Friday, June 27, 2008

Tag! You're it!

Angela tagged me, so here we go!

What was I doing 10 years ago?

Ten years ago, I was living in a rural hamlet in Ontario, near Toronto, but preparing to move to Nova Scotia. I was freelancing as a graphic designer at an advertising agency in Hamilton, and really enjoying it! I was adjusting to life without my Mum, who had died the year before.

Five snacks I enjoy:

(1) Kashi chocolate and cherry granola bars
(2) Any muffin Gordon makes
(3) Hummus on crackers
(4) Cherries (fresh!)
(5) Dairy Queen Reese's PB Cups Blizzard

Five Things on My To-Do list today:

(1) Continue working on the new, additional illustrations for the kids' book I have been illustrating for three years and which I really hope will be published this year!!!
(2) Do something to remember my dear friend Carol's birthday. She would have turned 43 today but died too young last fall. She liked children, so I think I might donate to Unicef.
(3) Walk the dogs!
(4) Kill some more striped cucumber beetles (I'm organic. I squash them with my bare hands. Ick.)
(5) Make pizza for supper.

Five Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

(1) Give a whole lot of money to the Cornwall SPCA (they need a new roof) and other animal charities I care about.
(2) Pay off the mortgage.
(3) Get me some farm animals! (This will happen anyway, but the billionaire status will speed things up.)
(4) Buy a HONKING big tractor.
(5) Leave myself enough money for a comfortable retirement, and get rid of the rest. But we'll already have a comfortable retirement, knock wood, so I won't need a lot.

Five jobs I have had:

(1) Bookstore clerk
(2) Bank teller
(3) Graphic designer
(4) Camp counsellor
(5) Salesclerk in an "art" store (sold framed prints)

Five of my bad habits:

(1) Worrying
(2) Wasting time on email
(3) Not hanging up my coat (sorry Mum!)
(4) Forgetting to put on sunscreen/bug repellent
(5) Lack of patience with idiots (see?)

Five places I have lived:

(1) Toronto, Ontario
(2) Abbotsford, British Columbia
(3) Prospect, Nova Scotia
(4) Peterborough, ON
(5) Montreal, Quebec

Five people I would like to get to know better (yes, this means you are tagged!):

(1) Dephal
(2) Wolf Lover Gurl
(3) FreshIsle
(4) Mobert
(5) HWB

Five Random Things:

(1) I seriously need another cup of tea. NOW.
(2) Environment Canada keeps giving us "severe thunderstorm" watches and warnings, and nothing ever happens.
(3) It's too frigging humid today.
(4) Today I will draw a Gila Monster.
(5) Too many beans in the pasta last night!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Little baby barn swallows

Barn swallows have nested on an ugly light fixture outside our family room window, greatly beautifying it! There are more nests and babies in the barn. Tonight I took some pics, and I counted at least five hungry little blighters!

Okay, this is HURTIN' cute...

Kids these days. So DEMANDING!

Can you imagine coming home to this every night? Try every five minutes! Humans have it easy.

"Feed us. Feeeeeeed us!!"

I dunno, they kind of look more like vulture than swallows. Or maybe the neighbourhood thugs: "Hey, cough up the bug and no one gets hurt!"

If you don't appreciate nature.... you should!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The joys of dog ownership

I meant to post this last week for those with whom I have not already shared these photos.

Take two dogs. Put them on a farm with a creek. Add in one large painted turtle, dug into the muddy banks of the creek.

Soon you will have....

" A smart start for a fresh, younger-
looking face, the Total Mud Facial Cleanser cleans,
removes eye and facial makeup and acts like a toner all in one.
Massage it on and let the delicious,
fresh mud scent delight your senses.
After rinsing, your skin will feel vibrant and velvety smooth."

(Thanks, Mobert!)

*Don't worry, the turtle was fine. The dogs carried it up into the field where they dropped it, licked it, and left it unharmed. I returned it to the creek.

My friend

Today the Globe and Mail published my submission to their Lives Lived column, about my dear friend Carol who passed away, far too young, last fall:

Not sure how long the link will last, but there you go. Carol was a wonderful person and deserves to be remembered.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sunglasses Death Toll

Er, if you're wondering about the new addition to the sidebar...

