Friday, December 30, 2011


First strawberries of the season! Nom nom nom.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What is X-Mas?

It's kind of a funny word, one that I use instead of Christmas. I guess 'X-Mas' is a way for me to comfortably participate in the secular aspects of a Christian holiday.

I've been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks. For the first time in my entire life I'm separated from all but one person with whom I spend time around December 25th. While I don't adhere to the belief systems that celebrate the birth of Jesus, others in my usual crowd of family and close friends do to one degree or another. This got me to questioning myself while I was out shopping for that one, non-religious person left from my inner circle. Does this mean all I really am is a consumer whore who's been hiding behind the skirts of the believers all these years?

It's hard to face the idea that all I am is a member of the mindless horde combing the stores for stuff, regardless of how thoughtful and/or useful the gifts are, in order to justify time off work for a statutory holiday that has nothing to do with my beliefs. But after some soul searching I can answer the above question with a wobbly, 'no.' The following are the reasons why.

I love giving. Truly and honestly love giving. The receiving isn't bad either, but for me it's about spending a lot of time thinking about what I can make or find for that other person. While I didn't do so well making gifts this year, I generally craft up to 75% of what I give. I think it's understandable that that percentage is a big, fat, round 0 this year. I've been a bit more than busy. Those gifts I do buy tend to be in support of smaller, local businesses that often don't have the large pull bigger, international stores do. Yes, that part is definitely consumerism, but it's also a way for me to support an economy I believe in. (Didn't do so well with that aspect this year, either, sigh.)

Then there are the socks. You know what I'm talking about. The wild and crazy socks I've been knitting over the past decade or so. If you haven't received a pair yet it's just a matter of time. Now those, I do for myself. Yup, I'll admit it, the socks are a bit of a selfish gift. I love making them so much I usually have a massive smile plastered on my face from the time I start hunting for the wacky yarn to the moment I finish tucking in the last of the ends. Does it help make it seem less selfish if I say that I'm smiling because I'm imagining the grin on your face every time you pull on your handmade, rainbow-striped, fuzzy socks?

Ok, so I'm a thoughtful gift-giver. It kind of justifies the gift part of the holiday. But I'm not sure it's really necessary to find a reason to support giving gifts. So what's left? 

I think the key element is quality time with the people I love. Family is a big part of the meaning behind x-mas for me. And I don't mean just my bio-family, I'm including an extended set of chosen family in this definition. If the government is going to give me time off with pay so that I can spend hours cooking, eating, debating, laughing and all the other things I do with the people who are most important to me, then I'm going to say, 'thank you!' and leave it at that. Which makes X-Mas another date on the calender reserved for my family, along with Thanksgiving and Easter.

Reading over this I'm realizing that I've stated the obvious. It was even obvious to me in the past (I guess the change of scenery has sparked a re-evaluation of my habits). I'm happily molding someone else's religious day to suite my own needs. Isn't that what the Christians did when they moved Jesus's birthday to it's current date? If they can justify rearranging their calendar to blend better with another culture, then I sure as pie don't need to worry about ramifications for my adaptation of Christmas.

After all that, I just want to let my family know I'm thinking about them. I'll have to send out the socks later, tho. It's hard to motivate the little knitter inside when it's summer in December.

And now for photos!

Some more pix of my garden in bloom. 
  The neighbourhood in bloom, bumblebees hard at work.
On my way to work.
 Ahead is work.
Behind is the way home.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Plants That Love Each Other

I've mentioned before that I'm an enthusiastic researcher. Others might call it pathological, but let's not split hairs. One of my favourite topics to google about is companion planting, especially around this time of year. (K, this time of year is relative to what side of the equator you're standing on, so when you wonder what the H vieve's doing reading up about gardening in December, keep in mind that I'm currently in the southern hemisphere.)

Some folks like to study the behaviour of people, I'm more into finding out what plants are up to. How do tomatoes feel? What's a zucchini's eating habits? What kind of 'hair cut' do blueberry bushes prefer? Why? I'm going to pretend you asked. Aside from the zen-like state I achieve in my garden, I think it's mostly because I don't have to talk to plants to excel at gardening. I'm not much into words, and often find myself at a loss to vocalize the intricate web of ideas bouncing around in my head. I know, I know, you're thinking, "But, vieve! Aren't you supposed to talk to your plants to make them happy?"  Only if you want to come across as bat-ass-crazy!

