Gardening Glory (and Some Gripes)

Given that the majority of my tulips were in full bloom by mid-April of this year – and just in time for a freak snowstorm, too! – I shouldn’t be too surprised that my garden as a whole is, here in the middle of September, really starting to languish. Still, I’m shocked at how pooped-out everything looks. Except for my tomatoes. They’re going to take over the world. (Yes, I know tomatoes should really not look like this, but they’re producing fruit and clearly thriving. So I, for one, welcome our new tomato overlords!)

This is just my second season as a homeowner with a proper garden, and I’m constantly surprised at what works and what doesn’t, what grows and what doesn’t, and how very differently plants respond to their environment from year to year. Nature’s quite the miracle, isn’t it? 🙂

Take this rose, for example, variety unknown, because that’s how I roll (if you’re looking for its proper Latin name and pronunciation, you’d best consult my mother, who has much gardening knowledge and skill. In the garden, I’m definitely more kill than skill.)

Again, let’s take this rose as an example. I moved this thing around the garden three or four times, and even left it out for a few days, roots exposed, while I contemplated where to move it next. No plant responds well to such treatment, let alone roses, which are susceptible to all manner of maladies, including shock. I was quite sure I had killed it, but a few weeks after moving it to its forever home, it once again began throwing off gorgeous clusters of those brilliant, hot pink blooms.

Or how about this peony, one of two plants I admiringly refer to as my zombie peonies. Zombies, because I am 100 percent sure I yanked them out of the ground last year and binned them after they seemingly up and died. I quite distinctly remember tossing them into a yard bag, roots and all. And yet, this spring two peonies grew strong and tall in the spots where their brethren once stood, so I can only assume I left just enough of the root structure intact for them to take hold this season.

Or how about the unlikely success story of our tiny back yard crabapple, a weirdly misshapen little thing that bore no fruit at all last season (thank you, ever-ravenous rodents) but gave off a whopping 12 cups of fruit this season, allowing me to make dee-licious crabapple jelly that Mr. Finger Candy has been hoovering back like it…grows on trees. Which, it turns out, is an expression that works in nearly all cases but this one!

The big oak tree in the back yard, Annie (Annie Oakley) produced only a handful of acorns last season. This year? They positively carpeted the back lawn. I raked and bagged up maybe 50 pounds worth of acorns. For a couple of weeks there, it was relentless. You could hardly venture beneath the tree for fear that a gust of wind or a particularly vengeful squirrel would send a shower of hard acorns down onto your head. At least the increased rodent presence provided our cats, Beans and Fluffy, with some much-appreciated entertainment.

In the complete reverse of Annie the back yard oak, Chester the front yard chestnut has produced maybe half the fruit he did in 2020. Last year, bright green, rock hard spheres of pain (or chestnuts, if you will) rained down onto our front lawn and driveway every day from the beginning of July to the middle of September. I’d typically pick up 3/4 of a medium-sized flower pot a day (and it should always be with gloved hands, because yee-ouch, those suckers bite!)

This year, though, the few chestnuts the tree has produced have remained resolutely – and quite dangerously – on the tree, hanging in massive, spiky clumps that, if they came down all at once, would absolutely knock you unconscious. I’ve actually been dodging some much-needed yard work in the front because I’m afraid of just such a scenario taking place. Mr. Finger Candy suggested I procure a hardhat, and you know, I don’t actually think that’s as crazy a suggestion as it might seem!

Other success stories include the gorgeous flowers and shrubs and flowering shrubs that overtook my garden this year – yellow potentilla, blue delphinium, periwinkle chinodoxa, pink hydrangea, purple lilacs, white trillium, and a rainbow’s worth of roses.

But this year’s undisputed king of the back yard was this patch of Black-Eyed Susans, five single plants that grew into a mighty, marigold-hued bush that put off tall, sunny blooms for the entirety of the summer. It was such a delight to look out the kitchen window every day and see this cheery fellow keepin’ on keepin’ on, rain or shine. I love it when plants unexpectedly thrive (see above, re: zombie peonies.)

