30 December 2009

2009 in Review

While I've done month by month reviews before, I think I will break from that format this year. Instead, here's a thematic look back:

notable stuff: I was shortlisted for CBC's Canada Writes, I celebrated turning 40 by watching Hubby smash the hell out of a cake, I got sucked into Twitter, I got a lot of food out of the garden, and we safely navigated the H1N1 scare.

web finds: This year, I fell out of love with Go Fug Yourself after several site redesigns and a new ad partner meant the site itself was fugly and annoying. However, I still like snark and for that, I now go to Regretsy which skewers some of the quirkier things listed on Etsy and Cakewrecks which does the same for "professionally designed cakes." The primary difference between the two is that Regretsy content frequently skirts an NC17 rating whereas Cakewrecks barely rates a PG so I can share the posts with Kiddo.

While I dearly miss At the Movies (and its follow up, which I refer to as the Ebert and Assclown years), I continue to get Ebert's reviews via a weekly email newsletter from the Chicago Sun-Times. I don't know why I hadn't noticed it before but Ebert also has a blog -- and it is full of awesome that is sometimes but not always related to movies. Speaking of awesome (and occasionally NSFW) the comic/info stuff at the Oatmeal often makes me laugh. I finally added it to my Google Reader yesterday after reading this post.

new toys: In the spring, I got a bike but I am a weather sissy and will not ride when it is overly hot, overly cold or overly wet so I have used it less than would be ideal. In the be-careful-what-you-wish-for category, I won an OTTO coffee machine. While it is very pretty, it's a pain to use. For Christmas I got two new toys: a Flip UltraHD Camcorder and a serger both of which come with learning curves. As a family, we also got a PS3 (which I love), a Macbook (for app development), and a Wii Balance Board with Wii Fit, which promptly told me I was fat and should exercise more. (Well, duh.)

escapes: Early in the year we went to Vegas. Bad idea; that city is not our kind of place. As a family, we like elbow room and clean air, two things that are at a premium in Vegas. We cleansed our palate with a weekend at Beach Acres, a few trips to Vancouver, a family weekend in Nanoose Bay, and a much-needed anniversary retreat to Sooke Harbour House. We also spent Christmas at Beach Acres, though that trip was probably more ambitious than the season called for.

play time: Over the year, I spent a lot of time caring for my Moshi Monster and, inside Facebook, playing a trio of addictive games: Lexulous, PackRat, and Bejeweled Blitz. While I have a bunch of games on my iPod, my faves are still the PopCap games -- Bejeweled, Bookworm and, of course, Chuzzle -- I highly recommend all three for any platform (and Zuma, too, which we bought for the PS3.)

I read a fair number of books, though there are still many unfinished tomes beside my bed. I found that Charlie Huston's crime novels are great fun to chew through, as was a novel based on characters from the TV series Bones (which I've never watched) -- I found it among the books at the Beach Acres cabin. I also read a number of books by local author Karen Rivers. Her blog and twitter feed regularly make me laugh (and snort) but her books... well, I won't likely pick up any more; they're well written but not to my taste.

I've been struggling to recall which movies I saw in the theatre this year. I know we saw plenty; here's what I remember (after searching the web for 2009 releases!): Race to Witch Mountain, Watchmen, Coraline, Up, Julie and Julia, Monsters vs. Aliens, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Public Enemies, Inglorious Basterds, 9, Star Trek 11, Zombieland, A Christmas Carol, and 2012. You can probably guess which ones we saw with Kiddo.

***

Happy New Year!

25 December 2009

Happy Christmas, 2009.

We are hiding away in Parksville this year -- us and the inlaws in two cabins -- and I think I am going to go take some photos down at the beach. My new gift is recharging so you'll have to wait for that -- but expect more YouTube fun in the new year ;) Actually, I got two big gifts this year (I am very spoiled) -- I also got a gift certificate from Hubby which I used to buy a Janome serger that I will set up after Christmas.

Getting up here was an adventure -- we rented a Thule carrier for the top of the van -- thank goodness because even with it, we were packed full. Hopefully, going back we can re-pack things (like unwrapped gifts) and we won't have as much food (we brought enough to feed 9 people for three days) so that at least people can stretch their legs.

I of course will do my part to lighten the load by drinking coffee and eating chocolate...

Merry Christmas All.

20 December 2009

A Dickens exception

Some of you may recall that I really don't like Charles Dickens (or most of his contemporaries) but there is one notable exception and that is his novella, A Christmas Carol. Earlier this year, I did go to see the filmed-for-3D version starring Jim Carrey. I was expecting utter crap (like, say, Jim Carrey as the Grinch) but was pleasantly surprised -- aside from one ridiculous sequence, it kept close to the original text. Very close, actually. I would recommend seeing it (3D is not necessary to the experience, though.)

Tonight, we've been watching the George C. Scott version (from 1984) and to answer a question (how specific Dickens was in his description of the Ghost of Christmas Past), I looked up the original text on the internet archive (here's a very nice Putnam edition you can read online). Kiddo was reading it over my shoulder and asked to read the whole thing -- so I found a Project Gutenberg edition through Stanza and downloaded it to my iPod. She's now curled up on her bed reading Dickens. How awesome is that?

Of course, my favourite version is probably the Muppet Christmas Carol ("Light the lamp, not the rat!!") which I will watch sometime before the 25th.

19 December 2009

Furniture and appliance compromises

Sigh.

Our washing machine is on its last legs; mid-week I was pretty sure it was pining for the fjords. Before springing for a new washer, we decided to try a small load. Hubby used the perma-press setting and to my surprise, it made it through. We tried another, and another, and decided that this was the way to go. So, for now we just have to compromise and do more smaller loads until we can afford to replace it (and likely the dryer, too). I'm not too concerned, of course; the appliances were all included in the house purchase and the washer dryer were old and beat up when we inherited them.

Sigh #2

Ever since Kiddo was wee, and we bought a non-standard size crib (which she outgrew almost immediately), we seem to have made consistently questionable choices in beds for her. The only really good bed we had for her (well, we still have it, up in the attic) was the captain's bed but in her tiny room here, we felt like she needed more space so we bought the Tromsö loft bed from IKEA. But the clearance from the ceiling once the mattress was in place made it mostly useless. Still, she slept there until she came down with the flu (and flu+ladder=disaster). For whatever reason, we never put the mattress back up on the loft, letting her play up there with the padding of a couple of blankets.

So, when friends of ours let us know they had to get rid of an almost new twin bed because they are moving, we decided to buy it. Today, I manhandled it home (tied it to the top of the van and hoped that we would beat the rain -- we did) and into the house. I shoved things around in her room and heaved her mattress back up to the loft then started to move the new bed into place and wouldn't you know it? it didn't fit under the loft! I was ready to blame it on IKEA and their non-standard sizings (at least not standard in North America) but when I measured it then did a web search for "standard mattress sizes" I discovered that the new bed is an "extra long " twin. Huh. Never knew such a thing existed.

