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Monday, July 30, 2012

How I Stopped Killing Plants and Learned to Grow Something...

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{I am so sorry if you are seeing inappropriate ads being served on my blog at the moment! I have notified my media company and I hope it will be fixed soon. I sincerely apologize!}

Yes, I admit it. I am a horrible gardener. I don't even think 'Gardening for Dummies' could help me. I just don't have a green thumb or a green anything. However, I do have a yard to take care of and I have to work on getting the green thing going on. I am so proud of  myself because this summer I had some very small successes! {I so admire all you gardeners out there who share your lovely gardens & plants on your blog!}
This is the garden you see as you walk to our front door. Not so long ago, it was looking nasty. Unloved & untended. Every year, I weed this garden and I plant things to fill in the bare spaces, but usually 3 out of the 4 things I plant die. It is very discouraging. In my defense, going to Nova Scotia for 6 weeks in July & August doesn't help. But still...I was determined to do better this year. It began with this question, "What was I doing wrong when planting new plants?" . Hmmm. I watered them after planting...just like the gardening books said. They still died. I killed them.
So I did a little more research and talked to some people at the greenhouse. And you know what I learned? It helps if the hole is watered before the plant goes in, then  back filled and then watered again. So this is what I did differently this time around. {I know this is probably common sense for a lot of people, but not for me unfortunately}. I also bought some 'root booster' nutrient mixture and mixed that with the water that went into the hole first. I bought a total of 9 plants and planted them using this method, and they are doing great! Small steps. Small steps. Here is the front garden now....completely weeded, and planted with some new perennials.
And after 6 weeks, the plants have filled in nicely and we have Shasta Daisies blooming,
Brown Eyed Susans,
and some Lavender.
And I also 'baby' my little babies...I talk to them and ask them to grow and I water them as soon as they look dry!

Next year, I want to try a vegetable garden....a big honkin' vegetable garden full of tomatoes and beans and swiss chard and beets and everything yummy!

Have you had any small successes lately with a job that has been your nemesis?
What did you do to overcome it?


If you would like to see my spray-painted bucket planters project, please go here.

And to see Part I of my back deck makeover, please go here.

And you might like to take a peek at these Pinterest Boards:
Summer Mantels
Outdoor Ideas
Camping Recipes & Ideas
Flowers To Love
Canning Projects To Love

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Fruit Clafouti...

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It can't be summer without some summer fresh fruit desserts, can it? This is the newest favourite at our house...a summer fruit clafouti. What's a clafouti, you say? To put simply, it's a name for a simple French country dessert and is made with a quick batter poured over fresh fruit and then baked in the oven. Plus, I love saying 'Clafouti' in my best mock French accent!

The great thing about this dessert is that you can use almost any fruit you have on hand, or a mixture, which is what I used for today's clafouti...plums, apricots and blueberries. These fruits were going soft in my fridge and needed to be used. But you could use plums, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, raspberries,etc. or any combination.This dessert is super simple to make and only takes about 15 minutes to assemble to go into the oven.

Ingredients


Fresh fruit, any type, enough to cover the bottom of a 10 inch pie plate.

1/2 to 1 cup of sugar, regular white sugar or turbinado sugar {I used turbinado sugar}

3 eggs

1 1/3 cups milk

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Directions:

1.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter a 10 inch pie plate.

2. Arrange sliced fruit to cover the entire bottom of the pie plate. Sprinkle sugar over the top of the fruit.If the fruit is very sweet, sprinkle lightly with sugar. If the fruit is very tart, sprinkle liberally with sugar. Sprinkle fruit with lemon zest and cinnamon.  In a blender, combine  3 tablespoons of sugar, eggs, milk, flour, vanilla, and salt. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour over the fruit in the pan.

