June 29, 2008

Time for Peonies and Strawberries

The peonies are out in full bloom, right beside our strawberry patch.
This is our second harvest of strawberries since planting them last year and they have come up a treat, giving us about a punnet full every day. Craig has been very diligent in keeping them free of weeds and watering them regularly.
I do love peonies, ours are mostly white with just a few pretty pink ones. Big and frilly with such a wonderful scent.
I asked the girls to take some photos for my blog and they were happy to oblige. As you can see below my two teens are literally 'jumping for joy' with the anticipation of enjoying the summer holidays.Amber is away on another camping trip this weekend. She has gone with her best friend Marcy and her family, for four nights. They are staying in a caravan and not a tent, so it will certainly be more comfortable than her last trip and of course no hiking for hours! It feels a little strange walking past her bedroom in the morning and not seeing her tucked up safely in her own bed. I took Jemma into town yesterday and my heart skipped a beat halfway there, for a split second I thought I had forgotten Amber at home! Guess I am not getting any younger and quite possibly becoming slightly 'dippy' :(
A happy ending to my raccoon tale from last week. After the trauma of the first lot we were on the look out for family number two to follow. I am happy to say that they did all manage to vacate the barn safely. This was taken whilst they were making an attempt during the daylight. We believe they left one evening after dark. Those little ones took their sweet time plucking up the courage, doing a few practice runs! We went in and out with duvets in bin bags like yo-yo's for several evenings in a row. Whether these made for a safe landing or not we will never know for sure. Finally on inspection number three, there was no evidence of them living in the barn anymore. The mess they have left behind is another story! The neighbours must think we are completely bonkers. Raccoons are a real nuisance locally and most folk would like to be rid of them.
Next year we need to put chicken wire around the 3 Coppola's on the barn roof peek, to stop them breaking in again. It has been entertaining while it lasted.
An anxious Mummy watching her two little ones cling on to an overhanging ledge above a shear drop of about 25ft!
I am going to do my proud Mummy bit now and say how thrilled I am that both Jemma and Amber were awarded 'Honours with Distinction' at the end of the school year at each of their schools.
Amber got the highest average in her year 98%!! Considering they have both had busier than usual social lives recently. Jemma also with her advanced courses and other 'distractions'. They have my permission to polish their halo's this week!
We are all looking forward to our visitors arriving this week and are hoping that the weather will be kind, so we can spend plenty of time outdoors.

Love and kisses
Hazel xx

June 22, 2008

School Holidays - Yipeee!

Friday was 'officially' (according to the calendar) the first day of summer here in Canada and the beginning of the long school holidays too.
Jemma completed her final two exams on Wednesday and can now breathe a little easier, for a while at least. She has not had much luck so far finding a summer job, but then jobs are pretty scarce in the valley (as Craig and I already know) We may well have to put a time limit on her laptop these school holidays, encouraging her to do other stuff, like this wonderful baking she busied herself with on Tuesday.
These delicious looking cream puffs were made especially for her chemistry class
pre-exam breakfast! Miss Jeffrey, Jemma’s favourite teacher, will also be her teacher in Grade 12 for food science. All the students were asked to bake or buy something as a contribution. Yikes, I hope the exam papers didn't get too sticky!!
Amber has just a couple of days to go, she is a little nervous at the thought of starting ‘high school’ after the holidays. Or perhaps it’s the getting up at 6am to get ready for the early bus? Poor Amber, mornings are NOT her favourite time of day, she seems to naturally be a bit of a night owl and perks up in the early evening dancing and singing with bundles of energy.
My morning walks up to the wood have became ever so slightly less appealing recently, after the man who moves all the apple crates in the orchard told me he had spotted a big black bear on my regular route! Craig tells me reassuringly “You will be just fine, as long as you make lots of noise while walking”
I don’t think random lyrics, spontaneously blurted out mid song on my Ipod count somehow. I have been known to wear Archie’s collar around my ankle with bells on, perhaps not loud enough? More ideas anyone??
Moving on to smaller and somewhat less threatening furry friends.... (advance apologies for rambling)

Every year we have a resident racoon living up in the top floor of our barn, previously referred to as a ‘he’. It is in fact a ‘she’ we realised after the first year! Using the warm loft in the spring, whilst pregnant, before leaving to find herself and cubs a new home up in the woods. Each evening about the same time, she climbs down alone, rather precariously, avoiding the overhead electrical wires scaling the wall and then trots off to find food. This ritual is a great source of entertainment for Archie our cat, who sits watching on his stepping stool, glued to the window.
On Tuesday evening we spotted ‘two’ mummy racoons on the top of the roof with four babies!! (we had never seen little ones before) They had decided that this was the night for evacuation. We all watched, holding our breath as the sun was going down and the light was getting dimmer. First mummy, then two babies, trying desperately to copy, by clinging on to the side of the wall. One of them got caught in the wires, so mummy had to go back up and untangle the little guy. He was then so scared that he wouldn’t move for ages. Finally he completed the descent, followed a little too quickly by baby number two who lost his grip half way down and fell into the bushes luckily and not onto the concrete below! Mummy rushed around, followed by the other little one and we all smiled as she emerged with both racoonlets running alongside her - Ahhhh :)

I did a bit of machine sewing this week for a change, the Martha Stewart toile style cotton napkins that my friend Rhonda bought me about 2 years ago finally got opened up and utilized. Not for wiping tomato sauce from our mouths, instead I turned them into cushion covers for the outdoor chairs. They match the brolly and are nice and comfy on our botties too! We were invited across to our neighbours Tony and Marjorie today for a BBQ on their pretty patio. We don't get to see them during the winter, so it was lovely to catch up again.This evening at 10pm I can see the silhouettes of the second Mummy racoon and her two babies. They all chickened out on Tuesday, after watching the first lot struggle. Looks like tonight it’s their turn to brave the wall, they can't stay up there forever. Amber and I went out earlier and put a couple of soft duvets wrapped in garbage bags at the bottom of the wall, just in case! Yes I know, we are a couple of softies :D
Hazel xx

June 14, 2008

The new deck!

