Thursday, December 28, 2006

What a smart parrot!!!!

You gotta read this BBC story about a parrot named N'kisi that has a vocabulary of 950 words!! He can even invent new phrases when confronted with novel ideas, just like people! He has a sense of humor, to boot! Seems they're a lot smarter than we've been giving them credit for!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Holiday Menu Time!

Dave and I celebrate with our big feast and present exchange on Christmas Eve (leaving me free to have dinner with my parents on Christmas Day), so tomorrow is the big food work day for me. I'm very excited!

It's always important to plan ahead regarding the big dinner, whenever you serve it. You want things to go smoothly, of course, and so it is really useful to write out your whole menu (including things like dinner rolls and salad, etc.). Then write down the approximate cooking times for all of these dishes, so that on the big day, you can note what time you have to start each dish in order for everything to be done at dinnertime. Some people seem to have an innate ability to time everything perfectly, but I am not one of them. It's helped me a lot to write out the times, and best of all, if you make a complete list of all the dishes, you won't end up forgetting to serve anything! (We've forgotten dinner rolls, salad, cranberries & more over the years, that we've only found in the refrigerator AFTER dinner's over!)

This year, we're having:

• Sage, Rosemary & Thyme Turkey
• Mushrooms in beef gravy
• Green Bean and Chestnut casserole
• Mashed potatoes
• Turkey gravy

More on each dish below:

- - - - - - -

We got a nice looking turkey this year, and I'll be using home-grown sage in the seasoning this year. As to my choice of spices, just keep in mind Scarborough Fair: "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme". I usually omit the parsley, but the rest of the spices are just perfect for turkey or chicken (and full of medieval symbolic meaning). :) Need help with your turkey? Call the great people at Butterball Turkey if you have a turkey problem or question (phone help available to US and Canadian customers) - there's also lots of great info on the website, including video showing how to dress a turkey, etc. Very useful, I've used their info for many years, and it helped me get through my very first turkey several years ago. :)

- - - - - - -

The last couple of years I've added Ukrainian-style mushrooms in gravy to my Christmas dinner menu - they're really tasty, with a wine infused beef gravy (get the recipe here). I found several variations of this classic recipe on the web, but I put together the parts I liked best from each variation to come up with my own unique version.

- - - - - - -

I first made this recipe in '98, and have made it almost every year since then - Sugared Onions. If you like onions, you will LOVE this recipe. A great one from the Company's Coming recipe book series by Jean Pare (an iconic series of books that are hugely popular here in Canada - I think every household in the country has at least one in the series - I myself have several! They're full of easy to make recipes, delicious but using easy to find ingredients.)

Start by placing 4 large onions (prepared as described below) in large frying pan.

Peel your onions.

Cut the top off the onion (the part that the green tops grow from, the opposite end from the "hairy" rooty one)

VERY CAREFULLY, trim off the "hairy" root bits, still leaving the end intact. This will be the part that holds the onions together.

Cut the onion in half carefully, and then in half again. The root part of the onion will help hold the onion together when it's boiling. If they separate a bit though, it's okay, it's not the end of the world. :)

Add salted water, enough to cover bottom of the pan, about 1/4 inch deep. Cover. Simmer 20 minutes. Monitor the amount of water, if it gets low, add more.

Next, combine the following ingredients together in a bowl:

• 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
• 1/4 cup vinegar
• 2 tbsp cooking oil
• 1/2 tsp prepared mustard
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/8 tsp pepper

Pour over onions in the pan. Continue to cook covered. Baste often. Cook until liquid is almost gone. Transfer to serving platter. Spoon any remaining sauce over top. Serves 8.

If your onions are really strong, soak in lots of cold water for about 1/2 hour to an hour before cooking.

- - - - - - -

I'll also be having Stove Top dressing/stuffing. It's really tasty, and most important on a busy day, really quick and easy to prepare.

- - - - - - -

Mashed Potatoes, always a classic.

- - - - - - -

A wonderful side dish that was a hit last year, I'll be making again this year, is the Green Bean Chestnut Bake, again from Company's Coming.

10 oz. can of condensed cream of mushroom soup
5 oz water chestnuts, sliced
4 x 1 oz processed cheese slices, broken up (or 1 cup (250 ml) grated Cheddar cheese)
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce, or to taste

French cut green beans, drained (2 x 14 oz)

3 oz Canned French fried onion rings for topping (I used dry chow mein noodles, it's the sort of casserole topper I grew up with and prefer - but if you like the onions, by all means use them!)

