Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seeing things

Do you ever look up at the clouds and try to find images in them? You know, like a gigantic turtle, or a sailing ship, or a beach ball?

Maybe it's exhaustion. Maybe it's from inhaling drywall compound or paint fumes. But when we're peeling the wall paper or the paint off the walls, I like to look for images in the difficult spots. Maybe it just makes the work seem a little less tedious, or it helps pass the time a little faster. But I've seen South America, a boot (or maybe it was Italy?), and this:

Did you see it? You may have to turn your head a bit...

Here, like this, I'll show you...

Did you see a dragon??

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Birds of Prey

About a week and a half ago we drove with Ian's parents to Beamer, a nearby conservation area, to see the birds of prey returning North for the summer. It was just over a half hour drive away. The weather was cool and there was a bit of snow on the ground under the trees and in the shady areas, but the sun was shining. The hiking trails were a bit muddy in places. But the views were amazing. We were up on top of the Niagara Escarpment, with a view above Grimsby and over Lake Ontario.

It was a nice afternoon for a walk, and it allowed for some nice quality time with Ian's parents. However, the only birds of prey we saw were Turky Vultures, and I don't think we got any really good pictures of them. They mostly just hover in the updrafts at the edge of the escarpment, so the pictures we took were just dark silhouettes, wings outstretched against the sky. Neat, but not really very detailed or anything.

Then, a few days later, I was sitting in our living room and noticed the birds in the front yard were particularly active. So I was standing in the window watching them, when this bird swooped down from the trees in the school yard, behind the houses across the street. Luckily he stuck around long enough for me to swap the zoom lens onto the camera, AND take a picture! Lucky!

That's the Oak tree in our front yard, and I took the picture through the living room window. And to think we drove all the way to Beamer to see this kind of beauty... There's no place like home!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Making Doughnuts

We were working in the den bedroom last weekend (like a week ago). Sometimes, when we are working on the house, we'll treat ourselves to a coffee and a doughnut from everyone's favourite Canadian coffee shop... But we've tightened the straps on our purse strings, so to speak, and there's not room in the budget for coffee and doughnuts. Besides, we have coffee. And it's pretty easy to make doughnuts.

So we finished off in the room, and for an extra special treat that evening, we made doughnuts ourselves, together. Making doughnuts together, and brewing a nice big pot of coffee, is way more fun then just driving over to the coffee shop for a quick treat. Before you know it, your doughnut is gone and you have to get back to work. This way, we spent some quality time together, and we ate doughnuts while they were still warm, and we had doughnuts to eat for three days! You should try it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lapel: A Bird Rescue Story

One day in June, back in 2007, a young couple ventured out of their dark apartment for a walk in the sunshine.

They came around the corner of the building, and began to cross the back alley. They heard a flock of crows creating a ruckus, and noticed them fighting over something; picking at it. This wasn't unusual; the garbage dumpster was located just beyond where the birds were cavorting. However, drawn to the particularly loud noise the birds were making this day, the couple took a closer look at the garbage they were fighting over. It seemed to be a relatively small piece of garbage, and yellow. It didn't look like a banana peel, what could it be? They walked towards it, startling the crows and causing them to back away. The garbage moved.

The couple realized that the yellow garbage was actually an animal of some sort. They walked closer, shooing the possessive crows away again. The garbage was actually a small yellow bird!

The girl continued to move closer to the small bird while the boy stood back, trying to figure out what kind of bird it could be; she'd never seen a bird like this before. Immediately she noticed it was missing some feathers, but the poor little thing didn't try to fly away. She wondered if it was hurt. Not really thinking about it, and unable to explain why afterwards, she reached her hand down towards the little bird to see if it would move away. The small trembling bird hopped towards her and jumped up onto her arm. The girl, started, stood up, holding her arm out. She'd never seen a bird do that before, particularly not a wild bird! This was no wild bird, she knew. The poor little creature climbed up her arm and perched herself onto her shoulder.

"What's it doing, what is it doing?" she asked the boy. "Aaah, take it off!" So he reached down and gently lifted the bird off of her arm. The little bird quickly hunched herself down on his shoulder.

"What will we do with it?" the boy asked.

