Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thoughts

  • I'm on vacation this week.  Did I mention that?
  • It's my gardening week this week.  I always book a week off in early June so that I can play in the gardens and commune with the worms.  
  • Since I'm not adding a new garden this year, and most of my gardens are filling in with perennials, I'm at a bit of a loss.   There isn't very much gardening to do.   I actually  had to return some raspberry bushes today because when I got them home I realized there was no place to put them.  
  • I bought and planted an apple tree.  Most trees around here cost $200 or more.  This one cost $30.  It's only 6 feet tall, so it may be a few years before it blocks the view of my neighbour's hot tub; but it was in the budget.
I'd show you pictures of my new tree, but I'm in my pj's and it isn't dark outside yet.  Considering that appropriate coverage (or lack thereof) is the primary reason why I decided to get the tree, outdoor photography didn't seem like the best idea right now.
  • A few years ago, I rescued "Gazania" plants from the clearance table.  They weren't labelled, but turned into a wonderful surprise.  Not knowing what they were, I've been looking for more every year.  Thinking I'd found them again, last week I bought "Osteospsermum" and planted them in the front garden.   They're pretty, but not the same.  Today I was very happy to actually find what I was looking for - gazanias.  So, now I have both.
Gazania
These flowers close tight when it cools off or goes dark.

Osteospermum
These stay open all the time.  
It may seem weird, but that makes it seem as though they have less personality than the gazanias.


Also, these are photos that I stole off the Internet.    See above explanation for lack of original photography.
  • I am organizing a community garage sale.  I need to have a garage sale myself because I wouldn't let my parents take all their stuff to the dump when they moved.  I was hoping to take advantage of an annual event around here.  Every year, our close has an annual garage sale with about 15 house participating and a tonne of people come out... a lot more than would come for one single garage sale.  This year, it didn't seem like anybody was going to organize it, so said I'd do it.  Now I have a lot to do to get ready.
  • Hoping to force myself to start getting into better shape, I made a bet with a friend.  He took up running last year, and is doing quite well.  He set a goal of being able to run a km in 5 1/2 minutes by August.  I set a goal of being able to run 8km, with no stopping or walking, by August.  Whoever doesn't reach their goal has to buy the other dinner at my favorite restaurant.  I am already regretting making the bet.
  • I went shopping today and bought some shirts in my usual size.  When I got home, I discovered that they are all too big and have to be exchanged for a smaller size.  Reality is, the clothes at the store I went to today fit bigger than the store where I usually go.  Doesn't matter, though.  Having to "downsize" my new clothes makes me happy.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

On a Fashion Mission

Not for me.  I haven't got a fashionable bone in my body.  Tallulah Belle Poodle, however, has an image to uphold.




The girl's collar is worn out and needs to be replaced.  She can't just wear any collar, though.   She's got to wear something that's poodle-worthy.  I'm looking for something in leather (or naugahyde), because nylon collars always seem too ratty too soon.  It has to be sparkly or whimsical (or both!) to match her poodlicious personality.

Local selection isn't very good, so I went on line...

I kinda like these:

But I can't seem to find a Canadian vendor.  Having it shipped in from the States would more than double the price.

I think... I think this is going to require a trip to the big city.  White Avenue, here we come.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

They Called My Name

Tonight, the gardening bug seems to have returned.








Let the planting begin.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Questions

  • When I bring people food and they return the dishes later, I wash the dishes, regardless of how clean they look or who the person is that had them (even my mom).   Is that normal, or am I a clean freak? 
  • I used one groomer for my dogs for years and years but she moved away, so I found another groomer.  I ended up liking the new groomer equally as much.  Then, years later, the first groomer contacted this week me to say she's coming back soon and hoping to have my business again.  There's a certain feeling of loyalty towards both ladies.  They're equally skilled and cost about the same.  Who should I use, and what should I say to the other one?
  • It's gardening season, one of my favorite times of the year.  I have next week booked off, so that I can dedicate myself to playing in the gardens and communing with the worms.  This also involves purchasing a stinkload of plants for my many gardens.  How come, for the last few days, I've gone to nurseries, walked around and left empty handed?  How come no plants are calling my name???
  • Why do I go to beer and wing night every week and never, ever have either wings or beer?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Butter is a food group

Margarine grosses me out.  It's made out of petroleum products, so when you slather margarine on your bread or or use it in your baking, you might as well be eating plastic.  Yuck.

