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Pallet Garden Update

Posted by Stacey on April 25, 2015 in Food and Drink |

My pallet garden is growing! I was worried that the seeds had been washed out because when I watered it for the first time a lot of water cascaded off the front. As. It turns out, he seeds held fast. 

  
More updates later. 

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Life in the Burbs; Blog Post #1000

Posted by Stacey on April 22, 2015 in Life Musings |

In October of 2009 I started blogging here about “life in the burbs”. I wanted to capture and write about the experiences of a couple transplanted to the ‘burbs. A couple who had spent the previous few years of their life together living a much more urban lifestyle, perhaps a lifestyle I would now probably refer derisively to as a “hipster” lifestyle.

Front Lawn

Front Lawn

Now, after 5 1/2 years I have posted on this blog 999 times. Actually, if we count this re-post, then it is 1000 blog posts I have written about our life in the burbs.

So to commemorate this blog post #1000, I have gone deep into the archives and dug up the first entry I wrote for this blog. Here it is:

On April 17th 2009 my life changed forever; my partner and I gave birth to twin baby girls. Well, it was more her than me who gave birth, but everyone talks like it was a team effort. I will accept some credit for their birth but my goodness, my contribution was a lot more pleasurable than her contributions.

Thankfully they are fraternal twins so I can tell them apart, usually. They were born on the first day of week 33 of the pregnancy so they were, obviously, seven weeks early. Instead of coming home right away though, the girls had to stay in the Royal Columbian Hospital until they were able to eat, breathe and sleep without any assistance. When they were born they were 1705 grams and 1750 grams. That is about three pounds, six ounces and three pounds fourteen ounces. They grew to about five pounds each before they came home; they ended up coming home around the end of May.

We named Baby A, as the government bureaucrats call the first born child, Blonde Bear. And Baby B’s name is Brown Bear; she was born (yes they were born through the regular route, not by C-section) two minutes after her sister. You have to wonder what it will it be like for her to have an older sister who is actually only two minutes older.

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Five Easy Changes to Slow Climate Change

Posted by Stacey on April 19, 2015 in Life Musings |

Here are five easy things that you can do to slow the rate of climate change in the world – five easy things that you can do, but probably won’t do. Anyway for what it’s worth here they are.

First when you’re in your car or truck (seriously, why are you driving a truck?) make a conscious effort of driving on our city streets at 50 to 55 km an hour. Crazy talk. Crazy talk because even though the speed limit within our cities is typically 50 km an hour most people are travelling at 60, 70 or more kilometres per hour. And yet if people did travel at 50 kmh, there would not only be lower fuel consumption and significantly less emissions going up in the atmosphere, we would all be a little bit safer on the roads.

Second, walk or ride a bicycle when you’re in your local community. Instead of driving to your local grocery store, walk. Good for you and good for the environment. Even once a week will help. As an aside, a brisk walk is just as much exercise as running or jogging like a freak. And it is easier on your knees, ankles and hips.

Third grow some food. Virtually everybody has a spot where they could grow something to eat. Even if it is just herbs in a little planter on the windowsill, that is one less item that needs to be trucked or flown in from afar. It is even better if you can grow salad greens and harvest them in your own place rather than having to buy them. Green onions and kale can be grown virtually all year round here.

Fourth, when shopping for groceries look for items that are grown locally. Try to avoid items that are grown in California, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, or Peru. Sorry to the good folks who work in those lovely places, but if we want to slow down climate change forget about the government helping us do anything about it because the government is simply full of hot air. Politicians actually make climate change worse with all the hot air they blow.

The fifth easy thing you can do, but probably won’t do, is to wash your jeans much less often and when you do wash your clothes, hang them to dry rather than running an electric clothes dryer. Super easy.

These are five really easy things that we can all do too slow climate change. Even if you just do one thing, it will help. Do something. It is pointless to wait for the government because they don’t have any interest in doing anything differently.

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The California Drought

Posted by Stacey on April 18, 2015 in Life Musings |

On Friday afternoon I was listening to Stephen Quinn, the host of the CBC radio show On the Coast discussing with a guest the ongoing California drought. The guest was a journalist who lives in California near Sacramento, the capital city of the state of California.

Quinn and his guest were talking about California Governor Jerry Brown’s press conference where state water boards were ordered to implement measures in cities and towns to cut water usage by 25%.

