Homebound – May Edition, 11 weeks in

Welcome to week 11 of the pandemic! It will be June in four days, so it’s time to remember what May looked like in our bubble.

To begin, as of May 19, the province of Ontario entered into Stage 1 of reopening the economy. We’re at a point where retailers with a street entrance are now able to open under strict guidelines to maintain physical distancing. Restaurants and bars remain closed for dine-in. Parks have reopened, but playgrounds are still off limits. We’ve been asked to continue keeping a minimum of 6-feet distance when in public, but clearly that is a big ask for some as over the long weekend, there were about 10,000 people gathering at Trinity Bellwoods, enjoying the heat wave that has finally hit. The mayor and premier were very disappointed and rightfully so. Dr. Sharkawy’s emotional response to this careless and selfish behaviour broke my heart. I’ve been listening to him on the news throughout this outbreak and he continues to provide Torontonians with information, updates, and advice on how to keep each other safe.

I was watching a piece on TV about how we don’t necessarily need a vaccine to get this disease under control immediately, but it would require governments to take action as some Asian countries have – full lock down, with all infected people completely isolated from healthy people. That would never fly in Canada or the USA for human rights reasons, but I get what the reporter was saying. He does make a valid point.

Enough of the politics, and on with the update!

Hubs isn’t so much into reading books, but every now and again he doesn’t mind listening to an audio book. And by audio book, that always means me reading aloud to him. Sometimes it’s fiction and sometimes it’s non-fiction, depending on his mood. Usually fiction is easier for him to digest as he can switch his brain into relax mode. We started with a true crime book, but it was proving to be a complicated story right from the start with so many characters introduced at once. It was too much thinking for him, so we switched over to a classic – Roald Dahl’s James & the Giant Peach.

I’ve always tried to get hubs to take on some of the reading, but he’s like a big kid and wants me to be the reader, claiming that he’s too monotone whereas I sometimes do different voices for different characters. I have this book in Spanish and Italian – maybe the next ‘audio book’ will be the Spanish version. Ha!

In plant news, there’s exciting news for both houseplants and the garden. I think I had mentioned designing a living wall back in April. Well, it became a reality in May and it really brightens the space.

It all started at the end of March, when I started coming up with the idea of the living wall. Oh, the way I sold the idea to hubs is that I could free up tabletop space by creating a vertical space, since he comments on how we have lots of tables, but they are overrun with plants. I want to say he fell for my pitch, but he knows me too well and said that this would likely mean we’d just have more plants. He wasn’t wrong.

Part one of the living wall – I had found the product I was interested in using and hunted around for a Canadian retailer.

WallyGro Eco Planters

Eventually I found Agenda Cafe (of all places!) selling the WallyGro Eco Planters at a decent price, meaning I think the owner was selling at wholesale price. Unfortunately, she only had two in stock and wasn’t planning on a re-order during these uncertain times. Fair point. I was going to bite the bullet and purchase at retail price through a local plant shop ($45 vs $29.95). But Ange from Agenda asked me how many I was looking for because if I could meet the minimum, she could place an order for me. She didn’t have to do that, but she wanted to help me turn my dream into a reality. My request met the minimum and I ended up with the beautiful planters at a great price.

Part two of the project involved deciding which plants would go on the wall. Ok, I ended up ordering plants online for delivery through JOMO Studios. It was my first time ordering with them, but they have good reviews, so I took a chance. I’m glad I did as their plants arrived in excellent condition. As they, like many other deliveries, attempt to remain contactless, I opened the garage for them and they left the bags for me. They delivered on May 1 – what a great way to start the month! Here’s a sneak peak:

Mish-mash of 4″ and 6″ plants from JOMO

They sat in my foyer for a couple of days in quarantine. Not so much because of Covid, but in case they had any pests as I already have thrips on some houseplants (not an infestation or anything, but I have them). I also didn’t have anywhere to put them yet, as the planters were not yet set up.

Part three was coming up with a layout. We came up with a number of designs, some using all 12 and some using less. Hubs said that whatever layout I thought I wanted, I had to sleep on it for two nights to be sure. I didn’t photograph all layouts, but here are a few:

And the winning layout…..

Getting started

Hubs was mildly shocked that the placement of my papers was actually quite accurate. He asked if I had done that on purpose or if that was dumb luck. I admitted that I didn’t, but that I’m simply a natural genius. Look, I used a ruler and picked some numbers based on what I thought made sense, but I didn’t do any math. I’m a natural!

Calculations and drawings

Hubs can’t base things solely on gut – he’s a man of science so he professionally took measurements and did the math.

His work is always very precise because he does things properly. No eyeballing it!

He discovered that the anchor and screws that came with the planters were not the greatest and was worried that they wouldn’t be strong enough. Luckily he had enough parts in his tool box.

