Thursday, 23 April 2015

Update: Betty and green things growing

Well, I have done it again! I have failed to keep up with posting on a semi-regular basis like I promised I would (anyone surprised by that?!). It's spring now (although the sprinkling of snow outside would beg to differ) and my last post in February was about Betty getting spayed - my little baby growing up! What has been happening since then?!

Betty sporting her cone-of-shame on her bed in front of heat vent.

Betty was totally fine after her spay, she was sleepy for about half a day after she came home them BAM she was back to crazy puppy (so much for a break!). After Betty got home from surgery she was doing really well with her house training - I had feared the night in the vets doing her business in a kennel would set her back but she seemed okay...seemed is the key word there. Two days after the surgery and Betty seemed to revert back to the week we got her, pooping and peeing in her crate over night, going anywhere/everywhere in the house. What a nightmare! It took some time but she got back on track with her pees on the training pad at the back door but poops?! Lost cause. Keeping up with Betty has been keeping me busy. She has completed the next level of obedience at PetSmart, she has so much energy I take her for two walks a day (average walk distance is 3 km, usually takes anywhere from 45-60 minutes to get the walk completed) and as for house training?! I am taking her out in the backyard at set times to do her thing and she is getting it! The only thing we need to work on is her telling me when she as to go outside. I can't imagine the scheduled trips outside will work for her and I forever, so I have to get her to give me the signal that she has to go out - especially if we are visiting my mum (the only place she is still using a training pad is at my mums, since she plays so much more, drinks so much more and has to pee way more!). All around Betty is doing much better, I think the walks and scheduled days make a huge difference in focusing her energy. The only issue that I am currently dealing with is her new desire to attack my feet when we are on a walk - this is a whole other issue that I won't get into today.

Betty is growing up and is learning about the joys of laying in a warm sunny patch.

So what else has been happening? Well it is spring and major garden preparations have begun. There have been some beautiful days so far, I have been digging in the dirt, things are being constructed in the backyard (more on that later). But over the past two days the temperature has dipped again and there is a tiny bit of snow in the backyard - enough already! I have plants that are crying out to get in the garden, I need to set them free!

Pepper forest starring Jalapeno, Ghost and Trinidad Scorpion peppers.

Close up of a Ghost pepper.

I have started plants from seeds again thins year. A lot of plants. Vegetables and flowers (annuals and perennials). And yes, in my excitement I started too many and some I started too soon. Oh well, could be worse!? I have a forest of pepper plants in the upstairs studio. I have lost count of how many plants to be exact, but lets just say we wont be short on Jalapeno, Ghost and Trinidad Scorpion peppers. Funny thing, I know I will only use the Jalapeno peppers, the other two super hot peppers are for my brother, but if these plants are successful there will still be too many peppers for him to use...what else can I do with an excess of such hot peppers?! The rest of the plants I have started are in the basement. I have three shelves set up with grow lights and they are overflowing with plants! There are several varieties of tomatoes that are doing pretty well but I know the basement has been a cold and less than ideal space for them to get started in. I also have eggplants, bell peppers, daisies, cone flowers, forget-me-not, sage and hyssop growing like crazy. I so desperately need the weather to improve so I can get some of the flowers outside to make room for more seeds to be started. I think I have a problem...addicted to sowing seeds?! Is that a thing?!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Photographing Betty

Today I am browsing some photos of Betty since she is away at the vets being spayed. She is staying overnight at the vets so this makes for some quiet time for me and Buster. I don't think Buster trusts that she is really gone - he has already done two sweeps of the house looking for her, he can't believe the house is finally dog-free!

Getting photos of Betty has not been easy and sadly I missed getting loads of photos while she was a tiny pup. I have been trying to get more photos whenever I can, but it sure is a challenge! Below are a handful of the recent snaps I was able to get of her in the few seconds she stopped tearing around the place like a little tornado!

Taking a peek at the snow outside

No idea why her ears are standing up like this

Lounging by the heat vent

Warming her bum

Sitting still for a split second...

