Friday, May 31, 2013

Raspberries

I love raspberries. They are the perfect combination of sweet, tart, squishy and red. The best berry. I think I even like them better than strawberries. But maybe not as much as blueberries...

Anyways, since I love raspberries so much, it was only natural to want to have some of my own plants so that I can sneak out to the backyard and eat fresh berries whenever I so desire. Well, during raspberry season of course.

Last summer Dan and I picked up some of those easy plant your own raspberry plants. You know, the ones that come in a little bag that has a stick coming out of the top. They don't look too exciting but we were hoping once planted, they would blossom into a full raspberry plant.


We happily planted two raspberry plants and one blackberry plant. Except they didn't take. The blackberry plant disappeared immediately and the raspberries kept getting pulled up. We were so confused as to what animal would come along, pull the plant out and then just leave it on the ground.

We replanted them the first couple times, hoping that we could still rescue them. But they continued to get pulled up. Finally, Dan decided to figure out what animal was responsible for the death of our precious raspberries, so he climbed up onto the garage roof and waited. An hour goes by and still nothing. In hour two, he witnessed Mia, our crazy dog, prancing by and pulling up both plants. She didn't even miss a beat in her walk!

So that was the end of our first attempt at raspberries.

We figured the stick looking plants were just too tempting to Mia so we thought we would go with plants that had actual leaves on them already. Back to Home Depot we went, purchasing two bushy raspberry plants. We planted them last summer and then promptly forgot about them. We rarely watered them and wondered if they would last the winter.

This spring, we were pleased to see that they had not only survived, but that they had grown and were looking healthier than they had last summer! Which can only mean one thing. Time for more plants!


Since we had been successful with the Home Depot plants, we purchased two more. We then planted them near the older ones and are hoping they fill in quite nicely along the edge of our property.


So far they're doing well and looking healthy. I'm excited to eat some fresh raspberries this summer! I'll keep you posted on how they do over the next couple of months, but so far Mia has left them alone. Silly dog.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Financial Stuff Update #2

I decided it was probably time for another post on how we're doing with our financial goals. Our last update showed some things already crossed off and I'm happy to report that more has been slashed! But then again, we've been really good at spending money instead of saving money.

I think it's because we know that pretty soon we will be living off of one income instead of two and we are trying to get a bunch of last minute projects in that cost money. Since the chances of us having extra money any time soon are pretty slim, we want to get certain things done.

But still, we aren't doing too bad.

Short-term Goals
  1. Pay off Mastercard balance (We had completed this but fell a little behind again)
  2. Use cash/envelope system for groceries
  3. Pay off Mastercard regularly
  4. Top up emergency fund
  5. Start to tithe more (Another ongoing thing but so far we have been doing pretty good with it)
  6. Make a monthly budget and stick to it
Long-term Goals
  1. Transition to one income (we are still in the process of doing this. February was awesome, March and April not so much. But May has been pretty good so far and I'm hoping June is too!)
  2. Put extra money towards paying down the mortgage
  3. Put money into savings account to go towards yearly expenses (This is mostly complete but I'm still hoping to get another paycheque or two into our savings account before I quit.)
To Buy/Save For
  1. Furnace installation costs (in garage)
  2. Freezer (scored for $100 cheaper than we originally thought!)
  3. Quarter cow from local farmer
  4. Hedge
  5. Split rail fence
  6. Surround sound system
So there's our mini-update on our financial goals. I think that come the end of June Dan and I will sit down and tweak them again. That's the thing about finances, they are constantly changing and you need to go with the flow. Even now, looking over this update, I can see areas where we need to work on and how this list is a little out of date. So stay tuned for more financial updates this summer!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Yard & Flowers

This post will be mostly pictures. I'm not feeling overly inspired today and I have a whole mishmash of photos I wanted to share with you all but didn't really have enough to make individual posts.

So for your viewing pleasure, here is a little bit of our life right now.

Rhubarb Patch Before

Rhubarb Patch After
Our happy little meat birds

Pretty flowers amongst the weeds I call a flower bed

Apple Blossoms
Our new and improved firepit with flat stones for warming up s'mores

My flowers are growing!
 
Our lilac bush

Gorgeous!
Happy tulips
So there you go. A picture filled post to give you a smile. Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Yet Another Update on Exercise

I figured it was probably time for an update on my exercising/running.

It isn't going well. At all.

I'm so ashamed of how slack I've been lately but then again, it's not all my fault. After the shin splints, I took a three week break to let my legs heal and feel better. Once they started improving, I got back to running but made sure to do a lot of stretching. I've still had the occasional problem with the shin splint pain but overall, it has improved. I think my orthotics and my stretches have helped in that department.

