Monday, May 28, 2007

Found Bird's Nest

Casey and I found this bird's nest on the side of the road - whether a kid was taking this empty nest to school for show'n'tell, and lost it, or the high winds blew it out of a tree, it's impossible to say. I looked around and didn't see any eggs, so I assume (I hope) it was already used, and finished with.

You can see the delicate weaving, and the layer of (presumably) dog fur carefully lining the inside of the nest, to protect and soften the nest for the eggs, and eventually, baby birds.

What a sweet little nest.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

BeanDreams Update: Cold and Rainy

It has continued to rain, and be very cold for this time of year (still around under 10 deg. C). We had risk of frost for 3 consecutive nights here, even though the last frost was supposed to be around the 6th of May. Between the cold and all the rain, I think the beans I planted have rotted in the soil, I'll have to plant them again. We keep being promised warmer temperatures & sunnier skies "in a few days", but by the time that day comes, the forecast's changed, and it's still cold and damp. Everything that sprouted in the garden hasn't really grown, the cold has stunted its growth (it'll get better once it warms up - but it means that I'm not as far ahead of the game as I would be if the weather cooperated). Hopefully, it won't turn out like last year, with the whole month of June raining. It doesn't usually...but the last few years...

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How Exciting! We got a CrossBill!

We've never had a crossbill here before, so this is pretty cool! This is a Red Crossbill aka Loxia curvirostra (see the All About Birds listing, including sound recording, here). Such a gorgeous rusty red color! A very pretty boy! Check out the third pic, it shows off the beak really well. I still can't get over the color, it was just so gorgeous, we spent a lot of time staring out the window at him. I think I saw his lady friend sitting in the tree, but with the sun's glare I couldn't get a good look at her. I rushed right downstairs here to blog about him as soon as he left!

Addendum: A whole flock of about 8 crossbills came back later, just before sunset - I only saw one male, there were a LOT of girls there. I'm glad they came back and brought some friends!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Happy Victoria Day!

It's the May long weekend! A kick-off to the start of the warmer weather (hopefully!), and the traditional weekend to plant your garden, as the frost dates have all passed. There's also barbecues, beer, and often, fireworks. Someone was setting off some last night, as the sky had cleared up a bit from all the rain we had been having, but soon after, there was a huge downpour, so no more fireworks. Oops!

Want to learn more about why we celebrate Victoria Day in Canada? Wikipedia has a nice little writeup...

Sunday, May 20, 2007


It's been so long... I can't be sure...

But I think I've seen the sun this evening. It's been at least a week, probably two, and we haven't had even a peek of sunshine through the clouds.

I got some great shots of sunlight through the raindrops resting on the leaves of this bleeding heart in our garden:

Casey enjoyed the cool grass and sunshine, too:

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Who is this sainted man?

I came across this article in the CBC this morning.

WARNING: totally, if you read this, you WILL get grossed out. But it might help explain the perilousness of this particular young woman's situation.

This 18 year old girl from British Columbia was working in Kenya when she got infected with a horrible bacteria that started...BRACE for IT...eating her eyeballs. She was terrified, and unfortunately, after much travel to get to a major hospital, was told she'd have to have her eyes removed. This, of course, made her even more terrified.

Now, here's where the sainted man comes in. Some generous dude, an employee from the Department of Foreign Affairs, helped her get back to Canada. He escorted her on the plane:

"Eight hours to Amsterdam, seven-hour layover, then nine-hour flight to Vancouver, while putting drops in my eyes every half hour. I just met this man and he's sitting there feeding me."

Good Lord!! What a cool guy!! That is seriously going out of your way to help a fellow human being in need. But he's not named in the article! So, I assume he doesn't want to be named. But DUDE! You are awesome! You NEED to be thanked and praised publicly! Too many times we hear of terrible acts perpetrated by people on one another - we need to hear a positive story like this, to remind ourselves that we can be be good to one another! (Except, of course, that it's a pretty gross story)...

As to the girl, she had to have a double corneal transplant, and will need several more surgeries, but should eventually recover her sight. Man. Wow.

That guy deserves some sort of public service medal or something...

Friday, May 18, 2007

It's like "Wild Kingdom" out there!

Wow! There are some serious nature benefits to living out in the country, and letting your backyard "go wild" instead of manicuring it...