Okay, so it would seem the gardening gripes were in relatively short supply this season, save the aggravating switcheroo the front and back yard trees pulled on us. My dad tells me increased fruit production means we’re in for a harsher-than-usual winter, so yay, there’s something to look forward to! When we’re arse-deep in snow and ice in two months’ time, Annie and Chester will be saying, “Told ya so,” because I think they’d be smug like that. 😉

Wow, what a load of work this garden has been. I often joke (?) that as a former apartment dweller, I may have slipped a cog by going from no garden to ALL THE GARDEN. But when I’m outside on a nice day puttering about, not worried that I’m going to get knocked unconscious by a shower of nuts, just watching the bees drone around and noting all the progress my plants have made, it’s bliss. So really, no gripes, just glory.

Tulipalooza

Bit of a throwback there for the Gen X near-olds of Ottawa, Ontario. Show of hands if you, too, spent a weekend in May 1990-something lolling about Major’s Hill Park, ostensibly there to admire the thousands of rainbow-hued tulips that were, and continue to be, the main draw of the Canadian Tulip Festival, but actually there to flirt with cute boys (and girls) at the all-ages alternative rock show. I met my second boyfriend in just that fashion, in line for the Pepsi Taste Challenge, which was beside the Much Music Video Dance booth, just in case I haven’t aged myself enough with these references. It won’t shock you to learn that that weekend also involved hacky sacks, neon pink comb-in hair gel, and many appearances of local musical weirdo-heroes, Furnaceface.

But I digress. This post is actually about the tulipalooza that I hosted in my garden this past spring, a throwback in itself given that tulip season has LONG since passed.

And that season was, to put it poetically, a beautiful nightmare. It started in the fall of 2020 when I purchased nine or 10 different varieties of heirloom bulbs from Breck’s Bulbs (zero complaints there; the bulbs I bought were in beautiful shape, white, fresh and plump.) In anticipation of the bastard rodents that would surely make merry with my tender tulips, Mr. Finger Candy made eight cages out of zip ties and chicken wire to lock the bulbs in before I planted them in the ground. I then planted a couple dozen, foolishly unprotected, in the pie-shaped bed at the front of the house. I had been inside maybe 15 minutes before I looked out the window and saw that arsehole squirrels had made off with at least three. Mr. Finger Candy leapt to the rescue once again, this time pinning an entire sheet of chicken wire directly on top of the soil.

Winter came and went, and in the spring my fledgling tulips began to fledge. I was so excited to look outside and see their tender green shoots just beginning to poke through the loamy gloom! And then the rodents returned, kneecapping my efforts – and the growth of my flowers – at every. single. turn. It also snowed in the middle of April, necessitating a frosty jaunt out to the beds in my flip flops to rescue the more advanced blooms.

I spent the majority of my spring vacillating between wild gardening highs and crushing rodent lows (not to suggest that I ever actually physically harmed the thieving little jerks, unless you count dosing my flower beds with Da Bomb hot sauce-infused water, a neat little trick that only occasionally proved successful.)

Highs? This absolutely stunning bouquet of inky purple Queen of the Night tulips, ruffled Black Parrots and bubblegum pink Fancy Frills I pulled from the front bed at the very end of the season. How such gorgeous specimens dodged the Wrath of Rodent, I’ll never know, but I loved having this cut bouquet in our home for the two weeks that it remained pert and bright and upright.

I also loved this sunset-hued bouquet of early bloomers I clipped during that aforementioned springtime snowstorm. These gorgeous, plush blossoms are Coral Pride and Pink Pride tulips mixed in with some yellow and white tulips that just randomly sprang up in the yard (I call that gardening by squirrel, or let the tulips lay where they may.)

Another high? This unique blossom, a Showgirl tulip. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a blue flower before (okay, purple-grey) let alone grown one.

The cool tones of this beautiful tulip matched nothing else in the garden, which certainly didn’t matter to the squirrels, who seemed to find these particular flowers extra delicious. But when I was able to actually bring one or two inside, I just wound up hodge podgeing them together with whatever else was in bloom, making for some interesting arrangements.

Lows? Oh, pretty much any time I looked outside and saw a wilted pile of leaves, or worse, a tall, green stem with a nipped-off blossom just laying in the dirt beside it. My mom said, with a note of concerned pride in her voice, “Well, you’re a real gardener now!” when I called her one morning, wracked with sobs and blubbering about my decimated tulips. Apparently heartbreak is just part of the gardening deal? I *might* even have been sort of understanding if the rodents actually ate the tulips, or derived some sort of sustenance from them. Canadian winters are hard; I suppose I can’t fault the little guys for falling on the first fresh greenery they’ve seen in months. But to just nip off the head and then leave it there, fully intact, the plant now utterly destroyed, is unconscionable. I could wring their little rodent necks.