But my newest problem is motivation. I just don't seem to have it anymore. I was so motivated those first four weeks of the Couch to 5K program and then I hit a speed bump. It doesn't help that I've also been experiencing some minor chest pain and nausea after my runs.

The worst part? My 5K run is this Saturday. Yup, only four days away and I am in no way ready for it. I'm pretty sure I'll be walking most of it. But, I still plan on going.

That being said, I also plan on starting up the whole Couch to 5K program again next week. Fresh from the start with hopefully no hiccups along the way. Maybe I'll be able to run a full 5K in the fall.  But the plan is to not set any deadlines for myself and just learn to enjoy running. Because I really do think I could learn to love it.

I also need to get back to my indoor workouts, such as situps, pushups and weights. I have a Jillian Michael's weight workout on video that I need to start up. And I want to keep my abs looking fab! Especially with bathing suit season right around the corner.

So that's my update. It isn't going that well but I'm determined not to give up. I can do this!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Chicken Coop & Hen House Painted!

A long long time ago (like at least a few weeks, maybe even a month) I promised you all pictures of our completely finished and painted chicken coop and hen house. But I slacked off and didn't get around to it. Until now!

Are you excited for the big reveal?

:::::drum roll please::::::

First up, the chicken coop that we added to the back of the garage.

We chose to paint the main parts of it a grey that would match the garage and other outbuildings. Plus, we had that paint on hand.


Then we painted the trim and door a light green. The green wouldn't have been my first choice since it kind of blends in with the grey, but it was a mis-tint at Canadian Tire and we got it for cheap.

I love how the hen house turned out. It looks so much better than the old one and the extended run is perfect for the hens.


I'm glad that we were able to reuse the black rooster silhouette on the new hen house, it really does add to it.




So we are officially done with the coop and hen house. No more work being done on them. What do you think of the finished finished products? Pretty nice eh? Good thing I've got a handy husband.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spring Planting

One of my favourite things about Spring is planting the vegetable garden. It reminds me of my childhood, when Dad would till the garden and prepare it for planting, then the whole family would get in on the action, carefully placing little peas in the rows laid out for us, struggling with the tiny carrot seeds, enjoying the fresh cold earth. Those were good times, sweet memories. As I got older and into the teenage years, I would try and get out of helping at all costs. I would pout and grump as I got dragged out to help plant, thinking there couldn't be anything worse than this.

But now, now I'm back to the joy of planting seeds, watching tiny green shoots come up through the dirt and take pleasure in harvesting veggies that I have helped tend and grow. Yes, spring planting is exciting again.

We got our garden planted last Saturday, taking advantage of the long weekend and the sunshine. Dan had prepped and tilled the garden during the week, so that we would be able to get straight to planting come the weekend.


We expanded our garden this year, almost doubling it in size. We said it was so that we could have more room between rows, seeing as last years garden was so crowded. But I took advantage of the extra space and enlarged the vegetable selection, so this years garden is going to be just as full, with more variety.

I mapped out a rough sketch of where things would be planted and wrote out the names of everything on stakes. With a garden this big, we have to know where everything is going.



Dan was in charge of making the rows this year, after my sad attempt last year at making them somewhat straight. He measured the distance between rows with stakes and then strung rope between said stakes. Then using the rope as a guide, he made nice even rows using the hoe.



It worked much better than my method of just starting at one end and backing up while dragging the hoe. Once the rows were made, we got to planting, which took forever. Or so it seemed. I think it's more like we planted in the middle of the day and with the sun beating down on us, it made the whole process seem a lot longer.

And I forgot to actually take any planting pictures, since I was too hot and sweaty to think of it. Oh well. Here's a picture of the garden that I snapped yesterday morning, with the fog in the background. I kind of like it.


There are already a few plants popping up through the soil but they're too small to actually photograph. It's pretty exciting stuff though. Don't worry, I'll be keeping you all posted on the growth of my garden.

Did anyone else get their gardens planted last weekend? Or maybe this weekend? If you don't have a huge garden like me, do you do any container gardening? Or maybe flowers instead of veggies? I would love to hear about it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Yard Sale Finds

Nothing like some good yard sale deals to make you feel like the most frugal shopper ever. Or maybe not.

But still, I scored some sweet deals last week at a giant yard sale we went to and I'm hear to flaunt my treasures.

Ready to be amazed?

First up, this awesome antique chair I just stumbled upon. It's pretty much exactly what I have been looking for to put in our room as a clothes dump so that my floor and dresser might stay a little less cluttered.


