorgeous flowers in bloom!
Operation fill-the-freezer continues! This chili is lighter tasting than most, which feels just right now that we are into spring. I used a combination of red, green and French lentils, but any one of them would work fine. Double the recipe for freezing.
Also, since the strength of spices varies, I recommend adding half of what’s below and then going up from there.
Triple lentil chili
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2-3 ribs celery, chopped
1-2 carrots, grated
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup red lentils
1/2 cup green lentils
1/2 cup French lentils
2 large cans diced tomatoes
1 each red and green pepper, diced
Choose a big pot! Sauté onion, carrot and celery in oil until onion is translucent and softened. Add spices, lentils and tomatoes and cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring often, until lentils are soft. Stir in peppers and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Garnish with avocado and cilantro. Great paired with a couple of slices of multigrain toast.
Here is the book I’m reading right now – The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys. I loved her previous books, so picking up her latest novel was a no-brainer the last time I was at the Mulberry Bush Bookstore in Parksville.
I’m only about halfway through, but already I feel right at home. Humphreys is a writer who takes things slow. Her writing is meditative and full of quiet beauty. Reading her work is like reading a collection of poems – you read a few pages and savour. Great novels are often page-turners, but this is a different kind of book. Like fine wine: sip, don’t gulp!
The Evening Chorus is a war-time story about a character named James who lives in a German POW camp. He describes two different types of people in the camp: those who try to escape (and always seem to be captured) and those who find an activity that helps them cope. James falls into the latter group and is known as the Birdman among his like-minded peers (the Artist, the Reader, etc) for his study of a pair of nesting redstarts.
It’s a beautiful idea for a book: looking at why and how we can find meaning even in difficult times by taking solace in whatever means might be on hand, whether it’s books, scraps of paper or a quiet pair of birds.
Baking happened yesterday! It took a while, but it happened. Two things went well. First, the baby had a nap by himself in his crib for half an hour. This is unprecedented. Usually we need to be moving (stroller, carrier, car seat, exercise ball) or cuddling for him to nap. The miracle nap gave me time to mix dry ingredients and thaw some bananas. I’ve also figured out that I can put his vibrating chair in the kitchen. Much more productive than gazing admiringly at him in the living room. Add in a few minutes hanging out with daddy, and voila, we have muffins!
This recipe is adapted from my oldest cookbook. I’ve written about Muffin Mania before in another banana-themed post. It’s an awesome book. Working my way through most of the recipes in this book as a teenager was one of the ways I learned how to cook. And, as you can see from the photo below, it’s also where I learned about the importance of tinkering with recipes to make them my own.
Also, huge news on the cooking front: I am now the proud owner of a deep freeze. Best birthday gift ever (thanks mom and dad!). It even came with a big box of frozen blueberries, which were the inspiration for yesterday’s bake-a-thon.
Oh, the possibilities. I am so excited about the prospect of freezing fresh fruits and veggies to my heart’s content this spring and summer. And about cooking more muffins and some big batches of soup to have on hand for easy meals on those days where the miracle nap is nowhere in sight.
Banana oatmeal muffins with blueberries
Makes 14-18 muffins
1-1/2 cups oatmeal
1-1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup margarine, melted
2 flax “eggs”
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-1/2 cups mashed banana (5-6 bananas)
1 cup blueberries
Combine dry ingredient in a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in another bowl and gently fold into dry mixture. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake at 375F for 20 minutes.
Late night reading continues at our house. I described our sleep routine at mom and baby group recently: daddy takes the 8pm to midnight shift while I sleep. Then I am up until about 6 or 7am with babe, and daddy will do another hour or two before work while I nap. Sometimes I catch a few zzzz’s during the wee hours, but I’m torn between a night full of catnaps or just staying awake, reading, writing or watching movies. Everyone at baby group cringed at this staying up all night business, but the alternative is constantly trying to fall asleep only to be woken a short time later since the baby rarely sleeps for longer than 45 minutes at a stretch. Either way, it is torture. Pray that he starts sleeping someday!
This book, Z, was lovely company for me during the night shift. It’s a novel about the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, who was married to F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby. If you’ve ever seen the movie Midnight in Paris you’ll remember what a glamorous thing it was to be a literary star in the Jazz Age.
Although this book is fiction, it is based on the true story of the Fitzgerald’s and their rise and fall among the likes of Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. The story is told in Zelda’s voice, which is wonderful – smart, sassy, and fun but also full of sorrow as the life she envisioned when she married Scott at 19 ends up in shambles. Love, art, celebrity – they had it all, but only for a short time until mental illness, alcoholism, infidelity, betrayal crept in.
The thing I liked most about the book was learning how much Zelda had to do with her husband’s success and fame. Spouses of famous artists never get enough credit – they are usually toiling away in the background, managing careers, households, egos and more, all the while sacrificing their own interests and ambitions. That was definitely true of Zelda. In the book we see her talents as an artist, writer and dancer constantly undermined by Scott’s career and his desire for her to stay firmly planted in the role of wife. Such a shame, and it seems outrageous now, but those were different days.
I also liked that Zelda had a nanny. I could do with one of those. The world has been full of free advice about all the things you can do to help babies sleep. After almost three months of this all I can say is that we’ve heard it all and tried it all. The only thing that seems to work is actual help – i.e. come over to my house and take a turn bouncing and shushing and singing this child to sleep while his poor, exhausted but increasingly well-read mother takes a nap. Or at least recommend a good book!