On a bike ride around the neighbourhood today, I noticed several signs that school is out and summer is upon us.

By The Numbers:

Number of teenagers seen mowing lawns: 2

Number of kids on bikes riding around in circles: 3

Number of tweens outside the corner store eating candy: 2

Number of 7 year-old boys carrying a large bag of snacks home from the store (probably sent on this mission by an adult - classic!): 1

Number of people on the trail at the same time as I was: 3

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, June 30, 2010 No comments
A few weekends ago I got to go to one of my favourite places ever - the Drive-In!  I’m amazingly close to two different ones: The Midland Drive-In and The Elmvale Drive-In. Each week I eagerly anticipate what is playing and if it seems like a good combo, we go for a fun evening of food, movies, and good times in the car!

Our recent Drive-In adventure took place at the Midland Drive-In with the following line up:

The box office opens at 8pm, but we like to get there at 7:30, so we are one of first three cars to get in.  That way we are guaranteed the “sweet spot”; super close to the bathrooms/concession with an awesome view of the screen.

Going to the Drive-In is an experience, and we always take enough supplies with us to ensure the experience is a great one.  Blankets for cuddling up in, books/magazines for reading until the movie starts, mosquito netting for the car windows so we can have them rolled down but not get attacked by bugs, windex/paper towels to ensure a clear windshield to view the movie, and of course a few treats.  There was the one time we brought a bucket of chicken in with us, but that was a little excessive, and we tend to enjoy goodies from the concession stand too.  On our recent visit we discovered that the concession stand has a new type of french fries since last year and the new ones are AMAZING!!  Large is REALLY large now, but the price stayed the same!  Awesome.  We also got a blue slushie (yum!!) and thinking about it makes me want a slushie machine in my house. :)  The Drive-In is definitely an amazing excuse to eat!

The Drive-In has a magical feel to it.  The screen is surrounded by grass, so families play catch, throw frisbees, and children run around while we all wait for the sun to go down and the movie to start.  Some families come in groups and park beside one another and pull out camping chairs and sit outside to watch the movie.  Countless people wear pajama pants (myself included) and it is just so cozy.  I love cuddling up into the blanket, wearing my pjs, and watching a movie - all in the comfort of the car!

Oh boy!  The movie is starting!! 

My favourite thing about the Drive-In, is that you can talk about the movie (or other people can talk about the movie) without it irritating anyone else.  So when we were bored with Robin Hood, we could just talk about it like we would at home and express our opinions without having to whisper or getting people annoyed at us.  The Drive-In is going to the show but you get to wear comfy clothes and talk as much as you want.  Being in the car is movie watching freedom!

Posted by Jen B On Tuesday, June 29, 2010 No comments
I am not good at buying things.  Correction: I am not good at buying things that aren't food or immediately practical.  When it comes to clothes and accessories, I wish I could just buy everything I needed once and have them last forever.  Sadly, most things aren't designed to last forever.

Just over a year ago I bought a new purse.  My previous purse had been purchased at Value Village for $4 as a prop for a "Going to the Office" theme party back in 2004.  After the party, it easily morphed into my everyday purse.  Five years later it was time to get a new purse, and I actually bought it from a real store and paid $25 for it.  That is big time for me.  Now, only 13 months later, the clasp that holds the purse closed has torn off.  Not because of some horribly violent and dramatic tearing open of the purse, it just tore off after a year of regular use.  Which really sucks.  The last purse was used and cost $4 and lasted 5 years.  The new one cost $25 and an integral part of it has died after only a year. Boo!  This does not bode well for my desire to only have to buy things once.

After getting over my initial irritation with the broken clasp, I was able to hand sew it back to good.  I pulled apart the clasp to see how it had been attached in the first place, then I used some duct tape (!) and some thread and sewed it back into working condition.  The clasp is super strong now and will surely have a longer lifespan than the thin piece of cloth that previously held it together.  Nice.

