Dinner at North 53

North 53 is a new restaurant in Edmonton located on the trendy side of 124 street.

North 53 on Urbanspoon

If you’ve never eaten here, the server offers a brief explanation of the restaurants’ concept.  Their aim is to serve Canadian cuisine with locally sourced and exclusively Canadian ingredients.  This means no pepper, and in the early spring the fruit is canned and there aren’t as many vegetables as they would like.  Their dishes are on the small side (3 oz) with the idea that you can try a few different items.

Eating here is a dinning experience.  It’s like being a judge on Iron Chef while playing the straight man in a theater of the food-absurd sketch on SNL.  But in a good way.  Each dish arrives with a detailed description from the server, which is necessary because otherwise you wouldn’t know was on your plate, or in the chef’s mind.

Our sever greeted us with complimentary champagne because he know we were celebrating.  I think I may have mentioned our anniversary when I made the reservation online.  Each item on the menu is so unique, so we took advantage of the special Six Course Tasting Menu, which includes three snacks, two bites, and dessert.  At $85 per person this is one of the most expensive dinners I’ve ordered.  If you’d like to add the wine parings, it’s another $50 each.

Before we got started it smelled like Cheech and Chong had won Master Chef.  The odor was pungent!  It turned out to be the Chicken Cooked in Hay.  The dish was being served to a nearby table and came covered with a glass dome full of smoke.  The smell didn’t last but it was rank.  Since it wasn’t part of the tasting menu I can’t give you a review.

Amuse-Bouche

Dinner started with pinky finger-sized amuse-bouche of a stuffed rolled leafy green.  I forgot to take a picture, and it’s not mentioned on the online menu, so I can’t give you any more details.  Except, it was good start to the dinner.  We tasted it carefully, discussing each flavor and texture, and enjoyed both bites.

The following are my pictures along with the exact description from the menu.  If you have good attention to detail you’ll notice that the scallop dish has nasturtium leaves even though  the duck breast’s description includes nasturtiums.

Raw Scallops with Compressed Cucumber and Dried Seaweed

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Scallop, raw/cucumber/dill/yogurt whey/dulse

The first “snack” was raw scallops with compressed cucumber and dried seaweed.  You haven’t had cucumbers until you have had compressed cucumbers.  Oh wait, yes you have.  I really liked this dish.  The delicate, cold scallops went well with the crispy, salty seaweed.

Elk Tartare

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Elk, tartare/elderberry/onion/sunflower oil/cured heart

The second “snack” was elk tartare.  The entire combination was wonderful.  The elk, with the sweet berry, dill, creamy sauce, and salty/crunchy flakes was amazing.  You can really tell that the (iron) chef put a lot of thought into each ingredient.  But Cured Heart?  When the server said Cured Heart I couldn’t help but laugh.  Is it really a remedy to being heart-broken?

 Duck Breast

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Duck Breast/variations of beetroot/lingonberry/nasturtium

The final “snack” was duck breast.  The skin was removed from the meat so they could be cooked at different temperatures.  The skin was seared on high heat and the breast was cooked at a lower heat to render out the fat.  Then they were put back together and served with lingonberries.  I’m not a huge fan of duck, mostly because of the fattiness, but this was really nice.

 Pain au Lait

Pain du Lait and Squash Butter

Pain au Lait and Squash Butter

Delicious!  This pain au lait was buttery and soft and tasted exactly like I remember it in France, even though it was only four inches long for both of us.

 Short Rib

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Short Rib, glazed in black plum/yukon gold potato/oxtail jus

The first “bite” was a short rib and mashed potatoes.  Cooked at 76 degrees for 24 hours, this was by far the best dish of the whole meal.  I can’t really articulate how amazing it was, except that it fell apart with just a fork and the plum glaze was the perfect accent.  The potatoes were silky smooth, because they are mostly butter and cream.  Ina Garten would be proud.

