Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Thumb is Itching to be Green!

Veggie and herbs at Day 8Last night with my Brownie unit, we planted seeds. Beans in a clear, plastic cup, so they could see how they grow, and Marigold seeds in egg cartons. I decided to soak the soil this time, rather than the egg cartons, to ensure that they didn't dry out too fast, and hopefully prevent them from molding. There is a lot more pressure for the plants to thrive and grow when you're dealing with 7 and 8 year old girls, rather than my own pride!

Prepping for the activity, I was going through children's activity websites and even got a few books from the library. Wow! Talk about great ideas! I am itching for the warm weather to return for good so I can get started on my garden! My plants will be ready before I know it also! Look how tall they are already!

Tip for next time - beans and peas can be planted directly into the garden. There is no need to start them indoors. I knew this, after helping my mom plant her garden for years and years, so why did I decide to start them indoors? I have no idea. I will have to transplant them soon, however, so perhaps a small container garden will bear some veggies until the soil warms up?! 

Penny and Fergie watch over the world from their windowI also planted 'cat grass' yesterday, which is nothing more than oats. I had hoped I could score some free seed from my parents' farm or the feed mill, but seeing the seed packet for $1.69 the other day, I decided the convenience was worth it and purchased the packet. The grass should be up in only 5 days, and I suspect that by day 15 ,it will be ready to set out for Fergie and Penny. Now maybe they will leave the rest of my plants alone!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Home Depot Dream Book Wishlist

Home Depot Dream Book
I picked up my "Dream Book" from Home Depot today. Yes, that would be the one that they have been advertising nonstop on their radio commercials.

It says right on the cover that is is "Designed to Inspire", and while I have to admit that it did not provide me with overwhelming inspiration, there were  a few items that left me 'dreaming' of possibilities.  Here are my fave "Dream Book" picks for this spring and summer:

The Black and silver 3-piece bistro set on the Urban Oasis page (31). Available in April, I
 couldn't find this on HomeDepot.ca, but at $129, this cute, little set is certainly affordable! The opposing page shows a bistro set on a gravel patio. I think that gravel would be a great addition to my backyard to replace the poorly constructed brick patio between my deck and garage.

American Standard Retrospect Collection Console
This American Standard Retrospect Collection sink is a great idea for small bathroom spaces, while still providing some storage space, something I struggle with in my bathroom. This one will be put off for a while - a bathroom reno is nowhere in my foreseeable future!

The Wallpaper Company Mega Flowers in blue and white
Still trying to determine a wall solution above my bed, I have been toying with the idea of a faux fabric headboard. Seeing this great Mega Flowers paper from The Wallpaper Company has made me wonder if moulding and wallpaper might also create the same effect? I browsed through the wallpaper selection while I was at Home Depot, and they have some fabulous prints for 'feature walls'! 

Finally, I am a big fan of pendant lights, and the Hampton Bay cast aluminum pendant on page 15 is super cute! Unfortunately, I don't have the budget to afford the big, grandiose Victorian entrance that I think it deserves!

What's on your wishlist for this summer season?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring is Sprung in My Yard!

Spring bulbs in my flowerbed
Tulip bulbs coming upFinally! The tulips I planted last fall popped their heads up this week! I was a little worried that the skunks would dig up all my bulbs, but they were kind enough to leave me a few! These ones weren't beneath mulch, so I'm waiting to see if a few more tulip and hyacinths push up in the remainder of my beds.

I love winter, but now that there is no more snow for 'fun stuff', I am more than ready to see green lawns and colour again! It's interesting how the south-facing side of my street has almost green lawns already. Of course, I face the north, so my front lawn is not so vibrant. I actually worried yesterday that maybe all my grass died this winter. It wasn't the healthiest lawn last year, after all. 

The Lillie's and daffodils have also come up beside my house where we regraded. I am going to pick up some grass seed this weekend, so I can throw that down when it gets warm enough. Rain is forecast for the next week, but I am a little scared that it is still too cold.
Sprouted beans
Finally, the first of my seeds have popped up! 