A deck we can indeed be proud of!After repairing the back wall, because of rotten wood it gave us the incentive we needed to re-do the tired old deck that had been standing for many years (scroll down to see the 'before' pic).
By the end of summertime the wood will have cured and we can then paint the trellis and railing white to match the front veranda.
Mid week we celebrated with a family BBQ, using the basic table Craig put together last year and the rickety kitchen chairs. On Thursday our teak patio set arrived to complete 'the look'. Although personally I prefer a lighter wood, it will fade in time to a lighter shade and I am NOT allowed to paint it!!
Over the next few weeks we hope to soften the surrounding area with lavender bushes against the railing, sweet peas growing up the trellis and a couple of strategically placed planters.
The project I did tackle mid week, with sandpaper and paint is this small chest of drawers picked up for just $12 at a yard sale on the way home from Halifax last weekend. OK, it is perhaps a little more 'shabby' than 'chic' and has found a nice home in my laundry.The laundry incidentally seems to be the stop gap for any second hand piece of furniture entering our house, before it gets moved somewhere else! I decided to paint it a pale Robin's egg blue (following a little mid week live chat with my uncle Tony in Spain!) The drawers are perfect for storing beach towels, sunglasses and citronella candles in Summer, or mittens, hats, brollies etc in Winter.
Only a few days now before the girls finish another school year. Amber moves up to the high school in September after spending 3 years at middle school, where she seems to have become a fully fledged Canadian :D
Jemma will be in her final year at high school, before hopefully going on to University!! Jemma was given the good news that she has been accepted on 2 more AP (Advanced Placement) courses; Chemistry and Calculus, having completed her AP Biology this year, she realises that a hectic year of studying lies ahead. Jemma is the only student with 3 AP courses in the school and we are very proud of her. Major hints have been dropped that she would like a cell phone for her 17th birthday in July. Amazingly (for a teen) she has managed without one so far, so we can't complain. Craig will be taking an in depth look at all the plan options so we don't get diddled with a long term contract that has the dreaded 'small print'!
Still fighting the bugs! A few are hanging in there, even though it has soared to 29 degrees some days. I now have quite a collection of citronella candles and torches and some excellent mosquito cream from a company called Watkins. It doesn't pong as much as some of the sprays, the fumes can be pretty horrendous.
In case you wondered what became of the little shelf unit a couple of blogs ago. I painted it the same shade of blue, (my favourite at the moment) after removing some of the partitions first.
Hmmm those little animals do seem to get around a bit!!
Phew did I perhaps overdo the photos this week?
Hazel xx

June 08, 2008

Ambie's Special Day

Amber survived her Duke of Ed trip a week ago, arriving home 5 hours later than scheduled, quite bedraggled and exhausted. The weather was much worse than the teachers had predicted, they said it was one of their more difficult challenges. Everyone got soaked to the skin in the very heavy rain, a couple of kids even fell in the fast flowing river! Amber was a little quiet on her return and so glad to have a soak in a hot bath and climb into her own familiar bed for a good nights sleep. Even with bug spray and face net she still got practically eaten alive, with the insects being particularly prevalent this year. Don't think she will be keen to go on another camping trip or hike anytime soon!
Yesterday my adventurous daughter 'finally' got to celebrate her postponed birthday. A 'half birthday' for the first time this year. She requested a trip to the City to do some shopping. Having already conferred with Jemma we bought the dress and ballet flat shoes that Amber really wanted, that was her first surprise. Her second was an unexpected digital camera of her own. Now she can snap away to her hearts content and hopefully download some more great shots onto her deviant art site. The girls wanted to shop alone (parents in tow not cool at this age).
Girls who do like to shop!
Craig and I did our own thing, lunch at an Italian restaurant and plenty of time in Michael's, a huge craft store, book store and diy shop.We picked the girls up after they had 'shopped til they dropped' and had enjoyed their lunch together at Manchoowok.
On the way home we stopped off at a cute old 1950's diner for desert, coffee and to listen to old tunes on the juke box for fun!
It was a great day, although a little weird and I suspect that she will want to go back to her usual December 1st birthday, even though it is close to Christmas it is the real day.

Next week I will try to report on our deck, which is coming along very nicely, unless I manage to sneak a picture in here mid week :)
Not long until our overseas visitors arrive, Dave from New Zealand on 29th June followed by Craig's sister Tessa and her family of 5 from South Africa. I am sure there will be lots of juggling with cars and children with who wants to go where, as well as all the cousins finally getting to know each other after 7 years!

Hazel xx