Monday, July 31, 2006

I've got this strange feeling someone's watching me...

You know, that feeling you just can't shake off sometimes, that someone is watching you from a distance? Well, sometimes maybe it's not really distant - sometimes that someone is right behind you...or maybe behind and above you, sitting on a shelf...

What a weird cat Baby Boy is sometimes... :D

Friday, July 28, 2006

Snowshoe Hare - Bunny Mystery Solved

Well, I suppose it wasn't really a mystery...but it turns out there's a good reason why we have seen more bunnies here this year than any in the last 10 - 12 years - they're going through a population explosion here in the Maritimes and elsewhere. Apparently, it is cyclic, occurring once every ten years or so, then the population decreases again. They had pics on the news, and so I was able to identify the little guy that comes by and eats weeds out of our lawn almost every evening (he's SO CUTE!) - he's not actually a rabbit, but a Snowshoe Hare. I think I'll still call him a bunny, though! That'd explain why the bunny feetprints in the snow last winter were so big - they're named after their big feet, after all!

From Hinterland: Who's Who (an organization that made extremely memorable commercials back in the 1970s with a vivid, haunting theme, educating the public about some of Canada's unique animals - everybody who was around then remembers them!):

"Snowshoe hares are very active between sundown and dawn, and they remain active all winter. Rain, snow, or wind often markedly reduce the hares'’ activity." We have certainly noticed this to be true of our little guy - we never see him when it's inclement weather outside, and he's always active from dusk to dawn (some nights when I'm going to sleep, I look out the window and see him there having a snack). :)

To learn more about our adorable hare (and tons of other animals that make Canada their home), check out Hinterland's Who's Who. They still make commercials, but not as cool as the ones back in the '70s. :D

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Fun afternoon at the Park

Ever since she was a tiny puppy, I've taken Casey to the lake or the sea - I knew that if I wanted her to be able to go swimming when she was older, it was important to get her used to the water as early as possible. And she's such a little trooper, so eager to please, that when I'd go out a little ways into the water, and encourage her to follow me, she would! At first, she'd run in and out again very quickly back to Dave who was safe on dry land, and she'd cry a little, but she'd always be willing to give it a try again! (Frankly, she cries a LOT, over every little thing...she's a bit silly that way). But it was worth it, because now she loves to go for a swim!

Dave tosses some rocks out on the water, and she'll swim off and chase them. Here you can see the ripples from a rock just tossed, and the intense look of concentration she has, ears fully up, about to take off after it! Once she gets there, she sees she can't get it, so she looks expectantly for a new rock to be tossed. We had a lot of fun, she got a nice cool-down from the warm weather, and Dave and I got pretty damp ourselves from her shaking herself off. :D

We've got some lovely parks here in Nova Scotia - I highly recommend a visit! :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

BeanDreams Realized! (or, A Bean Come True)

Beans! I have BEANS!!! Wheeeee!!!

Just saw them today - one of them is really big already!! It shouldn't be too long now, till I get to taste one! :D Still has to turn yellow, though, so it will be at least a week. Terribly exciting though! I must say, it's very rewarding to grow your own produce! I remember from my parent's garden, that there's nothing to compare with eating veggies straight from the garden, the flavour is unsurpassed - and now I get to experience it again with my very own garden! :D

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tropical Storm Beryl

A shot of Tropical Storm Beryl (which for some reason, some people on the news pronounce as "Burl", rather than "BEAR-yl" - kinda amusing, it's just an accent I guess). :) Not that we'd know anything about accents out here in Nova Scotia... :D

Hopefully the garden will fare well, the winds are pretty gusty out there! And hope we don't lose power! Or worse yet, Internet access!

Glove-stealing NYC Kitty

This is a cute story I came across today - this kitty in New York, instead of bringing home kills as so many outdoor cats do, brings home neighbour's gardening gloves that have been left outside. The cat's owners have a huge collection that they hang outside their house, encouraging people to take back their gloves if they see them there. :D

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

BeanDreams, BlossomDreams

The garden's coming along really well!

