Friday, May 29, 2009

Out with the old

We have lived in our house for 21 years this summer. Michelle was 1.5 years old and Stephanie was just 4 when we moved here. The fence that was in our back yard was one of those fences that was wooden with the cross piece and then boards on either side, but staggered so it looks the same on the back and front. It was pretty warped and worn when we moved in but we couldn't really afford to do anything about it for a year.
The next year after a winter of planning it all out, we made a design that was unique.. we used all the boards that were already on the fence, and just dug new holes for the fence posts and painted it... It looked like a million bucks but was an affordable project. We had enough fence boards to extend the fence to include the side yard which we then made a raised garden for strawberries. Below is the fence a couple of years later, with its rounded top and dark redwood stain. Over the years we have had to repaint the fence and replace some posts but for the most part, the fence still has all those original boards which must be 25 years old.. or more.

Three years ago we took money that should have paid for a one week winter trip to Cuba or somewhere, and instead we turned our back yard into a more suitable yard for our family now that the kids have grown. It has a fire pit, a veg garden, and green grass for Terry to mow! But we never really did much with the fence... and it is wearing out.

This winter we started talking about plans for fence work. Terry played around on his Visio program and designed several fences... using all new wood.. pressure treated (something we couldn't afford 20 years ago) and he bought some boards this spring and started to play with different designs. He built a few trials.

(we didn't like this one... no space between the boards, made it look like a wall, not a fence)

Well, all the trials are over and the fence is under construction. Every night Terry builds one section, and on non-rainy nights, he sometimes can build two. We have had two rainy weekends and several nights of rain. Ugh!

This weekend will be a fencing weekend for Terry as he moves along the back of the yard. We hope to put a taller fence section right by the fire pit for a bit of privacy. the board in the middle of the two fence sections is about the height of that section. should be interesting. and for me... gardening all weekend, I hope. I have a ton of pots to fill and a veg garden, all turned and ready for planning. Rain or shine!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wedding tidbits....

I am not sure how many know that the wedding party for Scott and Michelle's wedding is more like a family parade...
This wedding is a sweet combination of love of family and the support of friends. When plans first began for the wedding, the kids had a really hard time to single out one or two of our family to be in the wedding party, because each and every one of our cousins are precious and a choice was not possible. You know the whole "all or nothing" statement... well, it really came into play when they announced that they would find a job and position for all the members of the family.
In the end, we have several little girls and boys who have their own special job to do.

My sister, who is a master sewing genius offered to help with making little girl and big girl dresses and I sew quite a bit myself. Over the past year, ideas were passed about, pondered, plans for sewing dates made and met. January was our first sewing weekend and it took place here at my house. Gail, Mert and all Gails sewing stuff arrived and we began our plan. We sewed all weekend but didn't really make any dresses, we planned out some other projects for the wedding and shopped for bargains and sewed from morning til evening. We took over the entire livingroom and the sewing room downstairs!

The extra bonus to this visit was my sister left me with her amazing sewing machine that embroidery's so amazingly. She was going away to USA for 6 weeks and wouldn't need the machine so it was mine until Easter.. yippee... Well, let me tell you that I played for hours with this thing... the problem is.... I played and didn't sew much because its a lot of searching for things and a big of computer work to set the design and then you finally get to sew... we you know what its like to get on design websites... you lose HOURS.... hence... I never did a lick of housework, or blogged... or much of anything else.... below is just one of the cool designs I made just for fun!!!!
Ok, as usual, I got off track because of my sister's really cool machine.... anyway, after my sister's weekend here, she left for the south and I went back to winter in the Valley. We both had homework sort of... to do before we got to see each other again for a sewing date in June to make dresses.

As the winter slowly passed, I did some homework but mostly I played with her machine and didn't do any of the wedding homework!! But as the wedding date is creeping closer, a little panic started to seep in and we planned our sewing date a few weeks earlier than originally planned.

Our second sewing weekend was two weekend's ago and we had big plans. We had 7 white dresses to make.... 3 different patterns, and 4 different sizes.... some had pleats some had full lining others had wonky necklines...

I arrived in Fredericton around noon on Saturday and by 1:00 we were off to the fabric store to look at a few things we needed like 11 yards of lining for these dresses.. we needed buttons and zippers for other projects and toggles for yet other projects. Stephanie came along for moral support but I also had plans for her creative mind and resourcefulness!