...before jumping at my face!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Dreaming of a garden

So it's been really cold lately, like REALLY cold. As in the -30's with the windchill. Oh, and it's snowed plenty. Yet all I can do is dream about this summer's garden. I am hoping that spring shows up soon but who really knows what is going to happen this year. Last year it felt like it took ages for the snow to go and for the ground to warm up, I hope this year isn't quite so severe because I cannot wait to get cracking on the garden!

All I can really do now is plan, shop for seeds and daydream...oh and soon enough I will be starting some seeds indoors. Seeing little green sprouty-things in the dead of winter indoors helps cheer me up a little. When I do get seed starting in the coming weeks I will share a bit more of what I am planning on growing in this years vegetable garden along with some flowers I plan on starting from seed - some seeds I have bought and some that I saved from last years garden. Until then my fellow gardeners of Southern Ontario, stay strong!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Stay inside and stay warm Part 2

Did I mention it has been cold? Well it has. Very cold. We need a new word for cold its that damn cold. I have decided the best way to stay warm is by staying inside - genius, I know! But what can you do indoors day in and day out to stay warm? Bake! Bake all the yummy things your pantry will allow and get that oven cranked up to heat your house!

I have attempted two apple cheddar quick bread loaves following this recipe. Both turned out pretty good, not perfect, but certainly edible enough for me to have to make that second loaf, having demolished the first one in about two days. I did tweak the recipe however, using olive oil in place of canola oil and while baking the second loaf I lowered the temperature to 375 degrees, since 400 seemed too high the first time around and left me with a loaf that was rather brown on the outside while still a bit under-cooked inside. I may still experiment with the recipe as I have found the loaves are a bit too moist and dense, not as bread-like as I had hoped.

Next up were cookies. I made two types of cookies, first was chocolate chip following this recipe. They turned out great and made a very large batch. If you are going to make these be sure to follow the baking times closely. I thought the cookies looked underdone so left them to bake for another few minutes when they really were done the first time I checked. They were a bit on the crunchy side because of my own doing. The second batch of cookies I made were sesame tahini cookies following this recipe. I figured I would give them a go because I had all the ingredients on hand and I often have a hard time getting through an entire jar of tahini before it goes bad. Again, follow the recipe and don't leave them in the oven longer than recommended - I have a bad habit of this! The only change I made to this recipe was to roll the cookie tops in cinnamon sugar with some extra sesame seeds rather than just the raw sugar the recipe called for. The cookies turned out really well and I have really enjoyed them - they are definitely different than your usual cookie and remind me a bit of shortbread.

Finally I whipped up another quick bread, this time a cheddar jalapeno loaf following this recipe. I pretty much followed the recipe exactly, but I used pickled jalapenos. The bread turned out really well. I am not sure how much the pickled jalapenos may have changed the flavor of the bread but I am happy with the outcome.

Sadly I still have issues with eating bread. I basically stopped eating bread altogether because I was always left feeling not great (serious indigestion) after consuming pretty much any bread product. I thought for a while it was the yeast in the bread that was doing it but I have come to realize it is likely the flour - maybe an issue with gluten? I am torturing myself by eating what I have baked over the past few days and if I don't want to keep feeling like crap I am going to have to try some gluten-free recipes.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Stay inside and stay warm Part 1

It has been really cold lately, as in the high -20's with the wind chill...and the sun just keeps on shining...fooling me into thinking it will warm up slightly. So what do you do when it's this cold outside? Well, you stay inside of course! But I am getting pretty tired of sitting around inside, since there is only so much you can do to keep yourself and a hyper-active 5 month old puppy busy day after day. I have tried to get Betty out a couple of times when the cold hasn't been too severe but she has shown her extreme dislike of this weather by stopping at the bottom of the walkway in front of the house and turning around and running back home. We have been getting out once a week to go to puppy class at Petsmart, which gives her time to socialize with other puppies and dogs, practice her skills (sit, stay, come, leave it etc.) and she gets a nice walk around the warm store! We have also taken trips to my mum's place so Betty can have a change of scenery and run around with/torture my mum's dog Millie. This past Saturday though marked the end of puppy class and Betty won't be starting an Intermediate level class until mid-March. What to do?! We plan on visiting Petsmart for a few indoor evening walks. There really isn't an alternative as there is no where else indoors to take a dog.

