Category Archives: gardening

Smiles, Soup, Santa and Silliness…

Last Wednesday night, Kaylee, Scott and Elise came over so that we could take the annual Christmas family photo.  It was past Elise’s bedtime, and we had a little difficulty getting her to cooperate!  The girls were upset that we hadn’t gotten the Christmas tree up yet…perhaps if they’d cleaned up the living room, it might have happened!  They also vetoed me wearing one of Jim’s Christmas ties!  Here’s the final product, courtesy of Jim and Photoshop:

Christmas Family Photo 2011...Back: Dad, Kaylee, Scott, Elise, Wendy, Jim. Front: Devin holding Jake, Anna, Hope, Brianna. Photo by Jim.

 

I was home nursing my infected toe again on Tuesday (it’s better now)…I happened to glance out the window and saw three deer making themselves at home near the fence to my garden.  I went outside to scare them off.  While I was there, I noticed my forgotten leek plants…four of them…standing in what was left of my ruined garden.  Since leeks are a member of the onion family, deer don’t like them!  I decided it would be a wonderful time to dig them up (the leeks, not the deer!).

Fooled by the balmy temperature (about 50 degrees F.), I was shocked to discover that the leeks did not budge when I pulled on the stalks…the ground was frozen!  Not to be deterred, I went back in the house and grabbed a big kettle of hot water, and retrieved my trusty garden fork from the garage.  I wrestled the kettle down the back steps and poured it on the earth surrounding the plants.  I plunged the sharp tines of the fork in, and began to wiggle the tool back and forth until the leek plants were loosened enough to pull out.  Three big ones and a small one…not bad!

Bucket of leeks, fresh from the garden...

 

I followed instructions from the Internet on how to clean and prepare the leeks, never having done it before!  I also took pictures, which did not turn out because the batteries in the camera were dying…the multiple rechargeables I had purchased were nowhere to be found!  I finally borrowed Anna’s camera to take this photo of the leeks after I cut them up:

Cut leeks in the measuring cup...

 

I ended up with two cups of leeks for my trouble…I decided to make vegetable soup.  Yesterday morning before I left for the bookstore, I cut up onions, carrots and potatoes, and loaded them into the Crock-Pot, along with some herbs, chicken and vegetable bouillion cubes dissolved in hot water.  We had it last night…not bad, but I’m hoping it will gain more flavour after sitting in the fridge overnight (homemade soup is usually better the second day).

This morning, I opened up my Facebook as usual, and was happy to see that my cousin, Caryn and her husband, Jaime, had taken their little boys to see Santa:

Four-year-old Alex is an old pro at this...natural charm!

 

Then, it was two-month-old Nico’s turn:

"Whatchoo talkin' about, Santa?"

 

Now it’s your turn: Come up with a caption for Nico’s visit with Santa.  The person with the winning entry will receive a handmade metal Christmas ornament made by my friend, Scott McDade, from The Recycling Bin (you probably won’t get it in time to use this year, but put it away for next year!).  Deadline for entries is Monday, December 19th.

Win one of these ornaments made from recycled cookie tins! Photo by Scott McDade.

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Has Anyone Seen My Dashboard?…or…She’s BAAACK!

The report of my death was an exaggeration.”  Mark Twain

I actually wasn’t dead, just working so much that Blogland was like Never Never Land…a place I never had time to visit.  That chapter in my life is now finished – the temporary, seven-week job turned into seven months with a somewhat disappointing ending – I didn’t get the permanent position!  However, certain facts came to light during the last month as I was training my replacement (yes – I’m that nice much of a patsy), and I’m rather glad someone else will have to deal with those “challenges” (which is corporate speak for things that are FUBARed).  I had a lovely going away party, and have made several wonderful friends.  I expect to be happily unemployed at least for the next few weeks…getting a new job in December is next to impossible!

So, WordPress has been changing things around while I’ve been gone…I really had to search to locate my Dashboard!  Once I get this post written, I hope to get around and visit all my blogging buddies and at least read their latest posts (sadly, I deleted more than 1500 unread e-mails this morning – they were stressing me out – best to start fresh!).  I’ve missed everyone so much…please forgive me if I’m ignorant of what’s been happening in your lives lately!

Okay…so in my last post, some (gulp!) four months ago, the deer had totalled my garden (it’s still completely useless, and the grass the landscapers planted in my devastated back yard isn’t growing!).  Jim and Devin have replaced the fence that was ruined, but we will definitely have to make it higher with wire, as the deer still sail over it like Olympic high jumpers (I refuse to award medals – it’s too hard to get the deer to stand still to put them around their necks!).  Ironically, to control the ballooning deer population, the powers that be in our province decided to allow hunting them with crossbows during the gun hunting season.  To protect our family and our dog, we bought multiple “No Hunting” signs at the Dollar Store and posted them around the perimeter of our (landlord’s) property.

Jim and the girls returned safely from their amusement park vacation (without me!), although there was a slight mishap which involved Hope losing $40 cash which she had placed in the cupholder of the van for “safekeeping”.  When the van door was opened near the top of Mt. Washington, the wind carried the money away (some $80 in total).  Jim scrambled down an embankment to save one $20 bill, while another two sailed over the cliff.  The last was later found by Anna on the floor of the van.  When I asked Hope why she didn’t have the money in her purse, she told me that she was afraid of being mugged: “Americans are sketchy, and they carry guns!” (please don’t take this personally…Hope’s 13, and she watches way too much Criminal Minds!).

Hope, Brianna and Anna drinking fruit smoothies at Cora's...

My granddaughter, Elise, celebrated her second birthday on September 9th.  Kaylee and Scott had a barnyard-themed party for her.

