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Bringing Wilderness Into a Suburban Garden

Posted by Stacey on August 1, 2014 in Life Musings |

For many years, gardening has meant bringing order to nature by designing outdoor spaces to feature boxed-in plants and flowerbeds, clearly defined pathways and well-tended bushes and trees.  But there has been a movement of late to work with Mother Nature rather than against her, resulting in gardens that mix both tamed nature and nature that has been left to run wild.

Eco Friendly Garden

Eco Friendly Garden

Bringing the wilderness to a suburban garden has one overriding redeeming feature – it is eco-friendly.  Gardens that are too ordered can be less inviting to wildlife, so a garden with areas that are allowed to grow wild encourages animals and insects and helps the environment flourish.

For example, bee populations have been under threat in some countries for some time and a careful selection of plants will help their numbers to grow.  Bees are important to life itself, as without them, pollination becomes near impossible.

To create a little wilderness in a garden, it is necessary to plant a variety of plant species to appeal to a wide range of animals and insects, as well as to create visual interest.  A mixture of wild flowers, vines and trees, like a combination of lilacs, Boston ivy and Flamingo Ash-Leaved Maple trees, helps greatly in creating this ambience.  Long grasses provide habitats for egg-laying insects and invertebrates, and will encourage certain birds to visit for food.

It is an excellent idea to include water in a wilderness garden, as a pool or pond with plenty of water plants will attract a variety of wildlife, including frogs and toads, insects such as dragonflies and birds.  Garden owners might find rabbits, squirrels, and even deer visiting a garden with all these different, interesting features.

It is true that well-ordered gardens can be easier to maintain than wilderness gardens and they sometimes seem to demonstrate that an owner takes the time and effort needed to keep it so organized.  However, such gardens can easily slide into becoming hackneyed and tacky rather than pretty and elegant.  A garden left to become a little rough around the edges is often more appealing to people, who recognize the benefits of letting nature have its way.

Despite this, wilderness gardens do still require maintenance to stop invasive plants from taking over entirely.  More robust gardening equipment may also be needed to deal with the unrestrained plants and shrubs, such as those found at Pat’s Small Engine store.

Wilderness gardens are not good just for wildlife, but for the family too.  They provide plenty of different play areas for children, whose imaginations will surely be sparked by the unleashed landscape.  Tall grasses become a place for children to play hide and seek; a rocky section becomes a mountain for them to climb and a pond becomes a safari watering hole.

A garden with a wilder aspect can also serve as an education for children by exposing them to a variety of different wild species and how they breed, eat, and spend their time.  It also becomes a great tool for teaching them how to garden.

A suburban garden with a wilderness theme will create and improve wildlife habitats, entertain and educate children and add visual and fragrant interest to the home.

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Considerations for Travelling to the USA

Posted by Stacey on July 22, 2014 in Random Wandering |

Travel of any kind, whether for business or pleasure, carries with it some inherent risks, even if that travel is within a home country. When the trip is to a foreign country, for example a visit to the United States, it is important to be aware of the laws and rules of the destination country and to know how to take care of oneself in the event of an accident or injury.

Finding information about laws in the United States is relatively straightforward. Keep in mind that, while the United States is a single country, each individual state has its own sovereignty; meaning that what may be permissible in one state may be illegal in another. For example, currently the States of Colorado and Washington permit the purchase and possession of marijuana, but other states do not. In this instance, being stopped while in possession of even a small amount could lead to a traveler being arrested.

One of the best sources for legal information is the Internet. The Law Library of Congress has a guide for each state and US territory that may be accessed online. Also visit the government page for the state or states that will be visited and compare rules and laws. If there is time, contact the destination city or state travel bureau as they can provide additional information about their laws, as well as suggest additional research books or sites. Finally, look for unusual laws or rules that, while obscure, are still on the books and could be relevant; this is important when visiting southern states.