There's reams of material out there on gardening and how to do it on a small scale and get the biggest bang for your square centimetre, whether all you've got is one window sill or an entire yard. It helps that container and apartment-sized gardening has become trendy. Everybody and their cat has pasted bits of dirt wisdom onto the internet. There are some seriously innovative folks out there who have married the 3 Rs with small scale gardening. This is just one example from the Mother Nature Network :

Companion planting is crucial to a healthy and productive small garden, and it's been around for as long as life has existed on the Earth. Mother Nature is the original master gardener. In her infinite wisdom she places plants together that make each other happy, no couples counseling required. The astute gardener observes what is already there, and draws conclusions from their own experiments, much like a scientist (hmm, gardeners are scientists, gnosh on that thought for a while). Over time we've amassed a wealth of tips such as plant strawberries and spinach together, don't plant tomatoes and potatoes within grub crawling distance of each other, and you can never have enough marigolds.

This chart covers just about everything you might want to plant in your veggie patch:

(You can find the original, larger guide here.)

A couple of books I've found useful are "Carrots Love Tomatoes" by Louise Riotte, and "Companion Planting in New Zealand" by Brenda Little. Charts like the one above are useful, but the books help to explain the whys behind keeping climbing beans separate from sunflowers.

So, have I bored you yet?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Un Bon Depart

Et voila, les photos de mon jardin. C'est un commencement, il m'en reste beaucoup a faire.

A gauche: work in progress   Au centre: des capucines   A droite: les salades, brocolis, choux de brussels, onions, poireaux, radis, basilic, aneth, coriandre, tomates + des pot soucis

A gauche: raisins, tomates, basilic, ail, poivrons, pot soucis   A droite: rhubarbe, fraises, epinard, cassis, grosseille a maquereau, bleuets, marjolaine, cape berries, feves

L'arriere-cour! Le compost est deja a motie plein, lol. RB m'a aider d'arranger les carreaux, j'aimerai mettre une petite table pis chaise la. C'est la seulle place privee dans le jardin. Il y a d'origan, thym pis basilic qui poussent entre les carreaux.


I had so much fun making these last night! Here are some pix of the process and the results:

List of supplies: glass and rock pebbles, sphagnum moss, cactus and succulent dirt mix (from what I've read you can use regular potting mix as well), used glass containers from the thrift store, a bunch of baby succulent plants, one gorgeous pitcher plant.

In goes about an inch of rinsed glass pebbles.

Then enough moss to create a barrier between the dirt and pebbles.

Now the dirt. Usually the activated charcoal would go between the dirt and moss, but the garden shop didn't have any. Since this is going to be an open terrarium with a certain amount of air circulation I should be fine without, the charcoal is more crucial to a closed terrarium. I understand that pet stores with aquarium supplies will have the needed charcoal. Something to keep in mind is that there will be a bunch of dirt around the roots of your plants already, so try to guess how much extra height will be added with the roots and dirt of the plant.
Now for the plants. Keep them away from the glass (too much touching will increase the condensation on the inside of the terrarium), work from one side until you're happy with the way it looks, then turn the container and make little adjustments until the arrangement is perfect from every angle. Add some decoration like shells, beach glass or mini statuary. Have fun!

Two mini terrariums in old liquor glasses. These were super fast to make. Because they are so small I broke off single branches of the succulents and planted those (they will root themselves into the soil as long as you take a clipping just bellow a node - where a branch or leaf grows from - and cover the node with soil).

Care instructions:
Don't over water! Everything I've read has said it's best to err on the dry side. I'll probably only give a shot glass full of water to the first, larger terrarium once every 4 weeks. The little guys will probably only get a misting once every couple of weeks.

Also, no need to fertilize. I don't want these guys growing quickly, otherwise I'll have to prune or put them in larger containers. Plus, the pitcher plant should be getting all the nutrients it needs from the occasional fruit fly (it's going on the window sill next to my fruit basked and compost bucket).