Menu for the Party

 

Elise wearing the sweater Gramma got for her...the tiara was not my purchase!

 

A few days after the party, Elise made an announcement on Facebook:

Elise has some news...

Everyone is very excited!  The new kid has some big shoes to fill…Elise is a tough act to follow!  She’s PERFECT, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her Gramma (well, maybe I am!).  I don’t know of many kids who know all of the alphabet (as well as punctuation marks), and the sound each letter makes, before their second birthday!

This is getting a little long, and I’m getting hungry for lunch…I will leave you with this amusing anecdote from a couple of weeks ago:  I was talking to a single woman friend of “a certain age” who was lamenting the difficulty of finding a suitable partner for casual “whoopee”.  “I don’t want to get married,” she said.  “I just want an occasional roll in the hay, but I don’t want to be one of those…what do you call them?…JAGUARS!”

 

 

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Herbivore Havoc, Holy Crap, and Hamlet…NEW POST!

Herbivore Havoc

"We'll just wait here until she goes in the house!" (photo by Anna)

I’m really starting to hate Bambi and his relatives…because of them, I’m not going to have any produce to put in the freezer for the winter this year.  They have feasted on all the plants from my $130 worth of organic seeds, and the seedlings that I bought to replace plants that weren’t doing very well.  The arugula and the leeks are the only things they haven’t eaten.  My total harvest so far has been three or four salads, a few meals of spinach/beet greens (before the deer got in the first time), one zucchini, and three meals of green beans/peas (I put away some 40 bags of green beans last year!).  I have fewer than 10 green tomatoes (of various sizes and varieties) that they have not discovered and devoured.  The root vegetables have virtually no leaves on them…I had hoped my rutabaga, beets, and carrots would be spared…I was wrong!

Leafless, fruitless zucchini...

Leafless pole beans...

Leafless bush beans among the weeds...they're the stick-like green and purple things...

Chewed off tomato plant...

Munched beet greens/Swiss chard...

Holy Crap

About a week-and-a-half ago, one of my Market vendors asked me to put a new product they were carrying on our website: it was billed as “The world’s most amazing breakfast cereal” and was called Holy Crap.  The cereal had been featured on CBC’s Dragon’s Den (a program where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to experts) last fall.  I read the literature, and decided to [gulp] pay the hefty $13 bag price tag (8 oz. or 225 grams) to try some.  The cereal is a mix of three organic grains and seeds: chia, hulled hemp seeds, and buckwheat, and three organic fruits: raisins, dried cranberries and apple.  It is gluten and lactose-free.  Every morning since last Saturday, I have stirred a tablespoon of Holy Crap into a container of yogurt, let it sit for five minutes, and eaten it for a mid-morning snack.  I’ve been bringing half my bag lunch home with me…I haven’t been hungry enough to eat it all.  In the evening, instead of sitting down with a bowl of chips, I’ve been eating more Holy Crap with yogurt.  Here’s the best part: I’ve been watching my considerable “muffin top” get smaller and smaller all week.  My clothes fit better!  The first bag of cereal lasted nine days.  I’m going to keep using it, and try to get Jim on to it when he gets back as well.  If I can lose weight just by eating a certain food, I’m going to keep doing it!

Holy Crap (photo from holycrap.ca)

Hamlet

Last night, Dad and I stayed in town after work to see a performance of Hamlet – one of our friends had a lead role (Claudius).  The play was being performed in a tent behind the Saint John Theatre Company’s new building on Princess Street (billed as “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot”).  We paid our money and took our seats in folding chairs.  As we waited for the performance to start, we noticed music and loud voices coming from a party in the courtyard of the building next door.  Unfortunately, it continued, getting louder and louder throughout the first act of the play.  Shakespeare is hard enough to follow when one isn’t being distracted, but actors trying to perform while competing with beer-swilling yahoos and top hits of the 1970′s was more than either of us could take.  We made our exit, vowing to contact the theatre company to see if we could come back and see the whole show without disturbance (at no cost) next week.  The acting was wonderful, especially the man playing Hamlet – he showed how loopy the Danish prince truly was!

I sent a message on Facebook to the director of the play, and she is graciously providing free tickets for the Tuesday night performance…there’s an 80% chance of rain that night…perhaps that will keep the partiers indoors!  I look forward to seeing Act 1 again, and Act 2 for the first time!

Jim and the kids are back Tuesday from their vacation adventure…looking forward to seeing their pictures!

Have a good week…I hope to read some of your blog posts in my spare time…

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The ABCs of My Last Two Weeks…NEW POST!

Note: This is another LONG post…a lot builds up in two weeks!  You might want to get a cup of tea or coffee before you start…WM

 

Airport.  Wednesday night, we took Anna to the airport to fly to Ontario to go to her cousin’s wedding (see Wedding), and see her dad and her uncle (see Cancer).  It was her first time flying solo…she was a little nervous, but got there fine. 

Birthdays.  Summer is a busy time for birthdays in our family: mine was July 17th, Jim’s was July 21st, Hope’s was July 31st, and Anna’s was August 3rd.  Jim’s mom had a party for him at her house.  His sisters were there for the barbecue…his dad and sister, Tracy, were cooking in the rain!  Smoke was getting in Gordon’s eyes!  Hope had a party with her friends at the Carleton Community Centre (see Disc Jockey).  The whole family got together for a combo party at Jungle Jim’s  in Saint John for Hope and Anna on Tuesday night (see Tip).  We tried to get into the new one in Quispamsis, but they would not take my reservation (for fifteen people!)…needless to say, I will not be patronizing them in the future.