Travel-related injuries can run the gamut from minor scrapes, cuts and burns to more severe injuries such as fractures, penetrating trauma or head trauma. These types of injuries can occur anywhere: in the hotel or on the property; at a local attraction or venue; or while enjoying a boat ride or other form of transportation. Motor vehicle accidents are some of the most common travel-related accidents and the injuries involved can be serious, with some having long-term consequences. Back and neck injuries, head trauma and other injuries commonly seen in motor vehicle accidents may necessitate a traveler needing care for a long time.

Illness is also common when traveling and, while some illness are preventable with proper preparation and precautions, other illnesses may occur due to negligence on the part of a hotel, restaurant or cruise ship.

Whether it is illness or an accident that is experienced while on vacation, the first thing that must be done is to properly document it by seeking the proper medical treatment immediately and, in the case of an accident, documenting the incident thoroughly by taking pictures and even collecting witness accounts. Get in touch with a personal injury firm as soon as possible and be sure to see a personal physician upon returning home from the trip.

Taking the time to research and prepare for a trip to the US will help to prevent potential injuries and accidents, as well as provide the tools needed to deal with any emergencies safely and effectively.

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Credit Card Payments via Mobile Devices

Posted by Stacey on July 21, 2014 in Life Musings |

Believe it or not, there are Facebook groups dedicated to what people carry in their pockets, purses, briefcases and assorted carry devices. Actually, this is probably not a surprise to anyone seeing as there are Facebook groups dedicated to every imaginable cause or activity.

However, although I am always interested in new leather wallets, bags and briefcases, I am one of the people who is trying to reduce what I carry in my pockets on a day to day basis.

In the past I carried what is called a Tradesman’s wallet. I could fit a lifetime of receipts, business cards, credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards, health care cards and what-not into that wallet. The problem with carrying a wallet of that girth was that it would not fit into the front pocket of any pair of my trousers and after carrying it in the back pocket of my dungarees, I found my back was all torqued and twisted out of shape which I knew would lead to long term back pain.

So I no longer carry a Costanza-sized wallet that is bursting full of credit cards, debit cards, healthcare cards, business cards and receipts from long forgotten purchases.

My choice to not carry cards is being made all that much easier with the payment revolution that is coming to the consumer side of things. I no longer carry a Starbucks card. I use their mobile device app. I no longer need to walk into a bank or credit union to deposit a cheque – I can snap a picture of it with my mobile device and with a few swipes and touches the cheque is deposited to my account.

Now credit card companies are also getting in on the mobile device app side of things. The most recent one is the TD Mobile Payment App. Rather than carrying another card, you connect your mobile device to your TD Canada Trust credit card and at any Visa PayWave eligible merchant you pay with a wave of your mobile. 

One less item to jam into the wallet. The TD Mobile Payment App is a different way of thinking. A new way of thinking. I like it. Will there be a day when all of our cards are linked to our mobile devices? It is certainly looking like that now.

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Carli and Julie Kennedy at the Evergreen Cultural Centre

Posted by Stacey on July 20, 2014 in Theatre |

Saturday evening I had the good fortune of seeing Carli and Julie Kennedy perform for the second musical event in the Evergreen Cultural Centre’s Music on the Grill series. And what a fabulous musical show it was!

However, being a Music on the Grill series, there is also the “grill” part of the show. Yesterday was a perfect day for a lovely evening to sit on the patio at the Evergreen Cultural Centre and enjoy a lovely barbecue put on by Paul Bates of Chefs Catering.

We had our choice of barbecued salmon, chicken breast, or steak. As sides there was a choice of baked beans, potato salad or coleslaw and a corn meal muffin. Quite a beautiful and tasty meal on the deck in the cool evening air.

 

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But enough about the food (have you ever heard me say that?), the main event of the evening was inside the Evergreen with the powerhouse duo of Carli and Julie Kennedy pounding out the tunes – from classical to tango tunes to country-rock hits. These twins, with their drummer (a dead ringer for Justin Trudeau!) and bass player made musical magic last night.

