For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


This afternoon, I finally planted our lettuces and spinach. Only the carrots are left, and I still need a deeper pot and soil for those.

For the last while, the weather has been terrible on our poor little balcony garden. Many days, it was too cold to take the planters outside at all, and certainly not overnight. I left them out too long one night, and almost lost them. The chives handled it well and the parsley seems to have recovered, if a bit rough around the leaf edges, but the thyme looks like it's having difficulties, and I will most likely have to replace 3 our of 5 basil. I'm glad I still have a few extras in my starter tray. The rosemary is growing so slowly, it's hard to say how much it was effected, but the tarragon looks to have sprung back nicely.

We're seeing some higher temperatures today - finally getting into the ranges expected for this time of year. I should even be able to leave my planters out all night.

As for my greens, I ended up not getting planters at all. At least not "proper" planters. I was looking to get a couple more planters that fit over the balcony rail, but those are quite narrow and would not have held as much as I wanted to plant. While walking through the store, however, I noticed that some rectangular storage bins were available at about the same depth as the planters (since the planters fit over the rail, most of the space isn't actually that deep). So instead of getting two narrow rail planters for almost $12 each, I got a couple of larger storage bins for under $5 each. I just poked a bunch of holes in the bottoms for drainage, then placed them on their upside down lids to catch any drips.

Each bin was large enough to fit a 30L bag of the special herb and vegetable soil I had. One of them was sown with just a red and green leaf lettuce mix. There should be room to do a successive sowing in 2 weeks or so. The other has half spinach, half romaine lettuce.

The big challenge for these, once they're sprouted, will be keeping them from getting too hot and the soil drying out too quickly. Direct sunlight for as long as we get on our balcony is a bit much for these greens. I should be able to move them around to take advantage of shade as needed, though. We have a low wall on each side of our balcony. One provides some shade in the morning, the other in the evening. If that's not enough, I can slide them under our patio swing.

As for the carrots, I'm not quite sure how to go. I want to plant quite a few, but I don't want to have too large a pot. I'll probably get a couple of smaller deep pots instead of one large one. I also need to keep in mind that our balcony is going to be completely renovated sometime soon. The floor, which is wood, is covered with a waterproof membrane, then a special indoor/outdoor carpet. The previous tenant had hammered so many holes into the floor - something that's not allowed on these balconies since, obviously, they destroy the waterproof membrane - there's a real concern for rot. It feels pretty solid, but there may be patches that will need to be cut out and repaired. The rails themselves are showing signs of rot near the bottoms, and one of the side walls has damaged siding that will need to be repaired somehow.

I'm hoping that they choose something other than black when they replace the indoor/outdoor carpet. The black gets so hot, I had to put on my husband's grandpa slippers (which have a thick rubber sole) because my bare feet were burning.

Which reminds me of something the girls and I saw the other day that was really interesting. A wonderful example of radiative heat. At the end of our street is an historic building of red brick. All along one side is a row of trees. I don't know the name of them, but along with their new leaves, they are growing long sprays of flower buds. With the cold weather we've been having, these clusters of buds are very small and still covered with a green protective "skin" on the outside. Only on the largest buds could a hint of whitish pink petal be seen, and only if you were looking for it.

Except for the ones against the brick wall. Because brick absorbs the sun's heat so well, then radiates that heat out again will into the night, the flower clusters next to the wall are in full, glorious bloom.

A perfect example of how just one thing can create a micro-climate.

Monday, May 11, 2009

School year officially done

We had our facilitator meeting at the end of last week. The paperwork is done for this year, and our registrations are taken care of for the fall. So from an official perspective, our school year is over.

Not that much will actually change for us. If anything, our summers have more educational opportunities in two months than the school year's ten.

Our facilitator visit was, as always, fabulous. We have a fantastic facilitator and always look forward to his visits. We were his last visit of the day, and he was able to stay for about 3 1/2 hours. We happily could have kept him longer. *L*

Library days will continue, though with our habit of taking out so many items, we haven't been going every week unless we have lots to return or something on hold waiting for us. Youngest and I are still going to the odd park day, though she doesn't want to go to them any more than Eldest does. Youngest gets along with some of the kids, but doesn't enjoy some of the others. While there are a lot of difference between home schooled kids and public schooled kids, some things are still the same. One of those is that some kids act really nice with their parents are around, then change personalities as soon as the adults are out of the picture. While I'm sure my own kids do that same, and I consider it pretty normal to some extent, there are those where the change is pretty dramatic. I suppose it could be worse. None of them have threatened her and pulled a knife, like has happened with Eldest (not that this worked. It was a cheap POS, and Eldest just showed her K-bar, which we bought her for her birthday. The kid had no idea how to handle a knife, either).