Cancer.  We learned a few weeks ago that Anna and Kaylee’s uncle, Scott E., had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  It was a terrible shock…Scott is a truly wonderful man, and a great husband, father and grandfather! Anna hadn’t seen him for four years, so I decided to fly her down to Port Hope for Scott’s son’s wedding this past weekend (see Wedding).  Anna also got to see her dad for the first time in four years. 

Disc Jockey.  Hope celebrated her birthday a couple of days early with eleven of her friends at the Community Centre in our old neighbourhood on the West Side.  Most of the attendees were West Siders, and I felt sorry for the three girls from Quispamsis who were looking rather left out.  Eventually, the kids started to talk to each other, and then they all went outside, leaving me alone in the dance hall with the DJ who I was paying $15/hour!  I went downstairs and told the girls that I was “paying big bucks” for this, and that they’d better come in and start dancing, or I would!  “Don’t embarrass me, Mom!” Hope begged.  Hope was quite happy with her presents: loads of cash and gift cards.  One girl gave her some cute earrings her sister had made.

Extension.  I got another extension at work, until September 30th.  The City has also decided to post the job I’m doing now.  Of course, I applied for it!  I’m enjoying it a lot, and most people seem to like me.  If I get it, I’m going to have to figure out how to manage squeezing in some blogging time!

Found.  We have at least 2-3 cruise ships come into port every week between June and the end of October in Saint John.  Many of the ship’s passengers end up at the Saint John City Market where I work.  Invariably, someone loses something important!  Last week, a lady from New Jersey lost both her driver’s license and her ship card, which I returned to the commissionaires at the port after one of our Maintenance guys found them.  When I got back from my walk in the rain, the woman who’d lost her ID was waiting at my office.  After I assured her that her documents were safe down at the ship, she gave me a huge hug!  This week, a Market customer found a Visa card on the floor, and brought it up to me.  I called Port Security to see if it might belong to one of the ship’s passengers.  When I told the guy the person’s name, he said, “The police just brought me her Amex card, and her ship card.”  She came to get her Visa card herself.  She was breathless, but grateful when she arrived.  “You people are so good!”  I told her that’s just how we are in Saint John!

Girlfriend.  Devin’s girlfriend, Kat, finally came over to our house for a visit.  We were worried about how our neurotic dog, Jake, would react, so we armed her with a handful of dog treats.  Soon, Jake was literally eating out of her hand!

Harvest.  Since the deer have been helping themselves to my garden on more than one occasion, I haven’t been able to harvest much lately…beans apparently don’t grow very well without leaves!  We’ve had two meals of them so far, and will probably not have enough to put any in the freezer (I had about forty bags last year).  I picked a few peas the other day.  The tomatoes are starting to form, however.  I have high hopes for them…the deer didn’t damage those as much!  I should be able to pick some zucchini soon too.  The raspberries are just finishing, and I started picking blueberries this week…should get a few bags of those frozen at least!

Ice Cream.  I love summer because ice cream goes on sale!  I’ve bought four 2-litre tubs in the last two weeks!  Farmer’s Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie Dough is amazing!

Jets.  Some people thought the stunt jets flying over the U2 concert (see U2) in Moncton last weekend were neat.  I did not…I have a recurring nightmare of a plane crashing on top of me!  Of course, they flew over while Jim was at the souvenir tent buying a T-shirt!  There I was, curled into a fetal position with my eyes closed and my fingers jammed in my ears!

Kale.  This year was the first time I’ve grown kale in the garden.  Since we seem to like it both cooked and raw, I think I’ll grow it again next year.  Perhaps I can keep the deer out of it, because they love it too!

Landscaping.  Since our yard now has a very steep hill at the bottom of it, Jim had the idea of just planting a bunch of flowers down there instead of trying to mow it.  I’ve been collecting seed heads from the poppies in our front yard, and hope to dry them and plant the seeds next spring.  I’m having a bit of a problem with mold though…we’ll see how it goes!

Mud.  As alluded to earlier, Jim and I went to Moncton for the U2 concert at Magnetic Hill (see U2).  I had purchased the tickets back in March for Jim’s birthday, because he loves the band!  It rained all day…driving up was a bit hairy at times.  It stopped just as we got there.  As we made our way on to the field, I started to regret leaving Anna’s rubber boots I’d planned to borrow at home.  It seems that 75,000 people traipsing across wet grass multiple times has a negative effect:

These girls were trying to negotiate the mud in front of the concession tents...notice the depth...photo by Jim

 

My feet in my unfortunate choice of footwear after a trek to the Port-a-potties...photo by Jim

Nails.  Jim decided to trim Jake’s nails while I was at work on Saturday.  Unfortunately, he cut one too short, and poor Jake was bleeding!  After he jumped all over Jim’s clean laundry, we made the dog a makeshift bandage to prevent further stainage!

Old Friends.  We were very fortunate on our trip to Moncton to be able to stay with our friends, Brenda and Chuck.  I’ve known them for about twenty years, and they are always warm and wonderful hosts!  Brenda actually came downstairs in her nightgown when we stumbled into her house at 2:30 a.m. to ask how the concert was!

Brenda and Chuck...still holding hands after three decades together!

Park ‘n’ Ride.  For the U2 concert (see U2), the City of Moncton had organized a Park ‘n’ Ride program.  We eagerly decided to use it again, remembering how easy it had been when we went to The Eagles concert at Magnetic Hill three years ago.  Unfortunately, it worked a little differently than in 2008…it took us 2-and-a-half hours to get out of the concert site and back to downtown Moncton!  Please don’t “fix” what ain’t broke! 

Quiet.  Jim and the girls left yesterday for vacation (see Vacation), and Devin’s at his mom’s house this week.  It is quiet in the house (except when Jake barks at nothing outside).

