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Spring has finally arrived (more or less) which means we can start prepping the garden and starting cool-weather crops, and start/continue the indoor seeds and seedlings. In my neck of the woods, the May long weekend is planting weekend. BUT – because mild weather typically starts in April, I can get started on preparing my garden beds and sow some seeds. Exciting!

Ever since I put my garden plan together early in the year, I’ve been closely watching important dates in my calendar.

  • On Feb 10th I started mint seeds indoors
  • On Mar 18th, I started marigolds indoors
  • On March 30th, I transplanted my marigolds and mint into cups
  • On Mar 31st, I started cherry tomato seeds indoors
  • On April 21st, I (with the help of hubby) installed a new raised bed and filled it with triple mix and compost. I also added compost to my other 2 existing beds.
  • On April 22nd I sowed seeds outside for peas, carrots, lettuce (2 types) and lemon balm. I also started seeds for basil and parsley indoors.

The next key dates will be 2 weekends in May once all risk of frost has passed, usually around the May long weekend and the one prior.

That’s when I’ll get everything outside and go buy some blueberry plants for my other new bed this year. I decided to dedicate a whole bed just for blueberries because of the different soil requirements (acidic) and the likelihood of needing to cover them with netting.

Meanwhile, the garlic I planted last fall is looking great!

Progress so far:

Cherry tomato seedlings

Marigold and mint seedlings

Growing…

Growing…  marigolds / mint on the left. Tomatoes (near window) on the right) and basil/parsley on the right / front)

My garlic is doing well (planted last fall). There are also seeds for lemon balm (above the garlic) and carrots (whole 3rd row) in here. Tomatoes will be along the fence. Chamomile will be the bottom/right 4 squares. This was taken 1 week ago:

This was taken today:

This bed already has seeds for lettuce (one variety in the bottom 3 squares on the left, with another column of another variety next to it, then beans (to be planted in May), and seeds for peas. Tomatoes will be along the top row along the fence. I tried lining this box with cardboard this time. For the other two I used weed fabric – just want to see how well the cardboard would work.

This one will have tomatoes along the back row and basil (genovese and thai) and parsley in the front.

Beds are ready for more planting in May. 🙂 The new bed will go the right of the one against the fence at the top of the photo.

I’m considering putting down cardboard/mulch between the beds and in the far corner to get rid of the grass and avoid complicated mowing.

So excited to be spending time out in the garden! 🙂

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Ok. Here they are people – after a ton of movie-watching and flip-flopping back and forth, I finally put my picks together for the Oscars tonight (in red below). And I’m still not 100% on the Best Picture (torn between Three Billboard and Shape of Water), but time has run out so here we are.

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BEST PICTURE
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

BEST DIRECTOR
Paul Thomas Anderson (“Phantom Thread”)
Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”)
Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”)
Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”)
Jordan Peele (“Get Out”)

BEST ACTOR
Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”)
Daniel Day-Lewis(“Phantom Thread”)
Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”)
Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”)
Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

BEST ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”)
Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”)
Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”)
Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”)
Meryl Streep (“The Post”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”)
Woody Harrelson (“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”)
Richard Jenkins (“The Shape of Water”)
Christopher Plummer (“All the Money in the World”)
Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”)
Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”)
Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”)
Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”)
Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly’s Game
Mudbound

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mubdound
The Shape of Water

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria and Abdul

BEST FILM EDITING
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Darkest Hour
Victoria and Abdul
Wonder

BEST SOUND MIXING
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

BEST SOUND EDITING
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Call Me by Your Name (“The Mystery of Love”)
Coco (“Remember Me”)
The Greatest Showman (“This Is Me”)
Marshall (“Stand Up for Something”)
Mudbound (“Mighty River”)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“A Fantastic Woman” (CHILE)
“The Insult” (LEBANON)
“Loveless” (RUSSIA)
“On Body and Soul” (HUNGARY)
“The Square” (SWEDEN)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Dear Basketball
Garden City
Lou
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Edith+Eddie
Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Herion(e)
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Deklab Elementary
The Eleven O’Clock
My Nephew Emmett
The Silent Child
Watu Wote/All of Us

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We finally picked up our new kitten. His name is Dante and he’s an Abyssinian, the same breed as our late pet Gizmo who passed last November. After several days without a little furry life in the house, we decided we wanted another cat, and we found this little guy. We picked him up this past weekend and had an uneventful (thankfully) 6 hour drive back to the GTA. We had brought everything (food, water, litter, etc) and it went well. We were eager to get him settled in and the last couple of days have been super fun.

