Sunday, October 31, 2010

Power Tool Pumpkins and Other Easy Hallowe'en Decorations

Hallowe'en is pretty low-key in our house these days with everyone a teenager or beyond.  We did get into the action a little bit though.

Hallowe'en threw up all over our living room window.

We decorated our front hall with a flag, a cauldron of candy ready to hand out, and

our ghost!  We put him up every year and the kids love it.  It was my husband's idea to put a white duvet over a step ladder, add black construction paper eyes and a mouth, and light it with a black light.  Ingenious!

The only one wearing a costume this year was Juno - and we really weren't sure what she was dressed up as.

As for the pumpkin we had to get creative.  When your younguns grow up into teenagers, they may or may not want to carve pumpkins any more.  That's when you move on to using power tools!  Using a drill puts a whole new spin (get it - spin!!!) on pumpkin carving - a good spin if you are a teenager.  Actually a good spin if you are me as well, because then I don't have to do the carving and we get an interesting pumpkin to put out for Hallowe'en.

I have to say that I thought the term "power tool pumpkins" was one I had invented until I read this post on Rambling Renovators blog, which referred to this post written in October 2009.  Their original post was written in my pre-blog days, so I have to say that I likely owe the inspiration and term to them.  It is a much loved tradition now.


Trust Martha to take pumpkin drilling to a whole new level.  Her power tool pumpkins are very creative, but I'm thinking Martha hasn't put a teenager boy in charge of making them.

 All images from Martha Stewart
Hope everyone had a fun Hallowe'en.  Do tell how the pumpkin carving went in your house.  Any ingenious costumes visiting your house this year?


Linked to the 2010 Hallowe'en Pumpkin Party Parade at Under the Table and Dreaming

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birds on a Wire

I got lucky a few days ago and found some birds flying around and sitting together chummily  on a wire.  The really lucky part was that I had my camera with me and I was able to pull off the road and take these photos.  Now that's my idea of fun!

Of course, I had to play around with them in Picnik (an on-line photo-editing program which you can read me extoling the virtues of here, here, and here).  I'm curious to know which photo you like the best - both in terms of bird composition and photo-editing.

This last photo is straight from the camera so you can see the colour of the sky on the day I took the pictures.  It's a pretty nice colour without any editing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Jar Lanterns

Look what I made today.  Aren't they adorable?

One of the parts of my job as a Speech-Language Pathologist, that I enjoy the most is working with a special class for children with learning disabilities.  Twice a week I go into the class and we work on early literacy skills.  I try to make it fun so we play a lot of games and do different activities while we are practicing clapping syllables, making rhyming words, and identifying sounds in a word.  

Last October I got the idea from someone's blog (sorry it was in my pre-blogging days so I didn't keep track of the source) for these adorable pumpkin lanterns.  I emailed the idea to the teacher and she loved them as much as I did, so we made them last year and again this year with a new group of students.  Now don't think it was all fun and games in the class.  We made the students work on their rhyming skills before they got each strip of orange tissue paper to glue onto the jar.  The kids were so excited to make them and even more excited when we lit the tea lights so they could see them glow.  

I wanted to show you in case any of you want an easy fun Hallowe'en craft.  And thanks to whoever's blog I got the idea from.

I've been asked to divulge how I made these lanterns, so here goes -
1.  We painted glass mason jars with watered-down white glue.
2.  Then we put 1-inch wide strips of orange tissue paper onto the jars vertically.  The strips of tissue paper look best if they overlap a bit so it looks like the ridges and folds on a real pumpkin. 
3.  Then we gently painted more glue on top of the all the orange so all the edges were stuck down and the lantern will look shiny when the glue is dry. 
4.  We cut out eyes, nose, and mouth from black construction paper and used the watered down glue to attach them.  We also painted glue on top of the black paper so they would look shiny as well. 
5.  Finally, we put green tape (it might be tape for painting or for gardening, I'm not sure which) around the mouth of the jar to look like the stem and to finish the top edges of the tissue paper.  You can put the jar upside down to dry. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We Heart Fall

Thank you so much for all your kind words yesterday and today.  Going for a walk in the woods seemed like the perfect tonic, so Kate, William, and I went for a walk this afternoon to Hilton Falls.