Carli and Julie are twin sisters who have an inspiring, or is it inspired? musical connection. Carli was on vocals and guitar while her sister Julie, also doing vocals, made her violin do things that even Charlie Daniels could not do in his competition with the devil.

It really was extraordinary to see how in-sync these two are musically. When they are singing or duelling with their fiddle or guitar, it is magical. The harmonies were delightful.

As I said, they played quite a range of music – and because I played the violin/fiddle for a short time in my youth, I was quite taken by Julie’s skill with the violin. Julie really could play heart-grabbing classical music and in a heart beat pull her violin bow back to make the violin scream like a wild animal. I loved it.

And this is not to take anything away from Carli who played her guitar like her life depended on it. At one point she was strumming the strings so wildly that I was taken back to the first time I saw Pete Townsend from The Who when he would literally shred his fingers to bloody bits from his violent guitar playing.

Musically, these two were magical.

If I were to offer one piece of advice to the twins it would be that there were awkward quiet moments from the stage when they were tuning their instruments. Knowing that the venue was hot last night and that it was making their violins and guitars out of tune, perhaps they could have the bass player or someone do a little doodling and noodling to keep that eery quiet from filling the theatre. Or maybe while one of the sisters was tuning up the other could tell one of their very charming stories. Of course this is just my unsolicited advice and I know that as they continue to play they will only get better at the entire entertainment package.

Overall, this was a fabulous evening of music and barbecue. The next Music on the Grill event will be on Saturday, August 9th and the musical guest will be Zakiya Hooker, John Lee Hooker’s daughter. Zakiya is another very talented jazzy blues sounding singer-songwriter. Her voice has been described as silky-rich with the perfect balance of sass and soul.

I hope to see you at the final presentation of Music on the Grill!

If you want a little sample of what I am talking about with these musical twins, have a look and listen to this video of them. The song on the video is one of the last songs they played last night.

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Planning a Safe Financial Future

Posted by Stacey on July 16, 2014 in Life Musings with Comments closed |

When it comes to looking after the family, planning for a safe financial future is vital. A key thing to remember is that it is never too early to start. The most obvious long-term financial goal is saving for retirement, with people encouraged to find a job with a secure pension plan as soon as possible; but separate from retirement, other long-term financial commitments should also be planned.

For instance, if the plan is for the younger members of the family to attend college or university, there are financial considerations because post-secondary education in Canada does not come for free, with various fees charged by colleges and universities to cover the costs of educating students. There are tuition fees and student activity fees to take into account, not to mention the general costs associated with sending young people to college that may have to be borne by the family.

When the children are educated and have “flown the nest”, it might be time for an overdue and deliberately long vacation, perhaps even a trip around the world. Saving for traveling a little bit at a time means that dreams of an ocean cruise through the Panama Canal or a relaxing and extended holiday on the beach can be fulfilled.

In terms of retirement itself, putting plans in place to maximize an individual’s or family’s wealth is critical, and this is something that Doc Gallagher (W. Neil Gallagher), founder of the Gallagher Financial Group and host of radio programs Your Family Matters and, previously, The Money Doctor, emphasizes, with a focus on long-term health costs and estate planning needs for the benefit of the next generation.

Financial planning for the family is all the more important in a particular Canadian context. The incomes of middle class Canadian families have been lagging behind those of other demographic groups in the country owing to modest increases in wages, according to statistics compiled for the finance ministry in 2013. Although the average annual wage earned by women has seen a steady increase of 28 percent from 1976 to 2010, as a greater number of women entered the labor force, the average annual wage for male workers fell by 19 percent in real terms for the period 1976 to 1996, recovering slightly by 2 percent for the period 1996 to 2010. These figures suggest that middle class families are, in many cases, having to do more with less, strengthening the case for judicious and timely financial planning.