In between eating, drinking, pooping and terrorizing me, Betty likes to spend her time snuggled on her puffy bed, covered in blankets positioned in front of the heat vents. She is one clever puppy - she moved her bed from one side of the room to the other just to be near the heat! I think we should all be like Betty and park ourselves in front of a heat source and snooze for the rest of the winter!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Goals for 2015

Never mind New Years resolutions, this year I have made myself a set of goals for 2015. These goals are simply things I want to achieve through the year - do more of this, less of that, try some new things and get some essentials done around the house. I plan on revisiting this list of goals every so often and I will let you in on the progress I am making. Does anyone else out there have a list of goals for 2015? What do you want to accomplish this year?

1. Get Betty house trained
My number one goal is to get Betty house trained. Some puppies seem to be easier to train than others. I am sure Betty is not the worst but she has been frustrating. I plan on having her fully house trained as soon as the good weather rolls around. I also hope to have her trained fairly well in the areas of sit, stay and leave it. Right now she is doing pretty well with sit (when a treat is involved) but leave it is a biggie we need to get sorted! I would also like to improve her walking on-leash skills. She loves walks, no doubt about that, but walking nicely without ripping my hand off? We will see!

2. Organize and clean the basement
I started on this almost right away, but whether anyone besides me could notice the difference in the dungeon of doom, its hard to say! I figure this will be a long term project and will require weekly maintenance because of the nature of our basement and the state it is currently in. To sum it up, the house is over 100 years old, the foundation in referred to as a "rubble foundation" and it is in need of repairs and until the repair work is done by a professional (this is NOT the type of foundation fix a DIY'er can or should try solo) the walls continuously "shed" dust, sand and dried mortar. In case the crumbling walls weren't enough of a messy challenge, the main floor of the house has no sub floor, so there is a constant flow of dusty debris raining down through the cracks in the floorboards creating a layer of yuck on everything stored in the basement.

3. Increase the vegetable garden in both size and yields
The summer of 2014 was my first year at growing veggies in the garden and for my first year I think I did pretty well, but improvements can always be made. I am hoping to expand the garden this spring, build some additional raised beds, make better use of the raised beds I already have and try some new crops. I also intend on setting up a dedicated seed starting space in the basement.

4. Attempt canning and preserving what I grow
For a long time now I have been interested in canning and with last summer's veggie garden I had good reason to start canning to preserve some of the veg I was knee deep in! I didn't give it a go last year so this must be the year! I was gifted some canning supplies for my last birthday and I plan on putting them to good use this year.

5. Use my studio space
Lucky me, I have studio space in my home! I hijacked the smallest bedroom to use as my very own creative space and to date I haven't put it to good use. More often than not it has become extra storage space, a dumping ground for stuff. This year I plan on using the space as I originally intended: to get back to making things, working on the artsy stuff that I have always wanted to dedicate more of my time to. To up this goal a notch, I also hope to re-open my Etsy store (pretty sure I said that last year...regardless this will be the year!).

6. Eat more real food, less processed crap and get healthy
I suppose this must sound like a typical New Years resolution of "lose weight", but I am not cutting out anything cold turkey, I'm not starting some crazy trendy diet and I am not setting unrealistic goals or sinking money into gym memberships that will go unused. I know I need to lose weight and make improvements in my life to get healthier and there is no better time to start making those improvements than right now. I am trying to make slight adjustments here and there by cutting back on some things and substituting good foods for the bad ones. I have a target weight that I would like to reach by the end of the year - nothing outrageous or unrealistic for my body type, just something that would make me more comfortable and that might help alleviate some of the health issues I have had that can be attributed to being overweight.

