Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kids cooking

Last night Sophie made us Enchanted Broccoli Forest for supper. I am greatly enjoying the girls' enthusiasm for meal preparation. And, although I am not much of a pie person, I am really looking forward to the cherry pie she made for dessert tonight. She has ventured into the art of pastry-making with this. I'm no expert, so she was pretty much on her own. It certaintly looks lovely! And she is thrilled.

Fiona is making supper tonight. She'll be making us a mega-platter of nachos. Corn chips with shredded Tex-Mex cheese melted on top, and sides of refritos, pico de gallo, tomato-based salsa, sour cream with her home-grown chives, and cheddar-chipotle dip. It's a light family meal we have fairly regularly and all enjoy. Well, except for Erin. All the more reason to make it now, while she's away living off coffee, cereal bars and occasional hospitality spreads on tour with the NYO.

We loved the Cheddar-Chipotle dip we got in Calgary once and made our own version. It's become a favourite at our house. Here's our version of the recipe. We use chipotles tinned in adobo sauce and the leftovers keep well in the fridge. Super easy and super delicious.

Chipotle Cheddar Dip

1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1 whole chipotle pepper, finely chopped (more to taste)
1-2 tsp. of the adobo sauce the tinned chipotles come packed in
2 Tbsp. onion flakes
3/4 cup packed shredded-and-chopped aged cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and allow flavours to meld for at least an hour before serving. Great as a nacho sauce, vegetable dip or cracker spread. Also great as a sandwich spread.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Needle bouquet

This makes me happy. 

Knitting needles

We decided that the "quiet activity room" of arts & crafts at next week's Suzuki Valhalla Institute would be enriched by some knitting needles and yarn and an invitation to contribute to the Knit-a-Squillion challenge. So we set about making a bunch of knitting needles for kids and parents to make use of, according to the directions in Melanie Falick's wonderful "Kids Knitting" book.

At the hardware store we purchased a couple of dozen 48" lengths of 3/16" hardwood doweling. We cut them into 9.5" lengths and used a pencil sharpener to make points on one end. Then we sanded them to smooth the shafts and shape and smooth the points to perfection.

Next we set about making knobs for the end out of polymer clay. Some of our polymer clay was left over from 1990, so it had a tendency to adopt the consistency of toast crumbs and needed a lot of kneading! Patience eventually resulted in a couple of dozen pairs of funky and quite fetching knobs which we then poked onto dowels and baked to cure.

After the knobs were hard, we removed the dowels from them and did the final finishing of the needles. We used aniline dyes on a few pairs of but left most of them natural. We oiled the shafts with walnut oil, and repeated this a couple of times. The oil will cure over the next few days. We filled the hole in each knob half full of PVA craft glue, inserted the end of a needle and left them to dry.

They look really enticing. They're not as teflon-smooth as $10 pairs of high-end bamboo needles, and the knobs are a little heavier than I'd prefer, but they'll certainly do the trick for basic projects.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Knit a squillion

We found out about the Knit-a-squillion challenge yesterday and Sophie, Fiona and I are nearing completion of our first three squares. The challenge is to contribute knitted or crocheted 8" (-ish) squares to as aid for AIDS orphans in South Africa. Between July 11 2011 and the same time next year KasCare hopes to procure 1.2 million squares, enough for tens of thousands of blankets.

The beauty of this project is in the small piece size, very do-able for small children or people just learning to knit or crochet. More experienced yarn-crafters can experiment with new techniques or stitch patterns or take a break from bigger more complex projecst with some quick simple rows. Rabid knitters can use up leftover balls of yarn in a guilt-appeasing way that clears room in their stash for more yarn purchases.

A tale of two provinces

Where would you rather be tomorrow? With us in BC, freezing our butts in the rain at the Friday Market, or with Erin in Ontario, dripping with sweat while trying to rehearse with the symphony?

It's been like this for almost a week, and tomorrow isn't even the worst of it. It's been 10 - 12 ºC a couple of times this week when I've got up, and temperatures where Erin is have got as high at 38 ºC. Today with the humidex it was equivalent to 45.

By the way, if you're in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or New Hampshire and you're interested in hearing a great symphony performance, you might be able to catch Erin as the National Youth Orchestra tours these areas over the next three weeks.

Monday, July 11, 2011

They're growing up!

The chickens, that is.

They're a little over two months old now, our dozen Ameraucanas. We got them as fluffy little day-olds and have successfully grown them through their lanky pre-adolescent phase. They're now feathering out resplendently and there's such variety! They all have the jowly ear-tufts and blue-grey legs and feet characteristic of their breed, but we have everything from white-with-grey to deep brick-red-and-black to golden yellow, black and brown.

