Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Newsletter late...

Hi all,

To those of you who subscribe to my newsletter, you'll notice it's late (I usually send it out on the last Monday of the month). However, yesterday I went out for a "should've been quick" trip to the DMV (department of motor vehicles) to get my id/photo driver's license updated. (You have to do it before your birthday, and it's this week). Sadly, I managed to pick the one day when the normally great system they had in place fell apart. The computer system crashed, and took several hours to get back online, so the place was packed with backlog. The whole seating area was full, and lots of people were standing - a strange enough occurrence that we had a guy from one of our local newspapers there taking pictures. When the DMV revamped the system several years ago, it was a huge improvement - now they have several offices all over the place, whereas before for pretty much all of Halifax County you had to go to main office in Halifax (a long trip) and stand in one long trailing line by their huge windows and wait who knew how long to get seen. Now, they have a very comfortable waiting area, with lots of nice chairs, and a "take a number" system all done by computer. You choose the type of service you're there for - license plate renewal, or photo id renewal, or motorbike license stuff, etc. and they give you a number and a letter based on your particular needs. Certain desks process certain needs (for example, the id license renewal place has digital cameras to take your picture, so they're all in one part of the room) etc. But with the computer down, they really couldn't do many of the things they normally do - some could be processed on paper, but most couldn't. So there was a massive backlog of people. I couldn't fit this in any other day this week, so I was stuck, waiting well over an hour. The poor DMV people were strung out after being yelled at by people and having to do all this paperwork that many of them (it seemed) weren't trained for. Poor buggers. Fortunately, this is very rare. Unfortunately, I got caught in it. So, by the time I got back, I was in no mood to finish the newsletter. :) I hope to have it finished by this evening (Nova Scotia time - ADT).

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Easter, too!

Ukrainians use the old (Julian) calendar for religious holidays, like other Eastern Christians, and so today is Easter!

Krystos Voskres! (the traditional Easter greeting, meaning "Christ is Risen!" - to which the traditional reply is Voyistino Voskres! "Indeed He is Risen!")

And so you come upon an issue for many children & grandchildren of immigrants, wonderfully summed up by Myroslaw Lomatski:

Christmas comes but twice a year, so does Easter, mostly.

As a kid, it's great fun to have TWO Christmases & TWO Easters (generally, depending on the year) - celebrating the old holiday from the old country, and the same holiday that's held on a different date by your new country. But when you get older, you realize it's a LOT of work to do all that preparation twice! :D One of the two invariably suffers, no matter how hard you try.

I didn't even have time to do any pysanky this year! (featured here are some of my eggs, as I feature them on the front page of LearnPysanky.com, where I give free directions so people can create their own pysanka). Oh well, as you saw last week, my big Easter feast last week went over well, so that's good! I took it much lighter for this week. :)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Changeover at the Gift Shop

If you pop over to the gift shop, you'll notice a big difference! I've changed the direction of the shop - my Irish Celtic and Medieval & Renaissance European designs are still there, but the main thrust & focus of the shop will be my Ukrainian traditional, novelty, and pysanky designs. When I went over my site reports since I opened in 2002, it became obvious that the overwhelming majority of my customers were interested in my Ukrainian pieces. These changes have been made in order to better serve this interest. I'm sure everyone will enjoy the new look! Check it out!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rainy Day Birdies *

* with apologies to Gordon Lightfoot. :)

We had lots of cool bird friends here on this rainy day today!

This beautiful male Ring-necked Pheasant comes by from time to time, sometimes bringing a few of his lady friends, and sometimes going solo. I've been trying to get a good pic of him for a while now, and this one is pretty good (a little blurry as he was moving his head)!

The feeder was blowing wildly while I was trying to take some shots of these cute little birds, so they're not as clear as they could be. :) One male and a few female Pine Grosbeaks - they've never been here before, so this was extra exciting to see! They're quite large, too, much bigger than chickadees. They're certainly a fun new addition to our little feeder family!

Boo Doritos!!

I am sadly disappointed.

Gave up chips for Lent, and my first chips in many, many weeks were Nacho Cheese Doritos "now with more Nacho Flavour!" They DO NOT have more flavour, in fact, I believe they have less!! They are practically flavourless! They taste like plain cornchips for heaven's sake! SO disappointing! They are crappy! I don't know what they did to their recipe, but they certainly didn't improve it. Damn.

