Friday, June 29, 2012

Storm's Coming...

... or maybe not.  I just figured those clouds and colours were pretty cool.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

William Bit Me

I have a couple of rose bushes in the back yard that are called "William Baffin" roses.  They're beautiful, but after last year's non-winter, they needed to be cut back pretty hard.  I did that at the end of May, and getting stuck by a rose thorn is pretty much expected for jobs like that.  The only problem is, one spot where I was pricked by the the rose became infected.

I've been keeping it clean and figured it'd get better on it's own, but had to go to the Dr yesterday for a renewal on allergy meds.    My thumb caught his attention, and I got into trouble.

I'm on antibiotics and have been instructed to keep it wrapped and relatively immobile for the next week.

Who knew that gardening was so dangerous?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The New Back Garden...

... Is ready for plants now.  I started digging it in because I had 3 or 4 spare plants with no place to put them.  And, I wanted to attract birds, so I wanted a place to add a couple more trees.  I got the idea, drew it in and then dug out the outline in an afternoon.

It took two weeks, digging every single day.  Work is still insane, so some days I only had the energy for an hour or so.  And the ground is rock hard.  It's like digging cement, so I didn't make much progress at first.

Then, last weekend after we got a good soaking rain that softened it up a bit, I went out and dug the whole thing into big chunks.

I shook for the next four hours.

This week, I broke up the clumps of soil with my hands, put the soil in a pile and scraped about two inches of clay out from under what will be the garden before putting the soil back.   I've thrown out 10 full sized garbage cans of clay and sod.  The city workers who haul away yard waste probably don't like me much right now.

Yesterday I finished adding the edging and amending the soil with organics, so it was finally time to start planting.

Something was niggling at the back of my mind, so I double checked my real property report this morning.  That's when I remembered that the back 7 feet of my yard is technically a utility right of way.  I'm not allowed to build anything perminant there, except for the fence, and I'm not allowed to plant any trees.  So, now my job will to be go out and find some tall shrubs... maybe a columnar juniper if I can find one.

In the meantime, the front yard has been quietly blooming.  The poppies and the peony tree are putting on a show, which I've been so busy that I almost missed it.  That would have been a shame.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Things I know to be true

Shrinking out of your clothes is a double edged sword when you're losing weight.  It's great to know that you now fit smaller sizes, but if you live on a tight budget and plan to lose a significant amount of weight, it can be difficult to  justify buying clothes that you hope won't fit you for long.    So, you wear baggy pants in the meantime.

Pants that used to be too tight are now a size or two too big.  I wear them anyway, and hide them under baggy shirts.   I don't want to spend money on clothes until I get closer to my goal weight and size.  Since I work from home, I can usually get away with this.

The one thing that I have learned the hard way, however, is that while a belt may hold up baggy pants, there isn't much you can do about the skivvies underneath that keep slipping down because they're two sizes too big.

Monday, June 18, 2012

For Pix

Pix says Irises are right up there as her favourite flowers.

I like them too, but have always had a heck of a time growing them.    I've planted more irises than I can count, but they always whither and die.

Then, a while back the gardener at the local golf course (my mom's favourite haunt) sent me an iris root that she'd split. Truth is, I was pretty sure I'd kill it too, but I took the chance and stuck it in the ground by the dog pen. This one lived.

I'm going to have to stop in to thank that gardener again - she's a good source for plants!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Peony Tree

Five years ago I heard about something I'd never seen before - Peony Trees.   I've always known about peony plants, but not the trees.  I looked into it, and what I read seemed pretty great.  Even better, they're supposedly hardy enough to handle the Alberta climate.  So, the next year, I tracked one down and planted it in a a premier location of the front garden.

It's in the dead centre in the front garden, with everything else centred around it.  I wanted to showcase what I hoped would be an unusual but striking plant.  So, it should be no surprise that the peony tree has has taken its time in coming into its own.  In fact, it's stayed so small that until this year it looked like a twig hidden under the annuals.