Heat first 4 ingredients in saucepan.

Stir in beans. Scoop out into 2 L (2 qt) casserole dish. Bake uncovered in 350 deg F oven until hot, about 20 - 30 minutes.

Cover with onion rings, or chow mein noodles, bake additional 5 minutes. Serves 6 - 8.
- - - - - - -

I'm so excited about tomorrow!

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Earrings

Thought I'd share my small but ever growing collection of Christmas-themed earrings. I wear them all season long, I just love them! :) My most favorite are the sparkling Santa ho-ho-ho earrings, I wear them the most!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Look at the Gift Shop

I've updated the look of Ann's Ukrainian Gifts - check it out! There's some intermittent connection difficulties on CafePress's side right now, but they should be cleared up soon!

Baby Boy and the Christmas Trees

As I mentioned earlier, we get our Christmas tree for free - this year, they brought us two trees to choose from, so we took them both - one's upstairs, and one's downstairs. The main tree is the upstairs one, but I love having a tree downstairs too, where my computer is - keeps up my holiday spirit! :D

Baby Boy has decided to treat the trees equally, as you can see below. He will not rest until any and all ornaments within his reach are batted at with this paws, and, he hopes, knocked down. Of course, I put the breakable ones away from places he can get to. :)

What a goofball...

Christmas Present Regifting...

Saw an interesting article on the CBC this morning, regarding regifting (giving a present that doesn't really suit you to someone you know who would love it). Apparently, a LOT of people do it! Will you do it this year? If you're considering it - and face it, you may not think you will now, but come December 26th, you might have changed your mind - there are some good general rules to keep in mind. is a great little site where people share their horror stories regarding regifting (things to avoid doing!) and features a good checklist of dos and don'ts. So check it out, and avoid potentially embarrassing mistakes. Remember, it's about giving someone a present you KNOW they would love! That's the true spirit of giving! :)

If you want to read the original CBC article, it's here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Santa Claus Around the World photo gallery

A fun Christmas photo spread put together by CBC, showing images of Santa Claus from around the world. Very cool, check it out!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas at Aunt Dot's, and Cherry Walnut Cookies

This was one of the longest unbroken holiday traditions in my family: up until her death about 5 years ago, we would go to visit my aunt (actually my great-aunt) Dottie (short for Dorothy - her middle name was Clarissa, isn't that a pretty name?) in her old farmhouse on the outskirts of Sackville, Nova Scotia every Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). Aunt Dottie always greeted us with big smile, a "hello dear!", a hug and a kiss. She was very short, even shorter than me, so that by the time I reached full adult height, I was always stooping over her to hug her. She was the sweetest old lady, truly out of a storybook.

I loved her farmhouse too--it was over 100 years old, and had tons of character. It used to actually be a farm, but that was long before I was born, when Aunt Dottie was a young wife and mother.

The farmhouse was always chilly, so she had a space heater in the living room, but what you'd be struck by first when you entered the house from the cold closed-in porch, through to the kitchen (as most old houses in Nova Scotia do - the kitchen was the heart of the home, for meeting, greeting, and often entertaining) was the wonderful heat coming from the old wood stove that was used to both help heat the house, and to keep the perpetual tea kettle warm (another Nova Scotia tradition: you always have a tea kettle on in case company comes over). :)

There would always be a lot of snow outside, covering the nearby fields--really picturesque. This visit was our family's time to catch up on a branch of the family that we (not on purpose) just didn't get to see very much. She would tell us all the news of relatives we hadn't seen in years, and she would get news about us to transmit to the rest of the family. When I was small, I would bring coloring books and stuff to keep me occupied, but as I got older, I found the family talk more interesting, and paid more attention to it. :) Aunt Dottie's daughter and her husband, who lived next door, would come over after a few hours, and we'd get to talk to them, too. :)

To go with the aforementioned tea, she always had a huge array of snacks and sweets to serve company. Cheese and crackers, chips with dip (which was a rare treat for me), and cookies (more on that below), and chocolates! Tons and tons! When she was younger (in her 70s!) she'd make an elaborate beef roast dinner for us as well, and serve it on this gorgeous set of Apple Blossom china dishes she had. But when she was in her 80s, we felt bad about her going through all that effort, so we wouldn't announce we were coming until the morning of our trip, so she couldn't have time to prepare. :) The sweet old bird lived to her early 90s.