"Well, I guess we should try to find out who it belongs to," the girl reasoned. "This must be some one's pet. Do you know what kind of bird it is?"

"I have no idea," the boy responded. They both looked up at the surrounding apartment buildings, searching for open windows that a small bird may have escaped from. If the little bird fell from a window, and was unable to fly, it might not even be able to return home.

The couple took a hard look at the little bird. She was missing some feathers, but nothing appeared to be broken. However, neither really knew anything about birds. So they took the sad little bird inside. She stayed close to the boy the whole time, crouched down on his shoulder. The couple were surprised at how tame she seemed. They decided to take her up to a nearby pet store to see if they knew more about the little bird, or if anyone had reported a missing bird there. Maybe they had a bird cage and could keep the bird until the owner was found.

The couple got into the car, and the little bird stayed tucked onto the boy's shoulder the whole time. They got out of the car, and walked across the street, towards the pet store, and still, the little bird did not move.

They went into the pet store and took the little bird to the counter. They told the sales people what had happened, and they all examined the little bird. The associates at the pet store said they had some small cat and dog carriers in which they could keep the little bird, and that they could call someone to come take a look at it. The associates also put up a sign in the window that a bird had been found. So the couple left the little bird in their more knowledgeable hands.

The couple went home, hoping that the little bird would be okay. They searched the Internet to see if they could identify the type of bird it was, and discovered it was a Lovebird. Lovebirds, they learned, like to live with a partner with whom they can bond very closely. When they don't have another bird to bond with, they often become very attached to their owner. When Lovebirds are separated from their partners, they can become very depressed. They couple was very worried for the little bird. They posted a few signs around the building, saying the bird had been found, and posted ads on the Internet. With heavy hearts they hoped they had done all they could do. They imagined that somewhere, a very worried owner was missing their precious little bird and would be looking for it.

They called the pet store the next day and the associates said that someone had come to give the bird a check-up, and thought it seemed to be in relatively good health, but that it was very stressed and was missing a lot of feathers. Perhaps the crows had been pulling them out. But so far no one had come to claim the bird. The associates said they probably couldn't keep the bird in the store, but that there was a bird rescue society that could maybe take the bird if the owner could not be found. The couple hoped that the owner would turn up. The couple felt that the poor stressed little bird needed to go home. It was very timid and nervous, and didn't seem to be eating very well. With the missing feathers, it was a sad looking bird indeed.

When no owner turned up the next day, the couple told the pet store that they would take the bird back, until the owner turned up. Everyone thought that would be a good idea. So the couple bought a cage, bird food, and some toys, and took the bird home. They made an appointment to take the bird to a veterinarian who specialized in birds.

The veterinarian prescribed some medicine for the little bird, and was a bit worried about the pulled feathers. The vet said that sometimes when birds become very distressed they can pull their own feathers out. The couple was very concerned for the little bird.

They took it home again. The little bird seemed to be feeling a bit better, although it was still picking at it's feathers, it did fly around a bit, mostly from it's cage to their shoulders. When it was in the cage, the little bird would squawk and squeek until they let it out again, and it would fly immediately to their shoulders where it would crouch down into the warmth of their necks. In particular, the little bird liked to tuck itself up under the collar of their shirts, or underneath the hood of their sweaters, and the little bird would crouch their as long as they allowed it. They decided to name the bird Lapel, after the folded piece of fabric attached to the collar, on the front of a jacket.
As the little bird got more use to the couple, it became more playful and frisky. It would bite at them through their clothes, and nip at their fingers if they tried to take it out of the cage themselves, or put it back in the cage. The girl began wearing the same shirt every day when she came home because the bird began putting holes in their clothes. The couple didn't think this was acceptable behaviour from the bird, but realized it had been through a very traumatizing experience and were trying to be patient with it. Mostly, they felt very sorry for the poor little bird.

The little bird became particularly unhappy when they had to feed it medicine the vet had prescribed, from a small syringe, and it would squirm and bite at their fingers as they held it.

