Sunday, May 31, 2009

What's the buzz, tell me what's a-happenin'?

Today we went over to see our new beekeeper buddy, Dave. He gave me a bit of hands-on experience with the beehives!

I was in charge of keeping the smoker smoking. I didn't do very well; it snuffed itself out by the time we'd walked to the hives, and Dave had to restart it. Ooops! To think I keep a wood furnace stoked all winter. Here's Dave relighting the smoker as I look sheepish:

Once we finally got the smoker going, Dave had me smoke the hive. In a nutshell, smoke calms down the bees. You want to give them enough to drive them further into the hive, but not so much that you asphyxiate them. Here I am on the right, trying not to asphyxiate Dave:

"I think I've got the hang of it now, Dave!"

As I watched and Gordon stood well back, Dave gently pried apart some frames with his hive tool:

Then he lifted out a frame of beautiful, busy bees:

Here are two frames gently set aside as we inspected a third. The bees are very happy and healthy, and the queen has been laying lots of eggs. They look like grains of white rice when they are first laid, one per hexagonal cell:

Guess who? It gives you serious hat-hair, but you won't get stung on the face! I think it also minimizes wrinkles, not to mention my chin...

Prepare yourself for an onslaught of honeybee posts after we get our own hives set up in a couple of weeks!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Paper Bug Art Cards

Inspired by the insane invasion of Junebugs we have this year, I have put together these Paper Bugs:

Tomorrow is Art Card Trading day, and I had fun making these! I cut out pieces of fancy paper with hand, and I also used a paper punch for the spirals. Then I threw in a bit of rubber stamping and some freehand pencil crayon, a soupçon of string, and voilà: Paper Bug art trading cards.

You know the June bugs are bad when your dog goes out at night and eats so many of them that he throws up a pile of corpses. And the cats are having a field day hunting the ones that get into the front porch. Less puking on the feline front, fortunately. And for reasons I don't understand, I find several dead June bugs on my office floor every single morning. Normally they don't creep me out, but when 50 of them are hanging around your front door at night, and then start getting into your hair, well, EEEEYUW! And when you accidentally squash one in the door frame, well, let's just say that June bugs are VERY juicy, with quite the gut-spatter pattern. EEEEEYUW! You know, suddenly the sushi Gordon is bringing home for supper seems somehow less appetizing. (June bug sushi, now there's an interesting Japanese-inspired protein fix!)

If you're interested in learning more about Art Trading Cards, or just getting inspiration, check out the ATC Quarterly, put together by this cool artist, who is one of the founders of the ATC group I am involved in. (Btw, Ronna, I plan on subscribing to ATC myself, if I can get my brain together enough to remember to give you a cheque tomorrow.)

June bugs on 'roids, that's what we have this year...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I wasn't finished reading that yet!

Yesterday Sophie slunk up next to me with guilt painted all over her sweet doggy face. A piece of paper clung wetly to her lip. I picked it off and realized it was the corner of an article from the latest issue of my Harrowsmith Country Life magazine.

A magazine that is, alas, no more:

And I hadn't even finished reading the damn thing yet!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Scottish husband, Scottish oatmeal

Growing up, I thought oatmeal was the devil's instrument. My mum never made it, and I never ate it.

Then as a young adult I discovered instant oatmeal, which I thought was okay. I liked eating something warm before venturing out in winter. I was hooked on the peaches and cream and apple flavours. But at some point, I wanted more substance.

So ten years ago, I started cookin' oatmeal from scratch and now I have it nearly every morning (after my initial hit of wholegrain toast with peanut butter: I eat breakfast in two shifts. My home office allows for that.) It only takes ten minutes to make this oatmeal from scratch and in my opinion, it's totally worth the effort.

I like my oatmeal creamy and not too chewy, so I make organic Scottish oatmeal (I like Bob's Red Mill brand), which is processed differently from regular oatmeal (which I also make from time to time.) To be even more decadent, I cook my oatmeal in 1% milk instead of water. Creamy goodness! Then comes the fun part: adding in the goodies!

For a long time, my standard topping combo has been cinnamon, brown sugar, walnuts (or pecans), and sliced banana or dried apple bits. To that I sometimes add pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed and/or toasted coconut, depending on my mood.

But when I was in NYC, my friend Brian got me adding all kind of other goodies to my oatmeal, like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and my most exciting new find, granulated maple sugar bits (like on this page.) Oh, and AVOCADO! Who knew mashed avocado was so good with oatmeal (even if Gordon and Gary do run screaming from the concept)?