Along the way I collected leaves and then we cleared a patch of dirt and made this -

As you can see in the photos below most of the leaves have already fallen, but there were plenty of colourful leaves lying around on the ground and some trees still held their leaves so we could find the lovely yellow, orange and red leaves we needed.

The inspiration for our leaf design was the photo below that I saw earlier today on Content in a Cottage blog.  If you haven't visited Content in a Cottage yet then you really should hop on over, as it is full of intriguing photographs and ideas just like this one.  Actually now that I look at the inspiration picture I see that it is a whole lot more organized than ours with all the leaves facing one direction.  Oh well, it was a really fun fall activity. 

Lots of people stopped and took pictures of our heart and even as we were walking away we could hear people talking about it.   The amazing thing was, that on the way back from the falls we looked for our leaf heart and someone had taken it - every last leaf!  Who would do that???  There was just a bare patch of dirt looking all forlorn and lacking in any leaf-love.

Along the way to Hilton Falls we saw some strange birch trees that looked like they were standing on stilts.  I think they started their lives growing over stumps which have since disintegrated.

 We also saw strange lumpy limestone rocks covered in moss.

And a man gave us some birdseed to hold in our hands so we could feed the chick-a-dees.

I bet you don't know why I'm wearing a yellow vest.  Well I'll let you in on the fall photography tip that Kate read in a magazine.  If it is an overcast day you should wear yellow in photographs and if it is a sunny day you should wear red.

There you go - two inspirational tips for fall fun - wear yellow/red to look good in fall photos and make yourself a rainbow leaf design.

Photo credit: the photo of the mossy rocks and the one of me were both taken my my daughter, Kate.  Thanks Kate!

Linked to The Colour of Fun link party at Colour me Happy.


I was unable to reach the person who originally won the Anthropologie mug giveaway, so I have redrawn a name (please everyone - make sure you leave an email address when you enter giveaways, if it isn't on your blog).  

The new winner is Karena.  I'll have the mugs off to you just as soon as you let me know what letters you want and your mailing address.  Here's what she said on my giveaway:
"Hi Grace, I am a follower and I love the simple lettering. I would choose for two of my friend's holiday gifts!"
I think Karena is going to have two happy friends this Christmas!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sad News

It's strange how many different ways you can be sad all at the same time.  

My youngest sister, Diana, passed away from breast cancer yesterday.

I'm sad that someone so young should die.   I'm sad that her wonderful husband and three sweet young children are left without a wife and mother.

I'm also sad that I never knew my sister very well.  She was 10 years younger than I am and lived over 2000 kms away from where I do.  I got married when she was 12 years old.  It was hard to bridge the gap.

She was adopted into our family when she was not quite 2 years old.  I remember the first night we brought her home.  We put her crib in my room so she would have someone close by her during the night.  I was thrilled to have a little sister sleeping in my room.  When I woke up in the morning she was standing up in her crib holding on to the ribbons I had won at a science fair.  The only ribbons I ever won were being wrinkled in her hands, but it didn't matter as I had a sweet little sister. 

I was like a second mom to her and when she was young she would often hang around with me trying to do what I did.   I remember in high school she would sit on my bed colouring and chattering away while I studied and did homework.

She met and married a wonderful man from Winnipeg and they lived there for most of the 20 years they were married.  Diana loved the prairies and loved living in Winnipeg.  She had three children - 2 girls and a boy - of whom she was enormously proud.  She liked nothing more than to go on outings or camping with them.

 Diana when she was about 5 years old,  in the  foreground, with my other sister and brother

Diana and I led sort of parallel lives - we both got married when we were 22 years old, we both finished our Master's degrees after we were married, we both had 3 children, and our eldest children are almost exactly 10 years apart in age.