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We closed off the door to the basement until he gets settled with the main floor and the upstairs. He already knows where everything is (his litter, food, water, etc.). He already knew how to navigate stairs and is pretty gung ho when running up/down them. He loves food, playing, his kitty condo and is curious about everything. He has bursts of energy then conks out and basks in the sun. 🙂 He is still a wee thing (2.5 pounds) and cuteness overload is rampant in our house at the moment.

He slept with us both nights we’ve had him so far and didn’t wake up in the night to get into mischief (that we know of). Maybe we’ve been lucky so far. lol

We’re looking forward to more adventures with our new addition. 🙂

 

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Like every year, as soon as the Golden Globe nominees are announced, I start watching the potential Oscar Best Picture nominees (since they often align with the Globes). I’ve managed to watch all but one but since I’m not sure if I’ll be able to watch the last straggler (Phantom Thread), I figured I’d share my impressions for the big categories.

Best Picture – Nominees

  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Summary: You know how a movie can stay with you for weeks after you’ve watched it? Those are usually the ones that grab my attention and make my top picks. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is staying with me. I love Frances McDormand – she often plays a badass and this movie is no different.  The story was engrossing and the cast was great. Sam Rockwell’s transformation in the movie was very compelling. Woody Harrelson was also very good (he is everywhere there days – good for him!) It was an all around solid movie.

My second pick, believe it or not, is The Shape of Water. I know many people found it weird. And it was. But there was something really beautiful about it from Sally Hawkins’ powerful performance as a mute to the relationship between her and the critter, to the friendship between her and Richard Jenkins’ character, to Octavia Spencer. Another, all around solid movie.

I’m still torn about who I’d vote for between the two. I have a feeling the two lead acting categories will go to Three Billboards, and Best Picture will go to The Shape of Water for the ensemble to avoid a sweep of the top three.

The others were OK but in my opinion not Oscar worthy, although there were some stand out performances. There were many “middling” movies that seemed to make the cut because they ran out of great ones to choose from. It’s been like this ever since they increased the number of nominated films up from 5 so I guess it’s to be expected.

Actor in a Leading Role – Nominees

  • Timothee Chalamet
  • Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Daniel Kaluuya
  • Gary Oldman
  • Denzel Washington

Summary: Gary Oldman who played Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour is a shoe in for this category. Enough said.

Actress in a Leading Role – Nominees

  • Sally Hawkins
  • Frances McDormand
  • Margot Robbie
  • Saorise Ronan
  • Meryl Streep

Summary: I’m torn here too between Frances McDormand and Sally Hawkins. So tough. I think I’m leaning slightly towards Frances because of the emotion of the role. But Sally, as a mute, was able to convey so much power and emotion too, which could be considered a greater achievement than a speaking role. Very tough.

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Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Willem Dafoe
  • Woody Harrelson
  • Richard Jenkins
  • Christopher Plummer
  • Sam Rockwell

Summary: I think Sam Rockwell has it. Although – it would be a hoot for Christopher Plummer to win, especially after stepping to replace Kevin Spacey and reshooting all his scenes.

Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Mary J. Blige
  • Allison Janney
  • Lesley Manville
  • Laurie Metcalf
  • Octavia Spencer

Summary: Allison Janney hands down as Tonya Harding’s mom.