Aerial View of California Reservoirs

Aerial View of California Reservoirs

I captured the above photo of a southern California water reservoir on my recent trip to Los Angeles. I was shocked at how many of the reservoirs/lakes we flew over that contained a fraction of the water that they were designed to hold.

The California resident was describing the scene of Governor Jerry Brown’s press conference where there is normally 10 to 12 feet of snow on the ground. At the time of the press conference there there was no snow – just completely bare soil.

It is important to note that from April through until October California receives virtually zero rain. Zero.

That means that massive numbers of people and all the agriculture and businesses in California rely to a very significant degree on the water that is held in the reservoirs high up in the mountains above California cities.

Those reservoirs currently have a fraction of their normal amount of water in reserve. Some of them are at 30% or less. Those are the levels at the start of the dry season!!

The fact that there is no snow left in many of the mountains surrounding the reservoirs means that is the reservoirs contain the finite amount of water the people in California will have for the rest of this year probably until there is rainfall in October.

So when Stephen Quinn asked the California resident what it is like living with the water restrictions, I was somewhat shocked to hear the Californian say that one of the first things people did was to make sure that the sprinklers on their lawns were not spraying on the street. He added that this was tricky because most people have the sprinklers set to go on at 3am and nobody is awake at that time to check where the water spray is landing.

Okay, you are in YEAR FIVE of a serious drought and at the start you’ve got virtually no snowfall left to melt and you’ve got a fraction of the normal levels in your reservoir at the beginning of the year and you’re talking about sprinkling your lawn?

And then he talked about how people are trying to conserve water while washing their cars.

Seriously? People have lawns and wash their cars when the water reservoirs have only a fraction of the water that the city needs for the rest of the year? Seriously?

Hows serious can you be about conserving water if you have a green lawn in front of your home?

You may wonder why I care about this. I’ll tell you why you should care too.

Simply put, I care because I like to eat vegetables. And with the stupidity of our local governments much of our prime farmland in the Fraser Valley, including Richmond, Delta, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, Aldergrove has been converted to housing or warehouses.

Covering our local farmland with houses, warehouses or vast tracts of blueberry or cranberry fields means we need to import much of the fresh vegetables that we enjoy all year round.

California is essentially the salad bar that the rest of North America is eating from.

It looks like that salad bar is going through some serious changes.

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My New Gustin Jeans

Posted by Stacey on April 14, 2015 in Clothing |

Some time ago I purchased and received my new Gustin dungarees. I have been wearing them now, off and on for about three months and I am now ready to talk about them.

Gustin Button Fly

Gustin Button Fly

You can choose the fit you want for your Gustin jeans – straight, slim or skinny. I do not do well with anything that conjures an image of “slim” or “skinny” so I get the straight fit. That “cut” works well for me.

When I first received these jeans I have to admit that I was not 100% pleased with them. Although I followed the sizing guide that Gustin has on their website and I measured myself as a Gustin-size 40, when I first tried on my new Gustins, they simply did not fit comfortably. I found that they were just a little too snug in the thigh.

However, after wearing the jeans for a few days, I they loosened up through the thigh, the butt and the waist and became more comfortable.

Even after wearing them for those few days though, I did not find them to be a perfect fit so I went to another strategy – soaking them in hot water and then running them through the spin cycle of the washing machine. Once the jeans were spun out I wore them for a few hours (yes, I wore them when they were wet) and let them shrink to fit me absolutely perfectly.

A side benefit of the soaking process is that the jeans shrunk in length by at least four inches making them fit my legs with a simple roll up cuff.

As a side note, I rarely wash my jeans (wash them once every six or eight months) and when I do wash them I NEVER put them in the dryer.

When I sit down while wearing my Gustins, I find they sit low across my butt (no pictures of that!). As a result of this, I find it important to wear a long shirt so that people do not see too much of me.

Gustin Jeans

Gustin Jeans

Now about the jeans. First off, I love them. I love the craftsmanship and I love their finish. However, when I ordered them, the fact that they were to be made from a 14 ounce denim, I assumed that they would be very heavy and a “stiff” pair of dungarees. Fact is, they aren’t. They are a very soft and easy wearing pair of jeans.

There is great attention paid to the details in the finishing of these jeans.

Rear Pockets

Rear Pockets

You know how all too often the rear pocket of your jeans wears out from keeping a wallet or other goods in them? Gustin doubles up the fabric in the bottom of the rear pockets so that those pockets will not wear out as quickly as they do on regular jeans. Thoughtful.

