Friday, May 31, 2013

American Canadian Gothic

The kids were standing on the porch and Dave commented, "I feel like we're raising our own American Gothic here." Sure we are, if...
Man and woman with stern expession stand side-by-side. The man hold a pitch fork.
(image from here.)
...the original couple were distracted by a garbage truck
...or the man was looking a little happier and strangling cuddling his wife
...or the wife was done with posing.
I feel like we're getting close. What do you think?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

All Abooooaaarrrddd!!!

Today Sam's preschool took a trip aboard the Waterloo Central Railway out to St Jacob's. Everyone was invited to climb aboard so Dave took half a vacation day and joined us. This is something we have been meaning to do as a family, so it was nice that it was all figured out for us!
Sam has been looking forward to today for weeks! Every day he asks, "Is this the train day with preschool?" and finally today we were able to say, "YES!!!"
Rachel was excited too and spent most of the time either sitting on her own in her seat, waving her ticket around, sticking her head out the window and walking up and down the aisles!
Sam was excited to hang out with his good friend from preschool but was concerned about the noise of the train. It actually wasn't loud at all, except for the whistle blowing to announce we were crossing streets.
Sam enjoying his snack and Sam and Rachel checking out the scenery. This railway is a historic railway so it moved quite slowly and the train had no air conditioning. It was very hot and we all looked forward to the slight breeze which would come along once in awhile.
We even got to cross a river which was really pretty.
Rachel was in a silly mood for pictures so I joined her!
We got to get off the train for about ten minutes at the final stop, before we boarded again for our return journey. Sam was interested in the car with its hood up...
...while I wanted some pictures of the train sheds.
After getting a family picture it was time to get back on the train. We had a really fun morning and I'm glad we got to experience this railway!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Restoring The Old

Last summer we received a table, which I found out the other day, is about fourth hand, as opposed to second hand! So this spring it was looking pretty bad and the old stain was cracking and a bit would come off every time we sat at it. You can see it really clearly in the picture of just the bench. Which, to be real, was discouraging us from using it. So I decided to try and refinish the top of the table and the benches.

I went to the hardware store on Saturday and threw myself on the mercy of the paint people. I was going to do it this coming weekend but it's going to be a full weekend and I wanted to see how much work it would be to strip the old stain off. I started with one bench on Monday afternoon because it was really nice and sunny outside, but not too hot. I used this gel which you spread on and leave for 30-60 minutes. Then you're supposed to scrub it off. Well the old stain must have been eager to get off of this stuff because it was coming off as I rubbed the gel on. So I scrubbed each piece for about 5-10 minutes and then rinsed it off thoroughly. Post stain removing gel, the pieces looked like this. Since the table and benches were 1) free and 2) fairly old, I wasn't going for perfection here. I was just going for better.
The people at the hardware store recommended this stuff which was 1) cheaper than stain, 2) doesn't need to be reapplied and 3) allows the natural wood to shine through. I was a fan of all of this. So I mixed it up (it comes in a powder form) and started applying it.
I applied one coat and let it dry. And now the sun and the rain and all the other elements (wind? fire???) are supposed to age the wood naturally and bring out other colours. So here is what our table and benches look like now. I am really pleased with how this turned out, and best of all, no slivers from peeling stain when we use it!
I've never considered myself a "wood furniture refinisher" but now I guess I can say I've done it once! I'm very curious to see how it will look by the end of the summer, when it has been exposed to the elements for a few months... And I really didn't mean to finish this entire project in about four hours but everything went so quickly that that's about all the time it took. Yay!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Things That Grow In My Garden

It's time for another episode of "Things That Grow In My Garden." To be fair, I took all these pictures last night which is a good thing because it's raining this morning. Despite a few days of either being covered up, or hiding out in the basement, (yes, we had a risk of FROST this past weekend -- I am sooooo done with that now.), I think things are looking really good this week.
I had to put a big old dahlia in the midst of my one planter because the squirrels dug out too many plants. Also I am waiting for dryer and warmer weather to plant the package of impatiens with Sam. I just don't want more things to cover if it's going to freeze again and I don't want to get too muddy while planting them. I decided Sam needed his own flowers to plant and dig holes for without me getting all impatient so these are going to be just for him.
The squirels also ate all the coleus, except for one, out of the planter on the left but I had so many plants in there that you can't even tell. And my petunias, which I couldn't remember the colours of, bloomed. The pot on the right was the extra hanging basket I had. After scouring stores for a non-permanent way to hang it from our upper porch, I decided just to take the hanger off and it's sitting on our porch.
The verbena are starting to bloom in this one. This planter also lost a plant or two to squirrels. I'm hoping the other plants will fill in the gaps soon.
I LOVE this planter which sits on our table. (And stay tuned for an exciting table post coming tomorrow!) I just love the dark and light petunia contrast. Although if I'd know which colour was which I would have mixed them up a bit more rather than having a light half and a dark half. Ooops.
This is the planter which sits on our BBQ patio. I forgot to either cover it or take it in this past weekend but it seems to have survived. Thankfully.
The ajuga is blooming this year and it's really pretty. You can see patches of colour in and among the ajuga.
The snapdragons and gomphrena are about to burst into bloom. I think next time you will get a true sense of them. Since last time the hostas have gone crazy and are just so big.
Speaking of big hostas, a couple of my Sweet William are going to get lost underneath their leaves. They aren't getting enough sun and they're a little puny. Oops.
I am loving my portulaca hanging basket, which is right outside our kitchen window, but it's hard to get a good picture of it. It's doing beautifully though, but it isn't quite as showy from outside as the petunias were last year.
Finally, we have the upstairs porch planters. The petunias in the watering can are doing well, although not blooming yet. The other basket has been decimated by the squirrels and I haven't had a chance to fix it yet. Boo hisss booooooo to the squirrels. Someone told me cayenne pepper was a deterrent so I really need to look into that. Also, the maple keys have just been covering everything this year, along with some of the littler branches so everything looks just a little bit messy all the time. Hopefully by next time that stage of spring will be over and things will look a bit neater. But I think things are looking pretty good so far (except for the squirrel damage) which makes me really happy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Run For Relief