But.  It's convenient.  I haven't eaten it for years, but I understand the attraction.  I keeps in your fridge - forever.  Even better, it stays soft, so you can spread it on your toast, straight out of the fridge.

A few years ago, I happened upon a new-to-me solution online, but couldn't bring myself to pay to have it shipped across the world.  I've kept my eyes open every since, and today I found one.  It's called a Butter Bell.  Basically, you fill one dish (or bell) with butter, and the other with water.  You tip the first bell upside down, into the water of the second dish, et VoilĂ !



The water from the bottom dish blocks the butter in the top dish from being exposed to air, and you get a safe way to preserve butter outside of the fridge.  Even better, the butter stays soft.  No more tearing your bread apart, just to have butter.

True, I'm a gadget girl.  Even more, I love low-tech solutions to every day problems.  Really, I think these are cool; but it may be that everybody else knew about them before me.  If that's the case, just carry on... I need a moment to enjoy my latest find.

Then I need to find an excuse to make butter a regular part of my diet again.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Good and Bad

Bad cat



Good eggs



I buy these eggs from the lady who grooms my dogs.  She has what she calls a "Happy Hen" setup, where she keeps chickens from egg to chick to old age out on her farm.   They're kept in condo-sized coops where they have lots of room to move around, get a chance to go outside in good weather, and are fed organic produce.    They only cost about 50 cents a carton more than the factory produced egg, and I'm happy to support a small business that focuses on raising her chickens so humanely.  Even better that the eggs taste so good.

I think it's the breed of chicken that determines the colour of the shells, but I always like opening the carton to see the rainbow of colours.  
But I have to admit that it does weird me out a little to eat the blue eggs.

Good Food

The plan today was to get a bunch of yard work done, but it's been raining all day.  We really need the water (a small city north of here burned down last week), so I don't begrudge the day inside.  Having planned a busy day, however, I needed something else to do.

First I baked Banana Flax Date Bread, and then I tried making Carmelita Bars.  The Banana bread is actually a fairly healthy a favorite that I make quite often, but the Carmelita Bars are new to me.  I've never made or eaten them before... they turned out something like the crisp in fruit crisp deserts, only instead of fruit there is a mixture of caramel and chocolate.  I had intended to bring those to work, but I don't think I will.  So far, they taste OK, but they're not the solid squares that I expected.  The bite that I tried had to be removed from the pan by a spoon, which doesn't exactly make for easy sharing.
Oh well - more for me!

Bad Food


After baking some and then cleaning out the kitchen a few times, I couldn't find the energy to make a good dinner.  I was tempted to order pizza, which is something that I've been known to do every year or so, but I didn't want to spend all that  money.  Instead, I drove to a grocery store downtown that makes great take-and-bake pizzas and got one from them.  It's in the oven now.    I know from experience that it'll taste great, but it's a long ways from the healthy, fresh (local) food diet that I've been aiming towards lately.

Bad, Bad Neighbours


I like my neighbourhood.  I really do.  However, there's nothing like the first long weekend of the camping season to drive home that I live in Red Neck Central.  Case in point... the family three doors down, who bought a Semi to haul a gas-guzzling train of their obscenely massive four-wheeler dune buggy thingamajig and their full sized trailer that houses 6 people.  It's classy all the way, I tell you.... it boggles my mind that they aren't embarrassed to be seen with that thing.   Then, there's the other neighbour who has parked their truck and trailer along the side of my house (I'm on a corner).  This trailer - I kid you not - is two stories high and as long as my house is deep.  I can't do anything about the first neighbour's lack of good taste, but I'm going to give the massive structure parked beside my house another day before I call the city to complain.  If you can't fit your toys on your own property, you shouldn't be imposing them on others.  (City bylaw says you can only park on the street for one night before moving it.)

That's enough cranking... I'm going to go eat my overly processed, non-local, definitely not healthy but oh-so-good pizza.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gardening thoughts - Roses

This has not been the Year of the Roses.  Walking around my yard today, I came to a sad realization... most of my rose bushes did not survive the winter.