Once we got home, we were full steam ahead, with Gail at the sewing machine and me at the ironing board. Stephanie occupied the floor for part of the time but moved to a chair for the last half. I pinned, gathered, pressed and organized... Gail sewed, pinned, gathered, pieced... and in the end..... by Monday at noon, we had sewing 7 dresses with a total of 5 zippers, and 75 pleats! The pictures below give away no secrets as they are inside out with their linings all pinned ready for my handsewing!

Stephanie had researched, designed and created several different types of flowers to adorn the dresses and we have settled on the 7 petal daisy.... in several different colors...

Next, the dresses are now in the mail to the girls who come from the each end of Canada and in the middle too... this is a fitting shipping.... and hemming too... they get sent back to me... I hem or adjust and voila... done! yippee.....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Jack is waiting for his beanstock to grow...

I have no idea how long I have been growing Scarlett Runners in our back yard but I know its just tradition. I harvest a big bowl of seeds each fall and then in the spring I plant about a tenth of what I harvested and then try to give away the rest of the seeds. Stephanie tried to make jewelry out of leftover beads one year but that got too hard really fast. I gave them as Xmas gifts one year to all my friends, but I can't do that again because they have their own harvest now.
This year for one of the Sunday Children's liturgy crafts (after Easter) I started a bunch of the seeds and the kids planted them, decorated the pots and brought them to their parents back in the church (safely secured in baggies, to keep the dirt inside!)

I started about 75 seeds (way too many) but we only used about 25. I was just going to let the rest dry up and die, but .... ugh.... I just couldn't do that... and therefore, I left them on the counter covered with paper towel , and threw them some water every day. About a week after that Sunday we used them, I uncovered my seeds to see if indeed they had died and man... they looked CRAZY... full of roots and some sprouts with leaves and everything!!! Geesh.

That day I went out to the garage and potted them all up in little pots with soil and gave them a big drink. I protected them from the frost at night and the hot sun during the afternoons. They have lived a life of luxury for 20 days now and they are ready for the ground... except... I am not going to grow them this year.
This year, I have changed my plan for climbers.... and I will be growing brown eyed Susans (except they are a bright orange color) and also hot pink Morning Glories...
Now, instead of giving away seeds, I am now pawning off plants. 4 to Stacy, 4 to Kay, 4 to Cathy... and I planted 10 in my square garden, along the fence.. and I have space for like 4 more... near the compost... but then I have 20 plants left plus a pound of seeds!!!
Jack.... come and get your magic bean plants.....

Saturday, May 23, 2009


There is no better way to describe yesterday. Perfection. Perfect weather today, perfect drive to the city, perfect shopping friends.
I have been dreading this day since a year ago. I hate to shop, most of you know that about me. I have no confidence in what to pick for myself. I can't visualize what something that is hanging limply on a hanger, will look like on me... and what works well with my body challenges.
My stress began when I realized I had to buy a "mother of the bride" dress for Michelle's wedding. To some, this would be fun, but to me, for many reasons, it meant a terrifying exercise in frustration.
Thank you God for all my friends. All of them. I have so many people in my life that fill in all the potholes of talent I haven't got. Because of their understanding and talents, I am able to concentrate on the things I can do best, and they carry me through all the things I can't do well.
Shopping was made less painful in the past by my "shopping team" of Debbie, Heather and Lynn. They excel in this and therefore it was comforting to have them to lean on in this most important shopping challenge.

With the wedding being only 2 months away, and the spring/summer line of clothes is dwindling in the stores (go figure in early spring they would be dwindling) it was time to bite the bullet and get to the city. Saturday was it.

We started off bright and early to be at the stores in the city by the time they opened. We arrived at the Sunnyside Mall and started our spree in Nygard and ended in Marise Petite. There were tons of dresses, most too fancy, some too colorful, others were somewhat ok, and others were down right hilarious. I eventually tried on two dresses in our last store and although I really liked them, we didn't think they were really "mother of the bride" quality. I must say, though, it was really good to get my first visit to the changerooms over and I actually liked the dress I had one. I know my friends wouldn't have let me try something on that wasn't going to be great.

Our next stop was Park Lane Mall on Spring Garden Rd. We were going to start with Samuel and Co. When we walked in I had a good feeling. There were a few dresses that were not super fancy but really nice, and a change room was started. Sadly our camera got left behind in the car and I have no other pictures to share. All the outfits I tried on were very nice and it was nice to have some choices in the store. One of my nightmares in this exercise is that the stores wouldn't have any styles that were appropriate or my size.

