Monday, May 23, 2016

Some Gardening Thoughts

One of the things I love about hard work outside is that it affords me plenty of time to think, uninterrupted.  Usually about things completely unrelated to the work I'm doing. Yesterday I thought about how it's kind of a strange feeling when you first discover how much you didn't know, that you didn't know, you didn't know.  Right?!  Allow me to explain with some examples...

Great Blue Herons

The first time I ever remember seeing one, was about 17 years ago as we were driving down the highway.  A giant pterodactyl-like creature flew over the van and I screamed "whoa! what was that?!" to everyone in the van, and probably a 2 mile radius. Of course no one in the van knew what in the world it was, so when we got home I used whatever search engine worked at the time (google was still a baby and wasn't really anyone's go-to for search engines back in the day) and looked up "a pterodactyl like bird" and discovered what it was.  There was no such thing as an image search back then either, so I had to do a fair bit of reading before I found it.  The Great Blue Heron instantly became my favorite bird ever!

The funniest thing is, a few years later we all took a road trip to my home state of Washington and on the way to my mom's house we passed a beach that was full of... herons!  Of course I was delighted and told my mom all about them and she just sort of chuckled at me.  She wondered where I'd been living the first 33 years of my life since that bird is native to the area, and pretty much always has been.  To this day I have no idea how it's possible I lived in western Washington, with water and beaches pretty much every where you look, and I never once saw a Great Blue Heron.  But it's true.

Brain Freeze

I've heard my whole life, not to eat ice cream or drink ice cold drinks too fast, or you'll get brain freeze.  Everyone hears that.  It's sort of like you hear not to go outside with wet hair or you'll catch a cold. Well, it's sort of like that but it's actually true. Once, one of my kids claimed to have brain freeze and I knew that because right before she threw herself on the floor holding her head and wailing like a banshee, she screamed "BRAIN FREEZE!!" and then cried for 15 minutes.  I should have earned the Worst Mother of the Year Award in that moment because a.) I didn't really believe it was that big of a deal and b.) I just told her something along the lines of "get up and stop acting like a fool". The thing is, I'd never experienced brain freeze myself, so I had no idea. Yet.

Last summer while on yet another road trip (I'm sensing a theme here) we stopped for lunch at this amazing little place in Wall, South Dakota.  It was about 100 degrees that day so everyone ordered an ice cold drink with their lunch.  I opted for a strawberry daiquiri. Now before I continue I have to say it was the most fantastic daiquiri I've ever had in my life.  And, they served it (more or less) in a mixing bowl.  It was HUGE, and I really wanted to finish it since I paid for it.  Well... this is where things went sideways. I mean, really sideways.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

DIY Back Yard Project Day 10

Well, my baby grass got it's first mow today :)   I was going to wait another week but the way it's growing so fast now it needed it immediately.  I could not be happier with the way it's coming in. There were some real obvious patchy spots just a few days ago but the seed is filling in so nicely I'm not even sure I'll still need to do patch work.

All that's really left to do now, is continue to water daily and get some of that awesome red cedar mulch and top up the sections around the fence.  Here are some before and after shots.  All the before shots are what it looked like in the first week after the fence guys were done, and what it looks like today.

If you click to enlarge, you can see how muddy it all still was the day this before shot was taken.

The before shot in this comparison was literally the way it looked the day the fence guys left, just five weeks ago.  The after shot is today taken from the same corner of the house. 

Before: 3 weeks ago (I'd already seeded a week prior to this)
After: how it looks today.  The PVC lattice hanging on the fence when the sand box is in use, serves a double purpose. 1. It's a handy place to put it and 2. It actually brings a little life to that drab, old, faded fence wood.  We are seriously considering having the same company back next spring to replace this back fence to match the side fences

So, this concludes the DIY Back Yard Project for 2016. It was a LOT of hard work, and worth every trip to the massage therapist! 

