Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Garden snaps 2014: the beginning

This post is my official garden kick-off for 2014! Admittedly I did not get any photos prior to the garden clean-up, which I started last week on one hell of a windy day, and which continued for most of Saturday, but believe me, you aren't missing much. The garden was, as anyone who lived through this past winter in South-Western Ontario knows, a horrible disgusting mess due to the hellish winter.

The first thing to tackle was cleaning up all the leaves, garbage and other crap that had blown into the yard over the winter, in addition to cleaning up the mess from the roofers that were here a few weeks prior. Sadly, the roofers did not clean up after themselves like they said they would, I will make a long story short, but due to all the trouble we had with the roofing company and poor quality of work and customer service, I gave up on them and decided to clean up the debris myself. Next I cut in the edges of the flower bed in the back to tidy things up. I had attempted to do this last year, but once things get growing it's a much more difficult job, so this is the time to do it. I will be getting some brick or stone edging to keep things neat and tidy.

There was a lot of raking to do over the lawn, and I mean a lot! The grass became very matted with the weight of the snow. I have already noticed a difference now that the bulk of dead matted grass is gone, new green tufts of grass are showing themselves! One of the other big jobs that was waiting for better weather was the removal of a tree (actually two) in the backyard. I love trees, and hate the thought of cutting down any healthy trees unless there is a real good reason, so this was difficult for me. But there was a tree in the backyard that had been planted too close to the fence, I mean really really close to the fence! We have not even been in the house for two yeas and have noticed how much the tree had grown. Giving it another one, maybe two years and it would be pushing the fence over. The tree (I honestly don't know what type it was, but some sort of maple) was too big to dig up and relocate, so all we could do was cut it down.

Another slightly smaller tree had to be removed, this one appears to have been a random tree that sprouted from a seed that landed in between some rocks between our shed and the neighbors fence. It was about ten feet tall and looked healthy as anything, so it was another unfortunate thing to have to remove it, but there was no way it could be left, and again, no way it could be removed and relocated, I couldn't even find the base of the trunk, never mind roots! In place of these trees I will be planting some bushes and other plants that are more suited to the yard. As much as I would like a big tree in the backyard, the yard itself is just a bit too small for any trees with the potential for major growth.

There are signs of life in the garden, and I am so glad to see that the hellish winter did not kill everything off (like I thought it would). Seriously, the winter was relentless. Usually if we get snow there is a time when things melt away a bit before we get another dump of snow, but not this year. Anytime the snow started to evaporate even slightly, we would get another dump of snow. With each new snow storm, the previous snow compacted and became rock hard ice, encasing and flattening everything. At this time all of the snow and ice is gone in the yard and some of the hardiest plants are coming back to life.

...and who would believe?! The giant dandelion that taunted me last summer in the rock garden is back (I suppose it never went away). I could never get it out, since it is rooted under one of the largest rocks. Here it is, already green and casting a shadow over my little rock-dwellers!

Monday, 14 April 2014

A few updates

I have been keeping myself mighty busy over the past couple of weeks, which explains my lack of posts. Here are a couple of updates of the goings-on around here:

My last post was about my fitness situation (or lack thereof) and starting some exercise classes. The first spin class was great, maybe too great - I pushed myself too hard and basically couldn't walk for 4 days! Since I was immobile when Thursday's first Zumba class rolled around, I opted out of that class and will be picking up another Zumba class in May. I was disappointed to have to make that switch, but what's the use in paying for classes if you can't go?! The second spin class was better than the first, but I took it easy so as not to bust my leg muscles again. Tonight will be class three, I will push myself a bit harder tonight, but I will still have to keep things in check so I don't over do it...this is what happens when you are as inactive as I was all winter long! As far as weight loss, I sadly haven't budged yet, but I feel better for going to the spin classes and have been going for walks almost every evening - that is something, right?!

