October 2010

When I mentioned to a few friends in an e-mail conversation that the 16 mature trees on our property were kicking my ass this fall, and that I’d filled more than 20 bags without managing to conquer even the half way point, one of the women who has been living a rural life for as long as I’ve been living in the city asked, “Why are you raking them up?”

542:1000 Autumn leaves

Why indeed? You mean, there’s a choice? Apparently, you can just mulch the snot out of them and (pardon the pun) leave them. But, if you can do that, why do most of the properties around here in Mature Tree Land seem to have careful rows of filled-to-bursting leaf bags lined at the roadside every week?

In defense of raking, it is a wonderful way to carefully inspect each inch of your new property. I found an entire raised and rock-lined garden bed in one corner of the yard that I hadn’t noticed before! And, it’s a great way to meet the neighbours before everyone goes into hibernation mode for the winter. (I had to laugh at the fact that everyone who walked by stopped to chat, and they all knew that we were the new family and exactly when we’d moved in. Small town indeed!)

What’s it like in your neck of the woods, bloggy peeps? Do you rake diligently? Or are you in the “wait for a blustery day to send it all next door” camp? Or maybe you just leave it on the lawn and call it compost? Do tell, I’m fascinated that there are choices other than seventeen hours of raking available to me!


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Canada Reads 2011

by DaniGirl on October 28, 2010 · 26 comments

in Books, Canadianisms, Memes

Back in the day, I used to blog a lot about books. Way way back in the day, I used to consider myself somewhat of a fan, if not an authority, on Canadian Literature. So when I heard that CBC Radio was compiling a list of the Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Decade, I knew it would make great blog fodder.

And then I actually looked at the list, unveiled today, and realized that I have read exactly three of them. And for an embarrassing number of them, I had heard of neither the book nor the author. Eek. Clearly I am not spending enough time with Shelagh Rogers.

But, I was so excited to have a blog post that required (a) brain use and (b) no discussion of moving, unpacking or septic systems, that I’m going to charge ahead with this one anyway. In fact, I’m going to make a meme out of it! Remember memes? They’re about as relevant as my knowledge of Canadian literature, apparently, as I can’t remember the last one I’ve seen. Let’s call this a celebration of the Canadian Blogosphere circa 2005, whaddya say?

Ahem, anyway, here’s the list. If you want to play along, copy and paste it into your own blog. The ones in bold I’ve read. The ones in bold and underlined, I’d recommend. The ones with an asterisk are on my “I swear, I will read it before 2012” list.

Ready?

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews *

Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall

Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright

Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant

Conceit by Mary Novik

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Drive-by Saviours by Chris Benjamin

Elle by Douglas Glover

Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Far to Go by Alison Pick

February by Lisa Moore

Galore by Michael Crummey

Heave by Christy Ann Conlin

Inside by Kenneth J. Harvey

Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill *

Moody Food by Ray Robertson

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson *

Room by Emma Donoghue

Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis *

The Birth House by Ami McKay

The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre

The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Fallen by Stephen Finucan

The Girls Who Saw Everything by Sean Dixon *

The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe

The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden *

Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

Twenty-Six by Leo McKay Jr.

Unless by Carol Shields *

Hmmm, not a single Douglas Coupland or Alice Munro? I suppose Will Ferguson is not exactly a novelist, but I am in the delicious depths of Beyond Belfast, and loving it as much as I loved Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw and Hitching Rides with Buddha. Looks like my tenuous claim to a passing knowledge of Canadian literature is as dated as my taste in music.

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Would you recommend them for CBC’s shortlist of the ten best Canadian novels of the decade? And do you think maybe it’s time for me to wade out of the wilderness and try something from this decade on my next trip to the library?

If you decide to play along and post the list on your blog, be sure to leave a comment so I can come over and admire your taste in Canadian literature!


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I‘ve been thinking about this post, which may eventually be a whole category on its own, quite a bit lately. Even though you haven’t seen much evidence of it, I’ve been busy blogging in my head throughout the chaos that has been the move, and I’m swimming in ideas and inspiration, if not free time to type it all out.