Fixing the purse motivated me to fix a few other things.  I sewed a hole in a pair of socks and sewed some buttons back onto some comfy pants.  With some basic sewing skills, I am able prolong the life of some clothes and accessories, thereby delaying the frequency of having to purchase new items.  Not a perfect situation but a compromise I'll accept! :)

Posted by Jen B On Monday, June 28, 2010 4 comments
Six weeks into our growing season we have some positive results and some not so positive ones.

On the positive side of things we have already been able to eat some beans, peas, cilantro, basil, and romaine.  It is still early for the Romaine, but we have used some leaves to make sandwiches and burgers even better.  Super Yum!

Our tomato plants have a few little green tomatoes growing on them, even though the plants are quite sad looking (yellow in some spots).  It looks like we will get tomatoes regardless.

Sad tomato plants...

...but happy tomatoes!

The carrots, zucchini, peppers, and spinach all seem to coming along nicely, though something ate one of the spinach plants.  If it was a rabbit, hopefully it was a really cute rabbit.

On the negative side of things, we started about 25 new seeds in our peat pellets, but for whatever reason none of them sprouted.  We started a few more after that, and only a few bean, corn, and cucumber sprouts were able to be planted.  Once the cucumbers were planted, they instantly died.  For us, this was definitely not the year to grow cucumbers!

On the advice of my Green Thumb friend Tasha, I checked out the blog You Grow Girl.  We were looking for a home made pesticide, and found a tip on the site to use Neem Oil.  We found Neem Oil at the health food store and made our own pesticide.

Since spraying the plants, we have definitely noticed less bugs trying to get at our plants.  The website has countless other great tips, so if you have any questions about your garden, You Grow Girl is a great place to look for answers!

Previous Garden 2010 Blog Posts:

Plants in the Ground, Plants in the Ground
Garden 2010 - Day 12
How Does Your Garden Grow

Posted by Jen B On Friday, June 25, 2010 No comments
It is weird enough to experience one extreme natural event in a single day, but yesterday we had two: an earthquake and a tornado.

The earthquake I'm sure everyone has heard of by now.  A magnitude 5.0 earthquake on the Ontrario/Quebec border, with people feeling the effects of it all across Ontario and into the United States.  It was only brief here, about 15 seconds at most, but it was pretty surreal none-the-less. John said: "Do you feel that?", and I looked over at the TV stand and the DVDs were rattling.  And then it was over. We all went outside.  I expected to see a fighter jet flying low, bringing all the big shot G8 members to Huntsville, but none were to be seen.  It was an Earthquake.  I called family in Barrie; they either felt it or heard something weird.  I went to Facebook: at least ten people had already posted experiencing the earthquake too.  I checked twitter and it said it was over capacity; so many people were talking about it.  It wasn't long before the U.S. Geological Survey had information about it too.  My brother and I both filled out the "Did You Feel it?" survey - check it out if you are interested in expressing your experience of the event.
 The Earthquake location; from US Geological Survey

I have never experienced an earthquake before, and to be fair this one was incredibly minor.  The DVDs rattled a little and then I talked about it (as did everyone) all day.  Though we do have some fault lines here in Canada, we are really lucky that most of us thought the earthquake was neat rather than life threatening and terrifying.

Flash-forward five hours later to something actually life threatening and terrifying, a tornado struck Midland, Ontario. I have spent much of the day looking at photos, news sites, and watching youtube videos about the destruction - it is hard to believe how much damage tornados can cause.  No one died, thankfully, but many people are without homes and Midland has declared a state of emergency.

I live about 15 km from Midland, and though we were safe where we are, it is frightening that it happened so close to home.  Our friends and family live and work in Midland.  We go there practically everyday for our necessities.  If we had needed groceries last night, we could have easily driven into the storm.  It is crazy to think about.  I hope everyone in Midland affected by the tornado is okay and that people can get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible.

Here are some links to reports about the Tornado.  I find some of the video coverage shocking because I recognize all of the buildings.