When the couple had to go to work during the day, they would leave a sheet over the cage to try to keep the bird quiet. But the bird knew it was daytime and wanted out of the cage, so it would squawk all day until the couple came home. When they did get home and pulled the sheet back, the little bird would hop back and forth on the perch in the cage, puffing itself up like a little football player preparing for the next play, squawking and squawking until they finally opened the cage door. The couple loved that the bird seemed so happy to see them, but were concerned about the amount of noise the bird was making in their small apartment. They were worried that the neighbours would be very annoyed.

The couple realized that they couldn't keep the little bird. It needed a lot of attention and care, and they didn't know anything about taking care of birds. They wanted the little bird to have more than they could give it. Lapel needed someone with more patience and time to help her heal. She needed her behaviour corrected by someone who knew how to do that.

The girl knew someone she thought might be the perfect mommy for the little bird; her cousin. She loved birds, and had even nursed a wounded crow back to health. So she sent her cousin a message, and told her about the little bird, asking if she would be interested. The cousin said she had always wanted a Lovebird, and was very interested. The couple made arrangements to bring the bird to the cousin the following weekend.

Saying goodbye to Lapel was very hard for the couple, but they were confident that if anyone could help her to get better, train her to behave better, and provide a caring, loving home for her, the cousin could. And they were right.

The cousin bought a carrying cage and took the little bird everywhere with her for a time. The little bird stopped pulling her feathers, and stopped biting so much. The cousin played with her often, and tried to teach her to talk. Within a few years, she even began nesting and laying eggs, a sign that she was truely comfortable and happy. The cousin provided the best, most loving home she could for many years. And when the little bird got sick, the cousin knew just who to call and what to do. She was the perfect, most patient and caring bird mommy anyone could hope for.

The couple knew they had done the right thing.

Sadly, Lapel passed away this weekend. She had been laying eggs again recently, but had been having difficulties with it. The cousin was aware of this and had been giving the bird some suplements to help her, but sadly, Lapel became egg-bound and passed away. RIP little bird, we'll all miss you dearly.

And a special thank you to an amazing cousin who really was the most perfect bird mommy an orphaned bird could have hoped for.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The laundry "Oops."

It was over a week ago. I can blog about it now.

I was up early, like before 8, and thought I'd get some laundry on. I started it no problem. Then, I went back downstairs to check on it and found this.

I had to go back upstairs and get my rubber boots on so I could get closer to this, without getting my feet wet. I may have sworn first. But quietly.

So a rag fell into the laundry sink, which the washing machine also drains into, and plugged up the drain. Then it overflowed. Unfortunately, the drain on the floor was also plugged (which we didn't really know, it's not usually one of those things you check...) So I brought the plunger down and gave it a good plunging. It opened up right away and whisked the water down with it. Some of it. The rest had to be pushed towards the drain with my swiffer (I don't have a regular old mop), and then mopped towards the drain with the very rag the plugged the sink up in the first place.

The carpet, unfortunately, didn't make it. I rolled it up, still dripping, tied it, and carted it outside. As soon as it was wet, it stunk. I didn't want to risk the smell not going away, and wasn't sure how I was going to squeeze out the water anyways.

Insert big white box fan here, and the floor was dry before 10AM that very day.

I was actually pretty proud of myself. I stayed calm. I didn't yell. I didn't call anyone so I could freak out first. Sure I had one little swear, but it was quiet and I think totally justified. And then I got over it. I just dealt with the situation.

Sometimes I surprise myself.

PS The laundry room floor actually looks pretty good now, nice and clean! And when Ian spilled water on it last night I made him dry it up so it wouldn't leave water marks. He didn't understand.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


One of the biggest things I've been struggling with since our move has been what I'm going to do for work. I've had some temporary work, but haven't worked now in three months, and the money is running out quickly. We're not destitute, but we can no longer afford to do any work on the house. We'll finish painting the final room upstairs, but the crown moulding, 1/4 round, cupboards, doors, etc. will all have to wait until I find a way to make some money.

I've been toying with some ideas of working from home, but I haven't really been able to come up with anything that will make enough money to help us. I mean, if I was working outside the house as well as working from home it would help, but my ideas of the crafty things I could make and sell, or tutoring, isn't going to bring in enough money to make ends meet.

I am a teacher.

I was a teacher.