7. Be more active
For starters I need to do more walking, less sitting on my butt, no excuses now that I have a dog to walk! At the moment the weather has not been good for going for walks, its been pretty cold and icy out - too cold to take the puppy out but I should still be getting out there...and I will! In the better weather I am aiming for two walks a day, I need it and Betty needs it, she is a very high energy dog. I expect to start and end my days with a walk with the pooch, along with all the other walking around and physical activity that will take place in the garden. I also aim to use my bike more. This past summer I failed at getting on my bike and I don't know why? There's no shortage of trails around my house. This year I intend on a bike ride a week (once the weather is right). I have not decided yet, but I may look into some exercise classes this year (like I did in 2014). I found some to be really enjoyable and they really made me push myself, the down side was the classes were a drive to the other side of town - there wasn't anything very local.

8. Get my drivers licence
Have I mentioned that I don't drive? Yup, I don't drive, don't have my licence, have never driven a car (with the exception of a spin around an empty parking lot with my dad when I first got my learners permit, which expired so many yeas ago!). Oh, and did I mention I live in a town where you really REALLY need a car to get from point A to point B? My goal is to take my written test for my learners permit (G1), get some practice driving in, take driving lessons and attempt to get tested for my G2 as soon as possible. This one is a big goal for me because I cannot continue relying on other people for drives everywhere, I want to be able to go on a road trip across Canada one day and must be able to share the driving responsibilities with my trip-mates and there are some people (cough *husband* cough) that have said they don't believe I will ever drive, so I must prove them wrong!

9. Finish all the DIY jobs I have started
So there are a couple (okay, maybe more than a couple) DIY jobs that I have started but failed to finish around the house. I am vowing to complete the half done projects before diving into any more. For starters, the shelves in the dining room - the brackets I needed that were back-ordered at Ikea for about 8 months FINALLY came in, I can get cracking! Oh, and there is another unfinished dresser in the basement that needs a coat of paint...the list goes on!

10. Hold a yard sale
I have wanted to do this for some time now and this summer feels right! I hope to hold a yard sale to help get rid of some of the excess amounts of stuff I have in this house - it is scary to think that barely 3 years ago I moved from a 1 bedroom apartment to a 3 bedroom house (with a basement and garage) and I still have managed to over-stuff the place! It's time to de-clutter and let go of things I have been holding on to for far too long.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

2015 What, already?! And a Betty update

So a bit of time has passed since my last post...oh and also Christmas and New Years! I hope everyone had a great time over the holidays and got their 2015 off to a great start! Christmas was good but a little hectic for me, having to deal with the world's craziest puppy and all! Betty has been doing pretty well since New Years but the month of December was difficult. She is one stubborn little puppy that does not want to be house trained and that wants to grab anything and everything with her little razor blade teeth! We started a new puppy class on January 3rd and it has been going pretty well. There are only 3 other puppies and their families attending the class and the instructor could not be more patient, friendly and in love with what he does.Overall Betty is taking steps in the right direction but I am hoping that with her puppy teeth due to start coming out any day now, the biting and random chewing on things will ease.

As for house training, great progress has been made over the past 2 weeks. Betty is not getting me up in the night anymore AND as a bonus she is not having accidents in her crate! She had stopped getting me up in the night at one stage but continued to pee in her crate. I cannot begin to explain how frustrating it is to have to change the blankets and towels in her crate once, sometimes twice a day! Betty is now having very few accidents in the house - when she does its usually because she has been playing and gets distracted and out of nowhere a pee hits her! She is almost exclusively using the training pads stationed at the back door. I would like to get her going outside and abandon the training pads but it has been pretty cold lately and she seems just too small to handle the cold (and when it takes 2 people 10 minutes to get her coat on each time she has to go out I haven't bothered).