These will be green bush beans. I am a little worried that my egg carton is too wet. There is light gray mold on some of the containers. Does anyone know what that means? 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Only 2 Things are Certain - Death and.... Taxes!

Tax time always seems to serve as a lesson in what "should have" - as in, what I should have done last year with my money.

Last year, it was "you should have borrowed from your RRSP for your house down-payment". The net result? A barely existent return that was only positive because I super-contributed to my RRSP for the last few weeks of the year. This uber-contribution proved to be a benefit in the long run, because the investments I cashed in for my down-payment would've left me paying the tax man on the healthy gain I'd made. 

This year, it was almost the opposite. I didn't contribute enough- or any, would be a better approximation. Having pulled all my money out to buy stocks (which makes logical sense to me - buy low, right), I had no contributions to report this year. So, as it turns out, I will be paying additional taxes this year. 

Does it really yank anyone else's chain when you're told "it looks like you are making too much money and should be in a higher tax bracket." Too much money??!  If I was making more money, maybe I would have some additional to put into RRSPs!  OK, that is perhaps a little unfair, since I did drop a little cash at IKEA last weekend! 

In truth, I really realized that I still don't understand very much about financial planning and personal wealth. I thought I understood my company's retirement options, but if this were the case, then I wouldn't have left H & R Block feeling steamrolled today. Maybe it's time I consider hiring a financial planner, rather than just trying to piece together tidbits of advice here and there. Does anyone else have a financial planner or have you found any really good sites or advice that you feel confident in?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Starting Seeds From Scratch

As promised, I started some seeds indoors this weekend. I had Supplies to start seeds from scratchcome across a tray in my parent's basement a few weeks ago, so I brought it home with me. Beside representing the ocean in my brother's science project 10 years ago, it was unused, so I didn't even need to purchase more pellets or peat trays.

I picked up several seed packets from Home Depot. They were $1.69 each, which seemed reasonable to me. I did come across a Home Hardware flyer when I got home that advertised $0.49 seeds, so you may want to head there this week if you want to save a dollar or so. I bought mostly veggies, as well as basil and oregano. In hindsight, I perhaps should have bought more herbs as they grow well in containers, and I am not sure if I will get my garden done or not for the veggies. This may have to be my motivation! I also bought a bag of potting soil.
Seeds planted and covered with thin soil layer
1. Soak the peat trays in water if they are dry. I read somewhere that dry peat will take the water from the soil and plants if they are no moist enough, so I soaked these first.

2. Fill sections half with potting soil. Sprinkle in seeds and cover lightly with soil. Most seeds do not need a lot of soil cover (5-15mm), so be careful not to plant the seeds too deep. Peat pellets work great, as they expand once moist, and then you just stick Seed trays labelledyour thumb in to make a hole, place the seed in and smooth over. Also, remember to label your seeds, so you remember what you planted!

3. Water well. I put water in the base of my tray and sprinkled over the peat container. Cover with plastic and place in a bright area, AWAY from direct sunlight.

If the containers are moist enough, they should 'self water'. This means that you will likely see lots of condensation on the plastic cover.

Now, it's just a waiting game to see if anything sprouts!Seed trays set in lighted area, out of direct light

Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Home For My Collection

Utility Drawer Turned Collection Display ShelfOne of the items on my 'do-do' list this weekend was to put the rail and rack that I purchased at IKEA earlier this week. Until now, I have displayed my small collection of shot glasses (picked up at various worldwide destinations on my travels) in an old utility drawer that I 'borrowed' from my dad's shop and turned on its side. 

It worked, but I was too scared to try to mount it on the wall, so it ended up sitting on my counter, tucked into the corner. It wasn't in the way, but it certainly did not give my collection the attention I felt it deserved. Not to mention, my cats used it as a hiding place when they knew I was coming after them to 'spritz' them for being on the counter.