Yet she and I were very different people as adults.  She was a political animal with strong opinions on politics, unions, and native rights.  She worked for the government helping make policy and later worked to help make changes in education and rights for natives.  She found great satisfaction from having a job and worked when her children were babies while her husband stayed home and cared for them.  She encouraged her children to appreciate their first nations heritage. 

 Me when I was 20 and Diana at 10 years of age

It's funny how little incidental endearing memories flood my mind right now.  I loved Diana's walk - she had this self-confident stride just like Meg Ryan's walk in "You've Got Mail".  Diana enjoyed good food and wine and she is the one that taught me to put feta cheese in spaghetti and on pizza.  That's my favourite way to have it now and I always think of her when I do it.  She loved the show "The Dog Whisperer" with Cesar Millan and she gave me the best advice about how to train Juno.  We would always laugh that I was getting my best dog advice from someone who was afraid of dogs. 

Diana and I in Winnipeg this past May

I'll be heading out to Winnipeg later this week so I can join the family for a memorial service.  I have to say I've never been to Winnipeg so often as I have in this past year.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Seeing Red this Fall

Razmataz is having a red photo challenge (you can read about it here) and fall leaves seemed the perfect thing to showcase. 

I was driving to one of my schools yesterday and was absolutely thrilled to see this row of brilliant red trees.  So thrilled in fact, that I had to turn the car around and snap a few photos.  Red fall leaves are my favourite (aren't they everyone's???), so to find a row of such beauties was amazing.  These trees are going to look stunning when they are mature.  I think the red was even more brilliant in contrast to the deep blue of the sky.


I also saw red leaves at the cottage over Thanksgiving weekend.  It is interesting, though, how the reds up at the cottage are more of an orangey-red.  Still gorgeous, mind you.


The maples sure outdo themselves at this time of year - it's quite a show!

Linked to the  Red Photo Challenge at Razmataz

Culinary Adventures Around the World - Spain

I got the idea a couple of years ago that we should cook our way around the world.  I thought it would be a fun way to get us out of our dinner time rut by trying new dishes.  You can read about the details here.   We started in Ireland and so far have cooked dishes from:
  • Ireland (you can read about it here)
  • Great Britian
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • the Ukraine
  • Poland
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Italy (you can read about it here)
  • France (you can read about it here)
Since Spain is next, it seemed logical that I would cook paella, one of its most famous dishes.  I did a quick google search for a recipe so I could cook it this past weekend. 

Here's the Paella recipe I used (based on this one from the Food Network)

2 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless, cut into large chunks
2 Italian sausages, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 onions, peeled and chopped
10 whole cloves of garlic, peeled (we all thought a few of them, at least, should have been chopped so that the flavour mingled more)
796 ml (28-oz) can of whole tomates
2 cups arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock (I used bouillion)
1 cup of red or white wine
3 bay leaves
2 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 red pepper, seeds removed and chopped
1 pound of shrimp, shelled and deveined (I used frozen)

1. heat oil in a frying pan and brown the chicken and sausages.  When they are cooked, remove them to a plate.
2.  add the onions to the pan (with more oil if needed) and saute until golden
3.  add the garlic and stir for a few minutes
4. add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.
5.  add the rice, stock, wine, bay leaves, rosemary, red pepper, the reserved meat and the shrimp (although I added mine near the end since mine were already cooked).
6.  bring to a simmer and cook over medium low heat until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 30 minutes.  I served it with cooked peas.

We always rate the round-the-world dishes on a scale of 1-10 and I have to say that paella rated very highly.  Everyone rated the dish somewhere between 8 and 10.  The recipe I used said it would feed 4, but with 2 cups of rice it could easily have fed 8.  There was plenty left over which we had for another meal.

William is very excited that we are now leaving Europe and starting across North Africa. Months go by when I don't seem to have time or inclination to find a recipe on the internet, get the ingredients, and cook a new meal for the next country, but William has requested that I cook them a little more frequently so my goal is to try and cook a recipe from another country every 2-3 weeks.  That should mean I will be able to get to Bangladesh before I get to Bangladesh in real life.  Ha!

Morroco here we come!
Linked to Recipe Swap Party at Remodelaholic