The tomato plants are thriving nicely, but I'm sure they, like everything else, would benefit from some sunshine - it's been unusually overcast here in Nova Scotia this summer, we've hardly had any sun at all. But the plants are still doing okay. As you can see in this photo, the blossoms are getting ready to open (and some have already)!

The bean plants are doing well too, with lots of blossoms already - and there's plenty more summer left for them to expand and grow even more!

This huge plant is the couple of potatoes I planted, from ones that had sprouted in the bag - they're doing amazingly well! I'm sure I've got tons of potatoes growing under there!

And this, this is my one precious lettuce. For some weird reason, I CANNOT get the lettuce to grow - this little guy is the only one out of 3 (THREE) separate plantings to come to fruition! And even then, he got completely eaten down by slugs and had to start all over again. Poor little guy, he's such a trooper!

And check out the Empress of India nasturtiums! Wow! Gorgeous dark foliage, and beautiful orange/red blossoms - a fantastic addition to this year's garden!

And here's the lovely "regular" nasturtiums, a lovely orange with its typical lighter green foliage - all nicely offset with those really pretty red petunias I got from the garden centre a month or so ago.

So, everything's been growing well! :D Yay!

Squirrel squared

Honestly, this really does reach the top of the cute-o-meter!

Monday, July 17, 2006

New Design, a la Warhol

I've released a new design from my gift shop! A single pysanka - in the style of famed art icon Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe piece - replicated several times, & hand-colored in his wild style with bold colors. Super fun and eye catching! You can get this wild design on a large selection of tees, totebags, greeting cards and more, check it out!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What a change!

Thought I'd show you the difference that 6 months can make in a place. :D This first pic is taken out in the backwoods past our property, during our unusually mild January this past year (an old abandoned picnic table helps with the scale):

And today, I took this pic of the same area (you can barely make out the picnic table) - the amount of growth is amazing, isn't it? You'd never believe it was the same place. Mother Nature really is incredible! We're so blessed to live here and be able to see this sort of thing "up close and personal". :)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

BBQ Bliss

I know -- propane BBQs won't ever really compete with the flavour of food BBQ'd over a charcoal grill, but boy it sure is more convenient! Just take off the cover, light it and away you go! And it is almost as good... :)

Late this afternoon, we had marinated steaks, mushroom & onions (the perfect steak side-dish), corn, and baked potatoes, all done on the grill so we didn't have to heat up the house by turning on the oven. Very nice! The potatoes were pre-cooked in the microwave for about 8 minutes on high (pierce first!!), then put on the grill while everything else cooks. The corn was purchased frozen - sealed tightly in tinfoil (aluminum foil) with a teaspoon of water and a pat of butter - put it on the grill for the last 5 - 10 minutes of grilling (careful when you open it though, there'll be a lot of HOT steam!). The mushrooms and onions are fried in a tinfoil pie plate with a little butter & canola oil (be sure to use some oil to counteract butter's tendency to burn); stir occasionally. Start them a few minutes before the steaks and they'll finish cooking at the same time. We marinated the steaks for several hours beforehand to impart an extra flavour into the meat, and to tenderize it. Worcestershire sauce makes a great marinade, if you don't have any packaged stuff. Sprinkle the steak with some steak spice too (I bounce around between several brands, featuring everything from garlic and peppercorns, to caraway seeds and paprika - it's all up to personal taste, try several brands till you find one you love), and you've got a great flavoured steak!

Here's a few of my BBQing tips:

1. Don't cross-contaminate plates and utensils - items that touched the meat or fish when raw should not be used to serve or carry cooked meat or fish (if you don't, you might get food poisoning, and no one wants to end a nice summer BBQ that way).

2. Keep your cold foods (like potato or pasta salad) cold - if you'll be eating outside, set up a thermos cooler with ice, and set your salads in it (again, helps prevent food poisoning).

3. Steak is a meat that needs to be baby-sat when it's on the grill. Put the BBQ on high for the first 5 minutes or so, and sear both sides of the steak to keep in all the juices. Then, turn the heat down low, and turn frequently - this will ensure even cooking throughout the meat, and prevent burning. Trust me, it's worth the extra effort!