Caramelized Onion with Puffed Wheat

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Onion, cooked in oxidized pear juice/lightly puffed wheat/thyme

The last “bite” was caramelized onions with puffed wheat.  Surprisingly sweet, these were my least favorite dish.  They tasted like onions.  With crispy puffed wheat.  The problem with this dish is I feel I could easily recreate it at home.

Cherry Seltzer

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Homemade Cherry Seltzer

Next we have a shot of homemade cherry seltzer for a palate cleanser.  I’m a huge fan of sparkling water and fruit juices, and this was very balanced drink – just enough sweat and tart.  I would order this anytime.

 Dessert

Finally came dessert.  We got two different desserts because my better half has a strawberry allergy, so they were able to offer a blueberry alternative.

I got preserved strawberry (more like strawberry juice) with crème fraîche ice cream, red pepper for crunch and thai basil.  The iced cream was really smooth and went perfectly with the sweetness/tartness of the strawberries.  Basil and peppers may seem like an odd addition but I feel that it really worked.  The basil was refreshing, like mint might be, and the red pepper’s sweetness went well with the strawberries.

Hubby got blueberries, tarragon ice, goat’s milk ice cream and oats.  The combination was just a little too unusual for him.  I liked the goat’s milk iced cream, it tasted like coconut pudding.  But the tarragon ice looked strange, and tasted like it sounded.  I know they are trying to push the limits of how we define Canadian food, but you know what’s really tasty?  Saskatoon berry pie and cow’s milk ice cream.  I’m just saying.

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Preserved Strawberry/créme fraiche/red pepper/basil

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Blueberry compote, tarragon ice, goat milk ice cream, oats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salted Caramel and Marshmallow with Honey

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Salted Caramel and Marshmallow with Honey

No dinner mints here.  The final bites were a salted caramel and marshmallow with honey.  This is probably the smoothest caramel I’ve ever had.  And the honey was a very delicate accent to the marshmallow.  A very nice ending.

 Verdict

I had a really good time at North 53.  Our six course tasting menu actually included ten different dishes. Everything we ate was interesting and complex.  It was really fun to think about the different flavours and make an opinion on what we liked and didn’t like.  Even though the dishes are small, we were well fed.  I liked that we got to try all sorts of unique dishes.  Service was good and the ambiance is lovely.  But this is a restaurant for a select demographic.  It’s for people who have an adventurous palate and are comfortable spending $200 – $300 for dinner for two.  Personally, I’m only the first one.  I liked the meal as sort of a dinner and show, but I can’t see going back any time soon.  It’s just too pricey for me.  And now that I’ve tried elk tartare and tarragon ice, I don’t need to hurry back for more.

Picky Notes to the Owners

If I had to complain about anything it would be these few minor issues.  The restaurant wasn’t full, yet they sat everyone right next to each other.  I prefer more space when available.  They could use a longer play list because we heard the same Norah Jones song a few times.  And they spelled crème fraîche wrong.  

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Spring Cleaning for Charity

As soon as the snow melts, I’m ready to trade my parkas and boots for shorts and flip flops. This means time for my bi-annual closest swap, which, as an organizing fanatic, is one of my favorite times. This is also a great time to purge my unused/unwanted items and send them off to charity.

Tips on In-Kind DonationsSpring Cleaning for Charity

  • Only donate items that are clean and in good condition. Many charities raise money by selling their items at thrift stores. If you’re thinking it’s in good condition but just needs a small repair, then repair it. If it’s not worth your time, it’s not worth the charity’s either.
  • Check to see what items the charity is accepting. Most charities have a list of acceptable and not acceptable items. Mattresses and large appliances are commonly not accepted. This is where Freecycle or Kijiji can be useful (see below).
  • notextbooksNo one wants your old textbooks. Unless the edition is still be used in schools, your textbooks are worthless. I have done a lot of research on this. The library doesn’t want them, Goodwill doesn’t want them, and developing nations don’t want them (too expensive to ship).  Better World Books will take them, if you are willing to pay for the shipping costs.  I heard that somewhere they will recycle them into shingles, but I haven’t found a place who will accept them yet.  For now, they go into regular paper recycling.

