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March 31, 2009

Dog-Friendly Airlines

Tonight I'm shopping around for a flight to my cousin's wedding. So, here's a list of pet-friendly airlines in the US and Canada. The site lists by airline all the info you need for cabin or cargo: the rates, policies, contact numbers....It's from Neither of my dogs have ever flown. I'll let you know how they do!

March 30, 2009

Morning Champagne Brunch Cruise

This sounds like fun, and something I should definitely set up as a group event: a Saturday or Sunday morning Champagne Brunch Cruise through Hornblower Cruises & Events based out of Marina del Rey for only $53 bucks a head.

Here's the description from their website: "Take in the sights, listen to relaxing music, linger in the sun, and visit the Captain. Our lavish brunch buffet features a savory selection of all your favorites and includes complimentary free-flowing champagne. Boarding at 11:30am, Cruising from 12-2pm." Check out the menu here.

Anyone care to join me? Leave a comment for me, and I'll send you an invitation.

Strike Entertainment

The Sports Center Bowl at 12655 Ventura Blvd in Studio City, 91604, has a daytime special of three games for six bucks (excluding shoe rental) Monday thru Thursday from 9am to 4pm. I first read about this during the WGA strike last year. To confirm this special is still offered, call them at 818-769-7600.

Scarifying Canna Seed

I love bulbs for their ease of growing. Whenever I plant from seed, I invariably pull up the tender shoots, thinking they're weeds, before they ever have a chance to mature into recognizable plants. So, I specialize in bulbs.

I've collected Canna seed on my dog walks for the last couple years. It's a great feeling of discovering treasure when I see their bulging forms. I stuff my pockets, then amass them into a baggie kept in a secret drawer just outside my front doorway.
I've used them to fill a tropical bed in my own garden. The next thing I'm going to attempt is to make water plants from them for my fountain. I've seen bags for sale at the hardware store that essentially contain the mud and roots so it doesn't get washed away in the fountain. That will be a separate blog post.

I've issued a challenge to myself to find more ways to make a little money this year. One easily available source of income is to scarify, sprout, and pot up these cannas to sell for a couple bucks a pot.

Cannas can be propagated in a couple of ways: by dividing the bulbs themselves (including offsets), or from seed (what produces the rhizome in the first place). Not all varieties seed, but a lot do. Canna will flower almost as quickly if grown from seed as when grown from rhizomes, and plants grown from seed usually flower the same year if started early in the year.
Canna grown from seed generally don't come true (ie the flower you get is not the same as the flower of the parent). But if you want a mixed variety, growing from seed is a good way to go. Canna seed has a good germination rate of typically 65% to 95% depending on species/variety. The seed stores well. The best reason to grow from seed is that the Canna will be free of virus disease.
The seeds have evolved with a hard seed coat, so they must be scarified in order to get them to sprout. "Scarifying" is the process of scratching this hard coating to allow the seed to grow. To scratch the seed, I use jewelry pliers that look something like this:
Using a workshop file, holding the seed in workshop pliers, and filing until the internal white just shows through will work as well. Here's a seed that's been nicked:
Next, soak the seed in warm water overnight.
As they soak the seed coating will begin to plump away.
I then use my fingernails to scratch the seed coat off a bit so the rest of the coat will get water and plump out. At the top end you will see the point where the seed sprouts.
Put the seeds back to soak again to allow more of the seed coating to fall away. Change the water each time you peel off the seed coating, until the coating has fallen off. Once the coat is gone, and sprouting is clearly evident, like this:
I plant the seeds. Since I intend to sell them this time around, I'm using peat pots made from recycled paper that will decompose around the plant when buried in the garden.
The plants will need to be transplanted to the ground when the roots begin to shoot out the bottom of the little pot. Eventually you'll have something that looks like this:
Here's a list of all the varieties of Canna, and another tutorial on how to grow them.

What's your favorite thing to grow in your garden, and how do you do it? Tell me your thoughts in a comment below.

Claire Eaten by a Pit Bull

I first saw my little Claire on on August 23, 2006, my birthday. My puppy at home was only about ten months old. I'd been thinking about getting him a friend to keep him company when I was away, but not wanting the obligation of training two dogs at once. I finally decided he was of an age to start looking, figuring the search would take some time. I saw Claire at once.

She was at a shelter in Carson, about an hour through traffic from my home. When I called, she had two holds placed on her already, so the shelter told me to call back in two and a half weeks, naming a seemingly arbitrary date--my parents' anniversary.