4. If you use BBQ sauce that has sugar in it (and most do, around here in Nova Scotia), don't brush it on until the last 5 minutes or so. Sugar burns, and if you put it on too early, you'll end up with burned meat (or fish, veggies, etc.). A little burned taste is good, but too much is yucky).

5. If you give a steak bone to your dog, be sure they chew it under supervision. The bones can splinter and cause internal damage, or be a choking hazard - but dogs really love them, so if you decide you can't ignore their little puppy-dog-beggin' eyes, just keep a watch over them while they enjoy their treat.

As you can see, Casey really enjoyed hers:

Have fun with your summer BBQ!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Storm Front

Today it was sunny, hot and windy - but storm clouds have come in, and there was little rumble of thunder a moment ago...great clouds in the sky tonight...pity the camera can't really capture the depths of the clouds, but you get the idea. :D

Lilies in Bloom

The tiger lilies are in bloom - a lovely summer display of orange popping up here and there all over the property. :)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Doraku - traditional Japanese dinner

Update March 2012: The Doraku has changed names! Its now the Suzuki Restaurant. Hope to get back there sometime soon and see how the new compares to the old! :)

On Tuesday night we ate at Doraku - Dave wanted to eat at a traditional Japanese restaurant for his birthday. There are several to choose from in Halifax, but we settled on this one, partly because it had its menu online, so we could figure out ahead of time the types of things we wanted to eat. :)

Our waitress was terrifically helpful and friendly, very easy to talk to. We were blunt: we had no experience, and needed help! :) She said most of the things I had picked (online) were things she would recommend trying (yay! I did good!), and recommended a few others. We ate a LOT. LOT. LOT. But you know what? We were full, but we didn't feel logey (you know, that feeling after you've had a big steak dinner where you don't feel like you can move, and just want to go take a nap?). But here, we were full, but could still move comfortably! It was an interesting sensation, to be sure. We sat in the traditional room, a nice quiet place where the floor just under the table was recessed, so you could sit western-style (or kneel if you chose to, but my knees have never been great, and are especially so since my knee injury last year, so no kneeling for me). :) The waitress still had to kneel to serve you, because the table is on her floor level.

Everything's brought as it's prepared, so you have lots of little dishes on the table, and can pick away, a little of this, a little of that. Fun!

Imported Beer - Sapporo
Solid beer, made a nice compliment to the meal. Sake isn't generally served with sushi, so I understand, because it's a rice based alcohol, and sushi has rice in it - ergo, it's not a good compliment.

Miso Soup - Soya bean soup
Delicate, reminiscent of a mild chicken soup - threads of seaweed and some melt-in-your-mouth tofu were nice additions.

Sashimi Appetizer 3 Kinds - Tuna, Salmon, Octopus
Super-fresh, no worries about food poisoning here. The octopus was really interesting, I saw that the piece Dave took had part of a tentacle sucker on it...hee hee hee, I didn't tell him what that particular one was, until after he ate it. :) It was very chewy, not bad at all - glad I tried them all! I can't say I'd be jonesing for more, but it is certainly worth trying. So elegantly presented as well: lovely shreds of daikon radish, and thin slices of cucumber accompanied it, along with a dab of wasabi. The wasabi was incredibly hot, but only for a very short time, and when it disappeared, it disappeared completely (unlike when you eat hot peppers, for example). Very pleasant!

Tempura Deep fried 2pcs shrimp, sweet potato, zucchini, green pepper
Perfect tempura. Ideal tempura is really an art, having to consist of an ice cold batter, making a super-delicate lightly browned crust around the food when deep-fried. And it was perfect - the shrimp was my favorite, frankly I could have eaten more and more tempura shrimp all night! :D

Yakitori Chicken
Two grilled chicken skewers with yakitori sauce - very nice, basted in a tasty, thick sauce.

Pork Gyoza Pan fried pork dumpling (6pcs)

These were really good! They looked like little mini-perogies, and were DELICIOUS!

