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March 31, 2010

1st Quarter 2010 Round Up


Since I don't have any new squirrel pics to go along with the blog theme, I'll have to post a pic of the dogs at puppy school in March to illustrate my periodic review. ;o)

So here's what's been going on....

-Saw a great many movies in January, when my union card gets me in for free. The season for this begins roughly in October and ends after the DGA awards ceremony at the end of January. Outside of this, I see movies only when they're shown at the guild, where they run one night only, so if I miss a screening, I miss out.

-Did get to reactivate my Netflix account, thanks to a Christmas gift from my sister. It'll last six months. I'm on the one-at-a-time plan, instead of the three-at-a-time I used to have, but it's better than nothing since I suspended my subscription some time ago.

-Claire had a doggy root canal to start the year, at a cost of $1800.00. They were able to fix the slab fracture, saving her tooth. Nylabones are in fact too hard for dogs--at least the ones marked "durable." Am now searching for something to replace chew toys, before she gets bored and begins chewing on the contents of my closet. Taught me to make sure dental procedures are covered in my pet insurance--they were not. And I can't switch insurance now because of what would then be termed pre-existing conditions. So I've now researched who to go with for the next pet, but it won't help for the present.

-Cleaned Chance's teeth in Feb. First time I'd put him under since he was fixed at six months of age. Helped his doggy breath only temporarily. He had trouble with anesthesia and barfed while intubated. I did have fluoride sealants applied to two of his teeth, so hopefully that will help with future issues.

-Completed 10 week skating lesson course. I think I made about six classes, so I basically doubled my cost per class. Ugh! Enjoyed it when I went though, and it got me moving. Started taking a hula hoop class in the park once a week on Sundays. Fun, new friends, and outdoors! Can't go wrong with that--will stick with it.

-Registered with the Be The Match Bone Marrow Registry. Continued making and delivering dinner once monthly for a friend with cancer.

-Paid off my initiation fees to the union. Been paying this off sporadically since I joined (they didn't charge interest) but now paid in full. This amounts to a used car--several weeks pay.

-Got a new, bigger capacity, smaller size portable external hard drive (a xmas gift) and am getting more disciplined about backing up the computer. Getting rid of the not-portable external drive I'd been using all too infrequently. Updated the computer's operating software to the most current version, Snow Leopard.

-Been experimenting with teas: a small way to treat myself at home. Had a Starbucks card from Christmas, but when that ran out, could not justify except on rare occasions. Have to admit I've gone a bit overboard. My usual standard is Good Earth Tea, which is caffeinated or non. I like fruity teas, without any added sweetener. My favorite for a while has been Tazo Passion, which is a combination of hibiscus, lemongrass, rose hips, mango, and passion fruit. New of late is Celestial Seasonings Country Peach Passion; when my grandma died, I inherited some peach tea that I'd sent to her, and it lasted for a good two years in my house. So this new peach was in her memory. I love it in the evenings. I got some Dragon Fountain brand Jasmine tea at the dollar store, thinking how much I enjoy Jasmine tea at Chinese restaurants. It's pretty yummy and calming. I also picked up Celestial Seasonings Echinacea Complete Care Wellness Tea during a round of sinus suffering--tastes awful but is edible with the juice of a whole lemon and a lot of honey. At a German town one day picked up an imported Teekanne Rosehip & Hibiscus Flowers tea; didn't realize how similar this may be to my favorite Tazo Passion. Then went a little wild in Target, coming home with three boxes. First, Tazo Cucumber White tea, which would be wonderfully refreshing as an iced tea with added cucumber or lemon slices. Celestial Seasonings Chai Tea, a Decaf Sweet Coconut Thai--I love chai lattes so can't wait to see how this compares. And Stash Decaf Chocolate Hazelnut Tea, which has a wonderfully chocolatey scent, but needs a bit of honey added to make it palatable. So while all my friends on The Compact Yahoo Group have been doing a tea hoarding challenge, I've acquired eight new kinds in my pantry. Guess I'm losing on that front. But I'm trying to drink less sodas and up my water intake, so I'm hoping to encourage myself.