For a Christmas present, she always gave me a box of After Eights, because I enjoyed them best from the collection of chocolates she'd offer guests. As a kid, to get a whole box of chocolates, just for me, was incredible!

We'd stay the whole day, and leave once it got dark. As we drove back to the city, we could see all the pretty Christmas lights on the houses, and the beautiful lights of the city in the distance. A very quiet, peaceful way to spend a day. :)

As I mentioned above, Christmas cookies were a big part of the spread that Aunt Dottie laid out for us. It's always fun to go to other people's houses, and see what different kinds of cookies they have, compared to your own home. Even a standard like shortbreads can be made several different ways, and they all taste a little bit different. :) My favorite cookie that Aunt Dottie used to make was a shortbread type cookie, with cherries and nuts in it. I had forgotten about them, until I saw a recipe that was almost identical to them in the December 2005 issue of Canadian Living Magazine (recipe by Chef Anna Olsen). I was so happy to find it! I baked them last year, and really enjoyed them - I think I'll make them every year to honour Aunt Dottie's memory.

Cherry Walnut Cookies Recipe

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups candied red cherries, cut in half or thirds
1 cup walnuts, chopped

In bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. (Or use a food processor - spin the butter around, then add sugar and mix at medium setting until fluffy. You may have to scrape down the sides a couple of times. Then add egg and vanilla, mix again, and scrape down sides. Scoop out contents into bowl, and continue). Add flour and salt; stir until blended. Stir in cherries and walnuts. Divide into thirds; shape each into 10" (25 cm) long log. Wrap and chill until firm, at least 3 hours. You can use a glass on it's side to hold the cookies in, this will help keep their rounded shape, instead of getting squashed flat on one side.

Cut logs into 1/8th" or 3 mm thick rounds (I cut them about 1/4"), and place about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake in top and bottom thirds of 325 deg F oven, rotating and switching pans halfway through, just until edges begin to colour, 8-10 minutes. Or you can do one sheet at a time, on a rack in the top third of the oven. These cookies brown even faster than shortbreads, so keep a close eye on them! I start checking early, and they're usually done around the 8 minute mark. You can see a proper amount of browning in my photo above, on the overturned cookie.

Let cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool completely (you have to let them completely cool before storing them, otherwise they'll get soggy). Store layered with waxed paper in airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to one month. Makes about 12 dozen cookies (less, of course, if you cut them a little thicker). :)

These are really delicious cookies, well worth the time it takes to make them!

Love you, Aunt Dottie!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bringing in the Christmas tree

Dave's mom & her man-friend cut down the tree for the local church every year, and cut one down for our home at the same time. Since these are straight from a forest, and not from a tree farm (Note: tree farms have space between the trees, so that the trees are equally bushy on all sides, unlike a forest, where trees tend to grow in groups or clumps, and you'll end up with a tree that has bushy growth on one side, but thin growth on the side that was pressed up against the other trees in the group), we usually end up with a kinda Charlie Brown sort of tree. But you can't beat the price! And it's still green, and smells wonderfully like the forest.

I read somewhere that it's a good idea to put your tree out a couple of days before you decorate it, so that your pets can get used to it being there, and hopefully by the time you decorate it, they will be ignoring it. Now, I haven't found that to be exactly true, but putting it out early does prevent scenes like the one below:

Not in the house for 5 minutes, and already we have Baby Boy batting at the tree (you can also see from this shot that the tree is kinda lopsided, and has a curve in the trunk. The ornaments will take care of that - once decorated, it won't really be noticable.) :D

A week till Christmas eve - woo hoo!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Cookies, Round 2

Today was round two of seasonal cooking baking - I tried a new recipe for sugar cookies this time - they taste "okay", but not great. Sugar cookies are more appropriate for cutting out shapes, because they hold together better than shortbreads (but I think shortbreads taste better). Of course, we could use a batch of cookies that aren't super tasty - the shortbreads only lasted 3 days!

Cutting out the cookies - remember, add some flour to your rolling pin and rolling surface, but not too much, or else you'll end up with a tougher dough.

This is a decent level of browning for a sugar cookie, they get much browner than shortbreads do.

