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

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Let the Pet Humiliation begin!

I just HAD to try this, to see if she would accept wearing little antennae. And she did! She tried to get them off, but when I told her what a good girl she was for leaving them on, she just sighed and put her head down on the couch, looking chagrined. Heh heh heh...too funny! Those shamrocks are part of my Hallowe'en costume, though, so I'll have to see if I can find her something else...I'm pretty sure I have some pink rabbit ears around here somewhere...:D

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hallowe'en for Pets, and Greyhounds

Rick Conrad has a great little article today in the Herald detailing some information on how to get your pet ready to enjoy Hallowe'en safely - plus some info on fun pet costumes! :) Check it out!

But he also mentions that Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada (www.gpac.ca) are trying to find homes for 16 greyhounds that came in from the US last week. I'm not sure of the circumstances in this case, but from what I understand, usually these dogs are rescued from being put down after they are no longer fit to run at the racetrack - that is to say, they're still fast, but not fast enough. Certainly no reason to put down a dog! So, if you are in Atlantic Canada and want to help, check out the website. I know a lady in the neighbourhood that has a greyhound, and she says he's the sweetest couch potato! He loves to cuddle, and always checks in on all the family before bedtime, to ensure they're tucked in safely. He does love to run, but only for short bursts - he's actually not been as demanding as you might think for exercise (although all dogs need some!). So, if you want more information, or think you might be able to help, check it out!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Energy Saving Tips - Heading on to winter!

It's that time of year again, when people in colder climates dig out their sweaters, and get the oil tank filled up - pre-winter prep time is here! I found a couple of interesting articles involving this that are a good read!

[This one isn't really winter-related but is still in the same spirit] The BBC has this article: How to save energy - written for the UK, but of course all of us could use these tips! I always turn my monitor off when I'm leaving my computer, but it never occurred to me that my battery charger that I leave plugged in all the time is constantly drawing electricity - I feel silly now for not thinking of it before, but now that I know, I'm going to unplug it right away! Keeping energy costs low is good any time of year, but especially in winter - and it's good for the earth, too! Every little bit helps!

And from our counterpart here in Canada, the CBC has a nice little interactive showing easy (and not-so-easy, but important anyway) ways you can get your home ready for the wintertime.

Happy reading, and happy preparations! :D Even if you only do a few of them, they can make a big difference!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lovely shot of the harbour this evening...

Just happened by the Chronicle-Herald, and saw they had a gorgeous pic of Halifax Harbour from the HalifaxWebCam.ca site on their website. Isn't it just so beautiful? :)

Click here to see what the current view is like. :)

Check out these awesome wildlife pics!

Check out the awesome winners of the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards - as one would expect, the entries were spectacular, capturing some amazing moments in the natural sphere.

The winning photograph is an awesome one of a sea lion underwater, called Beast of the Sediment. If you enjoy photography, you gotta check these pics out!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Birdies and Windows...not a good combo!

This poor little (and I mean LITTLE) birdie banged loudly into our window about 10 minutes ago. I went out to take a look, and saw him in the grass below the window, beak wide open and breathing very little. I tried a couple of times to get hold of him (I understand that keeping them warm helps them get over shock faster, and it's a cold rainy day) but he was so small he squirted through my hands. I left him be - we tried to put a warmed-in-the-dryer towel near him for warmth, but already his beak was closed and he started to move his head around. I tried again, and to our delight he tried to fly away, but didn't get far (he headed right for the house and the window again, but very lightly so he didn't hurt himself again). It looks like he has a broken toe, but that may be congenital, as when he perched himself on my hand he was able to grasp it okay. He's hopped off into the high bushes now, and we'll check on him every 5 minutes or so until he's fully recovered--but as things look now, they look really good. He was still improving, as he started to look around more and more, and hop around a bit.

We just looked out now, and can't see him in the bush any more, so we figure he's moved on. Be careful out there, little birdie!!! Windows are not your friend!

We looked it up and it looks like it was an American Goldfinch, and probably a girl, not a boy. Poor little thing, she was so light in my hands! Very scared too, poor little dear. So glad she's all right! I didn't get a pic of the little girl we were helping. :)

[EDIT a few minutes later: we heard this REALLY LOUD chirp coming from the bush we thought she had left - we went outside and tried to look in it to see her, and after a brief "cheep" took off (banging lightly into the house again) but then got past it into the clear sky, and flew off into the forest, chirping all the way. So it looks like she'll be just fine! She must have chirped really loudly in the bush as she was coming to her senses, kinda like "Huh? What's going on here? Where am I?" :)]

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Maritime Fall Fair - Preview

My parents and I went to the Fall Fair today - I'm working on a photo journal of the event, but here's a shot by way of preview...I got to see some moo-cows! Yay! :D

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sunny Autumn Day

Monday, October 09, 2006

Thanksgiving Time!