3.Bake for 30 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Here is the bottom of the pie plate. I actually made 2 clafoutis because I had enough fruit to make 2 of these and my kids love fruit desserts.
The fruit is sprinkled with turbinado sugar, which is a refined raw sugar that looks like coarse beige crystals. I keep turbindao sugar in my kitchen all the time because I like to sprinkle it on muffins or scones, etc. Regular sugar will work just as well. Then sprinkle the lemon zest and cinnamon on the fruit.
The custard-like batter is made in the blender. If you don't own a blender,  a whisk or spatula will do the job.
The batter is poured over the fresh fruit and the dessert is ready to go in the oven.
After 35 minutes, the dessert is puffed up and golden and ready to come out.
I topped our clafouti with a little whipped cream and a touch of cinnamon. When I was getting ready to photograph it to share here, I pulled out one of my Grandmother's lovely vintage tablecloths. It's hand embroidered, several years old and so pretty! I miss her so much and using some of her pretty things helps keep me close to her.
Clafoutis have a very custard-like texture and can be eaten warm or cold. The combination of the warm fruit with the custard is delicious and fragrant.
And in less than an hour, this is plate #1  of my summer fruit clafouti. It's kaput-i already! {My kids loved it...my daughter ate it for breakfast!}

If you would like to see other delicious summer fruit desserts, check out here and here.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


This post is linked to these terrific parties:

I'm Lovin' It at TidyMom
Funky Junk Interiors



Somewhat SimpleThe 36th AVENUE





Lil\'Luna



Chef In TrainingTip Junkie handmade projects Today's Creative Blog



Skip To My LouUndertheTableandDreaming I Heart Nap Time

It's OverflowingPositively Splendid

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Future of Family...

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This post is part of the Visions of the Future bloggers network, a group of bloggers inspired by the new TV series Continuum. The one hour police drama tells the story of Kiera Cameron, a regular cop from 65 years in the future who finds herself trapped in present day Vancouver with eight of the most ruthless criminals from the future, known as Liber8, loose in the city. In the collection of blog posts, various writers share their vision of the future and how they would deal with the challenges. Head over to the Continuum website to catch the other posts and learn more about the series.

I was asked to share my thoughts on the future of family as part of the terrific new show Continuum, which debuted this spring on the Showcase channel in Canada. The lead character of the show, Kiera Cameron, is transported from 2077 back to 2012 by accident and is currently left in 2012 with no immediate means to get back to 'her time'. The most devastating part for Kiera is that she has a family in 2077 that she cannot get ‘back’ to and she desperately misses them as evidenced by flashbacks of her life with her husband and son that leave her in tears and in obvious pain & longing.


I cannot venture to think that the emotional ties and love we share for our families will change in the future. Although many aspects of our lives will change due to technological, medical, environmental, global and political factors…I think that the basic human emotion of attachment and deep, soulful love for those we share our lives with will remain unchanged. However, the ways in which we have a family or connect with family will change.

The future should hold amazing advances for the ways in which we may create a family unit. Strides in medical treatments and technology that support it will surely bring increased relief to infertile couples who will have more options than ever to achieve their dreams of having a family. In-vitro fertilization will become such a medically precise procedure that the possibility of having a child using this method will greatly increase. Or better yet, new methods, not even conceived of today, will be available to prospective parents as an option.


The future will bring more debate about how we protect our families as we move toward an era where technology will often outpace ethics. Already there are conversations initiated about whether or not we should micro-chip our children. The reasoning behind this idea is that the young and vulnerable could easily be found, if micro-chipped, in times of crisis, or protected from an estranged parent or a dangerous stranger. The argument that we already microchip our cars, cell phones, cameras and pets, brings about the question of whether or not we should take the next step and microchip our most precious thing...our children. This could also be taken a step further to the notion that we could, as a society, decide to microchip our entire families as a means of security and protection. We could, for instance, use micro-chipping to find an elderly or sick family member who has wondered off. Or locate a lost hiker or traveller in another country. Any family who has experienced having a family member missing can tell you that the suffering is unbearable. However, this brings about the question of privacy and personal rights vs. safety and security. In the interests of safety, it would be hard to argue that any parent who has lost sight of a young child in a shopping mall or playground for several minutes, would not feel instantly comforted by a micro-chipped child being located instantly by the tap of a button on a cell phone or micro-computer device.

It is also a hope of mine that the suffering that families endure from diseases such as ALS, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression, to name a few, will be greatly reduced as we benefit from new research and increasingly sophisticated medical testing and treatments that will tackle these diseases more effectively than ever. No more will we see families missing moms, dads or children because of a lack of available treatments options for a disease that has taken over a life with a swift, and often cruel, ending.