Instead, I began dosing my beds with ground cinnamon, ground cayenne pepper and hot sauce-infused water. Capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers, is also usually the first active ingredient in critter ridder preparations, none of which seem to work very well, and all of which are quite expensive. So I bought a bunch of ground cayenne pepper at the bulk store and sprinkled it around my tulips. It worked as an invisible barrier more often than not, as did the hot sauce treatment, but I still suffered losses to squirrels who are apparently impervious to the pain of a 2 million scoville-rated hot sauce. As for the cinnamon, I was thinking anything that burns. Have you ever inhaled a bunch of ground cinnamon (or worse, done the cinnamon challenge)? It hurts and smells incredible all at the same time. I was just looking for the squirrel version of that. Is this also a sign that I’m becoming a “real” gardener, that I don’t want to hurt the rodents that thoughtlessly thrashed my garden, but I do want them to pay?

It’s been a learning process, that’s for sure, and one that I’m in the process of repeating right this very moment (get those bulb orders in now!) Heartbreak and tears notwithstanding. Only next time I’ll be approaching the whole endeavor with a bit more gardening wisdom – and A LOT more physical barriers.

Keeping it Small, Safe and Sudsy

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Well, aren’t I just all over this hand washing thing!  Welcome to the new Finger Candy, friends – expanding my reach to the whole dang hand now!  Maybe even both of them, if you’re feeling so bold.

It’s funny, because growing up, I was not a big time hand-washer.  Cleanliness and hygiene were important, of course, but we weren’t a “wash up before supper” kind of family.  I grew up on a hobby farm, and probably the best you could have asked for is that I brushed my hands off on the seat of my pants after I yanked that carrot out of the ground (and before I shoved that carrot, completely unwashed, but sort of dusted off, into my mouth!  That one never failed to both delight and horrify my grandfather, the owner of the hobby farm.)

But before we purchased this single family home late last year, Mr. Finger Candy and I lived, for nearly 15 years, in a gigantic condominium apartment building with a seemingly infinitesimal number of high touch surfaces – elevator buttons, keypads, door handles, electronic fobs, counters, shelves and the like.  We were both also taking public transit to our jobs, which from a public health perspective is pretty well akin to just straight up licking your neighbour’s eyeballs.

So hand-washing really became a thing around our place.  I also liked the excuse of purchasing fun Bath and Body Works soaps.  Who doesn’t want their hands to smell like frosted donuts?

Then the pandemic struck and hand-washing became a life-saving necessity.  And suds, much like toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, became scarce.  For much of the spring there was no stock to be had at BBW, which is maybe not the negative I’m making it out to be – BBW soaps, particularly the foaming ones, can be harsh, and after a few weeks of manic hand-washing, our mitts were chapped and raw.

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I have, throughout the entirety of this pandemic, attempted to purchase small and local as much as possible.  These are the community businesses that need – and quite frankly, deserve – our help and our purchasing power in these unprecedented times.  And it suddenly dawned on me that I knew of a local soap connection – Heart & Home Soaps, run by Jennifer Dlugokinski, a woman I’ve known since grade 6!  (P.S. Shout-out to your seventh grade birthday party, Jenn, when we listened to the Barenaked Ladies’ “If I Had a Million Dollars” about 25 times in a row!)

Heart & Home typically sells its wares out of the Carp Fair, which has been unfortunately shuttered since the beginning of the pandemic.  But Jenn is still selling her products on Heart and Home’s website, so I placed an order, nixed the shipping option – why pay for that which you can drive 25 minutes and pick up yourself? – and drove out to her place to pick up my suds.  She had packaged them all up and left them in her mailbox, and that was that.  Simple.