I had decided last year to stop spraying the Winnipeg Parks along the side of the driveway (there were 11 on each side, until now) and to not replace them if they didn't survive.  They were planted as a linear shrub, and I suspect their proximity resulted in a fungal problem.  I didn't like having to spray them with chemicals every week to deal with it, so I stopped last year.  It seems as though the roses on the north side lived, but the south side is all gone.  Since my neighbour and I will be planting a row of dwarf lilacs along the property line, I don't think the survivors will last a whole lot longer.

There also used to be three Winnipeg parks behind the deck.  They're in a location that is too shady, and they're crowded by a trio of cedars planted behind them.  They look like they might come back, but I don't think they'll do very well.   I suspect that if the last winter didn't do them in, being crowded out by the cedars will.

The year that Oliver died, I planted a Mordan Blush in his memory.  It has struggled for the last few years, and this year it looks like it's gone.    I'm thinking of planting an apple tree in it's place.  Oliver used to love to climb the apple trees at my parents' place, and that way I can block the view between my deck and the neighbour's hot tub.

I've also got a couple of Mordan Blush on either side of the front garden in the corner.  I *might* be able to save them if I cut them way back, but it'll be iffy.  I'll probably give them a shot, but suspect I'll be planting something new in their place late-season.

The William Baffins, which have always stood guard on either side of the dog pen gate, went from being aggressively large bushes that needed to be whacked back periodically to suddenly being firewood.  Not a single leaf has sprouted from their branches.  I'm not sure what I'll plant in their place.  It needs to be something tall and substantial, but maybe something that doesn't grow so fast.

Long story short, I think I'll probably be rose-free after this year.  I love roses, but they're too high maintenance.  Roses were the one plant in the gardens that were holding me back from having completely natural, chemical free gardens.  I'm hoping that if I stick to planting more native plants, it'll look just as pretty but take a lot less work.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Randomosity - the fried brain edition


  • It's the Friday before the Victoria Long Weekend.  In Canada, this is the weekend when most people plant their gardens.  I don't, because Alberta often gets frost during the last week of May.   What this means to me is two things: 1.  Don't go to Garden Centers this weekend.  They'll be will be worse than toy stores before Christmas.   2.  Starting Tuesday, plants go on sale and I can stock up. 
  • I fought it for almost 6 years, but I finally lost the battle -  I got a blackberry for work yesterday.  I'm told this makes me 'one of the cool kids'.  In truth, I think it just publicizes  how technologically behind the rest of the world that I am.
  • I have not yet figured out how to talk on the blackberry, except by using the speakerphone.
  • It's only rained once this year since the snow melted and everything is really dry.  That said, last night I heard a gurgling noise and then a loud whoosh.  I ran outside in time to see my sump pump spit out about 10 gallons of water.  The sump pump sits about 3 feet lower than the basement, which has remained dry.  I know that's what is supposed to happen, but it made me happy nonetheless.  That large bill to have the pump installed has been justified.
  • I've been sitting on a stability ball at work for a few weeks now.  Most days, I stay on the ball all day and I think it might be working.  Yesterday morning my stomach was flatter than it was pre-surgery.  Of course, by evening it was a big ol' gut again.  (It's always worse at the end of the day)
  • Yesterday, during a conference call, something behind me caught my attention and I turned quickly.  I fell off my ball.  Happily, nobody was there to see.
  • The local grocery store has been selling field tulips for a few weeks.  For 4 dollars, you can get a very pretty bouquet that lasts a week or more.  I'm on my third bouquet now, with different colours each week.




  • I used to have funky plaid rubber boots.  Since I walk the dogs rain or shine, I figure I might as well make the best of it and wear something bright and fun that will keep me dry.  Unfortunately, my swollen feet proved to be too much, and my boots split last year.  Then I bought another less flamboyant pair of plaid boots that were three sizes too big, to accommodate the swelling.  After my surgery, I happily gave those to a large-footed friend.  The only problem was, I couldn't find any new boots.  I looked for weeks, before finding a pair.  They weren't my first choice in patterns, but they were boots at a reasonable price.  Today, I bought a raincoat that was on sale at 75% off and I now officially have my crappy weather dog walking gear.
I don't think being visible will be an issue. 