Overall, I'm sure I used too much dipping sauce/Japanese Soya sauce on all my foods (I understand that's something westerners do often), but I'm a big "sauce" girl myself - I can't help myself. :) And the Japanese Soya Sauce that they offered in the restaurant was REALLY awesome! It was hot and spicy - like regular Soya sauce, but with a great kick! Yum! They also gave us some extra wasabi and something else that escapes me right now, to put into it, to make it even better. Good good good!

Doraku roll (4pcs)
This is a BIG freakin' sushi roll! Like the sashimi, it was good (and great care was taken in it's preparation), but I don't think I'll be a person who seeks out sushi. They do prepare a great deal of sushi at this restaurant, and even offer you pencils and a separate order form just for sushi when you get your menu. Just check off the ones you want and send it off with the waitress. Very nice!

Harumaki Rice noodle, veggie spring roll (2pcs)
Mmmmm...very tasty! Filled with vermicelli rice noodles, and a little shredded carrot. Nicely browned, crispy coating.

Tonkatsu - Deep fried breaded pork, tonkatsu sauce
Nice thick sauce, Dave enjoyed it, but I preferred the spicy soya sauce. Since it comes breaded, you can dip it in whatever sauce you like.

As I said, the waitress was super-friendly and helpful, and what's also nice is your final receipt after you pay your bill is itemized, so you have a record to take home of what you ordered. Definitely worth a visit if you're in Halifax - Doraku is conveniently located on Dresden Row, just off Spring Garden in the downtown. It's the one with the adorable Maneki Neko on the sign.

Want to learn more about sushi? Learn from the Sushi Otaku! ;)

ADDENDUM July 2010: Directions for Doraku on Google Maps.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Which is cuter??

#1. The House Squirrel. Pretty darn ADORABLE, peeking out of the birdhouse like that. Of course, as Dave said on the occasion, "with a squirrel inside, it's ceased to be a house, it's now a home". :D heh heh

2. A mother Song Sparrow feeding her baby at our feeder. The taller, thinner bird is the mommy, and the really big bird is the baby, if you can believe it (must be a male). He was "PEEEP PEEEP"-ing so loudly we could hear it with the window closed, and Dave said, "Look, she's feeding him!" He would sit there and cry and flap his wings, and she would pick up a seed and give it to him. He's old enough to follow his mom around, but he still hasn't figured out that he can feed himself. But all babies have to be weaned at some point, and I'm sure he'll get the hang of it soon. It's SO SWEET!

So, I really can't say which is cuter! :)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Potted Squirrel

Dave's mom just came downstairs and said the squirrel was looking really cute eating some dropped seeds out of one of my flowerpots, so I went upstairs and got a couple of pics. It is really cute, and I got a second pic of a bluejay in the feeder at the same time, to boot! :)

Potted squirrel, anyone?

Juvenile Goldfinch?

I looked out at the birdfeeder this afternoon, and saw a new bird traveling with the flock of American Goldfinches we regularly see out there. Usually it's been one male with several females, but today there was a second male! He was much paler than the regular male, but still had the male markings: see above, with the new male on the left, the regular male in the middle, and a female on the right (sitting on the railing). Is he a baby (juvenile) goldfinch? I think so! They must be taking him around, teaching him the ropes of how to eat at a birdfeeder, among other survival skills.

The other day I saw a baby grackle at the feeder (grackles are big brown birds with dark blue heads, about the size of a blue jay). He had his flight feathers, but the rest of his body was still covered with soft brown down - he had already reached full size though, it was funny to see a baby that BIG! :)

Ah, little animal babies in summertime - is there anything more adorable? :D

New pysanky-related design @ the gift shop!

Just released this one a few minutes ago - it's a whimsical sort of design featuring some of the most commonly used pysanka symbols, and what they mean. Included are wishes for health, prosperity, stamina, and more!

Check it out!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Canada Day!!

Happy Canada Day!!

To all Canadians, both at home and away: enjoy celebrating all things Canadian!

To the rest of the world: you're welcome to join in, of course! We'd be happy to have you! :D