So, we have turned the new bed 90° under her loft -- it'll do for now but there is less than a 12 inches of clearance between the foot of the bed and the wall so it's far from ideal. Like the washer and dryer, we're just going to live with the compromise until after Christmas.

another_bed

13 December 2009

The Vancouver Embargo Begins

A while back, we earned a free night with our "usual" hotel chain and we had to use it before Dec 25th or lose it. We chose to use it in order to facilitate one last shopping spree in Vancouver before the International Sporting Event That Shall Not Be Named (ISETSNBN) descends, bringing with it all manner of neo-fascist f**kery1.

We rolled out on a 9 am ferry, dining in style in the Pacific Buffet. After a brief stop to fuel up, we headed for Aberdeen Mall -- Hubby hung with Kiddo in the play zone while I did some damage in Daiso. As luck would have it, Friday turned out to be Midnight Madness at IKEA -- specials every hour and crowds to go with it, but we got two new cabinets and more media storage for the living room plus a few other bits and pieces.

After all that, we returned to the hotel exhausted. Sunday we picked up my Mother in Law from the ferries and ventured into DressSew Supplies downtown -- frustrating to get there but we left with two bags of fabric, trim, notions and costume pieces. Next stop was T, then lunch and a few stores in the Kits neighbourhood. Our last stop was to stock up on some Asian imports at Yaohan Centre in Richmond before it was back to the ferries and another trip to the buffet.

Today was planned to be a quiet day but turned out to be a lot of work as we built and installed new IKEA purchases, sorted and reorganized our crap (why? to make room for MORE crap, of course! Sigh.) and swept up two or three rabbits worth of dust bunnies from the corners. That was followed by an attempted computer rescue for my Mom (her machine froze and she had no way to get past the blue error screen without a rescue disk). Unfortunately, there was to be no rescue -- it's still in limbo. Once home, there was still filing and laundry waiting. Ugh.

This week will be busy: five days of work and Hubby has meeting-palooza this week plus Kiddo has two evening performances of her Holiday Concert. At least Friday is my last workday and Kiddo's last school day until January.


1Yeah, I'm more than a little bitter after actually trying to navigate through the "transportation improvements" -- slowly crawling past the many signs stating No Stopping Feb-Mar.

07 December 2009

contrary logic.and random thoughts

Apparently, I had PeGeStuDoMo all wrong. I shouldn't have told anyone what I was doing and that is why I failed. (Actually, I figure I failed because I am a gold medalist** in procrastination)
* * *

Kiddo has requested all vegetarian meals this week --perfectly doable but it's making me crave steak and click on every link that mentions food -- which meant I found this curiosity (that would be great if I liked peppermint lattes) and this wonderful tale of determination not to waste food.
* * *

Finally, just for fun, here's a great ad from LG -- more or less a PSA asking people to think before they text, "Give it a ponder." There is a whole series of these. They make me smile.



**hey, here's hoping VanOC doesn't come after me for saying "gold medalist."

03 December 2009

Troll Maintenance.

Those of you who follow this blog will be aware that I picked up an internet troll last week, someone who felt compelled to spew vile text over recent posts all because I shared some random thoughts about a 40 year old television special.

Since I don't want to give him any further power, comments are now moderated until further notice and comments on this post are closed.

[The image accompanying this post is the Troll of Norway, uploaded by Flickr user Christoph Grothaus, used through a CC-BY-ND license.]

30 November 2009

What is it about Gorilla Suits?

I was looking for the song about the "lime in the coconut" -- and now I know it's a Harry Nilsson song called Coconut. It's one of those songs that gets stuck in your head, possibly because (according to Wikipedia), "the entire song is played using one chord, C 7th." (weird). Anyway, I found this video of a performance of it from 1971... in gorilla suits.



Gorilla suits always make me think of the end of Trading Places -- my favourite non-Christmas Christmas movie. :)

28 November 2009

Rankin-Bass season

With less than 30 days to Christmas, it's the time of year we dig out the Rankin-Bass holiday specials. My niece had never seen Santa Claus is Coming to Town so I plunked in the DVD and hit play. A few minutes in, she asks, "Why is the bad guy called Burgermeister Meisterburger?"

I thought for a moment and said, "Because this show was produced at a time when there was still a lot of bad feelings towards Germans and Germany."

A few minutes later, during his anti-toy tirade, she says, "Oh, so toys were his Jews." It was impossible to watch the rest of the show without making Schindler's list comparisons.

Today, we were watching Rudolph and all we could think about was eugenics.

Hmm.

26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, America.


Balloon Inflation
Originally uploaded by alicia954
We celebrated Thanksgiving last month, of course, but that isn't stopping Hubby from cooking turkey tonight, too.

The photo at left is from a Flickr friend, Alicia, who makes wonderful crafty things. The photo shows something I never really thought about: the preparation for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It took me a while to figure out that the balloon on the left must be Snoopy in his "versus the Red Baron" aviator outfit. On the right it looks like Mickey Mouse. Nifty.

Enjoy your turkey and pumpkin pie my American readers, and thanks for stopping by.

25 November 2009

More stop motion love.

In the Brick Film tradition, this is a sequence from The Matrix; I especially love the way they show the slow-motion bullets.



The above sequence (just under 90 seconds) took aproximately 440 hours to make. Here's a brief behind the scenes clip of that bullet sequence. Awesome.

Kudos...

... to the New Zealand Book Council for this effective (and lovely stop-motion) ad:

22 November 2009

weekend that was

Friday, we got Kiddo to school then packed our bags to head back to Sooke Harbour House. The room was ready to go when we got there (early check-in, yay!) so we dumped our stuff (this time in the Driftwood Room, next door to the room we stayed in on our anniversary) and headed back to the kitchen for our "adventure."

As it is off-season, things are a little quieter (fewer than half the staff of the busy summer and wedding season) but that's why the package is only offered October-May. At any rate, we got "suited up" in cook's jackets and aprons (we were allowed to forego the checkered pants -- phew!). After meeting the chefs and a quick tour of the kitchen, we were put to work -- basically we were prep cooks for the afternoon. We cleaned and chopped a lot of mushrooms (some so fresh that foragers were still signing off on the delivery when we arrived) then I got to sautee them while Hubby moved on to making tartar sauce from scratch. Next I helped to make a chunky golden beet and hazelnut pesto and fishcakes while Hubby was rolling up springrolls containing the mushrooms and other veggies. We also looked on while the chefs created asian-style braised lamb shanks and an amazing soup made with squash, root vegetables, and quince. I had expected a little more instruction and/or some time with the pastry chef but perhaps they were waiting for us to ask? It all seemed very.... organic in its (lack of) structure.

Later, as we ate dinner it was interesting to see which things we had prepped ended up with which dishes on the menu. (Kiddo and my Mother in Law joined us but apparently it was all too much for Kiddo -- she and Hubby ended up eating in the room instead of the dining area). When it was time for dessert, I just asked to have that sent to the room as well and went down to see what was up. Kiddo was already curled up in bed.