One big regret I have with Betty so far has been my lack of picture taking with her. I had grand ideas of getting videos and photos to document every step of her journey with us...that has been really difficult. I am at home with her all day myself and I have been kept so busy running around after her, cleaning her messes and being chewed on that I haven't really had time. She also tends to not want to sit still, and to top it off she is a black dog that doesn't photograph well - especially with our dark wood floors (sometimes she is nearly invisible). It doesn't help that I have a crappy camera and that with it being winter and all, by the time the husband gets home from work and could potentially help with handling the moving target known as Betty, it's just too dark and any attempt at a photo comes out looking dreadful. One of my goals for 2015 will be to get more photos of Betty - its just sad that I have very few photos of her as a squishy teeny-tiny little puppy. I am hoping this winter doesn't drag on like last winter and we can get outside more and snap some photos.

Along with taking more photos of Betty, getting her fully house trained and hopefully morphing her into the best behaved little doggy on earth (yeah right!), I have several other goals for 2015...I will post more about them later and I promise to share my progress with reaching these goals as I go.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

What has been keeping me busy?

As my last post mentioned, I have kept quite busy since the summer. September started off with me getting the finishing touches completed on the spare bedroom. There was a massive cleanup that happened, the closet/office was finished with some shelves we made, the empty bed frame finally got a mattress and bedding, curtains were hung and an old dresser I bought from a thrift shop almost 2 years ago was finally refinished and given a proper home! I wish I had some photos to share but didn't get any when the room was all clean and set and since then Buster cat has made a mess of the bed to an extreme - getting fur everywhere wasn't enough, he had to get sick all over the new duvet!

The spare room was completed as we were having visitors from Ireland. In traditional fashion, when you live in Ontario and have guests visiting Canada for the first time, we went up the CN Tower immediately following their arrival. Let me tell you, it is worth going up for dinner. Let's be honest, going up the CN Tower is an expensive elevator ride and depending on the time of day and weather, you never know what kind of view you will have. If you go up the tower for dinner then the elevator ride is free - and the fixed price menu makes it really worth while. The food was fantastic, and what luck did we have?! There was a massive thunderstorm happening during the dinner - we are talking MASSIVE thunderstorm! From the time we sat with our drinks until well after we left for the night, a lightning storm hit the tower - now it would be difficult to plan a trip like that if you wanted to see such a light show, but if you have the chance to be at the top of a giant lightning rod during a storm, take it, its madness! The tower is so solid you couldn't really hear the thunder but the flashes of light were something else! The tower was hit repeatedly while we were there and it was spectacular. The only downside is that the outdoor observation deck is closed in such! The following day we packed our bags and car and took our visitors for a week of Canadian cottaging on Georgian Bay. As this all happened the week school started back there was virtually no one in the area staying in the surrounding cottages so it made for a quiet and relaxing time. The weather was good for the first half of the week before we got a good dose of rain and cooler temperatures. We still managed a splash in the lake and a hike in a near by park where I saw my very first porcupine up close and personal! I love porcupines and have always wanted to see one and in the excitement surrounding the sighting I forgot to take photos.

Almost immediately after our visitors set back off for Ireland, the husband followed - for a week long visit for a friends wedding. Left on my own I made the crazy decision to take a part time job when offered a position by a former employer. What was I thinking?! It was not bad at first, getting back into the swing of working outside the home and going back to a job I was very familiar with, but very quickly I remembered some of the reasons I had moved away from that job all those years ago. I stuck with it for a short while but this week is my last and then I'm back to being productive at home in my studio...also...I'm at home taking care of the newest member of our Betty!

Betty is a Boston Terrier Pug cross and she is super cute but the biggest (little) devil of a puppy. I have been kept running around non-stop since we brought her home (towards the end of October). What a handful a puppy makes and what a mess when this stubborn little ball of energy does not want to get house trained! She is currently sleeping on my lap while I type this...I am enjoying the 15 minutes of peace I will have before she gets up to terrorize me once again! I have been doing my best to train her but she is stubborn and possibly a bit mental (like all puppies). We have been going to puppy school, which was a waste of time and money - we are going to look for a new school after Christmas where we hope to learn more of the basics with her and have a chance to get her better socialized with other pups. She absolutely loves people, a few people in particular she is so crazed over she cries uncontrollably when their visit comes to an end. She has been pretty good with any other dogs she has met but she is just so much smaller than all of the other dogs and puppies she has encountered that she hasn't had a good chance to play with someone her "equal". She does however love terrorizing my mum's dog Millie (a 12 year old miniature dachshund). Betty thinks the world of my mum's house, full of carpet and used dog toys! She also loves driving Millie mad - Millie is good to put up with her but has definitely had to grumble at her and show her teeth to get Betty to settle.

