Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kitchen Renovation and Playroom Clear-out

We are entering that dreadful time pre-renovation when we have to start making permanent & definitive decisions and purchases relating to our kitchen reno.  I hate it.  It's totally a first-world problem, but I am filled with anxiety and dread about every decision I make.  They are all costly and for the most part, a permanent part of our foreseeable future.  We plan to live in the house indefinitely and I highly doubt we'll ever undertake a renovation of this magnitude in here again, so I want to make timeless and wise decisions.  Once it's done we can no longer say, "What were they thinking when they did that?!" - because we will have been those people not thinking.

Today was the very first major decision.  We went and bought two of the three new appliances we need.  I feel very confident with the fridge purchase, but a little bit uncertain about the stove.  The reason the fridge purchase is so weighty and necessary now is because unlike stoves, there is no "standard" size for refrigerators.  So in a complete renovation like ours, the fridge size will determine the cabinet size & placement.  No pressure or anything.

This is only the start.  If you are interested to see a glimpse of my vision for our kitchen, check out my Kitchen Renovation board on Pinterest.  You'll probably be able to tell very quickly which direction we're going.

Part of the preparation for the renovation is to clear out our existing playroom, which will become what it was originally intended to be, a dining room.  This is what has gotten me fired up tonight.  I first had to clean my 6 year old's room so that I could start incorporating some of the toys into her bedroom space (which is terribly small in the first place, just shy of 10x9 feet.)  Cleaning my kid's bedrooms & playroom always ends up making me so mad about how much stuff they have and how spoilt they are.  Today was no different.  After I finished the bedroom, I headed down to the playroom to try to winnow down her collection of toys.  She doesn't seem to understand that she doesn't need two of everything; two doll strollers, two doll beds, and literally 20 baby dolls (she likes babies). I'm not sure how I'm going to talk her out of some of these toys and we don't have many options for where else to put them as we have a moderately sized home: 1132 sq. feet with only a 1/2 size basement due to our house being a 3-level split.

I know I shouldn't complain, preparing for a big renovation is really a luxury, but a stressful one nonetheless, filled with buyer's remorse and self-doubt, at least for me.

Our playroom when it's clean, which isn't very often.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bits & Bobs

I don't have anything of much importance to report at our house.  Just a few odds & ends, hence the title of this post.

A Swiss Chard forest!
1. My garden is finally producing food.  Today was the first day I harvested anything, Rainbow Swiss Chard, which was promptly made into a garlicky chickpea curry and eaten with naan.  The tiny yellow zucchinis are growing at last (I anticipate eating them within a week) and the beans are flowering, a surprising pink flower.  The carrots still look very sad. I'm not including a picture of them as they look so poorly.

2. How is your summer going?  I swore I wasn't going to overbook myself & our kids this summer, it always feels like I do and before I know it the summer is past and I'm standing there stunned in the school supply aisle thinking, "How did it get to be the end of August?!"  Yet, somehow, it's already July 16th and I don't feel like I've relaxed at all.  The kids were done school on June 25th and since then we've:

  • Camped on the Saskatchewan side of the Cypress Hills with friends.  We were supposed to be there 4 nights but were rained out and came home after 3.  Mike loved it though and can't wait to go back. Unfortunately the inverter/converter (I don't know what it's called) quit on our trailer so we had to order a new one and Mike will be replacing it before the next camping trip. I also discovered a new favourite artist, Geoff Phillips, purchased a numbered print of his painting "Camp Harding" at his studio/home while driving back through Maple Creek, and am excitedly planning a collage wall centered around it above my living room sofa.
  • Had the girl's annual eye exam - they're both heading to glasses sometime in the next year, but for the opposite problems. The 9 year old is nearsighted and the 6 year old is farsighted.
  • The 9 year old went to St. Albert for a week to stay at her grandparents with her cousins from Ottawa.  We went up last weekend to pick her up and visit as well. Unfortunately two of us came back sick.  I spent the last three days in bed only to get up to drive kids to events. Today is the first day I did any food preparation since Monday.
  • The 6 year old has started 2 weeks of swimming lessons. For some reason this has caused me to start having nightmares about her drowning.
  • The 9 year old is in a week of science camp at Medicine Hat College.  I'm loving it because they are doing all the messy experiments that I see on Pinterest, so I don't have to! (Does that make me a bad mom?)  It's a bit disappointing to see that there are only 2 girls in the group.

3. What's coming up? I'm hoping to be completely recovered from this stomach bug before Saturday's Chili Cook-off!  Sunday is the Medicine Hat Horticultural Society's Annual Garden Tour, then next week is Stampede, the parade, the midway...  Such fun! (my new catchphrase - see below.)

4. I've discovered a new-to-me hilarious British comedy, Miranda.  I binge-watched all three series (only 6-30 minute episodes in each series, so not THAT much watching).  Mike was embarrassed by how loudly I laughed, he said he could hear me all the way in the garage while his music was playing.  I've never denied that I'm a loud laugher.  Some things are worth the belly laugh, find joy where you can!  You may recognize Miranda if you watch Call the Midwife, she plays "Chummy". I highly recommend it if you enjoy light, silly comedy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Gardening Done Wrong

I love to garden.  It's very calming to be outdoors, hands in the dirt.  To plant a seed and then later be able to eat the fruits (literally) of your labours is sweet indeed.

As much as I love it though, it doesn't seem to love me.  I try hard, so hard, to be a good gardener, but I think my thumb may be more black than green.