While waiting for breakfast we went out and watched the waves rolling in along the shore but once we were done eating we basically packed up and headed back to town. On the way in, we stopped and waited in a big line with a few hundred people to get H1N1 vaccines (yes, I decided ultimately it was the lesser evil) since as of Friday it was available to the general public. It didn't take too long (just over 90 minutes from door to jab) and now it's done so I can bring my internal panic level down a notch.

Worst thing about this weekend? Between the standing in the kitchen Friday and the standing in line Saturday, my left hip is really sore.

Tonight, we decided to "take advantage" of Hillside Mall's special "Night before late-night shopping" event. The key was that it was ticketed entry only at $5 per ticket (kids under 10 free, proceeds to BC Children's Hospital) and there were oodles of door prizes, appetizers, fashion shows, etc. plus special sale prices at most stores. Well, lemme tell you, I feel like a rube. The place was PACKED. Like December 23rd, no-room-to-park packed. Insane. We took advantage of 25% off everything at the dollar store plus bought a few other things (most of them at Bolen Books where stuff was 10%-15% off) then got the hell out. Seriously, not worth the savings.

19 November 2009

True.




Somewhat related: Clients from Hell.

18 November 2009

Work and other interruptions.

Have I mentioned that work has been crazy busy of late? One of the digitization projects that has been coasting for ... well a long while ... has been bumped up to top priority, and with the stepped up timeline come a whole lot of staff who need to be trained to do (part of) what I do.

Last night, we went out to see Jann Arden in concert. I enjoyed the music (especially the songs off her new album, even if I don't think that "Free" was the best choice for a title) but really, truly wanted to take the teeny folding chairs we perched on and launch them into the sun.

This evening, as the wind and rain rattles the house -- enough of a worry that I brought out the candles and lanterns "just in case" -- I have been getting stuff done that got snugged in between the stuff I was supposed to be doing this month. Sigh. I was also watching CBS detective dramas (Criminal Minds and CSI NY) that were distractingly entertaining this week.

Speaking of distractingly entertaining....

15 November 2009

Getting stuff sort-of done.

It's halfway through the month so I thought an update on PeGeStuDoMo was in order. The book project is somewhat stalled at the moment. I thought I had a plan to deal with one issue but am not sure that I can make it work.

On the other hand, I did finish the one specific craft challenge -- a first attempt at catnip nunchucks!* -- and have written the specific tutorial (for reusable produce bags) but it needs some editing before I publish it. I have also made headway on the first of the three articles in the B section of the plan and published one of 6 FrugalVictoria articles (another 5 are in various stages from notes to ready to go).

I am not feeling very positive about my progress but I am still making progress so I suppose it's all good. We have some busy nights ahead (this week includes the Jan Arden concert and our Sooke Harbour House do-over) and I also have to squeeze in some prep for an upcoming craft fair... so the jury is out on how much I will finish!

*my only regret with the nunchucks was using a dark brown fabric -- it is unfortunately the same shade and shape as a kitty accident on the floor. Eww.

09 November 2009

Just watch it.

If you liked the Incredibles, you will love this short film. Totally worth the 6 minutes.

08 November 2009

Scientific tangent

I am making progress on PeGeStuDoMo -- yesterday I spent several hours adding content to the book and I have been puttering toward the other goals too -- but this post is not about that. It's about science.

Specifically, this tangential post is about chemistry and the periodic table. Kiddo has expressed a keen interest in chemistry (currently "chemist" is her answer to what she wants to be when she grows up) or possibly biochemistry (she has also showed a lot of interest in how medicines are created). However, that's not how we got to today's "awesome time-sucking and deceptively educational site of the day." We got to that site by way of a smoke detector.

The battery had started to bleat, so I pulled it down to change the battery (it's a model that clips into a base that is attached to the wall -- I like this design because I don't have to change the battery while standing on a chair or ladder). While it was down, Kiddo noticed the radioactive symbol on the side. I said it contained a tiny amount of radioactive material called, according to the label, Americium 241.

In the quest to find out more about how the smoke detector uses 241Am, we came across the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Periodic Table of the Elements pages and spent an hour clicking and learning wonderful chemical trivia.

I read the page about Platinum (Pt) which got me curious about the precious metals market wherein I realized that I clearly have not been paying attention to the news**. Gold (Au) closed at about $1100.00 per oz this week! It reminded me that for years I thought I should be buying gold but never had enough cash. Look at this chart of the past 10 years. Crazy. And in case you are curious, compare this to Platinum, which closed the week at about $1350.00 per oz and Silver (Ag) (clearly the "poor cousin") which closed at about $17.50 per oz.

Oh, and all of this also reminded me that I totally want a periodic table shower curtain.





**However, this does explain the proliferation of scam artists entrepreneurs buying "your old gold" by mail.

01 November 2009

November plan

I have identified 5 areas where I want to get stuff done during PeGeStuDoMo (Personal Getting Stuff Done Month):

a. A non-fiction book I've been working on for just over a year -- slated to be an e-book I just need to finish and publish it on Smashwords (basic version) and Lulu (deluxe? edition).

b. Unfinished documents -- I've identified 3 documents that need to be finished; one tied to a 43 things goal and two tied to (potential) apps that Hubby may work on.

c. Craft projects -- one specific item, one specific tutorial, and some Etsy maintenance fall into this area.

d. Preparation and planning -- here the goals are a little more shady; to identify (and write?) 4-5 tutorials and to write 6-8 articles for Frugal Victoria. I have a few ideas for each but they are not well-formed yet.

e. Other -- for lack of a better term, these are other web-based goals; replacing all the short reviews on my Victoria Guide that were leftover from the upgrade, and writing two specific reviews that will take some careful thought.


Can I do all of that inside a month? Unlikely, but I can give it my best shot. I got a couple of books out of the library to help with inspiration and motivation and I have a good supply of coffee and tea in the house.

31 October 2009

Falling back and such

Since we still haven't solved that whole Daylight Savings nonsense, tonight we'll be changing a bunch of clocks (and the rest tomorrow). Right now, I am making the most of what is left of Halloween by watching Practical Magic. I stayed home to hand out candy while Hubby took Kiddo around the neighbourhood and then off to Oak Bay to see the bonfire.

She loved her costume this year -- Ahsoka, from Star Wars: the Clone Wars -- but was frustrated by how often she had to explain it. She had more fun earlier when she tried on Hubby's V for Vendetta mask:

with_daddy's_mask

(BTW, I saw several people wearing that mask yesterday among the many protesters in Centennial Square (some of whom later caused enough of a ruckus that the route for the Olympic Torch Relay had to be adjusted to avoid them).)

***

Bonus: linkdump!

  • Supernatural Collective Nouns by Wondermark -- I immediately bookmarked this for future reference and amusement.
  • Star Wars zombie art -- yeah, I think I am over zombies now... but this is still an amusing set.
  • Cell size and scale -- if you haven't already seen this, go look, play with the slider, and break your brain a little. Then show your kids. It's edutastic!

Oh, and if any of you are on Google Wave, let me know. I can't invite others (yet?) and I'd like to see if more people would make it suck less. (Right now, it seems kinda sucky and pointless.)

Starting tomorrow, it's PeGeStuDoMo!