If you recall, I have a project (or two or three!) on the go: the closet/office makeover. Things have been going quite well so far, and in regards to painting I am done! What was involved with painting that awful cedar? Some wood filler and sanding in patches, primer, primer, primer, primer and more primer followed by paint, paint and more paint...with a bit more paint for good measure! I have a light fixture up but need to get some new electrical outlets in the closet. I needed to carpet the floor of the closet because what was there was just unfinished hardwood with plywood sheeting nailed over top (and covered in paint...not my paint though!). I was faced with the same thing in the master bedroom closet and got away with buying a carpet square from Home Depot and cutting it down to size. Unfortunately this closet is about a foot wider and the carpet I had was a foot too short. Wanting to keep my expenses to a minimum I was going to take the same approach, with cutting down a store bought carpet but everything at all of my local hardware stores was either a foot too short or many many feet longer than I needed (what a waste it would be). So I used the leftovers from the master bedroom closet, leaving a naked patch of 6 or so inches on each side of the closet. Not ideal but some shelves and storage baskets will hide the bare patches...so don't tell! The computer desk is in place along with some pictures on the wall. What is left is to make some storage shelves to tuck away on either side of the closet. The goal is to have the shelves and office space done within a week. After the closet is complete I can finish the rest of the spare room - there isn't much to do, just finishing touches, curtains, hanging photos, that kind of thing. Sneak preview of closet below:

Check back in for the finished project, like I said, the entire room should be done by the end of April. I am really pushing to get everything done because in a house as small as this, one project hinges on another getting done. I am sick of having so many half finished projects and it's time to get a move on! Plus there are already guests lined up to stay in the guest room...not until September mind you, but there is no sense in leaving this work until the last minute, plus working in the summer heat in an un-airconditioned house is brutal!

And one last quick update for today...my plants! Those seeds I planted that sprouted into baby plants are doing fairly well. I did lose several seedlings; some went moldy, others seemed to wither and die and some got too leggy and weak and flopped. I still have a good amount of healthy plants, but they just didn't seem to be doing as well as I would like - most likely because there has not been enough light. So this weekend I went to my local hardware and farm supply store and bought a grow light kit. I had hoped I could get away without one, but why go to all the effort of starting seeds to let them die due to lack of light?! I got a decent set up at a good price and now the plants are basking in fake sun! I hope that after a few more weeks (more like a month) of grow light and the plants will be bigger and stronger and I can prepare them for heading out into the big bad world! And while the plant babies thrive indoors, I need to get a move on outdoors, building and preparing my raised beds.

***Bonus photo time! Buster cat snuck in to the plant sanctuary while I was taking photos, and since I was there to supervise, I let him check things out...

This is a cat being not-so-sneaky licking his lips while approaching the plants! With his track record of plant destruction, I knew what he had in mind. 

Buster got up close to a tomato growing in an old soy milk carton...I am positive he is thinking "why won't she turn away for a second so I can have a taste...just a leeeettle bite?!" and of course "why the hell doesn't this girl drink real milk?" Seriously, the biggest disappointment in this cat's life was when I switched to soy milk, he lived for breakfast time, sneaking milk from my cereal.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Day one/week one: Working out and getting fit

Actually, yesterday was day one, but here I am posting a bit late. After such a miserable winter, full of filling comfort foods and inactivity, I have decided I need to move my butt if I really really really want to get in shape. I will be honest, I have tried to lose weight in the past, there have been many failed attempts. I have also had some success, but after looking back on the hard work it took to be successful, I have felt pretty discouraged in doing it again. Will this time be any different? I sure hope so!

So what are my goals? What am I doing?

For starters, if you know me (and for those of you who don't) I am on the heavy side - chubby, fat, overweight, whatever you want to call it, that's me. I'm not saying I want or NEED to be skinny and that I am hating myself and my fatness right now, but I know I can and should be healthier and it's up to me to make that happen. My goal is to get in shape, lose between 20-30 pounds, have more energy and I hope to feel better all around (less aches and pains, which I know are due to being too heavy). What am I doing? For starters I am working on cutting out all junk foods (chips, chocolate...chips...oh I love chips). Bread is already out (and I feel better for staying away from it). What I am eating are more veggies, fruit, beans and grains. And everything in moderation. I have also signed up for a couple of exercise classes at a community centre. Why a community centre instead of a gym? It is much more cost effective. I have paid for 12 weeks of spin classes and you can bet I am going to every last one. Gym memberships are pricey and it happens all too often that you get one and don't really get to the gym as frequently as you should. Also, gyms can be intimidating, lots of workout-addicted muscle-heads (no thank you). Last night was my first spin class. A small group of 8 (me being the youngest!) and it was intense, but not crazy and competitive. Today, however, I can't walk! I have used some muscles I did not know I had, and those muscles are fighting back, angry because I disturbed them. But the pain has to be good pain, right? I am hoping I recover for Thursday, because that is Zumba night (yay!). I know of some people who have taken Zumba classes and said they were really fun and a great workout, so I thought I would give it a try. In between those two classes, I intend on going for more walks, now that the weather is starting to improve.