Midland Mirror
CTV - with video

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, June 24, 2010 No comments
There is a bag of knitting sitting on a random shelf that has been there for almost half a year now.  The bag holds a third finished scarf, the required needles, and a few balls of yarn.  The bag also must have my motivation in it, as I have absolutely no desire to finish this project.  The problem I’m finding with this particular scarf is that it is BIG, LONG, and WIDE.  I am using a double strand to make it THICK too.  This scarf also has no pattern, other than stockinette stitch and colour changes where I see fit.  Even though I am using a bigger needle (8mm), the scarf seems to be taking forever.  As I have no pattern, I don’t have the comfort of knowing if I am on row 32 of 65, or 10 of 100.  I have no idea how far along I am, and that makes it seem like it will never be finished.  Also, every time I hold the scarf up around my neck it doesn’t feel or look any longer, which doesn’t reassure me that an end is indeed in sight.

What keeps me from just ripping out all the stitches and washing my hands of this GIANT scarf, is that I really want the finished product.  I am knitting it to match my Grandma’s Coat, and I have already put so much time into it, that it would be a shame not to finish it.  I worked on it for a few hours last week, but now it is back in the bag along with my motivation to complete it.  :(

Is there a project you’re working on that you want to finish but it seems like it will never get done?  Maybe we could encourage one another! :)

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, June 23, 2010 2 comments
I recently found out that my bicycle seat was too low.  It has unfortunately been too low for two cycling seasons.  When I first bought my bike, I adjusted it from it’s original settings to what I felt was comfortable for me to ride.  Over the past two years I have gone (what I thought was) great distances on my bike.  It turns out, what I thought was “comfortable” was actually placing all the work to power my bike onto my knees.  Now that the seat has been moved up, the power to move my bike will come from my thigh muscles, as well as the force of my entire body.  The former “great distances” I’ve gone, are really only the beginning of how far I can go. I am pretty excited about where I will be able to ride to this summer.

I often ride on the Simcoe County/Tiny Trail system, and last summer I built up my endurance to make it to the next major (ha!) intersection, about 9 km away.  The whole ride was 18 km (there and back) and took an hour and a half.  It was my biking distance goal last summer and I succeeded near the end of the season.  I only made it there once, but I was pretty proud to have made it there at all! 

This spring I have been doing a lot of walking and postponed hoping on my bike until just a few weeks ago.  I have only been on a handful of bike rides this season, and after a recent one, someone who knows a lot more about bikes than I do, commented that she thought my knees were bending too much when I rode, and helped me adjust my seat to a proper height (thanks, T!).  So when I set out on what was only my fourth ride of the season, I made it all the way to that long dreamed of major intersection from last year.  It took me three months to get there last year, and only a week this year.  I also made better time too!  And I didn’t feel exhausted for days afterwards.  Amazing!

I have the whole summer ahead of me and am really looking forward to longer distance bike rides.  I picked up some padded cycling gloves, a bike lock, a portable air pump, a patch kit, a bike-mountable water bottle, and an ‘on the road‘ tool kit.  Now, I not only have the power to go further, but with these accessories, I also feel more secure about being farther from home.

Now to plan a distance goal for the summer.  The farthest I’ve cycled is 18 km; we’ll see what the new record is at the end of the season!

Posted by Jen B On Tuesday, June 22, 2010 No comments
I spent much of last week painting my bro’s kitchen.  The previous tenant had half painted it, meaning some of the walls were yellow and some were gray.  It was like that for two years.  I said I would paint it over March break - but only got around to it now.  That’s how it works when you “hire” family! :)

The joy of painting my brother’s place went beyond making him happy, I got to spend the week with my parents, brother-in-law, and my grandparents too.  They all live together in the same apartment building, so between coats I got to hang out with my family.  It was a really nice week and everyone was in a great mood.  Who knew painting could be such a good time?

I washed walls, taped, and primed on Monday.  Did two coats of ‘Persian Melon’ on Tuesday, and did some touch ups on Wednesday.  Going to bed Monday night and throughout the day on Tuesday, I had the most intense ache in my thigh muscles.  The cause eluded me until the second coat of paint on Tuesday night, when I realized that half of the work was me squatting to edge the bottom of the walls.  I basically did three hours of squats over a day and a half.  Ouch!  It was painful to sit down on Wednesday and Thursday - and even today, there is still a dull ache!