That's just part of the issue. Youngest just doesn't have a lot of interest in the goings on at the park. It's unfortunate, as she used to have quite a bit of fun on park days. It doesn't help that the friends she did develop ended up going back to South Africa. For the next school year, I think we'll start getting involved with another home school group as well. They have some interesting activities that I think the girls would really enjoy.

With Eldest already staying home on park days, we don't make it out every week anymore. The days and location will change in the summer, and right now, I don't know that we'll be able to make very many. Last year, I think we only managed one.

We skipped today's park day, as I had a lot of things that needed to be done. We're working on getting our piano shipped out from Winnipeg - finally! After finally finding a small number of companies actually willing to move a piano between provinces (a lot of moving companies won't, and dedicated piano moving companies tend to be local moves only), I made some phone calls and got a bunch of estimates. It's going to be a lot more expensive than I expected. Did you know it's cheaper to have a car shipped, then a piano? Go figure.

Today was transplanting day for our herbs. For now, I only have two long planters that fit over our balcony rail, plus a deep pot. I was able to plant the tarragon and rosemary in the deep pot, then split the chive and thyme in one planter, basil and Italian parsley in the other. Now I need to figure out what to use to direct seed my greens and carrots. The carrots need a pot as deep as my large one, but I'd like to find something more rectangular, so I can get a decent amount planted. I'll have to do some hunting and see what I can come up with. I'm not in too much of a hurry, as our balcony is going to be redone soon, so anything on there will need to be moved.

We tried a new recipe today. Green onion cakes. It turned out to be ridiculously easy, though the recipe doesn't make the same kind of cakes as what we've had in restaurants. Eldest made the first batch while I was transplanting. The dough needed some resting time, then she got the cakes rolled out while I fried them in oil. It made things go by nice and fast. They made part of a delicious lunch. Eldest and Dh made a double batch after supper, since a single batch wasn't enough to have anything left for him to try. I think I should have included green onions in my balcony garden choices. ;-)

I was also supposed to start on some curtains today, too. Technically, I did get started. Unfortunately, the fabric I'm using is very slippery on one side, but tends to grip on the other. As I was sewing a side seam on the curtain (having already sewn tubes to make tabs for the rod), the fabric slowly started twist. It didn't help that I had to keep stopping and restarting to remove the pins as I went along. I was past half the length when I realized I had to stop and fix it. Fixing it meant undoing the whole thing. *sigh*

Youngest has been working on a few things. She's writing out some character profiles for her stories and doing crochet. Eldest had picked up some really nice, high quality yarn. The two of them put their heads together and came up with a design for fingerless gloves. Youngest made a few testers with inexpensive yarn before moving on to the expensive stuff. Smart thinking, that.

(click on image for full size)
The gloves are worked from the fingers down, so the colour at the end of the first one (top) became the beginning of the second one (bottom). Eldest is really happy with them. It looks like youngest has started another set - this time in fuzzy pink. :-D

Along with figuring out how to get our piano out, we'll need to start looking at cars. Minivans, actually. We're going to replace our $50 beater with something safe to make road trips in. If all goes to plan, we'll buy a new-to-us vehicle at the end of July, and be able to visit the families in Manitoba in August. It's been 4 years since we've seen most of them.

Once we have a reliable vehicle again, that should open up quite a few things. There are a lot of places we'd like to visit, and even a family geology camp in Drumheller we'd like to take in. The fee for the camp is really low. It's getting there that's the problem. We just didn't want to take any chances with the car we have now. Especially with it's tendency to stall unexpectedly on hot days!

Speaking of hot days, we hit 20C today, and our townhouse DIDN'T turn into an oven! This, even though we have one side facing south with unobstructed daylight from sunrise until shortly before sunset. Yeah, it can get warm, but nothing like the troubles we had in the apartment.

I'm really looking forward to the next few months.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Double library list

We actually didn't go to the library last week, as we simply renewed our acquisitions from the previous 2 weeks. We've got another library day coming up, however, so I figured I'd better make up the list before we start returning these.


Sundays With Vlad Eldest enjoyed this one so much, she convinced Youngest to take it out, too. Now, they both love it.

Encyclopedia of Things that Never Were I've lost track of how many times we've taken this one out. Youngest took it out again, this time.

Wild About Herbs I'm working on a balcony herb garden, now that we have a south facing balcony and long hours of sunshine. In choosing my herb books, however, I select the ones that also have recipes for various herbal concoctions like shampoos, fragrances and medicinals as well as foods.

Waiter Rant I've been following Waiter Rant for a long time, so I had to snap up the book when I found it. I just finished it last night and really enjoyed it.