One of the biggest changes for us as a family in the new house is the fact that we’re now on a well and septic system. I knew virtually nothing about well and septic systems on the day we first visited the house, but I’ve had an education and a half in the past couple of months. What I didn’t expect was that in learning to live with our own private wastewater system, we’ve become far more aware of our environmental footprint than we ever were on the city water and sewer system. I thought it would make an interesting occasional series in the blog if I shared some of our new-found and hard-earned knowledge. If well and septic systems are old hat for you, feel free to intervene and correct me as I go!

For today’s post, here’s a bit of Septic 101. When you are not connected to municipal sewers, anything you flush down your toilets, dump into your sinks or otherwise rinse down your drain goes into a big underground tank — the septic tank. In simplistic terms, here’s how it works. The septic tank has two chambers separated by a baffle. The solid and liquid wastes go into the first chamber, where the solids sink to the bottom and the liquids rise to the top. While the waste is in the septic tank, naturally-occurring bacteria are hard at work breaking it down. The liquids (called “scum”) pass through a pipe into the second chamber, and are further broken down by the bacteria. Then it flows out into a set of pipes called the weeping bed or leaching bed, a series of perforated pipes laid out in a big square or rectangle buried at least three feet under the ground. The waste water is further broken down by microbes in the soil and eventually returned to the groundwater system. Somewhere around every three to five years, depending on your tank size and family usage, you pay someone to suck all the accumulated solid waste out of the tank. Delicious, eh?

The weekend we spent considering putting an offer in on the house, I read pages upon pages of information about septic tanks and frankly? I was horrified. The poop flows out into the YARD? Simplistically speaking, yes, but not exactly. When the septic system is working well, everything is completely natural and sanitary and it is a very effective system. Unfortunately, when the system fails, it can be disastrous — from a financial, environmental and, for me, emotional perspective. The ways that the system can fail are myriad, and I lost more than a couple of hours sleep over it in the early days of my education.

For one thing, septic tanks are expensive to replace, in the order of tens of thousands of dollars. They have a life span of 20 to 40 years, depending on whom you ask. And guess how old ours is? From what I can tell, 42 years old. Eep! But, we hired a professional septic inspector as part of our home inspection, and he said that the system is functioning very well and we have no cause for concerns. For now. *touch wood*

Monitoring the health of your septic system is vital. If the effluent is not breaking down properly or something is blocking the perforations in your leaching bed, you could have problems from sewage seeping up from the ground to sewage seeping into the groundwater that supplies your (and your neighbour’s) well water to sewage backing into the (*shudder*) house, not to mention the cost of repairs or replacement. It’s a pretty good incentive for increased environmental stewardship!

Some things that I might have done on the municipal sewer system are expressly forbidden, like rinsing paint trays in the sink. When I painted the kitchen cupboards, I learned that you can wrap a roller in saran wrap overnight if you’re out of day but still not done the job, and you can even put it in the freezer if you have to wait a few days before you get back to the job. When the job is done, wash your brushes and rollers out in a five-gallon pail of water, and then leave the pail open. The water will evaporate out, and you can scrape the semi-dried-out paint into the garbage — or just dispose of the pail.

You can’t dump cooking oil or grease down the drain, so I now dump it into a mason jar that I keep under the sink. We have to be careful of letting coffee grounds or egg shells rinse down the drain — a bit of a challenge since our coffee maker overflows about once a month, spilling hot coffee and grounds all over the countertop and sometimes the floor. And no kleenex or (ugh!) tampons in the toilet, either. πŸ™

I have become as vigilant in reading cleaning supply labels as I was in reading food labels. No more anti-bacterial soap (although the jury seems to be out on this one), minimal household bleach, and no liquid fabric softeners. Did you know vinegar can be used as a fabric softener alternative? I haven’t tried that one yet.

