Monday, February 24, 2014

A Wintery Niagara Falls

Thank you all for your kind comments in my past posts.  As you may have gathered this has been a difficult winter.  My birthday and our wedding anniversary are in February and usually they are good reasons for celebrations and a little pick-me-up, but not this year.  In addition to Juno being sick, I had the stomach flu for a week and it started the day before my birthday. Worst birthday ever!

By the Family Day holiday on February 17th, I definitely felt the need for some fun.  I decided that an outing to Niagara Falls and then out for lunch was just what we needed.  This winter has tied for the tenth coldest winter in the past 100 years.  One of the advantages of a cold winter is the amazing ice formations at Niagara Falls.  We were not disappointed.

There were huge rafts of ice going over the falls at the top along with small frothy bits of ice that made it look like a giant slushy.

The Niagara River at the base of the falls was completely covered over by a frozen bridge of ice.  I didn't even know it could do that because the river moves with such force there.  It wasn't until I Googled it when I got home that I learned it used to a popular excursion to walk across the river on the ice bridge and spend the day sliding down the ice mounds.  It all came to an end when the ice bridge broke up unexpectedly on February 3rd, 1912 and three people were drowned.  You can read about it and see historic photos here

The cliffs across the river on the American side had amazing long blue icicles and frozen spray on the trees.

When we walked past the Falls, the mist came down as hail and coated us in ice pellets (including my camera - oops).  

Both the Canadian and American Falls had huge ice mounds at the base of them.

We visited Niagara Falls one other year when it had been a cold winter so it was interesting to compare the ice formations.  In February 2009 we had had a string of cold weather throughout January so there was a lot of ice and I remembering thinking the Falls were spectacular.  This year has been exceptionally cold though and the ice formations were even better.  I put the 2009 and recent photos in a collage so you can compare.  You can see the river had more ice on it and the ice mounds were higher on this visit.

Have you ever visited Niagara Falls?  Most people visit in the summer so I hope you enjoyed a little tour of the Falls in its winter finery.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Goodbye to our Brave Little Dog

We lost our little Juno last week and our hearts are full of sadness now.  I never thought I was a dog person until I met and fell in love with Juno.

Before we knew Juno she was the mother in a puppy mill, living in a barn producing one litter after another. I bet she had the cutest puppies as she was a Yorkie with beautiful colouring. When her fertility waned as she got older, she was no longer wanted for breeding so they dumped her out on a country road. Fortunately she found a place to hide from the cold wet May day in our friend's breezeway. And that is how Juno eventually found her way to our home and hearts.

She was a brave little dog.  When Juno came to us her teeth were in terrible shape.  I had to brush them every night to try and improve her dental health and she was patient and stoical about it. One night she cried in pain when I was rubbing her under her jaw and when I took her to the vet she said that many of her teeth were very loose and just barely hanging in her mouth and had to be extracted.  I never got a good look in her mouth so I hadn't realized this, but Juno had let me brush her teeth anyway.  It must have hurt her a lot.  She was like that - very stoical about any pain or discomfort. 

She was a fearless little dog.  Juno was entirely unaware that she only weighed 8lbs.  On our walks when she wanted to go in one direction and we wanted to go in another she would throw her whole body into letting us know her decision leaning way over and digging her little paws in. It was quite a sight to see.  

She also was not intimidated by other dogs, no matter the size.  Not having been socialized as a young dog she usually growled at other dogs when we went for walks and we could never break her of this habit. The funny thing was that the amount of growling and barking seemed almost in inverse relationship to the size of the other dog.  She always had the "I can totally take you and win" attitude with the big dogs.

She was a funny little dog.  She ate huge amounts of food.  Juno could consume a plate full of food the size I would eat for dinner. I don't know how she did it because she was so small.  It probably helped that she loved going for walks and for most of her life she walked between one and two kms every day so she worked up a good appetite.  

When she first came to us she had never been outside or walked on a leash and she had no idea what to do. We had to train her to walk together with us and at first she would look up at the leash and be surprised to see it still there. Once she learned how to go for walks she discovered a whole new world out there and that was her favourite thing to do. She loved sniffing things and exploring and watching people.  

Being a Speech Pathologist, I was always interested to find out what vocabulary she could learn. You can in fact teach old dog new tricks as Juno learned the meaning of many words after she came to us. She knew her name, the names of food she liked, such as apple and orange, and she knew the words walk, go home, come, eat, and stay. She was a bit opinionated so she didn't always listen, but she demonstrated them often enough that I knew she understood their meaning.  