Picking a Charity

  • Goodwill and Canadian Diabetes’s Clothesline are my favorite places to donate, because it’s easiest on me. They take (almost) EVERYTHING, because they sell it in the store, and they will even pick up from you.
  • For teen or “cool” clothes, I give them to YESS. It’s pretty hard for them to get clothing for their clients. Image you are teenager who has to accept donated clothes. Mom jeans and grandpa’s sweater are not helping.
  • If I do a big purge and have a lot of good condition clothing (like when the husband lost 25 lbs, and he got rid of entire wardrobe), then I’ll give it all to a nearby shelter. Mustard Seed, Bissell Center, and Boyle Street give them directly to their clients.
  • Freecycle is best if you have a big, damaged or unusual item. People will take almost anything if it free. If you have an item that needs a repair, just be clear about it in your description. This is a great litmus test, because if no one wants it for free, then its garbage. Charities won’t normally take mattresses (because of bed bugs and cleanliness), sofas, or large appliances (because of storage and delivery), but if yours is in good condition, then offer it up. You can also search the wanted ads, maybe you can answer a request. Here are some specific Freecycle tips:
    • Post a detailed description. The more details the better so you don’t get bothered with email questions.
    • Post a general location. Also to prevent more questions.
    • Only respond to polite, well written inquiries. In my experience, people who respond in “text language” or with poor spelling or grammar are not reliable.
    • Arrange an indirect pick up. This is more for your convenience, but it’ll work for safety too. Once I find a taker, I tell them I’ll leave it at my front door for them after a specified time. Since it’s free, they sometimes flake out, so I don’t want to be waiting around for them. Plus, they are strangers and I don’t need to meet them in my home.

I have Freecyled broken bicycles, old (but working) washer and dryer, unused/uninstalled carpet, rain barrel, hockey net…

  • The Reuse Center takes all your weird bits. If it can be used for a craft, they will take it.
  • The ReStore (Habitat for Humanity) accepts building materials, books, collectibles, antiques, and artwork. They will pick up large items, and I understand they will even uninstall kitchen cabinets or fixtures.
  • The Eco Station is the last stop. They take your household hazardous waste, anything broken, big, landfill worthy, and recyclables.

donatellamaWhere to donate my Llama?

Not sure who’ll take what? Check the Reuse & Recycle Directory. They can even tell you where to take your llama. No seriously, type llama into the search.

 

The Canadians’ Guide to Packing for Hawaii

Even crafters need a vacation!  Especially if they live north of 54° with less 9 hours of sunshine in the bleak mid-winter.

If you ever get a chance to travel to Hawaii, I highly recommend that you go.  It’s beautiful.  It’s hot.  It’s sunny.  It’s relaxing.  It’s perfect.

The Canadians' Guide to Packing for Hawaii

Oahu

Since I love lists, and I’m PARANOID about forgetting something, I always make a packing list.  Lists will also help you from OVER packing.  And finally – in the rare case that Air Canada loses your luggage and then the courier company mistakenly delivers it to your drug dealer neighbors, who steal everything but your dirty underwear – you have a record for your claim. (Note: We did get reimbursed for our loss because the courier company made the error.  You’d get nothing if it was the airline’s mistake.  True Story.)

Onebag is a nice packing resource.  He’s an expert ultra-light packer, and gives good advice.  He also has macro that lets you plug in the details of your trip and spits out a good packing list.  But here’s some of my list.