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And you know what?  They are fantastic soaps, lush and rich and full of happy hand-making ingredients like seed butters, Vitamin E, and fruit and nut oils.  They’re pretty, too, swirled with vibrant colours and, in a few cases, shimmery mica.  They smell great, also, particularly Peppermint Rush, which is getting a major workout in my kitchen (nothing feels like it gets your filthy post-gardening hands properly clean like mint) and Satsuma & Mandarin.  I’m also pleased to note that two, three weeks on, our frequently-washed hands are soft and smooth.  Maybe a bit tight after washing – that’s just using soap, I fear – but nothing like the BBW soaps, which had actually stripped our hands.  This feels so much better!

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All in all, I feel good about shopping small and local, supporting a friend and getting my mitts clean!  And if you’d like to check out Heart & Home’s products for yourself, please click here (or the link above) for some lovingly crafted soaps.

Enter the Hand Sanitizer

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“I’d like to thank the Wu-Tang Clan for this hand sanitizer” – truly, words I NEVER thought I’d utter in this lifetime.

But here we are, in the midst of a raging global pandemic – another state I never really thought I’d find myself in – and the Wu has stepped up in a major way, teaming up with Canadian home and body care company Jusu to produce Jusu x 36 Chambers, an all natural, plant-based, vegan hand sanitizer, the proceeds of which benefit three local Ottawa charities, The Ottawa Mission Foundation, the Ottawa Food Bank, and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.  It’s good – if not slightly out of left field – work that has brought together the collaborative talents of some of my city’s most creative and civic-minded souls, and I’m unbelievably impressed by the hustle.  Ottawa done us real proud with this one.

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Apart from what I hear was a pretty fantastic show at the Ottawa Blues Fest some years ago, I’ve no clue what the Wu’s connection is to my (typically) pretty boring and bureaucratic city.  I guess there’s something (or someone) here that speaks to them (though I will never stop questioning what might be attractive in this city of endless suburbs and RioCan strip malls to a bunch of badass New York rappers with names like RZA, Ghostface Killah and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.)

Right, so the hand sanitizer itself – it’s awesome, and I wish I had purchased more than two bottles.  Isopropyl alcohol is, of course, the main medicinal ingredient, so it’s going to disinfect your mitts just as well as any of the other ohol-based products on the market.  But after that initial blast of ALCOHOL!!!, 36 Chambers (in the spicy citrus, Chilling Chilling scent) mellows out into a mild, utterly dee-licious blend of aloe, cinnamon, citrus, eucalyptus and rosemary that will have you surreptitiously sniffing your hands like Mary Katherine Gallagher on a major bender.  Best of all, 36 Chambers is a light and easily absorbable liquid that leaves your formerly chapped and irritated hands soft and residue-free (“Ooh, baby, I like it raw” – so sayeth ODB.)

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That way you can pull on your new Wu-Tang x Ottawa tee without getting it all gunged up! 😉

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If you’re interested in nabbing your own bottle of 36 Chambers, hit up Jusulife.ca – for every bottle sold, one is donated to a local homeless shelter, where I’ve no doubt these kind of products are in great demand and use.  Because every stinkin’ little bit of thoughtfulness and protection protects us all, and if the Wu is doing their part, well, then so can we.  Good job, Ottawa.

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Fairly Local Eating

More like eating EVERYTHING.  The grazing is just out of control.  Making things worse this week is the PSA – potato service announcement – the spud producers of Canada issued, imploring Canadians to eat more delicious french fries, owing to the 200 million pounds of potatoes going bad as they sit in storage, waiting to be turned into delicious french fries.  I joked on Facebook that I just KNEW that one day my true life’s purpose would reveal itself, but this is probably not the call-to-arms I needed.  There are presently seven bags of tater tots in my freezer, so I think I’ve got this processed potato business well covered.

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But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t step over you and everyone you’ve ever met to get my mitts on some McDonald’s fries right about now.  Oh, McD’s fries – salt-crusted, golden yellow sticks of heart attack-inducing pleasure…one day, when the world is not a total hell hole, you, me and a pile of McChicken Sauce will be reuinted.

Until then, I continue cooking from home.  I haven’t caught the baking bug too, too badly, although I’ve made a few batches of scones, a lot of cookies and a couple of raspberry cream-cheese pies.

Dessert Collage

A friend of mine has been cultivating a sourdough starter – remind me to check in with her to see how that science experiment is proceeding.  Her husband has been helping the process by barking, “TA-WISTED SOUR START-AH!” in the style of The Prodigy’s Keith Flint at the thing.