Friday, May 13, 2016

DIY Yard Project Day 9

Well, things are coming along pretty well!  Better than I expected, really. Here's how it looks since my last update:

Even though I've been calling the posts by "daily" updates (and they were at first) they're more general now because the daily hard work is actually done. Yay!  Here's what I've done in the last few days since the last update:

- Filled in all the sand I needed from the picnic table all the way to the fence under the lawn swing.
- Hung all the nylon solar lanterns around the chairs where they go
- Borrowed son-in-law's saw and cut the obnoxious branch over the fence at the back of the sand box and hung the lattice board on the fence (and it's been working like a charm for keeping the cats & dogs out of the sand box while it's not in use!)
- bought a new umbrella stand and popped the umbrella in the picnic table (and not a moment too soon, as I had to clean off birdy doo-doo from the freshly painted table before I put the umbrella up

Then I filled the hummingbird and oriole feeder and hung both of those.  It's a little early for those birds yet but the key is to have the feeders out before the birds migrate back into the area so that they see the bright colors and know your yard is a bird-friendly place!

Even though this has been a huge DIY for me, I have to give a monumental shout-out to two local companies that have helped make our back yard look the way we wanted it.

Flawless Fence and Deck for our super awesome new fence and Woodstock Tree and Stump Removal for their fast, friendly service, and awesome prices when it comes to removing unwanted trees, stumps and tree branches. Both companies impressed me with their professionalism, hard work, and dedication.  I'm old school, so these things matter to me.  I can't recommend these guys enough.  If you're local and you need stuff done, give Rob a call at Flawless, and Mike a call at Woodstock Tree Service.  We're looking forward to calling Rob and his crew back next summer to rip out our nasty old deck and replace it with Awesome Deck. :)

What's left now is more watering each day, adding some fertilizer in the next few days and then the first mow in about a week. There are a few patchy spots where it doesn't look like the seed germinated at all, so in a week or so I'll do some patch treatment with more seed & more topsoil. I considered doing an edging between the sand and the grass (similar to the sand box) but decided I wanted a more natural look, so I won't be doing a border.

And then... I'll be ready to tackle the front yard.  Not nearly as much work to be done out there though. Thankfully. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What Are YOU Celebrating?

Normally I would post something like this over here at my store blog.  But I wanted to share this here simply because it's just a little more personal.

As we go through life, most of us tend to measure the passage of time with memorable events. Engagements, marriages, new babies, graduations, retirements, and various milestone birthdays from sweet 16 to 21, 40, 50, etc.  And then, there are those phenomenal wedding anniversaries: 25th, 40th, 50th.   For most people, these are HUGE events worthy of celebration with friends, family, co-workers and those who mean the most to them.

When I first began designing full time for such things, I was rather humbled and honored to be the chosen designer for the event invitations (and matching party favor stickers, postage, favor bags, etc.) for these events. That hasn't changed one bit.  When someone orders 300 of my custom designed wedding invitations, or 100 graduation party invitations, I actually get excited!  Obviously I'm not going to be there to enjoy their celebration but in a way, I get to be part of the celebration through my design. This is a tremendous event for this family and they've chose my design to be a part of it.  That's huge!  That's bigger than huge, that's incredibly wonderful huge.

Words can't really do it justice for how thankful I am, so I've created a gallery of what people are ordering to celebrate their own family milestones. You can view the gallery here.

This is my way of saying THANK YOU for choosing my design, to be part of your incredible milestone.  I cannot begin to come up with the words to express how honored I truly am, that you've chosen one of my designs for your special event.

Monday, May 9, 2016

DIY Yard Project Day 8

Well, it's been over a week since I've been able to update since I literally took a week off this project while I tended to more pressing family matters.  The one thing I did keep up with however was the daily watering of the new seed, on days it didn't rain.

Today I was back at it!  Here's the way it's looking now, and what I've been able to accomplish:

1. I've hung all the solar lanterns on each fence post. Lanterns and hooks were both purchased from the dollar store. Not really for functional lighting but more for accent lighting, they're quite bright and look pretty awesome at night :)

2. Moved the compost bin to the back gate area.  We'll be composting again this spring/summer/fall to create some awesome topsoil for the yard for next year.

3. Picked up 4 super cute outdoor canvas throw pillows to give a little comfy pop of color to the lawn swing.

4. Painted the last Muskoka chair and re-painted the table top and bench tops of the seats on the picnic table.

I still have a lot left to do. More sand fill-in, shepherd's hooks for the green and blue solar lanterns that go around the chairs, new umbrella stand for the picnic table and pop the umbrella in there (it gets plenty of shade but the umbrella itself shield the table from birdy surprises), replace the firebowl and top up the bark along the fences.