-Trying to use a humidifier in my bedroom to counteract the drying effect of my only home heat source, a wall mounted gas unit. Instead of buying yet another plastic appliance at a cost of $50 (yes, I did price them) my dad was kind enough to send me one they had but weren't using. This necessitated researching replacement filters, and how to clean it up properly. As many allergy/breathing problems as I have, and as old and crappily constructed as my house is, the worst possible scenario would be to cause more problems from a moldy humidifier, or from a humid area promoting mold in my walls or house. So I have to do this right.

-Next economizing in the grocery/pet sectors: No more dog cookies (Ugh! They heard me say that!). My dogs have allergies, and their diets have been ever more restricted as vet visits have mounted. They're getting older too. And then there are the dental issues (see above). So I'm resolving to fill their treat jars with the kibble I feed them for dinner. The special cookies I buy (that are the same brand name as their special food) are supposedly the same formula anyway, just a different shape, and maybe crispier. I can give them a single kibble as a treat rather than a whole cookie. And if they get enough in a day, that amount should be deducted from their meal anyway. No more $5 per bag for just a small amount of dog treats. Kibble food bought in bulk is much cheaper, and it's one less item in my budget.

-1st Assistant Director on a DGA low budget feature film titled "Q For Death." Jumped in midstream as a replacement so had the challenge of coming up to speed with prep while shooting. Production ceased when producers ran out of money, so will probably not be distributed, but I'm proud of the challenges I handled and work that was completed in a timely manner.

-Been getting out and meeting some new people: game nights, a murder mystery party, work parties....I've been doing well at being more outgoing, and intend to keep it up.

-Found a new dentist for myself in SoCal. I'd been seeing my old family dentist when home at holidays and summer, but this year he couldn't fit me in over xmas. It was time, I guess.

-Reawakening my garden after traumas of vermin infestation and arguments with landlord over water use. So much maintenance to do on my own! But the yard was the main reason I wanted to live in a house, so it's time I enjoy it.

-Contributed $2000.00 towards my IRA for 2010. Re-upped doggie vet insurance at a cost of about $700 for both dogs. Set aside money for a new mattress, now just have to find the one I want within my budgeted price range. Saving as much money as possible.

-Bought an airplane ticket for my mom to come see me for her birthday at the beginning of May! Planning to take her to a spa. Can't wait for her visit, and am glad I can bring her out.

-I haven't done all my xmas craft preparations as early in the year as I'd planned. I've started projects though, and learned a couple new gift skills, like making flavored olive oils. April will be a big month to complete projects and get the craft table out of the living room for a while.

That's pretty much it. And I'm not setting defined goals for the spring other than to clean out my office, enjoy the garden and backyard, and do more stained glass! Also want to make more time for reading and cross stitching again.

Do you find that the beginning of the year is a dormant period for you, or full of changes? What are your goals for spring? Please leave me a comment on the blog.

March 26, 2010

Seedlings!

Today was Tomatomania day for me! I got something like 24 tomato seedlings for myself, my dad, and three friends--good thing I'm not keeping them all! I went small and sweet this year, for the most part.

I was smart enough to bring along a camera today so I have great descriptions of each kind I chose for the year. I can print these pictures, laminate, and have my own plant tags--or I can just log my selections here and be able to search back to see what I've done from season to season. ;o)

I did get an Old German for my pop, and one larger for us all--my favorite, Pineapple Hawaiian.



My two new experiments for the season that I've sampled at last spring's tomato tasting at Loteria Grill...



My traditional favorite sweet cherry tomatoes....




I also came home with ten strawberry seedlings to beef up my little plot of hardy upstarts that lived through the winter.



The strawberries are already in the ground, but the tomatoes will take a little forethought--where to put them all? I'll be taking some more pictures over the weekend as I plant everything. And I'm looking forward to putting up some updates as the season grows!

March 22, 2010

Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day


Last year, Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day was in April. This year, it's even earlier--on March 23rd, from 12-8pm! Check out their page for a store finder and info on three new flavors.

Free Pastry at Starbucks


Tuesday, March 23rd is Free Pastry Day at Starbucks!

Get a free pastry on the morning of March 23 with the purchase of a handcrafted beverage.

Come to participating Starbucks on Free Pastry Day, March 23. Choose a delicious pastry to pair with your beverage and that tasty item is free.

Better yet, it’s free in another sense – free of all this stuff removed from the recipes:

  • No artificial flavors
  • No artificial dyes
  • No artificial trans fats
  • No high-fructose corn syrup

To get your free pastry, print out the coupon here and present it to your barista. Or for the environment, go paperless – simply show them the coupon on any mobile device. But Free Pastry Day ends at 10:30 a.m., so don’t miss out!