We had our cute little girl rabbit with a black nose and adorable pink ears out back nibbling on some grass, and along comes Mr. Pheasant! There were a couple of tense seconds where they sized each other up, and the pheasant did a shake-out of his wings, to get some of the rain off--this nearly sent Ms. Bunny off into the woods, but she stayed, and he continued on his way to his favorite fallen log. He regularly gets up there, sometimes during the day, but always around this time at night - looks around, and does several loud wing-beats and his loud gobbling noise. We think he's doing this near, but not too near, the nest his women have made, to distract any potential predators away from them, and towards himself. He'll have a good advantage, too, being high up on the logs (the logs are still remaining in our backyard from the devastating Hurricane Juan a few years back). As he's getting ready to do some more wing beating, a squirrel runs across the logs to get back and forth to wherever he was going (gathering food or whatever). Between all that, and the birds coming to the feeder and hopping around the weeds, it looked like some kind of nature documentary in our backyard.

We are SO lucky. :) And we'll enjoy it, for as long as we have it.

The new Vesey's catalogue for fall bulbs has come!

I love it when the newest gardening catalogue comes out - this time, it's for bulbs you plant in the fall for flowering next spring. Vesey's has great bulbs, and some really unusual selections. So I thought I'd share some of the things I'd buy, if I had the budget!

Allium 'Globemaster' - basically, a giant flowering onion. They look SO cool!

Gorgeous peony tulip varieties - 'Angelique' on the left, and Melrose' on the right. They're so pretty with their variegated petals.

Coneflowers - Echinacea - the herb that many say can help you fight off a cold, now comes in more than purple! These Echinacea purpurea are really pretty, with 'Sundown' on the left and 'Harvest Moon' on the right.

And of course, I have to include my all-time favorite, poppies papaver (extremely popular in Ukrainian folk art, I draw them all the time, and love to grow them). We've got your classic beauty, 'Brilliant' (left), and a new one I haven't seen before, that I think would go great with it, called 'Royal Chocolate Distinction', on the right.

I've never grown daffodils myself, but they are widely enjoyed and grown throughout Canada (and I'm sure elsewhere). The Canadian Cancer Society has the daffodil as a symbol, and sells them in April, when they do their big charity drives. This particular daffodil, 'Green Pearl' is truly striking, with bright white petals and a chartreuse green center. Gorgeous!

And finally, these sweet little flowers look so perky and bright, you couldn't help but smile when you'd see them in the garden! Bold colors combined in each flower! It's a mix, called Wandflower (Sparaxis)

Of course, in addition to all of these great varieties, there's lots more to choose from, from the early-rising crocuses, to mid-spring tulips, to summer-blooming lilies, and everything in between. Check it out and plant something fun this year!

Link: Vesey's Seeds (only ships to Canada and the US. If you can't order from here, look to your local garden center for similar varieties). :)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Phlox galore!

WOW! I had seen my Mom's great display of phlox before, covering our back bank, but it was NOTHING compared to this shot, taken in Shibazakura Park in Japan, during a phlox festival. Amazing!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pretty Wildflowers

These flowers are found all over the Eastern shore, and possibly other places, in Nova Scotia, in spring. I don't know what they're called, though. They're incredibly delicate looking, on very thin stems, white with the lightest mauve tips on the petals. So pretty!

Addendum: Hey, I found a site with text and pics of wildflowers of Nova Scotia! And I found out that the above flowers are called Bluets. Check out more wildflowers of Nova Scotia here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Backyard Bunny!

I just took this snap of one of the forest bunnies having a snack behind my garden. Cute, or what? She was joined shortly by a larger, greyer rabbit (probably a boy), but they left before I could get a pic of them both. A robin was nearby, looking for worms in the grass, as the long rays of the setting sun turn everything golden - it was such a picturesque setting!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day in North America and some other countries, a day we celebrate our mothers and all they do for us. Usually this involves the purchase of mass-produced greeting cards, flowers, candies, and often more expensive things like jewelry.

But it turns out that Mother's Day, as it is celebrated to day, is yet another example of the law of unintended consequences. The woman seen here, Anna Jarvis, worked tirelessly to have an official day set aside to honour mothers and all they do, for "families to get together in church to recognise the real value of motherhood". This culminated in the creation of Mother's Day, the second Sunday in May. BUT, within a few years, the holiday had become completely commercialized, and she was so horrified that she had herself incorporated into a company and tried to copyright Mother's Day - then, she could prevent it from being celebrated. The woman spent all of her family's inheritance, and died penniless, unsuccessful. What a sad story (read more on the BBC here).

So, if you want to keep the spirit of the holiday, as it was originally intended, you might think about simplifying the holiday. Mothers LOVE home-made stuff made by their children, and that doesn't seem to fade with the age of the kids! So along with the flowers, why not make something for your Mom this year?