Gustin Button Fly

Gustin Button Fly

The button fly is also made of super-duty buttons. They are easy to do up and easy to open.

As I may have said in my other post, I am so pleased with my Gustin dungarees that I have already purchased a pair of heavy slub dungarees and a pair of Chinos from Gustin. Those purchases will be prepared and delivered some time in May.

The jet black warp woven with an equally dark black weft (you know how denim is created right? It is two lines of thread running diagonal to each other…sort of) makes these jeans a very dark black. The darkness of these jeans makes it so that EVERY piece of lint and hair shows up on them. It also makes them look much “dressier” than regular jeans that fade to white much more quickly – making these a great way to get away with wearing dungarees to the office more often.

Gustin Button Fly

Gustin Button Fly with A Simple Leather Belt

The fact is though, the expert craftsmanship that has gone into making them, the quality of the fabric, thread and the buttons makes me very pleased with my Gustin purchase.

As I may have said in my other post, I am so pleased with my Gustin dungarees that I have already purchased a pair of heavy weight-heavy slub dungarees and a pair of Chinos from Gustin. Those purchases will be prepared and delivered some time in May.

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Koch Leather Goodies

Posted by Stacey on April 11, 2015 in Luxuries with Comments closed |
Koch Leather Goodies

Today I picked up my newest Koch Leather goodies – a coffee cup cozy and a razor holder.

Coffee Cup Cozy

Coffee Cup Cozy

Just like every other Koch Leather piece that I have, these are absolutely exquisite in their attention to detail.

Koch Leather

Koch Leather

I had previously bought a coffee cup cozy that was a little too big for my coffee cup and my sister grabbed it because it fit her coffee cup perfectly. It’s interesting to note that it also fits a 16 ounce beer glass.

The stitching on that piece, like the stitching on my new coffee cup cozy was also perfect.

Red Stitching Coffee Cozy

Red Stitching Coffee Cozy

Something I really appreciate about Koch Leather is that the customer can give input into the details of the color of the leather and the color of the thread that is used. I really like the red thread that shows a strong contrast between the stitching and the leather. Not everyone likes that strong contrast, but I certainly do and Josh Koch is happy to oblige me.

I also have two mason jars from Koch Leather with the leather wrap around (as in the picture above). For those items I also chose the strong look of the red thread. I like those mason jars for drinking my morning tea or when I’m having a hipster moment, for drinking what the cool kids call Bone Broth (beef stock).

Koch Leather Field Notes Cover

Koch Leather Field Notes Cover

I also have from Koch Leather a hipster wallet and Field Notes cover. I very much like the minimalist nature of the hipster wallet because it is a perfect front pocket wallet for when I am traveling.

Koch Leather Hipster Wallet

Koch Leather Hipster Wallet

If I’m on the road I don’t always need to have a full-size wallet with me. I typically carry my bank card, my credit card, my drivers license, and my health card. And if I’m staying in a hotel I keep my credit card-like door keys in it as well.

One thing I would suggest with the hipster wallet is that the snap closure on the wallet be moved a little bit more to the centre. I’m talking about a quarter of an inch over. I believe that would make it open a little smoother. However, overall the quality of this little hipster wallet is like every other one of my Koch Leather pieces -exquisitely detailed.

The Field Notes cover rides in the back pocket of my dungarees and is developing a beautiful patina with the natural characteristics of the leather becoming more pronounced. 

Koch Leather Tote

Koch Leather Tote

My sweetheart needed a new purse-like bag and during the Koch Leather kick starter they were promoting their tote bags. So, Sweetheart got a Koch Leather tote bag. It is also a really well designed and useful bag. There is a pocket on the inside at the top of the bag that fits a phone or small wallet. Sweetheart ‘s only complaint about the tote is that small stuff does tend to disappear into the chaos of the bottom of her bag. Using a carabiner on the little d-ring on the side of the tote keeps her keys from disappearing into the chaos.

The leather that Josh and Jen use is really beautiful leather. It has a nice feel and scent so that when you touch it or when you hold it up to your nose, it feels and smells like natural leather.

The thing I really appreciate about Koch Leather is their willingness to do what the customer wants. If I tell him I want red stitching, he says no problem. If I ask if I can have it in a lighter brown leather, he will let me know what he can do.