I will post my progress as I go, but by the end of the summer I hope to be a new person!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Time for a project: office in a closet

As I have mentioned in the past, our house is not huge - its a good size for the two of us (and the pleasantly-plump cat), but being an old house it can be difficult fitting furniture and all of our modern belongings inside! For example, where do we put a computer desk? The master bedroom is tiny, and we can barely fit our dressers inside as it is! The smallest of the bedrooms is my studio space and I didn't leave room for a computer. The third bedroom is the guest room which has been a sort of dumping ground and it has been home to the computer since we moved in (sitting on a tiny kitchen table I had in my first apartment). The problem is we have finally got a bed in the guest room, and although its only a double, it takes up most of the floor space. Where does that leave the computer? Sadly, its jammed in the corner of the room at the end of the bed, which I basically have to climb over to access...not good.

I have measured and re-measured and shuffled furniture around like a crazy person, but there just isn't much space for the computer, so I have been left with only one option: turn the closet in the guest room into office space! Why not? What else is going in the closet (a closet without doors)? So let the transformation begin! I hope this project does not take too long, since I'm getting sick of sitting sideways on an old kitchen chair to use the computer. I will post my progress and the end result as soon as I am done. For now here is the before (sort of...there was a badly put together closet organizer in the closet but I removed that about a week ago and FYI: whoever lived here previously and installed that organizer should be jailed, this had been a child's room and the entire setup was NOT secured to the wall WHATSOEVER!).

What will make this project a bit more challenging is that the closet is a cedar closet, well just a regular closet that someone installed crappy cedar wall planks in. I couldn't be sure what is behind the cedar, so rather than taking it down and risking a whole can-o-worms situation (like no drywall or destroyed drywall or who knows what else - this house is over 100 years old after all) I am going to paint the cedar. I couldn't find much information on painting cedar, but I understand it needs to be primed and primed well due to the tannin that will likely seep from the wood...even then it may backfire. I will keep you posted and if you too are looking to paint a cedar closet, you may pick up some information on what to do (or more likely, what NOT to do!).

Friday, 21 March 2014

Getting a new hat

The house is getting a new hat - well, what I call a new hat, most people just call it a roof. This past November there was a stretch of bad weather with some seriously high winds. I noticed shingles in the backyard and had just hoped it was from another house in the area, but alas, they were shingles from our roof and with them gone there was a lovely little opening for water to creep in. A leak started, but so did the winter from hell, and the weather was so extreme for so long we couldn't get anything done to the roof. On the positive side, it was so cold there were no leaks (everything was too damn frozen).

Anyway, knowing that spring should arrive at some point, and with spring comes rain, I got down to looking for roofers and settled on a local company. Just about two weeks ago I called to arrange a day for the roof to be done and was told that once the shingles were ordered and arrived, they would call a day or two before the crew was ready to come out. I would have liked to had a more specific day booked, but it is what it is and I figure things must be a bit flexible because of the weather...no biggie, but obviously the sooner the better.

This is what a cat terrified of roofers looks like. Poor guy, good excuse for me to cuddle with him for the day.

This morning I was all snug in bed, when I heard a noise. I thought I was maybe dreaming, you know that weird half-awake/half-asleep time when you don't know if you are still hearing stuff from your dreams or if stuff you are hearing for real is creeping into your dreams? Anyone know what I'm talking about? No? Never mind, I'm a lunatic. So where was I? Oh, right, the noises. I got up and stood in the bedroom kinda zombie-like and then heard ladders rattling...then I heard voices from my front porch and one of those voices said "is there anyone home? Has anyone talked to the homeowner?" Crap crap crap, I'm the homeowner. What is happening?! Crap - the roof!!! I wouldn't normally react like that, but you see, no one called ahead to let me know that the roof was going to be done today. Had I known I would have got the cat to my mum's house so he wouldn't be having the panic attack that he is having right now, and I would have been up, showered and ready. Oh well, nothing I can do now but kill time today while a bunch of men run around on the roof with nail guns like a bunch of angry (and heavy) squirrels.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The first day of Spring

It is the first day of Spring...although you wouldn't know it if you ventured outside. It is cold, windy and there is still a considerable amount of snow on the ground. I will try to think positive, warm, springy thoughts and maybe, just maybe the weather will magically change.

