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We spent the morning hiking in the Hilton Falls Conservation area. It was a beautiful day – about 20C degrees (working towards an expected high of 24C), not too hot or muggy. We started out at 10am and followed the Bruce Trail that runs parallel to the Red Oak trail (red) south of the reservoir, then followed the west side Beaver Dam trail (orange) all the way up to the fire pit, took a 15 minute snack break, continued the east Beaver Dam trail back to Red Oak and took the north trail back to the car. We hiked 12.5 kms total and it was great – we took 3 hours including a 15 minute break. According to the trail map, it should have taken us 3.25 hours so we did good time with 2.75 hours. My legs are feeling it now as I write this after returning home and making some lunch. But it’s a good tired. :)

See trail map here.

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Some parts of the trail required more agility:

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Cool tree (right) and mushroom (bottom left):

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There’s just something about water rippling by… so calming….

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Nice shot of the creek and waterfall in the foreground and the reservoir in the background:

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Some parts of the trail were packed dirt and very easy to navigate:

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No swimming!

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Cool rock:

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The reservoir:

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Well, there is one last step to be done (sealing the stone) but then it’s officially done. :) I thought I would take you through the process since it took several months from start to finish. We got a design done – a process that started back in March 2014. After a few months of back and forth and changes, tweaks, etc., we had our design. We were put in touch with a contractor and work actually began in August 2014. This is what our yard looked like before any work was done (these are actually the pics from the real estate listing right before we moved in) – it really was a blank slate:

Old yard 2

Old yard 3

Old Yard

Next came the design – and we still made a few changes to it (removed some planters, added a path to connect the patio to the gate) – I have lots of 3D design images but this one shows all the different areas quite well:

Design - Top View

Then came the demo of the existing backyard the hole digging:

backyard

deck holes

Then the decking:

deck layout

pre grouns 2

pre ground

pre ground 3

Started to lay the composite – love the herringbone pattern and colors we chose for the decking, stone and decorative walls:

pre-bbq wall

pre pergola

pre lounge

Choosing our wall (rundle ridge)

Then came the structural bits for the BBQ area, pergola, pathway:

Path and behind bbq

Path

Pre-bbq

The lighting…  We have two zones – post lighting and stair lighting – all around the deck and it comes with a remote control:

Lighting in prog

And finally, they installed the BBQ, did the landscaping, we ordered our furniture, they stained the parts that were wood and did all the little odds and ends (except sealing the stone – to come in about 1-2 weeks after a power wash, and I have to put on our BBQ cover that I picked up yesterday) and we have our dream backyard:

Bistro2

Lounge

Dining and Firepit

Lounge2

Dining

Deck

Bistro

It took a while but the workmanship was really great throughout. There are so many little details – I really love it. So excited to spend the summer out there!  We will be replacing the firepit that came with the house for something a bit larger and more functional – like a firepit table that we can put our wine glasses on :) and landscaping the rear of the yard is planned for next year.

I crossed off a Life List item too – Have my dream backyard. :)

 

To kick off the warm weather season, we bought an annual pass to the Halton Conservation Areas. This pass will give us entry into seven conservation parks in our area so we can enjoy the outdoors, hike to our hearts’ content and have fun.

We kicked things off this morning with a 5km hike at Mount Nemo, one of the parks we didn’t get to last year. What made it interesting was that both loops at Nemo are along the Bruce Trail which typically has more rugged terrain and inclines. This was no paved or packed stroll through the woods. And we loved it!

We got to see lots of flowers and trees. Wildlife such as chipmunks, turkey vultures, other birds – no snakes this time. Beautiful lookouts and views – the day was so clear, we were able to see downtown Toronto from up there.

The trail has lots of roots, rocks, twists and turns, and there are some steep drops. We need to get hiking poles. Word of warning: There is no fencing so don’t get too close to the cliff or you’ll end up bungee jumping without a cord. :)

Great great day!

We started with the yellow loop, then the red loop. Did then both from 11:45am to 1:30pm, about 5km.

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Can’t escape them. :) This one was particularly poofy.

