Friday, December 30, 2011

Old Christmas Trees & Just for Fun

If you're not waiting, like me, for "Second Christmas" to roll around (Ukrainians and other ethnic groups still celebrate Christmas on January 7th), you can donate your old Christmas tree (tinsel-free, as always) to Hope for Wildlife. They will use them as habitats and cage buffers for their little and big creatures alike.  If you don't live in the Halifax area, contact your local wildlife refuge and see if they could use this gift as well!  Read more on the CBC.

And also from the CBC today, the top 10 list of ridiculous 9-1-1 calls received from the Chatham-Kent police department in southern Ontario.  Warning: they're pretty ridiculous!  Enjoy!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, and that 2012 will be a great year for you all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hakodate Christmas Tree

Every year, like to Boston, we send a tree to our sister city of Hakodate - SMZ was traveling in the area this year, and did a great blog post on it with lots of pics of our big tree! Check it out!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia...

Well, they said it might be "rain along the coast" but I guess we're not "coast" enough! :)  Crazy weather out today, yesterday was bright and sunny and only a little cool, but today we have been hammered with the first big snowstorm of the season.

It was very fun to let the girls out for the first time into snow this year, telling them "you'll be so surprised!" and they just stand at the door, confused for a second, then take off into the puffy snow and have such a great time! (This snow is very wet, perfect for snowmen btw!)

Glad to be snuggling under the kotatsu right now, and really glad I didn't have to work today, wouldn't want to be on the roads right now!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Christmas Craft Fairs - 'Tis the Season!

Well, almost!  The biggest craft fair in our area, Christmas at the Forum, is next weekend already!  This year has just flown by!!

I do sincerely hope one day to be able to sell my wares at one of these large fairs, but until that time, I eagerly read information about selling at craft fairs, so I can get a good idea in my mind of good display & selling tactics.

Here are some of the things I've noticed made a good booth display over the years:

Do not overstock in plain view: there was a booth I saw that sold small products (I won't mention what kind for anonymity) but they were in small packages that could be hung. Their display probably had 200 items all hung in neat rows and columns, but it was MASSIVELY overwhelming.  I thought about going to look at the booth but it was literally such overload I just didn't want too.

One booth had all the booth attendants wearing fun Christmas themed t-shirts. That immediately put you in the festive spirit!

Lighting is really, really important.  If you have anything that sparkles, be sure to bring extra lighting to show it off!  I saw an herbal vinegar seller whose wares were all sorts of different colours, and they had spot lighting behind the bottles that made them all shine like jewels!  Extremely appealing!!

If you have a URL, be sure to display it prominently! With the busy-ness of some of the fairs, some people may not even be able to get to your booth to grab a business card, etc. but still are interested in what you sell.  If you display your URL prominently, people will be able to check it out later even if they couldn't look at your products as closely as they'd like this time around.

If you do an unusual craft (or even if you don't) photos of the process is always a great way to generate interest.  Often people will become more enthusiastic about your product when they see details of how it is created.

The great people over at the Folksy Blog did a wonderful series on "Craft Fair Advice" - so head on over there to read some of their great ideas for selling at a craft fair:

If you're selling this year, best of luck! And if you're like me, have fun at all the fairs out there! :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ancient Paint Factory

As an artist and a former student of anthropology, this story captures my interests on many levels! They've discovered a "factory" in this gorgeous looking cave in South Africa (check out the article for a picture - what a view!), where they believe ancient man created pigments using ochre, charcoal and oil from seal bones, mixed and ground together inside shell "containers'. Read more about this fascinating discovery, and why man doing this 100,000 years ago is so important for our understanding of when we became modern humans, here:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I hope all my fellow Canadians had a nice Thanksgiving weekend! I didn't get my work schedule until Saturday, so unfortunately I was unable to set up plans to make Thanksgiving Dinner for my family this year (as it turned out, my folks went on Sunday to their favorite restaurant which had a set Thanksgiving turkey menu, and I was able to join them along with a dear family friend and a cousin - it was great turkey, and no dishes!)

But for Dave and I, dinner didn't happen until we were both off Monday afternoon. I had found a marinade online that I wanted to try, so we decided to have a Thanksgiving BBQ (Dave's not a huge fan of turkey, so no big loss for him).