28 October 2009

Torn

For the first time in a long while, I am absolutely torn on a health issue. Usually, I can sort my way through the hype, find some decent research papers and make an informed decision.

I thought I had done that with H1N1 -- I was pretty confident that this posed no greater threat than the seasonal flu, something for which I have never bothered to be immunized. I usually get a bunch of colds and the odd bout of flu every year so it never occurred to me to be concerned.

Now that I am seeing the results of this flu hitting people I know, making its way through my workplace and my city, I'm not so sure. Throw in the never-ending media microscope and FightFlu.ca, the Public Health Canada website I was accessing in order to send out info on the Union listserv and I caught myself in something close to a panic, trying to decide if I already had H1N1. Now I've read almost every document on the site plus a lot more around the web and mostly convinced myself that the vaccine is better than the virus.... and yet part of me is still torn (admittedly more about the fact that there may be some truth tucked in the sensation that the media is peddling.)

However, my biggest worry is Friday. We are planning to be in town to watch (and photograph) part of the torch relay and the protests that are bound to accompany it (Kiddo will be going to school as usual). My worry is that people who would otherwise stay home because they are sick and that's the right thing to do will instead be crowded shoulder to shoulder in order to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event. Sigh. I'll have to check my paranoia level Friday morning.

27 October 2009

Almost got sucked in....

I just managed to lose about a half an hour on YouTube... I got distracted looking at 80s ads then classic LEGO ads then I found this:



We had a good number of those sets (my brother now has them -- I got to keep the "town" LEGO sets). By the way, if you are in Victoria, did you know you can buy LEGO bits in bulk at Cherry Bomb Toys? They let you pick through bins and tuck the pieces into a plastic cup for $7. I got some nifty pieces last week....

25 October 2009

Facebook Fix

For those of you annoyed by Facebook's latest uninvited "improvement" -- i.e. the evil that is the News Feed versus the clutter that is the Live Feed, I'd like to share with you a way to fix it. Someone else posted this on one of the three or four protest groups which have popped up; his name is Russian (in Cyrillic font) so I really can't give the right credit here but he gets a big THANK YOU.

Basically, what you can do is step back to the way it was two "improvements" ago by making friends' status feeds your default view. Here's how:

1. Go to your main page. Probably it's set to News Feed or Live Feed.
2. Look to the left column, where your friend groups and apps are listed, click on "More"



3. Find Status Updates in the list and drag it to the very top. Now click on it to close the list and make it your default view.


And that's it! Now you don't have to choose between a jumbled list of postings and updates or an amalgamation of information overload. For now, at least.

24 October 2009

Little Shop of Horrors Market

Hubby and I are off to the Little Shop of Horrors from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. -- we have a table at the Zombie/Halloween Market being held at Logan's Pub, 1821 Cook Street...


I'll be taking Creative Miscellany monsters, a few other odds and ends plus the Special Zombie edition of Bümfmag.

twenty_issues


Drop by
if you can -- say you saw it on Flotsam & Jetsam and I'll give you $2 off a minimum $10 purchase.

23 October 2009

PeGeStuDoMo

There's a buzz among friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter... it's time again for NaNoWriMo. However, I will not be participating. I tried, a while back, and it was ... painful. I'd been inspired by Star who had been so supportive of my writing and had suggested that I try it. I did, but life derailed the writing. As with so many of my projects, I lost interest and put it aside for a couple of weeks. I picked it up again at the start of December and thought, reasonably, that even if I didn't meet the challenge of NaNoWriMo, the story was still salvageable. I planned to email Star to tell her I was still working on the story but I didn't get the chance. I've tried revisiting the story a few times but I still can't quite approach it.

However, just because I'm not doing NaNoWriMo doesn't mean I can't set a goal or two... so I introduce to you PeGeStuDoMo -- Personal Getting Stuff Done Month. It's been a while since I really looked at my/our Big List o' Projects and it bears revisiting and revising. There are a few things near the top of the list that just seem to hover and I am determined to finish them even if it means (gasp!) turning off my computer for a few hours -- or at least disconnecting from the net. I am proclaiming November my PeGeStuDoMo because I still have sewing to do for Halloween costumes and other committments in the next week.

If I drift off tangent next month, please feel free to give me a virtual kick in the pants.

21 October 2009

Zombies, zombies everywhere....

Victoria used to be known, jokingly, as the home of the newly wed and nearly dead but I am starting to think it may be the home of the newly dead and nearly wed.

This year, the zombie walk has tried to go "legit" -- complete with permits and sponsors. They also chose to move the officially-blessed walk to Halloween day; in part to coordinate with the Comic Convention that is one of the primary sponsors (those in costume get in for reduced rate. woo). Unfortunately, this move pissed off those who think a zombie walk should be closer to a flash mob than a parade so they have organized a separate walk on a different day -- I am currently getting event invites for both on Facebook.

On top of that, there is a little thing called the Olympics. The torch relay starts here on October 30th and there will be plenty of protests to go along with it including, you guessed it, another zombie walk -- this one "in memoriam" for missing women, residential school survivors, those who have died at the hand of police, and so on.

Oh, and did I mention, a zombie craft fair, too? (it was supposed to follow the official zombie walk, hence the other date) Hubby and I will be participating in the craft fair; Kiddo and I are working on a special Zombie edition of Bümfmag for the occasion. I tried to make some plush zombie stuff... but so far it has been a "pit of fail"... but I will at least be there to keep him company and hawk his wares.

I think after October ends, though, I'm going to need some zombie-free time.

17 October 2009

Tomato bounty

So... for all my whining about my never-ripening tomatoes, we ended up getting a lot of bang for our buck. If you remember, we bought six (eight?) seedlings and also tried starting some from seed then got a bunch of seedlings from a friend, which resulted in a tomato forest in our garden. However, the weather this year was a bit weird and most people in the area had to wait a long time for any ripe fruit.

I got a bunch of yellow cherry-sized tomatoes off our plants and a few larger tomatoes that, once inside, eventually turned orange-red. However, last week, when the forecast threatened frost, I pulled all the remaining plants and harvested a HUGE mountain of mostly green tomatoes. We also got a couple of pounds of ripe tomatoes from the same friend who gave us the seedlings.

I found a quick-and-dirty recipe for pickled green tomatoes from Martha Stewart of all people -- basically just dunk them in leftover pickle brine for a week. I did that with about a cup of sliced tomatoes but then I went looking for other recipes. I finally decided to wing it after looking at oodles of recipes. I made two quarts last week and another three quarts today. I sure hope they taste OK... ;)

more_pickles

I put aside a few of the nicest tomatoes that remained then the rest went into a tri-colour tomato sauce -- I didn't measure at all and it came out a full quart.

soon_to_be_sauce

So, we have two pounds of green tomatoes waiting to ripen in paper bags and about a pound of ripe fruit. Truthfully, I'm almost as tired of tomatoes as I am of cucumbers but I am still thankful for the bounty that my garden provided in the end.