March 20, 2010

Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative


Los Angeles County Cooperative Extension has launched an initiative to help new gardeners start their own gardens quickly and easily in a container, in the backyard or at a community garden. The initiative brings together local families and neighborhoods to share their experiences, skills and produce. Participants are able to turn this new interest in gardening into successful, productive gardens that will generate positive changes in their homes by helping to lower grocery bills and enhance opportunities to eat healthy food.

Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener volunteers organize and lead low-cost Victory Garden Circles (total of 10 throughout LA County) and teach the basics of gardening. Participants become UC-certified Victory Gardeners. Spring classes start in March and April.

The initiative partners include UC Cooperative Extension's LA County Master Gardeners, the Los Angeles Community Garden Council, the Los Angeles County Arboretum, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, the Huntington Botanical Gardens, and many more partners as well as the local organization sites that will be hosting the Victory Garden classes.

Here is the link to the Grow LA Victory Garden Initiave's page with info and details. Their page also has some great links on cool gardening sites for your own home research. Find the GrowLA Blog here. And follow this link to the Google Map listing all participating locations.

I'll be taking the classes at Tarzana Community & Cultural Center, 19130 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, CA 91356. Classes are on April 3, 10, 17 and 24 from 9 am to 12 pm. To register or for more information on this particular location only, contact Darren Butler at darren@pobox.com, (818) 271-0963.

March 17, 2010

Steve Goto's Great Tomato Sale & Talk at the Arboretum

(Pineapple Hawiian variety pictured above, grown on my vine,
pictured in my hand--they're that big! And really, really sweet and meaty!)


THE GREAT TOMATO SALE & TALK
is coming back
At The Arboretum, 301 No. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia 91007

When? Wednesday, March 24 at 10am
Where? Palm Room & and Gift Shop Patio
Instructor: Steve Goto – Tomato Guru
Cost? Free to Members / Free to Non-Members with Arboretum Admission

Back by popular demand for the 9th year!! Join us for a fascinating (and very funny) talk by Steve Goto…and his Top 25 Tomato Picks for 2010! Learn all the tricks to successful planting and harvesting of the best tomatoes for this area.

Attend THE GREAT TOMATO SALE in the patio behind the Gift Shop. They will have 100 flats of tomato plants…and they do sell quickly!!!

For more info, go to www.arboretum.org

March 15, 2010

City of Burbank Composting Seminar and Free Bins!

(my well-used bin from Burbank a year or two ago)

COMPOSTING WORKSHOPS IN BURBANK

In the past 20 years over 10,000 Burbank residents have taken a City of Burbank, Public Works Department composting workshop offered through the Burbank Recycle Center and have learned to turn leaves, grass and food scraps into nutrient rich soil in their own backyards. Workshops are open to everyone. Compost bins are free for Burbank residents. Utility bill required for proof of residency.

Please call to RSVP (818) 238-3900

· Duration is only an hour and 15 minutes but please dress warmly as workshops are held outside unless it rains (in which case an indoor location will be used).
· Free delivery of bins offered for those who walk or bike (hint hint).
· Please bring your own lawn chair if you can.
· Zero Waste in effect so please bring your own mug as warm refreshments will be served.
· Finally, a recycled rubber tire rake will be given to one participant at each workshop.


March 20, 10am
McCambridge Park, Picnic Area 3
1515 North Glenoaks (west of tennis courts)

April 17, 10am
Community Services Building, First Floor
150 North Third Street

April 17, 1:00pm
(note later start time)
Burbank Adult School
3811 West Allan Avenue

May 1, 10am
Burbank Recycle Center
500 S Flower Street

March 14, 2010

My Garden Update--in Pictures

Backyard at Hesby House


I mowed my grass for the first time this year, with a weed whacker, which meant raking up the trimmings by hand. Please don't be critical of the pictures, but I thought it looked decent enough to enjoy and share--all the surprises that awaited me underneath the overgrowth! The tables in the foreground are for my stained glass projects, with rain covers weighted down by pots. I can't wait to see the gardens in full bloom, after some tending and some time.


Blackberries and raspberries hiding the shed, and enclosing the little strawberry patch, with a rooster overlooking it all.