I have killed off three pairs of sunglasses thus far in the past month. Hubster keeps laughing at me for this. He thinks I always lose sunglasses. He is wrong. I usually DESTROY sunglasses, most often by sitting or stepping on them when I put them down while outside gardening. But this year, the massacre is large and growing.

Pair one: I was trying to repair my "expensive" (I spent forty bucks on them. That is a lot for me!) sunglasses. The screw was constantly loose (on the sunglasses, not ME, thankyouverymuch), and I was determined to tighten it properly. Foolishly, and with characteristic impulsiveness, I chose to do this on our back deck, where there are larger-than-sunglass-screw-sized gaps between the boards. The screw I was trying to tighten dropped out and fell to oblivion, along with the spacer thing next to it. Bye bye!

Pair Two: So I bought myself a pair of basic black plastic sunglasses for $14.00 at the drugstore. It took me a week and a half to lose them. I wore them out kayaking last Friday. We were paddling downriver when we encountered a HUGE tree that had fallen across the water. I found a gap between the tree and the waterline that I could shimmy under in my kayak, à la limbo. (I was in no mood to get out and portage.) To fit under the tree trunk, I had to lie waaaaay back and slither down into the front of my kayak. My sunglasses were tucked not-very-securely into my lifejacket, or perhaps my hat. Evidently, they tumbled out and into the murky water whilst I was shaking my booty down into the depths of my noble orange vessel. Bye bye!

I should add that my eyes are very light sensitive, for various reasons, and I NEED sunglasses, especially if I am doing something outside that requires keeping my eyes open. You know, like driving an automobile. I must have a pair on hand. I can't be DOING this all the time. Sigh...

But no problemo! We were going out shopping Saturday, so I popped into yet another ubiquitous chain drugstore and scanned the sunglass racks (yes, I am capable of going into a proper store for sunglasses, but this area isn't awash in fine shopping opportunities.) What do I find but the same glasses I lost, at 40% off! BoNANza! So I picked up a pair in black, and also selected a pair in tortoiseshell, thinking that I would thus have an extra pair.


Pair three: Today I took the dogs into the woodlot. While wandering around in the pine trees, getting poked by branches and stung by stinging nettles, and generally not paying enough attention to anything because I was too busy grooving to Serena Ryder and Ozzy Osbourne (but not together! That would make for a a horrific duet. Poor Serena!*) on my iPod, I crammed my sunglasses into the pocket of my new shorts, utterly failing to realize that the pockets on these damn things are very shallow. Not unlike Stephen Harper.

Therefore, when I emerged from the woods into the bright light of day, I reached for my shades and found... nothing. Nada. Squat. Rien. Alas, the new black sunglasses, identical to the black sunglasses lost on Friday, now reside somewhere on the forest floor, to be nibbled at by squirrels and pooped upon by porcupines.

Bye bye!

Gordon did helpfully encourage me to buy one of those string thingies you wear around your neck and attach to your glasses so you can look like a forgetful little old lady. I dutifully bought one Saturday, sans rhinestones, then completely forgot about it (like a forgetful little old lady.) I think perhaps I shall attach it to the tortoiseshell glasses RIGHT NOW, before another ghastly sunglasses-icide occurs and I have to go out driving with my eyes closed.

And so my friends, I have implemented the Sunglasses Death Toll 2008 Amazing Sidebar Counter Thing. Count along, and weep with me for my tortured lenses.


*...and may I also recommend the highly talented Basia Bulat?

Happy summer!

Well, almost. And for your viewing pleasure, I put a photo without snow in the header! The snow can come back next fall.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Right, the crop is in...

It's Sunday night and I'm half-watching a bunch of Sex and the City reruns (I never caught the series the first time around anyway!) I keep obsessively checking the Environment Canada site "severe thunderstorm watch" for this area every ten minutes. They have been threatening us with a whopping big thunderstorm for days and days, and it never comes. The garden is totally parched and we need some rain.

