Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gardening bits and bobs

  • A few years ago, I picked up this shrub from the "we killed this - you can have it if you think you can revive it pile".  It looked like a couple of sticks at the time.  Last year, it grew a little.  This year, it's blooming.

I think it's a purple sand cherry bush, but I'm not entirely sure.

  • I planted kale last night.  I'm not sure if I've ever even eaten kale, but the guy at the nursery thought it could handle the dry, hot location I was trying to fill.

  • I was supposed to have next week off for my annual gardening week.  Unfortunately, work has interfered and I've had to cancel.   

  • Saturday, I'm joining a group from the community association, and we're building raised beds for the community gardens.  I'm tempted to take one (as a volunteer I get first dibs) but I don't know if I'll have time to maintain it.  This stresses me a little, because if I don't take it now and then change my mind, I expect it'd be a long wait on the waiting list.

  • OK, this isn't gardening related and it's a bad picture (it was raining outside and too dark), but I'm going to include it anyway.  As part of the insurance claim from last year, I got a new tablecloth.  This little number came from Anthropologie.  It pretty much clashes with the rest of the decor, but I don't care.  It makes me smile.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Five years later...

The year after I moved in,  I bought a hawthorn tree to block the view between the dining room window and the street.    The tree hasn't gown much - it doesn't block any views - but even more disappointing is that it hasn't bloomed.

Honestly, this year I was prepared to pull it out and replace it.  Now I think I'll give it another chance.  There aren't many yet (I almost didn't see them at the very top) but there are finally some blooms.

I figure that these earn the tree at least another year  in my yard.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bad Dog

I keep saying this, but it's true.  Work has been insanely busy.  I'm working long hours and handling more phone calls and questions lately in a day than I used to do in a week.    As a result, I've been letting a few things slide - including the occasional dog walk after work.

Last week, I skipped the Wednesday walk and then it poured rain on Thursday so we didn't go out again.  Friday morning, I was on a call.  I was talking to an analyst who wanted to implement a significant software change that afternoon, and I was trying to talk her off the ledge.  (I'm a Change Manager, FYI... I review and approve IT changes before they are made.)  In general, I don't like changes on Fridays because if they go wrong, there isn't anybody around on the weekend to fix them.  I especially dislike emergency changes on Fridays because less testing and planning has gone into them, so there's more chance of problems.    The worst of them all - and the one that seems to happen without fail - is the emergency change on Fridays before long weekends.  They drive me nuts.

So, I was on the phone with this analyst who was doing her best to convince me that her emergency software change had to go in on Friday afternoon before the vendor's long weekend.    I was reviewing the risk, talking about the testing that had happened and generally making sure that the she had her ducks in a row.

It was all very serious, and things can get intense when an emergency change is going in.  I don't think, however, that the analyst expected me to drop a very unprofessional F bomb.

Lucky for me, I was talking to somebody with whom I'd worked for about 5 years.  She knew it was very atypical for me to do that during work, so she didn't take offence.  Even better, she's got a great sense of humour, and thankfully saw the funny in this right away - long before I did.

You see, as I was talking to her and reading through the documentation provided, I happened to catch sight of a certain poodle in my peripheral vision.  I had thought she was asleep, but she was not.   No, she'd been lying quietly on the bed beside me and very strategically destuffing a $40 pillow.  White fluff was everywhere.

Tallulah has lost bed privileges for the foreseeable future.

But her nightly walks have been reinstated.

The emergency change went in as planned, and reports have confirmed that it was successful.

Even better, the analyst has promised to send me a new pillow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Making Himself at Home

Cotton Dog went to the groomer's house today to be groomed.  This groomer and I met 12 years ago in Edmonton when she started grooming Cotton and have since become friends... especially since we both moved here at about the same time.  I took advantage of our friendship today when I dropped Cotton off at 7am so that I could get back to what I knew would be a busy day at work.

The groomer's got three dogs of her own.  She's got a home business set up so that you enter by the side door and go downstairs to the basement where she works on dogs.  As she moved around the house today or worked downstairs on her client dogs (who aren't normally allowed in the main part of her house), her dogs followed her around and kept her company.

Not Cotton.  He weaselled his way up to the main part of the house, and then jumped up on her bed.  Once he claimed her warm, fuzzy blanket as his own, he didn't budge until I arrived to pick him up.   Methinks that maybe it's not just me who is taking advantage of the privileges that come with having been a long-time client. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Random Pictures

I opened the front door a while back, and blocked the dude's view with a baby gate covered in a towel to discourage him from yapping (he mostly doesn't bark at what he can't see).  While working on my computer, I caught this sight through the mirror behind me.  She stood there on her hind legs for most of the night, watching the neighbourhood go by.