Gordon has always poured maple syrup on his oatmeal, but I don't like syrup straight up (I have only butter on my pancakes) and generally only eat it when it's part of a recipe, like a marinade, or baked item. But the maple sugar bits... I love them! They are crunchy and not as sweet as the syrup, with a delicate maple flavour. Mmmmmmm!

Yesterday, my oatmeal contained blueberries, blackberries, walnuts, cinnamon and maple sugar crunchies:

Today it was blackberries mangoes, cinnamon and of course, maple sugar crunchies:

Who says oatmeal is bland and boring??!

Monday, May 25, 2009


On Saturday, we went to the Value Village in Cornwall, which I have to say must be the nicest, best-organized, nicest-smelling Value Village in Canada! We've lived in four provinces, and I have frequented many Value Villages in my quest for wool skirts and scarves for my rug hooking, so I know what I'm talkin' about.

We dropped in mainly because I wanted to get a couple of stuffed toys for the dogs, but of course Gordon managed to find three books to buy (I am not complaining, since I have my own book addiction. One day our house will collapse from the weight of books.) The problem I had was that all the stuffed animals were too darn nice and I felt guilty buying them for my dogs to destroy. I managed to get over that and finally came home with...




Sophie, being a bitch in more ways than one, kept trying to take possession of both toys, the biggest stuffed animals I've ever given the dogs.

"It's MINE, Tristan. Step AWAY from the puppy!"

"This one is mine too, Tristan. You touch Horsey, you die." Horsey looks pretty nervous.

The dogs are NOT possessive about their toys when it comes to human beings. They don't say boo if a person wants to take away a toy (or their food bowl, for that matter.) But when it comes to Tristan's toys, Sophie specializes in the "snatch and grab." She rushes at Tristan like a snarling banshee, he drops his toy and whips his head away in fear, and she grabs the toy before it hits the ground, leaving one pathetic-looking Vizsladorable. (That's what we call our Lab-Vizsla cross, for those not in the know. No, it's not a breed! It's just our endearing name for the cute result of someone's backyard-breeding project. We didn't buy T, we took him in after his owner passed on.)

The doggy dufuses end up trading toys all day long. Tristan never challenges the BITCH (ahem, that's Sophie, not me... well, most of the time!), which is just as well as it prevents bloodshed.

But if I dangle a toy between the dogs, they both get in on the action...

Sadly, Tristan IS a little rough on his toys. Perhaps he's venting the feelings he has for Sophie. If a toy has a squeaker, it usually takes Tristan 30 seconds to open up an incision and remove the squeaker. Occasionally he works on pulling out a bit of stuffing while he's at it.

The toys I bought on Saturday specifically did NOT have squeakers, but that didn't stop Tristan. Poor puppy is now...


And yet he retains his enigmatic smile.

In other news, it's been rather busy around here. We've managed to assemble two beehives and Gordon has stained them white. I just have to put the frames together now so that they are ready for the girls to make honey and lay eggs on when they arrive (about three weeks from now.)

On Saturday we met for coffee (tea in my case) with an octagenarian beekeeper who is an absolute fountain of information. Next weekend we're off to his place to see his beeyard and pepper him with more questions.

Apart from that, I have been madly planting my billions of seeds in the vegetable garden. I also put in some raspberry and blackberry canes, and two black currant bushes. The strawberries I planted last year are all flowering wildly, so I am hopeful we'll get some berries before the dogs or birds find them. Time for some bird netting!

As for me, I'm off to the garden to slave away at seeding. Happy Monday!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spring is sprung, the grass iz riz...

...I wonder where the llamas iz? Oh wait, they're coming later in the summer. So back to spring!

Here is Sophie, channelling her inner ruminant...

Munch munch munch!

Meanwhile, the trees are out in their full floral force. I love flowering crabapples:

Tristan isn't barking at me. He's lying in the long grass, eating some dead animal part he found. I didn't realize what was in his mouth until I had taken the picture and moved closer to investigate. Urgh.

Victoria Day weekend brought forth a mix of weather. Sunday was so frigging cold that Gordon put on his winter coat and gloves for lawn-mowing. Here he is on his favourite man-toy EVER. He's wearing his chainsaw "hat", which does a better job of keeping crap off his face than his previous combo of ear-defenders and safety glasses. You don't really need a hard hat to mow the lawn here...

I have to admit, this zero-turn mower is a lot of fun to drive, and the roll bar is no joke. We have some hills on our property that I refuse to mow up. I leave that to Gordon; the fun stops for me when I feel like the whole mower is going to flip like a pancake. We figured $250 extra for the roll bar was worth it to prevent possible quadriplegia.