I bought a very inexpensive cake decorating tip set, that comes with several metal tips, and the little plastic contraption that you put in a pastry bag that allows you to screw the tips on. I highly recommend picking one of these up, they make decorating SO much easier! And they last for years and years, so it's a good investment (I think mine cost about $12 CDN). You can skip buying expensive pastry bags, and use Ziplock style (tougher plastic) throw-away bags - cut a small corner off the bag, insert the contraption as you would in a normal pastry bag, and you have an inexpensive alternative that you can throw away after you're done. :)

This year I made some Nova-Scotian and Canadian themed Christmas cookies, just for fun. Check out these lobster (we're famous for our lobster around these parts) and maple leaves. Very fun! :)

Here's some fun designs I did of trees, with lots of different colors of Royal Icing. You can really let your creativity go wild with decorating, be sure to have fun with it! :D

Only a couple of weeks 'till Christmas! I can't wait!!!!!

[EDIT: See closeups of some of the tree cookie decorations here.]

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas tree safety

A good article for this time of year from the CBC - it has a Canadian slant, of course (CSA approved products aren't available outside of Canada, for example) but they're generally good safety tips for everyone putting up a Christmas tree and lights this year!

Read it here.

Have a safe Christmas! :D

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Is there anything cuter than a little chickadee out in the snow? I don't know that there is... :D

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Photo Journal: After the Storm

Here's the results of our big storm last night - they say as far as the traffic was concerned, it was the worst case of gridlock Halifax has ever seen, lasting almost the whole evening...unbelievable! Sounds like a lot of people didn't have their snow tires on yet... We were all lucky here we didn't get caught in it, and could just sit back and enjoy it!

Apparently it rained a little overnight, but there was still plenty of gorgeous scenery out there!

Casey came out with me, and had fun tromping through the snow carrying her stick.

Dave created these from the giant ice and rock blocks that the street plough dug up and left in our driveway...I'm not sure if he was going for an innukshuk or a snowman sort of look here, but they're still cool, nonetheless. :D

And then it was off to the forest...gorgeous blue skies, and new fallen snow...enjoy the pics! :D

Monday, December 04, 2006

More snow!

We weren't even expecting snow today, just lots of rain, so this really caught a lot of people off guard - I feel bad for all those stuck in traffic, but from my view, I'm thrilled! We usually get our first storm in November, so it's really long overdue, and it just totally looks like Christmas now! :D Of course, it's supposed to be gone by the end of the week, but I'll really enjoy it while it's here! Casey, Lila & I just came in from brushing the snow off Dave's mom's car, and playing throw-the-snowball--we all had a great time out in the snow! :D This pic is from the backyard--you can see the thick, heavy wet snow on our backyard birdfeeder and patio!

But Casey still needs to play

No matter how bad the weather is, she has to get her play in! Here, devoted dad Dave plays "toss the frisbee/stick"...and she's loving it!

Finally, real snow!!

It's been cloudy and/or raining for weeks now, and finally we have some real December weather--snow! It was raining all morning, so I'm not sure how long this will last, but it really puts you in mind of Christmas! :D Yay!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Christmas Daddies, and Cookie Recipe

If the Parade of Lights doesn't get us in the Christmas Spirit every year, then Christmas Daddies is guaranteed to! It's a charity telethon drive, started up by two men back in the '60s, moved by a small child begging for money in a bar to buy milk & bread for his family.

It is truly a Maritime institution, with extremely generous donations, even through tough economic times here, to make Christmas bright for a child. The money that's donated goes back to the community it was donated from, and buys presents for children whose families just can't afford gifts. The telethon is full of local talent, ranging from professional bands to little kids that like to sing. There's auctions of items like a plunger on a pedestal, that has people bidding high for the honour of having it for a year. :D (Really!) And auctions of lots of other things, like wonderful woodworking pieces, quilts, etc., that you get to keep for good. Signed hockey player jerseys, Celine Dion materials (she always generously donates autographed cds, posters, and such, every year), and more.

Bar owners, and other business owners also have events throughout the year that fund raise for the event, and then come on TV to hand over their cheques. As I say, really a Maritime Institution - Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it! (Even Maritimers who have moved to other provinces, etc. can now watch it via satellite, and they phone in donations!)

I always bake my first batch of Christmas cookies while watching the telethon (this year, it's Sunday, December 3rd), it really puts me in the Christmas spirit! :D

And my first cookies are always (drum roll please!)....


I use the recipe on the back of the Canada Brand Corn Starch (the one with the rooster on the box) box.