I love the lines of it and the pattern in the back of it. Which you can't really see in these pictures but trust me, it's pretty.


It's in a little rough shape right now but I'm confident that once I give it some TLC, it will look fabulous. My plans are to sand and paint the wood (not sure what colour yet) and then reupholster the cushion. I'm not really in love with the mustard yellow.

And while I'm on the chair topic, check out these beauties!


They aren't a matching pair but they're similar enough that I don't think it will be overly noticeable once I give them a good coat of the same colour paint.


The plans for these are to go on the front porch with a little breakfast table. I'm pretty sure that eating breakfast out there during the summer months would be most delightful.

But how can you eat breakfast on your front porch without something to carry it out on? Shockingly enough, I don't own a single tray. Weird right?

Ever since I spotted this (see picture below) beautiful tray at a thrift store, I've been on the search for a tray for myself.


That is my sister Cora who took advantage of my brief hesitation at the price of said tray and swiped it for herself. She then informed me that she's been using the tray to eat breakfast on her porch in the mornings, and I got jealous!

So I found myself a tray. It's not half as cute as the one she got but it will have to do until I find a better one.


I also picked up two new baskets that I can use when harvesting produce from my garden. The deeper one is to pick beans and peas and such while the flatter one is to pick carrots, onions and other long type things. Cute right?


After picking out all these useful things, I thought it was about time to get some fun stuff too. So I headed over to the book section and came across these awesome finds!


I'm really excited to be expanding my children's books library and especially with so many amazing classics. I mean seriously, who doesn't love the Berenstein Bears?

Dan also picked out two books for himself.


That marks the end of our yard sale shopping spree. But the best part, the price! We only paid $14 for everything! Pretty amazing, eh? The money goes towards sending kids to a local day camp in the area so I felt good spending the money. Plus, I got some project worthy things!

Stay tuned to see how I fix up my chairs, whenever I actually get around to it. It could be a while, knowing my track record with finishing projects I start.

What about you? Do you love yard sales? Hate them? Couldn't care less? I'm totally a person who believes that one person's trash is another person's treasure.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gutter Herb Garden

I saw an idea on Pinterest some time last year about doing a gutter garden. Basically, you just take a rain gutter, drill holes in the bottom, attach it to a wall, fill it with dirt and plant stuff in it. I liked that idea for a few reasons: it would save space in my garden, it would put it closer to my house and it would look pretty.

So I decided to give it a shot this year and plant some herbs in a gutter garden. If it doesn't work out, then I might try lettuce or something similar to that next year. But everything is worth a try once right?

We chose the side of our garage as our gutter herb garden location, seeing as it got a lot of sun and was close to the house for easy picking.


We chose a brown gutter since we thought that would look the nicest filled with dirt and would blend in well with the grey of the garage. We purchase all our supplies at Home Depot, which included the gutter, end caps and hanging brackets.


Dan then cut our gutter in two, so that we could have two shorter ones on each side of the window.


Then we drilled holes in the bottom to allow for drainage.


Once that part was done, we filled them nice and evenly with dirt. Then came the planting part! We chose to go with seeds, even though we know we won't be getting any use out of them for a while. I may still go to the farmer's market and buy a couple plants to throw in there, just so we can get some immediate satisfaction.


I then wrote on some thick popsicle sticks so we would have an idea of what was growing where.


I think it looks pretty good, don't you?


I can't wait for stuff to start growing and there be some more greenery alongside the garage.


One more thing I can cross off my 13 Goals for 2013 list. Or maybe I should wait and see if anything actually grows...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Simple Pleasures - May

Here are the things that have made me smile this past week!

Tuesday: The card from our neighbours thanking us for collecting their mail and keeping an eye on their cottage all winter.

Wednesday: The AMAZING gluten-free chocolate chip cookies I made myself. Thank you Betty Crocker for the mix. And thank you Amy for giving sharing a most treasured box with me.

Thursday: The lilac bush that is blooming right outside our bedroom window.

Friday: My newest additions to my kids books collection.

Saturday: The fun variety of pepper plants we bought from the farmer's market.

Sunday: First fishing of the season.

Monday: Open windows. Oh how I love spring.
 There you have it, May's simple pleasures. Life is good.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Victoria Day

Sorry for the delayed post today, I completely forgot to actually write anything because here in Ontario, it's Victoria Day!

Which means, I'm at home vegging out in the sunshine and enjoying a long weekend and not thinking about blogging. Sorry!

I'll be back tomorrow with a normal post. I hope you are all having a fabulous Monday!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Outdoor To-Do List - Update #1

I figured it was high time for an update on our outdoor to-do list, since we've been so busy working on projects as of late. And don't you like to be kept up-to-date on the goings on at our house yard?