When we first talked about moving I thought I could use a change from teaching. I still wasn't sure if that was what I wanted to spend my life doing. I wasn't sure if I loved it enough. It's a lot harder than you think it is, unless you're a teacher. Then you know how hard it is. Teachers are highly under-appreciated, and they work way harder than most people give them credit for. Sometimes it is a thankless job, but teachers do it because they love it. I wasn't sure how much I loved it. Until I stopped.

For months I've been weighing how I feel about it, reflecting on my choices. I came to the conclusion that I really do love teaching. I miss teaching. I miss my colleagues, my students, and I miss learning about teaching, and how to teach better! I miss my classroom and my books, the noise, the mess, the smiles and laughs. I really miss a paycheck. Maybe it's just because I feel so lonely here sometimes, but I miss it so much it hurts my heart to think about. I want to teach again.

Here, I don't know what I am. I don't know what I'll do. I've applied for many jobs now. I've had two interviews. I've turned down two job offers. One was tutoring, but I didn't get a good feeling about the company or the boss, and they couldn't garauntee how much I'd work. I didn't think it would be a good place for me. That was back in August or September. The other offer was at a greenhouse, last week, but it was minimum wage and only three months. Unfortunately that would mean I wouldn't make enough money to have a car (by the time we purchase a second car (estimate $2000), get a safety inspection, fix anything, transfer it, insure it, and pay for gas, I estimated $4,500 total) and the job was a 30 minute drive away, no bus access. And again, it didn't sound like the hours would be garaunteed. That one really hurt my heart to turn down. The people there seemed really nice and I think I might have enjoyed it. I've been feeling really down about it.

I've been watching all the websites I know of, looking for something I can do. Some ideas, some hope, anything. But I've been distracted from my "real" job. I needed to wait until the end of January to apply for my criminal record check here, so I could apply for my certification here. I was distracted. I didn't do it until the end of February. I was going to apply to the school district here. I realized last night that I missed the deadline for applying by 21 days. It was March 1st. I finished the application and submitted it anyways, but I suspect it will be to no avail.

I'm so disappointed. I think I cried myself to sleep last night.

I have no idea what I'll do for work here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sounds of Spring

As spring approaches, so does the singing outside our windows in the morning. The cardinal has been particularly vocal lately, and I'm afraid that means he might be leaving us for the warmer season, and I'll miss him if he goes. I don't remember seeing him until the weather turned cooler, so I doubt he'll stick around. But maybe he was just being elusive and he'll continue to be a regular visiter through the spring and summer. On the other hand, if he keeps flying into the window, maybe he should just move on!

I made the video small, and apologize that it's also sideways - I always forget that I can't rotate videos!!  But the point was not the scenery anyways, it was the accompanying audio.

And yes, I think that also sounds like a woodpecker in the background (among the other noises) and I hope he's not wood-pecking my house! Preferably not my trees either, but definitly not my house!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Peanut Butter and Ian's Birthday

Ian's birthday was Saturday and we all went out for dinner to the Hard Rock Cafe. After dinner his family all came over to our house for Dairy Queen Blizzard cake (Reese's flavour of course!)

If you don't know him, you probably don't know that Ian is a peanut butter fiend. My nick name for him is Peanut Butter. He once ate an entire jar of peanut butter for Christmas dinner. His sister brought him Reese's Pieces to Thailand because you can't get them there. For the last several years for his birthday, my good friend Lyn has made him a peanut butter cheese cake. Since this is our first year together away from Vancouver, I'm not sure if you can mail cheesecake, and Lyn won't give up the secrets of her delicious recipe, I figured I had to make Ian a peanut butter treat for his birthday. I have a recipe for peanut butter fingers that we both LOVE, but those are sort of a Christmas tradition, and I thought Ian should have something special for his birthday. I've tried making homemade peanut butter cups but they were just disappointing. So this year, after some consulation with Ian, we settled on Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars. Now, because they don't have custard filling, I guess they are just Peanut Butter Bars, but I used a Nanaimo Bar base for them; you know, chocolate, coconut, walnuts, graham crumbs, butter, mmmmm... For the middle layer I jut made a thick but simple peanut butter icing, with icing sugar, peanut butter, and butter. For the top, chocolate layer, it was simply semi-sweet chocolate chips melted with butter (Butter, butter, butter! That is sooo bad! Good thing these are a once a year treat!) Of course I topped the whole thing off with Reese's Pieces. They are delicious. They are super sweet. They are almost gone! Seriously. I made them Friday, today is Monday, and I think there are like six left.

