27 September 2009


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


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.


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:


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.


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


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:


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.


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:


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.


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


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 ...


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.


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.