We’ve ordered takeout from local (Ottawa) businesses often – The Works Kanata for choose-your-own adventure burgers (Gotta Be KD, featuring, yup, Kraft Dinner, is my not-so-weird favourite); Karara for incredibly tasty Indian takeaway (I could DRINK the mustard seed-studded sauce that accompanies the Madras chicken); Pure Kitchen Kanata for buffalo cauliflower bites and plant protein burgers smothered in vegan cheese; and Meatings, a beloved barbecue joint we placed an order with last week for ah-mazing dry smoked staples like pulled pork, brisket, chicken and jackfruit, as well as vacuum sealed pouches of favourite sides, like creamy, Cheetos-topped mac and cheese and buttery little loaves of cornbread.

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And while we haven’t ordered from them directly, a couple of pasta entrees from Biagio’s, a favourite west end Italian restaurant, proved to be a lovely treat for my parents one recent weekend.  And we’re itching to try Dreamland Cafe on Preston, a quirky little pasta restaurant.  Lots of pasta love in this family.

Hello Fresh continues to impress with their meal kit deliveries; that one’s at the local/provincial level.  We’ve backed off on this one somewhat in recent weeks, simply because we haven’t loved many of the recipes on offer.  Thankfully, Hello Fresh makes it easy to skip any weeks you don’t love.  Seems prudent during these times – someone else is going to love that sweet potato wrap you just weren’t feeling.

Hello Fresh Collage

And our local grocery stores have remained fairly reasonable places to shop, with dedicated seniors’ hours, and staff going above and beyond to maintain a safe shopping and working environment.  Through much of high school and all of university I worked part-time as a cashier at a grocery store, and man, do I feel for the new breed of essential worker.  It’s why Mr. Finger Candy and I plan our shopping trips like we’re going to Disney, with a mind to getting in and out as efficiently and safely as possible.  Don’t dawdle and have a purpose.  These people are putting so much on the line for you.

Interestingly, the food-related businesses we’ve had difficulties with during the pandemic have all been big multi-national concerns, including Starbucks (our local will allow you to place and pay for a mobile order, but you can only pick it up if you’re in a car, despite the fact that the mask-less, glove-less barista is still handing it directly to you; guess that steel framework around the wide open window makes all the difference) and Instacart, a data mining operation disguised as a grocery delivery service.  Disentangling ourselves from a botched $60 order on that one led to Mr. Finger Candy sitting on hold for over nine hours across four different phone calls.  Good thing we’re all at home and have nothing better to do with our time, right?

Anyhow, long story short, there’s no bullshit to the phrase SHOP LOCAL.  Turns out it’s a pretty great practice, and I’m pleased to be supporting small and smaller businesses in my community that are undoubtedly struggling during these deeply uncertain times.  Give it a try in your neighbourhood, because hey, even during all this weirdness, you still gotta eat (and eat and eat and eat…)  Might as well do something great for your community while you’re stuffing your face! 🙂

Hoppy Easter (and a Hoppy Birthday to Me)

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So here it is, proof positive that whether it’s on my nails in polish or on a piece of paper with gel pens, all of my attempts at drawing an animal result in some gigantic butt’d aberration that looks like it’s suffering from a wicked case of conjunctivitis.  At least this chunky fellow is wearing a mask and maintaining social distance from those carrots.

I made that little card yesterday for my parents, who are used to my laughably childish creations, and we ran it by their place, along with a COVID care package containing ah-mazing Indian takeout (hit up karara.ca if you’re in Ottawa, peeps), chocolate chip cookies, raspberry cream cheese pie, toilet paper and a whole mess of silly comedies and rom-coms.  Don’t ever say I’m not a great daughter when I’m bringing my parents both Indian takeaway AND the TP necessary to deal with the aftermath.

Care Package

Though, even at a distance, I think my parents could have done without their son-in-law showing up dressed like a pirate bike messenger.

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We did the lightning fast trading-of-the-care packages via the garage, while my mom danced a trio of stuffed bunnies in the window and my father – so randomly, like a Kids in the Hall sketch – ran out of the house with his BELT looped around his neck, shouting that he was so bored he was taking HIMSELF for a walk.  I think they might be going a little stir crazy.  They just looked so excited to lay eyes on us for the first time in over a month.