Good To Eat I took this one out again because I didn't finish it before I had to return it last time. Fascinating glimpse on how different cultures came to eat the foods they do.

Hooked On Style, Couture Crochet Workshop, Plus Size Crochet I've taken all three of these out before, but they're worth taking out again. What's fascinating is to look at the different sizings for clothing items. For example, Couture Crochet has a lovely top that goes to 4X - but the measurements for that 4X is barely a 1X in Plus Size Crochet, and wouldn't actually fit me! (I wear a 2X top most of the time, but I like my tops quite loose.) I wasn't too impressed with that, as I wanted to make that top for myself and I don't know that I'm up to adjusting the pattern.

Crochet with Bits and Pieces This was a new one, and it's hilarious. I can't believe some of the patterns in here. Quite a few would be right at home at What Not to Crochet! (warning - not all items featured at that link are safe for work or small children - people will crochet the strangest things!!!)

The Climate Diet: How You can cut carbon, cut costs and save the planet I try to read both sides of the argument. Really, I do. With this one, I barely got through the introduction without tossing it. Aside from the erroneous assumptions, it makes claims like I'll "save $1,600 a year on your energy bills." Since my energy bills have never been that high since we left the old house we were living in in Manitoba, that would but me into the negative. I don't think so... :-P

The Deniers: The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution and fraud (and those who are too fearful to do so) This is the book that resulted from the National Post series.

The Really Inconvenient Truths: Seven environmental catastrophes Liberals don't want you to know about - because they helped cause them Still working on this one. Most of the topics are ones I was already aware of, though not with the background details the book provides. For example, I knew that estrogens from birth control bills were damaging fish reproductive systems, but I didn't realize that morning after pills and abortion pills were used so much that they were part of the problem, too.

Mass Extinctions and the Aftermath There have been many mass extinctions in the earth's history. This book tries to answer the questions about why and how they happened.

Roman Life: 100 B.C. to A.D. 200 Written as stories from the perspective of individuals of different levels of status in ancient Rome, based on real people. This is the sort of glimpse into ancient life I really enjoy!

Adventures in Unhistory: Conjectures on the factual foundations of several ancient legends Eldest chose this one and quite liked it.

21st Century Etiquette Eldest really liked this one, too, though many of the situations described are ones she's never encountered.

Bridezilla: True Tales from Etiquette Hell! If you like the site, you'll love the book.

McMinn's Color Atlas of Human Anatomy and The Johns Hopkins Atlas of Human Functional Anatomy Eldest has been using these mostly as art references. Not for the faint or heart or squeamish of belly.

Underwater to Get Out of the Rain: a love affair with the sea Another choice from Eldest, it seems to be almost a biography.

Human Remains: Dissection and its histories Another choice from Eldest that she found quite good.


Eldest and Youngest have been working their way through these...

The Fall of the House of Usher
The Vanishing
13 Tzameti
Queen Kelly

They're mostly horror, thriller types. The girls both find these older movies to be much better than modern movies. Better story telling, quality, etc.

Sweeny Todd The girls found this one for me, knowing I was curious to see it. Wow! Talk about a lot of blood! Still, I'm glad we got it, if only to see Alan Rickman sing.


Some choices by Eldest...
Tool - Undertow, Lateralus and 10,000 Days A friend recommended Tool, so she found a whole bunch to take out. 10,000 Days has fantastic packaging. A flap with a built in pair of "glasses" lets you look at images in a booklet inside, rending them into 3D. Very cool.
Rezia - Protest the Hero
Greely Estates - Go West Young Man, Let the Evil Go East
Skeleton Key - Obtanium

I grabbed these other ones.

She Had a Taste For Music (soundtrack recordings)
The Shadows - The Final Tour
Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra - Miles of Styles
La Loungerie by Sharezade

When it comes to CDs, I often grab discs I've never heard of before. I might want to get some instrumentals, music from a particular country or culture, or a style. Usually, I get at least one or two enjoyable surprises. Not this time. Most of these sucked. *L* Actually, I did like a few pieces from The Shadows, but it's a live recording. After a while, the sounds of audiences screaming and shouting or introductions and patter begin to grate on me. I love live performances LIVE, not recorded.

Well, that's the list for the last while. Our "school year" will technically be over at the end of the week, after our facilitator visit, but we'll be keeping up our library visits. Actually, not much will change at all. LOL

Oh, that reminds me. I have to go through our receipts and send them on.

The girls are putting together portfolios for the facilitator. They're not quite sure what to include in them, but these library lists I've been putting online have come in handy! We're lucky to have a really great facilitator and always enjoy his visits. I know some hs'ing families aren't so fortunate!