Beautiful fall foliage means it's Thanksgiving time here in Canada! Thanksgiving is the day we've set aside in Canada to reflect on all we have to be thankful for, and to celebrate the harvest (which is just finishing up here). A time when family and friends come together to eat! :) We don't have the iconography of Pilgrims and Native Americans that the American Thanksgiving holiday has, but we do have the associations of sharing the bounty with others which that iconography implies.

The traditional meal is roasted turkey with stuffing (dressing) and mashed potatoes and gravy. In addition, fall vegetables from the harvest, like squash, are enjoyed. And most people will have a big slice of pumpkin pie (with whipped cream on top) for dessert.

Dave's not a huge fan of turkey, so we're saving it for Christmas. Instead our menu was:

* Pork Tenderloin, roasted with a coating of (garden-grown!) sage and rosemary
* Home-made stuffing (aka dressing) - I got a spice mix from Farmer John's Herbs at Agrifest this year, so I'm making homemade stuffing instead of my usual Stove Top (I do LOVE Stove Top though - it's so easy and yummy!) Home made stuffing is made with either bread or potatoes (or both -- I made mine with bread), mixed with savory herbs and a little water. Mix well and bake in the oven till crispy on top, and a little soft inside. (I added some garden-grown sage to Farmer John's mix, because I really love sage, and it was PERFECT!)
* Ukrainian mushrooms in red wine/beef gravy - a standard that I make for most holidays now. Yummy! :)
* Cold corn salad with crushed garlic, onion, yellow bell peppers, celery, garden-grown tomatoes in a mayonnaise base
* pork gravy
* mashed potatoes
* fresh-baked bread
* home-made pickle (made with mostly locally grown produce) - celery, cabbage, cucumber, onion, etc.) - crunchy and good!
* and a little yam :)

Corners were cut, of course - I use powdered gravy mix (Club House brand) - it's excellent gravy (really!), and the extra amount of effort it would take to make it from scratch could be better spent elsewhere. I also used instant mashed potatoes - they're a little softer than regular potatoes, but still tasty!

The dinner plate! From the bottom, going clockwise - roasted pork tenderloin, herb dressing, mashed potatoes, a baked yam in skin, Ukrainian mushrooms, fresh baked bread, cold corn salad, and in the middle, home-made pickle.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

More fairy flies!!

Got some more great pics of my fairy flies! It was funny, yesterday evening I caught one that wouldn't leave! He stayed on my hand for about 5 minutes, until I finally figured out that the little guy was cold, and needed to feel the evening sunlight on him before he could take off! Once I put my hand in the sunlight, he spread his little wings and floated away! :) These pics I got early this morning, as the sun was warming up the air.

Look at the puffs of fur on this guy!! They're so long!!

This guy has fur puffs going all the way up his back! It's so funny, because I don't look at bugs too often, I never noticed how unique each bug is, even within the same species. Just like every other animal type! :)

This shot shows off the beautiful rainbow iridescent wings that they have. So cute!

Update Sept 2007: I wrote to the "What is this pest" photo identification page, where specialist volunteers and others identify photos of bugs people send in. Their mega-contributor, retired entomologist Ed Saugstad, id'd this as a flying Wooly Aphid. An aphid! My sworn enemy, second only to slugs as a destructive force in my garden - "farmed" by ants, aphids suck the very life essense from my plants, and now here, it turns out my beloved fairy flies are one of them! Bleargh! Now I'm actually glad that there aren't many of them around every year.

I think I'll still call them fairy flies though...there's still something magical about them... :)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

BeanDreams: my inspiration

This is my Gidu (or Dido, however you like to spell it, it still means Grandfather) in his garden in Cape Breton, NS, back in the 1980s. As you can see, it was Prolific, with a capital "P"! Enormous quantities of beans and other vegetables, and tons of gorgeous flowers, most of which were bigger than I was! Huge Dahlias, and as you can see in this pic, gorgeous poppies (told ya Ukrainians love poppies!)! His soil was always rich and black, thanks to his composting. In the winter time, I remember visiting his house and seeing many coffee mugs lined up on the window sills, full of drying beans gathered over the summer.