Neither of the two "holds" had come to retrieve her, so I went down on Sept. 12, 2006, and there she was--in the very first kennel. Her adoption fee: thirty-seven bucks.

She is meant to be mine, meant to be Chance's companion; perfectly sized, physically equal to him. All the shelter knew was that Claire had come in as an "owner arrest." Her nails were painted bright pink, the nail polish wearing off after three weeks at the shelter. She rubs against you like a cat, begging for attention, so I took to calling Claire "kitty-cat." I speculate that her former owner may have been a drug addict, alternatively showering her with attention but then ignoring her for days at a time, forcing her to beg for love.

We drove immediately to our vet, who extended her hours for us that day. She came home with fleas and kennel cough. Because of the other dog in the house, I had to quarantine Claire in my only available space, my bathroom, for the first few weeks. The shelter requires all dogs to be spayed or neutered before being released--that much I knew. What I wasn't told was that Claire was fixed less than twenty four hours before she was given to me. Out of eyesight in quarantine, Claire licked open her stitches; I had to have her re-sewn twice.After spending weeks in a shelter, Claire is no friend to other dogs, besides her brother. But she takes a disinterest in them, never biting or growling. Last spring, I got her Delta certified as a therapy dog, through a stringent exam much like the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test, so that she can go visit people in nursing homes or hospitals. Anyway, all the above is backstory, the first opportunity I've had to tell my pet's story on this blog. The reason for writing is this: yesterday, Claire was attacked by a pit bull.

My girl is tiny at just six to eight pounds, depending on how stringent I've been with her diet of late. We were at our puppy school, a group class at a local park given by a trainer I've gone to since I first got Chance. I bring both dogs often to refresh our obedience skills, but now am bringing Claire alone, as she's a great candidate for off-leash training, the next skill level for us as a team.

Yesterday morning we approached a group session in progress; just two other dogs were there before us, one of them familiar to me. Claire bounded just ahead of me at the sound of the trainer Jackie's voice, calling her name. I had her in a cute spring dress, lucky padding, as the unfamiliar pit bull suddenly lunged forward and grabbed her. He placed my entire dog in his mouth, and here's the scary part: I froze. Claire was shreiking, I was trying to absorb the situation, everything happening at warp speed. Jackie pulled Claire into the air by the leash around her throat, out of the pit's reach. Claire swung back and forth like a pendulum about twice before I reached out to grab her, afraid of a broken neck, let alone puncture wounds. The owner finally restrained the pit.

Chance, my other chihuahua, has "little dog" complex. Though he's never bitten, he does lunge at certain dogs, barking horrifically and making a big stink whenever he feels endangered, especially when surrounded. I can't rightfully ask any less of myself than I do of the dog owners Chance has offended: as long as the dog isn't hurt, it's no more than an annoyance, really. Looking at it this way, yesterday's attacking dog doesn't bother me at all.

What scared me then, and still, is that I didn't know how to help. I should have put myself into the mix, bullying the other dog into submission and protecting my pack. But there was no part of my tiny dog that I could grab onto to pull her away--she was fully engulfed by the pit's powerful jaws. Having owned small dogs for three years, I'm lucky that no attack has happened sooner, and while I'm alone on a walk. Jackie's quick thinking saved my dog's life, and taught me one way to respond in an emergency situation, if not the best way.

Writing this, I still feel raw and emotional. How would you have responded in this situation? Let me know your thoughts in a comment.

March 29, 2009

Harvesting Garden Seeds

Why I love gardening: the unexpected discoveries awaiting you on a daily basis. At my house, there's a fence along the side of this property, separating it from a neighboring apartment complex. When I moved in, I tore off the dried/rotting bamboo covering the fence, intending to make a living, green covering over the chain link. I planted several varieties of Morning Glory and Moon Flower from seed along the fence line and carefully trained the baby sprouts to climb the fence. Though it didn't become the obfuscating carpet I was hoping for, they quickly took off, flowering profusely.

While I was home for Christmas, my landlord cut the water supply to the sprinkler line, and the whole fence went downhill from there. I concentrated on other projects, and am only now returning to gardening this spring.

I knew Morning Glories were prolific reseeders, but I figured this year's crop hadn't been given half a chance, so I dutifully bought ten new seed packs, and thought I'd be starting over.

