29 December 2007
I suppose I'd thought that once we got snow and ice, it would stay on the ground and it would continue to be bitterly cold until the Spring arrived. I wasn't really expecting to have a month of snow and ice followed by a slightly warmer spell. Mind you, this is reportedly the worst winter in Canada for 15 years, so this has probably not been a typical December.
24 December 2007
We're getting lake-effect snow showers today, which is getting us all into the mood nicely. The official definition of a white Christmas here is having two centimetres of snow on the ground on Christmas Day - which seems a bit more sensible than the UK equivalent of a few flakes falling on the London Weather Centre.
So far today I've made the bread sauce and stuffing and some sausage rolls (plus pancakes for the kids' breakfast). I found a good-looking recipe for cranberry relish and used another one of my historic appliances to make it. I know the mincer is historic as, like the cream-maker, it proudly proclaims itself to have been made in England. This also belonged to my grandmother (and quite possibly her mother, too).
The Christmas drink of choice round here seems to be egg nog, which I can't quite bring myself to make, but Mike managed to track down some ginger wine in the LCBO in Belleville, so I'm not short of festive alcohol. Cheers!
21 December 2007
Our curtains arrived yesterday, so at last the living room looks finished. Seems like a very long time ago now that we only had folding chairs and a toy box for furniture.
Here's a picture I've been trying to take for ages, but every time I show up with the camera the dog moves, or uncrosses his legs. Mike managed to snap him last night:
20 December 2007
17 December 2007
16 December 2007
10 December 2007
Cooking-wise I find I'm mostly making the same sorts of things that I made in the UK, although we are eating more tortilla wraps than we used to there, either as a replacement for bread in sandwiches or cooked in quesadillas. One really good way of using them that I tried for the first time this weekend is a dish called antojitos. We had them in a restaurant as a starter a couple of weeks ago. You mix up cream cheese with chopped peppers, onion, grated cheddar and jalapeños (in the case of fussy Child #1 I left out all the veg) and then spread it over tortillas. I did one each, which would have been fine for a starter, but you'd need two for a lunch or supper, I think. Then you roll up each tortilla, score the top to mark it into 8 sections and cook it at 400°F (200°C) for just 5 minutes. Slice them up and serve them on a hot plate. We had them with two dips: a sour cream and yoghurt mixture and a coriander and crushed tomato salsa. I've made myself so hungry by writing this up that I think I might just have to make them again for lunch.
06 December 2007
At lunch-time I took a break from marking an apparently self-regenerating pile of essays by walking the dog down to the lake, as it was a relatively mild -2°C. Part of the lake was frozen, part still water, creating an interesting boundary between the two parts where the wind was pushing the water into the ice. It looked like broken glass, as the photo below shows. What the pictures can't show is the sound that the ice made, which was also like broken glass - or like the clinking of cutlery you hear when a lot of people are dining together in a large, echoing hall. But without the background buzz of conversation. So maybe more like a big gathering of Trappist monks.
04 December 2007
I took the dog for a walk up to the field this afternoon. There were lots of big bird footprints by the spring, probably wild turkeys or grouse. Plenty of signs of the coyotes too, which look like they've been resting or sleeping behind the big barn. I like the extra layer of information that you get when there's snow on the ground.
02 December 2007
Canadians seem to put up their Christmas decorations very early, but then I suppose it makes sense to put up outside lights in November, so that your fingers don't freeze trying to do it in December.We bought some lights in Canadian Tire last week and put them up, but I waited until yesterday to actually light them, as it seems a bit indecent to have them on in November, somehow. We saw an advert in the local paper for a 'cut your own Christmas tree' farm today, so we might have a go at that in a week or two.
Today we've got snow, so the children are busily tobogganing down the front garden. They've been out there for ages, as it's the first time they've ever had a chance to try their toboggans. I remember that being able to go tobogganing was a very rare treat during my childhood winters, but I suspect that the novelty will soon wear off for them here.
26 November 2007
It definitely seemed to be a bit of a blokefest. There were only two types of women involved: cheerleaders with big busts and ridiculously skimpy outfits and two Mounties whose job was to carry the enormous Grey Cup down to wherever it was presented. I think the RCMP officers were roped in to balance out the cheerleaders. It didn't work.