For the last several years, I have made my own mother her favorite soup for Mother's Day: French Onion. And she loves it! She SO looks forward to it, she talks about it throughout the year - I don't think there's anything I could buy her that would make her as happy as that soup!

Family Recipe - Ann's French Onion Soup

(At least) 2 cups onions, raw and sliced very thinly in rings (Note: I usually just about fill a large saucepan with onions, they reduce quite a bit during the cooking process)
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1-2 10 oz cans beef consomme
1/4 cup water
1 beef broth cube (or packet, like OXO brand)
1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup red wine

Shredded mozarella cheese (as much as you like)
French bread, sliced about 3/4" thick

- On low heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, (separate the rings as you go), and cook for about 30 minutes, covered, until soft, but not brown. Stir occasionally.
- Add boullion, water, Worcestershire sauce and red wine. You can add one or two cans of boullion, depending on how many onions you have. Heat to boiling. Add broth cube, stirring till dissolved. - Let boil about 5 minutes or so, during which you can toast the bread, and put one piece in the bottom of each serving bowl.
- Pour soup in bowls, top with cheese.

Makes about 4-6 servings, depending on the size of your bowls.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

Something I just learned about Ring-Necked Pheasants

Crazy!! It's funny, the ring-necked pheasant is such a flashy-looking bird, we always kinda wondered how it evolved here in Nova Scotia. As it turns out, IT's NOT FROM HERE! It's from China and Mongolia, and was introduced here several times with limited success. So those beautiful ornate pheasants that you see in Chinese art, are actually in our backyard! Pretty cool. Although I'm not a fan of introduced species - they generally cause a great deal more harm than good - these guys are pretty innocuous. Fascinating little read on the situation from the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, check it out.

Weekend notes

  • There is a silly frog out in the swamp, that is peeping during the day! All the rest peep at night and sleep during the day - I'm not sure he's going to get much mating action...!

  • Speaking of mating, Dave's mom accidentally interrupted the pheasants during a romantic interlude in the woods - pretty funny! Hopefully we'll get some baby pheasants this year!!

  • We had a 1/2 inch long, brown larvae in our kitchen, who, when Dave went to put him outside, had two GLOWING eyes, green/blue appear on its hind end! They glowed steadily, you could see them in the dark, and eventually started to fade. Never seen a bug like that, have no idea what it could be. Obviously a defense mechanism to attract prey to it's less sensitive backside while it attempts a getaway!

  • The bunnies have started to come out of the deep forest to eat the wild grasses of the surrounding fields and yards - we had one in our yard last night - all light brown, with a little black nose. SOOOO cute!

Friday, May 11, 2007

BeanDreams: Radish is up! And strawberries are blooming!

After a week or so of careful watering and watching, I was rewarded with seeing my radish come up today!

It's the bright green line of little sprouts up the middle. As you can see, there are weeds sprouting all over the place too, so I had a few days there where I couldn't be sure if the weeds were radishes or not. But now that the radishes are there, it's pretty obvious which ones they are.

Huzzah! I now have things sprouting in my garden earlier than I even planted anything last year - so things are looking good for a productive season! But if the weather should turn out like last summer, it might still go downhill...have to wait and see! :)

On another note, the wild strawberries that grow all over the place on the Eastern shore (and maybe other parts) of Nova Scotia are blooming. Lovely little white flowers, and when the berries come, they are tiny (about the size of your pinky nail), but SO sweet! Very nice!

Ah, German Shepherds...

A huge fan of the breed since I got one myself, I really enjoyed this pic from Reuters today:

A well trained Russian police dog showing off his skills by delicately picking up a cat on command. Pretty well trained cat, too, I would say - most cats would try to claw the dog's eyes out for doing that! :D

To see more of Reuters' best pics of the last 24 hours, go here, and click on the Editor's Choice link for a pop-up slideshow.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I went out a few minutes ago to get some more pics of Mayflowers (and to smell them--they have such a limited run, and the smell is just so gorgeous, ya gotta take advantage of them while they're here!). Check out this pic, the petals are so translucent with the sunlight streaming through them, they look like frosted glass...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Time marches on...

Many local pussy willows are in their final stage - the soft fuzzy little pods that look like they're made of kitten fur have changed, and are about to fall off to reveal the bright green, fresh leaves underneath. The beautiful hazy sunset made the light beautifully golden, setting off the yellow spines (they look like pollen spines? I'm not sure what they are).

My Gift Shop: New - Maternity Tees

Maternity Tees to help you keep cool in style. New!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Look what I almost missed!!