IKEA GRUNDTAL Rail and Spice Rack
Enter IKEA. Flipping through the catalogue recently, I came across the GRUNDTAL series. The 
stainless steel rail and spice rack looked like just the thing to mount my collection on the wall.

Other IKEA purchases that deserve bragging rights - this BILD poster that is the perfect
 addition to my living room's fireplace mantel.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Has Officially Sprung!

Happy Spring everyone! 

Check out my blog this weekend - I'm going to start some seeds, jump right into 'spring cleaning' and share my duvet shopping experience!

I'm back to my happy, blogging self after what I hope was my last hectic working week.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Home Again - Ahh Sweet and Safe Home!

Back in my house again today! It was such a nice feeling to pull into the driveway and on such a beautiful day! 

With my hasty retreat for the airport, I was not surprised to find a few little 'treats' as I unpacked and did some tidying up.  My compost garbage resembles a furry, living creature, so I guess I forgot to put it out before I left. I thought I'd save you the nastiness of posting a picture of it! I also discovered that I had forgot to unload some laundry. Is there a more putrid smell than damp clothes left for a week? Perhaps there is, but the stench is certainly still nauseating. Luckily, it was only some rugs and furniture covers, so another good wash should take care of it!

As we all know, bad things happen in threes - so with those two discoveries behind me, it was inevitable that there would be one more. My neighbour brought me the news. Our new neighbours who moved in this fall, had their house broken into the other night while away on holidays. YIKES! Going on the assumption that I have nothing to steal isn't making me feel as comfortable anymore. Luckily, my traveling is nearing its end, so I will be home more often. It's still scary though. Is it time to consider a security system? Saving the headache alone might make it worthwhile. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Curling blog to follow the week here

I wish I'd come across this sooner. Reading through these ladies' blog this morning, I was amazed by how similar their outlook has been to mine!
The Curling News has been giving game-by-game, day-by-day updates on the happenings in the ice, around the Saddledome and of course, in the Patch. Check them out, and I'll be back here on Monday!

John Morris of the Alberta Team Martin
I also have to share this picture. While blogging has been on my back-burner this week, I have been able to spend ample time in the Saddledome, and I even took advantage of the opportunity for a photo with my own celebrity curling crush. I hate to admit it, but I am now an official member of the Johnny Mo fan club also!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rockin' the House - At the Brier

I have been a very delinquent blogger this week, and I apologize for that. I am tied up with another house this week - at the curling rink for the Tim Hortons Brier. The Canadian Men's Curling Championships are in Calgary this week, and I have been spending the week back and forth between the rink watching games and the Stampede Park venue we're renting for some events.

Events all day, and The Patch (aka Brier Patch Beer Gardens) in the evenings have left little time for blogging. I promise I'll be back next week. There are lots of 'house' stuff that is eagerly awaiting my return, I can assure you! Have a great week and check out The Tim Hortons Brier on TSN all week!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Day at the Market

It is fast becoming routine for me, that a Ladybug Pastries and Crepesweekend in Calgary is not complete without a trip to the Calgary Farmers Market !

Well laid out and laden with incredible rustic atmosphere, I really believe that it is destination for most market-goers. The aisles bustle with folks just like me, sipping their PHIL & SEBASTIAN java, browsing the vendors, and sampling Simple Simon Pies, delicious hummus and organic juices.

You learn so much just by taking it all in and talking to the vendors and fellow customers in line Phil & Sebastian Coffee Companyto buy Alberta carrots and cucumbers (in March!). For me, it was almost saddening to have to pass up all the wonderful produce, frozen meat pies and homemade sausage. Yet, I did still manage to empty my pockets of all cash and change (only select vendors accept plastic). Alberta and imported vegetables for sale

Tulips to brighten my hotel room, cranberry trail mix (Going Nuts), homemade Poppycock, BC Fuji apples, and a wonderful, little pecan tart should keep me going for a few days at least. A few tulips to brighten my hotel room

After an hour of wandering and sampling, my appetite for lunch was nearly quenched, so I grabbed a bowl of Carrot Ginger soup from the stock and sauce co. for the road. An afternoon snack perhaps?