I hope to post a bit more often than I have been lately, especially since I won't be working odd retail hours anymore, so I aim to keep you up to date on the progress Betty (and I) are making with puppy training. I also hope that once this little fur ball gets more trained I will have the freedom to get cracking on some projects in the studio - when that time comes I will update you on what I'm working on.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Where did the summer go?

No posts (garden or otherwise) since the middle of July?! I'm terrible, I know. All I can say is that I became so involved with the garden that I barely touched the computer unless it was to do veggie-related research. Along with being up to my armpits in soil and tomatoes, we had visitors from Ireland (which meant finishing the guest room), a trip to a cottage on Georgian Bay, I started a new job and there has been a new addition to the family (more on that later!) so blogging took a back seat. I will do a slight recap of what has happened since July, but as it's NOVEMBER I won't spend too much time going too far into detail.

Let's start with the garden...

After being excited and snapping so many photos of the first few vegetables I quickly became overwhelmed by the volume of veg that the garden was spitting out that I stopped taking photos. What more can I say?! Below are some snaps of the garden that stole my heart this past summer.


I dare not take and post photos of what the garden looks like now...lets just say there are four empty boxes full of soil in the back yard, covered in leaves topped with a light sprinkling of snow! As far as garden successes and failures, there were many! One of two zucchini plants was extremely productive, the other not so much, but I still managed a total of 51 zooks that were all a very decent size. The chard and kale (the few plants that survived the caterpillars of doom) showed their worth towards the end of the summer, in fact I harvested the last of both just a few weeks ago (blanched and frozen into cubes). Lemon cucumbers were a winner, producing so many so fast I couldn't keep up with them. I only got about two dozen carrots but what I did harvest was great and I can't complain since the seeds were free! As for tomatoes?! I harvested over 85lbs! That was far more than I expected, especially since the weather was pretty rainy and damp and we didn't have as much heat as we often do through August. Sadly there was a lot of lost veg from the week away at the cottage - a soggy, rain filled week that helped rot take hold of the few remaining toms. Radishes were great, beets and turnips didn't do so well and the parsnips? I got about 10 parsnips, some a bit small, others a great size but taste-wise they were lacking. I suppose they could have used longer in the ground (several frosts?). I waited until they had experienced two frosts but perhaps they needed more? Now what on earth did we do with all this produce you ask?! Well there is still a considerable amount of veg frozen in the freezer, we ate veggies non-stop through the summer, I supplied family with more tomatoes than they could handle and box after box of veg went with the man to work!

Of course now that the growing season is finished all I can do is daydream, research and make plans for next years garden - I cannot wait! And stay tuned, my recap of the past few months will continue with a post on our visitors from Ireland, the Georgian Bay cottage trip and I will reveal the new addition to our family!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Garden snaps and a harvest update

I will keep this post short-ish and simple because I have to dash outside and get to weeding the back lawn (boo)! Below are some garden snaps over the past two weeks along with some of what has been harvested. To date I have picked 8 zucchini, several bunches of chard, 8 little spring onions, 65-70 radishes and 3 turnips and 3 beets - both of which were small, I picked too soon (I was excited!). Here is hoping I get much more in the weeks and months to come!

Oh, one more thing: what to do with your zucchinis? Anyone who grows zucchinis knows you can easily get overrun with them - chocolate chip zucchini loaf is great (just supply your mum with one or two zucchinis and hope for a loaf in return!). But have you tried zucchini fritters? Best. Ever. I whipped up a batch on Wednesday, they took no time to make, were so easy and yummy. Give them a try when you are up to your eyeballs with zucchini! The recipe I followed can be found here.