Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

From my crazy house to yours, have a safe, healthy, happy and silly Happy New Year. Bring on 2013!

Greetings Humans!

Quick! Checkers! Check the door. Is she gone?

Yessss!! She's gone! I never thought we'd get that woman away from the keyboard in 2012 long enough for us to get a meow in edgewise.

As Checkers and I look back over 2012, we have noticed a serious discrepancy in these blog posts: a serious lack of four legged creature input (Editors note: a serious lack of Checkers pictures too. Best rectify that in 2013). We are putting a stop to that right now. But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Bella. I am the newest of the four legged creatures to grace the inside of a house owned by Patty and her DH (and their litter). I am a female calico cat now about three years old who came to this house to stay after having two litters on the streets of downtown St. John's and being rescued by a lovely friend of Patty's just days before having my third litter (and Patty complains about three children. Try eight!). There wasn't much of an issue getting my offspring to head out on their own to a variety of nice looking house mates but there seems to be a lack of people interested in taking adult cats. Luckily, Patty and her family were looking for one just like me (though I have overheard them talking sometimes about having a cat with a little less personality might have been idea what that means. After all a cat with less personality than I would be what? A doily?).

Once Checkers and I got over our initial introductions and my two weeks of forced confinement in what has become the kitten Finlay's bedroom, I began to make my mark on the house and its occupants. I provide great incentive to clean up dirty dishes as I will do the work all by myself if anything interesting is left on the plates (NO idea why I get shooed out of them. A licked plate is a clean plate as far as I'm concerned). I sincerely love the floor space underneath that kitten Finlay's chair. It is covered in ham (the humans call it back bacon. Whatever) most mornings and, if I'm particularly vocal, Finn just chucks pieces of meat to me! It is amazing how easy humans are to train at such a tender age.

I am quite the acrobat and the bannisters have the marks to prove it. If Patty can ever find the pictures she took of my walk down the railing (silly human!), she says she will post it for you to be amazed by my prowess. As you should be.

Keeping an eye on my humans and those pesky birds.
I love to watch the birds at the bird feeder outside this house. My only complaint is that my head gets sore from beating it off the patio door when I make a leap for a particularly tasty looking Blue Jay or Junco that is out on the deck. Patio doors are a cruel joke as far as I'm concerned. Then again, at this winter time of the year, I guess they do come in handy keeping that nasty white stuff outside where it belongs.

My sister Checkers seems to be a fine cat. She is the boss of the house (which means that she gets first priority on the master bed but I seem to be slowly infiltrating that space with my wily ways). We growled and hissed at each other for a few days when I first got out of solitary confinement but now only play fight at night. We love sneaking up and running at one another. Good fun I say! Checkers might be the boss of the bed but I don't think she was on the streets for too long. She is too gentle (except when it comes to that bed. No worries though. I have simply taken over the most recent chair purchase in the house. It. Is. Mine. ALL. MINE).

Bella hasn't just taken over the chairs...
Checkers is about six years old now. She is much better with the human kittens than I am. Her solution is avoidance but I am a more social cat. Unfortunately that means that my tail gets pulled a bit more often than hers. I have only had to discipline the kitten named Aidan a couple of times. I felt bad about it but what's a cat to do with a three year old human in her face or yanking on her tail? I think he's learned his lesson. I did the same thing with the kitten Finlay but got in trouble. I guess he is too young for my kind of discipline. I am slowly getting used to him tugging on my tail a bit before his mother comes running to save me. I suppose it is a small price to pay to live inside in the warmth with all the food and water that I need plus access to the lazer beam play thing that Patty's DH hauls out every night, to shut me up he says. I figure I've got him well trained too.

Just in case any of you remember, Patty and her family used to have a dog named Para. Apparently she passed away in September of 2011. Now, I didn't meet her but hear she was a fine dog. She lived to 16.5 years which is not too bad for the stupider species. Her family still misses her; the Aidan kitten still talks about her from time to time. Checkers really missed her too as her sister Tobi passed away in May 2011. It was a bad year for losing pets around here. Luckily, I arrived in the winter of 2012, a MUCH better year for surviving animals.

As you can see, Bella isn't at all happy in this house.
I must run. It's after dark and there are corners to explore and cat nip toys to pounce upon now that the human kittens are in bed. Besides, with the way my claws are clicking on the keyboard Patty might get the idea that they need a trim. They don't. Ever. And don't worry, we will be back.

What?!? Oh. Patty says to type 'Hi!' to M in Kingston. Meow!

DH's BIG Project: Part Two of Two

When DH and I first started living together, we divvied up chores to make things fair. He got to wash bathrooms and I got laundry. When it came to home decorating, the only place he had veto power was in the kitchen because he loves to cook as much as I do. In this house our living space is pretty much all kitchen but I still demand the final say over the decorating. As a compromise DH has veto power outside the house. We do discuss ideas but, ultimately, the exterior decisions are his.

Discussions surrounding our back yard have focussed on how to create a fantasy play land for our boys without using a whole lot of money. We did have a landscape contractor come in a couple of summers ago to give us ideas on what we could do and for us to get an estimate of how much what we wanted would cost if professionals were to do it. The estimate, which only included 2/3 of the work we wanted done was over $70,000. Yes, you read that right. I'm sure it would have been gorgeous but considering that that price was twice what we paid to get 1,000 square feet of our basement finished (including a heated tile floor in the bathroom and custom cabinetry in my craft room), we decided that sweat equity was going to be our only way to go. So backyard development sat for a while.

Once the party deck was completed, DH moved onto projects two and three. We rarely follow the beaten track in most parts of our lives so our our backyard ideas are no different. Instead of a Costco/Walmart special for the boys play area, we have envisioned a play area inspired by traditional Newfoundland and Labrador flakes and stages.