This year, it seemed to grow a little more than usual when spring arrived.  Then, yesterday I noticed something:  blooms are in the works.  Dark purple blooms, if I recall correctly.

I can barely wait.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Packing Questions

I'm stressing about how many clothes to bring on my trip this fall, because I've got people telling me I should only bring 2 or 3 outfits and other people telling me I need to pack a few suitcases worth.

We'll be gone three weeks; changing cities every 3 or 4 days at first.  We're starting in the north of Italy and moving south, at a time when it starts to turn colder and might rain in the north.  It'll be warmer in the south... I'm hoping for shorts and T-shirt weather.  We don't plan to rent a car; we'll be walking or using public transportation where ever possible.

We've pretty much planned almost every day.  We'll have some free time every day, but I don't know that we want to spend it at laundry mats.  We're also staying at (mostly) B&B's, so I don't know if laundry will be available on sight.

Personally, I usually wash my clothes after each wearing.  I'm a bit of a slob, and tend to slop a lot so it's usually necessary.  I also don't like wearing pj's more than a couple of nights before swapping them for a clean set.

Then again, I'll only have a rolling duffle bag that's about the size of a medium-sized suitcase and a small shoulder bag.  Anything that I bring, I have to be prepared to schlep down cobble stone streets, onto the trains and through the airports.

If we plan to spend one night at about the half way point at a laundry mat, how many outfits should I bring?  How many would you bring?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Boys in their Bunk Beds

I took this shot with my blackberry.  It's the view to my left as I work.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Veggies for Breakfast

I've been tracking what I eat for almost a year now.  I've lost some weight... probably not as much as I'd have liked.   But I have been slowly giving up some bad habits.

For example, I've eaten a peanut butter and jam sandwich for breakfast for as long as I can remember.  Granted, I've given up the white bread and switched over to the multigrain, but I've stuck with the PB&J.

Come to realize, it's not really good for me.

Peanut Butter, smooth style, 2 tbsp1906168
Jams, preserves, jelly, 1 tbsp561400
Nature's blend flax with omega 2 slices, 1 serving23039510

                                                                                                                       (calories)            (carbs)             (fat)          (protein)

So, I went looking for an alternative, and fell upon this crustless quiche, which I made a while back and then quickly forgot about.  I switch up what veggies I put in it every week.  Last week was asparagus, this week it's got mushrooms and grated zucchini.    Next week, I might try buttermilk squash. Either way, it's filling, and it's much better for me.  Where my PB&J is a 1/3 of the calories that I allow myself in a day and about a half of the fat, this one (which I make with low fat cheese) comes in at 213 calories and 9 grams of fat.

That's more like it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's a Sickness

Walking around my neighbourhood, I see a lot of what I call the "Costco" yards.  When Costco carried the PVC garden sheds, they cropped up in yards all around.  When they carried trampolines, at least ten yards in the area suddenly had trampolines.  Same with pergolas and play houses.  The most dedicated "Costco" yards have somehow made room for them all.  (Note the one in the back of the photo.)

Me?  I don't have a lot of the Costco clutter (other than a big compost tumbler), but I do have a variation of the same problem.  Each year, I tend to get crazy ideas to add gardens, plant trees and somehow find room for more.

Last year, I decided that I'd expand the garden in the side yard and make it into a veggie garden.  Work got in the way, I didn't get it done and since veggies only have a short growing period, I had to put it off until fall.  There was a brief moment when I thought I might not be digging in a new garden during this year's growing season; but that wasn't meant to be.

What started as an effort to attract birds has turned into a determination to plant trees and make the yard seem more sheltered.

I didn't get much done today between rain storms, but I did do enough that now I'm committed.  I suspect it'll be at least a week before I'm ready to plant if I dig a little everyday.  

In the end, I plan to put a columnar cedar in the corner  between the compost tumbler and the little bump out for garbage cans.  I've got a (very small) purple sand cherry tree that'll go on the other side of the compost tumbler.   It should eventually grow as tall as the fence.

Other than that, there will be some hardscape to accommodate the traffic in the area, strawberry plants and some creeping Thyme.