The advertisements in between the stretches of football were the most telling part of the whole thing: they were either for Viagra or for really big trucks. Hmm.
23 November 2007
22 November 2007
The anemometer part of our weather station froze solid, so it looks as though we have no wind, but that isn't the case! The snow isn't very deep, but enough to entice the children outside. We took the dog up to the field for a walk earlier and I finally got one of the pictures I'd been waiting for - I knew that the gnarled tree root fences would look good once they had a coating of white stuff on them. Our pond is overflowing for the first time since we moved in, creating a small but fast-flowing stream down the track. I imagine that will freeze over fairly soon though, as the forecast high temperature for tomorrow is a rather fresh -6°C.
Stew and dumplings for tea tonight, I think.
17 November 2007
Then the other day I remembered a gadget that my parents gave me a few years back. It's called a Bel Cream Maker and is designed to make cream from butter and milk. Very unusually, for my family, it is still in its original box. It belonged to my grandmother (or perhaps her mother - they lived together) and I presume was bought just after the War, when cream was hard to come by. When I acquired it, it was as a piece of family history and I couldn't imagine why anyone would ever need to use such a device.
But now, I can understand perfectly and I liberated the gadget from its box on Thursday to see whether it would actually work. I gave it a good wash and sterilised it in Milton fluid first, to be on the safe side, then melted butter (must be unsalted) and full-fat milk together and poured it into the Bakelite top. The handle forces the mixture through small nozzles and into the glass jar at the bottom. It works! The cream firms up a bit once it's refrigerated and the more butter you use, the thicker the cream. So now I don't need to worry about finding a source of double cream so much. Which means I'll probably come across one, of course.
Postscript: The cream maker is a Jubilee Model - which dates it to George V's silver jubilee in 1935. As my grandmother would have been 21 then, I doubt she bought it. Great-Gran would have been 51, so I think it must have been hers.
Post postscript: I've scanned in the instructions for the cream maker, as they've already proved useful for one reader and might be handy for others to have access to. Click on the image for the larger version (warning: it's a big file!). Oh, and there's one missing figure in the instructions for whipping cream which should read "4 ozs. of UNSALTED butter to 4 ozs. of milk".
15 November 2007
11 November 2007
Ironically, this is the first year that the kids haven't been trick-or-treating (or 'trickle treating', as one of them thought it was), as there aren't any other kids in the area and I didn't want to hassle the neighbours. One of the women at work reported that she had 150 sets of kids round and explained that she used to make candies for them herself. But now you have to give out wrapped sweets, so she doesn't do that anymore. We didn't have any kids round at all (despite the pumpkin), so I'm glad we don't live in a town or I would have been completely unprepared for so many little visitors.
Oh, and I've discovered where I went wrong with the pumpkin pie and soup - you're supposed to use smaller pie pumpkins, rather than the standard Connecticut Field Pumpkin. So maybe I'll grow some next year and try again. The catalogue from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds arrived on Friday and is a fascinating read. I can't wait to order a whole bunch of weird and wonderful varieties of squash and tomatoes.
I must admit that I haven't missed Bonfire Night at all - it always sounded like World War III in Manchester in early November. Today's weather is the type I associate with Bonfire Night and Remembrance Day - cold, sunny and crisp. The poppies here are quite different from those sold in the UK - and they still have pins, so health and safety madness hasn't taken hold here quite as much.
The pond had a layer of ice over it this morning. The floating weed now looks like islands in a satellite image taken from space. We'll have to get a bird-bath for the birds soon - apparently you can get heated ones, although metal ones aren't recommended, as the birds can freeze to them. Might make it easier to take pictures of them, though.
30 October 2007
On Sunday we took the dog down to the Sandbanks Provincial Park for a walk along the Cedar Sands Trail. He didn't like the stairs much, but got the hang of them on the way back. This was a bit of a worry, as he doesn't like the stairs at home either, and so far hasn't been upstairs or down to the basement, which suits us fine. We were worried that his new confidence with stairs at Sandbanks would translate into stair use at home, but so far that hasn't happened.
