Thursday, July 29, 2010

A bit of knitting!

The wife of one of our coworkers was expecting a baby a few weeks ago so I decided to knit them something.
I don't have a lot of strictly baby yarn - especially in boy colours. I know a lot of people are fans of bright colours for their babies but I didn't want to go too "out there" in case they were fans of more traditional colours.
I had a bunch of Patons Beehive Baby in white/yellow/green, green and blue. I wasn't sure how much a sweater would take so I decided to use my white/yellow/green because I had quite a few skeins of it.

I made a cute little cabled sweater first but it turned out VERY small. I was worried it wouldn't fit so I quickly knit up a baby surprise jacket. After fussing with the first jacket I didn't really want to make a hat or booties and have them be doll sized so I just skipped them.

I think it turned out well. It's still quite small but apparently this baby is a bit on the small side (two weeks early and the parents are quite small).
I forgot how much I like this pattern! Once you get over the initial confusion, it's pretty straight forward. It only took me a little while to remember all the quirks.

I'm in the process of knitting a bear so we'll see how that turns out!

Temperature: +12C
Sunrise: 7:23am
Sunset: 5:30pm

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Feed Me!

I bought a Venus Fly Trap on my birthday this year (Glen's sister gave me a gift card to the hardware store so I bought plant pots and dirt to replant my other plants and then I bought a little Venus Fly Trap.) I've wanted one for YEARS and every time we went to the hardware store I'd ask Glen if we could get one.

I've been babying this thing because I really want it to survive (I have bad luck with plants - mostly because the cats used to dig them up!). It seems that the dirt for the plants we bought came with free flies (?!) because there seems to be an abundance of little tiny flies that have appeared whenever I've re-potted something. So I've been chasing them around with my VFT. Quite a few times the fly has landed in a trap but hasn't been caught, until today! I didn't actually catch the trapping only the aftermath of it.
Basically, for people who don't know, the traps sit open (or mostly open) until some sort of bug crawls in and triggers the guard hairs. The hairs need to be triggered a certain amount of times before the trap shuts (the speed of this is apparently partially determined by the temperature). Once the trap shuts, the digestive liquids start to flow in and the trap seals.

A trap in the first stages of catching/sealing look a lot like a trap that has accidentally been triggered. What I noticed on the trap that caught the fly is that one side looked kind of puffy near the bottom and then the top looked kind of squeezed together.
Once the trap is sealed the spiky bits start to bend backwards instead of being interlaced. To visualise this better, clasp both hands together with your fingers interlaced but have your fingers sticking up. Now, still keeping your hands together separate your fingers and make a V with them (the V is if you're looking at your hands from the sides) keep the base of your fingers/the top of your hand touching. That's eventually what the trap will look like.

You can see the start of it here. The back part of the trap is still interlaced a bit while the closest part has started separating a bit. That's when I knew for sure that my trap had caught a fly and it hadn't just been triggered by me moving the plant.

This is all very exciting and I'll be paying close attention to what happens over the next few days.

(I think the two traps at the bottom right of the last picture look like deformed/shock traps. I should probably just take them off the plant since they probably won't be able to catch anything... I'll give them a little while longer and see if they start looking better).

Also something funny, about a week and a half after I bought my VFT I had a dream that it turned into Audrey II. Complete with singing. haha

Temperature: +9C
Sunrise: 7:30am
Sunset: 5:23pm

Friday, July 16, 2010

Little Difference #5

The Damp

This is a specific difference between the Arctic (or even Alberta where I grew up) and here. There are a lot of other damp places in Canada so I'm sure what's going on here happens in places like BC or even Ontario.

Because of not having central heating and only single pane windows, the house gets quite damp in the winter. You wake up in the mornings with most windows fogged over and if you're not careful mould/mildew will start to grow on outside walls and around the windows (the mystery over why the carpet along the walls in the spare room are bleached has been solved).

I've spent the morning scrubbing the bathroom, the windowsills and I've taken the pull-down shades off the windows, sprayed them and have hung them outside.

Living in the Arctic, you would have to purposefully try to grow any sort of mould. You were more likely to find dust (oh the dust!) and cobwebs around your windowsills if you neglected your cleaning. Here, you only have to go a week or two without wiping the windows down and you'll have a lovely science experiment right in your house.

I think I'd gladly take all the other frustrations of expat life over worrying about if there's mould lurking behind the curtains when I open them.

(Sorry, no pictures in this post. I don't think anyone wants to see any pictures of me cleaning!)

Temperature: +12C
Sunrise: 7:32am
Sunset: 5:20pm

Friday, July 9, 2010


Glen's grandpa passed away back in December and because of how things work over here, his parents are just now able to get into the house to properly go through things (I know that sounds weird - basically Glen's family had a certain amount of time after Grandpa passed way to get out anything the family wanted to keep and after that, everything in the house got valued. If there was anything else you wanted you have to pay for it unless it had been deemed to have no value. It's been a really complicated, drawn-out process compounded by the fact that all my stuff was still taking up room at Glen's parent's when they were trying to get stuff out before the valuation started).

So, Glen's parents have been going through things lately and found two old ice cream pails full of shells and they asked if I wanted them and I -of course- said yes. I had no idea what sort of shells would be in these pails or even what sizes there would be but since I love shells, I couldn't resist.