My cat could give lessons on the art of snubbing.  

The $30 apple tree that I bought last year is getting ready to bloom.  This is one of the first pink and white buds to open up, but I think the tree will be covered by next week.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Math Don't Add

I budget $200 spending money per week, which includes everything except mortgage, loan repayment and utilities.

Last week, I spent $30 on gas to drive up to Edmonton and buy dog food ($65) and arthritis meds for the cat ($40).   This week, I have to buy cat food, happy pills for Cotton and get the dogs groomed.  The cat food price was just raised from $45/bag to $60/bag.  Happy pills, which will last a few months, cost $30.  Grooming for the dogs costs $100.

I had $5 left over from last week, so that left me with $15 spending money for this week (today being the first day of my fiscal week).  I went to the grocery store and got milk, celery, bread and a butternut squash.  The money is now gone, and I'm going to admit to feeling a little bitter about the discrepancy.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mom's Dinner

I had the parents over for dinner yesterday, in honor of Mother's Day.  It's always a challenge to do this, because my mom is such an amazing cook.  I tend to feel as though the only way to serve them a meal at the calibre that they're used to, I need to cook something that she hasn't made before.

I had something in mind but wasn't entirely settled on it.  Then, on Friday night I happened upon a recipe for Tandoori Chicken.  It called my name.

Credit Goes to the Budget Bytes Blog for this recipe.  And while I'm confessing, I'll say that most of the Indian Food that I've eaten has been made in my kitchen.  This tasted good, but I can't necessarily speak to the authenticity.

Tandoori Chicken
4 boneless Chicken Breast halves, no skin
Yogurt, plain 1 cup
Onions, raw, 1 chopped finely
Garlic, 4 cloves. minced
Ginger Root, 7 tsp (2" root, grated)
Lemon Juice from 2 lemon
Salt, .5 tsp
Garam Masala, 2 tbsp
Paprika, 1 tsp
Cayenne Pepper, 1/2 tsp
Ground tumeric, 2 tsp

Cut chicken into long strips (about six per chicken breast). Mix in a bowl and let marinate in the fridge overnight. Thread 2-3 chicken strips onto each of skewers.
Heat grill to high. Cook each skewer 3 minutes on each side.  Serves 4.
I doubled her recipe but omitted doubling the ginger (I didn't have enough).  It was good, but if you want more of a kick, you might want to double the ginger... I probably will.

I served this with the curried brown rice, quinoa and lentil mix that I wrote about a while back, and had steamed asparagus and carrots on the side.  My only suggestion would be that next time I would double the marinade.  When the chicken was done marinating, I took what was left and heated it on the stove - it was great sauce for both dipping and for over the pilaf.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Delayed Gratification

I've been trying really hard to lose weight.  The week before last, I was close to reaching the 25 pounds down mark, so I went out and bought myself a reward.  I knew it was premature, but having given up chocolate a few weeks before that, I was pretty sure it would happen.  Then I got on the scale last Saturday and was shocked to see I'd gained 2.5 pounds.  No reward for me.

After that, I rejigged the diet plan.  Chocolate is still out.  I also committed to drinking a lot more water everyday and cut out an additional 400 calories.  I am working to keep my calorie sources to a ratio of 50% carbs, 30% fats and 20% protein. Happily, it has paid off.  When I weighed myself today, I was down 5 pounds... with a total loss of 26 pounds.

These are my reward:

Next time, my reward will likely be new pants.  The ones I've got are getting kind of baggy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Food Intolerance?

Cotton has a lot of food allergies or intolerances.  I've never known if they bother him, but he gets goobie, gross eyes.   I always thought the problems were with proteins like beef, pork or poultry.   Quite a while back, I switched him over from a mid-level dog food to a premium level and saw a huge difference.  The truth is, I never knew if the change was because of the better quality food, the decrease in preservatives, or the protein source of the foods.   What I do know is that once he started eating this premium food (bison or fish based) and cut out meat-based or preservative laden treats, his eyes cleared up.

About a year ago, I introduced freeze dried chicken to his diet.  He loves it, and it does a great job at cleaning his teeth.  Unfortunately, his eyes don't agree.  They've been goobie and gross ever since, but I thought he didn't notice.  I figured that the dirty eyes were worth the trade off for a treat that he loved and clean teeth.

After the scare with the chicken jerky, I stopped giving him any form of chicken.  I just couldn't take the chance.  Instead, I've been making what I call "chips", which are dehydrated slices of sweet potato, for about a month.  His eyes are clearing up.  More importantly, he seems way healthier.