Next year, I'm thinking about pulling out the grass in that circle around the clothesline and replacing it with either gravel or interlocking stones.  If I keep this up, I expect it won't be too much longer before I've got a sod-free yard.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sell or Keep?

Changes at work (and the software that we use) mean that I need to be hardwired into the internet when I'm working at home, and can't rely on wireless.  That meant that I needed to move an armoire out of the niche in the room, and I don't really have any place to put it.

My dad and I emptied it of all contents, shelves and drawers, and managed to drag it to the top of the stairs.  I was going to move it down to the basement for now, but my dad and I quickly realized that it is too heavy for us to get down the stairs, even with a dolly.  We managed to lift it onto the dolly, but it was a struggle just to get it to the stairs, and taking it down is something of a commitment... if we got down three steps and realized it was too hard, we wouldn't exactly have the option of lifting it back up to the main floor.

We talked about maybe me selling it.  I don't really use it much.  It's has mostly stored stuff that I don't need since I moved to this house.  But, it's a solid wood piece of furniture that's fairly nice, in my opinion, and if I sold it now, it'd cost me a lot more to replace it down the road than it cost me back in the day.  So, I decided to call and inquire about hiring movers.

To get two guys to come and carry this armoire 20 feet down 10 steps would cost $280.  That's a good chunk of the value of the piece!

So, my options are:  pay the big chunk to have it moved professionally.  Find and hire some guys under the table, and take the chance that nothing goes wrong (fat chance, with my luck lately).     Move it back to the spare room, and find someplace else to work.  Or, I could sell it.  I don't know what to do.

Winter kind of likes it where it is, but it's blocking the hall.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cheesy Bread

Last week, I was invited to a camp fire party.  A friend of mine is moving up north, so this was her goodbye.  They've sold everything from their house, so it was an outdoor potluck party where we brought out own chairs to sit around the fire and if we wanted to use plates, we'd have to bring them too.

I wasn't sure what to make, so I made a variation of Pioneer Woman's Cheesy Bread.  Except, I didn't have all the ingredients, so I made my own variation.
Cheese Bread

1 6 oz can of black olives, drained
1 14 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained
2 green onions
1/4 pound of butter, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 pound mozza, grated
1 loaf crusty French Bread

Slice bread in half length-wise. Chop olives, artichoke hearts and onions, mix everything together well and spread over the tops of the two pieces of bread. Bake in oven at 325 for 20-25 minutes, then broil for a few minutes until the edges start to turn brown.

A few days later, I went to another potluck, this time for the wrap up of my cooking club. I had planned to bring a cake, but one of the girls there had also been at the goodbye party and made it very clear that I should bring the cheesy bread again.  When I got there, the girls had already heard about this bread.  Luckily, it lived up to its reputation and was gone like a shot.

Also, not to toot my own horn, but another girl from the goodbye party made it herself, only she followed the Pioneer Woman's recipe exactly.  Reports from her and her guests are that my variation is better.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

So Jealous!

One of the biggest complaints about where I live is that there are very few birds.  I get the rare robin in my yard, and this year I've been thrilled to see a sparrow a few times, but the birds just don't hang around.

I've always thought it was because this is a new subdivision.  I figured that when the trees got bigger, the birds would come along.  I even asked the local nature conservatory what to do, and they said the same thing... let your trees grow, and they will come eventually.


I was just over visiting a neighbour.  He lives across the street and three houses down.  We're both avid gardeners, and today we did the "come see my yard" tours.    He yard is gorgeous, but more importantly, it's full of birds!  He's got sparrows, swallows, finch and robins.

The frustrating thing is, his yard is half the size of mine.  He's got fewer trees than I do, and they aren't very tall.  He is a little further from the corner than I am, but he thinks he's on a flight path.  Apparently, there's a few other yards behind his place that are popular with the birds too.

So, now I'm on a mission.   I checked out what kind of feeders he's using, and he showed me the brand of seed that's most popular in his yard.  I'm taking his suggestion of getting a bird bath, and I am going to do my darnest to get those dang birds into my yard.