It was pretty much every Ukrainian's dream, upon coming to North America, to have a property of their very own, to grow crops on. In Ukraine, the vast majority of people were serfs, who worked the land but weren't allowed to own it. So North America was very tempting, even if it meant leaving your brothers and sisters and parents behind. He worked in the steel mill in Cape Breton for decades, as did many other foreigners who came to this land around the 1920s (hard, hard labor), but he still had time to follow what I believe was his first love - gardening. As you can see, he was very good at it!

Aside from all these things, he was an excellent singer, actor, accordian player, liked to make jokes, read, cook, play solitaire and do jigsaw puzzles. But more on that another time. :) Right now, I just want to focus on his gardening - the man had an incredible green thumb, and did everything "organically" before that was even a buzz word.

So I definitely take Gidu as my biggest gardening inspiration! I hope to do him proud in my own vegetable gardening over the coming years. :)

I miss him...

Friday, October 06, 2006


I just went outside with Casey for a minute: the sun set about 20 minutes ago...I looked over to the East and saw the huge, full harvest moon just rising, wreathed in a halo of clouds...off in the distance, I heard a large murder of crows screaching at each other in the twilight...the wind was cold and gusty...

Spooky out there...really! A great Hallowe'en type atmosphere...

Morning Pheasants!

This gorgeous group of Ring-Necked pheasants (what's a group of pheasants called, anyway?) paid us a visit on our front lawn this morning. They sat in the same place for a long time in the sun, I assume to get warmed up from a chilly night. Rarely, we've seen one lone male, but usually we see them travel together in groups like this. You can see the two males clearly in the foreground, but can you spot the female traveling with them, in the background? It's amazing how excellent the camouflage works for the females, eh?

Eventually, as they warmed up, they started to groom their feathers, and wander around, pecking away at the grass-seeds in the lawn. They stayed a really long time! Very fun! (except for Casey, of course, who had to wait some extra time for her and Dave's first play of the day--she didn't understand why, of course!) :)

We haven't seen any pheasants since the spring, it's nice to see them around again!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Autumn at Sunset

Got these great pics tonight - as the sun set, the light got this beautiful golden-orange tinge to it...

I was able to capture this gorgeous red maple catching the last light of the day.

And here you can just see the sunlight catching the tips & stem of this Jerusalem Artichoke (it's a weed, but it's so pretty, like a sunflower). :)

Golden sunlight + autumn reds, oranges and yellows = a beautiful Nova Scotian evening. I'm so blessed to live here!

Monday, October 02, 2006

What a relief!

I always felt bad about Neil Armstrong's supposedly screwed-up quote when he took his first step on the Moon - but it turns out, due to new audio analysis, he did not drop the "a" after all: he did, in fact, say:

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Read the interesting story of why it sounds like the "a" is missing, and how they discovered it. I feel so much better now, and I'm sure Neil Armstrong does too!


Fairy Flies

I call these flies Fairy Flies, but I don't know their actual, Latin name. They appear at a distance as sky-blue/purple round spheres floating in the air. As you can see from the photo, they're VERY easy to catch - as I mentioned, they mostly float, they don't really buzz around. From the angle shown here, they don't look as bluish and bright as they do when they're in the air. They have their butt end covered in what looks like fur, and their attenae (which you can't clearly see here) look almost like feathers. And their wings in the sunshine shimmer like dragonfly wings, with a rainbow type shimmer. They look to me like a Fairy Princess decked out for a ball! :D They only come around in very late summer/early fall - I wish I knew what they're called, I'd like to learn more about them. If anyone knows anything, email me @ ann@learnpysanky.com. :D It's interesting too, I've never seen them in any other area of Nova Scotia, certainly not in Dartmouth where I grew up. Maybe they're just an Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia bug? Hard to say...

I'm so glad I finally got a picture of one of them! I look forward to their arrival every year!

[EDIT: October 8, 2006 - got more pics!]

Update Sept 2007: I wrote to the "What is this pest" photo identification page, where specialist volunteers and others identify photos of bugs people send in. Their mega-contributor, retired entomologist Ed Saugstad, id'd this as a flying Wooly Aphid. An aphid! My sworn enemy, second only to slugs as a destructive force in my garden - "farmed" by ants, aphids suck the very life essense from my plants, and now here, it turns out my beloved fairy flies are one of them! Bleargh! Now I'm actually glad that there aren't many of them around every year.

I think I'll still call them fairy flies though...there's still something magical about them... :)