Which is a feeling I’m coming to be quite familiar with.  I miss my parents more than is probably healthy for a 43-year-old; the urge to run at them with a tackle-hug, the kind I haven’t given since I was probably a little kid, was practically overwhelming.  I had to dither by the car for a couple of minutes to keep from bursting into tears, and then I bawled the entire way home.

Doesn’t help matters that tomorrow is my birthday (I’m turning 43 bullshit years old, if you’d like to send me a cake made of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  I’m the one behind the Haunted Mansion doorbell.)  I’m an only child (duh) and kind of a spoiled one at that (double duh) and the big joke among my family come April is “How much are we going to get hosed for Sandra’s birthday dinner this year?”  Like hosing isn’t a foregone conclusion when I insist on going to a restaurant that only lists its market prices (and now I’m crying again thinking about the Kir Royale and seafood risotto I will not be enjoying at Giovanni’s on Preston tomorrow.)  It’s only-child-indulgence on a massive birthday scale, and I think my parents enjoy lavishing it on me just as much as I enjoy receiving it.  But this year is going to be kind of different.

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Yeah, okay, so like my inability to draw creatures, probably all the proof you needed that my parents and I are close is this envelope addressed to “our princess.”  You can also see where I got my artistic ability (joke; that wonderful little doodle my mom did there is a reference to every stick figure drawing I ever made of “us is the family” – dog, Boo Boo; dad, glasses and two hairs; mom, miniskirt and curly hair; me, bangs and a tutu; cat, Puddin’.)

Anyhow, we made out about as well my parents did with this reciprocal gift of roasted garlic tomato sauce, apple cobbler with caramel sauce and these adorable little chocolate bunnies, which I immediately decided to take outside for an Easter photo shoot, because I’m clearly bored as crap.

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A 2020 EASTER BUNNY STORY, IN THREE PARTS

After spending some time in quarantine on my parents’ kitchen counter, a plastic bag acting as their PPE, the bunnies were feeling severely cooped up, and so they decided to venture out into the world.  It felt very big and very quiet.

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They made it as far as the front flower bed before they got freaked out by the silent emptiness and decided, like everyone else, to go back inside and get drunk.

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It did not end well.  The bunnies now have to go take a nap.  The end.

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Good to know I haven’t lost my (stupid) sense of humour!  Speaking of, you’ve got to have one to go out in public looking like this!  Easter weekend fashion in the age of Corona, folks.

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So there’s all the mostly welcome weirdness we’ve been up to this weekend.  I hope you’re having weird and wonderful ones yourself, friends – may they be just the hoppiest. 😉

Sunset Snowflakes

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I think this could be a refrain sung right ’round the world these days, but here in the Ottawa Valley, we have been experiencing some very odd weather as of late.  Way early snow (we always get it, but it rarely sticks this fast), sub-sub-freezing temps and mini blizzards alongside the winter’s setting sun.  So inspired was I by this latter event (pretty for the grand total of about 30 seconds before the endless frozen precipitation obliterated the sunset’s gorgeous pastel hues) I did some nails!  Anything to cheer m’self up weather-wise, ’cause it’s only November, and we Canadians in this for the long haul. :/

Sunset Snowflakes Collage

Woefully Unprepared

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That was my husband and I this weekend after back-to-back tornadoes struck our hometown of Ottawa, Ontario on Friday evening.  The storms – a rare, although not totally unheard of occurrence – tore through the city in a matter of minutes, leaving utter destruction in their wake – flattened homes, uprooted trees and a completely decimated power station, which knocked out electricity to nearly 180,000 homes and businesses, ours included.

In the eerily still moments that followed the lights going out, it began to dawn on us that we were not in the best of positions to ride out anything longer than half a day’s power outage.  In an effort to curb mindless munching, we keep precious little “emergency” food in the house – crackers, granola bars – or even easy to prepare things like salad and sandwich fixings.  So we had no food, and a rapidly thawing freezer full of things that could only be heated up.  We also live in a condo apartment, so we have no barbecue, gas stove or hot water heater.  Also a multi-storey walk down to and then back up from the garage in order to check the news on AM radio because neither one of us carries a data plan on our phones, choosing instead to tap our home or public wifi, which is great practice in terms of saving money and curbing poor phone habits, but terrible in the event of an actual emergency, because when the power goes out, so too does the wifi.