Some of my favourite non-foody vendors? Check out Rainbow Glass for beautiful, hand painted stemware, carafes, oil and vinegar bottles, Eden Essentials for natural and green bath & body and cleaning products, and Bon a Pet Treat for some goodies for your four-legged friends! What about your favourite finds at your local market?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Curried Cauliflower Soup - A Great Lunch for Cold Days!

Curried Cauliflower Soup
With all this chilly weather, I can't help but want to eat soup everyday!

Last weekend, my cousin made Curried Cauliflower Soup for dinner, and I fell in love. The recipe can be found in the Autumn 2008 LCBO Food & Drink Magazine. Typically, I find these recipes can sometimes be a little complex and require odd ingredients that I don't have around. Not this one! The soup was easy to make, and I whipped it up on the stove while making dinner last night. The curry flavour isn't too strong, and the cauliflower gives it a creamy texture that is comforting on a cold day without being too heavy or packed with fat.

Definitely a recipe I'll be bookmarking to make again! 

Do you have any favorite soup recipes?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Great Deal on a Refurbished Phone & Great Service All in the Same Day!

Refurbished telephone from Home HardwareI officially have a landline now! Only 1 1/2 years after moving into my house, I have a phone!

Before rushing home to meet the Cogeco guy, I stopped at Home Hardware to see if I could find a phone. I had recalled seeing a bin of refurbished phones during one of my many trips, so I thought I would check that out first. 

Turns out, they are a pretty good deal! There were at least 20 phones in the bin, so there was lots of choice, but the best part was the price! The phones were at least 50% (or more!) cheaper than a new phone. I ended up buying a Panasonic set with 2 cordless handsets for $39.99. 

To top it off, if something doesn't work with the phone, there is a one-year warranty - the same as a brand new phone! 

On another note, I was floored when the Cogeco guy was at my house waiting for me to come home. This is definitely a first for me! Usually when the cable company gives you a 3 (or 8) hour window of time, they show up 15 minutes before the end, and you feel like you've wasted your day waiting for them to show up. That has been my experience, anyway! 

Talk about great service! Not only was he on time, but he was done in only 15 minutes! I was able to carry on with the rest of my evening, as if no one had been there at all! 

Have you had really good service with a cable company or other service provider? Any horror stories? 

Monday, March 2, 2009

In the Market For a TV? March is the Month To Buy!

50 inch plasma for $899 on wishabi.ca
According to "Real Simple" magazine this month, March is the month to buy a new TV if you've been considering a new purchase.  New models are introduced early in 2009 and start arriving at stores the end of March, so retailers are trying to clear out last year's inventory.

Go here and here for some tips on how to negotiate a better deal, then shop away!

I have to admit, it's pretty tempting to replace my old, $99 Canadian Tire special with a new flatscreen above my fireplace! 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Free Coffee From Country Style!

I was on redflagdeals.com today looking for phones (my landline will be installed tomorrow, so I thought it was about time) when I came across this:

Save Your Losing Tim Horton’s Cups For Free Coffee—at Country Style! (Feb 23-March 8) This clever freebie from Country Style, the Ontario coffee chain, is back! February 23 to March 8, bring in a losing Tim Horton's Roll Up The Rim cup and get a free medium coffee. There's a limit of one free coffee per person per day. Now, finally, every cup of Tim Horton's will be a Roll Up The Rim Winner -- whether it's a winner at Tim Horton's or the Coffee Style down the street. (Here's a store locator for you, so you know where to turn in your cups.)

While I know that this isn't exactly house related, I had no idea that this was going on! I've lost on every cup of Tim's that I have bought since Roll Up the Rim began a few weeks ago! I wish I'd known, and I would've saved the cups - now I'll have to buy more losing coffees to get free coffee!