Thursday, 27 June 2013

Not Cool Enough, Mom.

I used to be able to buy clothes and things for my kids just because I thought it was cute.  Not any more.  Now things need to be "cool".

I bought some plain grey slip-on shoes for my 3-year-old at Target.  He has loved similar shoes in past years, so I figured he'd like these ones.  But no.  He refused to wear them because they were not cool.  I convinced him to let me buy them by promising to paint piratey things on them.

I couldn't use my usual freezer-paper-stencil method for fabric painting, so I cut out the shape I wanted, held it in place, and traced around it with a pen.  Then I used my smallest paint brush and filled it in.

I think he likes them.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Streetcar Saturday

When I woke up this morning, I said, "Let's do something fun."  So we went for a ride on a 1947 Australian streetcar.  My papa used to drive these streetcars.  It was so nice to do something out of the ordinary.

Crossing a 100-year-old bridge

Friday, 7 June 2013

My Little Garden on a Budget

I spent the past week visiting garden centres and greenhouses.  I was impatient to implement Heather's lovely design for my garden, but I also didn't want to spent a lot of money.  So I was looking for the best price for each plant.  I got the forget-me-nots free from my husband's grandma, and I had two Stella de Oro daylilies already.  I followed the plan for the most part, with two exceptions. I only bought one PeeGee hydrangea, because I'm cheap, and I figured I could sacrifice a little fullness today because in a couple years it will be bigger.  The other exception was buying white campanula instead of blue.  I fully intended to get blue, but at the last minute I fell for the crispness of the white.

I bought each plant at the cheapest place I could find it.

  • Pee Gee Hydrangea: Superstore, $15.99.  The next cheapest price was $29.99 for the same size.
  • Stella de Oro Daylilies: Walmart, $6.95 (They only had one), and Lowes, $8:95 (it was big, and I was able to divide it into two plants)
  • White Coneflowers: Lowes, $4.98 each
  • Campanula: Rona, $2.49 each
Of course, if I had bought the plants at actual nurseries, I would have likely gotten bigger and/or healthier plants.  But these all seem to be happy with their new home.  Except the forget-me-nots.  They're still sulking.

I am so pleased with my newly-pretty front yard!  I'm eagerly awaiting the blooms, and I'm much more motivated to keep the weeds at bay now.  If only our grass wasn't so brown and patchy and weedy.

I moved most of the delphiniums I had in the island bed to my tiny rose garden.  They are quite happy.  The other delphinium that I put somewhere else is definitely NOT happy.  I hope it survives.

See the sulky delphinium (below, under the meter-thing)?  My shrubs here look awful.  The diablo ninebark still hasn't forgiven me for my reckless transplant two years ago.

I finally planted a lilac under my kitchen window where I've wanted one since we moved in.  The variety is Miss Canada.  It's little, but I'm hoping it grows well.

My simple porch is my favourite spot to sit in the morning.

Last year I tried to transplant my bachelor's buttons.  They politely disagreed.  While thriving in their new location, they also came back in full force at the old location.  I surrender!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

How to Fold Grocery Bags (and why on earth you'd want to)

I'm sure most of you are thinking, "Why on earth would I waste time folding plastic grocery bags?"  And you're thinking I'm quite insane.  So I'd like to address the Why before starting on the How.

Reason #1:

Folded bags take up way less space than crumpled bags.  And why is this helpful?  I've made a list:

  • To prevent pulling out five bags from the drawer or wherever you store them every time you need only one.
  • To easily toss in the diaper bag.  Plastic bags are invaluable when you've got a kid in diapers or potty training.
  • To tuck in your pocket so you can be a good neighbour when you take the dog for a walk.  You know what I mean.
  • To keep handy on road trips.  If you've ever travelled long distances with kids, you know that bags are important.  And cars get messy on road trips with kids, so it helps to have said bags tucked in somewhere handy.
Folding the bags actually takes very little time.  Less than 30 seconds for me, and my sister-in-law is even faster.  I learned this tip from her, and she learned it from her grandfather.

How to fold grocery bags

  1. Flatten the bag and fold it in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise again.
  2. Starting from the bottom of the bag, fold the end over to form a triangle.  Keep folding, following the previous folds until you reach the top of the bag.  No need to strive for perfection, of course.
  3. Tuck in the last few inches of bag handle and flatten your little folded bag.
Simple!  Personally, I think this is a brilliant idea.

PS: What do you think of the new design?  I started out designing new business cards, but couldn't stop there.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

My Gardening History

When I was a kid, I desperately wanted to learn how to garden.  My mom single-handedly landscaped our yard.  When she was done with it, the backyard had a huge deck, a playhouse, a strawberry bed, a raspberry bed, two apple trees, a garden shed (painted to look like cottage), and a big play house.

My one foray into learning how to garden happened when my mom let me have one of the planter boxes on the deck.  It was 18 inches tall, 12 inches deep, and about 4 feet long.  I decided to plant irises and sunflowers.  I was about 10 years old and had no clue about anything.For my efforts, I got one iris flower, and three "Giant" sunflowers.  They were about a foot tall and looked more like daisies.