The wharf.
This is the boardwalk leading up to a small clearing that will eventually
feature a small playhouse, the "Room". DH hopes to attach a
light house inspired tower on one side. It will be painted bright 'JellyBean Row' colours.
Considering the plan requires brain food.
The boys helped move rocks from around the back yard into these
piers. They told me it was very hard work. They weren't wrong.
Looking good. But, wait! DH has been thinking...
After much consideration, DH moved the wharf to run alongside
the bank. This allows more room for the slide that is eventually going to
come down from the corner of the bank (above the bush in the last picture) and better freedom
of movement around the backyard in general. Eventually a wooden boat
will be at anchor next to the wharf. It will be painted in an assortment of
'Jelly Bean Row' colours too.
The bones of the back yard are starting to become evident. Notice Finn
supervising (in his red coat)?
I love this picture because it shows the boys involved in an everyday event
(a snack) out on the new deck. They have already played in the back yard SO
much more as a result of DH's hard work. That compost has to be moved though.
Taken just before Finn was walking, he too was enjoying the backyard a
lot more than earlier in the summer. Mommy enjoys his lack
of access to yummy rocks!

A Tale of Four Birthday Cakes

I am kind of working backwards through the Fall catch up. You don't mind too much do you?

Following along with the theme of making things for my children annually, I thought I'd post about the birthday cakes I managed to make for the boys this year. Seeing as I'm working backwards anyway, here are Finn's October birthday cakes first.

This is Finlay's first birthday cake eaten at his party at Grandma and Grandpa's
house in Upper Gullies. The pretty candle holder is the same holder used by DH and his
sister for their birthdays growing up.
Side view. 
Deer in the headlights look! This high chair is the same one that my
parents bought for me to eat my first solid food meals in. It is mostly made of
hard plastic with metal legs and works beautifully. I love that each of my boys
have had a turn in it.
We attend a playgroup twice a week and I decided to bring a birthday cake to playgroup so that everyone could celebrate Finn's first birthday with him. No one complained ;)!

The BIG cake. 
The colour is off but you get the side profile idea.
DH also wanted to start a new family tradition around Finlay's birthday: a bonfire. We all love fires and his birthday gives us an exact date to have one each year.

Sorry this one is blurry but apparently we were having too much fun to keep still
Pyro Daddy.
My boys. Notice they are all in shorts? We had such a warm Fall this year.
Now moving back to July... Iain's birthday fell before the boys big birthday party (which happened to fall exactly on Aidan's birthday this year). Therefore, Iain celebrated his fifth birthday day with a cupcake cake. He had been asking for a rocket ship birthday cake all year.

I made up the pattern. Not too bad for homemade.
Happy boys. TOTALLY worth staying up very, very late decorating for these faces!
I made a few of these...
Three days before the boys birthday party, I kid you not, Aidan decided he wanted a dinosaur birthday cake and it was the ONLY thing he asked for for his birthday. He got it.
Sadly, this is the only picture I have of Aidan's cake. A decimated dinosaur. 
Iain's pride and joy.
 What should I tell you about next?

DH's BIG Project: Part One of Two

I have blogged before about the gravel pit we live in and after almost three years of living here (three on the 15th of January!) we are still in the pits. However, we are slowly pulling it together.

I have found it much easier to work and develop properties that someone else has already had a hand in such as our houses in Kanata and Middleton. As our current home is a new build, it came barely landscaped (that means only grass on the front lawn) and there is something very exciting and alarming at knowing you are the ones to come up with the plans for something that will (hopefully) develop into a lush and established garden.

DH is a very handy man and has found it difficult that he has not been able to devote a lot of time to our backyard since we've moved in. He has been working on this particular project over a couple of years. To be fair to him, his work schedule has not permitted a lot of down time or at home time. When he is home, we try to spend time together as a family or visiting with family and friends which means that this type of project tends to take the back burner.

This past summer, DH took a whole MONTH of holidays. Two weeks we spent camping and two weeks were spent working on our backyard.

The very beginning of the project from two and a half years ago.
We wanted a large at grade level deck (I cannot believe how much
the boys have grown since this picture was taken). 
DH dug this down himself. Later in the summer, he enlisted the
help of a mini excavator. 
One advantage of taking a long time to complete a project is that it gives
you time to review your design process. Case in point: the original concrete
pillar plan was not going to work. DH had inadvertently made a
wading pool... 
It did provide hours of entertainment for the big boys though.
Time to get serious. Let's get rid of that hole (an exciting day for Iain and Aidan!). 
We kept the boys safely inside while this was going on. And, no,
that isn't the previous years Christmas wreath drying on the table
right in front of you. Why do you ask?
The boys levelling the newly slung gravel. 
Love that Iain was so excited to help that he is out in his rubber boots
and pyjamas!
Exciting times. DH starts on the framing.

Our deck was a bit like a barn raising. Help was enlisted from
as far away as British Columbia as well as Newfoundland
and Labrador. 
I am really hoping the boys have fond memories of this. They
love going outside to help Daddy.
Exterior decking frame done.
Mitred corners. Gorgeous. And you think I'm the perfectionist in this house???

Good Newfoundland and Labrador assistance.  
Almost done!
Complete! Aidan told everyone for the first little while that it was our
'party deck'. It is huge. Someday we hope to have a nice wicker-ish
sectional sofa set for this blank end. A dining set that isn't mostly rust
would be nice too...
The upper deck will become the grill deck. DH is going to take out the
bannister section that you can see here and extend the stairs to the
whole width that you see here. The treads will also be widened so that
the transition from stairs to deck will be seamless.
Although it is more difficult to see the sea view from this deck, the sunsets
will be amazing.
Part two is coming. Promise.