Reba.  Hope was saying the other day about how she was jealous that I’d met so many famous people (from my days of being married to a country DJ).  She asked me to list some of the people I’d met, and I started: “Alabama (twice), Sawyer Brown, Ricky Skaggs, The Rankin Family, Reba…”

Hope interrupted: “REBA!  I told Gabrielle you’d met ABBA!”

Potato, pototo…

So You Think You Can Dance.  Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows I love this show.  I finally got to watch the PVR of last week’s show this morning.  Sasha dancing with my favourite boy from last year, Kent (an Ohio boy!), in a Tyce Diorio choreographed piece moved me to tears.  I also absolutely adore MelanieMarko, and Tadd!

Tip.  As I mentioned before, there were fifteen of us at Jungle Jim’s for dinner last week.  It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever left a $40 tip!

U2.  Despite the lineups and the mud, Jim and I had a good time at the U2 concert.  I was happy I had purchased camping mats to sit on, and Jim was glad he’d bought binoculars, even though we had to wait while the clerk at the Wal-Mart in Sussex fiddled (unsuccessfully) with the showcase key!  We were sitting in what we dubbed “the senior citizen’s section” up near the top of the hill, in a less muddy part of the field.  A couple of old hippies in yellow rain gear sat to our left and alternated between smoking joints and regular cigarettes.  We watched as inebriated people negotiated (and failed to negotiate) the mud on the way to the Beer Garden.  “What Not to Wear” would have had a field day if they’d had cameras set up at the concert!

Jim and I at the concert...the guy in the red shirt is mad because he got stuck sitting in the Old Fart section...photo by Jim

  

Vacation. Jim, Hope and Brianna left yesterday for vacation (Anna will take a train from Port Hope to Montreal, and meet up with them tonight).  Jim has a “Six Flags Extravaganza” planned, hitting three parks in one province and two states!  Sadly (NOT – I hate amusement parks!), I couldn’t go with them because I had to work.  I will miss them, but I will also enjoy the quiet and having less laundry and dishes to do!

Wedding.  Anna and Kaylee’s cousin, Corey, got married on Saturday.  I still remember him being the ringbearer when he was five at my wedding to my ex-husband (27 years ago!).  I wish Corey and Christine many happy years together!  Anna got to be the official photographer too!

eXceptional.  Okay…I know this is cheating, but X-ray is the only word I know that starts with “X”.  My granddaughter, Elise, will be two in September, but already knows all her numbers, letters, and symbols (question marks, etc.), as well as the sounds the letters make!  I predict she will be reading by the time she’s three, just like I was! 

Yellow Pages.  We got our new phone book the other day.  For some reason, they’ve started putting the Yellow Pages in the front.  I find that very confusing!

Zebra Stripes.  My girls are crazy for zebra stripes.  Anna has a zebra striped sports bra, spankies, bathing suit, cheerleading bag, and suitcase.  Hope had pink and purple zebra stripes on her birthday cake!

Congratulations on making it through my longest post ever!  Now go have a snack!

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Of Gardening, Greens, Greenery and Goldbricking…NEW POST!

Well, here I am again: “live” so to speak, and thankfully still “alive” after a rather stressful week.  Here’s what’s been happening in Hammond River:

After virtually ignoring my garden all week, I was surprised to find that the weeds were trying to take over (funny how that happens!).  I spent much of Saturday evening and Sunday pulling out the invaders and rediscovering the plants underneath (Dad helped with the hoeing on Sunday too, as well as installing poles for the climbing beans, and strings for the peas).

This year, I tried to plant things in a different spot than they had been in last year, “rotating my crops” like a good farmer would.  The squash and beans are at the top of the garden, instead of in the middle.  The tomatoes were planted at the top last year - when we were weeding, we discovered all kinds of tomato plants that were growing from fruit that must have dropped on the ground last year (Dad calls the orphans “volunteers”)!  Some of them were bigger than the seedlings I’d grown in the house…how ironic is that?  Of course, I have no idea what varieties they are (I had about a dozen different ones last year), so it will be fun to see what I get!

This is some squash (notice the lacy leaves from the cucumber beetles!), with the "volunteer" tomato plants in the middle and the bottom right corner of it.

 

Two rows of peas, with newly-installed strings...

 

Pole Beans...

 

Bush beans with purslane at the foot of the plant...

Midweek, we were able to have our first salad from the garden, mixing seven or eight kinds of lettuces and greens, including kale and arugula (this is the first year I’ve tried those).

Salad greens: three kinds of lettuce, tat soi, arugula, kale, and other greens...

Yesterday, we had our first feed of cooked greens: spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, bull’s blood greens, and kale.  It’s a good thing there are only three of us who like them, because this big pot of raw greens fit into a small bowl once cooked:

Greens before cooking in a big pasta pot...

 

Small bowl of greens after cooking...

 
Here’s an update on how our back yard looks after the landscapers have been here:

Yard levelled, grass seed planted...uprooted peony bushes still in the foreground...

 

Looking straight (?!!) down our fence...didn't they do a great job putting it back up? NOT!

 

Other plants in the back yard are blooming:

Pink peonies that the deer didn't eat the buds off of...

 

A pretty bush beside the back deck...I don't know what kind it is...

 

Jim spent Saturday rebuilding two of our rotten front steps…here is his finished handiwork:

Jim fixed our front steps using a mix of old and new lumber...nice and solid now!

 

Here he is relaxing on our new porch swing with Jake after he was finished:

Jim and Jake take it easy...

 

Hope everybody has a great week…more archive posts to follow…will feature some of Anna’s dragonfly pictures next week!

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Blossoms, Babies, Bell-Ringers, Breakfast, and BBQ…NEW POST!