I’ll post my full ballot closer to the Oscars – which is on March 4th this year. Set your PVRs. 🙂

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It’s been cold and snowy in my neck of the woods lately. BUT – since it’s time to plan for my spring/summer garden, I’ve been having fun buying seeds and planning out what I’ll be growing and where, focusing on when the temps will be warm again. It’ll come quickly and I want to be prepared. 🙂

Without further ado, below is my square foot garden plan layout for this year – click on it to make it larger.

I will still do my usual plantings (albeit different kinds) of cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, lettuce, beans and carrots. Oh, and french marigolds to repel the bugs. I’ll be trying some new crops this year: cucumbers, zucchini, garlic (already planted this past fall), snap peas and blueberries. Plus, to assist with my life list item to make my own tea, I’ll be planting chamomile, lemon balm and mint (the mint in its own pot because it can be invasive). I’ll be getting a dehydrator to help with that task as well.

I did all my research and bought all the seeds this morning. I’ll be picking up blueberry plants closer to planting time and I think I’ll plant a couple of other types of basil in 2 of the squares for variety. The purple basils have caught my eye – imagine what a pesto made with purple basil would look like – stunning!

My plan is to cover the entire blueberry 4×4 bed with netting to protect them from the birds. For the basil, I’ll keep some for pesto and dry the rest for cooking. Same for the parsley – I’ll use some fresh and dry the rest. I’ll dry the chamomile, lemon balm and some of the mint to make tea (my favorite tea has all of those elements in it :)). Plus, gotta save some mint for the mojitos.

I love growing my own food and walking out into the yard to pick ingredients for meals – nothing tastes better than tomatoes warmed by the sun or a fresh picked carrot – it’s incredible how different (and better!) things taste compared to the store. I also enjoy babysitting my plants and keeping an eye out for them, trimming here, watering there, picking off pests (Japanese beetles, I’m looking at you). It’s incredibly relaxing, fulfilling and the bigger jobs provide a good workout too. Weeds are few with the square foot garden method because the “good” plants take up all the space and don’t leave any room for the weeds. It’s fabulous.

Here is my list of seeds so far:

  • Red small tomato: Stupice (stoo-pee-chay)
  • Red cherry tomato: Matt’s Wild Red Cherry
  • Yellow cherry tomato: Lemon Drop
  • Yellow cherry tomato: Champagne (Loved these last year – so much sweet flavor in such a tiny package – they’re like a half inch in diameter)
  • Black cherry tomato: Black Cherry
  • Basil: Genovese  (gold standard in basil – amazing for pesto)
  • Basil: TBD – One of the purple varieties
  • Cucumbers: Muncher
  • Zucchini: Green Zucchini
  • Garlic: Red Russian
  • Beans: Yellow Golden Wax (Bush)
  • Peas: Patio Pride
  • Carrots: Nantes
  • Lettuce: Red Salad Bowl
  • Lettuce: Buttercrunch
  • Chamomile: Bodegold
  • Marigolds: French
  • Mint:: Menthol
  • Lemon Balm

 

I am doing my happy dance!!! 🙂

2016 Garden flashback:

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Now that I’ve recuperated from the whirlwind that is my sister and her two daughters, I can write a blog post about all the fun we had during their holiday visit.

They arrived on the 21st on an empty flight and landed at Billy Bishop airport. With the news showing a jam-packed Pearson airport (busiest day of the year apparently), it made sense to fly to the island airport. Traffic was actually light due to many already being off work.

We got back home and everyone settled in. We made lunch (rigatoni with cherry tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella) then had fun playing a rousing game of Christmas charades. The girls are getting old enough to play games that adult enjoy playing too. 🙂 Fun!! We then headed out to Michael’s to get some holiday craft materials that we wanted to tackle during their stay (more on these later!).

We were also cat-sitting for my sister-in-law’s cat Dusty and after a nervous first day, he adjusted quickly and joined in some of the activities. 🙂

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The following day we were planning to go to the Distillery District to see the Christmas Market. During the day, we made the first batch of treats: Smore’s Cookies. They were really yummy and my kitchen helpers were awesome!