Well, I'm addicted. I'm sure I'll be making another trip to the thrift stores to find funky glass containers soon.

Bonus: These make *great* gifts! They need less care than the average house plant and would be good for that friend who seems to kill everything. I spent a total of $50nz on all 3 together, and I still have enough supplies to make a dozen more.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Ces jours-ci j'obsede avec mon jardin. J'ai de la misere a dormir les nuits parce que je pense au croquis que j'ai fait de ma cour, aux graines que j'ai seme, aux plantes qui poussent deja. Il y a un magasin de jardin en face d'ou je travail. C'est tout ce que je peux faire de n'y pas aller a chaque midi. Enfin, apres 2 ans dans un appartement sombre, j'ai une cour bien ensoleillee! J'en suis certain que mon obsession va se calmer avec du temps, mais pour le moment je vais m'amuser en esperant que mon compte bancaire ne s'asseche pas (bonne chose que Weta m'a donner un emploi plus tot que j'ai prevu). Je vous promets des photos de mon jardin bien tot.

J'ai une autre obession toute nouvelle: les terrariums. C'est comme avoir un petit jardin dans la maison! Quelle idee merveilleuse!! Pourqoui je ne l'ai pas fait avant aujourd'hui, je ne sais pas. Voila la photo qui m'a commencer sur ce chemin:

Trop cute!! Bien sur que je me suis dise, "J'en veux!" Alors, comme toujours, j'ai commencer ma recherche. J'adore google image search. =) Quelques de mes preferes:

C'est super simple de creer un terrarium, regard:

Ca peut etre ouvert ou ferme. Alors, hier j'ai visiter un thrift store (on en a aussi juste a cote de travail, super pratique!), pis j'ai trouver des pots en verre pour cheap. Aujourd'hui je suis aller au magasin de jardin pour le rest. Devinez de quoi je fais ce soir? Encore, je vous promets des photos. =)

Photo credits, in order of appearance:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Stunning New Zealand

My feet in the Tasman Sea

I have been given the chance to work and live in New Zealand, a dream come true. And New Zealand is incredibly photogenic. Here are a few shots to wet your appetite of what is to come.

West Coast

Mount Teranaki

Cathedral Cove

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A bit out of order

I was so excited to post the pix of the Grand Canyon that I forgot about New Orleans and New Mexico. Well, here they are, along with a shoe tree I found in Nevada after a hairy 40 some odd hours of driving to make up lost time due to the clutch problems I had in Bryce Canyon. Remember the post about to carry or not to carry a gun?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Happiness is.

Happiness is not about avoiding the storm, but learning to dance in the rain. Not my words, but borrowed from someone who borrowed them from someone else. Not much rain in the Grand Canyon, but this road trip was me relearning how to dance in the rain. Self payment for years of work and thinking, "One day..." It also reminded me that it's stupid to spend years telling myself I'm working my butt off today so that I can spend a week doing what I want later.

It never seemed to be the right moment for me to take time off. There was always another project ramping up or in the last mad crunch. Well, guess what? I took the time, and the world kept turning, the projects kept moving forward. And I got to see the Grand Canyon! At sunset!!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Heading South

J'ai rester une semaine a Montreal. J'ai beaucoup aimer la ville, peut-etre assez pour vivre la. I took a bunch more pictures of Montreal and my trip down to Florida, but I don't like how most of them turned out. Plus a lot of them seem to be of trees, I'm a bit tree obsessed, but I'm pretty sure most of you aren't. So, here are the more interesting shots:

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina. Great view to wake up to the next morning.

My feet in the Atlantic for the first time since I was 9. Oooo, it was so nice and warm!

J'ai pris un tour au bateau aux Everglades avec mes cousins quebequois. La motor etait tellement fort qu'on a du mettre du cotton dans les oreilles. This fine lady was coming to tell us to get out of her space.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I should have taken more pictures ...

Now I'm regretting not having taken more pictures on my way through the prairies. J'oublie souvent que j'ai une camera avec moi, if only we could print images from our brains.

Manitoba, heading into a rainstorm. Big skies mean massive clouds.

This neighbourhood ended up being my livingroom one morning, quite lovely with lots of character. No need to call a cab with a westy around.