A couple small cauliflower seedlings and a few bits of strawberry have survived the winter.


Chocolate Mint in a teacup.


The only surviving climbing rose out of three that I planted last year....but this one is thriving!


My peach tree is full of buds, and my nectarine tree has a few. Thanks, TreePeople for giving out citrus!


The calla lily I started from a single bulb probably six years ago potted in my first L.A. apartment. They didn't like the location of the garden in my last apartment, so haven't flowered in at least three years. They're loving it here though! The little bits of color around the calla are kalanchoe that I planted for my folks' Thanksgiving visit, still going strong.


I heart my readers. Thanks for checking in on me. Happy Spring!

My friend April over at Small Moments of Great Reward just laid out her plans for this year's garden, and what it means to her. What will be in yours? Leave a comment on the blog to tell me about it.

Sunland Water Gardens


If the fall to xmas is serious craft time for me, spring, especially March is serious gardening time. I'm spending a lot of time this month in my back yard, and today uncovered all the patio furniture from months of rain.

I installed my own fountain in my backyard last spring, and enjoyed it for one season before finding it becoming a watering hole for all the neighborhood vermin that had ingested poison, which would then die in my yard. So it was promptly emptied and left that way for the winter. I'm finding that to have been a mistake--the lack of volume pressure in the bowl allowed the ground forces to push inward and upward, and my pond has become unseated. I'm going to have to pull it up and re-hallow out the hole for it.

In addition, I'm in need of a new filter for the pump. So today I explored a place that I'm told is "the" spot for water plants, koi, and pond supplies--Sunland Water Gardens. It was really neat to learn about all the plants and animals that can survive in a boggy environment! Their koi were priced by color and size. The baby turtles were maybe three inches long, and so cute. And I learned what plants will thrive in moving water vs. still. If you're in the market for any of the above, check out their website or visit them on-site in Tujunga.

And if you have a water feature in your landscape, please share your tips for supplies or maintenance in a comment on the blog!

March 13, 2010

Theodore Payne's CA Wildflower Hotline


Twenty-four hours a day, March 5 through May, anyone can call the Theodore Payne Wildflower Hotline to find the best places to view wildflowers in Southern and Central California. The hotline message is narrated by Emmy Award-winning actor Joe Spano (Hill Street Blues, Apollo 13, NYPD Blue) and is updated every Thursday evening with new information on more than 90 wildflower sites.

The photo above is one I took at the Antelope Valley CA Poppy Reserve. Here's my full blog post on that visit.

California Wildflower Hotline
March 5 to May 31 2009
Wildflower sites throughout Southern and Central California
(818) 768-3533 or www.theodorepayne.org

March 2, 2010

Grunion Run

"Grunion Love"
photo by Julianne E. Steers

I've heard stories before about the Grunion Run, but never had the opportunity to experience one. Recently I found information about a group of "Grunion Greeters" involving hundreds of citizen volunteers to study and report the spawning activity and habitat of grunion. Grunion Greeters observe small stretches of beach on nights of grunion runs during peak spawning season from April through early June. Grunion runs occur at night, twice a month, after the highest tides associated with a full or new moon.

California Grunion are a species of marine fish found only along the coast of southern California and northern Baja California. They are justifiably famous for their unique spawning behavior. Grunion spawn completely out of the water and lay their eggs on many sandy beaches in California. Shortly after high tide, on specific nights, sections of these beaches sometimes are covered with thousands of grunion dancing about on the sand....The eggs remain buried in the sand throughout incubation, fully out of water for approximately 2 weeks. The larvae hatch when the eggs wash out by high waves during tides before the new and full moons. Grunion spawn at the age of 1 year, and live for 2 to 4 years.
For more information, use the link above or go to grunion.org.

Have you ever witnessed a Grunion run? What was it like? Tell me about it in a comment on the blog.

March 1, 2010

TomatoMania Time of Year


It's that time of year again! I've cleared my garden to plant new, flavorful heirloom seedlings, and I always find the varieties I'm looking for at TomatoMania. In Los Angeles, that means stopping by Tapia Brothers' stand.

March 26 - 28 9A-5P

Tapia Brothers' Farm Stand
5251 Hayvenhurst Ave.
Encino, CA 91436
818.905.6155

Check here to find plant sale dates for Laurel's Heirloom Tomato Plants in Lomita--dates will not be announced until March.
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