This is going to be another roundup post of some of the things that have happened this past week…I’m home on my first day off in six days, trying to catch up on laundry and cleaning up around the house.

1. Blossoms.  Summer has finally come to Hammond River, after a May in which it rained almost every day.  I was happy to see our tiny rhododendron bush is finally blooming:

Rhododendron Blossom...

A few days later, the blossom was open:

Open Rhododendrons...

Our wild rose bush was also blooming:

Wild Rose...

2. Babies.  Remember the baby groundhog I was talking about seeing, and the sixteen cauliflower plants Jim brought home from Superstore last week?  Well, the critter has been busy munching in the garden, and I now have only two cauliflower plants which still have leaves on them.  I had the “brilliant” idea of putting hot sauce on the leaves of my remaining beans and cruciferous vegetables (NOT! – it burned the leaves).  It’s not looking good garden-wise this year.  The deer have also been in the yard, because the peony buds were chewed off the top of one of the bushes!  I was putting the hose away after watering one night, and found these babies:  

Baby spiders shortly after hatching...

To give you some idea how tiny they were, the big green thing at the side of the photo is my garden hose…it was neat to see the babies coming out of their nest.

3. Bell-Ringers.  This week has been a busy time at the Saint John City Market…I’ve been working solo since Tuesday afternoon.  It is a very big learning curve, but I should be all right…lots of different people and personalities to interact with!  On Saturday, a local man came up to my office and introduced me to a family visiting from Germany.  He asked if the two little boys could ring the market bell.  I opened the window of my office (which gives me a view of the whole market), and grabbed the bell-pull and handed it to the first blond boy…he was about six.  He pulled it twice, wearing a huge grin.  Then it was his little brother’s turn.  I hope that was one of the things those kids will remember about their trip to Saint John!

4. Breakfast.  Sunday was Father’s Day, and Anna and Brianna made breakfast in bed for Jim (Hope was visiting her dad and Devin was fast asleep)…I was elected to go back up and tell Jim he had to stay upstairs until it was ready.  It was definitely worth waiting for…the girls used eggs, cheese, potato patties, bacon and sausage to create this guy (the shirt, tie and flower are made of paper napkins): 

Jim's Father's Day Breakfast...photo by Anna

5. BBQ.  We were invited to Jim’s parents for a Father’s Day barbecue…Kaylee and Scott couldn’t make it (hopefully we’ll get to see them next week).  Jim’s mom and dad provided the meat (chicken, sausages, hot dogs, and hamburgers) and potato salad.  Jim’s sister, Kim, brought a veggie/dip tray, and his other sister, Tracy, made a delicious berry trifle for dessert.  I made a broccoli/pasta salad with bow tie pasta, broccoli florets, carrots, mayo and lemon juice (it also has almonds in it, but I brought those separately because of Jim’s allergy to them):

Broccoli Pasta Salad...

We all ate so much that we were stuffed…I went right to bed when we got home!

Well, I’m off to fold some more laundry, and perhaps get caught up on some blog-reading…I’m about a week behind!  I’ll be filling in this week with some more archive posts, and hope to have another new post for you next week!

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Things I’ve Learned Since Last Tuesday…NEW POST!

As most of my readers know, I started a new temporary job last week…I am the Acting Production Manager for the Saint John City Market for the next seven weeks. The job is going to allow me to use my skills in administration, communications, public relations and marketing. The past few days have been one big learning curve! I thought it would be fun to put some of the things I’ve been doing into the context of what they’ve taught me…hope you enjoy it!

1. Sometimes “be-backers” actually come back.  We have people we call “be-backers” come into the bookstore all the time: the ones who take a long time to look at everything, and then leave without buying anything.  They always say as they’re going out the door, “I’ll be back!” (none of them look the least bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger!).  We never see them again…usually.  Last Tuesday, the first cruise ship of the season was in port.  We had two couples come in from the ship.  While they were there, we learned that one of the couples lived in Wooster, Ohio, which is near where my dad went to Theological School in Defiance.  The men were in the U.S. military, and one was quite interested in a Canadian Army training manual we had.  He didn’t buy it, but said that they would go to lunch and think about it.  Two hours later, they all came back with their parents in tow!  He bought the book…

2.  If one is going to attend a two-hour concert at a church, bring a cushion.  My dad sings bass with the Saint John Men’s Chorus, which had its annual spring concert at Portland United Church on Tuesday evening.  Jim, his mom and I went to the show (Jim’s dad wasn’t feeling well).  We all enjoyed it, but were reminded once again of how hard church pews can be!  On a sidenote, there was group of women singers called Still Waters which also performed at the concert.  They sang a Carpenters song which I quite enjoyed, but never knew that it was called “Superstar” (my mom loved The Carpenters, and we often had their albums playing in the 70s).

3. I have very few suitable work clothes that still fit me (or they all shrunk).  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to wear anything more than jeans to work (I usually wear a top, too…cuts down on the staring and pointing!).  I find myself having to buy new clothes, which is rather frustrating when:

a) one is fatter than she wants to be

b) one has very little money to spend

c) one hates shopping for anything besides books and earrings

4. One should start to peel a banana from the bottom.  This handy tip comes from a friend – apparently, that’s how monkeys peel bananas!

How to peel a banana...these are not my hairy hands - photo from videogamevictory.blogspot.com

5. I have too many blog subscriptions, and I’m way behind on reading.  I don’t subscribe to anyone who doesn’t write well, but trying to keep up with everyone’s posts is challenging my sanity!  I feel a bit like I’m trying to choose my favourite children when I open up my e-mail at night!  If I haven’t been around to visit you lately, it’s not because I don’t love you any more…”It’s not you, it’s me!”  I hope to get caught up eventually.