I spent a lot of the weekend googling “what happens if the septic system freezes” because it occured to me that Ottawa winters are long and cold, but it turns out that you really don’t have to do much if you’re on a year-round system. It will take care of itself, if it’s functioning properly. I’m sure there are many other facets of septic stewardship that will panic me in months to come, though.

If you had asked me a few months ago if I were environmentally conscious, I would have said, “Of course!” I recycle madly, even picking things out of the garbage that other family members might have tossed away. I use my Green Bin for most of our household compostables, and regularly walk through the house turning off switches and nagging the boys to do the same. But really? I was in the minor leagues of environmental awareness before now. There’s nothing like the threat of untreated sewage seeping up onto your lawn or backwashing into your house to make you an environmental vigilante!

One of the biggest learning curves for us has been water conservation, the topic of my next post in this occasional series.

For now, though, I’m always curious as to what you think. Are you like me, a child of the city whose jaw dropped at the idea of a personal wastewater plant on the property, or are you rolling your eyes at my endless naivetΓ©? And if you have any, I’d be grateful if you share any advice or knowledge. Not sure I need to hear your horror stories, though — I’ve got enough of those in my imagination to keep me awake through months of sleepless nights!


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On Sunday morning, I wanted to give the boys a bit of a break from the chaos of half-empty boxes and moving mania so we decided to set off in search of pumpkins. Sure, we could have picked some up at the grocery store, and Farm Boy has some really unusual white pumpkins this year.

But, ever since Tristan was wee and dressed for his first Halloween in an adorable baby pumpkin costume, we’ve been making an event of pumpkin acquisition. There was a farm out at Cedarview and Strandherd for a few years, and we’ve been to the Abbeyhill Farms stand on old highway 16 for the last few years. This year, we discovered the wonderful pick-yer-own pumpkin patch at Miller’s Farm and Market – another one of Ottawa’s Hidden Treasures!

Conveniently, Miller’s is just up the road from us, on Rideau Valley Drive just south of Manotick. It’s a great little place! You can choose a pre-picked pumpkin from the selection near the parking lot, or pony up $1 per person and hop on a tractor-pulled hay wagon for a ride back to the pumpkin patch where you can pick your own.

Pumpkin picking 2010 3

The kids loved the ride out to the pumpkin patch, and I loved the idea of actually wandering through the patch, stepping over vines and inspecting fat orange beauties for just the perfect pumpkin. Speaking of beauties, here’s mine on the hay wagon.

Pumpkin picking 2010-2

I’d promised that we’d get three pumpkins, one for each boy. But, Beloved had to work on Sunday, and I simply couldn’t figure out how we’d keep three boys (at least one of whom posed a flight risk) AND three heavy pumpkins from rolling off the edge of the open-sided wagon. Not to mention getting three boys and three heavy pumpkins OFF the wagon and into the car! So, despite finding three perfect pumpkins in the field, we “picked” only one and chose two more suitable candidates from the pre-picked selection adjacent to the parking lot.

Pumpkin picking 2010

The staff at Miller’s were amazing. When I staggered to the “checkout” to pay for my pumpkins with one arm holding a fat, ripe beauty and another holding Lucas by the collar of his jacket, the pleasant cashier was happy to let me pay for three pumpkins sight unseen and trust me to choose the appropriate size when loading them into my car. And the prices are very reasonable — the pumpkins in the picture above would have been in the $4 to $5 range.

Pumpkin picking 2010 5

In addition to pumpkins, Miller’s offers a selection of fresh produce and products including mums, apples, cider, pears, squash, gourds, ornamental corn, straw bales, corn stalks, turnips, onions, potatoes, fresh garlic, sweet corn and even cut sunflowers, and there’s a little gift shop on site, too. There’s also a corn maze and hay bales for jumping — fun stuff!

If you’re looking for a lovely expedition into the country and a great way to support local farmers while entertaining the family, I can’t say enough nice things about Miller’s Farm and Market. They’re worth the drive to Manotick!

If you go:
Miller’s Farm and Market is at 6158 Rideau Valley Drive, less than 3 km south of the village of Manotick. Hayrides are on weekends only, but the Farm is open every day.