On Friday night we stayed in to celebrate Ian's birthday, just the two of us. We attempted to make one of his favourite dishes of all time, Thai Penang chicken curry, and one of my favourite dishes, Thai Mango Salad.

Now to make Penang Chicken Curry, technically you need Penang curry paste, or sauce. We scoured this town and couldn't find any. I browsed the Internet, trying to find a simple substitute and couldn't find anything. To make the paste ourselves required spices there is NO WAY I would find in this town, particularly at this time of year. So I came up with an idea (because, like with the peanut butter bars, that's what I do. If I can't find what I want, I make it up.) So we used regular Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, and peanut satay sauce mix (it's a powder that comes in a pouch). It's Ian's favourite dish, he knows what he likes it to taste like, so at this point I put Ian in charge of it. He fried up some chicken, then removed it from the pan and poured in the cocunut milk. Then he added the red curry paste and the satay sauce and simmered it a bit. To that, Ian also added a little bit of regular old peanut butter, and tossed in a couple of bay leaves right near the end, before tossing the chicken back in. The outcome was a little more peanuty than the original that he loves, and next time we wouldn't add quite so much extra peanut butter, and I think I'd go a little easier on the Satay sauce too, but it was amazing anyways! It was soo amazingly delicious I can't even describe it!

While Ian was monitoring the curry I was preparing the mango salad. I used two ripe mangoes, and chunked them up. Then I sliced up a golden delicious apple, in tiny match stick slices. I added some very thinly sliced red onion, and a very generous handful of cashews. I dressed it with lime juice and a sprinkling of sugar. It was really good too, although the lime juice was pretty sour. I'm still working on a better dressing, but I don't really like the ones I've been able to find online, so I'm thinking I'll have to keep working on it. I think finding a suitable oil might be the trick, and I'm wondering if peanut oil, or coconut oil would work.

For dessert, of course we enjoyed our peanut butter bars!

Maybe it's the larger kitchen, maybe it's the dining room, maybe it's the fact that we actually eat at a table here, but Ian and I have both commented that food tastes better here. Maybe it's just that I've had way more time and energy to cook, and find recipes, or make things up. Maybe I'm just finding better recipes now. But whatever it is, we have definiately had the best meals we've ever made since we moved here.

I hope you had a happy birthday weekend, Peanut Butter! xoxo

Friday, March 11, 2011

The haunting of the rooster room. Oh yeah, and your room is ready!

Do you remember the Rooster Room? It was our guest bedroom, kindly left for us, as is, by the generous Mrs. S. when we purchased the house. It's been named the Rooster Room because it is absolutely filled with rooster and chicken items. All of the pictures on the walls are roosters or chickens (approximately 10 of these!), the plates (2) are roosters or chickens, even the clock is a rooster cock. The witty Mrs. S. was not unaware of the possibly nicknames for that room (giggle.)Our first week here we slept in that room while we frantically tried to get the master bedroom ready for habitation (aka get the smoke smell out.) If you don't remember it, here it is.

First of all, we removed all the furniture and pictures, filled and sanded the imperfections in the walls, pulled out the carpet, and then primed. But a funny thing happened at that point. Well, not so funny maybe. We noticed, immediately after finishing priming, that the spare bedroom smelled like Kentucky Fried Chicken.

No joke.

So we closed the door. We left it for a couple of days. It really was not a nice smell. We were hoping it would go away. It didn't. I think it even got worse.

I took it as a sign from the roosters that they were done with that room and would not be returning. That's okay with me! Actually, I took it to mean that they were dead. So I painted the trim and Ian helped with the ceiling, and then I painted over the primed walls. I've become a painting-machine!

Luckily, the smell went away.

Next we pulled out the underpadding. We have been leaving it on while we've painted because it doesn't touch the trim (so we don't have to worry about trying to paint around it) and it protects the wood floors underneath from the occassional rogue paint drip (or light splattering that occurs every time we prime.) Unfortunately, as with our bedroom, we discovered a huge paint splotch (is that a word?) on the wood floors when we pulled the underpadding out. The master bedroom had a lot of paint on the wood floors, but luckily the rest of the house has been alright so far.