There was a suit jacket with a very nice neckline and a swing skirt that was sweet, and a couple of dresses that were just cut to narrow and felt not right. The last dress I tried on slipped onto my frame, zipped up the back and sat perfectly where it was suppose to. It is a simple cut, with a unique neckline and darts where they need to be, and none where they're not welcome. It was the right amount of color, the right length and the right fall to the fabric. It was perfect.
We literally hugged each other and cheered... the store clerks nodded approval and I slipped back into the changeroom to take it off and I giggled the whole time I was changing. I started the morning with deep cleansing sighs behind those doors so I would say it was a perfect day. I can't really show you the dress but I can share a little snippet of the fabric because the rest of the story is based on the color and imprint of the dress. For the next 45 minutes, Debbie and took up our usually seats in the change room and watched Heather and Lynn try on dresses, shorts, capri's, tee-shirts and badly painted pieces of cheesecloth. Once my shopping stress was over, they had the freedom to get their shopping needs met!!!

After all the purchases were made, we started out of the mall to have lunch but Heather wanted to stop in "John David's Shoes" for a quick look. Discussion was made at Samuel and Co, regarding whether I should buy bone colored shoes or black. I didn't really want bone color, so I new in my heart I would look for black. As we entered the store, I rolled my eyes and stood watching the others touch and pick up several shoes that were way out of my style and price range. I just knew this would be a 5 minute visit for me... and I didn't even bother looking around. This was not the store for me. Let me just tell you how that 5 minutes went!.... Debbie sauntered over to one "unit" of shoes carrying my dress which was zipped up nicely in a garment bag. A very nice gentleman in jeans and funky glasses asked if he could help her. She said "yes, we are looking for either bone or black shoes to go with this dress". He asked to see the dress.... and said oh, I have the perfect shoes for this dress." Debbie brought him over to me, and Heather arrived at the same time and he said just a moment, I have the perfect shoes... As he rushed away.. Heather whispers to both of us... "That is John David..himself". Pretty cool, I thought, and then said to Heather, oh no, how do I say NO Thank you to him. I was terrified of the 5 inch platform BONE colored hooker shoes I thought he would be bringing out to me. But when he arrived... he showed us the perfect pair of shoes. 1.5 inch heel... the same colors as the dress, slingback, open toed.... and.... dots. I was sure they wouldn't fit, but he asked me my size, and I told him... and he was back in a flash with them and they were like Cinderella shoes.. they fit perfect. They were wide enough and just the right height. It was so cute, as he was bent over putting on my shoes for me, he said, "and of course you will wear these shoes without hosiery and you will get a french manicure with no other color but white tips". I answered well of course I will. I was thrilled that he said no hosiery... since I wasn't planning on wearing any anyway! Then he rolled up the capri pants I was wearing, over my knees, got the dress out of the bag and there we stood.. Me, my three friends and John David in a very large full length mirror with my dress held up against me and the perfect shoes. John David was right.. and there was no need to say no to him.
5 minutes... just as I thought. My stress was done.......and we were sitting have lunch by 12:30 at Your Father's Moustache and celebrating all our success. A few more hours for the rest of the girls to get their shopping done and we were home by supper... There is no other word for the day... really.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Memories

My very first Mother's Day, I was a new mother of just 2 weeks. I was nursing and that meant that Terry's standard special occasion gift of chocolates was out. Apparently eating chocolate was a bad thing to do when your a nursing mom, or so the nurses told us. Therefore, Terry had to really think of something to get for me.

He was not use to gift giving, and although he rarely forgot an occasion, his idea of gifts were far reaching on my scale of appropriate gifts. Some of his best were a hamster and cage for Xmas, while we were dating. And the next Christmas what did he get me... another one! I grew to love those little guys but I shocked and a bit afraid at first. I got a beautiful pair of pearl earrings from Terry another Xmas.. and what did he get me the very next Xmas... the exact same pair! Too funny... another year.. a watch that crowed like a rooster when the alarm went off...