Plate attached

The plates were not flush to the wall, even following instructions to hand screw versus drill. So he came up with a solution to help it sit more flush, and not to pivot as easily. This is where I came in – I was in charge of cutting all the little pieces of duct tape.

Stacks of 6 pieces of duct tape on either ends of the plates to help add some padding and friction

And 2.5 hours later….magic!

Of course we discovered another issue as I started to hang the planters – the grey planters wouldn’t hook on easily. Hubs said that he noticed all the grey planters had a tight lip, possibly because the dye caused the mold to do something different when setting? Anyway, he brought out his soldering iron dremel and shaved stuff (as you can tell, I don’t actually know what he did, but whatever he did made it easier to hang the planters).

I absolutely love my living wall! I can’t wait for the plants to grow and fill out. On the day of the installation, I hadn’t decided what to fill that red planter with.

Top L to R: Peperomia Ripple (green), Pilea Glauca Aquamarine, Purple Oxalis, Peperomia Ripple (purple), Silvery Ann (pothos), empty
Bottom L to R: Pothos Neon, String of Hearts, Stromanthe Triostar, Golden Pothos, Calathea White Fusion, Philodendron Cortatum Heartleaf

I originally thought I’d just leave the plants in their plastic pots and place them inside the planters, but it was a difficult balancing act, especially for the plants in 4″ pots. My thinking was that it was easier than filling each planter with soil and watering, and by not committing the plant to the planter, I could remove them if that spot wasn’t providing ideal conditions. But as it turns out, it’s pretty convenient to directly plant in the planters as the watering reservoir makes it easy and the idea is that the holes provide good aeration. Currently 8 of the 12 planters hold soil. I’ll likely directly plant three more in the coming days, but I’ll leave the String of Hearts in the 4″ pot for the time being. I don’t think it will do well in a big pot of soil at its current size/state.

Overhead view

What did I end up putting in the last planter? I will probably regret this, but I placed a clivia that wasn’t doing so well in a different location. It might do better here, but clivias like to put out pups, and there’s no room for two in a single planter.

I wasn’t sure when I would be able to start my garden this year as it was a long, cold spring. We had snow coming down on May 9, and there were a few days in May where I had to bring all my figs back inside due to overnight frost and daytime cold temps, but alas, the warmer days have finally arrived.

Seedlings started to get some sun in early May. Part of the hardening off process.
Makeshift sun protection during the hardening off process, using tissue paper
Milkweed planted in the front yard, along with the phlox from last year, and piss-off plants. They stink and apparently repel animals – we’ll see.

I was actually surprised the phlox came back this year as the rabbits ate them down to the ground last year. I worried that I killed them this year when I dug them up to move them forward to make room for the milkweed. I originally considered growing the milkweed on my deck so that I could maybe see butterflies, but it would be harder to overwinter them on the deck, and I’ve read that they attract a lot of insects. That isn’t a problem if the insects stay on the milkweed, but I worry they will ravage my entire garden. Front yard it is! The black spike mats are to deter squirrels and rabbits and I’ve also stuck in dead, thorny branches from my rose bush. The piss-off plant is supposed to repel dogs and cats, but they don’t guarantee repelling rabbits or squirrels, hence the thorns and spikes.

My pepper patch – all chili peppers

Those black things you see in the planters are spiky plastic mats from the dollar store. There’s a pesky squirrel that comes around that must have dementia or something. He digs up my planters even though almost all of these planters are not around from November – mid May, so when did he think he hid something? I’m pretty sure he does this just to annoy me. So this year, thanks to the stay-at-home orders, I ordered a shit ton of spiky mats online from Dollarama and had them delivered to me. They are in every single planter (along with in my front yard). Take that, squirrel!

Noooooo!

Before the spiky mats arrived, I was using plastic forks. For the record, these do not deter squirrels. But even with the spiky mats, the squirrel found spots to dig. I’m telling you, he’s toying with me.

Me: 1
Squirrel: 0

Forks may not work, but chipotle chili pepper powder sure does. I wasn’t sure if I’d find a dead squirrel with his eyes clawed out the next morning, but he’s smarter than that. I think he can smell the spice and simply avoids it. Anywhere I sprinkled this, he left it alone. But let’s be honest, this isn’t a cheap option. It’s best to lay down more spiky mats and reserve the chili powder for spots directly around the stem, if you notice digging. Usually once the plants have matured and take up more space, the squirrel hasn’t bothered digging in the pepper planters (knock on wood).

I was thrilled to see at least one pot of passion flower in our garage come back to life. This one was showing small signs of growth but over the last two weeks, it’s really exploding with new growth!