In the evening we took the kids into Picton to see Underdog at the Regent Theatre. This turned out to be an unexpected treat. Not the movie, which was as formulaic as I thought it would be (but bearable), but the cinematic experience itself. To start with we were confused by the fact that the box office was shut, so we asked another parent and she explained that the family movie on the last Sunday of the month was sponsored by a local funeral home and was always free. I'm not quite sure what the funeral home hopes to gain by this, but who cares, what a fantastic idea! The concession stand was open, so the theatre was making some money there.
So we settled down to watch the film and I was expecting to at least see the name of the funeral home in one of the adverts, but to my amazement there were no adverts at all, nor any trailers. We just sat and watched the movie. It was like stepping back in time. OK, that meant no surround-sound but that's a fairly small price to pay for a really refreshing trip to the pictures.
27 October 2007
Beautiful styling add elegance to any kitchen decor - you'll be proud to show your Maytag to your friends.
I'm just glad they didn't go for the Fresh Avocado or Coffee 'fashionable standard colors' for the front panel, or that sentence would definitely be untrue.
The dishwasher is a portable model (WC300, for you dishwasher spotters - I know you're out there), which means you have to wheel it to the sink every time you want to use it - not desperately convenient. The brochure does give the water usage for the washes, which is useful to have. The 'low energy regular' wash we used tonight takes 32 litres of water (7 imperial gallons). I think that is probably similar to what we'd use in three lots of washing-up at the sink during the day, but obviously a new dishwasher would probably use less water (and less electricity too). This one cost $780 and the equivalent Maytag washer today costs $499 (US), which is probably about a quarter of the price in real terms. A new dishwasher will have to wait for a new kitchen, which will be a 2008 project - but I probably won't be going for a portable one!
Over the last 24 hours we've had 16mm of rain and that has given us over 30 inches of water in the cistern. The tanks up in the barn are full, too, and the wells are steadily filling up, so now we've decided that we are no longer suffering from a shortage of water.
We celebrated by loading our breakfast dishes into the dishwasher for the first time since we've been here. It looks like it is about 20 years old, mind you, so whether it will work is another matter entirely!
26 October 2007
While I was collecting the leaves up from under the ash in the front garden, our neighbour, Matthew, arrived to ask where we wanted the manure. He brought his muck spreader round and deposited a handsome heap of last-year's muck in the barnyard.
We offered to pay him (as they would otherwise have used the manure on some of their 500 acres (!)), but he said he was just happy to have neighbours who didn't mind the cows. What a very nice man.
22 October 2007
I had to leave my peppermint essence behind when we moved, but was fairly confident that Bulk Barn would carry it. Bulk Barn is my favourite Canadian store. The first one I noticed was in the Belleville mall, but as its storefront display was entirely made up of pick'n'mix-style bins of sweets, I didn't go inside for ages. When I did, I discovered aisles of loose goods like nuts, dried fruit, grains, pastas, flours and spices. It's like a cross between a health-food shop and Woolworths (with a correspondingly varied clientele). Wholewheat pasta and cous-cous are hard to find in the supermarkets (at least in decent sized packages), so Bulk Barn is great for that kind of thing. I thought they were letting me down today though, as there was vanilla essence, almond extract and even brandy essence (what?), but no peppermint. Then at the till I found a little display of various oils, including both spearmint and peppermint, so I used peppermint oil instead of essence. I love you, Bulk Barn.
*Now I come to think of it, the phrase 'Ogre's eyeballs' appears in an episode in Diana Wynne Jones's The Ogre Downstairs, so that isn't particularly original. It's a brilliant book - and I think the only children's book I've come across where a (very) passing knowledge of Latin and Greek actually adds to the enjoyment of the story.
19 October 2007
The Toyota garage fitted a new tyre to the car yesterday and Mike took a taxi into Belleville this morning to pick it up, so we're mobile again.
The nature columnist in the local papers was explaining this week that the Fall colours have been disappointing this year due to the dry and hot conditions during September. The big ash tree in our front garden (dubbed 'Giganto' by the kids) turned yellow very suddenly just this week, but many of the trees lost their leaves early because of the drought conditions. The maples have been pretty magnificent though, so if this is a disappointing year, I can imagine that a good one will be breathtaking.
18 October 2007
So we phoned the CAA at 9.45pm. The guy got to us at 11.00pm and he couldn't take the cover off either, so he towed the car back to our house and we finally got home just after midnight. I was somewhat surprised that the car didn't turn into a pumpkin at that point. This morning we spoke to the Toyota dealership that sold us the car and they're going to get it off for us, once the CAA take it over to Belleville.