She learned other things after coming to live with us too. Over the course of our daily walks, she learned the streets and parks in our neighbourhood so she knew which way to go when it was time to go home. She also learned how to be held. When we first got her she was stiff as a board in our arms and would try and stand on you, but she eventually learned to melt into our arms when she was being held, especially with my husband.

She had a very impassive face, but was oh so expressive with her ears and the way she would cock her head and her stance. I always loved the colour of her coat and how she matched the dry leaves on the road at the cottage.

She loved to change things up and constantly had new places she liked to sleep.  Sometimes they were the strangest places you could imagine - like deep in our closet on the shoe rack, buried so far back that you could hardly find her.  Other times she liked to sleep in our laundry basket or in a bin filled with papers or in the suitcase you were packing and, of course, best of all on the pillows on our bed.  We have many photos of her sleeping in random places.

I know this post has been photo overload, but I wanted to put all my favourite pictures of Juno in one place.  I love the photos where she looks small -  because although she was a tiny dog, her personality was big so you would forget she was tiny unless you saw her from a distance.

My post wouldn't be complete without my favourite video of Juno begging for pats - and one of my fondest memories of her.

Those of you with pets can attest to that bond that forms between you and the little furry beast who lives with you. We had a wonderful five years and nine months with our little dog Juno and I'm thankful for the joy she brought us and grateful that we were able to give her a happy retirement.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Blogging at Chic on a Shoestring Decorating

We are having the coldest snowiest winter in years and I've been doing lots of baking and cooking as a result.  There is nothing like a hearty soup or fresh baked goods to warm the soul.  

I'm over at Chic on a Shoestring Decorating today posting about my favourite bread pudding recipe.  I've paired back the sugar and fat and added some pumpkin and raisins to make it healthier and it is so darn good I've made it several times this winter already.  

I'd love you to drop in and say hi.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Fiskesuppe - Norwegian Fish Soup

We are a soup-loving family and one of our favourites is fiskesuppe (fish soup).  I discovered the recipe when we were cooking our way around the world and got to Norway.  Fiskesuppe is a traditional Norwegian chowder made with an assortment of fish and root vegetables (the original recipe called for tilapia, salmon, cod, and shrimp, but I've streamlined the recipe to include one reasonably-priced fish).

I have made it many times so this recipe is definitely tried-and-true.  I posted about it when I first started my blog (here).  I didn't get a very good photo of the soup back then, so I'm re-posting the recipe with new photos.

4 cups (1 litre) water with 4 teaspoons of chicken bouillon
2 bay leaves
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 celery root, peeled and chopped
1 parsley root, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon cider vinegar 
1 teaspoon sugar
200-300 gms (about 10 ozs) fish - I used rainbow trout, but any fish would work 
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons flour 
1 1/2 cups (1/3 litre) cream or milk

Bring water, bouillon, and bay leaves to boil in stock pot.
Add vegetables and cook for 15 minutes.
Cut fish into smaller pieces and add to pot.
Bring to a boil again and turn down heat to simmer for about 5 minutes or until fish is cooked through.
Add vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.
Stir flour into cream/milk and add mixture gradually while simmering.
Remove bay leaves and serve.


I actually spent some time analyzing soup photos from the blog  I love her photos - she always makes everything look so mouthwatering.  I took lots of photos - learning from her styling and trying different props - so I have a bit of a photo glut happening here.

Here are my takeaways:
1.  If you are taking the photos the day after you made the soup, you should re-heat your soup because otherwise you will be able to see the oil droplets on the surface.  Ooops!
2.  Using a mat with obvious horizontal and vertical lines can drive you crazy trying to get it straight and can't be fixed with photo-editing
3. I love how Skinnytaste styles her photos so I tried to do similar arrangements and for the first time was happy with them.   I especially like the one with the carrots.  I also finally found a good place to take photos in our kitchen which makes me happy because I'm trying to streamline my food photography.  It is hard to think clearly and be creative when everyone wants dinner and you are rushing to take photos.

What do you think?  Which ones are your favourites?

P.S.  I learned something else.  I wasn't able to find parsley roots at the grocery store this time, but saw parsnips and thought they were the same thing with different names so bought them to use for the soup.  However, when I googled parsnips and parsley root it turns out they just look the same, but taste different.  I put them in anyway and guess what?  The soup tasted the same as it always has.  So here is what I learned:  if two vegetables look the same, the difference in taste will not effect the outcome of the recipe (haha) ... or I got lucky!