I was out looking again at my hyacinths, as they slowly come up out of the ground, and I looked over in the grass, and saw one in full bloom that I had completely missed! It was almost white, and the dead grass is such a light yellow, it blended in nearly perfectly! I'm so glad I found it! It smells just heavenly, too. :)

And when looking at the pics, I saw there was a little spider there on the flower - hanging out, enjoying the nice weather.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

BeanDreams: Some planting done

Yesterday, the 5th of May, I finished moving the soil over to the new garden plot, and sowed some of the "cool weather" crops: the daikon radish, the beets, and the bok choi. I'm really excited, because these crops (especially the radish) will be ready way sooner than the crops started to come in last year. Hooray!


While I was making a sandwich today, I looked out the kitchen door window, and saw this staring back at me:

Weird, or what? A strange cat we've never seen before, looking in with "feed me, please" eyes. We think now, upon reflection, we've seen him around a bit the last couple of days - we've been looking around for information on him, in case he's someone's pet that's gone missing, but there's been nothing so far.

He was awfully cute. We figure he's a boy, because he has those male cat "poufs" on his cheeks. He was all grey, with a really light grey muzzle and a tiny spot on his chest. He stayed FOREVER! It was crazy. Eventually we did feed him, twice, and he ate it gratefully, but not hurriedly, so we figure he must be well cared for somewhere. He eventually lay down for a while, and dozed off, but then got up and left.

How cute is that? Sorry the pic is taken through a dog-snot-smudged window... :) We would have let him in for a while, he certainly seemed to want to, but because of all the other animals in the house, we didn't think that was wise. Maybe next time, though... :)

And tonight, I FINALLY found my hyacinths bloomiing - they're over a month late, but as long as they're here now, I'm happy! :)

Weekend Wanderings

We did a lot of wandering this weekend - on Thursday morning, we had the car (which we don't usually), so we took Casey to the nearby provincial park. We had a nice long walk, and Casey had a swim.

Look at that lake - so incredibly still, and not a soul around. Gorgeous.

A couple of days later, Casey and I went to the lake that's near our house, through a lovely path in the woods.

There were beautiful white mayflowers...

Cute little flora inside an old tree stump...

And Casey had a chance to go for another little swim, one of her favorite things to do.

She had a lot of fun this weekend! :)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My Gift Shop: Stunning Celtic Spirals

Spirals, a favorite motif of the ancient Celts, come alive in this stained-glass inspired piece. Get yours today on a tee in one of our many available styles and colors - perfect for the warmer weather!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Birthday Dinner - Mr. Chang's

My favorite place to eat when I was living in Halifax was Mr. Chang's Chinese Food Emporium (corner of Morris & Birmingham Streets, just off Spring Garden Road, downtown Halifax). I haven't been there in YEARS, and so I was really excited to get back there for my birthday this year.

Happy to report that the food is just as awesome as always. I know some people who don't like Mr. Chang's, but I really can't see why you wouldn't like it! Everything is so freshly prepared, with nice sized, identifiable vegetables (and not all just celery like some places). Most restaurants around here use the VH Sauces that are found in every grocery store for their foods, but if you order from the authentic/specialty section of Mr. Chang's menu, you get incredibly awesome sauces you haven't tasted everywhere a dozen times before. So tasty! (but if you want the tastes you know, just order from the regular menu section). Seriously though, take a chance and order some of the authentic dishes, you will be SO glad you did!

The lo mein (bbq pork or beef) are incredible - nice chunks of veggies nestled into big udon type noodles. We had it the very first time we went there, recommended by the waitress, and it is the one dish we've had consistently every time we've gone. Great complimentary textures in this dish.

Chinese chicken and black mushrooms - wow. So incredible. Tastes like it has a sauce made with chinese 5 spice powder, shittake mushrooms in big yummy chunks (again, so you can enjoy the texture), chicken, and finely chopped strips of bamboo shoots. Delish!

But I think the hands-down favorite for everyone was Mr. Chang's Authentic Sweet and Sour chicken. Just an amazing sauce - perfect balance of sweet with sour, the chicken is breaded and fried before being coated in sauce, with nice chunks of well done peppers, onions and pineapple. Just incredible!

Aside from the dishes mentioned here, we also had wonderful egg rolls - we've never tried the vegetable ones, but the meat ones are very delicious!

Hopefully you'll get a chance to enjoy Mr. Chang's for yourself one day! It certainly helped make my birthday more special! Mr. Chang's is open for lunch and dinner, and open every day of the week.