6. The food at Cora’s restaurant is outstanding, and the service goes above and beyond.  On Friday, Jim took me to lunch at Cora’s in Parkway Mall to celebrate the new job.  I ordered Chicken and Swiss Panini-Crepe, with no peppers.  The waitress asked if I wanted the Soup of the Day or tomato juice…since I hate tomato juice (it’s a texture thing), I asked what the soup was.  “Squash and Honey,” was the reply.  I ignored Jim’s stricken look (he’s not a squash fan!) and ordered the soup.  It was delicious!  When the waitress came back, I mentioned that I should learn how to make it because I grew squash in my garden.  A couple of minutes later, she came back with a piece of paper and handed it to me.  Imagine my surprise when I found the soup recipe printed on the back of a Cora’s colouring page!  The recipe was for 48 portions, so I may have to play with it a little…

Soon, the waitress came back with our lunch.  Jim had ordered the “Construction Plate” which is essentially a “He-Man’s Breakfast”: bacon, toast, home fries, eggs, and a tiny bit of fruit.  I was putting the dressing on my salad when the girl told me she’d just been informed that there were peppers on my sandwich:  “Just to be clear, is it an allergy?” she asked, as she picked it up to took it away.

“No,” I answered.  “I just don’t really like green peppers.”

A “pepper-free” Panini soon appeared, and was excellent: like Philly Cheese Steak, only with chicken and Swiss…the Spanish onions were cooked to sweet perfection!  Instead of bread, the sandwich was actually wrapped in a crepe.

As Jim paid for our lunch, we helped ourselves to the complimentary brown sugar fudge at the desk…a perfect ending to our meal!

This is the beef version of my sandwich (I picked the radishes out of my salad)...photo from Cora website

7. I’m not the type of person people remember.  Several times this week, I’ve been (re-)introduced to people I’ve met, and they don’t remember me at first.  I try not to take that personally…I’ve been one of those “beige” people ever since I was a kid…not very exciting!  I’m doing my darnedest to remember all the new people I’ve met so far.

8. The vendors at the Saint John City Market are some of the friendliest folks on the planet.  They interact with many different customers every day: locals, tourists, young people, seniors, and eccentrics…they take it all in stride, and still have smiles on their faces at the end of the day!  Although some of them are distressed (even tearful!) that the woman I’m replacing is leaving, they’ve been nice to me so far!

9. June 11th is too late to buy vegetable plants for the garden.  Remember those seedlings I put in a couple weeks ago while they were ripping up my back yard?  Most of them aren’t doing very well, especially the cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.  I managed to pick up some tomato and pepper plants at Co-Op yesterday, but a trip to Brunswick Nurseries to find others was fruitless.  Jim came back with 16 cauliflower seedlings from Superstore last night, which I will plant later today.  I’m hoping that the rest of my plants will rally.  The seeds I planted are coming along nicely, except for the lima beans (only three plants came up) and the sugar snap peas (none of which came up).  Our back yard is still a big hole…

10. A pressure washer is very handy when one lives in an old house.  Jim bought a new toy while I was at work on Friday: he’s been using it to clean all the bird seed debris off the back deck.  We were surprised yesterday after an afternoon of spraying to learn that our house is actually white!  We can see through the windows too!  Years of dirt and other crap has been blasted off my white plastic lawn furniture.  Jim also picked up a new porch glider yesterday…we’ll set it up once the deck is clean.

I’ll be running more pieces from the archives this week, and hope to have another brand-new post next Sunday…have a great week!

 

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Filed under blogging, family, food, gardening, self-discovery

Pizza, Pots du Chocolats, and Peat Pot Pests…

It’s been a while since I’ve  had a food post…

I finally had a chance to try out the new pizza stone Kaylee and Scott gave me for Mother’s Day last week.  I made homemade spinach/feta/mozzarella pizza and barbecue chicken/mozzarella pizza.  I also realized what I was doing wrong all this time: Better Homes and Gardens cookbook says to cook the crust before putting the toppings on, and then cook it again.  That’s why my crust used to be so hard!  The secret is just to put the toppings on the raw dough and cook it once!  For the spinach one, I used thawed chopped spinach (I squeezed as much water out as possible) and crumbled feta cheese.  Here are my latest results:

Spinach/Feta/Mozzarella Pizza on the pizza stone...yes...it was as yummy as it looks!

Barbecue Chicken/Mozzarella Pizza on regular pizza pan...

Saturday morning, I got up early and made a batch of chili and some homemade spaghetti sauce.  I used some of our frozen garden tomatoes for both.  We had the chili for supper on Saturday night (Hope was at a friend’s house and isn’t a big chili fan), but even with only six of us, we polished off most of the pot (four cans of assorted beans)!

When I got up (at the crack of 10:30) on Sunday morning, I went out to water the garden.  I was surprised to see a car pulling a trailer come into our driveway and a man unload a rowboat onto one of the lots that are for sale (owned by our landlord).  He then proceeded to pull his boat down to the water by hand.  I momentarily considered how much fun it might be to have his car towed, since I had no idea who he was, and that he was trespassing as far as I was concerned.  I didn’t, and he soon came back to his car and drove away.  I still don’t know if it was somebody my landlord knows or not…

I used the spaghetti sauce I made Saturday to make a lasagna-like thing with elbow macaroni (we were out of lasagna)…we’ll have that for supper tonight.  I also cooked some barbecue chicken thighs to have on Tuesday night: we’ll be rushing out the door for the Saint John Men’s Chorus Spring Concert.  While I was cooking, I reorganized our main pantry cupboard…I found fruit cups from 2008…chucked those out in a hurry!  We won’t run short of barbecue sauce any time soon…there were about eight bottles of various brands in there!  If only we’d get a sunny day to barbecue now…