On Saturday evening we braved the roads – signal lights out, all intersections down to the mostly respected honour system – and went over to check on my parents, who were having a veritable blackout party when we straggled in, weak from a diet consisting of nothing but dry Mini Wheats straight from the box.  Bustling about their gas fireplace-warmed kitchen in a cozy-looking jewel toned robe, my mother laid out their bounty of “eat this now”s, expressing concern that it wasn’t much (my mom’s definition of “not much” being wildly skewed, of course; their granite-topped kitchen island was crammed with a tantalizing assortment of salads, deli sandwiches, dips, heaping bowls of leftovers and half a chocolate cake!  I nearly burst into tears, but crying would have gotten in the way of all the eating; we fell on this unexpected feast with gratitude.  My parents are pretty awesome.

We rode out the remainder of the weekend in our apartment doing what we did all weekend long – cramming as much reading as we could into the daylight hours before passing out from boredom about two hours after sundown.  When the power came back on, I nearly cried, again.  It was a bit of an emotional weekend.  Having the power off was its own challenge, sure, but it was the weekend-long information vacuum we were plunged into that made the whole situation that much worse – I was utterly furious that for all our expensive devices we have jacked up in our faces at all hours of the day, when it really comes down to it, we’re still just sitting in the dark, clueless.

And the silence – it was deafening.  I never realized before how much white noise I like to have in my life.  I have slept with a full box fan bearing down on me virtually every night of my life.  I score nearly everything I do – cooking, cleaning, blogging, driving, personal care, working out, travel, socializing – to a vast assortment of playlists and favourite music.  I work on an asskicker of an Alienware gaming computer that pumps out a low, never-ending hum.  I nearly always have a movie or a show queued up on our TV; extra white noise points if it’s one I’ve watched hundreds of times before (jest not, I’ve definitely seen Beetlejuice and The Lost Boys more than 250 times each.)  At one point Saturday night as I lay in bed struggling to fall asleep to the deafening din of nothingness, I thought, “Is this what Simon and Garfunkel were singing about in Sound of Silence?”

In our defence, I will say we weren’t completely lost souls in all of this.  We actually had a very productive weekend – my husband, who fought off an emerging cold all last week, finally gave in to the germs and allowed himself to just rest.  I used the downtime to finish one book, start another (on the Wall Street implosion of 2008, for pity’s sake!) and take up the entirety of our second bedroom floor.  And last night, in something of a stroke of waste-not, want-not brilliance, I cannibalized three different Hello Fresh entrees that I was utterly crushed at the thought of having to dispose of, cobbling together a rather posh and large feast of Tex Mex-inspired salad and balsamic-drizzled caprese salad with naan bread, by candlelight.

The power came back on about 10:30 Sunday evening, and we were beyond thankful for it.  Then we started to get a picture of the true destruction to our city, of which we were mostly spared.  Aggravated and inconvenienced for two and a half days, yes, and I had to throw out virtually all of the contents of our refrigerator (once again, I nearly cried; I absolutely loathe wasting food) but thankfully spared the indignities of so many of our neighbours – leveled homes, flattened cars, uprooted trees and lives.

But this entire incident has taught us a few crucial lessons.  First, Mother Nature hates us, and she has good reason to.  Climate change exists; you simply can’t deny the negative impact our wildly wasteful lives have on the environment.  And if you do, boy howdy, do I have a one-way ticket to Mars for you right here, my friend.  But secondly, and most important to our immediate lives, we discovered, as I stated off the top, that we are wildly unprepared for any emergency situation, big or small.  So we’re formulating a more responsible plan for next time, because there will be a next time, because see above, re: climate change.  And also something about history something-something and being doomed to repeat it.  Unless we learn our lessons, to close off this circular argument.

And now we rebuild and heal up and try to return to something approaching normal.  Get better soon, Ottawa.

Blackout 2

Dumbass. Also Ooh, Pretty Ring!