In the meantime, work is continuing on the roof, with the fascia boards going up yesterday. Mike also worked out why our water situation had deteriorated so much over the last week - there's a leaky seal in the bathroom toilet, and Mike reckons that it had been consuming about 17 litres of water an hour. So something else to fix, but at least there's a stopcock next to the toilet which means that its water supply can easily be turned off and the cistern just re-filled as necessary.
16 October 2007
The other big event, a slightly more positive one, was the completion of our new roof. It looks very smart and includes a sunlight tunnel which connects the landing (which has no windows) to the sky through a hole in the ceiling and the roof. The landing is now a lot brighter, especially when all the upstairs doors are shut. The guys who worked on the roof did a really good job and worked incredibly long hours. They had to pack up early on Saturday because the wind became dangerously strong, but otherwise they've been starting at 8am and finishing when it gets dark. They all wander around quite happily on the roof - no scaffolding or obvious safety measures at all. The next job is for the other team of this firm to turn up and fix the new guttering to the house.
Gwen the curtain (draperies) lady came around this afternoon and we chose more fabrics. I feel very decadent, having an interior designer, but I'm hopeless at making curtains and blinds (shades) and haven't found anything half-decent of the ready-made variety. She seems fairly snowed under with work, so I'm not sure when any of the window coverings will actually get made, but at least we're making some progress.
Yesterday I went to a meeting of the Prince Edward Historical Society, which was very interesting. They look after the archives of the County, in conjunction with the library service (a fairly recent union). There was a talk by a speaker from the Archives of Ontario, who seemed to have trouble working his PowerPoint presentation, which was a bit cringe-making. He also claimed that all their copying services were on a cost-recovery basis only, which seems an outrageous assertion given that their digital images cost $20 each, even if the image already exists! Anyway, I joined the society, so might get more involved with the local archives through that route too, eventually.
12 October 2007
Today work is due to start on replacing our roof with new asphalt shingles, so I thought I'd better do a 'before' picture. I've also had a particular request for a picture of the front of the house, so here it is (well, about half of it, anyway). So far the only sign of activity is the arrival of a big trailer to take away the old shingles, but apparently they'll work through the weekend, so by Monday we should have a water-tight roof that'll last for 30 years.
The guttering will have to be removed, which means that our water situation will temporarily get even worse, until the next gang of men come to put the new gutters on. Those will be bigger than the existing eavestroughs, and less leaky, so in the longer term we'll get more water through into the cistern.
11 October 2007
We still have a water shortage in the house, so Mike ordered two huge tanks (they hold around 6,000 litres (1550 US gallons) each) with the aim of filling them from the roof of the big barn. The tanks arrived when I was in the UK, so Mike had to roll them up to the barn by himself. He says he looked and felt like a dung beetle. The barn already has guttering on the south side of the roof which is about 4000 square feet (370 square metres), but some of the guttering was blocked and they all emptied onto a patch of concrete, which wasn't much use. So on Tuesday Mike unblocked the gutters and attached the ends to one of the big tanks . It's a bit jury-rigged at the moment, while we make sure it works.
Then we had to wait for some rain (a familiar activity by now), which finally arrived around midnight yesterday. We only had 2.6mm (a tenth of an inch), but that has given us 200 gallons in the first tank, which is great. Now we've just got to work out how to get the water from the barn down to the cistern in the house...
Our new wood-burning stove was installed today in the living room, where before we'd just had a fireplace with glass doors. It looks great and we're both keen to test it out, although the temperature doesn't really warrant lighting a fire yet. I wonder who will crack first.
07 October 2007
The pumpkin soup was OK, and the pumpkin pie was fine, but I wouldn't go out of my way to make either again. Pumpkins look very jolly as decorations, and are obviously essential in that role for Hallowe'en, but I can't help feeling that the early settlers ate them because they had little choice. I don't often make puddings, so next year I think I'd rather have a lemon tart or something else that I'd really enjoy for Thanksgiving, rather than keeping to tradition with the pumpkin option.