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Beautiful trees…

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These smelled good!

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Chris in the trail

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Christmas trees!

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These were cool – with the wind, their leaves flickered in the sunlight and looked like confetti.

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More flowers…

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Some parts of the trail were narrower and flat.

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Great views!

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You could see the CN tower from here – hard to see in the pic though.

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Chipmunk!

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In a few spots there were narrow packed-earth bridges and if you looked over, you could see gaps in the rock – creepy yet cool.

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Don’t get too close to the edge!

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Golf course

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More flowers… :)

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Saw this left on a tree stump – pretty :)

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Cool looking tree

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Yes. More flowers.

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Some parts of the trail were on somewhat steep inclines with rocks and roots…

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Bruce Trail lingo :)

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Purple flowers :)

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And some parts were very steep. :)

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This one was pretty tough to get down but we were fine.  We should get hiking poles…would have made this one much easier.

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Last bunch of flowers on our way back to the parking lot.

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We went out on our first walk “in nature” today. This time we headed over to Lowville Park which is on Guelph Line in Burlington, just north of Britannia Road. Bronte Creek meanders through the park which has lots of picnic areas, trails, a playground for the kids and lots of grass and trees. Today many families were out and the smell of barbecue was everywhere. No complaints! :) The best part – free parking!

There are a few woodchip trails throughout the park and several bridges that cross over the creek.

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We saw a few people fishing in the creek. And we came across these pretties out of nowhere:

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Woodchip trail:

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The weather was nice enough to go out in capris, a tank top and no jacket. Finally!!

2015 Gardening Plan

I’ve decided to give square foot gardening a try this year. I have my raised bed frame and garden plan – a 4′ x 4′ grid with 16 squares. I started some seeds indoors a couple of weeks ago and am convinced I have magic beans…

I picked up a mini greenhouse for $30 at Lowes to store my seedlings indoors in a warm spot (my office) which will also work well when I harden them off later this spring out on the deck.

I decided to start some from seed and buy the rest as plants from the nursery. The seeds I started include basil, beets, green beans, spinach and marigolds. The plants I’ll be buying include cherry tomato, regular tomato, peppers and onion sets.

I started my seeds in early March which may be a bit early for the beans. This is them a week later. The beans sprouted really quickly. I’m a bit worried that they’ll grow too quickly before my outdoor garden is ready but I figure worst case scenario, I’ll transplant as needed in to bigger containers and I can always plan new seeds directly into the soil. I’ll play it by ear but they should be fine.

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Below is the mini greenhouse and the potting soil I’m using:

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And I transplanted some of the beans (top) and the beets (bottom):

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These were taken today. I transplanted more of the beans and thinned out some of the beets.

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Beets:

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These were the first beans transplanted. Magic beans. :)

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Stay tuned for progress!

Oscars 2015 – Update

Here are the results – I didn’t do very well this year. I correctly predicted 16 out of 24. For some, I went with my heart instead of my head and that’s never a good strategy (Animated feature, Visual Effects, Makeup). :) So happy Eddie Redmayne won for Best Actor – so deserving. I was surprised Boyhood lost the Editing race but happy that Whiplash won it. I thought NPH did OK as the host – it’s a tough gig.

Some of my favorite moments from the show (yes, I DID watch the whole thing) were: J.K. Simmons’ speech to Call Your Mom, Eddie Redmayne’s unrestrained glee, Lady Gaga’s tribute to the Sound of Music, the performance of Glory (song from Selma) and the exchange between Idina Menzel and John Travolta.