Bro got some nice art shots of painting supplies and my handiwork.  I describe the new colour as “wake up, have some scrambled eggs, and enjoy a sunny day.”  I think he made a great colour choice.  He is a graphic designer after all!

The "prime" directive

Early Morning Art Shot A

Early Morning Art Shot B

Persian Melon

 Let me roll it to you!

One of the 400 squats I did that day!

Posted by Jen B On Monday, June 21, 2010 No comments
My Mom, grandparents, and I went over to the Barrie Legion for lunch today.  Put on by the Ladies Auxiliary, today's lunch was roast beef on a bun with french fries, with carrot cake for dessert.  All for only $6, with proceeds going to support the Barrie Legion.  It turns out today was the last Legion lunch for the summer, and they will resume the Wednesday lunches again in September.

My Poppa was in the Navy, so he and Grandma spend a lot of time at the Legion.  I don't go very often, but have been to Wednesday lunch several times in the past.  The Legion is also a place where our family will have get togethers (birthday parties, showers, funeral receptions, etc.).  It is nice to go and see some familiar faces.  I also really like older people.  We had lunch with a couple who are friends with my grandparents, and it is neat to see people (my grandparents included) who have been married for 40+ years and watch them banter back and forth, and tell bad puns.  It is pretty cute, actually.  Everyone was concerned that I put too much horseradish on my sandwich and I would surely have smoke coming out my ears while eating it.  I didn't, but the comments kept me smiling while I ate.  :)

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, June 16, 2010 1 comment
Look who showed up in the backyard!
Turtle Face!!

Turtle in the Grass!

Turtle Eye!

Turtle Hide!

Turtle Shell!

Turtle Foot!

Posted by Jen B On Friday, June 11, 2010 No comments
In the early 2000’s my Mom entered quite a few items into the Oro World’s Fair baking/craft competition.  She took home a lot of First Place ribbons that year, one of which was for her amazing banana bread.  I follow this recipe anytime I make banana bread, and Mom has let me know I can share the recipe with all of you!

When it comes to bananas, it is often a challenge for me to get through a whole bunch without them over ripening.  The problem is that I don’t actually eat bananas in banana form.  I am a weirdo when it comes to fruit and I don’t like the texture of many of them. I just find most of them icky!  If I transform the fruit, however, I have no problem eating it.  Weird, right?  I normally transform fruit into smoothies (I can eat almost any fruit in smoothie form).  If I have a banana fail and the bunch doesn’t get eaten before they go off, I put them in the freezer until I have enough of them to make my Mom's amazing banana bread.

Oro Fair First Place Banana Bread

1 cup mashed banana (wet)
1 cup brown sugar (wet)
4 tbsp melted butter or margarine (wet)
2 eggs (wet)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
walnuts (1/2 cup or to taste)

Mix all wet ingredients together.  Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl, and add to wet ingredients. Stir until mixed.  Add walnuts and stir.

Grease loaf pan generously.  Fill loaf pan 2/3 full (should be all the batter).

Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes.

 Mmmmmm.... Fresh baked banana bread...


Posted by Jen B On Thursday, June 10, 2010 No comments
We did a thorough cleaning of the house this week and though it is pretty tedious to pull out and vacuum behind every shelf, desk, piece of furniture, etc., the results are totally worth the effort.  A little less dust is a good thing. :)

By The Numbers:

Number of pens found under the couch: 3

Number of lip chaps found under the couch: 2

Number of glue sticks found under the couch: 1

Number of USB thumb drives sucked up by the vacuum: 1 (later rescued!)

Number of hair ties/cat toys previously hidden by the cat, that were recovered: 8

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, June 09, 2010 No comments
Our indoor cat Gary doesn't get outside too much.  We have a harness and a leash for her, but she hates them, so her outdoor excursions are always twenty minutes or less.  Her activities while outside are few; her main goal is to locate long grass and eat as much of it as possible.  Gary loves grass!

