Sunday, May 02, 2010

I know I mentioned on Facebook that Roger had made our Wavey (the Wonder Cat) a cat stand, using a satellite dish as the top perch, and several people asked for pictures, so here they are:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I finally dug out the cord to upload my pictures! Yay!

So, first things first. I guess the most timely thing is the garden. Roger and I have been busy preparing our garden space. I dream of bumper tomato crops (and someday, canning my own tomato sauce, 'cause I miss Mom's so much!)--and peppers and squash. When we bought the house last year, we knew neither of us was interested in keeping the pool, so the plan since we first saw the house has been to turn the fenced-in pool area into fenced-in garden area. Roger disassembled the pool a few months ago and he's been digging the garden beds for me, sifting out the rocks (LOTS of rocks) and adding nutritional stuff to the dirt.

With my gimp leg, I haven't been too useful in the digging. My part is in getting the plants going. I had good luck starting my seeds in coffee filters and baggies a few years ago when I made myself a little container garden, so I decided to try the same method here. Last time, I kept them in glass jars in front of a south-facing window. Unfortunately, there were two problems this year that I didn't have then: 1) a cat that likes to jump into windowsills and 2) one south-facing window, small, no sill. My improvisation was to tape the baggies onto the window. The cat couldn't get them that way, plus they'd get maximum sun exposure.

These pictures are from late March, when many of the seeds that had sprouted radicles (or molded) had already been removed--there were maybe 20 baggies to start with. Mostly, I started tomatoes, but also sunflowers, beets, chard, basil, thyme, watermelon, honeydew melon, carrots and chives. A lot of them were older seeds that I wasn't sure would germinate, but to my great delight, the only seeds that didn't show me any signs of wanting to germinate were the carrots (from 2004). Of the sunflowers seeds I had from our old neighbor's fabulous garden on Willingdon, nine of them gave me radicles and in peat pellets, they've mostly thrived. Wavey did discover my first, precocious sunflower on the kitchen table, however; bad kitty, no treat.

Next year, I'll just use paper towels. They held the moisture better, allowed for more air in the baggies, and overall, the seeds seemed to prefer them.

This is the contraption Roger made to help him sift out the rocks. The black cloth on the ground behind it is my weed-inhibitor and that bed is ready to plant as soon as the seedlings are ready.

And these are my seedlings in (and some graduated out of) the cold frame. When I ran out of room under the cold frame, I improvised and turned a couple of bakery containers from the grocery store (cinnamon rolls) into little cold frames. We cut some vents into the sides of the lids and they've worked pretty well--except that the seedlings are on the brink of needing more space.

And then there are the flowers. The previous owners had made several flower beds and planted them full of perennials, and since I have no idea what's going to bloom before July, it's been a fun treat to go explore the garden beds every few days.

In the bed in front of the pool/garden fence, there are plants that I'm told will be lilies of some kind, plus some lamb's ear, a single tulip (there's also a single tulip in the front of the house), and some kind of little purple bell flowers I don't know the name of.

This is in the pool/garden area. These little purple flowers with ferny leaves are coming up outside of the bed too. (Any idea what these are?) In the back, you can see the spiky beginnings of new hasta growth.

I have a whole bed devoted to star-gazer lilies. (I got to enjoy those last year.)

I'm not sure what this shrub is either. It will maintain the red tip leaves for the rest of the summer. I had no idea what flowers to expect, but I really wasn't expecting these soapy-looking bunches.

There's a little area next to the house where there's evidence of a hot tub having been there several years ago, and around the edge are planted some of my favorite plants that are just starting to regenerate.

This is my echinops plant, which will produce those spiky little flower balls that get used in dried flower arrangements.

Another surprise. I'm not sure what they are, but I'm pretty sure they weren't actually planted there on purpose, which probably makes them weeds. (I've seen more gorgeous weeds here than I ever knew existed. It makes it hard for me to pull them up!)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Okay, so it's been forever since I've posted anything. (Sorry, Mom.) Mostly, this is because I take pictures, but Roger replaced my 256MB memory card with a 2GB card and now I never run out of space and so I'm never forced to transfer the pictures. That's right, I'm blaming Roger.

So, if you're still checking this blog for updates, what do you want to know about and what do you want to see pics of? Clearly, I haven't posted pics of the new house yet. Or the move. (Believe it or not, we're still not done with the boxes. Even our books have just recently begun being unpacked.)

To tide you over, I am posting pictures of the cats. Wavey, who will be six months by the end of November, is scheduled to be spayed this week. Big Kitty (known by former caretakers as Purr-Purr), I'm sorry to say, died in September; Roger & I miss her quite a bit, but Wavey adapted quickly to being the only cat in the house.