Then there was that year I help my best friend's family to plant a huge vegetable garden on their acreage.  The rows had to be perfectly straight.  Don't step on the rows!  And don't put in too many seeds!  I was planting carrots, and it was a little too finicky for my childish sensibilities.  I'd have the patience for it now, but I didn't understand the reasons for it at the time and just wanted to go play.

My next attempt came once my husband-of-one-year and I moved into our second apartment.  It was ground floor and had a little patch of dirt beside the patio.  I knew it was hot and dry and sunny, so I naively ventured to the garden centre and bought portulaca, daisies, and a few other things that said "full sun".  I planted them, watered them, and then left them alone.  I didn't realize that although the plants could tolerate dry conditions, they still needed to be watered daily until they were established.

That summer I helped a friend plant some impatiens and daisies, and learned the proper way to do so.  Her mom also told me about watering every day.  My nanny gave me some snow-in-summer, which became my very first gardening success!

The following spring I tried starting seeds...which completely failed.  I still haven't figured out how to do that successfully.  I'm always so tempted by the pretty little seed packets, but inevitably all the seedlings die after about a week of hoping.  Too much water?  Too little water?  Not enough sun?  I don't know.

Then we moved to our townhouse and I learned to love shade gardens.  I fell in love with bleeding hearts, ferns, hostas, etc.  It was at this house that I learned a little about landscaping.  When we moved in, there was a zero-maintenance back yard.  Landscape fabric everywhere, with a pretty purple tree, red lava rocks forming an impractical and uncomfortable patio of sorts, and small shrubs and evergreens dotting a half-moon bed full of bark mulch.  So I ripped out all the landscape fabric and put down a patio.  I loved that little patio, even though it was uneven and I had no clue what I was doing.  I used a circular patio kit, and filled in path areas with zigzag bricks that had been in a 5-foot wide strip along the house.

I also planted bulbs for the first time in that house.  The little front yard under the hawthorn tree became a riot of red, orange, and purple in the springtime.  We had a huge problem with slugs the last summer we were there.  I tried the slug trap using beer, and it only seemed to attract hundreds more slugs.

I was so sad to leave that garden behind.  Back to full sun at this house!  But at least I've learned to appreciate well-placed landscape fabric.

At this house I have learned so much more about gardening.  I started with one bed at the front of the house containing two dogwoods and two diablo ninebark shrubs.  I couldn't wait to rip most of those out!  I moved the diablo ninebark to the side of the house, and they're still recovering from my inexpert haphazard transplant.  One of the dogwoods wasn't doing well anyway, so I didn't replant it.  My friend Deb gave me some free plants: a gorgeous white peony, some orange daylilies, monkshood, and another unknown but pretty plant.  That first spring I bought some bachelor's button and irises at a garage sale.  All are thriving!  In fact, I'm ready to giveaway some plants for the first time ever.

I've also tried my hand at vegetable gardening.  My grandma-in-law Eleanore usually gives me her extra tomato plants that she starts from seed, and my husband usually requests that we grow peas.  We've also tried carrots and popcorn, and last year I had an herb garden.  My chives are thriving, and--surprise!--the oregano actually survived the winter and is slowly coming back.

In the four years we've been here, I've tried various methods of creating new flower beds.

  1. Removing the sod: Effective, few weeds, but hard work.  Lucky for me, my husband did the biggest one while I was pregnant.
  2. Laying down newspaper on the grass, and covering it with soil: Best idea ever!  I needed to use more dirt though.  The only weed I get in that garden, aside from one or two dandelions and thistles, is grass from seeding the lawn.
  3. Digging up the sod and flipping it over the the fall, hoping it will decompose by spring:  Not recommended.  I'm still pulling grass clods out of those gardens, and have yet to make them look pretty.  I think they'll get landscape fabric and mulch this year.
  4. I'd love to know of any methods that have worked for you!
This I still need to learn at this house:
  1. How to care for a lawn.  We've got dandelions everywhere, and I blame it on last year's aeration.  But at least our immediate neighbours take care of their lawns.  A good third of the lawns in our neighbourhood haven't yet been mowed this year, and are now sending dandelion seeds everywhere.
  2. Garden design.  Thanks to Heather, I'm learning.
  3. How to find good deals on plants.  It wasn't 'til today that I thought of looking for plant swaps/sales, and turns out they all happened last week.  Oh well.
The more I do in this yard, the more attached I become.  I think it will be harder to leave this garden than it was to leave the last one (especially since I just planted a lilac under the kitchen window where I've always wanted one).  At least in the next garden I won't make quite so many mistakes, and I'll learn even more.  By the time I'm 80, I should be an expert.  I am so grateful to all those who have shared their knowledge, their plants, and their gardens with me. (Mom, Ashley, Dianne, Debbie, Deb, Nora, Eleanore, Heather, and I'm sure others that I am forgetting).

Crocuses and Snowdrops in Eleanore's garden.