We went over to Kaylee and Scott’s for supper yesterday, and Kaylee made pizza for us too (check the comments below for her pizza crust recipe).  She put green peppers on her Barbecue Chicken pizza, which I picked off and gave to Jim.  Devin picked off the mushrooms on his, but didn’t give them to anybody!  Elise had “deconstructed” pizza (pieces of chicken, mozzarella, green pepper, and mushrooms), which Kaylee took away once Elise started chucking pieces on the floor.  Released from her high chair, Elise then repossessed what was left of her mother’s pizza on the plate on the coffee table, and started eating that.  She threw it on the floor a couple more times, but it landed topping side up each time…five-second rule applies in that case!  After supper, Hope and I sang the “If You’re Happy and You Know It” song along with Barney on TV, much to Elise’s delight…I pretended not to know what to do when Barney said to “Do all three.”  What I didn’t know was that Anna was taking a video of us acting the fool with her phone…there’s a video I hope will never see the light of day!

We checked out a garden center near Kaylee’s after supper…I was in the market for a magnolia bush.  The ones at the garden center in our area cost more than $200, which is way out of my price range!  Anna didn’t want to get out of the van, even though Hope told her that cute boys were working there!  We didn’t buy anything…they had mostly flowers.  It was a nice drive, but it made me realize how much I love where we live!

When we got home, Anna and I made lava cakes (this recipe is from Food Network’s Chuck Hughes)…note to self: when buying ramekins, check the size!  The recipe called for 4 oz. ramekins…the ones we got were about 7.5 oz.!  The lava cakes were delicious though, and very easy!

Our lava cakes...we doubled the recipe to make eight, and didn't have any ice cream to top them with...

Once the lava cakes were done, I went out to check on my garden.  To my great disgust, something, probably the baby groundhog I saw the other day, had started digging up my transplanted peat pots and chewing on them.  He had no interest in the plants, just the biodegradable pots I’d gotten at the dollar store!

Dug-up peat pot with lone leek seedling sticking out...

Something is also nibbling the occasional bean plant and some of the sunflowers too…most of the seeds I planted last week are up, with the exception of the lima beans.  I don’t know if my transplants are going to make it or not…they got very dry sitting out in the sun.  I’ll probably have to replace all of the cruciferous vegetables, and most of the peppers and tomatoes.

Jim and Devin went out last night and trimmed some trees…one of the largest trees in the back yard suffered some damage due to the big snowfalls during the winter.  There was a big branch hanging down over my garden, which was providing unwanted shade and a hazard for me!  They got rid of that one!  Jim also made a path for me to the hose (the outdoor faucet has a large pine tree in front of it, and I was scratching my arms every time I tried to water my plants).  I appreciated the new nozzle Jim had picked up for me earlier in the week…the old one hadn’t survived the winter well, and was giving me more water than the plants!

It’s raining today…weeding will be my next task in the garden once the rain stops!

*Note to my blogging buddies: I am running about a week behind with my reading…I’m not ignoring you…I will be visiting soon!  WM

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Filed under cooking, family, food, gardening

Paradise Tossed…

As mentioned previously, I took Tuesday off from the bookstore to get my seedlings into the ground in the garden.  I wish I hadn’t been home that day!

The weather was glorious…sunny and warm…quite a change from the cloudy, wet days which had dominated most of April and May!  I put on a tank top and a pair of shorts, pulled my hair back in a ponytail and slapped a baseball cap on my head, slathered all exposed skin with sunscreen (I thought…more about that later!), and off I went!

I had been outside for a couple of hours (worked through lunchtime) when I heard heavy equipment in our driveway.  I knew the men must be coming to continue working on our septic bed.  The guy Jim had talked to about it a month ago had warned us that we would probably be losing our lilac bush, and that they would have to come into our back yard to do the work…we had come home to see a small hole at the edge of our yard Monday night, with a backhoe parked beside it on the other side of the fence.

I was putting my little peat pots of seedlings into the ground when the backhoe started tearing up the lilac bush…I watched with tears streaming down my face as most of the lilac bush (he left one small piece right next to the deck), and all of the alders behind it were destroyed in front of my eyes…bird habitat, shade and privacy all gone in a few short minutes!  The scoop of the machine caught in the wire fence, and broke it…the driver barely paused from his horrible work…

Later, the backhoe operator climbed down from his perch to view the destruction he had wrought.  He was a young, well-muscled man wearing sunglasses, a ball cap, a black tank top, and jeans.  He strolled into the yard and waved to me as I stood, staring, in the garden.  I felt like I should talk to him.

Slowly, I walked over.  I was so angry, I didn’t care that I wasn’t wearing makeup or hadn’t shaved my legs in recent memory, or that my face was sweaty and tear-streaked, or that dirt from the garden was stuck to my sunscreened ankles!  “You’re going to have to fix that fence!  It belongs to me!” I said, realizing that I was still crying.

The guy looked at me and probably wondered what he’d gotten himself into. “Um, yeah…I caught it by accident.”

“I don’t care what you do, even if you have to twist it back together with pliers…just make sure that it’s closed before you leave.  If the deer get into my garden, it’s not going to be pretty!”

He assured me that he would.

“I’m sorry…I know you’re just doing your job,” I said, wiping the tears angrily from my cheeks.  “But, do you see all those bird feeders?” I asked, pointing to the eight bird feeders on our deck (Jim hadn’t put out the three hummingbird feeders yet this year).  “That lilac bush was where our birds sat!  Please tell me that the apple tree is going to stay!”