Here’s the list containing my predictions (bold) and the winners:

Best Picture

  • “American Sniper”
  • “Birdman”   winner
  • “Boyhood”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • “The Imitation Game”
  • “Selma”
  • “The Theory of Everything”
  • “Whiplash”

Best Actor

  • Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
  • Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
  • Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
  • Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”   winner

Best Actress

  • Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
  • Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”   winner
  • Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
  • Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

Best Supporting Actor

  • Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
  • Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
  • Edward Norton, “Birdman”
  • Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
  • J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”   winner

Best Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”   winner
  • Laura Dern, “Wild”
  • Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
  • Emma Stone, “Birdman”
  • Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”

Animated Feature Film

  • “Big Hero 6″   winner
  • “The Boxtrolls”
  • “How to Train Your Dragon 2″
  • “Song of the Sea”
  • “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”

Cinematography

  • “Birdman”   winner
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • “Ida”
  • “Mr. Turner”
  • “Unbroken”

Costume Design

  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”   winner
  • “Inherent Vice”
  • “Into the Woods”
  • “Maleficent”
  • “Mr. Turner”

Directing

  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”   winner
  • Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
  • Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
  • Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”

Documentary Feature

  • “Citizenfour”   winner
  • “Finding Vivian Maier”
  • “Last Days in Vietnam”
  • “The Salt of the Earth”
  • “Virunga”

Documentary Short Subject

  • “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1″   winner
  • “Joanna”
  • “Our Curse”
  • “The Reaper (La Parka)”
  • “White Earth”

Film Editing

  • “American Sniper”
  • “Boyhood”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • “The Imitation Game”
  • “Whiplash”   winner

Foreign Language Film

  • “Ida,” Poland   winner
  • “Leviathan,” Russia
  • “Tangerines,” Estonia
  • “Timbuktu,” Mauritania
  • “Wild Tales,” Argentina

Makeup and Hairstyling

  • “Foxcatcher”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”   winner
  • “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Original Score

  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”   winner
  • “The Imitation Game”
  • “Interstellar”
  • “Mr. Turner”
  • “The Theory of Everything”

Original Song

  • “Everything Is Awesome,” “The Lego Movie”
  • “Glory,” “Selma”   winner
  • “Grateful, “Beyond the Lights”
  • “I”m Not Gonna Miss You,” “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”
  • “Lost Stars,” “Begin Again”

Production Design

  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”   winner
  • “The Imitation Game”
  • “Interstellar”
  • “Into the Woods”
  • “Mr. Turner”

Animated Short Film

  • “The Bigger Picture”
  • “The Dam Keeper”
  • “Feast”   winner
  • “Me and My Moulton”
  • “A Single Life”

Live Action Short Film

  • “Aya”
  • “Boogaloo and Graham”
  • “Butter Lamp”
  • “Parvaneh”
  • “The Phone Call”  winner

Sound Editing

  • “American Sniper”   winner
  • “Birdman”
  • “The Hobbitt: The Battle of the Five Armies”
  • “Interstellar”
  • “Unbroken”

Sound Mixing

  • “American Sniper”
  • “Birdman”
  • “Interstellar”
  • “Unbroken”
  • “Whiplash”   winner

Visual Effects

  • “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
  • “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
  • “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • “Interstellar”  winner
  • “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Adapted Screenplay

  • “American Sniper”
  • “The Imitation Game”  winner
  • “Inherent Vice”
  • “The Theory of Everything”
  • “Whiplash”

Original Screenplay

  • “Birdman”
  • “Boyhood”
  • “Foxcatcher”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”   winner
  • “Nightcrawler”

I made my first rabbit for supper today and it turned out pretty good! Fresh rabbit was on sale at our grocer store so I took the opportunity to knock this item off my Life List. :) The butcher cut the rabbit into 8 pieces (thankfully) and I found a recipe online for Lapin à la moutarde (Rabbit with mustard). I got out my Le Creuset dutch oven and went to town.

Here are the 8 pieces and a bowl of Dijon mustard. The recipe said to season the rabbit with salt and pepper, then to smear them with the Dijon. Anytime I can smear something is a good thing.

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Here they are again – smeared!  I like to use a silicone brush for my smearing activities.

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Searing the pieces.

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I seared them in two batches then moved them to a platter while I cooked the onions in wine. Then, added the pieces back to the pot along with  a bouquet garni (rosemary and sage).

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I roasted some parsnips in the oven and also added cremini mushrooms to the pot for the last 15 minutes of cooking. And then, dinner was served!

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Quite tasty! The house smelled amazing. The rabbit was great and the sauce was very yummy.

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