Called "Grandma's Shortbread", it's the recipe my family's been using for decades. REALLY easy, and really delicious! Makes about 24 cookies.

1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter, softened

Sift together corn starch, icing sugar and flour. With wooden spoon, blend in softened butter until soft, smooth dough forms.

Alternately, sift the dry ingredients into a food processor. Cut up the softened butter into cubes, pop into the processor, and pulse, occasionally scraping down the sides, until it looks well blended - like a small, lumpy grain. When you take it out and put it on a hard surface, squeeze it together and you'll see its just the same as described above, a "smooth dough". The processor makes it way easier!

If dough is too soft to handle, cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Shape the dough into 1" (2.5 cm) balls, place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 1/2" (4 cm) apart, and flatten with lightly floured fork. Or, roll dough to 1/4" (6mm), and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Decorate with candied cherries (my favorite), colored sprinkles or nuts if desired.

Bake in 300 deg. F oven 15-20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. I find I get the best results if I bake them on parchment paper - you don't want your shortbreads very browned at all, they should be just "kissed" with brown underneath. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Once they're cooled, you can decorate with frosting, if you didn't decorate with sprinkles, cherries, etc.

So yummy! Enjoy your Christmas baking, I know I will! :D

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cat, in the hall - an artistic moment

Baby Boy, drawn to the one bright spot of sunlight in an otherwise darkened hall - he graciously posed for me here (you can just make out Casey in the background, top left).

And then he started to do his adorable twisting - to - the - side - and - falling - over - 'cause - I - love - you pose. What a sweetie. :D

Monday, November 27, 2006

Christmas - Awesome Party Squares Recipe!

I was going to wait until the 1st of December to post this, but I just couldn't wait to get started on my Christmas Postings. :)

When I was little, I had these layered squares at a family Christmas party, and was TOTALLY blown away by them! The next year, I asked my Aunt Elaine what they were called - and while I had the name for almost 2 decades, I didn't get the recipe until recently!

I finally tracked them down in Company's Coming: 150 Delicious Squares by Jean Pare (her Company's Coming books are a super-popular series of cookbooks here in Canada, I think everyone has at least one book in the series in their cupboards! I have several - there's tons of simple recipes that taste great without a lot of fuss). :) Check them out here: Company's Coming. These are sure to be a hit at your next holiday party!

Tweed Squares (recipe makes 36 squares)

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 egg whites
2 squares of semisweet chocolate, grated

• Cream butter and sugar until blended.
• Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to creamed mixture.
• Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into batter. Fold in grated chocolate. Pour into greased 9x9" pan. Bake in 350 deg F oven for about 35 minutes. Cool.

1 1/2 cup icing (Confectioner's) sugar
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
5 tsp water

2 semisweet chocolate squares
1 tbsp butter or margarine
paraffin wax, size of a marble (optional, it's to make the chocolate shiny)

• Beat first 4 ingredients together in bowl, adjusting water as neeeded. Spread frosting over cooled squares.
• Melt next chocolate squares, butter/margarine, and wax (if using), in saucepan over low heat. Spread over the white icing. Allow to set before cutting.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dogs and Christmas

Casey is such a goofball! when we were out for a walk today, we saw that the neighbours put up a large inflatable Christmas penguin, as part of their holiday decorations - really cute! But, to a puppy dog, apparently the penguin looks like an extremely dangerous fellow - she started totally freaking out, her back fur standing on end, barking furiously like it was a "bad guy" or something...too funny!

What a goof...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Looking more like winter at the bird feeder...

The winter-time birds have come on full swing now...the little grey juncos have left, and I'm seeing more and more of the nuthatches and chickadees, pictured above. They're so small! Quite adorable! But don't let their size fool you, the chickadees especially are VERY bold, and not shy about defending what they deem to be their territory!

I was walking Casey, and I could hear the flock of American Goldfinches approaching from the deep woods - they just cheep and cheep to each other, not really a song, but a lot of little individual notes. When I got back, they were already at our backyard feeder. They're even TINIER than the chickadees! And they're much more skittish, so I couldn't get outside to get a pic of them. Got some pics earlier that you can see here.