The BEST news is, my seeding job is coming along exactly as I suspected.  I'm not sure if you can really see it well but about 90% of my seed germinated and is coming up quite nicely.  Because the dirt wasn't "scientifically" level :) it's natural for some of the seed to filter down to lower levels and not germinate. I'm quite pleased that those patchy spots are even less than I anticipated.  I'll wait for the first mow (in about 3-4 weeks) before I decide if I'll need to patch fill or not.  If I will need to do that, it'll be just a little seed and a little topsoil to fill in those areas.  It's been 2 weeks since I seeded, so I'll be fertilizing in another 2 weeks and likely mowing the back yard the first time about a week after that.

Where the old grass wasn't trampled by the fence work and buried under mud, it's already begging for a mow but it'll just have to wait.  Even more great news, my Peonies have defied the trampling and the mud and have both come back up as healthy as ever.  My butterfly bush didn't fare as well so I'll be replacing that very soon.

I'll update again a week from now and hopefully my "lush green lawn" will actually resemble one, at that point :)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Using Food Stamps?! You Filthy %$*#@!

The older I get the more I find myself in this strange place where I sometimes don't even recognize myself.  I find I want to be compassionate towards people. I want to help them. I want to hug them, and tell them someone cares. That's not the strange part.  The strange part is, at the same time, sometimes I want to deal with other people in a completely different way.  I just want to clip them upside the head and tell them not to be so ignorant and cruel.  Of course I know a clip upside the head never fixed anything and I'm not about to actually do it, but some people just push that button in me. I'm pretty sure everyone reading knows exactly what I mean.

If you've been on social media at all in the last 5 minutes, you've likely seen some version of this saying right here.  I have no idea who actually came up with this quote (google image search it, folks attribute it to everyone from Ghandi to their Auntie Esther) but it's a great little quote to have in mind on a daily basis.  Hourly, if need be. Especially if you're one of those people like me who have a private battle of my own.  Yes, it's true.  I'm addicted to something and no matter how hard I try to break the addiction it gets the better of me time and time again. It's horrible and I know it, but I just can't stay away from reading comments on posts or articles.  I'm not new to the internet, I know better! Yet, the struggle is real.  And I walk away wanting to clip someone. Almost every time. Which brings me to the real reason I'm typing away here today.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day: I'm of two minds

So here we are again with another Mother's Day.  Depending on who you are, and what your circumstances are, that phrase either makes you happy, or makes you very sad, or causes a great deal of anxious turmoil in your heart and mind.  Or, you don't have any kind of reaction to it at all. It's a strange sort of thing.

Today I was in the grocery store and saw all sorts of men and women frantically attempting to select the perfect bouquet at the florist counter.  It was nothing short of a mad-house in that section of the store. Much like Christmas Eve at the mall.  People utterly desperate to give the mom in their life some kind of pretty token of appreciation. If my mom and I were closer than 2600 miles apart, I'm sure I'd be getting her some pretty carnations. I might get some for myself too :)

I've been a mother myself now for 33 years. Well over half my life now. Technically, it's the one thing I have the most experience, over all else. I've had all sorts of Mother's Days from wonderful and happy to depressing and frustrating.  In our family, we don't really have a hard and fast tradition when it comes to this day. I don't know why, we just don't.

Just skimming through my social media feeds I see so much mixed emotion about this day.  So many folks my age (50+) no longer have their moms.  I feel incredibly blessed that I still do.  I also feel so sad for those that do not.  So many remember their mamas with such fondness.  The stunning photo of her as a young woman, the funny thing she always said, or her favorite hobby. Then there are those that want a child more than anything, and for some reason they just cannot have one, or haven't had one yet. For them, this day isn't really something to celebrate, but instead it's a jarring reminder their heart's desire isn't yet within their reach.

It's always curious to me how people respond to this day.  It always causes me to think about what actually being a mother means. The short of it is, it's the most impossible, terrifying, demanding, important thing I've ever failed at miserably again and again, and it's also the most amazing, wonderful role I've ever had the chance to experience. You, and you alone, as "mother" are the one person someone else looks to as an example of how to be an awesome human being.  That role of "mother" is sort of magical and horrifying all rolled into one.