Packing List – Specific for Canadians going to Hawaii

  • De-planing Outfit – If you take off in -20°C and you land in +25°C, you’ll want a new outfit right away.  Pack it on your carry-on and include shoes.  Keep in mind, it does “cool down” at night and can rain, so if you land at night a sweater or rain jacket might be useful.  I usually make a wardrobe change while we wait for our luggage or our rental car.
  • Hawaii Revealed Travel Book – This is the best travel book for the islands. Our friends have used them for three different islands and compared them with other big name travel books, and none come close.  They know everything the locals know, they are honest and candid.  We have never been steered wrong with this series.collage1
  • Towel – This needs a little thought.  You can bring one, or buy a cheap one from everywhere. Maybe you don’t need one because you’re accommodations provide them.  But if you have a late departure flight – like after checkout, you’ll want a towel so you can enjoy the last few moments on the beach.
  • Sunscreen and the like – This is something else that needs a little thought.  There are a bunch of items that you can buy at home and pack in your luggage, or buy when you get there and lightening your load.  Personally I would rather spend my time at the beach than in the store.
  • Craft Ambitions- The Canadians' Guide to Packing for HawaiiSnorkel Gear – Of course, you can rent, but having your own gear is awesome.  It’s nice to know where your snorkel has been.  You’ll also save time by avoiding the rental shop.  Did you know you can get prescription goggles?  For a Mr. Magoo, like me, these are amazing!  I can see!  And reef shoes can be cheap from Walmart.  All this gear may seem bulky, but I found it fits nicely into a suitcase and is well worth it.
  • Hand wipes – Beaches can have the worst bathrooms (if any).  I like having clean hands, especially when I’m about to eat.  I bring lots of wipes to use many throughout the day, not just a few in case of emergency.
  • Hand fan – Just an inexpensive fold up fan.  I have taken one with me almost every time I travel, and I’m always so glad to have it.  Sometimes us Canadians just can’t handle the heat.  I’ve used it in Rome, Shanghai, Vienna and Waikiki.  It’s small and is very handy.
  • Gravol – Whether or not you are prone to motion sickness, you’re ability to withstand rocking boats and twisty roads could be tested on this vacation.  I learned this lesson on a boat ride with my six puking friends.  Now I bring Gravol.

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  • Reusable grocery bags – Hawaii is very environmentally friendly, and they don’t use (or offer) plastic bags.  Since we will be doing our cooking, and therefore grocery shopping, some of your own bags will be useful.

Generic Packing List

When I pack my carry-on, I always keep in mind that my luggage may not arrive or I might get stranded in an airport.

  • collage3Copy of Important Documents – Bring a photocopy of your passport and credit cards in your carry-on.  If anything gets lost or stolen, you’ll have copies of them and their numbers to have them replaced.
  • Itinerary, contact information, confirmation numbers, map/directions.  – Duh? Be old fashioned and bring a hard copy.  Don’t get stuck saying “It’s on my phone, but I don’t have any service.”  Also, if you’re renting a car, bring directions to get you from the airport to your hotel.
  • Cash (a little CAD, a little USD) – There’s always some sort of situation where you really need just a little cash at the beginning of your trip; drink on the plane (sometimes they only take cash in a specific currency), snack from a vendor, a bus ticket, to tip the doorman… Don’t be that guy who only has plastic or can’t break a C-note.
  • Pashmina – This is the stylish version of Arthur Dent’s towel.  A pashmina works as a wrap, scarf, blanket, pillow…
  • Comfort – I pack a lot of little things to make my trip more comfortable.  This includes, gum, hand lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste, tissue, pain killers, that hand fan from above…  They are small but make any trip more comfortable.
  • Granola bars – My favorite travel companion gets very moody when he’s hungry.  This usually happens after we have landed but before we make it to the hotel.  Granola bars save the day.
  • Ear buds – You’re probably bringing them anyway, but just in case they weren’t on your radar, I know you’d rather have your own ear buds than pay for the airline’s.
  • “Irreplaceables”- Anything that would be too expensive or too annoying to replace.  Eye/sunglasses, prescription goggles, prescription drugs (Leave them in their prescription bottles.  Border security hates loose pills), that perfect fitting swimsuit
  • Cell phone charger – Another small, useful thing that would be annoying to be without.
  • Jewelry – Leave at home!  You don’t want to have to worry about it.  I once bought a cheap costume jewelry wedding ring, so I could leave the real one at home.
  • One complete outfit – See lost luggage story above.