Although you miss the birds that have migrated away, there's other birds that have migrated back for you to enjoy, it makes for fun watching! :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Canadiana: Grey Cup

It's Grey Cup time once again! This is the Canadian Football League's (CFL's) version of the American Superbowl. Just about everyone in Canada, including people who aren't usually football fans, gather 'round the TV, and watch the Grey Cup on CBC. Some people have Grey Cup parties where they get together, and eat party food like chicken wings and nachos, and generally have a great time! :) For the people who actually go to the game, there's a whole week of festivities in the host city before hand - you see on TV when they do interviews with people who go to attend the Cup in person every year, taking the week off for vacation, and somehow bearing up under the cold! (It's always FREEZING during the Grey Cup, it often snows during the game!) We even have a short half-time show featuring a famous Canadian act - usually the act is pretty bundled up in a big warm coat to perform!

So, happy Grey Cup viewing to all Canadians out there, wherever you are! :D

Christmas: Halifax's Parade of Lights

Sounds like this year's parade was it's biggest ever! Cool! The Parade of Lights is an annual event in Halifax - it's a parade held at night, and all the floats are lit up with bright colorful lights. It was funny, one year when we went, a guy from out of town was one of the last people to drive down the road before it was closed down for the parade, and he started to slow down, wondering why all the people were lining the streets. He yelled out "Whatcha guys waiting for?" And someone yelled back "A parade!" and he laughed "A parade? At NIGHT???!!" And we all yelled back "Its the parade of lights!" He had to drive off then, but I'm betting he rushed back once he found a place to park so he could see a parade at night - who ever heard of such a thing?! :D Really funny, and I know it sounds like a strange concept, but the floats are so lovely with their Christmas lights, and there's clowns, marching bands, and of course, Santa -- I think it's actually more popular than the daytime parades we have here during Natal Day (a day celebrating the city's founding, held in August). :)

When I lived in Halifax, I used to live on the parade route, so I got to see it every year - it really is a lot of fun, especially for the kids, and helps kick start our holiday season here in the HRM. The Chronicle Herald has a really nice slide show of the event (with sound), so you can get a feel for how it went. And you can read more about the event here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Christmas time...I couldn't wait!

I couldn't hold back, I've already started decorating for Christmas! I made this wreath last year - there's so many cool little decorations you can get at craft stores, flower shops, etc. that you can put together on wreath forms to make a really unique decoration for your home! Very cool, and very fun (if a little hard on the hands, with all those pokey branches). Some people even put little LED lights in their wreaths, which can be really pretty too!

Throughout the next month and a bit, I'll be doing lots of posts on my Christmas preparations - it truly is my favorite holiday season! (And it lasts extra long for me - being of Ukrainian descent, I also celebrate the old calendar Christmas, which doesn't happen until Jan 6th/7th). :D I hope you'll enjoy reading about my preparations as much as I enjoy making them!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Late Autumn...can be creepy!

One evening last week, we looked out the back window, and saw this:

And it wasn't just THIS tree, there were at least 3 more trees, outside the frame, all similarly filled with crows...if you went outside, you could hear them softly cawing to each was SO creepy!! It was like The Birds or something!!! There's like at least 50 crows in these two trees alone!

Again, things like this might happen in the Spring, but it only seems really foreboding in the late Autumn air...there's just something about this time of year...

(Oh, in case you don't know, crows usually only live in small groups of two or three during the "mating/family raising" time of year, and travel in large groups like this in between mating seasons--its not terribly common to see them in this large a group). :)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Damon Crooks Family Fund

We've all been shaken here in the HRM by the terrible tragedy that befell a good man trying to help someone - Damon Crooks was in town on a NATO exercise and intervened in a fight outside a bar, at which point he was stabbed and robbed. The perputrator has been caught, but the damage has been done: Damon Crooks leaves behind a fiancee, who is 8 months pregnant with their first child. A fund has been set up to donate money to aid these people as they go through life without him. So, if you're from this area, or even if you're not, and would like to contribute, click here. The Chronicle Herald newspaper is taking donations on their behalf. Read more about the news story here.

We all feel so bad...

Monday, November 06, 2006

First Snow

The first snow of the season was spotted today! It was only a little bit, a few flakes here and there in the morning, and a little snow/sleet in the afternoon - not enough to accumulate, but it still counts! Winter has arrived in Nova Scotia! (Hey, any time after Hallowe'en is fair game around here) :)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

New dark color tees available at the gift shop!

New colors have been added to the dark tee lineup available at Ann's Ukrainian Gifts! Choose now from black, cardinal red, military green, and navy blue!