I do not, however, need hail, which they are also threatening. I have finished planting my veggie "patch" which is probably, what, 1/8 of an acre? I dunno exactly; it became monstrous, and I did it all by hand with a hoe and a hand shovel. I always had respect for the hard work of farmers, but now I have new respect. I can barely keep up with the gardening here lately! All the farmers are in high gear now. A few days ago, we visited the fellow who rents our land, and he was sweating to get the rest of his soybeans planted.

Anyway, all my babies are in the ground: ten kinds of tomato, several types of pepper, cucumber, zucchini, summer squash, melons, pumpkins, squash, onions, scallions, potatoes, garlic, eggplant, leeks, kale, salsify, carrots in all colours, lettuce, beets (three kinds!), Swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower (two kinds!), spinach, Royal burgundy beans, dragon's tongue beans, black jet soybeans, strawberries, blueberries, and a saskatoon berry bush. And I finished my herb garden too! Hmmm... maybe there's a reason I'm tired and my muscles ache. Let's just hope the deer/raccoons/coyotes/whatever don't get to my veggies before I do! Or at least, I hope they leave me a few when they're done. I don't have the time/energy/will/resources to erect a 12-foot deer fence. I don't mnd sharing a bit, so long as the wildlife doesn't engage in total vegetable annihilation.

It's great fun watching everything grow. I always get a kick out of this but this year Gordon took a real interest in the veggies for the first time. He helped me start seeds back in April, and helped plant seeds and seedlings in the garden. I think I've got him hooked. I can still see the magic in a tiny seed growing into a plant that gives you, say, a few dozen tomatoes for your dinner table.

I'm happy with the herb garden too. I started some seeds called pleurisy root, and for the life of me I couldn't remember what the heck "pleurisy root" was. Duh, it's butterfly weed. I bought them to attract more of our winged friends to the garden.

We have a booming toad population, which I'm pleased about (insect control, plus I think they're cute.) I find them everywhere, including amongst the vegetables. Today I picked up a flat of herb seedlings and carried it all the way across the yard and set it down before I realized a huge toad had dug out some of the lavender and settled into one of the pots. He hopped out when I put the tray down. Glad to be of service as toad taxi!

I spend a lot of time these days scrubbing dirt off of my hands and feet, which is never 100% effective. I am also developing a less-than-feminine "farmer's tan." Oh well, goes well with the grimy nails! I figure a coat of toenail polish should hide at least some of the dirt.

We managed to go kayaking on Friday, down the river at the back of our property. I also managed to lose my sunglasses in the process, which took some skill. But the kayaking was great!

Oooooh, and now CBC has a production of Othello on the boob tube which I thinketh doth interest me. I wisheth thou all a good week.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The recipe

So as not to be forever labelled a "vile fiend" by Happy Wombat Boy, here is the recipe for the muffin featured in the previous post. Incidentally, I ate the last one before bedtime last night.

Buy the cookbook. It's very good!

Chocolate cinnamon cream cheese muffins
from 500 Best Muffin Recipes by Esther Brody

1/2 cup softened butter or margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz cream cheese, cut up (little cubes are good)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

-Preheat oven to 375 F
-Muffin tin, greased or paper-lined

1. In a large mixer bowl, beat together butter, sugar, baking powder and salt until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs.
2. In another bowl, mix together flour and cinnamon. Slowly stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk just until moistened and blended. Do not overmix. Fold in melted chocolate just until blended.
3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups two-thirds full. Press pieces of cream cheese into top of batter in each cup. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

Friday, June 06, 2008

This could become addictive

Okay, well, first off, I've found my own personal crack: the chocolate/cinnamon/cream cheese muffins Gordon made the other night, from 500 Muffin Recipes by Esther Brody. I can't stop eating them. Somebody help me. Please.

Julius is ticked because I took away the muffin. He loves the smell of chocolate and doesn't believe me when I tell him chocolate is very bad for kitties! Sorry buddy.