As I wrote yesterday, one of the core beliefs of Mennonites is our commitment to Jesus' teachings on social justice. (I just want to add that we are by no means the only denomination which does this and I am just trying to explain some parts of my faith without meaning to imply that "we are the only ones who do things this way." Because I know we aren't.) We take seriously his mandate in Matthew 25:34-40. (Yes, I'm making you click on the link, unless you have the scripture memorized.) So Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is one of our main relief organizations. MCC was started in the early 1920s to help starving people in Russia and has grown since then. Since my grandpa came over from Russia in the 1920s, it has been an organization we give a lot of support to.

One of the main ways MCC raises money is through Relief Sales. I grew up going to the sale in Saskatoon and, now that I've moved to Ontario, we go to the one in New Hamburg. The New Hamburg Sale has raised over $14 million dollars for MCC since it started in 1967, and over $300,000 a year for the last 25 years. (found here.) At Relief Sales, almost everything is donated so that most of the money goes to MCC. The one in New Hamburg has a quilt auction, and almost every church in the area has a booth where they sell food. Some sort of "meat on a bun" option is popular (says the vegetarian!) as are doughnuts, apple fritters, a pancake breakfast and spring rolls.

This year the sale, which was held on Saturday, had signs posted, explaining how all the money being raised was going to be used. I took pictures of some because I thought they did a great job of explaining what this is all about:
MCC does a lot of different stuff!

So this very long prelude brings me to what I want to write about today -- the Run For Relief. This is a run held in conjunction with the sale and you raise money to go towards MCC. Dave decided to do the 5km run and so Sam, Rachel and I signed up for the 2km Fun Run/Walk. Except for the fact that we had to get up at 6am to be at the run before 7:30, it was awesome!

We did the walk with Sam's friend from preschool and Sam walked about half the distance while his friend walked the whole way. So, seeing as I sent Sam and Rachel over the finish line first, I finished absolutely last! Ha ha ha! They timed the whole thing, and if you go to the timing page (which I won't link to, to protect the privacy of people participating), there I am in last place! They also have Rachel finishing two minutes ahead of Sam and me so I don't completely trust their times!!!
Dave did his first 5km and he did awesome! He finished in under half an hour and he felt good afterwards. I was so proud of him. And then we all got to wear our shirts all day so that was fun too. And then it was time to eat. Because, ironically, one of the ways you make money to feed hungry people is to pay a lot of money to stuff yourself with really good food. (And yes, I do think it's ironic.) And yes, you also run into all sorts of people you know so you visit a lot too.
As Dave and the kids were sitting and eating, a photographer from the local New Hamburg paper came and took some pictures of them. If they end up being published I will for sure provide a link.

While Dave and the kids were eating pancakes, I decided to indulge in some warenki (prounounced "va-ren-e-key") which are similar to perogies. It's basically a dough pocket stuffed with cottage cheese and then it's boiled and/or fried. It was one of my favourite things to eat growing up. My mom always boiled them and served them with cream gravy, fried onions and farmer's sausage. Yum yum yum!!! The reason I am cracking up in the first few pictures is that Dave was trying to hold Rachel and take pictures and Rachel was looking soooo funny and squashed.
Our whole family eating. Whoo hoo!
Then we walked around, talked to people, the kids played at the children's area for awhile, and right before we left, we ate some ice cream, which was made by a tractor! Bizarre, but true!
And then we went home, did some quick errands along the way, and I had a two hour nap because I was exhausted. And that was the end of our day. Oh, and with our family's run, we raised $250 so I was really happy about that and grateful to everyone who supported us. The End!