To get started with a financial plan, make a list of priorities and think about needs that will have to be met in the future. It is essential also to take into account insurance needs – health insurance, life insurance, and so on – and to factor these ongoing costs into any financial plan of action. A professional financial planner can be of considerable help in formulating an effective plan.

Securing the financial future of the family means being able to focus fully on what really matters – helping each other through good times and bad. The peace of mind that comes from careful, long-term financial planning can be of great comfort into old age.

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Weatherproofing Your Home in the ‘Burbs

Posted by Stacey on July 14, 2014 in Shelter with Comments closed |

Living in the suburbs has its advantages, with cleaner air to breathe and more green spaces to walk around in, but it can also have its drawbacks. With many suburban homes detached, homeowners have to protect all four sides of their property from the elements, as well as the roof and the foundations.

Lately, Canadians and Americans have had to endure all types of weather, from searing high temperatures to freezing cold, from wind and rain to storms and hurricanes. So violent can some of these high winds be that many towns now post regular storm alerts and severe weather warnings so that suburbanites and townies can take steps to protect themselves and their homes.

New Roof

New Roof

Roofs need to be checked, ideally by a roofing professional who will have the necessary safety gear, not to mention roofing knowledge, at least once a year to ensure that all of its component parts are securely held down. Loose tiles should be replaced, and it might be beneficial to bang a few extra nails into these and other materials so they will be able to withstand winds better. Gable roofs are more vulnerable than other types and should be braced. Plantation shutters are an attractive and very effective way of protecting window frames and glass from breakages during rough weather.

You also need to review your garden and backyard. If they contain sheds and other semi-permanent structures, ensure that these are sunk into the ground and placed on foundations, or are otherwise anchored to the ground.

Clear away any fallen branches or trees in the garden or backyard. If these contain young trees or saplings, consider putting a wire cage around them to stop them falling over or being pulled up in high winds.

There are some areas of Canada and the US that are prone to flooding, like Manitoba is currently facing, it is difficult for an individual to halt flooding, there are some measures one can take to protect the home. Ensure that eaves, troughs and drains are clear of dead leaves, twigs and other debris so that water can run away easily, without encountering blockages.

If a basement contains a sump pump, conduct regular checks to ensure it is working properly, and consider having a backup generator should the main electricity supply fail. To avoid losing utility services in the home, make sure that the furnace, water heater and electric panel are elevated off the floor. Although it is unlikely that you will be moving your existing water heater or furnace, when considering a replacement water heater or furnace, even a slight elevation off the floor can be helpful in emergency flood situations

If the weather turns extremely hot as it has over the last couple of weeks in many of our ‘burbs, it is best to try to keep the home cool by pulling curtains and blinds on those windows that receive direct sunlight. These windows can also be covered with a reflective film, or even tinfoil, so the solar heat is bounced off. If the home has air conditioning, ensure that all seals on windows and doors are tight so that the AC unit does not have to work extra hard, and check all central air ducts.

These are just a few of the considerations that homeowners should make to protect their home from the wind, rain and sun. Feel free to add in the comments section additional ideas that you make to protect your home from the elements.

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Making a Leather Belt

Posted by Stacey on July 4, 2014 in Toys and Luxuries with Comments closed |

As you may know, I am into doing leather work; I have created a couple briefcases, two little tool bags and now a postal-style messenger bag. Now, I’m learning how to make belts for myself.

The first step, other than cutting the strip of leather is to smooth off the inside edge of the belt. You take the tool like the one in the pic below, hold it at about a 30 degree angle from the work and slide it along the edge of the belt. This takes the rough edge off the inside of the belt.

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This is the belt about half done. I’ve got one rivet in place to hold the stainless buckle in place and next I need to make and install the “slide” to hold the tail end of the belt once that belt is on and in place.

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After the slide goes on I will add another rivet and then the belt is essentially done. Well, it is closer to being finished after I apply a coat of Aussie Wax and “slicker” the edges. That is a process where I take a plastic wheel and smooth the edges.