Check 'em out, they make great gifts!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hallowe'en update

Oh man, have we gotten o.l.d. ugh. We used to be able to down a TON of sweets, binging on the leftover Hallowe'en candy. And now...oh man, we feel SO gross!! We've already overloaded, and we have a huge box of miscellaneous "fun size" candy bars left over! We ate only about 1/2 of what we'd normally eat.

I feel sick.

Funnest costume: a group of mid-teens came as various aspects of the farm - one was a cow, one was a cowboy with an inflatable horse (for which she wore the bottom half, the horse inflated in front), and another was a scarecrow. Hilarious!

Cutest (and it was a close one) was the little guy who was walking for his first Hallowe'en (last year, he was so small, he was carried around). Oh my God, so ADORABLE!! He was dressed as a little bear cub, and of course, the helpful adult had to prod him with "What do you say sweetie?", and he mumbles out a "twick or tweat"...then he think's he's done, so he starts to turn around to leave, and both his guardian and I start laughing, and saying "no, sweetie, you're not done yet, she's going to give you some candy!" - and I give him some, and again the prod to say "tank you". He can barely walk in this cute little bear suit - SO CUTE!!

It looked like everyone had a really good time, fortunately the weather wasn't cold enough that the kids had to wear coats on over their costumes (that's never fun!), and we had about 20 kids by the end, which is generally as many as we usually get (we live out in the country).

But now, I gotta track down a salad, and get rid of this logy sugar overload feeling...

o.l.d. old. *sigh*.

Happy Hallowe'en!


It was believed by the ancient Celts that this night (the start of the dark half of the year), was the time when the veil between this world and the Otherworld was thinnest, and spirits could walk the earth. Candles were lit in the windows to light the way home for deceased loved ones. Some traditions even said that all who die during the year must wait for Samhain (another name for Hallowe'en) to travel from this world to the Otherworld. When we lost our dear Mr. Black last year (we weren't sure, and still aren't, if our poor cat was alive or dead out there in the world), I nonetheless lit a candle for him in the window. We have lost other (people) in the year since who were dear to us, and I will light a candle again, tonight, for them.

You really can feel something different in the air on the night of Hallowe'en...

Of course, it wasn't just friendly spirits who were able to walk the earth at this time, and so various things were done to fool evil spirits into leaving people alone - like leaving out food offerings, or dressing in scary costumes - read more about these ancient traditions and how they evolved into present-day trick or treating here.

Of course, that's where the fun really comes in - trick or treating - handing out candy to the kiddies, and seeing them in their costumes - especially neighbourhood kids that you know, it's always the most fun to see them! Plus, you always buy extra candy, so you have some for yourself! It's hard to say how much is too much to buy, though, because the number of kids you get at the door can vary wildly from year to year (one year we actually ran out because we had double the number of kids we had had the previous year - and the next year, it was right back down to a small number again. It's not an exact science to be sure).

And in between all that, we'll be watching some scary movies! Some of my favorite Hallowe'en/scary movies, in no particular order, follow:

Ringu - The Ring (the original Japanese version, not the American-made one). I found the American one a little confusing, as if it were missing some thread to make it all make sense. The Japanese version was complete, I can't think of a better homage to a Lovecraft style of story, it was incredible!

Session 9. The best North American-made horror movie I've seen in a long time. Very, very creepy, had a fantastic film set (a real life haunted, abandoned insane asylum!), really well done.

The Omen (the original). One of the scariest movies I've ever seen - lots of great tension throughout (and, if you're into that, a pretty high body count). And the original has Gregory Peck in it - c'mon, how much better could it get?

Kairo (Pulse - again, the original Japanese version)- absolutely horrifying imagery! SOOOO creepy! The plot wasn't so hot towards the end, but still I highly recommend it! I haven't screamed out loud at a movie in a VERY long time, but this did it! *shudder*

Hellbound: Hellraiser II - the best of the Hellraiser movies. Great if you like gore with your horror. :)

Here's some more fun links to entertain you:
DIY costumes - getting back to the roots of homemade costumes, instead of buying off-the-rack.

Pumpkin carving templates - more stuff in the sidebar, like a hallowe'en quiz, a narrated slideshow of how to carve a pumpkin, and a fascinating photo gallery of the changing face of Hallowe'en chic in Canada over the years.

Have a fantastic Hallowe'en!! :D