“Oh yeah…I’m going to just do a track wide enough to drive through,” he assured me.

“Thank you,” I said.  “Well, I guess I should get back to my garden.  I’ve got a bunch more plants to get in.”

I finished up in the garden just after 4:00.  I was using the hose to rinse off my metal trays when the backhoe operator came up behind me…

“Excuse me…could we get you to unlock the basement door so we can see where the pipe comes into the house?” he asked.

“Okay…just let me finish up here, and I’ll run down and do that.”

I let them into the basement and warned them not to hit their heads on the low beam…I laughed as I told them how many times I’d “brained” myself on it.  They located the pipe and I closed and locked the basement door after them.

Later that night, I was getting ready for bed when I absentmindedly scratched my lower back…ouch!  Looking in the mirror, I realized that I’d been squatting in the garden for nearly six hours, and that the back of my tank top must have been riding up…I had a lovely red stripe of sunburn above the waist of my shorts.  Jim put some aloe vera on it for me.

*****

We were driving home from work on Wednesday when I mused, “I wonder what death and destruction waits for us at home!”  I was joking.

Arriving at the house, I ran to the back door to see what the workmen had been up to…the first thing I noticed was that the apple tree was GONE!  That little @#$%er had lied to me!  The fence was now open on two sides, allowing the deer full access to our back yard.  The backhoe had obviously been digging all day, and sat in the middle of the hole, surrounded by dirt.

View from the corner of our yard on Wednesday...there were solid trees and bushes between the house and the backhoe before...photo by Anna

What the yard looked like when we moved there in the fall of 2008 (we later planted our garden between the fence and the row of trees)...Hope is beside the fence...photo by Jim

*****

The guys were back yesterday and spent the day bringing in truckloads of dirt and dumping them in our yard.  I was home from the store again because I had a migraine…I successfully resisted the urge to throttle a certain young backhoe operator, and stayed in the house all day.  Jake barked his head off.

View from my deck this morning...there used to be an apple tree where all that dirt is...you can see the few pieces of the lilac tree at the right...

It’s a good thing for him that my landlord is out of town right now…otherwise, he’d be getting an earfull from me…I am not a happy camper!

To be continued…

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Filed under family, gardening, nature, rants

Seedlings, Saling, Streamers, and School Picture Day…

It’s been a busy week in Hammond River:

1. A week ago Friday, Hope and I were on the way to Giant Tiger to get presents for Dad for his birthday.  As we approached a pedestrian light, Hope observed that it should be the type that makes a noise, “You know, for the deaf people.”

I looked at her and asked, “What did you just say?”

“Oh!” she said sheepishly.  “I meant blind people!”

2. We celebrated Kaylee’s 25th and Dad’s 74th birthday with a combo party last Sunday.  The sun even made an appearance!  We enjoyed sitting out on our deck for a while, although I was dismayed to find that some small animal had chewed a hole in the seat of one of our deck chairs that we just bought last summer!

Kaylee reading in the background while Elise plays with her mom's birthday balloon...

 

For dessert, we had pound cake (thanks for the recipe, Lenore!), and chocolate cinnamon cake:

Kaylee's Birthday Cake...decorated by Anna...note to self: remember that Kaylee loves pound cake but doesn't like cream cheese icing!

Dad's Birthday Cake, decorated by Brianna...

3. Seedlings.  Monday was a holiday for Canadians: Queen Victoria’s birthday.  I took advantage of the lack of precipitation to finally get seeds planted in the garden!  My seedlings, however, are still hanging out in my back kitchen, waiting to go outside.  It’s supposed to be decent weather tomorrow, so I’m planning to stay home from the bookstore and get them transplanted!

Mostly tomato seedlings, with peppers at bottom left and brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and bunching onions in two trays at top left

4. Saling.  Saturday was the Annual Quispamsis Yard Sale.   It was misty, but not really raining, so Jim and I and the girls piled into the van, equipped with our highlighted map…we actually got away from the house within 15 minutes of the time we’d planned to leave!  Pickings were fairly slim compared to the first year we went, but I managed to get about $250 worth of books for less than $20!  Jim got a new leather wallet still in the box for a dollar (his old one is like George’s on Seinfeld!), 5 sets of Magnetix building toys for $1 each (which will be kept well out of Elise’s reach!), and a mitre saw for $15.  This was our best buy though:

My New Old China Cabinet (minus the shelves - we took them out to clean them)...reflections of my dining table in the glass

This china cabinet was sitting with a sign that said “Make an Offer” on it…it was filthy…I fell in love immediately!  After Jim saw me get all excited about it (and some discussion about where we would put it), he made an offer (I told him it could be my birthday present)!  After a little dickering, he got the cabinet as well as a bright green desk and chair for Brianna for $120.  Hope and I cleaned up the cabinet last night, and it already looks way better than it did when we bought it!  I’m planning to put my mom’s collections and some of my other family knickknacks in it.

5. Streamers.  I spent yesterday catching up on laundry, seven loads to be exact…I should have it all folded by Tuesday!  Dad worked on deerproofing the garden.  He installed the poles we got a few weeks ago, and strung them with string and streamers.  I hope it will do the trick!

Our (hopefully) deerproof fence...we are officially country folks now...only the best families have yellow caution tape flying from string in their back yards!

6. School Picture Day.  Wednesday, June 1st has been designated as School Picture Day by Clay Morgan at EduClaytion.  I will be participating along with my friends Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom), possibly Chase McFadden (Some Species Eat Their Young) and a bunch of other folks.  You’re invited too…just dig out your yearbook photos, write a little post, and then link up on Wednesday!

Graphic courtesy of ironicmom.com...

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