Monday, April 30, 2007

Backyard project

Last summer, like the two summer we spent in the house before that, my backyard looked like this:

Notice the overgrown cedar hedges across the back fence line in the first picture. And notice how the neighbour’s tree has swallowed up the fence and is nearly touching my lawn. And in the final picture, notice this little corner by the edge of the house that has been totally and completely consumed by weeds – four of which are six-foot high thistles, and a ‘so-called’ plant that smells like celery, spreads like wildflowers and grow so tall the stalks eventually fall over across the patio stones.

Not very pretty pictures, that’s for sure.

The jungle doesn’t end at what you can see, here’s what you can’t see – the lawn is a mess. Aside from the weeds with root structures that probably go all the way to China, the lawn is not even close to flat. Scattered throughout the grass are potholes, some of which are so deep that when you step in one, you could twist an ankle. Ryan describes the potholes like this: “it looks likes someone has been practicing their short game for the last 10 years.”

The other thing you can’t see is the hedges are so overgrown that they spring out almost five feet from the fence line. But once you step into them, they’re nothing but a fa├žade – the inside branches are dead, so you can’t even trim them back.

For the record, we may have neglected the backyard for our first two and a half summers, but it didn’t fall into such despair because of us. It was in this state when we bought this house – although because we purchased in early May, it hadn’t started to grow for the season, so we didn’t realize the extend of the misery until we moved in at the end of July. The people we bought the house from had lived there for 10 years, and honestly, I think the backyard has been neglected for the last 10+ years.

Well, we’ve been talking and talking about it and now we’re finally ready to do something about it. Austin is up and running at full speed now and we want a safe place for him to play. That had always been our plan, and although the backyard won’t be perfect in the first summer, we’re in the process of deconstructing in order to make some huge improvements.

The process started last fall thanks to my dad, and was then put on hiatus over the winter. A few weeks ago we got at it again, and yesterday, with the help of Ryan’s sister looking after Austin for a good part of the afternoon, we really got to work.

Here’s what it looks like today:

Note the complete lack of hedges across the fence. (And by extension, notice how much more backyard we have!) Notice, as well, how the tree no longer consumes the fence and, in the third picture, how there’s nothing but a single shrub in the corner by the house. Honestly, I didn’t even know it was there until I spent hours and hours last fall de-weeding that area – how it survived being smothered for years, I’ll never know.

These pictures show nothing but a work in progress. Obviously there’s a lot of work left to do.

The roots and weeds need to come up in places, the ground needs to be levelled and sod needs to be laid. As well, the plan is to pull the patio stones up and then put new ones down along the fence (the area of yard that used to be consumed by the neighbour’s tree). The fence needs to built up a bit as well, to create a little more privacy from the back-door neighbours. Later in the summer, or even next year, we may build a few gardens and do some other plantings. That’s all cosmetic changes, which will seem easy once the heavy lifting work is done.

There’ll be more pictures to come, but by the end of June we hope to have a backyard that can be used – a place where we can sit and watch Austin run around (once we buy patio furniture of course), a place where we can have summer parties, and a place that doesn’t look like a jungle anymore.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What to wear (or what not to wear)

The warm weather is finally here and with it brings sunshine, flowers, leaves on the trees and my realization that I have absolutely nothing to wear.

I’m not really exaggerating either. It’s been two years since I’ve had to wear spring clothes to work, and in those two years I’ve somehow managed to lose, misplace or wear out pretty much every spring-like shirt that isn’t a T-shirt that I own.

This becomes a bit of problem, when even on casual Friday, I can’t find a T-shirt that’s clean and doesn’t have a hole in it to put on with my one and only pair of jeans – which, by the way, went by the ‘they’re clean enough’ theory.

Since it got warm last week, every morning has been the same routine, rummage through my closet and pull out a pair of pants then desperately try to find a shirt that isn’t a sweater that fits and looks presentable. Because, you see, that’s the other problem I’m having with many of my old clothes – as I’ve written about before, I wear a larger bra size then I did two years ago, which means that shirts fit differently than they used to. They either become too short, because well, I use up more of it on top, or they plunge too low, showing off an amount of cleavage that isn’t really appropriate for a workplace – at least not my workplace! Or else, they just don’t look right anymore – after putting on and taking off 25 or so pounds in the last almost 2 years, the weight sits differently on me now. The scale may read the same number it did 2 years ago, but my body shape isn’t the same – and some things just don’t fit the same as they used to.

I seem to be doing ok with pants, and I barely wore them last year while on maternity leave so I didn’t wear them out. But skirts are out of the question. All my spring/summer skirts have certain colours or patterns to them – and I either wore out, or can no longer wear, the shirt that matched the skirt. So now I have a bunch of skirts with no shirts that go with them.

So tonight, after work, I guess I’ll do the required shopping trip. I need capris, cute short-sleeved shirts, jeans (because one pair really doesn’t cut it) and even summer shoes. It may sound like a fun evening of shopping, but if there’s one thing I hate more than anything, is shopping because you have to – because you have nothing to wear.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Let's Go Raptors

Somehow, I don’t know how, I became a Raptors basketball fan.

I say that with surprise, because it sort of caught me by surprise a few years back. Growing up, I never watched basketball because my family didn’t watch basketball. We were all die-hard hockey fans.

I vaguely remember the hoopla when the NBA decided to set up a team in Toronto – but frankly, I didn’t really care at the time. (Although I did go to one game, in 1995 or 1996, back when the Raptors were still playing in the SkyDome.)