This afternoon we had a visitor of the squirrely variety. There was a cute little guy digging through the gutters outside the bedroom and art room windows. He or she seemed pretty content rummaging through the gutters for food and I was pretty happy he (or she) was clearing (kicking) leaves and crap out of the gutters...plus it kept the cat entertained for a while win-win-win!

Buster is keeping his eyes to the ceiling, in hopes of catching that fly.

Buster can't find the fly...it must be my fault...he gives me an evil glare.

These paws can do damage when they are on the hunt, trust me (and my chest) they hurt when Buster decides to use you as a spring-board.
Speaking of cat...and spring arriving (hopefully) I have noticed a number of dopey flies in the house, I suppose emerging from their winter slumber. Where they are coming from, I don't know, but what I do know is they are dopey as all hell (constantly smacking into the ceilings) and they are keeping the cat entertained and me awake at night. Last night there was a real big fly in the bedroom buzzing around the ceiling. I couldn't get rid of it and the cat couldn't get enough of running around the bedroom jumping on the bed (and me) in vain. I can still hear the buzzing...and the frantic meows.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Sprouting green things

Many of the seeds I have planted have transformed nicely into little sprouty green things, which I believe is the goal for most seeds. In fact some of the seeds I have planted have taken off a little too well, as they are already outgrowing their baby pots! I would not normally be bothered by this fact but since the weather is being so slow to turn springy I'm worried many seedlings will outgrow their pots (and my house) before I can get them in the ground.

The first photo is of turnip sprouts...these little devils shot up over one night! The directions on the seed pack indicated that they are direct sow, meaning I didn't need to start them indoors, but I did (because I like being awkward like that). The second photo is of spring onions - exciting, no? The third photo is one of four zucchini plants that are doing really well, so leafy and green! I wish so badly that the snow melts so I can get a move on making their garden beds. 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The winter from hell continues

This winter has been one hell of a winter. There has been more snow and ice than I recall in any winter past and what makes this worse is that things just don't seem to be easing up. This past Tuesday the weather took a spring-like turn and things started melting...I could see grass (dead looking grass, but grass nonetheless). But the spring weather was not to last. The weather reports were calling for a snow storm Wednesday. Obviously, after the winter we have had I was dreading the possibility of more snow, but so often the weather reports blow things out of proportion and we get off rather lightly. Not this time. Nope, we had MORE snow than was called for (I have never shoveled so much snow in a single day). I have been plunged back into depressed-winter-mode.

The only thing to keep me going are my little seedlings. Along with being the time of year for depressing and unpredictable weather, it is also seed-starting season! That means I have gone mental buying seeds, seed starting soil mix, seed starting kits and I have begun to hoard all yogurt containers, milk cartons and basically anything else that can be used to house a seedling. The husband must think I am nuts, with me inspecting every container for grow-ability before it goes to the recycle bin and the cat hates me because I have hijacked every window ledge in the house.

So far I have a few zucchini plants that are growing like mad (seriously, if the weather doesn't hurry up and change I don't know what I will do with them), some mystery tomatoes...mystery because I got so over excited with my planting that I forgot to label the pots and now have no clue what is what! I also have some marigolds that are really coming to life. In total (thus far) I have planted five different varieties of tomatoes, chard, leeks, two types of peppers, spring onions, cucumbers, eggplant, parsnips (for the hell of it) and turnips. I have even more that I intend on direct sowing IF the garden ever comes to life. Ambitious? You bet! 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Time to start those seeds!

I have grand plans for the garden this years - beyond just keeping it tidy and blooming, I want to have a vegetable garden. A decent vegetable garden, and perhaps I am being a little ambitious when saying this, but I want a garden that will feed me and the man (a perpetually hungry man, I may add) for the better part of the summer. I have done a small amount of veggie growing in the past, with minimal success (balcony gardening is challenging) but this year I want to go all out. The backyard is not huge but has ample space for several raised beds, and I am fortunate to get a very decent amount of sunlight and I feel it would be a waste not to take advantage of what I have.