Smile!1375389491_smile

The number one thing to bring on your trip is a smile.  My husband advises that you flirt with everyone.  This isn’t to say you hit on everyone, it means – be nice, be charming.  Everything runs smoother with a smile.  You’d be surprised (actually, you wouldn’t) how much more helpful people are, especially with deals, upgrades and all round service, with your smile.

Well, those are my must-haves for travelling.  What are yours?

DIY Car Maintenance = Save Money + Feel Smart

I’m not a car-person.  At all.  Cars are tools to get you from A to B.  But they are valuable and expensive tools, so I want to make sure I take care of mine at the best price possible.

After heeding Dad’s advice from his post Prepping Your Car for Winter, and getting my oil changed with synthetic oil, the mechanic came back to say that my battery failed and the cabin air filter needed changing.  With the help of my car-fiend brother, I changed these myself.

Everyone should change their cabin air filter themselves.  It’s easier than changing windshield wiper blades and on par with changing a light bulb.  FRAM sells cabin air filters at Canadian Tire for about $18.  First go to the FRAM website and search their catalog for the part number (for some reason the store didn’t have a catalog).  Then look up your manual or online on how to get access to your filter.  For my 2003 Corolla, it was ONE SCREW to remove my glove compartment, then pop off the cover, and replace the filter. 5 minutes.  The old filter was filthy, and included some leaves and a dead wasp.  The Toyota dealership offered to replace it for me for $55.  It took me a few minutes and I saved $27.  I’m going to have nice clean air in my car and I feel like a car genius!

My brother also helped me replace my car battery.  It can be done in less than 30 minutes and you can find plenty of step-by-step instruction online.  Again, the dealership offered to do this for $185.  The battery cost me $100 and I get $15 back when I return the used battery.  Doing it myself saved me $100.

Not only did I save myself $127, but I got this great feeling of accomplishment, and I can definitely do it again, saving me cash over and over forever!

Batmobile

Cleaners: Store Bought vs Homemade

Store Bought vs Natural CleanersHomemade cleaners sound like such a good idea, right?  But do they work as well as the store bought stuff?  I decided to test some myself.

It's science if you write it down!

Glass Cleaner

vs. 1/8 c vinegar + 2.5 c water

Glass Cleaner

The first thing I noticed about the brand name is the smell of ammonia.  I really don’t like the smell; it’s so “chemically”.  But you know what?  Ammonia is a naturally occurring.  Know what else?   It’s an irritant.  Don’t breath it in, get it on your skin or in your eyes.  I cleaned a few mirrors and windows, and the results were virtually the same.  The homemade cleaner did leave a few streaks, but they evaporated away within seconds.  The brand name left no streaks and was easier to wipe.  Still, I’ll take evaporating streaks over stinky ammonia any day.

The brand name said it can clean stainless steel, so I tried both on my fridge.  Neither of them worked, I was left with lots of streaks.

Verdict:  Homemade Glass Cleaner.  It doesn’t stink and works great.

Bathroom Cleaner

vs. 2 tsp baking soda + 4 tsp vinegar + + tbsp ammonia + 2 c water

Ya, I know, I just said I don’t like the smell of ammonia and here I am with ammonia in my homemade cleaner.  The thing is, I made these cleaners a while ago and if I were to make it again, I’d find a recipe without ammonia.  I cleaned the kitchen sink and the bathroom sink, and both cleaners worked equally well.  Then I cleaned the pink slime (did you know that’s mold? It’s called Serratia marcescens) off the shower curtain.  The homemade cleaner was hard to scrub because it’s not very slippery and in the end didn’t work.  The store bought had nice foam and it’s viscous texture was easy to scrub, the pink stuff came right off.

PowerPro Naturals® Bathroom SprayThe brand name cleaner I happen to have is Vim Power Pro Naturals.  The active ingredients are sodium laureth sulfate (a detergent, surfacant (lowers surface tension of a liquid) and foaming agent) and citric acid (chelating agent, which means it binds to metals, which means it can remove lime scale and hard water stains).  Both ingredients are considered “good” to Paula Begoun, who rates chemicals in cosmetics for irritation.  She considers ammonia to be “bad”.