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The girls also wrote their letters to Santa for Jingles the Elf to bring them to him. This is a kit that comes with magical paper (and a storybook explaining it all) that shrinks when you bake it (with the help of an adult) so they’re small enough for the elf to carry back to Santa. It was really neat! You can see the large letter in the first pic. Then, the shrunken versions in the 2nd and 3rd pic:

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We also played 5 Second Rule, a fun and simple game where a player has to name 3 things that fit the category in 5 seconds. This was a lot of fun!

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Next was our visit to the Christmas Market. We all hopped on the GO train, played a Christmas-themed version of the alphabet game all the way downtown and got to the market just as the sun was setting and the lights sparkled. 🙂

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On the way back to Union Station, we stopped for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory and it was warm and cozy. Their Christmas decor was fantastic – just what we needed to warm up!

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The next day we made the next batch of cookies; these were mainly for Uncle Chris: Maple Bacon Cookies. Holy moly were they ever good!

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We made the first craft which was a 3d puzzle-like train made out of foam which was harder than it looked. On the box, they provide a suggested time to finish it (an hour I believe) and we did it in that amount of time:

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We played a bit more charades then got ready for our “Christmas by Lamplight” evening at Black Creek Village. We drove: Drove to the village and drove Uncle Chris crazy with our carol-singing in the car. 🙂 Ha! The village itself was beautifully decorated for the holidays and most of the buildings had something festive going on – see a more complete post here. In short, it was amazing. I’d go back in a heartbeat – highly recommended!!

The next day we made cinnamon-baked doughnuts. Oh my.

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Baking is hard work:

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Had Cadbury hot chocolate (best ever – all others have now been ruined):

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We had an impromptu coloring session:

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We finished up some wrapping to make sure we were all ready for the big day. We all dressed up and had a nice charcuterie, cheese, cracker and fruit dinner with cranberry orange punch (cranberry cocktail, orange juice, sparkling water, cinnamon stick and couple of cloves). I could eat it every day. 🙂  But then I’d end up looking like Santa, so, no.

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We watched a holiday movie (I lost track of which one!!) then the kids were off to bed to try to get some sleep before Santa’s arrival tomorrow morning.  We left out some cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.

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Maddie read Twas the night Before Christmas to us. 🙂

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We managed to take a pic of the tree after Santa came 🙂

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Dec 25th – Christmas Morning!!!! Sue, Chris and I grabbed our coffees, cookies and doughnuts and the kids opened their stockings. They joined us for cookies, then tackled the gifts. 🙂  Everyone was very happy. I loved what I received from kitchen goodies from Chris (a beautiful pan, cutting boards and tools that I needed) to an awesome winter scarf and Harry Potter slippers from Sue. It was a great success!

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The girls spent most of the day playing; we took a break for lunch (leftover meats and cheeses), then we started on dinner! The adults kicked off the festivities with a bit of brandy. 🙂

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Then we watched The Sound of Music – it’s tradition! And off to bed!

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On the 26th, after having eaten a load of treats and lord knows what else, we headed out to Crawford Lake to enjoy the outdoors and hiked the boardwalk around the lake. It was a cold one but we were all bundled up and pretty much the only ones there! Even the drive up was quiet and scenic.

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We stopped for lunch at Boston Pizza on the way back home and made Christmas ornaments – we got the makings of this from Michael’s as well and these turned out great!
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We braved the cold again the following day and walked the trails near our house on our way to Starbucks to warm up. We came across a dad and his son tobogganing in the area (we heard the dad screaming from a couple of blocks away) and he asked Sienna and Maddie if they would like a ride (to spare him from having to go again teehee). The girls were super excited to have a run. 🙂

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We had fun playing follow the leader on the way back to warm up. There was hopping and jumping involved. Luckily, no video. 🙂

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And that’s it! We survived another family visit, packed as many holiday activities as we could and from what I hear, the girls are already interested in coming back to Aunt Val’s next Christmas. 🙂 A year to recover should be enough. I think.

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