That’s it for now. I’ll add to this blog post once I make further progress

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More on Coquitlam’s New Waste Collection System

Posted by Stacey on July 2, 2014 in Community Events with Comments closed |

After visiting the Coquitlam waste management tent at the Canada Day celebrations yesterday I learned a couple of new things about the new waste collection system being implemented in Coquitlam, BC.

First, you cannot put cat litter or dog waste (poop) into the green bins. No way, no how.

So I asked, what are people supposed to do with their dog waste? The answer – take it in your house and flush it down the toilet. Yep.

Also, diapers, including baby and adult diapers do not go into the green bin. They can still go into the garbage bin. After you scrape the waste out of them into the toilet.

And finally, if you live on a really busy street like Austin, Como Lake or Mariner Way, although it says to place the green or garbage bin on the street against the curb, I am going ahead and using my discretion and placing my bins on the sidewalk right at the street edge of the sidewalk.

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New Waste Collection System Begins in Coquitlam

Posted by Stacey on June 30, 2014 in Life Musings |

Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, says “life in the burbs” like worrying about garbage and wondering if today is garbage day. So it is with great excitement that I look forward to Wednesday of this week when the new automated waste collection system kicks into high gear.

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Coquitlam residents in single-family homes will receive green waste and recycling collection weekly, while the Garbage Cart – which should only include non-recyclable and non-compostable materials – will be picked up every two weeks.

Residents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the ‘A’ and ‘B’ Zone system to confirm whether their first garbage collection falls in this week or next week.

Or you can do what I did and load the iPhone app (there is an Android version as well) onto my phone so that while I am quietly sipping my first cup of coffee in the morning I get an alarm similar to a nuclear power plant meltdown tone to alert me to the fact that it is in fact garbage day and I now need to scramble all units to get the waste to the curb.

Now, I will get the meltdown tone to remind me it is green waste collection day every week and garbage day every second week.

However, if you don’t want another phone app, you can find your new collection zone – including whether you’re an A or a B Zone for garbage collection – and pick-up dates in the 2014/2015 Curbside Collection Calendar. Or, get your customized Curbside Collection Calendar from www.coquitlam.ca/curbsidecollection or just go outside every morning and see if your neighbour has put his or her garbage or green waste out on the curb and you follow along.

The new system – with its emphasis on separating waste into garbage, green waste and recycling – will help us reduce the amount of garbage we send to our landfills.

The system is also economical, efficient and better for the environment. The average resident has saved 20% on garbage fees on their 2014 utility bill. The new collection trucks are powered by compressed natural gas, which will reduce CO2 emissions.

The City will be collecting old garbage cans in the fall. However, for residents who wish to dispose of them sooner, cans with a 1, 2, 4 or 5 recycling symbol can be taken to Wastech at 1200 United Boulevard for free. After all, old garbage cans are not actually garbage!

For more information, including a list of Frequently Asked Questions, please visit www.coquitlam.ca/trashtalk or call Engineering Customer Service at 604-927-3500.

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The Philosophy of “Just Do It”

Posted by Stacey on June 30, 2014 in Life Musings with Comments closed |

The Nike slogan “just do it” is a very clever slogan. Never mind the corporate aspect of it, but just think about what those three little words actually mean.

“Just do it” – like, get off your duff and do something. Stop waffling, stop talking about it, and just do it.

The best example that comes to mind for me proves my point quite effectively. I had a buddy who bought a piece of property in a really hot and sunny location.

For the first five years of him owning the property he talked about planting peach trees around his little cabin. The funny thing is he never did.

I have another friend who moved nearby my first buddy and they had the conversation about planting peach trees.

The newcomer to the area said, “jeez that’s a good idea.” And he went and bought two peach trees, planted them, watered them and took care of them and then two years later he had two beautiful peach trees.

By the second year of those little peach trees being planted he was getting peaches the size of your fist from his trees. And my first buddy who moved there? Seven years and he still has no peach trees or anything because he’s still thinking about it.

Just shut up and do it.

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