Verdict: Brand Name Bathroom Cleaner, specifically Vim Power Pro Naturals.  The homemade stuff just didn’t cut it, and the brand name ingredients are safe and non-irritating.

Dusting Spray

vs 2 tsp oil + 1/4 vinegar + 1 3/4 c water

This one is a no-brainer.  For dusting all you need is water to keep the dust from flying away, oil to add sheen, and vinegar’s acidic properties to dissolve minerals and is antibacterial.  No need for expensive cleaners for dusting.

Verdict: Homemade Dusting Spray.  Cheap and it works.

Wood Polish

vs 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar

Wood polish is supposed to clean and revitalize wood.  Use this when the wood is dried out and needs refreshing.  I already had great success with a homemade version and you can read all about it here.  But I never did a head-to-head test with the store bought version.

Well I had two different brands, Pledge Revitalizing Oil with natural orange oil and Orange Glo wood polish.  Both had a nice citrus smell, but I don’t really need my furniture to have fake orange smell.  The Orange Glo was definitely the worst.  It left an ugly dull film.  At first the Pledge and homemade looked equally good – the dried out spots were hydrated and the wood had a nice sheen.  But the next morning was a different story.  The homemade version looked nice but had absorbed all the oil.  The Pledge side was still really glossy, beautiful.

Pledge has the following ingredients:  White mineral oil (safe), diamethicone (non-biodegradable), d limonene (poor, skin irritant), polyglyceryl oleate (avoid contact with skin), fragrance, dye and bitrex.

Verdict: Toss Up.  Homemade is cheaper, safer, greener.  But for serious wood rejuvenation projects, I would opt for Pledge Revitalizing Oil.

Cleaning Powder

vs baking soda

Baking soda is a mild abrasive.  Plus it’s in pancakes, so it’s got to be good, right?  The cleaning powder has a whole host of ingredients that are not good eating.  Both worked equally well on my kitchen sink.  I’ve cleaned my entire bathroom with baking soda and vinegar and have had no problems.

Verdict: Baking Soda cleaning powder

Stainless Steel Polish

vs a dab of oil and a soft clean cloth.

It seemed everything I tried left terrible streaks.  Then I realized that I didn’t want a cleaner, I wanted a polish.  Once the fridge is clean, a little polish is what makes it shine.  A dab of oil on a cloth worked just as well as the store bought stainless steel polish.  Save money, save space, save time – use homemade.

Verdict: Homemade Stainless Steel Polish.  Works just as well.

Drain Cleaner

Drains aren’t usually a problem until they’re a problem.  I usually start at the simplest remedy and work my way up to more serious solutions until one of them works.  Grossness Warning!  If it’s hair down the drain, the easiest way to clean it is manually with something to pull up the gunk.  Yuck!  But nothing works better or is greener than fishing it out with a coat hanger.  If it’s further down, try the following from weakest to strongest.

1. Boiling Water

2. Baking Soda and Vinegar

3. Drano – Uses lye to dissolve organic matter.  Lye is corrosive and can burn your skin.  Remember Fight Club?  So be careful.

4. One-Second Plumber – reacts with water and produces air to force out the blockage

5. Plumber

When we had just finished our kitchen reno, the kitchen sink started to drain really slow. I tried all of the solutions above and nothing worked until we finally got a plumber to come look at it.  It turns out that our tiler was pouring grout and sand down the drain .  Our pipes were full of bits of tile and grout.  Bleh.  Can I recommend a plumber? Yup.  Can I recommend a tiler? Sorry.

Verdict: Depends on severity

Vinegar

A note on vinegar – Vinegar’s acidic properties can dissolve mineral deposits from glass and stainless steel and can polish brass and bronze.  Plus it’s anti-bacterial.   5% vinegar is 90% effective against mold and 99.9% effective against bacteria.  So why wouldn’t you use it?

Conclusion – Start with Homemade, move to Store Bought if necessary

You can pretty much clean your entire house with some vinegar, oil, baking soda and a couple of spray bottles.