14 October 2009

I wanna flip camera

Since I've started using Twitter for FrugalVictoria, I've found (and been found by) all sorts of other Canadian freebie sites including CanadianFreeStuff which is currently holding a contest for a Flip Video Camera that I would be happy to win.

There's also a forum at CanadianFreeStuff where you can earn points toward stuff based on your level of participation. If you sign up there, tell 'em "triviaqueen" sent you ;)

As with the other sites I've found, there is overlap but there is good info on all of them and I still feel like FrugalVictoria fits nicely into the mix. (Phew!)

12 October 2009

Vacation's End

All told, this was one of the best fall vacations we've had.

This time last year we had just moved in. It seems hard to believe it's been a year, so hard that until I looked it up on the blog I wasn't completely sure what day we had moved in (it was October 9th).

With the getaway at the start of the week off, we got back relaxed for the rest of our week off. We balanced some hang time with getting-stuff-done and some time with friends and family (though Thanksgiving was extra tense this year -- not sure what really was going on there...). Kiddo and I did some crafting together including a "rag doll with Coraline eyes" that she designed and we collaborated to finish:

kiddo_and_doll

Hubby made lots of headway on getting the new deck stairs underway (the "deathtrap stairs of doom" have to go -- the new stairs will go down the back of the deck, toward the apple trees and easier access to the bbq. It's the first step toward prepping for the addition.

Today, Hubby pulled down most of the weird carport skeleton over the driveway to reclaim the wood for the project, too. And you know what? I really wish we had pulled that sucker down earlier. After it was down, I moved and re-stacked the wood we had hastily thrown there, and our driveway looked pretty good.

We had an unseasonably warm and dry week, too; tomorrow we are expecting rain with frost forecast for this evening. We turned the gas fireplace on today for the first time in months and I decided I had best get in the last of the cucumbers (the vines were dried up anyhow) and pull out the tomato plants. There were 6 cucumbers left and I don't know how many pounds of mostly green tomatoes... I think I may try pickling them...

final_tomatoes

Back to work tomorrow. Sigh. At least it's a short (if busy) week.

07 October 2009

Sooke Harbour House escape

To celebrate our 12th anniversary, Hubby and I splurged and booked two nights at the Sooke Harbour House which is one of the top 100 hotels in the world, as voted by Conde Nast Traveller readers -- and it is in our back yard, less than an hour away.

And you know what? It was one of the best experiences I've had both for accommodation and dining, despite a major, though completely unexpected hitch.*

Our room included a large shower (large = half the size of our bedroom at home) and a private jacuzzi tub on the deck. Add a fireplace and a queen size bed plus high ceilings and lots of little extras and I could have been happy with just that.

Of course there is also a 5 star restaurant on site that specializes in fresh, local fare; the hotel is situated on the water's edge, not far from the Southern end of the West Coast Trail; and the hotel boasts an impressive and ever-changing array of art by local artisans and a big library, free for guests to use during their stay. They even offer small televisions and dvd players and had an impressively eclectic selection of films (including two we hadn't seen).

Would I go back? Heck yes, if our budget allowed. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely.

And you know what? If you live in the region, you should go have a peek anyway -- through the "quiet season" (i.e. now) they have an open house every Sunday from 1-4; you can peek in the rooms (each one is decorated to a theme -- ours was the Phycologist's Study) and see all the artwork.

shhse_view

shhse_phycrm0 shhse_art_display

shhse_porkloin



*We had selected the "Kitchen Adventure" package which included three hours in the kitchen with the chef and staff along with a tour of the gardens. Unfortunately, just a short time before we were set to meet in the kitchen, the chef was called away for a family emergency and the sous-chef was out of province and understandably unreachable. We were extended a gift certificate for a "do-over" of that portion, including another night in the hotel -- far beyond the minimal service I have come to expect from the hospitality industry in recent years. (I'll let you know when we take advantage of the do-over.)

01 October 2009

October arrives

I love October. Why?

  • Our anniversary is in October and I always take vacation to go with it.
  • I finally get to tell people to stop complaining about the rain, "it's October; it's supposed to rain."
  • The weather is cool enough that I can bake without suffering all evening in an overheated house.
  • Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie.
  • Halloween means that when we put weird things on our lawn fewer people freak out.
  • It's close enough to Christmas that I don't seem wacky for working on Christmas projects and far enough away that I actually have a shot at finishing them.
  • October's colour is orange and I look good in orange.

me_and_my_coffee

27 September 2009

thankful

I just updated my Facebook status, "...is thankful for a slower Sunday, my family, my garden, my neighbourhood, photography, and popcorn." I should also add "and Eureka."

After yesterday's stress-filled day, it was nice to slow down. We went out for brunch (actually dim sum) this morning to celebrate a birthday and from there, things slowed down even further; we lazed around for a couple of hours before walking Kiddo to a birthday party. The party was held in a small playground just a few blocks from here -- I had no idea it existed before today!

Since the playground was at the edge of this month's Grid, we wandered a little further, trying to track down the house where I was born (alas, I didn't get a photo because I thought it was the house on the right, not the left of the landmark, Doh!) and found another park I didn't know about. Peacock Hill Park isn't much to look at, but the view... is astounding. While looking for more information, I found this panorama. I will definitely be walking back up there again.

Home again to process the photos we took. After retrieving Kiddo, I spent some time in the garden, harvesting some carrots and tomatoes and checked on the spinach and other fall/winter crops. Hubby made a lovely dinner, including some amazing ginger-glazed carrots while Kiddo watched Kung-Fu Panda. After dinner, we tidied Kiddo's room, did a few other chores, and then I curled up to watch a few episodes of Eureka with a big bowl of popcorn.

26 September 2009

sigh.

Today was more exhausting than a Saturday needs to be.

It didn't start well -- when we arrived to pick up a compost bin and the dirt inside it, we ended up disturbing a wasp nest. It was surreal -- the wasps just streamed out of the top and bottom of the bin, angrily buzzing and chasing Hubby who was the unfortunate one holding the shovel that made the fateful hit. He was also running toward Kiddo to get her out of the way but that meant they both got stung (8 between them). I managed to escape their wrath. Happily, we now know Kiddo is not allergic but what a crappy way to find out.

Things didn't get much better -- lunch sucked and we were rushed for the rest of the afternoon. One good thing: Kiddo is enrolled in more Science Venture stuff -- clubs instead of camps. Another good thing, I was reminded that Hubby is generally very good at dealing with crises, despite my ... uh... deficiencies in the same situations.

AAAAAAnyway.

Tomorrow is birthday-palooza (one family celebration, one party for Kiddo to attend) and then I have one week to work through before we take our usual anniversary-vacation. Which reminds me, we decided not to do the road trip now -- instead we will do almost the same route next spring when we head down to Drupalcon 2010, in San Francisco.

Here's a shot from this month's Victoria Grid Project grid:

J29_last_flash

I do love our city.

22 September 2009

Car-free musical musing.

Apparently today is World Carfree Day (memo to organizers, that looks too close to carefree -- I'd put in a dash). I took the bus today and Hubby is walking Kiddo to school but that's just the way we usually roll. I thought I would whip together a little video playlist for you on alternatives to car travel. Enjoy!