I was out planting tomatoes in the garden bordered by this fence today, thinking what an ugly eyesore it had become, and wondering if I should tear off all the dead undergrowth before I replanted. Suddenly, I noticed--

Hundreds of tiny seed pods hanging off the vines!

There they were, just waiting for me to liberate them from their husks.

The pods virtually crumbled to the touch, dried and ready to spill their contents to the wind.

I picked a few pods at a time, letting the heavy seeds fall into the cracks of my fingers, separating the chaffe from the seed with gentle blowing. When I was done, I had a full bag of seed, more than the ten packs I'd just bought combined! I can't wait to see the beautiful fence this summer. I'd always been in awe of gardeners who offered their own seed in trade on sites like you grow Now I have the confidence to pursue seed gathering of other flowers from my own garden.

March 25, 2009

Five Ways to Get a Life

Remember me saying I'm trying to shred the paper in my life? I clipped this article from the May 2005 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine (it's reprinted here without permission). To read the article, click on the image to enlarge it. I love O because it often makes me pause and think. In this article, I especially like numbers 4 & 5. But as far as time management goes, I think I've lost all the time I've saved by following these suggestions to time spent managing all the "helpful hints" I clip and save.

So, as my shredder clicks on, I'll offer you a challenge: What's your best five suggestions for life? Let me know in a comment below.

March 24, 2009

Credit Report? Medical Report? Check Your Records.

Everyone knows to be vigilant about checking your credit report, and that each is entitled to one free copy of their credit report per year from each of the three main credit agencies. But do you know what to do when you're hit with high insurance premiums or denied coverage altogether? Turns out there's an agency that protects insurers from fraud by collecting previous underwriting decisions. You can get one free report per year from the Medical Information Bureau, allowing you to screen and correct your medical records for inaccuracies, just like a credit report. To read the full article above, click on the image to enlarge.

(Article image reprinted without permission from Money Magazine, July 2006)

Has correcting a public record saved you money in the past? Relate your story in a comment below.

Vacations That Pay

This article has some great suggestions for making a vacation work for you. Click on the image to enlarge it to a readable size.

Where have you always dreamt of going? Tell me your travel suggestions in a comment below.

March 22, 2009

Recycled Patio Coffee Table

In my bio, I talk about my latest project being the remodeling of my tiny guesthouse I recently moved into. So far, I haven't blogged much about that, and I realized it's time to bring that into the conversation.

I love stained glass, and all things antique. So when furnishing my new yard, what better way to express myself than with an old window? I got this at a flea market for ten bucks, then bought legs at the hardware store for about thirty dollars. I decided to scrape off some of the flaking paint from the sill, but left it purposely rustic. I painted the legs and attached them to the frame of the old window. The final step is to order a piece of clear glass to cover the top. I'm using this as a coffee table in the middle of my yard, with a wrought iron love seat as seating.

Do you have an inventive use of an item as furniture, or homemade or hand-upholstered items in your home? Tell me about it in a comment below.

Santa Barbara Intl Orchid Show

Cym. Sycamore Peek

I've written before about the group LA People Connection. This weekend I did a daytrip with them to Santa Barbara for the SB Intl. Orchid Show. We had such a great time! I met two new friends, very interesting, funny gals that I have a lot in common with. A high school friend of mine came with us also, so it was a great marriage of people I was comfortable with and new relationships. The drive alone was beautiful. The show was really interesting--all the different varieties. It was a great chance to learn about my camera, so I came back with a ton of pictures. Now I'll have to make some cards and list them for sale on Zazzle! They had a small sale tent where I bought two orchids for fifteen bucks and a handful of amaryllis bulbs for about ten dollars. I'd totally recommend this as a relaxing get-away outing for next year.

A really cool aspect of the show was the arranging competition. One arrangement was displayed on an old iron grate from a heater or some such. I photographed a couple of the arrangements so I'd remember the ideas.

The Arrangement section of the competition

How are you welcoming spring? Let me know in a comment.

Cym. Iowanium Pitts

Paph. Lefty Kel

Nov. Sym. 'Royale Harvest'

SLC Jewel Box

Lc. Gold Digger

Cym. Via Loch Resposo 'Pixie Gold'

Cym. Procul Harum 'Afterglow'

Cym. Kiri te Kanawa 'Princess'

Cym. Vidar 'Harlequin'

Cym. Coraki Smoke 'Orange Squash'
Cym. Fifi

Ep. Wedding Valley

Paph. Deperle


Slc. Mango Spice

Cym. Alexanderii 'Westonbirt'
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