There's a place locally that my family has gone to since I was little - it used to be right around the corner, but it moved several years ago, so we don't get there very often any more. It's called the Steak & Stein, and I have tons of fond memories of eating their delightful steak (and their great kids' birthday parties). Their signature steak is the Delmonico, Derby style. There's enough about my love for their steak and my wish for a replica of their amazing recipe to have at home to fill another blog post, but suffice it to say, I found a nice marinade online that is a great start towards that amazing flavour, and that's what I used for my Thanksgiving steak. I cut up a super-sale pot roast for this steak, and it turned out nice and tender after 48 hours (LOL) of marinating. (Here`s the original recipe I started with:

Aside from that, we had roasted potatoes I had grown from sprouted store-bought potatoes over the winter, and some tomatoes I had picked and saved from my blight-ravaged tomato plants. Its a celebration of the harvest, even if that harvest was lean. We also had some lovely fried fresh mushrooms and onions - no steak is complete without them!

I tried another recipe too, using my mother`s garden garlic and some adorable fresh little italian eggplants I found in the supermarket. However, it turns out that (at least this kind of) eggplant gets very...slimy....when roasted, and we didn`t enjoy the sensation of that at all. The garlic roasted up really nice in them though!

All in all, although not as elaborate as I like, it was a nice Thanksgiving dinner, and it was great to have some homegrown produce to share at the table, to welcome the end of the growing season, and be thankful for all our blessings.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Photo Diary: Eastern Passage

As promised, here's some more photos from my lovely trip to Eastern Passage the other day!

Here's a wildflower that had a small stand, but wasn't really widespread. Don't know what it was called, but it was lovely.

As I've mentioned before, these gorgeous roses grow wild all over the province, right up to the water's edge! The smell of the roses mixed with the sea air was heavenly!

There's a little shore bird in this pic, can you make him out? His camouflage is remarkable!

Here's a close up so you can find him better:

I believe he's a Spotted Sandpiper, but the beak is dark...don't know what to make of that, perhaps he's a juvenile? He was so cute, he flew down next to me, and we walked the shore together for a distance.

There were some sort of predatory birds in the area as well; I couldn't get a good look at their markings to identify them, but there is a nest of ospreys (our provincial bird) nearby, so that's likely what they are.

There are lots of signs of old wharfs in the area, but I have no idea how long ago they were abandoned. Posts here and there are all that's left. Nearby this one, is a high current area where land narrows and the ocean speeds up towards the harbour. No swimming is allowed, but people fish there all the time - and that day was the first day I saw someone actually catch something! When this gentleman reeled in another fish, one of his companions, a young boy, said disappointedly "...Again?". I don't think the little guy had the good spot that day.

This is a backwards looking shot towards downtown Halifax; so close and yet worlds away!

There was a very calm bit of water between the ocean and the shore, divided by a stand of sea grasses - and there was a HUGE school of tiny fish there! You can see where they broke the surface of the water looking for nibblies here and there. Every time I even took a single step close to them, they'd move farther out en masse, so it was hard to get a close shot of them! Safety first, little guys!

All in all, such a lovely day, so glad I was able to get out and enjoy one of our few sunny days this summer!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eastern Passage....always beautiful

Went to have lunch and a walk for the first time this summer out Eastern Passage way. Lovely day for it, just a few clouds in the sky, and the warmth of the sun offset perfectly by the refreshing ocean breezes. I really love that whole area, several local restaurants are right next to this delightful park, so you can walk off some of those extra calories. :) More pictures to come...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Summertime Wildlife Roundup

This summer, with the majority of days being rainy or darkly cloudy, we had a different mix of wildlife in the backyard than we have had previous years. Bees, as I have mentioned several times, were non-existent the first half of the summer, and even now, I have not seen more than two bees in the lawn at any given time (the lack of bees and the bad weather is why I believe our backlawn has a mass of thistles and not clover as it has in previous years. Not that the thistles aren't lovely and purple too, but you really miss the lovely scent of the clover on the wind).

Our dragonfly population came out very early this year (in June), in time to take care of the blackflies and the early beginnings of the mosquito population, but were missing for much of the latter half of July, when mosquitoes were at their peak. Fortunately, they have returned now in the latter half of August, so I'm getting much needed relief out there. They are amazing bug predators - I love to see them flitting about the yard on 'guard duty', occasionally getting into aerial battles over bugs with fellow 'sentries'.

Its been said that a healthy frog population is a sign the local environment is healthy, and if that is the case (check out why under morphology on Wiki), then our local area is doing REALLY well! From about the end of June till last week, we had a minimum of one frog a day outside in our back lawn. We saw maybe 3 the whole year last year, but this year was crazy! At one point I had a frog in each hand, trying to move them to the cool of the forest (and in the direction of a lake), and out of the path of my dogs playing. All different sizes, too, it was quite extraordinary!