21 September 2009

Good old-fashioned Garden City rant.

To quote the Joker in Tim Burton's Batman, "This town needs an enema!"

Yeah, it's been said before but in trying to do our civic duty tonight -- just getting to the open house that City Hall was hosting on the ridiculously costly infrastructure project to replace the Johnson Street Bridge -- it took us about 4 minutes to get close to City Hall and 20 minutes to find a place to park. Even the nearby parkades were packed because of an event at the McPherson Theatre -- in fact one parkade was the biggest part of the delay as idiots blocked the road for no fewer than 5 traffic light signals trying to enter. We finally got around that mess and found a spot that was barely big enough to pull into but Hubby managed it.

The meeting itself was a mix of boosters, detractors, and people who wandered in off the street to get free coffee. Local media was there as were a few councillors (no sign of Mayor Fortin though. Too bad -- I'd have told him how hard it was to park on a Monday) watching a powerpoint presentation and looking at the same drawings that have been circulated for months -- all of which were drawn up by a UK based architect (what -- Victoria, BC, and even Canada didn't have an architecht available???). Council will vote this Thursday. I'd be tempted to go but they rammed through the funding issue at nearly midnight last time and frankly I don't have much faith in this council to do what its citizens want.

There has been NO consideration of repairs to the existing bridge, only talk of the $63 million (some of which may be a Federal Funding carrot) to build a new bridge (that may still be subject to a toll). We took Kiddo to put in her vote because she will likely still be paying for it when she is our age if she stays in the city.

After the open house, we decided to detour to Serious Coffee -- generally a great place to get a quick coffee. Unfortunately, it seems that their management does not pay staff long enough to allow them to properly clean up so they shut down the espresso machines and stop brewing coffee long before closing time -- tonight nearly 20 minutes before closing. To make matters worse, we had ordered a "child's hot chocolate" -- most places will steam this at a lower temperature or add cold milk to temper it. Instead it was scalding hot and Kiddo was brought to tears burning her tongue. At least when Hubby asked, they brought her some ice water. (She was still crying when she went to bed.)

On the way out there were four people headed in for coffee. Hubby told them, "They've already shut down" and they turned and left. While they might have put up with what the dregs left from the day's brew, we didn't think it was fair that anyone pay for that.

Further up the street, three bewildered tourists were trying to figure out where to eat. They were standing on Broad Street outside the fish and chips place that had closed for the night sometime between 7:30 when we walked past the first time and 7:50 when we returned. We directed them to the Irish Times Pub after explaining that the city kinda rolls up its sidewalks weeknights.

It comes down to this: if you can't find many businesses open and you still can't find a place to park in the city, something's broken and a new bridge is not going to fix it.

bridge_up

20 September 2009

Cost of a garden

The news is full of stories about the "new trend" of urban gardening and now people who have jumped on the bandwagon are now crying foul that they haven't got back what they spent. I never expected to get back what I put in the first year or two but once the beds are established, I should get plenty back.

Even this year, we did pretty well despite having lousy dirt (not soil, just dirt) and not really knowing how the light would (or wouldn't) fall in our yard.

Big winners:

two cucumber seedlings produced about 25 cucumbers
two zucchini seedlings produced about 15 large zucchini
two bags of onion sets are still producing, pretty much 90% success rate
radish seed tape produced plenty of radishes -- almost too many to eat.
carrot seed tape produced lots of carrots but too close together
potatoes each produced at least a pound of potatoes in return -- we easily got 12 lbs of potatoes
eight scarlet runner bean seeds produced many pounds of beans plus attracted hummingbirds to the yard.

Jury is out:

two eggplant seedlings produced only one eggplant but a lot of amusement and pretty flowers
a dozen strawberry plants produced few berries (two pints?) but those it did produce were ridiculously tasty
four summer squash plants from seed (we planted more but only 4 sprouted) produced about 12 small squash plus several that rotted or were eaten by slugs, etc.
a half-dozen peas planted from seed produced about 4 pods each -- not much but enough for lunchbox snacks
lettuce -- seed tape produced closely grown plants that were great for a while then all wilted at once.
six pumpkin seeds produced two plants which yielded three pumpkins, one of which rotted on the vine. However, they are pretty and will be useful for Halloween.

Big disappointments:

tomatoes -- lots of seedlings, some purchased, some given to us -- produced almost no ripe fruit.
edamame -- 6 seedlings produced some beans but not enough to make a side dish for the three of us plus I mistakenly left them on the plants too long and they dried there.
spinach -- I planted it too late and what grew just bolted.
peppers -- killed by the heat of the greenhouse because we didn't un-pot them and plant them in the garden.

For most of the summer, we haven't had to buy too many vegetables, just supplemental. I figure we got about $100-$125 in vegetables out of the garden after spending about $70 on seeds and seedlings (I'm not counting what we spent on dirt or materials for the raised beds). Not a fantastic return, admittedly, but the seeds we bought will last us through one or two more seasons, to be supplemented by a few seedlings. We have also tried saving a few seeds to plant next year.

The biggest value of course is not the actual cost of the food but knowing where it comes from and having the freshest possible food available.

16 September 2009

Two Great Things

Quite by accident today, I found two great pop culture things on the internet. One is relatively new -- discovered through Darren Barefoot's blog -- and one goes back a long way -- discovered by searching for "The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll" on archive.org.

The former is a series of video essays collectively called The Evolution of the Modern Blockbuster. This series is fantastic for anyone who was paying attention in the 80s. It contrasts two summers: the peak of Reagan's America in 1984 and the building unease with consumer culture and subsequent rise of Generation X's distaste for Boomer ideologies in 1989. Each segment is about 8 minutes long and is very much worth your time -- if only for the nostalgia factor.

The latter is my New Favourite Thing, a radio program called Crap from the Past (I kid you not). Basically, it is made for me -- pop songs that span the full spectrum of classic to oh-my-god-where-did-you-find-that?? It runs on public radio in St. Paul, Minnesota and the archive has shows all the way back to 1992, pretty much 52 shows a year. That's a lot. However, I fell in love with it immediately when I opened the show for September 4th and found a playlist that included Barenaked Ladies, Styx, Harlequin, Chris DeBurgh, Howard Jones, and Big Pig (the song featured is Breakaway but I think I was one of about a dozen people across North America that once owned the whole album).

Each show is about 90 minutes and is split into three parts. I listened to several shows at work today and apparently, it was exactly what I needed because I got a lot of really tedious work done.

13 September 2009

Making Plum Jam

After picking so many plums yesterday, I searched around for some basic recipes -- I found the perfect one at astray recipes, Italian Plum Preserves. Ten cups of chopped plums made almost 2 1/2 litres of jam. And it's really darn yummy, too.