And I think I may be developing a new addiction: auctions. Having never been before, except to a Mennonite quilt auction back in 1996, I have now gone to three in as many weeks. Gordon is becoming even more of an addict than me. I believe he is already going through withdrawal, since it has been six days since his last auction. "Hi, my name is Gordon and I'm an auction-aholic. It has been six days since I lasted attempted to buy a broken palm sander for ten bucks. "

There are a LOT of auctions in the countryside, and you can get some amazing deals. There are a couple of great ones tomorrow that we can't go to (prior commitment), which is just as well since we lately blew a ridiculous wad on a Bush Hog zero-turn mower for the farm, with dump cart and seed spreader, and have no spare cash. Still, they are selling all sorts of goodies tomorrow: a 1969 VW Bug, the exact Honda 5500 generator we want for the farm, violins, a karaoke machine, a pontoon boat, a snowblower and my personal favourite: SCRAP MEAT. I cannot fathom it... I don't want to fathom it.

Another auction is selling, I kid you not, a "professional pig roasting machine" that "can cook two pigs at one time -- one on each side!" JUST imagine! Who wouldn't need one of those?

Or I could go to an auction tonight and pick up a dehorner and hoof trimmers, not to mention a hospital bed and some large rope pulleys.

Speaking of beds, two of the three auctions we attended featured those Craftmatic adjustable beds. And people gladly bought them, albeit for a fraction of the price advertised in those horrific daytime TV commercials.

At an auction two weeks ago, I watched in awe as my normally restrained husband bought a milk crate full of extension cords, a set of socket wrenches, a harness thingy that enables you to climb your tower aerial safely (I'm not even going to BEGIN to visualize this, Gordon scaling the aerial like a mountain frigging climber!), two plastic gas cans, and a few other things I daren't remember. All that for a mere $169.00, which includes the wicker chair I bought and intend to paint and put on the front porch with my other wicker furniture. I also got an awesome box of books for six bucks.

Think of what we could pick up tomorrow... a full skid of various size nuts and bolts... cattle handling equipment... peacocks... a flux welding Meg 105F1 (huh?)... a Royal Oak teapot... two compressors/nebulizers for asthma (oops, did the asthmatic kick off?)... a slow vehicle sign... a large assortment of 50-lb boxes of nails... a painting possibly done by Gainsborough... why, the possibilities are ENDLESS!

And I already have a favourite auctioneer: Hélène Faubert! Bilingual AND hilarious and she really keeps things rolling. Who could ask for more?

Well, I supposed I COULD ask for scrap meat. But I won't.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

June is here...

Just to prove the snow is gone and spring really is here, I have EVIDENCE in the form of photos:


Despite appearances to the contrary, Sophie is not sniffing the flowers. Sophie is OBSESSED with bumblebees and reallyreallyreally wants to catch and eat them. I reallyreallyreally don't want her to do this, because she'll get stung and I bet her head will swell up like a balloon and I'll have a $150 vet visit on my hands. Of course, the vet visit thing is just a guess. But I do think it best that she not ingest bees. Besides, I like them!

Tristan's tastes evidently run to red squirrels, since he has CAUGHT and EATEN two in the past week, before I could even remove my chin from my chest. URGH! I became less upset about this the other day when a red squirrel killed four baby robins in the nest outside our porch window. Such a waste... he took a few bites from each and then buggered off, hopefully into Tristan's jaws. :( I know it's just nature, and squirrels gotta eat, but I had enjoyed watching Mama Robin on the nest and so was saddened about the babies dying. Besides, the squirrels have plenty to munch on around here (birdseed and black walnuts, to name just two items), so they can just leave my baby birds alone!

And now I bring you...

...Bridal wreath spirea aka Vanhoutte Bridal Wreath!
I grew up with one of these in the garden and I adore them. I had planned to buy one for this garden but voilà, there are two here already.

And we have alliums, which the bees, butterflies and Gordon love:

So there ya go. As you can see, things do eventually warm up in the Great White North. I am madly trying to get in the last of my veg seeds, and the veggie patch is getting more and more enormous. One hopes the deer or raccoons or anything else won't annihilate it. The only real solution to the deer is a twelve-foot fence, which I'm not prepared to erect. But since they love soybeans, and 50 acres of them have been planted on our land, I am hoping that these provide enough of a distraction from my own crop.

For some reason, I haven't, touch wood, had deer issues in the past with my vegetables. In fact, the deer have snacked in the gardens of all my neighbours and left mine alone. The smell of dog perhaps? Who knows? I just hope my luck continues.

It's supposed to hit 32C by the weekend, which is pretty hot for early June. I'd say winter is officially over.