Case in point - this spring we realized that with our fence replacement behind schedule, there was no way we would get the backyard raised bed we had planned built in time for this growing season.  As one of our front flower beds was filled with the most hideous bushes known to mankind, I decided that it would be the perfect excuse to rip them out and plant a small vegetable garden there instead.  Unfortunately, by the time I got the bushes entirely removed, and my neighbour graciously rototilled it for me, I was already two weeks behind the generally recognized planting weekend of May Long.  Then we got that unrelenting rain and cool days and nights.  The sprouts were slow to come up and then most of the bean's leaves had rotted away from damp.  The spinach, which normally will volunteer itself anywhere a seed falls, had only two sprouts, TWO!

I'm thinking of blaming some of it on ants as well.  The bed was infested with small red ants making hills everywhere, but especially along the stems of the beans.  I ended up spreading diatomaceous earth over most of the dirt to kill the ants and replanting the sad, spindly beans.  Of course now they are over a month behind and I'm wondering if we'll even be able to harvest a single bean from them.

I was very excited about the basil plant I had purchased and planted in a pot in my backyard.  I had dreams of batches of pesto so large that I would have to can the excess! However, after only a week I noticed the leaves were turning yellow and brown and falling off of the plant.  I couldn't figure out the problem, I hadn't been overwatering it (basil likes dry soil).  Well, I might not have been overwatering, but apparently my husband was watering them every time he used the hose, and my 6 year old was watering them multiple times a day with her water gun. I cut the plant back, planted some basil seeds I had in the garage and am now waiting for the sprouts to grow into something usable.

I currently have only two successes.  I have a rather beautiful yellow pear tomato plant in a large terra cotta pot in my backyard that has many flowers and has already set quite a bit of fruit.

I have also had some good luck (so far) with a rhubarb that I planted in one of my front flower beds.  I know that a lot of gardeners in our area lost a significant number of their perennials this year. I lost 4 in one bed alone, so decided to use the spot that 3 of them had been in for a rhubarb plant.  I'm trying to incorporate more edibles into my yard and this was my chance. Rhubarb doesn't like it's roots disturbed, but it seems to be doing well so far in this partial-sun location.

I refuse to share a photo of my vegetable garden until it improves in appearance.  It's so embarrassing. That's the problem with front yard gardens, everyone can see how poorly your garden is doing. The neighbours probably wonder what on earth I am thinking.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

17 Canadian Food Maps & Charts

Vox recently posted a list of 40 maps that explain food in the US.  At the time I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if someone did this for Canada?" and then decided that I might have to be that someone.  I don't have 40, but here's my best shot. The Vox piece had a lot of information about fast food restaurants, which I didn't think was worth posting about, so I didn't.

What I could not find maps for, and wish existed, would be Canada-wide maps of locations and density of Farmer's Markets, U-picks, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA's), and urban farming. I recommend following the maps to their original source by clicking on them to see additional information and explanations.

1. Canadian Living produced an interactive infographic of each province's most popular food products:

2. We love maple syrup, so much so that we put a maple leaf on our flag:

3. Canada produces over 80% of the world's maple syrup:

A pie chart illustrating the information provided above.

4. Our culinary influences:

5. What do we produce?

6. Although we have an enormous landmass, not much of it seems to be that useful for food production. Notice how most of it is bunched up along our Southern border (other than the breadbasket of the Prairies).

7. We grow some specialty crops as well:Map of Canada showing Canadian special crops production. Description of this image follows.

8-10. You can't grow food without the right soil, precipitation and temperature.  The next three maps show that information:

11. Farms are getting fewer and larger, and farmers are getting older.

"The structure of agriculture has changed significantly over the last two decades with fewer but larger farms. While there were 280,043 farms in 1991, according to the Census of Agriculture, by 2011, that number had gradually declined to 205,730.  Since 1991, the average farm area increased from 598 to 778 acres, while the number of farm operators decreased from 390,875 to 293,925, a 24.8% drop. Over the same period, the average age of farm operators increased, rising from 47.5 to 54.0 years.
Between 1991 and 2011, the number of operators under 55 years of age decreased from 265,495 to 152,015 while the number of older operators increased from 125,380 to 141,920. Chart 1 illustrates how the age pyramid is shrinking with fewer farm operators under 50 years old. The trends of fewer operators and fewer farms show no signs of reversing and could indicate significant turnover in farm assets in the future. As the number of younger farmers continues to shrink, it is also reasonable to expect that significant amounts of farm assets will be bought by remaining farmers (increasing the number of larger farms) or may also be purchased by beginning farmersNote, private investors and immigrant farmers."

12. Here are our top agricultural exports & imports:

13. But not everyone has equal access to our bountiful food production:

Food Bank Use in Canada by the Numbers, 2013

14. Canadian Food Networks - I'm part of Growing Food Security in Alberta!

15. Global Imbalance of the availability of Nutritious Food:

16. Backyard Chickens: There are many cities and towns in Canada that allow backyard hens.  Backyard hens keep down the weeds, compost your kitchen scraps, and provide eggs!

17. O Canada!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pain Rankings

My oldest daughter was quizzing me on pain last night on the way home from Kid's Club.  She had gotten a splinter in the palm of her hand earlier in the week and it had peeled and was a bit inflamed.  You would have though she was dying by how she was carrying on.  She's always been a bit dramatic.  Some would say she got it from me but I prefer to think that she got it from her father's side of the family. I'm of stoic Scandinavian descent, not very dramatic.  But that being said, I have an extremely low pain tolerance, so maybe she did get that from me.

She wanted me to list my top five most painful experiences, and she wasn't accepting of a flippant answer, so I actually had to think about it and this is what I came up with.  1 is the worst pain and 5 is the least of any major pain experiences I've had:
  1. Tonsillectomy recovery
  2. Childbirth
  3. Gallbladder attacks
  4. Migraines
  5. Breaking off the funny bone in my elbow
I realized after that I am very fortunate that this is the worst I've ever had to endure.