Making Plum Jam

12 September 2009

getting stuff done

Today has been a getting stuff done day. This morning, I brought in more bounty from the garden -- fruit and veg including about 9 lbs of plums. Looking for a way to store the plums I found that egg cartons work wonderfully and each carton holds between 14 oz and 1 lb of plums, depending on their size.

harvest1Align Center

late_plums

After that, Hubby helped to take down the canopy on the back deck (as we get closer to the rainy season, I wanted to make sure we took it down while it was dry) and helped get the table inside and downstairs. Then I attacked our mountain of boxes -- emptied some and moved others -- to make room for the table. It's in place, with part of the mountain underneath, and with about half the surface usable. Yay! I am however, too exhausted to take a photo just yet.

I had planned for crafting, too but I am really tired so I may just watch a movie. Oh, but speaking of crafting, check out these cute earrings our friend made using LEGO® bats!! I am debating whether I would wear them if I asked her to make a pair with clip-on posts.

11 September 2009

Friday Free-For-All

Yeah, it's Friday. It was a short week but in the name of all things holy it was busy. Packed buses, packed campus, crowded streets (I biked to work today, forgetting about the extra people, bikes and cars I'd have to navigate), and a task list four feet long. So here are a few things I found along the way to distract me from all that:

Clever anti-theft stickers -- make your bike or car look like it is a rusted out pos to deter potential theives.

Funniest thing I've read all week (though maybe not as funny for carefree, kidfree readers) was a post from ispuddle.com, "So then there was the preschool picnic." The blogger is also a writer who has published a number of youth and YA books plus one adult novel; I'll be looking for them the next time I am at the public library. (Hey, cool! We actually have some of the titles in our library! I'm gonna walk down the hall and grab em!)

From the "Huh. Clever." files is the promotional bike seat cover. I noticed these earlier in the week, blanketing every bike seat I walked past on campus, they were printed with the RBC logo. As clever as I think they are, I suspect they also pissed off a number of cyclists but not before the point was made:

clever_marketing


You may be aware that I am a sucker for behind-the-scenes stuff: dvd making-of featurettes, shows that lay bare how stuff is made, and seeing the back rooms of almost any operation. So I was pleased to see this playlist from the NFB of 8 short films with a how-to theme.

Waaaay back, I had a website called Chronocide** -- filled with links to all manner of ways to kill time. One of those was to a novella-in-progress called She Hates My Futon by Craig Mitchell published on his personal site, My Boot. I actually enjoyed reading each chapter as it came out but he stopped writing it in 2000 and My Boot slipped under the virtual waves about 4 years later.

For no reason but the title popped into my head today, I searched for the novella through Google. The site is gone but someone helpfully collected the chapters and published them as a Feedbook (memo to self, download to iPod) -- after attempting to contact the author with no luck. Through the Feedbook page I found that there is a (small) Facebook group of people who want to see a conclusion to the story... so, Craig, if you happen to see this, what do you think? Can you give us an ending?

It may not be Edwin Drood... but it was a decent story and I've always wondered if she learned to love that futon. Probably not.



**you can see the remaining shell of the categories page here -- I imagine many of the links are now dead.

08 September 2009

Your input is requested....

We are plotting a potential road trip from here to Cupertino, California and back by way of Portland, Oregon. Along the way we are pondering stops in Eureka, Eugene and Redding. Is there any reason we should avoid any of those stops? If so, can you suggest an alternate option?

Is there anything we should try to see on the way there or back? We won't have a lot of room for detours because we are trying to do the whole trip inside a week. We will have a full day in Portland, though it will be a Sunday.

Thoughts?

07 September 2009

Bag of holding completed

After uttering many, many curse words, ripping a few seams, and acknowledging my defeat at the hands of what looked like a straightforward pattern, Kiddo has a new messenger bag.

Unfortunately, I failed to read the instructions properly and ended up boxing the corners three inches from the edge instead of three inches across. The resulting bag is much boxier than it should be but at least it is consistent. However, it may not fit her agenda which was the goal. OOps.

The other big fail? Poor choice of fabrics. The main fabric is heavy and slippery and frays easily; the poly-cotton tshirt was too stretchy; and the cotton I used to line it all was thin and slid away from the main fabric. Grr.

Aside from the unintentional cornering modification, I made one other change to the strap. Due to the various qualities of the main fabric, sewing a quarter-inch seam along a four inch wide piece of that stuff was very tricky -- tricky enough that I eventually gave up, cut a piece 8 inches wide and folded the edges into the middle then folded it in half. The finished strap was a full two inches wide.

In the end, I am happy to have finished the bag but content that I will not be attempting anything similar any time soon. Happily, it is functional which means it is not going to be sent to Craft Fail either. Besides, Kiddo seems to like it.

06 September 2009

Cabins are good.

For the past few years, we have been invited to a family get-away at a camp up-island (with Hubby's extended maternal family) and this year we were able to go -- my only concern was that we not have to camp in a tent. Happily, we didn't need to; there was a cabin available.

As a family, we seem to like cabins and as compact as this one was, it suited our needs:

little_cabin

We spent most of our time in the lodge with the rest of the family but this provided us two little bedrooms, our own kitchen, and a private bathroom we could call our own for a couple of days.

The weather was a little random -- plenty of heavy showers and lots of wind early on Saturday morning -- but we had a little time to explore the grounds and the adjacent beach. I even helped Hubby collect some shellfish.

cloudscape


My favourite thing was the built-in mini-golf -- nine little holes of astro-turf goodness.

play_area

With all the Douglas Fir cones, needles and branches, it was a bit challenging. My best round was 23. Kiddo loved the trampoline and the strange tire sling swing ...

wOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

02 September 2009

Lovable Labels

September is around the corner already here which means parents everywhere are getting everything ready. One of the biggest tasks is making sure everything is labeled! School supplies, lunch kits and containers, clothes, and anything else that might be put down anywhere on school property. Since Kiddo wears a uniform, it's especially important for us to label her clothes -- last year she lost two cardigans which cost almost $30 each. Ouch.

Faced with this task, I jumped at the chance to review a Back to School Mega Pack of labels from Lovable Labels! The pack includes shoe labels, sticker labels (not shown; same style as mini-labels but larger), mini labels, clothing dots, binder labels and mini metal tags:


For the trial pack, I was able to select a colour (Kiddo chose black), an icon (UFO), and get the labels printed with her name.

Last year, I had bought labels from another company -- Stuck On You -- and while there are similarities, their clothing labels were iron-on. They worked great on everything except the knit cardigans so I was curious to see how Lovable Labels' clothing dots would work.

Happily, they seem to work well once you get the hang of sticking them on (or in my case, peeling them off the backing sheets). The labels are a very thin vinyl (or similar plastic) that is easy to fold back on itself but after the second time that happened, I figured out a better way to approach it. My other issue with the dots were that there were very few pieces of clothing on which I could use the large size; I'd have preferred more of the smallest size instead. The nice thing to note about the clothing dots is that the care or content labels can be snipped off when passing clothes on to siblings or other families.


The small labels fit nicely on school supplies (again, they are the same material and can fold back on themselves if you aren't careful) -- we even put one on each pencil crayon -- and on other items, like lunchbox plastics. Aesthetically, I would have liked clear labels for the plastic goods but the coloured labels do stand out.

lovable_labels1 lovable_labels2


Overall, I was very happy with the number and variety of labels in the Back to School pack and the physical flexibility of the label material (especially noticeable in the shoe labels which conformed nicely to the shape of the shoe). I really appreciated the small metal tags, one of which is on Kiddo's backpack and the other on her pencil case.