Wavey and her two brothers, Peanut and Jack (I think)

Wavey and her brothers being watched over by their mother Marianne.

She was so tiny!

She was also the most interesting one of the bunch, as it turned out--and the most adventurous.

Big Kitty sleeping on a makeshift nest of paper.

Big Kitty liked to be touching us at all times if we were within reach. This pic taken on a break from packing at the apartment.

When she was tiny, she used to curl up on our shoulders against our necks. . .

. . . or walk behind.

Big Kitty wasn't too happy about Wavey being right there when she woke up, but this is the first time the two of them were so close without Big Kitty having a hissy fit.

When Mom & Dad & Katie & Grandma came to visit in September, Katie managed to grab both cats for a picture.

Big Kitty was always a lap cat (for us) and Wavey followed suit. (I think this is our last picture of Big Kitty.)

Foil balls and coin wrappers are endlessly thrilling.

And Wavey's fascinated by the TV & our computers.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tonight is our first night sleeping in our house.

This morning we were informed that our apartment is being shown tomorrow at five, and the only way for us to make the place navigable to anyone else was to start moving some boxes to the house; we hadn't done any of that yet because it's been rainy and chilly and if you don't have to move when it's like that, you don't. So we've been postponing the real move-in day. (All our stuff is out of the storage room we were renting, though, and stacked in the basement--we did that on Sunday.)

It didn't rain today. In fact, the sun came out for a few hours.

So we are sleeping in our house tonight, because once we started packing boxes into the van, it made sense to undo the bed and load it into the trailer (we borrowed from a friend), pack up Kitty and her stuff and move it in tonight. She's been wandering around the mostly empty (and echo-y) upstairs, hollering for the last hour and will likely continue to do so for the rest of the night. Tomorrow we go back for kitchen stuff and the rest of the books. We have OJ in the house, but no glasses, bread but no plates. I love this in-betweenness of moving. We just took our first showers in the fancy-looking shower in the big bathroom and now I'm on the hunt for a brush or comb.

And once I figure out which bag/box the camera landed in, I'll have pictures of our moving and house and kitty (and us, if we can manage to catch each other not behind boxes) for you all to enjoy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Wedding Cake Endeavor

A couple months ago, Roger told me that his coworker Debbie's daughter had decided not to have a wedding cake at her wedding, even though she would have liked to have one. And I agreed that as long as everyone involved understood that I am an amateur cake maker, and hadn't even held an icing bag in my hand for years (because Sarah was usually the one of the three of us who wanted to decorate cookies with that kind of detail), I would be happy to try my hand at a small wedding cake so that the bride and groom could have that moment of feeding each other--or smashing it into each other's faces, whichever they decided to do.

The bride's grandmother volunteered her top tier (which had been in the freezer for 63 years) to use as the top tier for this cake. The original buttercream had to be removed and I would redecorate it to go on top of the cake. Debbie came up with a mirrored cake plate--a huge relief to me, because it couldn't hold a very big cake--and there was a 6" high Eiffel Tower as the topper. (The groom proposed at the Eiffel Tower.)

At first the plan was that I would use fondant. I would make or get some almond paste to seal up the top tier for a few reasons. First, it was fruitcake and the color would bleed through fondant. Second, almond paste could be used to even out the holes left by fruit that had fallen out. And most importantly, the cake had been spending 63 years next to fish, as one whiff would prove.

Debbie hooked me up with some fondant a baker friend of hers made so that I could play with it.
My first trial run was a chocolate pound cake that I was thrilled with; it wasn't very chocolatey. But I tried out the fondant on it anyway. It was easier to handle than I'd expected, even though I did end up with a couple of rips to deal with. The fondant trial, though, made me realize how smooth the underneath has to be; that cake (which I'd tried to level off with a knife) had some serious bumpiness going on underneath the fondant.

Still, I was pretty confident that I could make a good-looking cake with fondant as long as I could get some almond paste to wrap the top tier. April and Marlene, the lovely ladies at The Huckleberry Hutch (one of my favorite stores here in town and possibly my favorite kitchen store ever), suggested I go to a bakery to buy some, but all the bakeries I called didn't have any (because it wasn't Christmas, when they usually have an abundance on hand)--and there aren't a lot of bakeries in town anyway. But when I explained my project to Maxine at Black Tie Pastries, she suggested I just use buttercream, and told me how to get a smooth look similar to fondant (but she also gave me a recipe for my own fondant in case I needed it).