Pumpkin update: the BBC reports that the UK pumpkin crop suffered due to the poor weather this year. Perhaps I should send Mike over with a suitcase-full to sell at a ridiculous profit when he takes his mum home later in the month...
03 October 2007
Another man had been round to quote for replacing our roof and guttering (eavestroughs), leaving me with the tricky task of deciding which colour we would have for the roof. Hm, Weathered Wood, Colonial Slate, Driftwood or Georgetown Gray?
Last night I accompanied Mike and Toby to the Puppy Kindergarten class. It was a bit boring, to be honest, but some of the dog training theory was mildly interesting. The tutor commented on how much the dogs had grown since last week and I agreed with her - Toby seemed huge when I got back on Sunday. When we got back I remembered to turn off the ring under the steamer so that we didn't have a re-run of the earlier Christmas Pudding fiasco.
Today I'm back in Deseronto. It's really hard only being here one day a week - feels like I make little progress. Although, looking on the bright side, I did manage to create an accessions register and a donations form for the archives today. Technically it's only my fourth day of work here, so I suppose I'm not doing too badly. The display of school-related materials at the weekend went down well and I scanned in some of the photos for a caller today who'd found pictures of herself and her siblings when she visited on Saturday. I met one of the library cleaners just now who told me that she'd enjoyed the exhibit too.
I'm now killing time a bit (I've got time to blog, for goodness sake) while I wait for the Archives Board meeting to start at 7.00pm. Last time we met in the Town Hall, but today we're meeting in the home of two of the Board members, which was once the Anglican church of St. Mark in the town, so that'll be interesting. It's going to be another very long day, though.
This coming weekend is the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada - they're much more sensible (as always) than the Americans, having it in October rather than late November (far too close to Christmas) and making it a long weekend instead of having the main event on a Thursday. Whichever American decided that a Thursday was a great idea for the holiday definitely wasn't responsible for cooking the meal.
So I've been looking up Thanksgiving recipes. I think, as we've got Mike's mum here, I'll just make the meal an early Christmas dinner, but with pumpkins involved, either as a soup or as pumpkin pie, haven't quite decided yet. I somehow don't think Mum would go for Marshmallow Sweet Potato Bake. Though I suppose it might get the kids to eat sweet potatoes, which they normally scorn.
25 September 2007
I popped in to the old house in the morning. The vegetable garden has become a bit of a jungle, but otherwise everything seemed OK and I chatted with two sets of neighbours who were very interested to hear how we've been getting on. Still hoping to complete the house sale in the next week or two, despite the lack of news from the solicitors. Somehow the fig plant that we'd left behind in June (through lack of space for it in our hire car) had survived, so I'll take that down to Mike's mum's on Friday for her to adopt, which had been our original plan. That was another wedding present - amazing how resilient our gifts have proved to be!
The flight over on Saturday/Sunday was fine and seemed to go fairly quickly, mainly because I was reading Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, which was very absorbing. Just as well, because none of the films they were showing appealed to me at all.
Ah, there are police sirens wailing outside. Definitely back in Manchester!
22 September 2007
I finally got around to buying a squirrel-proof bird feeder (a Squirrel-Be-Gone, to be precise). It certainly seems to work - the squirrels have had a good look at it but they haven't cracked it yet (unlike my peanut feeder). There is an outer sleeve which comes down over the seed openings if something heavier than a bird tries to get into them. We mostly get Black-capped Chickadees on it at the moment. They are a bit like Great Tits and are named for their alarm call which goes 'chicka-dee-dee-dee'. Blue Jays tend to come along and clear up the seeds that the chickadees drop underneath the feeder.
I'm heading off for the UK later today for a week and have very mixed feelings about the trip. I'm really looking forward to catching up with family and friends, but leaving here is a real wrench and I feel like I'm abandoning Mike, the kids and the dog. I did a lot of travelling in my old job, but was rarely away for more than a day or two at a time. After three months of being constant companions it is going to be horrible to be leaving them. I'm packing a lot into the week, so I'm sure it'll go very quickly.
The trees are really beginning to turn now, the maples in particular, so I think that after a week away I'll really notice the difference in the landscape. I'll be bringing my mother-in-law back with me and I'm looking forward to her reactions to our new home and lifestyle. She's never been out of Europe before, so it's quite an adventure for her.