Passiflora vine (passion flower vine)

The plants that I had ordered in January from Richter’s also arrived in May, but some of them were looking pretty sad and broken. I wasn’t even sure if Grape Scented Sage was going to pull through. He looked really awful, but signs of new life are appearing and I think he’ll pull through. The bergamot (bee balm) plant is also really bushing out.

My pepper patch is a combination of purchased seedlings and some that I seeded myself back in mid-Feb. I had fallen in love with Mexican chili peppers when I was in Oaxaca. I wasn’t actually expecting to find seedlings locally, but luck was on my side and I discovered Chez Nous Farms in the Niagara region, where a husband/wife team grow unique peppers for sale. They had the pasilla mixe pepper that I was looking for, in seedling form! The plan was that I’d attend their seedling sale on the Victoria Day weekend, but the pandemic hit. Chez Nous had to find another way to sell their seedlings safely, so they threw up an e-commerce site where I was able to purchase online and schedule a curbside pickup. I’m disappointed that I never got to meet owner/farmer Shirley (who I had been corresponding with via email about her chilies), but I think she did an excellent job of organizing the online ordering and curbside pickup.

This is how it went down – I placed my orders online and near the May long weekend, I went online to see what the pickup schedule looked like. You select a date and a 15-minute time slot and receive a confirmation email. When you show up, you pull into their driveway where they have tables set up with big signs indicating the time slot. Find your time slot and the corresponding tray of seedlings is there for you. Shirley was kind enough to throw in a couple of extra seedlings for me – so excited for the harvest!

One positive due to the pandemic is that traffic isn’t bad. Under ‘normal’ circumstances, this could’ve been a long-ass drive, but it only took us 1 hour 20 to get there. I called it our road trip for the summer. We made a day of it, and got a taste of the potentially new normal.

I’ve mentioned that we drink a lot more beer now, and there’s a brewery in Hamilton that I’ve ordered from, Fairweather Brewing. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything that caught my eye on their website, but I found Grain & Grit Beer Co. (also in Hamilton) and they had some interesting sours. I gave them a call as we left Chez Nous and asked them if I could order online and do curbside pickup within the hour. They said yes! So after I hung up, I ordered a bunch of different beer. The instruction in the confirmation email was to park in the adjacent lot, honk your horn, and when they come out, shout out your order number so they can grab your order. Stay in your car, pop your trunk, and they’ll load it in for you. It was easy! Their beers are fantastic, by the way.

Parked and waiting inside our car

By this point, we were pretty hungry. When hubs was working from the office, he’d often go to this taco place called 50 Pesos and he raved about the spicy fish taco. I’d never get the chance to try it because the place isn’t usually open on weekends (they also have a food truck and are usually on the road on the weekends).

Order online for pickup only

Another positive coming out of the pandemic is that 50 Pesos is now open on the weekends! So hubs called and placed an order for pickup. Add the food to our trunk full of seedlings and beer.

Boca Chicken and Bomb Fish tacos from 50 Pesos

Both tacos were delicious, but I really liked the Bomb Fish with extra spice. Hubs was fascinated as I devoured the bomb fish taco. He asked me if covid had made spicy foods stop burning. I dunno? I’m telling you, Mexico changed me. I love spicy.

Earlier in the week, hubs had purchased a hanger steak from Florence Meats. Perfect timing for the pickup. Similar process, you stand outside, someone pops their head out and you give your order number and wait.

Order online for pickup only. However, their website said they are reopening on June 2

Since our roadtrip, I’ve made some masks. Sewing is not my thing, so this was a slow-going process. I’ve made some masks for both sets of parents and I’m officially done with sewing and back to knitting. Sewing is just hard on my back and neck. There must be a better sewing machine design so that you don’t have to sit there hunched over. Anyway, the pattern I selected originally came from Craft Passion, but using a personally modified version of Jesse’s pattern, which is his modified version of Craft Passion’s design.

The best homemade masks achieved 79% filtration as compared to surgical masks (62% to 65%) and N95 masks (97%). But other homemade masks tested performed significantly worse, sometimes demonstrating as little as 1% filtration. The best-performing design was constructed of two layers of high-quality, heavyweight “quilter’s cotton” with a thread count of 180 or more, and those with especially tight weave and thicker thread such as batiks. A double-layer mask with a simple cotton outer layer and an inner layer of flannel also performed well

https://newsroom.wakehealth.edu/News-Releases/2020/04/Testing-Shows-Type-of-Cloth-Used-in-Homemade-Masks-Makes-a-Difference

To read more about materials for DIY masks, visit the Washington Post. And to learn more about face coverings and how to properly wear, fit, remove and clean your non-medical face mask, visit Ontario.ca

The best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) is by staying home and avoiding close contact with others outside of your household. Face coverings will not protect you from getting COVID-19.