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There are a lot (no really? A LOT!) of things I love about the new house. I love the layout, and the location. And the light — oh my sweet lord, the morning light pouring in to the kitchen and then the setting sun bathing the whole front of the house in a rich, warm, yellow, delicious light… it’s truly gorgeous, even moreso than I expected.

I love the extra space in the kitchen, although it’s a new challenge to have to actually walk 10 steps across the kitchen to get something, as opposed to my tiny galley kitchen where everything was literally within arm’s reach. I’m happy to trade the extra space we lost in the master bedroom for the space we gained in the main living space, and even though I’m still a tiny bit anxious about having the big boys down in the basement, they are not in the least bit concerned about it and in fact love their giant-sized and not-shared bedrooms.

We’ve made good progress in getting stuff out of boxes and organized, although there is still a frightful amount of work to be done. We’ve probably got about 65 per cent of the boxes unpacked, and I have a pretty good idea of which box holds what of the boxes that remain. Unfortunately, of those boxes that remain, a large number of them are full of stuff that never really had a proper home in the last house, either. Those are the boxes that you keep shuffling off into the corner, saying, “Oh, I can’t deal with this one now. I’ll get to it later.” I figure we should be fully unpacked some time in, oh, say November. Of 2011.

One of the most challenging issues to date has been mapping our old daily routines onto a new house. It’s taking me forever to get ready for work in the mornings because I am if nothing else a creature of habit, and my habits don’t work in the new layout. I’ll finish one task, like brushing my teeth, and find myself in full-stop mode, standing rather perplexedly in the middle of the bathroom, flummoxed as to what to do next. Muscle memory would have previously carried me through to the next task in the routine, but with nothing where it is ‘supposed’ to be, I have to actually stop and think about what I have to do next and, more importantly, where the stuff is that I need to accomplish that task. Like, my socks. Getting dressed in the old house never taxed any of my pre-coffee brain cells!

And the thing that is most vexing about mapping my old routines onto the new house? There aren’t enough hooks. In fact, there aren’t any hooks at all.

We are, in general, lazy people. We seek to exert the shortest possible amount of effort on activities that involve housekeeping. Hanging a jacket up on a hanger takes four seconds of effort, but draping one over a hook takes less than two. If there are no nearby hooks, any nearby structure will do — chairs, railings, whatever. I’m sure we’d drape things over the dog if it weren’t for the infernal shedding.

The old house was filled with strategically placed hooks — by the front door, in the bathrooms, in the bedrooms. Anywhere one might want to divest one’s self of the contents of one’s hands (jacket, backpack, purse, towel, scarf, just about anything hookable!) there was a hook to prevent the unceremonious dumping of said contents onto the floor.

The problem is that the new house also doesn’t lend itself to the strategic placement of hooks in the same way the old house did. The entryway, while charming with its double door, allows space for neither coat hooks nor even a natural spot for a purse-resting key table or even a set of key hooks. I’m still puzzling over how to make that work.

The bathrooms are another area that cry out for hooks. While I have not yet managed to acquire new waste bins for them (attractive plastic Farm Boy bags currently fill that role, dangling from available knobs) I did set out on the very first day to acquire some bathroom-suitable hooks. We’re minus one shower in the new house, and the main and downstairs bathrooms simply don’t have enough towel bar space to accommodate five bath towels and bathrobes on a regular and rotating basis.

In my new favourite store, the Manotick Home Hardware, I carefully contemplated our needs and decided on a lovely set of over-the-door hooks that would give us a place to hang the here-to-fore homeless bathrobes and wet towels. And imagine my consternation when I arrived home, tore open the package, and stood in slack-jawed dismay at the door to the main bathroom. The 1960s bungalow special feature: a pocket door.

Foiled again.