But I'm getting good at this house reno stuff. I tackled it with my chisel and 0000 steel wool. I tried a putty knife  and although it works well on the light small splatter spots, it wasn't really doing anything on this big splotch. After two days, this is the outcome.

I'm pretty happy with it actually. The floor will have to be re-varnished, but I'm okay with that.
I washed the curtains, and they shrunk. And they're double layers. And only the outer yellow fabric shrunk, not the white liner fabric behind it. So it looks dumb. We'll have to get new curtains. All the other bedding is still sitting downstairs in the laundry room, unwashed since we moved in. I don't plan on using it. I'll probably wash it and donate it, except for two possibly wool spare blankets that were on the beds. I think I'll wash and keep those. We bought new bedding just before New Years because we were having our first overnight guests!

So, it's done.

Well, almost...

We'll have to get a new curtain, I wouldn't mind getting a rug, the lamp shades need some attention, and we'd like to hang some artwork. Hanging artwork on our freshly patched and painted walls seems to be the hardest thing for us to grapple with. First off, picking out nice artwork that you can live with forever isn't easy. Ian's got lots of photographs we'd like to use, but how do you even decide? And then there's the part about putting holes in our lovely walls. We just filled all those holes! That's the worst part I think. We do have SOME pictures to hang on walls but so far haven't been able to bring ourselves to put a single one up. So we just stare at our bare walls. Good thing we like the paint colours.

So when are you coming to visit?

Monday, March 7, 2011

A visitor

Nearly every morning I wake up to a "tap... tap tap.. TAP.." on the back window (in the den/bedroom). The first few times I heard it, I thought it was someone throwing rocks at the window and I couldn't figure out who would do that, or why for that matter. Those thoughts lasted only seconds as I walked down the hall towards the den/bedroom to find out what was going on. This happens nearly every morning. THIS is the culprit. (Turn your sound up for the full effect.)

This video is one of the most clear I've taken, and you really get the idea that it doesn't happen just once or twice... He just keeps going! One of these days the poor, dumb little guy is really going to hurt himself (if he hasn't already given himself brain damage doing this!) However, it doesn't really capture the way he sometimes backs up into the branches, puffs himself up big, and litterly throws himself into the window! You'll just have to trust me, he does. And if we close the curtains, he still does it. Sometimes he'll sit outside the window and sing. I take it when he does that it means he wants food. But he'll throw himself into the window whether there's food outside for him or not. Maybe Mrs. S. used to feed him. Someone else wondered if she maybe let him inside. Apparently the woman across the street invites the squirrels into her home. Ian saw Hairband squirrel leaving the other day, darting out of her house, and she wished him (Hairband) a good day, and told him not to stay away too long. Interesting...

P.S. Hairband is a brown squirrel with a blonde tail, reminiscent of a bad hair-band blonde ponytail... He's the most identifiable of all our neighbourhood squirrels.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Ruffle Apron

For several years I've been seeing these super cute ruffle aprons for sale. I always think "I could make that, it would be so easy!" and I'm always really surprised by the price people charge for these. (Although I saw some at Pier One last week that were only $15.00 and I really think that is reasonable!) Anyways, the sewing stars aligned: I found an online tutorial (here), have the space to do some sewing, dug my sewing machine out and oiled it, got some fabric on clearance, and finally decided to make my own! What do you think? I'm thinking if I can improve my technique a bit, get better at sewing (especially straight lines over ruffles), and get some more fabric on clearance, I might try to sell some of these. I have another pattern for a retro apron (no ruffles) that I'm going to try next.
PS I love my slow cooker! I use it all the time, especially in the winter! This, I think, was pulled pork, for pulled pork sandwiches. I found a recipe that used a pork loin roast, and a can of Root Beer, so I thought, "what the heck?! How simple!" and decided to try it. You shred the pork when it's cooked, then you drain out the Root Beer and add BBQ sauce. Serve on a nice hamburger bun with fresh cole slaw. It turned out sooo good! But I'm a sucker for pulled pork... Apologies to my non-pork eatting friends who would be gagging at the thought of eating a pig...