Where as last year, he seemed stiff and sore after long walks and often had to be carried home, lately he has been down right peppy.  He leads the way, all the way home and shows no sign of discomfort.  Short little bursts of energy used to occasionally cause him to rip around the living room for a lap or two.  Now he's acting like he's manic.  He runs around the house all the time.  He eggs the poodle into playing chase a few times a day - and the games will go on 10-15 minutes if I let them.

I don't know what else has changed, other than the removal of chicken from his diet.  Whatever it is, I'm glad he's feeling so good.  On the other hand, though, I hate the thought that I've been feeding him something for over a year that, in comparison, was making him feel downright crappy.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


  • I can't find a pet sitter for while I'm in Italy.  I've had two colossal failures in the past... can't hire them again.  This year, because I'll be gone for quite  a long time, I want to hire somebody to move into my house.  I found one lady on Kajiji, then had her recommended to me by a friend who had used her services and was happy.  I called twice.  She didn't call back.     Found another through a sister of a friend.  I called him on Saturday but no return calls yet.  This is  a problem, because if I don't have a pet sitter, I can't go.

  • I *hate* professional buzz words that are intended to make the speaker sound smart.  Curate.  Dynamic. Synergy.                                  Get a thesaurus, people. 

  • I discovered that there is a massive ants' nest at the base of my hawthorn tree.  There's a rubber tree mat around the base of the tree, which has done a bang up job at hiding the ants until now.  I don't know how long they've been there, but the tree has never bloomed in five years.   I don't know how to kill the ants without killing the tree.  Or, does the existence of the ants mean that the tree is unhealthy?  I love hawthorns when they bloom, but maybe this is a sign that this hawthorn isn't for me.

  • I recently cut my calorie count by 400 calories a day.  I'm hungry.  And according to the meal plan that I'm following (which otherwise seems very reasonable), I need to find a way to eat more fat.  Avocados, here I come.

  • A lack of calories may be making me cranky.

Monday, May 7, 2012


When I heard of today's upset in France and Greece, my first thoughts were that the Euro is going to tank, and I hoped it stayed down until after I went to Italy.    Does that make me a bad person?

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I've been struggling with the insurance company now for about 10 months.  The lady who processed my claim originally made some blatant errors, which resulted in me getting much less money than I was entitled to for some items, and more than double what I was owed for a few others.  While I'd have happily accept the overage, I got my back up over being shorted over laziness.

For example, two of my purses were damaged during the flood.  I claimed them both and then I happened to find a purse on a great sale before my claim was processed.  I was refunded for that one right away, but then the claims adjuster forgot or omitted  the second purse when she finally finished processing my claim.

When my claim was finally processed, I noticed the error and reported it right away.  The adjuster said she'd add the second purse, but she didn't bother to record the actual replacement value of $60 - she recorded $40, which I'd paid for the first one.

For ten months, I've been fighting about this.  I know it's only $20, but it's MY $20 and all they had to do was to look at the original claim that I submitted to see the mistake that had been made.

Long story short, I finally had enough and had a bit of a come to Jesus chat with the adjuster a few days ago.  As a result, she made a number of corrections to the claim, including confirming that I could have up to $60 for a new purse.

Until now, I have refused to replace the items for which the insurance company had recorded the wrong values, because I wanted to be sure I'd be refunded the full amount.  So, now I have a lot to buy in the next month before my claim is closed.

I don't know why, but I've wanted an orange purse for some time.  It makes no sense, because orange is probably my least favourite colour and it would match only a very small percentage of my clothes.  But, I wanted an orange purse.

There's a store in town that has a pretty great purse selection and I went there tonight.  As soon as I walked in the door, I zeroed in on a beautiful orange purse.  It was a good size, and had lots of pockets in the right places.  It seemed to be well made.

It cost $41.

The truth of the matter is, I stood there and realized that after fighting that battle with the insurance company, I simply did not want to submit a claim for a new purse for $40.  I'd fought to get up to $60, and told them repeatedly how unreasonable only $40 for purse would be.  And when I get a bee in my bonnet, it can be difficult for me to back down.  I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit that I came home with a black purse that cost $55.  

It's a nice purse.  It's also the right size, and it has lots of pockets in the right places.  It'll go with just about everything, and I won't get sick of its colour.    I think, however, that I'm going to bring it back tomorrow and trade it in for the orange purse.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Himself has been cranky again lately.  Today, he was particularly vocal about his displeasure over the existence of the resident canines.  Everywhere he went, he growled and screeched at the dogs to warn them to stay away.  Except, he wanted to be where the dogs wanted to be, which was in the room with me.  He just didn't want to be anywhere near them.

So I made him a bed on top of the armoire.

And as much as I'd have liked to, no, it wasn't me that told him to keep his nose in the corner.