Anyway, back to Mother's Day. My first Mother's Day I came downstairs, high on being a new mother. I was sort of expecting flowers (and hoping for chocolate..) but there was nothing on the coffee table. Nor in the kitchen. umm.... I wasn't totally surprised to find nothing, because this was all new and would take a year for him to figure out. I went about my business and after a little bit, I walked past our huge fishtank, and there ...on the tank was a card with "to Mommy" on it. I was thrilled to at least get a card. It had a cute little poem which I tucked away in Stephanie's baby book, signed from Stephanie and "Daddy" (still a new term in our language). When Terry came down the stairs, I thanked him for the card and he asked me if I liked the gift... um... I didn't see anything so I didn't really answer except with a puzzled look on my face. He pointed to the fish tank... and what was in there but a big beautiful fat "chocolate" goldfish. Not real chocolate.. a real goldfish... just cocoa brown. It was beautiful and warmed my heart too... sounds weird, I know, but that took a lot of thought... and it was just so cute an idea. I was thrilled! He even stuck with his "chocolate" theme!
Mother's days came & went and with them came measuring cups, pajamas, plants, school crafts, church crafts and flowers. But my best best best Mothers' Memories are those Mother's Day mornings when the kids were between the age of 4 and 13.. when Terry would get up with them. He would be groggy and lethargic... He would stumble into the kitchen, make coffee and get the kids working on "the menu". I, being the early riser, would "painfully" lay in bed and listen to the circus of whispering, dishes clanging and grumbling! After a bit, the girls would enter my room with a menu all written out (in different degrees of legibility) and I had so many choices it would take your breath away. I believe "Cora's" may have got their menu ideas from my kids Mother's day Breakfast Menu. Of course, being the intuitive mother that I was, I would skip past the the fancy fruit choices, the cereal menu, the pancakes/waffles/and pop tart section and go right to the scrambled egg and toast section. Lets not make this too complicated.
Off they would go to work on my breakfast requests. After what seemed like a half an hour.. they would all arrive into my bed with the tray filled to the top with at least 8 scrambled eggs, and as many toast, with bacon and juice and a flower. Everyone would pile onto my bed including Taffy the dog, two to three cats, the kids and Terry. With just one fork, we, the entire family would eat all the food while I spent 15 minutes telling them how great it all was. Even Taffy joined in, getting most of the crusts from the kids and bits of egg and bacon! I kept a few menus from those days in the baby books but the memories are so much better! Even Mollie has shared a few Mother's day breakfast feasts.
This Mothers' Day would be my first without kids. I really didn't mind, as I talk to my kids almost every day in one form of communication or another... phone, email, blogs, msn...
I made plans to work in the yard, and first thing this morning before church, I decided to take an hour and clean out my linen closet. geesh, I hadn't done that in a while.. what a mess... it took way more than the hour I had set aside, so I left for church, leaving heaps of bedsheets, bedspreads, curtains and towels in the hallway, on my bed and on the bathroom counter (sorting method).
When I got back from a very successful Mother's Day craft session at Church, I rounded the corner in the car and there was Michelle, sitting on the doorstep with Mollie! What a nice surprise... so fun. I wish Stephanie lived closer. I missed her tons today, for some reason!
What a great surprise and a fun day to spend chatting about gardens, computers and weddings. Stephanie (via phone) got me geared up for twittering, and Michelle set up an account for me.. so away I go. Twittering is a quickie update, sort of like Facebook but not quite. You can check out my twitter over on the menu to the right!
Michelle has started a new blog... and Stephanie has started a new blog account, but she hasn't started to blog yet.. but its coming.. she is waiting for acceptance to the JET program, before she starts her new blog!
So, that was my Mother's Day. I hope yours was just as memory making!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Games.. where do you store them?

Just a fun little item I want to share with you....We have played a lot of games in our lives. Memories of my youth are playing "Careers" with "My" Sandra for hours. We played Monopoly, and Life and Trouble too. When I got married I learned a horribly fun and murderess game called Uckers ( I think that is how it spelled) and then Robin brought the game "Murder" to my life. We found a fun game called "Wide World" at a yard sale years ago and there is always Yahtzee too. Our newest game is "Settlers of Catan" was a hoot to play and a cool looking gameboard as well.

My favorite website for organizing life UNCLUTTERED has run an article on a fun way to store your games...

Wall art and shadowboxes... for all the pieces amongst your favorite games. Lot of game boards are pretty to look at or just fun to remember the last time you played around the table. the little boxes in the pictures are shadowboxes with all the pieces and parts for easy viewing and easy using. How fun. I really don't have anywhere to put my game art now, but when the kids were younger and we had a "playroom", I think I would have totally hung up our favorite boards!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bento, anyone?

Bento.. is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. Although bento is readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops (弁当屋 ,bentō-ya?), train stations, and department stores, it is still common for Japanese homemakers to spend considerable time and energy producing an appealing boxed lunch. Thats.. what Wickapedia says about Bento Boxes.

Here's my definition.... they are cute little lunch boxes, with compartments and lids and stackable layers. Then you fill these little lunches with fun and interesting foods, cute shapes, small portions, little dividers, etc. Above are mini hamburgers, purple potato salad, some sort of salsa or something... fruit, condiments for the burger.. cutlery...

