26 November 2007

Big sporting event

Last night Mike watched the Canadian equivalent of the Superbowl, the Grey Cup. The teams involved were the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. One's a province, the other's a city. Seems a bit unbalanced to me, but then I know nothing about Canadian football. I watched bits of it but since I've never understood the game, it just seemed boring - even more stop-start than rugby, and I've never been able to sit through a whole game of that either.

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


Hairy and Downy WoodpeckersWe get two types of woodpecker here, the Hairy Woodpecker and the Downy Woodpecker. They are identical in colouring, but different in size (rather like the Monarch and Viceroy butterflies). Unless you see them together, it can be difficult to know which one you're looking at - so I was pleased to find a female Hairy Woodpecker and a male Downy Woodpecker both hunting for insects on the front of the garage this morning.

22 November 2007

Snow Day

Yesterday's persistent rain turned into freezing rain this morning and then into snow. The school bus board took the sensible decision to cancel the buses, so we had the children at home all day. We see three school buses going past the front of the house at around 7am every school day, so we had early notice of the cancellations when they didn't go past today.

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

Another historic appliance

Bel Cream MakerI mentioned the lack of double cream in Canada in an earlier post. Since then I've discovered a lot of other voices on the Internet asking why this is. It's not an ingredient I use a lot, but the fact that I can't get it makes it suddenly the most desirable thing in the world. I keep having flashbacks to trips to Tesco where the shelves were laden with not just one but twenty different types of double cream.

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.

Instructions for Bel Cream MakerPost 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


We've had a very mild autumn so far, with only a few mornings where there's been frost on the ground. We keep an eye on the Weather Network to see what's likely to be coming up next. The 14-day graph for our area changes on an almost daily basis, so isn't really a good indicator of what will actually happen, but the current chart (a screenshot of which is reproduced below) was enough to make me go and find the thermal underwear that my colleagues at Mimas bought me when I left. The white line is the average daily high temperature for the time of year and the yellow one is the highest temperature expected on those days.

11 November 2007

Remember, Remember

I knew that Hallowe'en would be different here, but it was only when driving home on the 31st that I realised quite how important it is to Canadians. The CBC traffic reporter said that the traffic was equivalent to that the day before a holiday weekend, as parents left work early to get home in time to get the kids dressed up. The costumes seem more varied than those we saw in the UK - not all scary things like witches or Dracula. At the school party there were aliens, hippies and princesses too. The two families who tried particularly hard went as the Incredibles and the Cat in the Hat (accompanied by Thing 1 and Thing 2). I felt those particular families had been competing for a number of years to win the Best Adult Costume prize.

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.

poppyI 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.

frozen pondThe 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.