Meanwhile, here is one of our fifteen new butternut babies:

Butternut trees around here are succumbing to some nasty canker, so we are participating in a tree-planting project. We planted these butternuts along the "cow lane" that runs between our fields. Cross your fingers for their survival. That's a "mulch mat" around the base of the tree, to keep down competition from weeds.

Tristan ambles back towards the barn...

We have a few huge, ancient apple trees around our property. They are not really productive, but they're beautiful when in bloom:

Ancient apple tree trunk...

And apple blossoms. They smell great!

What's growin' in your garden? Has your dog eaten anything disgusting lately? What's your husband's/partner's/boyfriend's/Dad's favourite man-toy?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Usurper

(Good grief, this is my 501st post!)

Poor Sophie came into my office yesterday to find a repugnant little feline hogging her dog bed. She decided to risk lying down next to her.

"The shame, the horror... pushed to the edges of my own bed by a six-pound CAT!"

"Mummy, can you rid me of this plague?"

"Maybe if I don't look, it will just GO AWAY!"

"Or perhaps I should just act nonchalant and lick my leg. Tristan! What the hell are you lookin' at??!"

But in the end...

"Neener, neener! I WIN! I WIN! It's all mine, mine MINE!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fast and furious

As a toddler, I was hell-bent on speed... and the colour red:

As a ten-year-old, I was an avid boater (tsk tsk, no lifejacket!!!) This is Grenadier Pond at High Park in Toronto, where they used to rent rowboats. Perhaps they still do!

When I was little, my Mum sewed all my Hallowe'en costumes. I fear this one may be bordering on the racist, or at least politically incorrect. It was the 1960s, and I can't say my British parents were particularly culturally sensitive at the time, though they did improve later in life. But I loved the green, and it's still my favourite shade:

And finally, me with some early reading material, wearing more of my mother's handiwork:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NYC part deux (that's "two" for you un-French types!)

I loved NYC so much, I'm puttin' up more photos.

Now, I have a really bad habit of closing my eyes for photos. This picture of us with our friend Brian would have been quite lovely had I not closed my eyes. To think the French tourist on the Ikea ferry went to all this trouble, only to have me blink at the same time as the shutter...

Ah, but one can always salvage disaster with humour. Indeed, that is my life motto:

"Geez, Gordon, did you really have to have the bean salad AND the bean chili last night? Not to mention the bean curd pudding for dessert? I don't know how Brian can stand there smiling!"

Meanwhile, back on the not-very-mean streets of NYC, a brave soul (eyes blacked out to protect his privacy) uses a scooter as transit:

Two words: Nut bar. Or is that one word? NUTBAR!

And here is an ingenious multi-level parking method I had never seen before:

We also wandered by a very cool pet store, Uptown Birds, with these in the window. No, I can't remember what they are, but the store had some beautiful birds and some interesting reptiles (no kitties or doggies! Yessss!)

Back at Central Park, a wee doggy (Jack Russell?) stared intently at the sailing pond. I don't know what he saw, but he couldn't take his eyes off it.

And oh look, our incognito but nonetheless wonderful hosts, Gary and Brian. Brian has been spreading the gospel of the Tilley Hat throughout NYC. And I need to get me some way cool sunglasses like Brian's (or Gary's, for that matter!) My current pair, chosen in under twenty seconds from the rack at the Jean Coutu drugstore, and purchased for the princely sum of eight bucks, absolutely do not cut it, not in Apple Hill OR New York City. I'm surprised the ghost of Ralph St. Laurent didn't strike me down dead on Broadway. Oops, I think I melded two fashion moguls. Yves St Laurent... Ralph Lauren.... which one is dead? Are they both dead? Can you tell I buy off the rack at Sears?? (You can read my sad sunglasses story here.)

And on a more sombre note, here's Ground Zero in NYC. It was sobering to walk here and think of what happened on 9-11...

And on a less sombre note, I really wish I'd gone inside here so I could say I visited the Sturgeon King...

And here are Gordon, me and Gary, basking in our post-Carnegie-Hall Mahler-glow...

And finally...
Yes, all four of us emerged from that cab, and none of us had graced Flash Dancers with our presence. Judging from the number of "Flash Dancers Gentlemen's Club" signs I saw on cabs, I think they've got quite the clientele. What happens in New York, stays in New York! It did occur to me that this is a LAS VEGAS tourism slogan. Oh well, New York, Las Vegas... at least they're still in the same country. I can get into trouble anywhere!

For the record...

...Alex and Naomi are still in love.

"Do you mind? Can't you see we're busy?"

Kitty yin-yang!

Get a room, you two!

But here we see who is really in charge of kittyland. Julius always gets the loveseat on the front porch, while the lesser felines must squeeze themselves into a single chair.