We bought her a pot of cat grass last year for $1.99, and she promptly murdered it.  For a little cat, she doesn't seem to have a limit on how much she can ingest.  She will simply have it all, right now, thank you.

This year we bought cat grass seeds for $1.99, and she is already on her second round.  To give her more surface area for her grass, I re-used a take out container as a planter/greenhouse.  This way the cat grass is both "green" and frugal.  Sounds good to me!  Here's what I did:

1. Planter/greenhouse (this is from Swiss Chalet take-out)
2. Potting Soil
3. Cat grass seeds

Growing cat grass:
 1. Put potting soil into the container
2. Make holes for lots of seeds
3. Plant lots of seeds
4. Water
5. Put lid on container and place in window

Cat grass sprouts.

Cat grass!

Gary after enjoying some cat grass.

Now that this batch is fully grown, I am going to start a new round.  That way, by the time Gary completely destroys this current batch, she'll have a new one she can start on!

Posted by Jen B On Tuesday, June 08, 2010 No comments
Following some tips from Canadian Living, I made some pretty rocking Lemon-Ginger iced tea.

What you'll need:
16 cups boiled water
1 cup sugar (or to taste)
10 bags green tea
2 tsp powdered ginger (or to taste)
1/4 cup lemon juice (or to taste)
Large jug

To make iced tea:
Pour 16 cups of boiling water over tea bags.  Let steep 15 minutes and then remove tea bags.  Add 1 cup of sugar to the tea while water is still hot.  Stir to mix in.  Allow tea to cool on counter.  Once cooled, refrigerate.

This recipe has about 1 tbs of sugar per cup.  Add more or less to suit your desired sweetness.  Also, though the iced tea was good the day I made it, it tasted even better the next day, so hang in there if it doesn't initially wow you.

Posted by Jen B On Monday, June 07, 2010 2 comments
My friend Alison recently had a cupcake tasting party, so we could try some vegan cupcakes she has been experimenting with.  The cupcakes are being made for our friend Sarah's upcoming wedding, and due to her lactose intolerance, a vegan recipe is a good way to ensure the bride can enjoy her wedding cupcakes along with her guests.

Since I have been expanding my double pointed needle skills, I thought I would make a knit cupcake to take to the hostess of the tasting party.  Following a pattern I found through Ravelry (the only place I seem to get my patterns now), I knit this quick and easy cupcake.

The cupcakes we sampled were chocolate-banana and vanilla.  Both were good, but the chocolate-banana were exceptional.  I'm looking forward to eating some more at the wedding! :)

Posted by Jen B On Sunday, June 06, 2010 No comments
I spent the afternoon at an open house for three local ladies who are all celebrating their 90th birthday this summer.  I am related to two of the ladies, so the afternoon was filled with lots of extended family.  I also met quite a few neighbours, many of whom I've only waved to from my bike, so today I got to say many real hellos.  The birthday ladies were presented with certificates from both the Provincial and Municipal governments, congratulating them on their longevity.  The deputy Mayor of the township gave them their certificates; I thought that was a nice touch.  Turning ninety is definitely something to celebrate, and it was really nice to see so many members of the community there.  I can only hope my 90th birthday is as well attended! :)

Not only was the afternoon full of guests and socializing, but also many lovely bite size snacks.  There is nothing better at these events than assorted triangle sandwiches.  I had an egg salad one and two that were filled with some sort of canned ham.  Canned ham!  That stuff is as gross as it is good.  Yum!  I also enjoyed many sweet squares and birthday cake.  It was a remarkable spread. 

The most frequent comment towards me today were variations of "Wow - you're tall!" I am in fact tall, but it really stands out when I'm in a room full of old ladies.  One little old lady told me she is going to catch up to me in height - just give her time.  She is 87, so we'll see how we measure up at her 90th birthday party! :)

Posted by Jen B On Saturday, June 05, 2010 No comments
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