We had one little green grass snake this year, and that was the first one I've seen since we moved here three years ago.

So, aside from the lack of bees, we've been doing quite well in the backyard wildlife department! Its been fun observing them!

Friday, August 12, 2011


The weather was not what we were promised. They said it was going to be uncharacteristically hot this summer, but instead we were hit with one cloud bank after another after another. Aside from a brief period of sun in July, it's just been a sad continuation of the awful weather we had all spring.

Today, mercifully, was a beautifully sunny break from all that rain. Got some bedsheets out on the line, enjoyed the sun with my girls, and took a few snaps to boot.

We have seen a few more bees this last month, but it's been nothing like the amount we had last year. At least *some* flowers and plants are getting pollinated!

I'm still so deeply impressed/interested with the true Queen Anne's Lace, the wild carrot, daucus carota. They're just so lovely, and their seedheads provide even more interest come fall and winter! (More on that another time!) :)

Here's hoping for more sunshine, soon!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Fun Summer Cams in NS

Found a link to this place via the CBC today...web cams featuring great views of Halifax and other locales across Nova Scotia. The most popular one is the Lobster Cam, a cam set up inside a lobster trap located in Halifax Harbour. (Don't be distressed, its for educational purposes only, the lobsters are released on a regular basis). Other sea life stops by occasionally as well, so that's pretty fun! My other fave is the Harbour Hopper - its an amphibious vehicle run by Murphy's On the Water (amazing fish and chips, btw) that gives a tour of Halifax/Dartmouth AND the harbour, going on land and sea - the webcam follows them along their journey, and gives the current locale across the top. Good times! :)

There are plenty of other cams to see with great views of our fair city and beyond (but most of them will likely only run during the summer season), be sure to check them out!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Bees? Any bees?

It has been a terrible spring weather-wise here in Nova Scotia. From March - June, we had maybe 5 days of sun per month (and frankly, I think I'm being generous). Other than that, its' been cloud, rain, fog, or a combo of all. My tomatoes were hardened off for 3 weeks because nights were still getting so cold.

I noticed that even after the clover started blooming, I can count on one hand the number of bees I've seen so far this summer. I'd hoped it wasn't colony collapse or anything like that; it turns out that bees hate the bad weather more than we do! The constant rain means bees stay in their hives, getting cranky and eating stored honey instead of producing new.

The CBC has an article on the lack of honey this year so far:

I'm just hoping I get enough bees to pollinate my tomatoes! I might have to do it myself... :)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Census Time is here again!

Time for the Census once again! Got my info-note in the mail this morning. Nice to see that they only give out a small note with a code, so you can fill out the census online or call to get the full paper one mailed to you should you require it. A great way to save all that paper (and I'm sure it makes it easier for them to process too!)

So, gather everyone together and fill it out! We have 10 days to do so. I've always been interested in the census (being a former anthropology student), but much more so once I was able to get information on my ancestors through it - it was fascinating to learn my great-grandmother was a house servant at 16 while living at home, but by the time of the next census was already out of the house and married! It was a lot of fun to see the changes in the family through this medium - aside from birth and death records, really the only ones my family has, for generations that far back. I am very glad to leave behind my own record for future generations to get a small glimpse at what life was like way back in 2011...

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Possibly, might, be here...

Yesterday, while in the back with the girls, the male ring-necked pheasant made an appearance, and I heard him "gobble gobble"-ing throughout the afternoon.

And today, just after I brought the girls in, I saw a crow in our backyard, picking around at the dead grass and weeds. Didn't know exactly what he was looking for, it was strange to see him hanging around there. Then another crow came, and showed the first one how it was done - they gathered large beakfulls of the longer straw-like remains of the grass - and you know why!! I was so excited! If crows are starting to build and pad-out nests, SPRING really might be here! Hurray!

That's why it's nice to leave a little bit of wilderness in your backyard if you can - a close-mowed all-grass lawn can't provide the variety of food and nesting materials that "weeds" like clover and long wheat-like grasses can.

Forgive the quality, it was taken through our triple-glazed window. :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Buy Local and the Family Farm

I've been training full time for a new job, haven't had time to write unfortunately!

Saw this nice article in the Herald this a.m. talking about one farm's journey from local provider of beef, to raising cattle to be finished and butchered far away, to coming back full circle and providing fresh anti-biotic free meat to the new local farmer's market. It's a good story, and one I hope will be repeated more and more as time goes by.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Drama regarding Urban Homesteading

It had to happen eventually, I suppose. Everyone wants to have copyright or trademark over *everything* these days. But a REALLY well-known family in the Urban Homesteading movement were the last people I thought would do this - read about the whole sad, unfolding drama at the LA Blogs and OC Weekly. Read the comments too, they are also very informative. It has a LOT of peoples' danders up, and affects the Urban Homesteading movement as a whole.