But then, sometime about six years ago, I started to pay attention. It was just a little attention at first – noticing that the Raps were in the playoffs or watching a game here and there. And then I started to get excited about it and Ryan and I started going to games. The day I realized I was a true, die-hard fan, was the day when four years ago, Ryan, a few friends, and I drove to Detroit for Game 5. It was a Thursday night, 8:30 p.m. start – we left work around 1:30 p.m., drove to Detroit, watched the Raptors lose (and get knocked out of the playoffs) by 3 or 4 points and then drove back to Toronto in time to catch a couple of hours of sleep and head to work again in the morning. (That’s the simple version of the story, the more complicated version is the fact that Ryan was working in Niagara at the time, so I drove one car with the friends from Toronto to London, where we met Ryan and left his car in a McDonald’s parking lot to continue on our way. On the way back, we dropped Ryan off at his car so he could go back to Niagara and the rest of us could go back to Toronto.)

For three years after that game, Ryan and I shared season seats with our friends Rob and Vone (and sometimes others as well). And for three years, we watched the Raptors lose, we watched Vince Carter whine and ask to be traded to a ‘better team’ until he was finally traded, and watched them lose some more.

Then, this year they started to win – and of course, us new parents gave up our season seats in favour of watching the games on TV while the babes slept. This year, I managed to catch 2 games from the ACC – compared with the 20 or so in each of the years before.

Nevertheless, I’m excited to say that on Saturday afternoon the four of us will be at the first Raptors playoff game. And on Tuesday evening, we’ll be at the second. When they secured a playoff spot, there was no hesitation – we’re getting playoff tickets, and we’re getting a babysitter!

Of course, last night the team they’ll be facing was finally determined, and it’s Vince Carter’s new team, the Nets. That puts a little extra something on the whole affair. If they win the series, it’ll be that much greater knowing that Carter’s ‘better team’ got knocked down by his old team. If they lose, it’ll make me that much angrier at the loss.

But what can you do – except not wear my old Vince Carter Raptors jersey to the game on Saturday. Unless of course I ‘revise it’ with a Sharpie.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mmmm......bacon and eggs

Breakfast has to be my favourite meal of the day. And I don’t mean the kind of breakfast I eat every weekday morning before work, and many weekend mornings, of a bowl full of Raisin Bran (or Cheerios) topped off with a cup of milk.

I mean real breakfast – bacon and eggs, hash browns, omelettes, waffles or pancakes.

And when I say breakfast is my favourite meal, I mean the concept of breakfast, not the hour one normally eats breakfast.

And that’s why, sometimes the most comforting food in the world, and the tastiest, is breakfast for dinner. Bacon and eggs just tastes better at 6:30 on a Thursday night after a long day (or week) of work, than it does at 10 a.m. (or noon, as the case may be) on a Sunday morning.

I don’t know why that is. Maybe because it’s so easy to make – less than 15 minutes after starting dinner, you’re sitting down and eating it. Years ago, when Ryan worked in Niagara Falls and ‘lived’ there three days a week, my dinner menu would include an omelette once a week. Cooking for one has never been fun for me, and an omelette for one was fast, easy and tasty. It was always omelettes – waffles or pancakes would have been too much work, and this was before the day when I suddenly started eating, and enjoying, bacon.

Maybe I like breakfast for dinner so much because ever since those Niagara years, it’s something we almost never think to do for dinner.

Or maybe it’s just because it tastes good.

Whatever it is, when at 11 p.m. last night, Ryan went downstairs to the freezer, grabbed a package of bacon and said ‘we should do bacon and eggs for dinner tomorrow night’ I immediately started looking forward to the meal.

So come 6:30 tonight, I’m feasting on sunny-side up eggs, bacon and toast with jam, and I’m going to love every bite.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Old pictures and other discoveries

The other day, I finally decided it was time to take a stab at cleaning up the piles of stuff all over our office. I don't know what it is about that room, but everything manages to collect in there. Old magazines, unread magazines, winter boots that don't fit Austin yet, dumbbells, junk mail, a back massager that doesn't work and the odd bill or two that needs to be paid, all manage to find their way into pile after pile on the shelf underneath the window.

So, while cleaning up and throwing stuff out, I came across an old picture of my sister in a really nice frame. At some point, of which I have no memory of, I must've taken it off the bookcase in the living room and brought it in here -- presumably because it's a really old picture. Since I was in one of my ruthless cleaning moods, I opened the frame and took out the picture, having every intent on replacing it with a new one.

Behind her picture, I found another picture, which made me forget about cleaning.

It was dated November 1995 and it's a shot of the gang I used to hang out with in High School. It was taken after most of us had already graduated and moved on, but a few were a year behind. We had one last 'reunion', if you can call it that, when those few remaining at Mayfield performed in the school play that fall. (Pretty much all of us thought ourselves to be actors, musicans, singers or dancers in those days -- very few of us went on to actually pursue those talents with any degree of professionalism.) The picture was snapped after the show, with all of us standing on stage -- and the three who were in the show still in full makeup, but already changed into their street clothes. (I'd post the photo on here, but I don't have a scanner.)

There's 12 of us in the picture. And, although with our teenaged ideals, we promised to be friends forever, I look at this picture and realize that over the years, I stayed close with just one person pictured in this shot -- and recently become friends again with two others. A few others I've once again become loosely in touch with over the last few years, but I don't think I'd consider them friends -- more like someone I may talk to over e-mail from time to time. And thanks to my recent addiction to Facebook, a few others have been 'found'. Which leaves just two people who have dropped off the face of the earth. I even tried searching their names in Facebook the other day but came up with nothing.

Maybe I'm getting all sentimental over a silly photo but it was just a really neat find -- and I can't stop looking at it. Partly because it's a fun photo from the past, but partly because I think that thanks to digital cameras and online albums, we're not likely to lose a photo like this in the future, which means we'll never get the joy of finding it again.