31 December 2007

...or maybe not!

Snowy woodsWrote too soon. The woods are looking very Narnia-like this morning.

29 December 2007

A green New Year

Meltwaters turn the path into a streamA few mildish days have melted much of the snow and created some fast-flowing streams. The picture to the left shows what used to be a dry path leading past the barns, while the one below shows the current state of my vegetable plots: a bit soggy! The water is running down the hill so fast that Mike is beginning to wonder whether we couldn't channel it more effectively and use it to generate some electricity during the damper months of the year.

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.

Waterlogged vegetable garden

24 December 2007

Happy Yule

Kids tobogganing on Christmas EveYesterday's weather was atrocious: 32mm of rain and up to 7°C, so most of the snow and ice melted, causing torrents of water to pour down the hill into our ditch. We escaped by going to Belleville to see Enchanted, which was formulaic and predictable, but which the kids enjoyed. Overnight we had gale-force winds and the temperature dropped again, turning the rain back to snow and creating a more festive scene for Christmas Eve.

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

Finishing touches

Living room, June 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.
Living room, December 2007
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:
Toby with crossed legs

20 December 2007

All white now

Frozen Lake ConseconOn Tuesday the surface water of lake finally froze over. There was one small patch of water further up from us which was surrounded by swans and ducks, but otherwise it was all icy. Yesterday we had another inch or so of snow, so it's all white now, instead of the glassy sheen of Tuesday. We're due for a brief warm snap this weekend (our white Christmas may not be assured!), so it may well melt again before re-freezing for the winter.

17 December 2007

Christmas comes early

SnowblowerMike finally got to try the tractor's snowblower this morning. As a gadget, it's not that well named, as it really gobbles up the snow and regurgitates it. I suspect that the marketing people decided that a snow-spewer wouldn't sell. He was out there for an hour, so I think he was enjoying himself.

16 December 2007

White stuff

2007 Christmas CakeYesterday was the coldest we've seen yet - it didn't get above -13°C all day. At the end of the day we decided we should have lit the second wood-burning stove. Today we've had a tremendous snow-storm all day and the snow is piling up in drifts around the house (it's still -10°C). I had to use one of the kid's toboggans instead of the wheelbarrow to bring a few more logs down from the barn this afternoon. So mostly I've been in the kitchen, making paella and cheesecake and icing the Christmas cake to commemorate our first Canadian Christmas.

10 December 2007

Making mincemeat (and antojitos)

Home-made mincemeatDoesn't this look Christmassy? I haven't quite got around to making it into mince pies yet, but hope to do so in the next week or so.

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

Crystal clear

Partly-frozen Lake Consecon looking west
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.

Partly-frozen Lake Consecon looking east

04 December 2007


Icy branchThe snow was followed by freezing rain on Monday, which made the kids' toboggan-run very fast and the snow very crispy. The school buses didn't run, so the children had a fun day whizzing down the hill again. Much to their disappointment, the buses were running again today so it was back to normal, except that we all thought it was Monday and will probably be out of synch for the rest of the week.

bird footprintsI 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

Getting colder

The temperature reached a high of -10.7°C yesterday afternoon: I wore my 'long janes' for the first time under my jeans. They're fantastic - even my feet stayed warm for once. The big puddles behind the house are now solid ice, so the children had a fun afternoon skidding about playing ice-football on them. The stream coming down from the pond has nearly frozen over too - the boundary between the water and the ice makes lovely ice-bubble patterns. I've gone into full-on comfort-food mode, with lots of stews and steamed puddings on the menu.

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.