Got the story via Reddit, again (thanks Reddit for keeping us in the loop). :)

EDIT: An update, as of Feb 22.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Driving snow yesterday, just blowing all day, sideways. Windchill in the -20s (Celsius) We have had a CRAZY amount of snow this season - it's been a little hard to take, some days. :)

But tonight, a beautiful moon and a little clear sky was a welcome sight.

Friday, February 04, 2011

During and After

During the storm...

After the storm...

The sun was only spotty afterwards, but I was glad to see it!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


I don't like to throw big snow storm terms like that around, because we do (or did) get a lot of snow in these parts in the winter. But this storm is over 3,200 km wide, which is crazy huge, so I think we can safely use that term. :)

It is NUTS out there! This morning, after the result of the mini-storm that hit us last night:

And now, taken about four hours after the first photo:

Casey LOVES the snow, this is totally her favorite season. But even she wanted to come in, when she couldn't see too far through the flakes anymore. :) She got covered in a matter of moments.

Oh well, time to sit tight and wait for this to blow over - and then the shoveling, oh the shoveling!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Poor Red Bridge Pond...

And poor homeowners! This is a lovely pond, home to ducks and other waterfowl, a scenic little place very close to my home growing up. I used to go there all the time!

Some extremely thoughtless thieves stole $15 worth of copper from four homes (that's $15 TOTAL) - the lines that run from the homes' furnace oil tank. And because of this, there is MONTHS of work that needs to be done and untold thousands of $$ in cleanup. Furnace oil is in the pond, leeching into the soil, traveling to connecting waterways. It's a huge, huge mess. And I thought people stealing copper from churches was bad...

[EDIT: Oh, and it turns out they've hit local businesses too, same M.O. They HAVE to catch these guys!]

Monday, January 24, 2011


I love the patterns that ice makes throughout winter, some are really amazing.

This one was the result of overflow of our gutter, followed by a slight thaw, then freezing. I've never seen crystals grow out like that before.

This was an area near our door - you can see the shattered remains of the ice that was there previously through the thin areas of the current ice sheet.

And this was Jack Frost on the windows this morning! The patterns are just so amazing, they remind me of the lovely vining designs of medieval manuscripts.

And closer...

And closer...

Lovely, lovely stuff... it's -15 deg C out there right now, with a windchill of -26 deg C. More ice to come! :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Natural Farming

I've been coming across a lot of information on this style of farming lately. Today, via Reddit, I found this article on Natural Farming practices in Hawaii - and before that, I read up on Fukuoka's "One Straw Revolution" which he started back in the 1070s. (Also read Mother Earth News' article on Building Fertile Soil). These and others are advocating less human intrusion in the growing process, and allowing nature (and soil microbes/worms/etc) to do the majority of the work. There are only a few times in the growing cycle that humans need to be involved in, but they must be done at just the right time and the right way, for the crops to be successful. It's very specific to each region as well - the methods and cycle that work in one area is not really directly transferable to other areas - so you have to take the ideas and adapt them to your local area.

I really love the idea of stepping away from the process and allowing this underground network to do most of the "heavy lifting". And best of all, this is a "no-till" system! It's a rather radical change from the way we've been doing farming, but with comparable yields to modern farming and NO pesticides, it seems to be something really worth looking at! Check out those articles, they're great reads.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Great article on Eating At Home

I read a great article today on the Huffington Post via Time magazine - How Eating at Home Can Save Your Life, by Mark Hyman, MD. Well worth a read, it talks about the changes to the American (and by extension Canadian) diet over the last one hundred years have led to problems for the environment, obesity, and the loss of valuable cooking skills to future generations. Two points that were shocking and sad to see:

1) "In in five breakfasts [was] from McDonald's."
2) "In his series, 'Food Revolution,' Jamie Oliver showed us how we have raised a generation of Americans who can't recognize a single vegetable or fruit..."

Regarding 1), I love McDonalds as a special treat, but it's not a good idea to have that much deep-fried goodness so often!

Regarding 2), I enjoyed taking pictures of fruit and veggies in situ during Agrifest in 2006 as a way (hopefully) that kids could see what these things look like in the ground, as they often look different when they get to the grocery store, and different again when they reach the plate. But it's shocking to hear that kids wouldn't be able to identify them even in their grocery store form. That is really scary. A fruit cup puree is not a fruit. There's almost always added sugars and syrups. Worse than a fruit cup puree is (probably) no fruit at all.