At least I have my Dill Pickle chips to enjoy as well! It would have been nice to be able to enjoy two types of chips, not just one, but you take what you can get. Sure is a disappointing end to Lent though. :
Just a warning to all you Doritos lovers out there...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Feaster Finale & Country Frogs

YUM! My Easter dinner turned out really well! A lot of the things, like the beets, eggs, and perogies, are done several days in advance, so there was very little to do the day of (the BEST way to do big dinners, if possible - do as much as you can in advance!). Get the mushrooms in gravy heated & thickened up, make the hash brown casserole, and fry up the perogies, and away we go! Here's a pic of the full dinner:


And, as a further indication that spring truly has arrived, last night when we got home from visiting my parents, we heard the frogs for the first time! There's a lot of unbuilt property on our street, out here in the country, and part of it is a little swamp. Ducks come there every year to nest, fireflies fill the sky in that area in mid-summer, etc. It's a great little spot! And it also houses a LOT of frogs - they chirp every night for months, and are a definite sign of warm weather to come. They must have been enticed along by the nice moist conditions we've had the last few days - it's been such a dry winter, we really needed it! I marked down on the calendar last year that I first heard them on the 20th of April, so we're a little bit early, but pretty much on schedule! :) All in all, it makes for a happy conclusion to Easter! :)

Friday, April 14, 2006

More "Easter Feaster" prep

I decided to make my Uncle Steve's Pickled Egg recipe for the first time this year. I looked at them a while later and saw that the garlic in the pickle had turned blue! Whoops, forgot about that possibility! (read an explanation here of why garlic does that sometimes). It's still perfectly safe to eat, but as you can see, it can look kinda funky and maybe a little scary if you're not prepared for it. I still look forward to eating them though!

I've always used Campbell's yummy canned beef consomme for my pidpenky (see my recipe on LearnPysanky.com) previously, but this year I decided to try making some from scratch. It smells divine! I forget where I got this recipe originally, but it's really wonderful! I highly recommend trying it!

Beef Consomme

2 cups water
2-3 packets/cubes of OXO brand powdered beef broth
1/4 cup sliced onion
1/4 cup sliced carrot
1/4 cup sliced celery
2 sprigs parsley
1 small bay leaf
1/8 tsp thyme leaves.

In a saucepan, low to medium heat, covered, about 1 hour (should be at a simmer, not a boil). Strain, and use wherever you would use regular beef broth or consomme for extra rich flavour!

As you can read below, I also made my perogies already. I made a half-sized batch, and added bacon to some of the traditional recipe filling. WOW. Yum! Add to that some kielbasa (what we call koubassa) - a type of spicy sausage - and a little garlic coil (another type of sausage), and we've got a great Easter feast ready!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Shout it from the rooftops!! A new type of perogy!

I just created a new form of perogy (well, it's new to me, and I haven't heard of anyone doing this before). I added God's Perfect Food, bacon, to the regular perogy filling of potato and cheddar cheese. It is AWESOME!! I mean c'mon, why didn't I think of this before??? Sour cream, potato and cheddar cheese. What normally goes with this trio? Bacon! So I added some fried bacon (drained on paper towels and cooled) to the insides and have a WONDERFUL new addition to this year's Easter Feaster (it's really just a feast, but it rhymes this way, so what the heck).

More on the Easter food prep later, I have to go add this little tidbit of "culinary history" to my recipe on LearnPysanky.com! :D

It's REALLY yummy! :)

Re: Bacon being God's Perfect Food: I don't know if it is, but it is to me. I couldn't live in a world without pork. :) Heh heh heh

Here's my perogy recipe, which I'm off to update, in case you want to try it:

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"April Showers bring May Flowers"

It's an old little rhyme - and while we had a bit of precipitation this April so far, certainly not as much as usual, it was still enough for some of the Mayflowers to start blooming. Sadly, many of the Mayflowers I come across are baked to a crisp, something I've never seen before - without the snow covering that usually protects them in March, and with all the extra sun we had, it wasn't good for this particular flower. However, there are some in some shady patches that are doing well, like this bunch seen here. They are such gorgeous little flowers, usually hard to see as they barely peek out from underneath the huge leaves. The blooms are only about 1 cm wide, and come in various shades of pink (I believe that if they get a lot of sun, they turn almost white, but if they're well shaded, they can be quite a dark pink). And the lovely scent that they have is just wonderful! The Mayflower is the provincial flower of Nova Scotia, and we have quite a lot in our immediate area. :)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

It is not I, but the Willow, that strikes you

It's Palm Sunday for most Christians, but for Ukrainians and other Slavic Christians, it is Flowery or Willow Sunday. We use pussy willows instead of palms, for a variety of reasons. (Of course, technically because we use a different calendar, Willow Sunday isn't until next Sunday, but that's a whole other thing entirely). :) It is traditional to strike one another on the shoulder with the willow branch and say "It is not I but the willow branch which strikes you to remind you that in seven days is the Great Day". The willow was a well loved plant, heralding the coming of spring, and an immensely useful one too (did you know it has ASA in its branches?)