I never did locate any almond paste, but another trial run with a cake I really liked (and so did Debbie and the bride), showed me that crumbs were going to be an issue with buttercream. A little internet research advised me to apply a crumb coat, so I called my mom for a refresher on making her frosting (because I knew that would work well as a seal layer if I made it a little more glaze-like), and voila!

63-year-old fruitcake

Cake with the crumb coating (thanks, Mom!)

The Wedding Cake
(after suffering several moving bumps and subsequent repairs)
I put the top tier on its own board for easy removal, lest
someone tipsy should decide to see what 63-year-old fruitcake tastes like.

And here are a couple pictures from the wedding, which was just the kind of wedding you'd expect at the end of a fairytale. (I queued the music for the ceremony, too, so I had a unique perspective, even though the window filtered some of the color.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lots of news! First, I'm now a permanent resident of Canada! I even have a social insurance number already!

When we were planning our "run around the flagpole" trip, we found in our envelope of temporary resident papers a letter explaining that it's no longer necessary, if I'm already in Canada, to leave the country and then re-enter as a permanent resident (which did seem a rather silly hoop to have to jump through). So we called the number provided and scheduled an appointment with our nearest immigration center--Nanaimo. That's a way easier trip than Washington. Just three hours, give or take, each way.

So we drove down the night before our appointment, slept in our Westy at a rest stop and had a crazy lady encounter at 3:44 AM when a woman came knocking on our window asking for gas money with some story about her car breaking down and having her 7-year-old daughter with her. Her story changed two or three times as she desperately tried to reiterate why she needed money. (I was inside the van with the phone ready to dial 911 in case things got exponentially weirder.) I was going to just barely mention this, but Roger swears this is the woman who knocked on our window, which I find more than a little creepy.

By 6:30, we were in Nanaimo, looking for a place to eat breakfast. Nothing seemed to open before 7, and we were shocked to realize that the main stretch of Island Highway before downtown Nanaimo offered not a single Denny's or IHOP. (We were shocked, I tell you.) We settled for the only open cafe we found and had muffins (that was the worst pumpkin muffin I've ever had) and hot beverages (my green tea smelled and tasted like freshcut grass).

Getting my passport stamped was almost anti-climactic--but not quite. The woman who processed it all for me (who had a wonderfully literary name) was pleasant and seemed to enjoy listening to the stories we had as answers to her questions. And the next morning I was able to take my paperwork to the government office in Powell River and have a social insurance number issued to me. Now the only thing I can't do in Canada is vote. (Citizenship is another couple years down the road. And no, I don't have to renounce my US citizenship to become a Canadian citizen.)

The next big news: We're buying a house! We had the building inspection done, and even though there were a lot of strange, quirky things, everything was good and sound. Yay! No more paying rent and renting storage space! Our new yard borders on our friend's yard, too, which will be wonderfull handy for all involved, I think. (Especially, since, at the beginning, we may have to borrow his lawnmower.)

These pictures are from the realty site. We're going to remove the pool and use the space for a garden; the walls will help deter the deer, and there's another garden I plan to put in the patch that was, evidently, used as a garden sometime in the last couple years.

We'll be taking possession on July 2, I think, so we'll be able to use the long weekend to move in. (It's Canada Day weekend here, for those of you wondering why Canada would celebrate July 4.)

And the last of the news: we're getting a kitten! That friend with whom we'll be neighbors has a fantastic, friendly cat who just had kittens, and he said I can have the girl (a calico). I went in to look last week--they had just opened their eyes.

No, I don't expect Kitty* will like the kitten very much, but I hope she'll appreciate having another living thing in the house when we're out, and I hope the kitten teaches her to play--right now, she just stares at strings, and she's not good at jumping (we're not sure if it's a hip problem or her thyroid meds), but she is horribly fond of licking to death the catnip toy Iams sent me last year when I wrote to tell them how much Kitty likes their food. (Thanks, Iams!) But when a friend got a puppy, his older dog seemed years younger--and I'd like it if having the kitten around rejuvenates Kitty.

So, that's the news here. And these are especially for you, Mom:

*When we got the cat from Roger's mom, the cat had been called Purr-Purr by a couple of families who'd had her. And both of us hated that name--even though it's apt; all you have to do is look in her direction and she starts purring. Since she also seemed to answer to "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty," calls, we've just been calling her Kitty. We did try to come up with a new name for her, but that seemed too weird. (Sometimes we still call her Purr-Purr when no one else is around to hear.) We promise to come up with a better name for the new kitten.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Took this picture over Willingdon Beach two weeks ago on a sunset walk.