It used to be that you'd run into the occasional person who couldn't cook, and it was a bit of a joke. But if NO ONE in your family cooks, that is a serious concern! (Heating microwave dinners doesn't count as cooking!) If no one can cook, you're either a) eating too much take out - which has a lot of foods that are purchased for their long shelf life (preservatives, TONS of excess salt/sodium), deep fried, or processed meats (as above, preservatives and salt), or b) buying convenience foods from the grocery store, which pretty much have the same drawbacks. If you don't have to chew your food very much, then it's probably too processed (and a crispy fried coating outside doesn't count!). :) Our bodies don't run their best on stuff they don't even have to work at to digest.

Annnywayyyyy, the article is very interesting, and definitely worth a read. There's lots of good tips in there!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Really bad news about the contest

As I mentioned recently, Hope for Wildlife was up for a $100,000 grant to finish their Wildlife Hospital. Just got the horrible news that they have been disqualified - I'm heartbroken, I don't know how badly they must all be feeling.

What happened was, they offered for anyone who wanted to support Hope for Wildlife, but didn't want to spend the time it takes to vote everyday (I have to say, voting is a bit of a pain, you have to click "Vote for this idea", then login, then do a Turing test, THEN click on "vote for this idea" again. But I love these people, so I do it), :) that you could send HFW your user name and password, and once a day one of the volunteers would go in and do your vote for you. Not flooding with false votes, or more than one vote a day or anything, just trying to save people who wanted to help time out of their busy day. But apparently Pepsi considered that "proxy voting" and that is against the rules. So they were kicked out of this round, and have to try to get into an upcoming round.

They were doing so very well, and could have used that money so much for their new facility. I feel absolutely miserable. It's all just so unfortunate.

They do plan on running again, and when they do, I'll post the info here.

I'm going to go be bummed now.... :(

Monday, January 10, 2011

Vote for Hope For Wildlife!

Hope for Wildlife is up for a $100,000 grant from, in hopes of using that money to complete Nova Scotia's first Wildlife Veterinary Hospital. I've talked with and gotten help from Hope several times over the years, she is an amazing person, and has created a wonderful place for hurt and distressed wild animals to get the care they need to be released back into the wild. But they need a little help to get the facility to the level they'd like it to be. Read more about their plans, and please, please, please vote (you can vote one time a day) at Pepsi Refresh Everything.

Here's some previous posts I've made regarding Hope For Wildlife as well:

They're on facebook, too!!/hopeforwildlife

Friday, January 07, 2011

Food pics from last night

Here's all the dishes I made for dinner last night:

From the top right, clockwise:
Baked Haddock fillets, McCain's Spicy Fries, salmon fish cakes, compote, fried mushrooms and onions with beer. Missing from photo: Greek salad, home-made pickle.

And the Cape Breton Post is running an article on Old Christmas featuring the parish of the Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church in Sydney (where my mom grew up and we still have family). Check it out here!

Have a great Christmas day!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Sviat Vechir dinner tonight

Tonight is Ukrainian Christmas eve, aka Sviat Vechir. Traditionally, twelve meatless and dairyless dishes are served (in honour of the 12 apostles, or from pagan times, the 12 months of the year). But when you have a small family (just Dave and I, in this case), some of the traditional dishes are just too elaborate to warrant making. So, adapting is sometimes necessary, and in this case, I try to present a variety of small meatless dishes in lieu of the traditional twelve (and suited a bit more to our tastes). :)

My menu will consist of

- fried haddock
- a mushroom and onion stir fry - mushrooms usually feature prominently in the Christmas eve dinner
Chopped shiitake, button and crimini mushrooms with diced onions, cooked in canola oil with a little beer added in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Cook until liquid is evaporated.
- fish cakes
A small can of salmon, mashed with 2-3 mashed potatoes. Formed into patties, coated in flour, and fried in canola oil till crispy on the outside.
- Greek pasta salad, without added feta cheese
- compote
my own style, based on fruits we have around the house - a few raisins, dates and apples, simmered in water, with a touch of honey and spiced rum.
McCain's spicy potato wedges
- homemade relish pickle made in the summertime

There's tons of great recipes for the traditional 12 dishes served, here are a few links to get you started:

Enjoy your Christmas eve dinner! And the lovely smoked-meat-fest that Christmas day will bring - I know we will! :D

[EDIT: Here's some great pics from around the world of people celebrating Christmas this night:]