Glass Cleaner1/8 c vinegar2 ½ c water

Combine in a spray bottle.

Dusting Spray2 tsp oil¼ c vinegar

1 ¾ c water

Combine in a spray bottle.  Shake before use.

General Cleaning

Baking Powder

Vinegar

Use with a plastic scrubbie.

Wood Polish3 parts oil to1 part vinegar

Wipe onto surface.

Stainless Steel  Polish

Use a dab of oil on a clean cloth to polish stainless steel surfaces.

Square Foot Gardening – Planting

Now that my square foot garden is built, I need to figure out what to plant.  I’ve made a list of plants I would consider growing, and the numbers of plants per square foot, according to my research.GardenPlan

  • basil – 1
  • beans – 9
  • beets – 9
  • carrots – 16
  • kale – 4
  • lettuce – 4
  • peppers – 1
  • spinach – 9
  • sugar peas – 9 – needs trellis
  • swiss chard –
  • tomato – 1 – need cage
  • zucchini – 1 (needs staking)

Check out the above drawing to see what I actually planted.  My choices were basically based on seeds I had left over from last year, plus I bought two pepper plants and will buy a basil plant as soon as I find one.

First, I soaked the seeds for a few hours before I started planting.  Apparently they like this.

Then I moistened the soil, so it wasn’t so dusty to work with and I figured it doesn’t actually matter if you water immediately before or after you plant the seeds.

If you’ve never planted seeds before, don’t over think it, and just push it into the soil until it’s covered, not very deep.  I didn’t actually take the time to deposit each carrots seed individually, but I probably should have.  They are so small, I just made sure they had good contact with the soil.

Now that planting is done, all I need to do is to water regularly.  Whatever that means.

So far I love my new veggie garden.  My self-diagnosed OCD loves the little squares.  The soil is light and easy to work with.  Planting was a breeze, especially six inches above ground.  And my feet stayed clean, since I don’t have to walk through the garden. Yay!

Square Foot Gardening – The Set Up

Thanks again to my favorite resource, Pinterest, I have discovered square foot (meter) gardening.  After all my research, here’s what I have come up with for my needs.  The frame cost me $15 and the soil $41 for a total of $56.

SFG – How to make a frame

To make the frame, here’s what I would suggest.  BTW – This is one of the easiest wood projects I have ever made.  I used all new materials, and the whole thing cost me about $15.  I opted for 2 inch boards instead of 1 inch because I wanted a sturdy box.

Materials

  • 2 pieces of 2x6x92-5/8″ = $8.50
  • 8 screws 2 1/2″
  • 3 cedar nailing strips 8′ $6
  • 9+ nails

Total Cost = $14.50

Equipment

  • saw
  • drill
  • hammer
  • measuring tape

Instructions

  1. Cut the 2×6 boards in half (46 1/4″)
  2. Drill two holes at one end of each board.  Drill the holes 1″ from the end and about 1 1/2″ from the edge.  You only need to drill holes into one end of the board because it’s going to butt up against the un-drilled side.SFG - Frame
  3. Lay the frame on the ground.  Butt up the un-drilled sides to the drilled sides.  (Does that make sense?)
  4. Use your 2 1/2″ screws and screw the frame together.
  5. Lay your frame in a sunny location, somewhere that gets more than six hours of sun.  Set cardboard underneath the frame to prevent grass or other plants from growing up.  I’d use cardboard over landscaping fabric because it’s (I’m) cheap.  Update: Use cardboard.  Grass grew through the fabric.
  6. Fill the frame with your soil.  The recipe for Mel’s Mix is below.
  7. Cut the nailing strips to length and nail them into the frame.  You need 6 pieces to make a 4×4 frame.   Some people just use string to divide out the frame.
  8. PLANT!