Bottom line, Koch Leather will be getting more of my business. When I want to get a new messenger bag, Koch Leather will be my go to. They make beautiful stuff, they’re happy to accommodate customer feedback and they seem to do it with a smile. Two thumbs up on the Koch Leather.

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Princess, Holland America and Celebrity Cruise Lines

Posted by Stacey on April 10, 2015 in Life Musings |

Now that I have returned to my “shore life” I have been giving some consideration to how my most recent cruise experience on the Princess Cruises Grand Princess compares to my experiences aboard the Holland America and Celebrity cruise lines.

As I previously said on my foodie blog, it is my opinion that the quality of the the food and the food choices on the Celebrity and Holland America cruise lines was superior to the food on the Grand Princess . However, there were other differences between the Princess, Holland America and Celebrity cruise experiences that are interesting to consider.

The British Invasion

The British Invasion

One thing in particular that I very much enjoyed about my experience aboard the Grand Princess is the philosophy of having a central gathering place aboard the ship. From what I understand, Princess Cruises has a central gathering place on a number of their ships.

Princess Cruises calls their central gathering place the Piazza which for me, and many others who gathered at the Piazza, was an inviting centerpiece aboard the ship. The majestic atrium spans several decks and features the International Café, Vines Bar, which was voted one of the “Best Wine Bars at Sea,” by USA Today, a spiral staircase and several glass-walled lifts that provide panoramic overviews of the ship.

To me, it was really nice to have central gathering place where small crowds gathered to eat, drink and watch/listen to a variety of entertainers. There always seemed to be an entertainer putting on a show. Whether there was a dance duo, a piano player, a guy sitting and playing the guitar, a magic show or some other demonstration, there was always something going on to keep the gathered people entertained.

On the other end of the ship was the kids’ centre. I have to admit that I have no firsthand knowledge about what the kid centres were like on Holland America or Celebrity ships because I didn’t have my kids with me on those ships and the security in those areas, especially if you don’t have kids, was very tight. I was not allowed into the area nor was I allowed to take any pictures of the kid area.

They really do take the security of the children aboard the ship very seriously.

Seeing as I had my kidlets with me on the Grand Princess I was able to see what happens in the youth centres on this Princess ship.

I consider the Youth Centre aboard the Grand Princess to be an excellent resource. The centre for 3-7 year old kids called their “guests” Princess Pelicans and I will say that my kids loved their time in the Youth Centre.

There were lots of very stimulating activities for the kids from very early in the day until quite late in the evening.

I was a little worried that my kids would end up spending time watching TV or playing electronic games, but that was not the case whatsoever. Most of the staff were super high-energy staff individuals who were very engaging for the kids, very welcoming, and very professional.

I’ve never had the opportunity to meet the captain of a cruise ship and yet now my kids have! He visited the Youth Centre, introduced himself and asked the kids if they were enjoying their time aboard his ship!

Perhaps this is him building future loyalty to the Princess Cruise line brand. Whatever it is, I thought it was pretty cool.

Back to the entertainment aboard the Grand Princess; I was very impressed with the shows that were offered.

The first night I took in their dance show – a super high energy dance and song show. The other show I saw was their British Invasion musical show. Both had inspiring choreography, dancing and singing.

I also very much enjoyed the comedian’s shows. He had an early show and then a later in the evening show that was almost all original material (I saw, and enjoyed both of his shows).

Overall, my feelings are that the food and food choices aboard the Celebrity and Holland America ships were superior, the entertainment aboard the Grand Princess was superior to the entertainment aboard the other cruise lines. I don’t have quantitative data to show this to be the case but that is my feeling.

The central Piazza as a gathering place, the variety of shows and performers at the Piazza, the quality of the dance and singing shows, the comedian, and the Youth Centre, all lead me to believe that Princess Cruises nailed it on the entertainment

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Building a Pallet Garden

Posted by Stacey on March 30, 2015 in Food and Drink with Comments closed |

If you have a limited amount of space for gardening, or you are like me and you like to maximize the amount of garden space in your city yard, a pallet garden may be the answer for you!

The first thing you need is a pallet. You need to be careful when picking a pallet, especially if you are going to be growing food. I picked up a pallet from outside a grocery warehouse and made sure that the pallet had not been used for transporting some wicked chemicals. I then left it outside in the rain for a year.