In order to get a jump on the garden, I need to get those seeds started. I kicked things off with a greenhouse kit, one of those plastic trays with a domed lid that contained biodegradable pots I had to fill with a seed starting mix. What a failure! I followed both the recommendations on the kit and specifications for the seeds I was sowing and in less than a week most all of the little pots had started to mold. The only plants to survive were 3 zucchinis and some marigolds. Never one to give up, I headed back to the store to get more supplies to start over. Dollar stores definitely are NOT garden centers but more and more of them are stocking some useful (and reasonably priced) gardening supplies. Many of these gardening or seed starting items carried by dollar stores may not be as sturdy or be of the same quality as the pricey garden center stuff, but they can just as easily get the job done - and for someone like myself who is just starting out, I'd rather not shell out too much cash in the event I don't have luck growing.

I picked up a few items at my local Dollarama, just to see how they may work. I purchased more biodegradable pots for seed starting. The material is the same as what I used in attempt number one, but being that they are individual pots rather than the large inter-connected trays I first tried, I figured there may be a bit more air circulation through the trays...things may dry out faster, but perhaps there would be less likelihood of mold growing. I also found some cheap trays with dome lids (not pictured) and a mini greenhouse with the ever popular "peat pellets" (I just had to get one...so little and cute!). I also found some handy plastic pots with large dome lids, perfect for housing seedlings once they hit the dome of the greenhouse kits. Lastly I found a pop-up greenhouse, ideal for placing over larger trays or pots to protect the plants from drafts...and cats.

Call me weird, but I find seed starting fun, exciting and downright addictive. I start far more seeds than I really need to and I cannot stop checking for progress...I'm compulsive...it's scary, sad and true. I have caught myself on a number of occasions just staring at pots of soil on my window ledges willing the seedlings to emerge. Because I have become so addicted to starting seeds, I have taken to saving any and ALL containers that have the potential to house a plant...I have yogurt cups, margarine containers and milk cartons scattered through the spare bedroom full of soil mix and seeds...and hope! If you find seed starting as entertaining as me, stay tuned for updates of my progress!

*Note: The seed packets pictured are NOT from the dollar store. All seeds were purchased at a garden center that was having a buy 2 get one free sale (bonus!!!). All seeds are heirloom varieties and I am fortunate to have a close friend who is also seed starting so we have shared a great number of seeds. There is no sense in skimping when buying seeds, so skip the dollar store and go for the gold!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

It's March, it's 2014...I haven't posted since November!

Yup, that about sums it up! I haven't posted since November. November 2013. It has been a while so let's get a bit caught up...

As you may recall, there was a wedding in my life back in October. Things went well, a great trip, loads of fun (food, drinks, the works!). What I may not have mentioned was that two days after the wedding (on the honeymoon) I started to get sick. Nothing too horrible, just a cold, but obviously NOT what you want on your honeymoon, or on any trip...or ever really. It definitely put a damper on things, but nevertheless we had fun and saw the sights of Ireland. As soon as I was back from the wedding/honeymoon extravaganza I was back to work...and still sick. I got better, for about a week, then got sick again...and again and again. I lost count of how many times I was sick, but I believe I was sick more often than I was healthy. That is no life for me. I very quickly realized that since working where I was, I had been sick more often than I had ever been, and I used to spend a large chunk of my life commuting through Toronto on jam-packed subway cars (germ central!). Between the hours I was working, the stress of the job, messed up eat/sleep habits and the environment I was exposed to I came to a conclusion: I must leave my job in order to get healthy.

So that was that, I quit my job, I finished at the end of January. The decision wasn't easy, it doesn't feel right leaving a job when you don't have another job to go to, but I couldn't keep it up. I am not currently looking for another job, instead I am back to focusing on the house (lots of unfinished work and projects) and I am finally making use of my art room! Back to being creative and making use of all the materials I have been hoarding for years. I plan on re-opening my Etsy shop and if the spring ever arrives, I plan on getting back to gardening. This year I intend on making some raised beds for veggies (seedlings already started!).

So check back, because I will be posting a lot more...and I mean it this time!!!