To get more info, check out this website that goes into some detail of the use of the Pussy Willow in Slavic religious and everyday tradition. And here it gives you some hints on how to propagate your own pussy willows. We've got a great bush on the side of the house, pictured here. As in ancient times, it is a wonderfully uplifting thing to see this sign that spring has come! :)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Easter, and Peeps

If you've never seen this before, you really must check out the Peep Research Site: http://www.peepresearch.org. A really fantastic site, take the time when you have a couple minutes for a good laugh at the wonderful "scientific" research these fine people have done regarding Peeps (those popular marshmallow bird-shaped treats only available at Easter time). Includes a dramatic demonstration of the Peep "fear response", and general reactions to cold, heat, water, and more! This site has been around a VERY LONG time, I'm glad to see it's still up and running!

(If you want to check out the official Peeps website, with info on its history, etc., it's here: http://www.marshmallowpeeps.com)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lots more birds!

Here's some American Goldfinches - you can see the male getting his mating colouration on (I think these birds were around during the winter, but I didn't find out until later that they change plumage during the winter, and look more like the females--good to know!) :)

The Song Sparrow, a lovely little birdie, such pretty browns, and a sweet little song! VERY cute!

And this morning, we had a mourning dove. I hear their haunting song quite often far up the street (deeper in the forest) but it seems now that they've found our food area, so hopefully they'll come back more often. Just so you know, a mourning dove basically looks like a light brown pigeon, but has a very haunting, sad sounding call.

So far, it looks like our bird feeder's been a big hit! I look forward to seeing who else comes along as the summer progresses! :D

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

OMG - We had a cardinal!!!!!

WOW!!!! Never in my entire life have I seen a Northern Cardinal, and here today, one came to our bird feeder!!! Holy moley!!!! Terrifically exciting for me! :) I couldn't get good shots, she stayed on the ground under the feeder (which is quite an awkward angle to take pics from), then she got chased off by the brutish chickadees and juncos. Darn. Hopefully next time she'll come with her man-friend!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Heh heh heh...Girl Guide Cookes, part deux

When I mentioned I looked forward to the Girl Guide cookies, I wasn't alone. :D

The cookies going on sale made the front page of the Chronicle Herald. Heh heh heh

Saturday, April 01, 2006


:D When I got up today, I decided to dive right in to tackling Mount Dishmore (as I "lovingly" refer to what seems to be an endless supply of dirty dishes in this house) and didn't go downstairs as usual to start my day reading the news. While doing the dishes, I looked out of the window and saw the birds were low on birdseed, so I went outside to put more out, and that's when Dave attacked. While my back was turned, he asked "Did you hear the news today?" And I said "no, didn't have a chance to, why, what's up?" And he says "Stephen Harper [editors note: our VERY conservative (and Conservative Party) Prime Minister, who's no doubt never even jaywalked in his entire life] was just arrested for marijuana possession". And I said WHAT? Are you serious??? And at that moment, I remembered as I looked at Dave's face and he started to break out in a huge laugh that it was April Fool's Day. Ha hah hah hah :) So I got fooled big time! :)

In case you're not from around here, April Fool's Day is the first day of April, and it's traditional to try to fool someone. It's a subtle thing, because you have to make it a crazy sort of lie, but still believable. Now Stephen Harper is out-of-country right now at a summit, so it's entirely believable that something could happen with someone planting some marijuana in his luggage or whatever. But he's SO conservative, it would be hilarious if it happened. So, it was the perfect April Fools! :) It's all done in good fun -- for example, it would be in bad taste to say someone died or something like that, it should be something silly! Google always does a VERY funny joke, check out this year's! http://www.google.com/romance/ See? Just true-sounding enough that you're not REALLY sure it's a joke. But it is! :)

And, to top it all off, the Girl Guides came to the door today selling Girl Guide cookies! YUM!!! They are a long standing tradition, they sell these packaged cookies every year to earn money for their organization (which I was a part of for many years, and sold lots of cookies myself in my time) :) They are very yummy, I like the vanilla the best! :)