  • The local Farmer's market opens tomorrow.  One of my favorite CSA farms who will be there sent out an email that they've already got fresh asparagus, but very little supply.  What that means is that on the first day of my long weekend, I'm going to be up and off to the market by 7:00am.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A few things

  • I worked a nine hour day today.  After that, I left work to come home and get things done because nobody would leave me alone at the office.
  • I have at least a couple hours of work to do on documents for some training that starts tomorrow morning.  I'm the trainer.
  • I made my first slideshow movie instead.
  • I'm going to have to get up early tomorrow.
Dang - the video doesn't seem to be working.  Try THIS LINK.

  • Also, the Dude's feeling better.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's official

Spring's here.

Let the fair weather street supervision begin.







ps - Cotton's doing better.  He's still very careful when he moves, but he's not crying unless he makes a sudden move.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garbage and Green Stuff

This city has an "event" each year where it asks for volunteers to pick an area of town, then go there to pick up litter and leave it better than they found it.  I had asked the community association for my area (of which I belong) if they'd participate.  The response was not overwhelming, but I signed us up anyway.   I thought at the time that it might be only me with one friend, and even then we had to cancel and reschedule a bunch of times.  Friday night, we decided to just get it done and declared yesterday as the day.  We put out one final futile call, and got ready to head out.

Not only was I surprised to see unexpected volunteers, one of them had gone to the trouble of making us long handled pickup sticks with nails on the end to skewer the garbage.    We went out to a field not far from our houses.  It's got paved paths running through it, as well as a few copses of trees -AKA Garbage Traps- and a slew.  From the road the area didn't look too bad, but there was a lot.  Within a few hours, we filled the back of a truck... and I still have to call the city to pick up some items that were too big for us to take away.

Did I mention that the wind is blowing at 60km an hour?  Fun times.

But.  It actually wasn't that bad.  It was a great group of people, and I hope it makes a difference.  I'd rather not have to pick up after others, but somebody's got to do it.  We got some good exercise, and we left our walking trails a lot better off than they were.  

AND, I earned some very serious bonus points when I stood up and accidentally skewered my head on a dead tree branch.  
I  did  not drop the F Bomb within hearing of the young kids who were helping out, which was a mirale in and of itself.  
Excuse me while I pat myself on the back for that.



On another note, I got a happy surprise today.  Last year, I planted a number of ferns in two of my shadier gardens.  They didn't do very well, and by the end of the season, I declared the fern experiment to be a failure.  It turns out, I was wrong:


   I love ferns.  I particularly love their little fiddle heads, when they pop out of the ground.


Also, the daffodils are blooming.  

I think that daffodils could quite possibly be the most cheerful flowers around.




ps - Cotton's still not doing very well.  He's crying any time he tries to move around so we'll be going to see the vet as soon as we can get in.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Want a kiss?



... an outtake from when I was trying to get a shot for yesterday's post.  I posted it on Facebook too, so it might be a duplicate for some; I thought it was worthy of a repost.


ps -

On a less amusing note, the Dude's in a rough spot today.  It's been really windy for a few days (~60km/hr) and he's not loving it.  He went outside yesterday morning, and as soon as he turned the corner and left shelter, he must have been hit with a blast of wind.  He froze solid and refused to move, crying until I ran over to get him.  Inside, he's doing better; but the wind is blowing so hard that you can hear it inside.  The constant noise is scaring him, so whenever he's not hiding in his crate, he's been following me around, looking as though he expects me to make it go away.

On top of that, he pulled a muscle in his shoulder this morning.  At first, he was crying with every step he took.  Then he went into his crate for a nap and when he woke up, he found it too painful to stoop over to get out of the crate.  I ended up taking the whole thing apart to get him out, then gave him a dose of Metacam, which is a pain med that that my vet gave me for situations like this.  He's sleeping now, so I think it has kicked in, but if he isn't significantly better by tomorrow, we'll be off to the vet again.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mooned.




I guess he's had enough of the photography.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Carbs are bad

I haven't had much luck with my bread maker, which I bought a few years ago.

The first loaf, I found too salty.