If you are thinking of buying school labels, Lovable Labels has been kind enough to offer you (my readers!) a discount code, good for the next two weeks. (I believe the discount is specifically for the Back to School Mega Pack from www.lovablelabels.ca.) When you place your order, enter the code "dewolfes" to get 10% off!

NOTE: The Back To School Mega Pack is only available until September 30th.




Here's a direct comparison between Stuck on You and Lovable Labels; I think you'll agree that the better value is the Lovable Labels pack:
Stuck on You Label Pack, CDN$49.95Lovable Labels Back to School Mega Pack, CDN$44.95
  • 25 small vinyl labels
  • 20 shoe labels
  • 25 clothing transfer labels (iron-on)
  • 2 plastic bag tags.
  • 15 sticker labels
  • 60 slimline labels
  • 48 press and stick clothing dots
  • 16 shoe labels
  • 2 mini metal tags
  • 5 book/binder stickers

transportation transformation

I'm halfway through a busy full week of work and other adventures, leading up to a weekend with Hubby's extended family in a cabin north of Nanaimo.

Our biggest news this week was Monday's purchase of a new(er) vehicle. We traded in the 97 Caravan for a 2003 Kia Sedona. The financing they offered was so miserable that we split the full price of the vehicle between our Visa cards (5.4% versus 9.8% -- kind of a no-brainer, plus our payments can be more aggressive than with a standard loan). The van seems to be in good shape; it's roomy, comfy and should get slightly better mileage but it is still a minivan. We did look at other vehicles, many of which were smaller, but in the end, the minivan really meets most of our needs.

new_van

I was on the fence last year about a parking pass for campus but I ended up buying a "flex pass" which allowed up to 12 days a month parking. The only time I came close to using 12 days was July and August when I was also driving Kiddo to camp -- the rest of the year I probably used 12 days total and didn't need to use that many, either. This year I flat out refused to buy a pass.

However, that does make me eligible for the University's Employee Car-Share program. Basically, the employer pays for (and owns) the shares in the Victoria Car-Share Co-op and, if I am accepted into the program, I would pay any monthly admin fees plus usage, etc. The co-op is much larger than it was 10 years ago (holy cow!) when I first heard about it and includes 4 vehicles on campus.

The fleet includes two pick-up trucks which would round out the few tasks the minivan can't really do, and the other cars may come in handy on those two or three days a year that we really do need more than one vehicle. (Of course, if I am not accepted into the UVic program, I could always pay the share price myself.) Either way, my regular commute will still be by transit or bike, any car-share use would be supplemental.

29 August 2009

Mother-daughter day

Last night, we tried to highlight Kiddo's hair with Kool-Aid™ homebrew dye; unfortunately, her hair is a bit too dark so there was very little effect. You can see some red highlights in the sunshine but only if you are looking for them. Oh well. Next time: henna rinse.

This morning, we finished the zine! Bümfmag, issue 1 is now available -- I will be shipping out the giveaway issues Monday. There's still a couple more spaces if you want to get a freebie, otherwise the zine is for sale on Etsy:

Best thing? Kiddo is already planning what goes in issue #2.

Around noon, we went to the museum, in part to see the visiting exhibit from the British Museum. Unlike other visiting exhibits, this one does not seem to be drawing the crowds. The tickets were supposed to be timed but there was no lineup and no crowd. In fact, only the IMAX seemed slightly busy today. The exhibit itself was interesting -- a few key pieces especially so -- but I think it lacked the focus that others have brought (e.g. Titanic, Da Vinci).

After the museum, we met my Mom and my Mother in Law at the Gatsby Mansion for Afternoon Tea. Not bad, but not fantastic either -- great location, nice to not be rushed, but the food was just acceptable. The search continues for the best tea in Victoria; apparently, I am picky about afternoon tea.

27 August 2009

Why I love haiku

1. Because I can write haiku about almost anything (go ahead, challenge me; other people have) in very little time.
2. Because it amuses me.
3. Because it amuses others.
4. Because I can use it to make a teeny bit of money (Coffee haiku book; haiku for the masses stuff on Cafe Press)
5. Because I can use my haiku skillz to win stuff (just today, I won a double guest pass for the Victoria Fringe Festival by submitting the haiku below to the Times Colonist Fringe feed on Twitter (@TCFringeFeed))

after ten minutes
my gut hurts from the laughter
unexpected smash!

25 August 2009

from AA to Zombaritaville

Consider this an alphabetically-arranged linkdump of stuff I have found on the net in the past few days. I took a sick day -- got up, phoned in, went back to bed for 2 1/2 hours -- so I have been able to catch up on some "read later" bookmarks.

AA -- Roger Ebert's blog is one of my favourite things ever. This week, he writes about being 30 years sober thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Bug Catcher Necklace -- great kids' craft and an easy-to-follow tutorial

Coffee -- saving cash on your coffee habit; tips from Lifehacker.

Drumsticks -- we've been trying to find the ice-cream treat we remember from childhood but keep failing (they now market "premium" versions that taste nothing like the original). Thanks to this instructables tutorial, we could make our own... hmm. What do you think, Hubby?

Embroidery -- great tablecloth design, complete with spilled wine. I'm also loving these crowded houses.

Needle Felting -- These felted birds are some of the cutest things ever. Amazing.

Psycho Killers -- what makes them tick? TED Talk by neuropsychologist Jim Fallon (no relation to the Late Night host, Jimmy Fallon, I presume.)

Shoulder Bag -- Kiddo desperately wants an across-the-shoulder bag and this tutorial should be perfect.

Week Without Plastic -- Looking around me, I am certain I couldn't do it. However, someone at least thought about it and it makes interesting reading.

Zombaritaville -- this was featured on Boing Boing but seemed familiar to me. It should be; I wrote Me and Zombie McGee back in April, he started blogging in July. Hmmm.

24 August 2009

Barely dented the to-do list

... but got stuff done that really needed doing. I actually did some housecleaning (yes! It can happen!) but didn't make it as far as the filing. I didn't finish Bümfmag (although I know what I need to add now... it's just a matter of adding it.) Don't forget, if you want me to send you a copy, comment on the Giveaway post. I didn't get any crafting done and several web updates went undone. I didn't even have time to play with the shiny new OTTO.

However, I did get Kiddo's school supplies and new school clothes labeled with the Lovable Labels I received (expect a product review later this week) and I mowed the part of the lawn that really needed it. Meanwhile, Hubby drafted some help and built much-needed railings for Kiddo's tree fort. He needed the jigsaw and I offered to go into the underdeck storage to look for it... and that led to my pulling out enough stuff to rearrange things and find more room in there. I also labeled all our big Rubbermaid™ tubs so we don't have to play "guess-what's-inside" every time. I never did find the jigsaw though. He made do.

Here's Kiddo's new and improved tree fort:

treefort_finished

She's looking forward to painting it sometime soon.