Certainly, the future of families being able to bond and stay connected will be strengthened by advanced technology that will allow the physical miles between family members to almost disappear. Today, we enjoy things like Skype calls, where we can see and hear our loved ones from afar. Did we even think this would be possible 30 years ago when my teenage self was hiding in a closet and on the phone chatting with my girlfriends for hours on end? I often think of our pioneering ancestors who, more than a century ago, would travel far away from their families by horse and wagon or ship to new frontiers, with only an occasional letter, received months after mailing, from family left behind. Fast forward to today where I live more than 3000 miles from my parents and we 'Skype' 3 to 4 times a week...not only sharing face-to-face conversations, but new haircuts, the latest scrapes and bruises on little knees, baking failures, new outfits, new puppies and house tours! We always end our calls with ‘blown kisses’ and smiles! I think the future will hold wonderful possibilities for face-to face contact with family by cell phones that are increasingly taking on the characteristics of mini-computers. Imagine a world where a family member could call you at any time from a place thousands of miles away and love could be shared immediately with the visual and audio connection of any phone/computer? We are almost there now.

There will always be the traditional family unit of one or two parents living in a home and raising children. However, I believe that with increasing divorce rates, blended families and adoptions, that the future will include a more expanded definition of families to include any group of adults and children living together who care for, nuture and love one another, who may or may not be related by blood. I absolutely think our future would benefit from a world with less ‘labels’ and more love and understanding. I can only believe that this will serve to strengthen the bonds of families in the future.


“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”

― George Eliot

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Deck Makeover...Part 1

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Let's begin by sharing a pretty picture first, before the ugly ones burn your eyeballs. Sound good?
I thought you would agree.
This week, I worked on a little makeover for our back deck.
To say it was in sore need of some lovin' would be an understatement.
Things were lookin' super ugly.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A SodaStream Tasting Bar...& A Discount for You!

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A few short weeks ago, the folks at SodaStream Canada contacted me and asked if I would like to try out and review their system.
Would I?
 You bet your grandmother's rocking chair I would!
I had recently tried the Sodastream at a friend's house and I was smitten with the idea.
I even seriously looked at them one day in a store with thoughts of buying one for our family.
This is what the awesome folks from SodaStream sent me:
A Green Fizz starter kit and a sample pack of flavours to try.
We were so excited to get this package in the mail....my son could not open it fast enough.
So, I threw a little taste testing party for our family plus a few friends.
I put out a bunch of flavours to try and some salty snacks to keep people thirsty!
My daughter's friend Jen loved the root beer.
My husband's favourite was cranberry-raspberry.
I loved the cola.
My daughter liked the iced tea.
This was my 11 year old son's review:



And after he had drank a gallon of soda, we kind of cut him off.
A-hem. Moving on.
***
Now, let's talk about how easy it is to make drinks.
It's so easy that my 11 yr. old can do it!
The SodaStream uses recyclable 1 litre bottles to make drinks.
1 bottle comes with the starter kit,but you can also buy more.
{We have 4 bottles total now. I use masking tape & a sharpie to label the bottles in the fridge as to what flavour each bottle is.}
And let me tell you what I *LOVE* about the SodaStream:

I love that we can make our own drinks at home using our own water.

The flavours taste great & there are lots to choose from!

No more lugging heavy soda bottles home from the grocery store.

It doesn't use any power...which makes it perfect for cottages and motor homes.

And most importantly, it gets our family directly involved in helping to divert over
360 billion bottles and cans from the landfill each year.

It reduces our carbon footprint by making our sodas at home and not using sodas
that are trucked hundreds or thousands of km to the grocery store.
***

And the lovely folks at SodaStream Canada have given me permission to pass on a great deal to you!

If you would like to order your own SodaStream Green Fizz starter kit,
 you can go to the site through this link in order to get a
10% discount on your own Green Fizz starter kit.
{Please use this link  in order to get the discount.}
At the time of check out,  enter the coupon code greenfizz2012 to get a 10% discount on your starter kit. 
This coupon code is good for 4 weeks...July 22 to August 26.

And here is our new home for our SodaStream:
It's our new SodaStream center...perfect for summer!
Our family is really loving this system!


This post is linked to these great parties:


Somewhat Simple



Skip To My LouI Heart Nap Time


It's OverflowingPositively Splendid


WhipperberryI'm Lovin' It at TidyMom52 Mantels


The 36th AVENUE



The DIY DreamerLil\'Luna

Tip Junkie handmade projects Home Stories A2ZChef In Training

Skip To My LouUndertheTableandDreaming
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