Beaded Ring 2

I’m quite glad I did this manicure, inspired by an old beaded ring I recently dug out of jewelry box purgatory, earlier in the week, before I suffered one of those dumbass injuries that smarts like the dickens, leads to the temporary uselessness of at least a couple of limbs and leaves you rightfully questioning the life decisions that led up to this moment.  Like the decision to try to brute force my refrigerator out of its nook without realizing that it was quite firmly caught on something.  Or the decision, once I noted that it was quite firmly caught on something, to try to HULK it up and over the obstruction, like I was The Rock’s friggin’ weenie Canadian cousin or something.  I think you can see where this is going.

Which would be straight on through to Dumbass Injury Land, where I’m now sitting in quite uncomfortable forearm agony.  Yes, my FOREARMS.  Two days on and I still can’t register any sensation in my hands, wrists or forearms other than pain.  I can’t form a tight fist without sort of feeling like I’m about to pass out.  Typing this has proven to be a rather exquisite form of torture!

Anyhow, super glad I got this one done before I succumbed to my own idiocy.  Seriously kids, don’t try to dead lift your large appliances; it will not end well.

Right, so this manicure was inspired by this ring I bought, oh, 20 or so years ago from a designer who worked and sold out of the Byward Market Building in Ottawa, Ontario.  I add that detail because I cannot remember her name and I don’t believe she’s even working out of Ottawa any more; her booth in the Market Building disappeared many years ago (but if anyone knows of her name, please hit me up!)  I’ve actually got quite a few of her pieces, and they’re all weird, colourful and maybe just a little bit too much.  Wait till you see the beaded choker I’ll hopefully be able to show to you in a few days’ time once any sensation other than pain has returned to my forearms.  Until then, as always, nail art!

Beaded Ring 1

 

Lifestyles of the Rich and the Sudsy

Soap Collage

Some weekends back my mom and I went out for one of our doughnut ‘n’ decorating dates, which involves a trip to a favourite local doughnut joint (Suzy Q’s in Ottawa, Ontario) followed by a bit of retail therapy at a favourite home decor shop across the street (Marie Antoionette’s.)  I’ve spoken about both before – and actually, hang on a tick, I’ve vlogged about both before as well!  I actually vlogged this doughnut date, much to my mother’s eternal embarrassment/amusement.  Here, ch-check (it out for) yourself, if you’d like:

Anyhow, it was during this Saturday morning shopping excursion that my mom, as is her sweet custom, asked me if I’d like a little treat from Marie Antoinette.  The answer to that question is always a delighted YESand I quickly snapped up a beautiful bar of soap from Juniper Tree, a soap supply company out of Berkeley, California.  I’ve actually purchased three or four bars of Juniper Tree’s gorgeously detailed glycerin soaps in the past, and all from Marie Antoinette, who display them on tantalizingly tiered trays like precious little petit fours.  This beautiful bar, with its crown of dried flowers, is in a fresh and sweet scent called Tiki Taffy.

But I clearly spaced on how much these little bars of soapy goodness actually cost, because there was a moment of sticker shock when the cashier read out our total.  “Sorry, how much was the bar of soap?” my mother casually asked in a not-remotely-casual tone of voice.  And when the answer came back as a shade over $10, we had a good, guffawing laugh (once we were outside, we’re not complete animals.)  My mom was positively in stitches over the thought that this one wee bar of soap cost more than her entire suds “budget” for the year.  What can I say, her daughter’s got tastes in high places.  This is really all her fault, wretched enabler. 😉

But seeing as I was now in possession of a very expensive bar of “company soap,” I thought I should do something impressive to best display its elevated status among the other suds-stuffs in my collection.  And that’s how I found myself carrying out a lifestyle photo shoot with a bar of soap, a bottle of Prosecco and my thoroughly annoyed cat at three in the afternoon on a Wednesday in the middle of May.  As you do.  Or as I assume wealthy people do, because what else would a $10 bar of soap be up to other than…

Soap 3

…drinking sparkling stuff out of fluted champagne glasses?  Or…

Soap 5

…hunting big, deeply disinterested game?  Or my personal favourite…

Soap 6

…perusing yacht listings.  I’ll take the $74 mil guy at the top – he comes with a villa!  Mr. Finger Candy, grab my cheque book, we got a yacht to buy!  Quick question: Do you think they accept Canadian Tire money?

Really, though, I was just feeling exceedingly goofy.  This bar of Tiki Taffy will go into a soap dish and I will use it with relish.  Until the next trip to Marie Antoinette’s when we’re amusingly sticker-shocked anew!