We seem to have a pretty even mix of pullets and cockerels. We will need to choose just one cockerel to raise to rooster-dom. There's one that looks a lot like Skunk, or favourite-ever chicken. He's even got the green-black iridescence starting to show on his tail feathers. At this point there are a couple of front-runners (based on personality and colouration) but I'm not ready to choose yet.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Market math

Fiona watches Sophie adeptly add the cost of three items in her head, receive a $20 bill, work out the required change and count out a $5 bill, two toonies and three quarters to make change quickly and accurately.

"Sophie's not very good at making change," she whispers to me quietly.

"What do you mean?" I ask, stupidly assuming that Fiona was unable to follow the complexity of what Sophie has just done and thinks she made a mistake.

"She should have just asked that lady if she had an extra quarter and given her a ten back. Much simpler."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Trail running

It's been a lovely Nothing Day, one of those precious days with nothing scheduled. Some science bookwork got done, a lot of Harry Potter got read, bureau drawers got sanded, primed and painted, the pond got emptied and cleaned, a few loaves of bread got baked, some music got made, compost got spread on the garden ... and Fiona and I made this video.

The intro and outro backgrounds are shots of the bureau drawer fronts drying on the deck with sunlight filtered through the overhanging cedars. My favourite part of the video!

Sunday, July 03, 2011


Ever kid should have a nest of baby birds to watch every year.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Long run

Two years ago I discovered that the distance between my driveway and the next village to the east was a few hundred metres over official marathon distance. This weekend it finally worked out for me to run it: I had built enough of a running "base," logged enough long challenging runs, was feeling pretty good, had a day off, and Chuck was available to come and get me at the end. Unfortunately in order to time the pick-up properly I had to leave later than I'd hoped and ran through a pretty hot part of the day. I think it was around 23ºC in full sun, though with a nice breeze. Far hotter than I prefer to run, definitely slowing me down, but not completely horrid.

I didn't see any bears or large wildlife. The highway is relatively busy on this July 1st long weekend with  maybe an average of a vehicle every minute. Mostly Albertan motorcyclists, and lots of motorhomes and American tourists. I did get attacked by a grouse. I must have startled it, running close to its nest in the roadside ditch. It flapped towards me in full display, hissing and vibrating and making for my ankles. I laughed out loud and it gave up after about 3 metres.

I ran the first quarter barefoot. Not wanting to blister my feet I put my shoes on at that point. As it turned it this might have been the wrong choice: I ended up getting a shoe blister from my toes rubbing against each other despite the large-ish toebox in the Minimuses. But I didn't really notice it much until I was done. My Achilles tendons and ankles were feeling things by the last 10 miles, and I'll probably pay the price for a couple of days, but all things considered I felt pretty good. Didn't hit the legendary wall, and my pace (light green line, punctuated by spikes for putting on shoes, refilling my water or peeing) stayed reasonably consistent throughout, taking into account the elevation profile:

My aim was to enjoy myself, so I didn't push hard. I finished in 4:40. Chuck and Fiona arrived about ten minutes later and took me out for a milkshake. It feels nice to know that I can log the miles equivalent to a marathon. Maybe I'll actually run an official one someday. 

Friday, July 01, 2011

More bedroom

You can look at this photo for purposes of comparison. With the lower bunk gone, there is actually a 140 cm width of floor space in Fiona's bedroom now.

Sophie is happily, very happily, ensconced in her purple room in the basement. The old European-length single bedframe wouldn't fit, so we've had to order a new frame. For now she's on a mattress on the floor. So we'll save photos for when her curtains and bedframe arrive.

Fiona finished cleaning her room today. She was able to install the desk surface under the loft bed. Once upon a time Erin had this room to herself and used the desk. That would have been 11 years ago, when Sophie was still a baby. Once Sophie moved out of her parents' room, the desk nook became a second bed and thus is stayed, although there was a game of musical girls as a new one joined the family and a teenager moved out to the cabin.

Sophie and Fiona have done very well as roommates over the years. But Sophie, ever the middle child (being not only middle in age, but the middle girl), and now almost 13, really needs her own space in a home that is pretty small, and pretty full of family members, pretty much all the time.

I think Erin will be happy with the cabin when she comes home for a couple of weeks in August. It's primarily my teaching space now, but it's clean, tidy, well organized and has a cozy feel. The pull-out couch will allow it to function as a guest room. And I left her Christmas light décor up to keep her happy. We just need to winterize it properly so that I can continue to use it from October to April. Fortunately the parent of one of my students has tons of experience with alternative homebuilding and workarounds for situations like this, and he's suggested a few good outside-the-box ideas.