In my 51 years on this planet, I have been blessed to be the mother of 8 pretty incredible people. Brandon, Caryn, Jennifer, Jessica, Jordan, Rachel, Samuel and Ruth. Seven are by birth, and one is by choice.  Through it all, I have done things I should have never done.  Said things I should have never said.  Reacted in ways I should have never even considered. Some of us have gone through death together, moving to another country, living with different relatives, marriages and divorces, fights, bullies, being homeless, jobless, carless, churchless, but never ever hopeless.  No matter what, God be praised, there was always food on the table and an "I love you" at the end of the day.

Some of us have taken amazing road trips together to awesome places, laughed all night at the fire, sat on my bed (because Mom's Bed is where you sit to do these things) and wept together as we talked through the hard things, and spent countless hours in private messaging talking through life's stuff.  Each and every one of them have nicknames for me, and I have nicknames for all of them.

I have never been the PTA mom, and I've never had a tea party.  In 33 years have baked at least 8 million cookies & whipped up 20 million smoothies for after school snacks, but I'm never ever ever going to win Mother of the Year, unless the competition qualifications have categories for sweat pants, baseball stats, baked beans and cornbread for supper, and the most ridiculous thing Mom has ever said.  I think I might have a shot at it, in that case. I think "shut your mouth and eat!" should be the golden ticket. I'm pretty proud of that particular brainless statement.

I only hope when I'm old and creepy (I think that's closer than I realize) my kids will all remember me with the same fondness I see others expressing.  I haven't always made the best choices in life but I've always made what I thought were the best choices at the time, with my kids being my #1 concern.  Some of those have turned out pretty fantastic.  Others, not so much.  It's the way life goes & there are no do-overs.  In those cases, you suck it up buttercup & move on.

So what does Mother's Day 2016 look like for me?  Drive a kid to work, hit the grocery store for school lunch stuff and dinner stuff, laundry, message my mommy (who by the way, is THE coolest mom, ever) on FB and tell her happy Mama's day, various housework, pick up a kid from work, take a nap, make dinner & eventually settle on the couch and watch tv until I remember it's a school night and tell hubby "okay bye, I'm going to bed!".  Yep, just another day, livin' the dream. :)

And I couldn't be happier. Maybe I'll get myself some carnations at the grocery store.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fort McMurray: How You Can Help Right Now

By now, I can't imagine anyone online in the last week hasn't seen the devastating images of the Fort McMurray wildfires.  If by some odd chance you haven't, you can see them here.

If you've never lost your home or business to a fire, or if you've never known anyone that has, it might be hard to imagine what it's like to see everything you've ever owned, everything you've worked so hard for, simply go up in flames, and be reduced to nothing but a pile of ashes.

Words really cannot describe the feeling, and while there is nothing that can be done to bring any of those things back, there IS something everyone can do right this minute, that will help make a difference in the lives of so many tens of thousands of people and families directly affected by this fire.

Not only can you go directly to the Canadian Red Cross site here and donate any amount you're able, but dollar for dollar the Canadian government has pledged to match every donation:

"Today, I'm pleased to announce that in addition to the government of Canada providing future … assistance the government will also be matching individual charitable donations made to the Canadian Red Cross in support of disaster relief," said Trudeau, who was drowned out by applause from MPs across party lines." - source:

Here are some other ways you can help:

  • The Red Cross has set up an Alberta fires appeal and you can click here to donate. You can also text "REDCROSS" to 30333, which results in an immediate $5 donation to the fund. The Alberta government has announced it will match donations to the agency. 
  • Edmonton Emergency Relief Services is calling for donations and volunteers. Specifically, they are collecting diapers, baby wipes, new toiletries (soap, shampoo, tampons, toothpaste etc.) and new socks and underwear. Donations can be dropped off at the ERS offices in downtown Edmonton (10255 104th St.). They will be distributed where they are needed most. If you'd like to volunteer with ERS, please call 780-428-4422 and leave a message.
  • Citizens are advised not to go to the Northlands Expo Centre in Edmonton to drop off donations or to volunteer, as they are blocking access to the very people who need it.
  • On the Fort Mac Recovers site, residents can request help and others can sign up to donate and volunteer.
  • Edmonton's Food Bank is also accepting donations for those affected by the Fort McMurray fires. Donations of food may be left at any major grocery store or fire hall. You can also make monetary donations through the food bank's website.
  • This site aims to help pair Albertans able to open their homes, rental properties, recreational properties, and other available space to people in need of somewhere to stay.