Speaking of hooks, I think I’ll end this rambly and vaguely incoherent post here with this poor excuse for a conclusion, before the big hook comes up to yank me off the stage. (This is the kind of post you get when I have hours upon hours of time to think about blog posts while doing menial labour but not enough time to actually execute the ideas into coherence!!) πŸ™‚


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It was two months ago today that I saw a real estate listing on the ‘net that would change our lives forever. Two months later, I find myself the owner of that house, with a tiny bit of time on my hands waiting for the delivery of our new fridge, washer and dryer. And with my iPhone in hand, I took this little tour to share our joy (and kick-ass new house!) with you in the form of an iPhone house tour and virtual housewarming party!

C’mon in!!

Our new home has lovely curb appeal, don’t you think?

iPhone House Tour - House

The porch view from the front door:

iPhone House Tour - Porch!

Through the double doors, and up a few steps and you’re in the living room.

iPhone House Tour - living room

Around the corner is the dining room, between the living room and the kitchen.

iPhone House Tour - Dining room

The kitchen, as seen from the dining room (and just before they put our honkin’ big new fridge.)

iPhone House Tour - Kitchen

A quick aside: I spent most of the day Saturday and a good part of Sunday sanitizing those kitchen cupboards. I started out trying to simply scrub them clean, but there was the most awful mactac shelf paper that I simply could not get clean, so I started peeling. And peeling. And peeling. It was four layers deep in some places, and I had to laugh when I excavated this layer. I call it “The 1970s were good to this house!”

Isn’t it awesome? Yeah, so not staying. I peeled that up, too, and then scrubbed and sanded until my arms were numb, and then coated the whole shebang in a couple of thick layers of pristine white semigloss paint. Those cupboards are cleaner than they have been since the original owner now, I’m quite sure!

And now, on with the tour! Here’s a vaguely blurry view of the master bedroom, with it’s own patio walkout to a private porch.

iPhone House Tour - Master bedroom

The view from my bedroom. (Did I mention the lilac tree directly outside the window nearest my bed? June is going to smell delicious in this room!)

iPhone House Tour - Private porch from inside

And! The private porch!

iPhone House Tour - Private porch

Ensuite in need of a shower (file under renovation plans!)

iPhone House Tour - master ensuite

One boy bedroom:

iPhone House Tour - Boy bedroom 3

Another bedroom:

iPhone House Tour - Guest / spouse bedroom

Another bedroom:

iPhone House Tour - Boy bedroom 2

And another bedroom!

iPhone House Tour - Boy bedroom 1

(There’s a family room on the other side of the basement that looks a lot like this bedroom. Also not seen: laundry room with about $8K worth of new water softeners, filters and pumps; furnace and storage room; two more bathrooms; and, honkin’ big 2.5 car garage with 15 foot ceiling!)

And, of course, the back yard:

iPhone House Tour - Backyard

If you ask him, Tristan will tell you that we just spent the best part of $400K on a tree house that just happened to have a gorgeous house in its front yard for the rest of the family. πŸ™‚

Pretty great, eh? (The house, not the resolution of the photos. Now I know, low-res iPhone pix are REALLY low resolution!)

Welcome to the virtual housewarming party!


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A Wiggly Circus Giveaway!

11 October 2010 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

When the nice folks at Scotiabank Place contacted me and asked if I would like to host a Wiggle ticket giveaway, I smiled. We are old-skool Wiggles fans around here. I had no idea how much the Fab Four in multicoloured jerseys had infiltrated the blog, though, until I searched for a few favourite posts […]

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Welcome home

7 October 2010 Happy @ home

Guess what we got today? A new house!!

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Five things I couldn’t throw away

6 October 2010 5 things

As I’m packing, I keep having these great ideas for blog posts that will never get written, because they’ll either be no longer relevant or (more likely) completely forgotten by the time my life slows down enough to allow for regular blogging again. Some ideas that will likely never see the light of day: Five […]

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Moving experiences

4 October 2010 Happy @ home

We’re in the home stretch on the big move now. We take possession of the new house in Manotick on Thursday, and we move the week after that. We’ve got the basement and the garage mostly packed up, and boxes piled in every corner of the house. I think we’re on track, but still vaguely […]

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