So here you have it, our work in progress outdoor to-do list.

Outdoor To Do List 2013-2014 (and maybe even 2015?)
  • Build split rail fence along property line in front yard
  • Plant hedge along property line in backyard To read more about it, click here
  • Prune apple trees
  • Revamp flower gardens
  • Rebury white siding in front flower garden Dan completed this while I was at work one day
  • Paint gable end (in progress)
  • Wash front porch
  • Sand & repaint front porch railings
  • Wash siding on East side of house
  • Rebuild stone entryway on East side of house
  • Expand back deck
  • Plant new shade tree
  • Expand garden
  • Build chicken coop in lean-to on back of garage Click here, here, here and here for details
  • Rebuild chicken coop for hens Click here and here for pics
  • Plant blueberries Click here for more info
  • Plant raspberries
  • Level backyard
  • Make gutter herb garden (in progress)
  • Make rain barrel
  • Buy or make front porch swing
  • Plant rhubarb Click here to see pics
  • Plant cherry or crabapple tree
Pretty good progress, right? I'm pleased with how much we've done, considering it's only the middle of May. And I added two more things to it.

If you want to see the original to-do list, click here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gingered Beef and Vegetables - New Recipe #5

You know how sometimes you are excited to try a new recipe and then it doesn't turn out quite as good as you had hoped it would? This is one of those recipes.

But after saying that, I'm not ready to give up on it entirely. I think that it just needs some tweaking and maybe it would taste a little more flavourful.

As most of you know by now, one of my 13 Goals for 2013 was to try 10 new recipes this year. I've actually probably already tried ten new recipes but I haven't documented them or blogged about them, so we won't count those.

Pinterest gave me this recipe for Gingered Beef and Vegetables and it looked simple and tasty. Plus, it was a crockpot meal and we all know how wonderful it is it put some ingredients into a crockpot and come home at the end of the day to supper. So I thought it was worth a shot.


Not to mention, it called for beef and I have my fair share of beef to use up. I got to work assembling my ingredients and dumped them all into my handy dandy crockpot.


I turned it to low and headed off to work. Easy peasy.

When I got home, I added the cornstarch, red peppers and peas (I used normal peas instead of sugar snap peas) and watched as it turned into a nice looking meal. It smelled pretty good too and I was getting excited to eat it.


But eating it was the disappointing part. It was pretty bland. I don't know why since I followed the directions of the recipe, but there just wasn't that pop of flavour that I was expecting with something that had "gingered" in the title.

The best part of the meal though was getting to eat it outside in the sunshine. Got to love spring!


So it wasn't a complete failure but I was disappointed with it. I might try it again and add more ginger and other spices. Any suggestions? Have you ever been excited to try a new recipe and then ended up being disappointed with it? Did you try improving it or just gave up and tossed the recipe?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Geocaching Date Night

Last week (before the weather turned cold and miserable) Dan and I had a wonderful date night. Not your stereotypical date night of going out to dinner and a movie, but a date night of treasure hunting. Treasure hunting = geocaching.

What is geocaching? Here is Wikipedia's definition of it.

Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", anywhere in the world.

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. After signing into the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value.

Some people are super hardcore geocachers but Dan and I just do it occasionally for fun. Like last week, when we just popped out for an evening ride on the bike and went in search of some caches.


It was a gorgeous evening and it felt so nice to get out of the house on a little adventure. We found this adorable little nature park and spent an hour or so exploring it.


I'm the queen of finding the caches, or so I like to think. Although honestly, I'm pretty sure it's just chance that I spot them more often than Dan.

Here I am signing our names in the logbook of the very first cache.


It was a super easy find, a little box hanging in a small pine tree. It took us about .3 seconds to find. So after such a quick success, we headed off down the trails to find the next one.


And what do you know, I found the second one too! Although it took us 5-10 minutes of searching before actually finding the cache. It was a little harder to find than the first one, but find it I did!


We headed off again down the trail and took in all the beauty around us. It was a really pretty little park and completely deserted. We were the only ones there.


The third cache was even harder to find than the second! We searched and searched and got our arms all scratched by the bushes. Just when I was ready to give up, Dan found it!


Yes, the cache was a weird rubber chicken in a bikini.

At this point we decided it was time to head back to the bike and make our way home. I think finding three out of the seven caches in the park was pretty decent, don't you?


It was a really fun evening and it felt good to get out and spend time together. It's been a while since I've felt good enough to go on fun adventures like this. Hopefully we'll fit more in this summer!