I already have a few small jars of shells on the bookcase and was trying to think what I should do with these. I thought about picking out some of the interesting ones and just putting them on the shelf but then thought they might get broken easily. I also thought of some sort of craft but then I thought the shells might just sit around forever before that happened. I really wanted to do something with them right away so they wouldn't just gather dust. I decided to look for a vase/jar or two and figure out how to display them that way. When we were out yesterday we found two really great vases (I think they're meant for candles actually) at a bargain type store - so they were cheap. I bought some glass pebbles and some marbles then set to work trying to divide the shells evenly and have them displayed nicely (sure you want it to look random but you don't want it to look like the shells were just dumped in).

It took me a few tries to get the arrangement right and after filling both of them once, I dumped them out and tried it again since there was quite a bit of a gap at the top (there's cardboard in the middle!). There is still a bit of a gap but I'm happy with it for now. We also bought a circular metal candle holder thing (the kind that has the spike on it for you to put a larger candle on) and put that at the top and five tealights fit on it. I might adjust the cardboard tubes in the middle and have it so the shells go right to the top without the candles, we'll see.

I really love these and it will be something nice to keep around and to be able to say that all the shells in the two jars are Glen's grandpa's. I really wanted to make sure we only used his shells especially since there are some unusual ones in there (basically ones I've only ever seen in mixes you buy at craft stores). I really love these vases (they have such a great shape!) and I'm thinking we should go back and buy more of them for all sorts of things!

Temperature: +9C
Sunrise: 7:35am
Sunset: 5:16pm

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Little Taste of Home

There's something great about figuring out how to make a favourite food when the way you usually make it isn't available. Now I can't claim that I worked it out all by myself, I got some help from a friend back home who's parents have moved back to Australia after spending 20ish years in Canada.

Pumpkin pie, mmm! It's not homemade pumpkin pie unless it has stab marks in the middle!

Now, normally most people would buy a can of pumpkin pie mix, frozen pie shells and call it a day (despite the suggestions on the can of pumpkin I ALWAYS added spices, eggs and condensed milk). First of all, canned pumpkin doesn't even exist here. Pumpkin (or what we would call squash in Canada) here is mainly a dinner food that is either roasted, steamed or made into soup. It's generally not made into dessert. Secondly, big orange sugar pumpkins (the kind we make into jack-o-lanterns) don't exist here either. There's all sorts of different varieties beyond butternut, spaghetti and acorn (which I haven't seen here). There's Queensland Blue, Jarrahdale and Kent just to name three (I think those are the three major ones). To top all of that off, frozen pie shells don't exist either (and neither does tenderflake). Frozen pastry comes in sheets. I had to use two sheets for each pie and then fiddle with them and cut them so they fit. Another thing to make this even more interesting, it seems traditional pie pans are hard to find and people have tart pans instead (sloping sides vs straight sides).

So, I had been brainstorming pumpkin pie methods for a few days and finally posted on Facebook that I had been craving pumpkin pie and wasn't sure how to go about making it from scratch. Turns out it was a good idea for me to do that since my friend chimed in with a wealth of information from her mum. Made my search for ingredients a billion times easier and saved me a bit of heartache because I was planning on using butternut squash when a Queensland Blue or Jarrahdale pumpkin is better suited.

So, I sourced all my ingredients and set to work. I baked my giant chunks of pumpkin in the oven on a cookie sheet. I put a loaf pan of water in between the two chunks and covered the whole thing in foil and just baked the pumpkin till it was soft.
Queensland blue pumpkin is a great, dense pumpkin and isn't stringy or watery. Definitely perfect for pies. So after I scooped it all out of the shell, I let it cool and then blended it up with the rest of the ingredients. Simple as that, there was nothing complicated or scary with doing it that way - sure it took longer than just cracking open a can but you don't miss canned pumpkin at all (I mean, if anything the pie tastes better).

The pastry was a little fiddly and if I had more counter space and a rolling pin I would have made my own pastry. I'm not too thrilled with the frozen sheets and they turn out a little hard when they're baked (also, they're not as sweet as ones from home which is typical for a lot of things - Australian's don't like things as sweet as we do).

After letting the pie sit in the fridge overnight (pumpkin pie is 200% improved by sitting overnight in the fridge), I had the first piece this morning and it was the perfect breakfast mmm! I'm pretty well known for eating "weird" things for breakfast (ie: non breakfast foods) but really, there's nothing better (especially after thanksgiving) than a piece of leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast mmmm!

I'm so happy I was able to recreate this little piece of home. I'm taking one of the pies to our regular Sunday family dinner tonight. We'll see what everyone else thinks!

Temperature: +10C
Sunrise: 7:36am
Sunset: 5:13pm

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Faces in my food

There's a brand of cereal that we buy all the time and I don't know if we got a funny box or something but there seems to be an over-abundance of deformed pieces. This isn't like Alpha-Bits where you get a few pointless or deformed letters or even like Lucky Charms where your clover may be missing a leaf. The deformed pieces of this cereal more often or not are little faces.

See?! haha How weird is that? (you can see a normal piece near the bottom of the bowl). Look at all the different expressions! I'm really tempted to take out all the little pieces and do a stop animation project or something.

Would you find it hard to eat a bowl of cereal with little faces in it?

Temperature: +7C
Sunrise: 7:36am
Sunset: 5:11pm