Face coverings and face masks | Ontario government

I used whatever fabrics I could find at home from my sewing days, and I ordered t-shirt yarn and pipe cleaners from Amazon. Thankfully Amazon isn’t as backed up as they were at the beginning of the pandemic. We now wear masks when we go out. But remember, don’t let masks give you a false sense of security. These cloth masks are meant to protect others from you, and not you from others. Continue to wash your hands. Try to maintain at least 6 feet of distance if you must go out. Don’t touch the front of your mask with dirty hands (which includes your steering wheel). Wash your mask after each use. Wash your hands after handling a used mask.

Me not overly enjoying mask making. The first few were interesting, and then it felt more like a chore to make, but I think it’s also because this sewing machine isn’t the most powerful so I had to go slow in some sections for fear that the needle would snap.
The t-shirt yarn arrives! More comfortable than elastic.
Pipe cleaner to create a better seal

Cloth masks are now becoming more available for purchase by big stores. They are still on the expensive side (in my opinion), but my guess is that prices will start coming down as they become more readily available. MEC will start selling them in June, and GAP currently retails them online.

My covid collection knitting has been humming along and I finally completed my Dissent sweater that I started to showcase in my April post. A lot of sweat went into this because I had to fudge some things and ended up cutting off the first sleeve to fix some stuff. Cutting your knitting is not an easy thing to do! You gotta take a deep breath and hope for the best.

There’s one more cut to be made – the pattern above the cuff. Once the cuts and re-knits are done, you graft the pieces back together.
Finished sweater!

I’m really happy with the outcome, and I’m glad I took the time to fix the right sleeve. The issue stemmed from my gauge being off in the colourwork, so to mitigate that without having to re-knit the entire yoke, I held more stitches for the sleeve the keep the body slim. You can still tell that there were too many stitches at the top of the sleeves, but the finished sweater looks a lot better than before I cut the first sleeve. There was way more bunching before. But with summer arriving, this sweater won’t see any wear until the fall. The blend of silk and mohair make this sweater extra warm.

I’m now knitting a summer t-shirt. No photos to share yet and now that the sewing machines are packed up again, I can get back to knitting. Happiness.

We’ve continued to mostly eat our own food, but we did recently order a vegan meal from Animal Liberation Kitchen because they had paired up with Abokichi for this special and I like Abokichi’s miso sauce. I also wanted to try their miso soup. But this special was mainly focused on ALK as they were having troubles making rent and part of the proceeds of each order was going toward rent.

One of the more interesting things we’ve experimented with is making tortillas. We had ordered a tortilla press at the start of the pandemic, and it took a month to arrive. We’ve experimented with corn/flour tortillas. My favourite is corn tortilla, but it’s not as pliable as flour tortillas, so we’ve been trying to find the perfect mix of both.

This is a 50/50 mix, but since this first try, we like the 75/25 masa to flour ratio best. Now we just have to figure out the optimal amount of water.
Frying up the tortilla. I think we need a comal. This is not the fastest way, one-at-a-time.
Carnitas!

Another delivery of Bellwoods beer has just been delivered today. I’m stoked to try the Apricot Jelly King. Grisette was recommended by my beer loving friend, so I added a few bottles to this recent order. Some reviewers have described this light beer as a breakfast beer at only 3.9% abv. Don’t worry, I haven’t taken up breakfast drinking yet.

Some new beer favs discovered in May:

Hubs doesn’t like Fuzz because of the vanilla. It does have a unique flavour, but I like it. Dream Pop is a really light, crisp sour.
This is an IPA with lactose and doesn’t have a strong bitter finish
Look at that colour! This sour has raspberry and black currant. It’s like juice.
Summery and refreshing sour with notes of pineapple and mango
https://www.grainandgritbeer.com/shop/wild-child-growler
This 1L Wild Child Wheat with Hibiscus beer is fantastic! I haven’t had a good wheat beer in a long time. Too bad this one doesn’t ship. Curbside or local delivery only.

Saving the most amusing for last – I let hubs cut my hair. He was hoping that he’d do a better job than Ashley, my usual stylist. I’ll let the photos tell the story.

You know this could turn out badly when the person cutting your hair needs to re-watch a how-to video on youtube just before starting.
There were definitely moments where I regretted letting him do this, especially when he starts laughing and comparing my head of hair to shaping a bonsai tree.
It didn’t turn out too bad! It was shorter than either of us expected. He’s also lucky that I don’t really care about my hair that much. Hair always grows back.
We both also agree that it’s not exactly an inverted bob, but it’s still fine. I also like how he described the cut as too long in the back, and too short in the front. At one point, I did finally have to tell him he just needed to stop cutting.

He wants a second chance. I have a feeling he’ll get it only because Ashley is having her baby in August and I doubt she’ll be able to re-open before then.

Live. Love. Laugh.

Stay well!

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