Of course in hindsight I say that I left it out for that year so that it was thoroughly washed by the rain, but the reality is, I like to think about things for a long time before acting (I am brutal at procrastinating).

As well as the pallet you will need some landscape cloth. I bought the “20 year” strength stuff under the assumption that it is heavier cloth. You also need a stapler and staples to staple the cloth to the pallet.

I then rolled the cloth out to the approximate size of the pallet with enough on each end to double up for strength.

Then I stapled the fabric in place. I have to admit that I went pretty wild with the staples. I riddled the back of the pallet with staples. After all, the staples are what will hold the fabric in place when you fill it with soil. Some people add a piece of plywood to the back behind the landscape cloth to hold the cloth and soil in place. I have not yet done that but I may do so.   (Edit – I flopped the pallet garden down and added two 6″ wide pieces of plywood behind the landscape cloth to make it more solid.)I forgot to take pictures of me filling the pallet garden with soil but I will say that when it was about one third full of soil I tried to lift it (I was filling the pallet garden when it was laying flat on the ground).

Trying to move it was very difficult so I decided to get it into position before completing the fill process with the pallet standing up.

To fill the pallet garden I would dump a bag of composted mushroom manure on top of the pallet slats and then use my hands to “massage” the soil into place. Once it was standing I just slowly dumped the bags of soil into the top of the pallet.

It is important to leave the soil in place for a couple of days before planting the pallet garden. Leaving it for a couple of days will allow the soil to settle into place.

Some people choose to plant the pallet garden with potted plants. I didn’t have any at home today and I did not feel like driving to a garden store so I left it unplanted for now.

I may pick up some bedding plants tomorrow on my way home from work.

As you can see in the pictures, I have chosen a pallet with slats that are relatively close together. I can imagine that if you found a pallet with slats that are a little further apart it might be easier to fill with plants. My intention is to plant seeds in my pallet. To do so, I may try to lay it flat on the ground. My concern is that I will then need a support team to get it standing up again.

All together it took me less than an hour to flop the pallet down, roll out and cut the landscape cloth, staple it in place, fill the pallet garden with soil and then wash up the spilled soil. Adding bedding plants and seeds will take a little more time, but time in the garden is time well spent.

Anyway, I will add more photos once it is planted and has some green showing.

All in, I spent about an hour building the pallet garden and then 15 minutes jamming the radicchio plants and seeds into it.  

Here it is with a radicchio planted in the top row. I’ve seeded the other sLat openings with kale, spinach, seeds for a cool little ball-like carrots and some salad greens. As it greens up I’ll add more photos. 

  

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Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Giveaway

Posted by Stacey on March 30, 2015 in Food and Drink with Comments closed |

In case you didn’t know, and it is definitley possible you didn’t know, I have a partner blog to this blog called Eating in the Burbs. The partner blog is ALL about food.

And, the reason I mention the partner blog, is that I am currently hosting a very cool giveaway on my foodie blog – a giveaway of a year’s worth of Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta!!

If you want to get in on the action, visit my foodie blog, Eating in the Burbs and enter the contest. It is ultra easy to enter and I can assure you, the new Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta is delicious and cooks up really well.

 

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“Leftovers” Opening Tonight at Shadbolt 

Posted by Stacey on March 25, 2015 in Theatre |

Leftovers opens tonight, March 25 to March 28th at Burnaby’s Shadbolt Centre and although opening night is already sold out, you can still get tickets to the shows for the nights of March 26, 27, and 28th. 

Marcus Youssef, directs Charlie Demers, the writer and star of Leftovers. Charlie Demers, who is perhaps best known for his comedy work with the CBC Radio show The Debaters or from the Just For Laughs comedy festival.

The following conversation was held with Marcus Youssef, the Director of Leftovers.

“Opening night. Always a big day. Did some real nice work yesterday talking about what it means if/when people don’t laugh at stuff that’s meant to be funny, and what that might mean for ‘Charlie’, and how he might handle that. 

Talked a lot about one line in the play, that was also 17-year-old Charlie’s grad yearbook quote, which is from Che Guevara (can you imagine quoting Guevera at 17? I think I quoted Duran Duran.)  

‘At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.’

That seems important for the show, and a good thing to remember when facing nerves of opening night. My guess, though, is people are going to laugh, a lot. Even after hearing the jokes 100 times, I still do!”  -Marcus 

Don’t miss your chance to see this brave new blend of stand up comedy and theatre. Get your tickets here…

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