The next loaf, I used the timer on it so that it would be ready when I woke up. I got up that morning to find dough that had grown so big, the lid had popped off the machine and it had spilled down the side. It was burned on the bottom and (obviously) raw on the top and outside.

I tried that same recipe again, without the delay, and had the same problem. I ended up taking the bread out and baking it in the oven. Not having much experience with bread, it turned out very undercooked and had to be tossed.

I made one loaf of wheat bread that was so-so. It didn't rise properly, though, and was kind of squishy on the inside.

One loaf turned out to be my biggest success so far. It was an herbed French Bread. I cut the recommended salt in half but I still found it way too salty again.

Then, I tried to use the delay function again to make white bread for this morning. I work up to find baked flour, and realized that I'd forgotten to put the blade in that kneads it.

The last time I gave it a shot (over a year ago), I tried to make cinnamon raisin bread. I gave up about a half hour before it was supposed to be done because I could smell burning on the bottom while the top seemed to remain in a liquid form. I put the bread machine in the far back corner of the pantry. The intention was for it to be added to the items available at my garage next sale.


Last month, thinking that perhaps the user might be the cause of the problems, rather than the machine, I decided to give it another shot. Since the recipes that came with it failed me, I bought a cook book that was written specifically for Canadian bread makers. (Our flour is different than yours, and we use metric measurements.)


This is a sure fire plan, right? I could practically taste the bread.


It's not going to happen. Every single one of those recipes lists the ingredients and then provides two basic cooking instructions:
1. Place ingredients in machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer
2. bake in ____ (quick, delayed, whole wheat, etc) mode.


How the heck am I supposed to know what order I should place the ingredients?!?

Needless to say, I've got another item for my garage sale pile this spring. Unless somebody else happens to store the instruction booklet from their black and decker bread machine.

Sam is the plant identifying Queen

After three years, the Mystery Plant has finally been named.

I present to you, Blue Woolly Speedwell.


Thank you Sam.  I hope you've got room for this in your garden:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More spring blooms

Just in time for mother's day, the big mass of tulips are starting to bloom.  I'm having the parents over for dinner tomorrow, so I'll go out and cut a bouquet before they get here.

I took this through the basement window, partly for Linlah and partly because it's raining outside.
That window is going to be in my master bedroom if/when I ever get around to finishing the basement, and I can't wait until I can look outside and see flowers like that.


I took this one a few days ago, just before the tulips started to bloom.
Notice the seedum (behind the juniper) is starting to bloom with white flowers too.


So's the mystery plant.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

National Geographic can only wish they had this shot

The hunter in his native environment:



You probably shouldn't turn your back on this one.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Flu bugs, spring blooms and lies of omissions

The first blooms of the spring popped up this weekend.  I didn't get a chance to take a picture of them until now, because I was busy dying of the flu.  I'm feeling a lot better now - I'm pretty sure I'll live, if I don't speak or breath - but man, was it a crappy weekend.

Anyway, back to the blooms.  Not the best pictures, because I held the camera at flower level instead of getting down there myself.  These are what you might call blind shots.

The red ones showed up first, with the lambs ears:



Then the multicoloured ones showed up.

The camera seems to prefer the Toad Abode over the tulips.

And now, the lies of omission.  Before I went in for my recent surgery, I was given a lot of advice and/or  warnings.  Some was true.  Some was unnecessarily harsh.  ".... is going to be incredibly painful". "You've never felt pain like the pain you'll feel when..."  Most, while I'm sure came with good intensions, did more harm than good because it made me dread the things I'd have to do anyway.  Even worse - a lot of it wasn't true for me.   You know what I wasn't told?  I wasn't told that my stomach would stick out like I'm 6 months pregnant for so long.  Sure, I did read that "there may be some swelling in the tummy" but not this much for this long.   I'm actually really lucky that I lost as much fluid as I did after the surgery, because if I hadn't, I suspect that  I'd be walking around in maternity pants... kind of ironic, considering the surgery that I had.

So, today I took the bull by the horns and brought a stability ball in to replace my desk chair.  I sat on that thing for three hours before giving up and going back to my usual chair.  I wasn't sure why I was feeling so shaky (I was sitting the whole time, after all) so I looked it up online.  Apparently, you're supposed to start using stability for a half hour at a time and work up from there.  Oops.