SFG $15 Frame – craftambitions.wordpress.com

Ok, you probably noticed that my frame doesn’t exactly look like what I described. First, it’s because I only bought 2 pieces of nailing strip, so I didn’t have enough.  Second, I really want a lot of carrots.  SFG grows veggies in just 6 inches of soil, but for carrots they suggest making little “high rises” to increase the depth to 8 inches.  I decided I wanted to grow A LOT of CARROTS, so I used an 8 inch board on one edge and I added a little divider that adds two inches to the height.  So I end up with an entire row that’s 8 inches deep.

SFG – The soil

Mel’s Mix is 1/3 peat moss + 1/3 blended compost + 1/3 vermiculite.  I’m not going to be too fussy with this mix.  Here’s what I bought, and it filled the frame perfectly.

  • Peat Moss 2.2 cu $7
  • Composted cow manure 15 kg $4
  • Composted sheep manure 15 kg $4
  • Coarse Vermiculite. Two 20L bags $30. (In Edmonton you can find these big bags at Apache Seeds)

Total = $41Mel's Mix - craftambitions.wordpress.com

Here are my resources:

Square Foot Gardening

Alberta Home Gardening

Skin Care Remedies – TESTED

My nemesis is dry skin, which is worsened by my eczema and a hometown with 55% humidity.  The worst is my hands, with deep cracks and flaky skin, but face is red and dry too. 

Homemade Eczema Cream by DYI Confessions has been all over Pinterest, so I finally gave a try.  It’s a simple mixture of coconut oil, ground oats, olive oil and rosemary.  I skipped the rosemary, because I’m pretty sure it would just make me sneeze.  Much of the oatmeal does sink to the bottom, so what I did was put it into the fridge until it got good and solid, cut off the layer of oats, warmed up the remaining and then whipped it.

Verdict? Pass

I LIKE that it soaks into my skin and that all the ingredients are food, so I’m not worried about ingesting any of it.  But I don’t think makingit was worth it.  I find the cream very oily. It’s as oily as coconut oil. (duh!) So I had to put gloves until it soaked in, which was actually quite fast.  I haven’t seen a remarkable improvement and I have been using it almost every time I wash my hands for the last couple of weeks.  I’ll use up the rest of it, but I won’t make it again.  If you are lazy but still want to try it, then I suggest using straight coconut oil.  If you like that, the go for the whole recipe.  But for me, I’ll be using the rest of the oil for cooking.

Next I watched Jaclyn Hill’s Skin Care Routine   This girl has great videos and she inspired me to do up my makeup.  But of course my “canvas” needs some help, so I watched her skin care video and I borrowed two of her home remedies.  I exfoliated with sugar.  And I started taking Norwegian Cod Liver Oil (why Norwegian?).  I couldn’t find any with lemon, and this stuff tastes just like it sounds, awful!  Just be sure to chase it with something strong like orange juice or tequila. I also started putting some of the eczema cream on my really dry spots, especially between the eyebrows.

Verdict? Amazing!

My face hasn’t looked this good in ages.  It’s smoother and not flaky.  I don’t know if it’s the Cod Liver Oil or Coconut Oil Eczema Cream (I’m pretty sure it’s not the sugar scrub I did only did once).  But when I run out of the Cod Liver Oil, I am definitely NOT going to run out and get some more(bleh!), unless my face tells me to, and then maybe I’ll see if it comes in a capsule.

The easy way to clean an oven

ovenThis is the best way to get rid of the burnt black grim in your oven. All you need is baking soda and some soaking time. I’ve tried a few different combinations (baking soda to water ratio and different times) but this is my favorite method.

1. Wipe down oven.
2. Make a thin paste of baking soda and water. Don’t over think this, any consistency will probably work.
3. Smear all over oven. Cover with a damp paper towel or dish rag (this is just to keep it moist).
4. Leave it overnight or for a good amount of time.
5. Wipe clean.  If any stains remain, scrub with the baking soda paste and maybe a plastic scrubbie.

Done!!!

The glass on my oven door needed a little more care.  It had greasy stains splattered all over it.  I used a plastic scrubbie, some soap, and elbow grease (don’t use a metal scrubbie on the inside of your oven, you might scratch it).  Sparkling!