I was first introduced to these little cute lunches when my friend Ruriko Yokoi came to work at our school in 1991. She brought rice balls wrapped in Norri and cute cut up veggies in weird shapes, and cute little containers. Now I loved to cut shape sandwiches for my kids with circle cheese or heart shape carrot slices. I fancied tomatoes and even made tomato skin roses for them. But Bento... is sooo much more pretty. I never really got into making them when the kids were little. There wasn't "Google" in those days, to research how to do "Octopus Hot Dogs" or shaped eggs. So I continued with my cookie cutter shaped sandwiches and cute veggies.

Chantal's little ones are in their first year of school and are taking lunches. I am also making a lunch for a little boy... who is very fussy. Chantals kids are not fussy and therefore, she will have more success with Bento!!! Bento is also a great way to use up leftovers in a pretty way.

My favorite Website for Bento Lunch ideas is Lunch in a Box website. It has lots of fun examples of kid bento lunches and also adult ones too. I linked you to the last page of the website which is more dedicated to lunches.... the more recent pages are a little more commerical and off topic. I love all the creative ideas she has.

I bought some egg shaper molds off of ebay to give to my kids and also to Chantal for her kids. I tried them out. I did have a little trouble with with the size of the eggs I used, but it was fun to make the shapes. The set I bought came with 6 shapes... a car.. a fish..a bunny...a kitty.. a star and a heart. All I wanted was the star and heart, because there was no imprints on the outside of the eggs, because I want my egg shapers for slicing eggs for on top of potato salad or to make deviled eggs with... so I gave my kids and Chantal the fun shapes and I kept all the stars and hearts..

below you can see a bento box from the above website that has mini sandwiches, fruit, salad and a star shaped egg (dyed blue for extra kid fun). This link shows you how to make those eggs and you can use different types of molds to make ice cream sandwiches or shaped sticky rice (not that my kids would have eaten that.. but you never now)
Here's a few pics of my attempt to make shaped eggs. The first eggs I used (before I thought to take pictures) were extra large.. and they just squished out the sides of the mold. Terry went out and bought me small eggs for my next attempt... and alas.. they were too small. Large eggs are the trick for the fun shapes.. but alas.. through more failures, I figured out that for the star and heart shaped eggs... you need EXTRA Large.. ughYou boil your eggs the way you usually do for a hard boiled egg.. After they have fully cooked, you cool them just for a sec or two and then you peel them when they are hot.. not so easy to do by the way. Select your shapes you want and then pop the hot egg into the mold. snap it shut and put it in cold water for 10 minutes (or some instructions say the freezer for 5 minutes). Here is a bunny egg but the was too small so it didn't fill in to the ears and the impressions on the sides of the eggs were fairly faint. My most recent attempt (10 minutes ago) was to make heart and star shaped eggs. These are with large eggs and not as good as my next ones will be!!!

Take some time to peruse a few of the links above and enjoy some great bento ideas. Get inspired and remember, bento is not only for encouraging kids to eat.. its fun to make your lunch a little more appealing, while incorporating healthy choices and smaller portions!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Graduation Day at St. FX

The weather was perfect, the ceremony... moving at times... long at other times. The ceremony was made more interesting with the occasional "text" from both Michelle and Scott, with comments and opinions. We spent the day with Scott's parents who flew in from Winnipeg for this great event. Below is the kids before they headed off to their respective friends homes to get ready... We had perfect seats to see Mick and Scott who sat about 10 rows apart. You can see Mick peeking around her seat mates for me to catch a pic. My camera was not good enough for catching Scott but he was seated with Pat and Mattie, two roommates and best buds! The walk across the stage to shake hands with the Dean and Chancellor was captured but not very clear! Michelle had an awesome dress and even better shoes (thanks to Ashley's great shopping skills!)
All done. Here they are, proud holders of their degrees, posed in front of "Burke", there beloved residence and where it all began....

Congratulations Michelle and Scott...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

St. Francis Xavier University Blessing of the Grads

Michelle and Scott, and all their friends and fellow grads attended a beautiful 2 hour ceremony tonight (Saturday) at the St. Ninian's Cathedral. Graduation is tomorrow afternoon. We are on the road early tomorrow to catch up with them in New Glasgow along with Scott's mom and Dad who flew here from Winnipeg to be apart of their day. Scott sent this picture from the ceremony and I thought I needed to share it. Pat Connors, Scotts best friend, and first year roommate, presented a speech at this ceremony. Michelle said it was really nice and the ceremony was amazing to be apart of.