Thursday, November 21, 2013

Frost and Fish

Yesterday, on a very cold and frosty morning, we ventured out to Goldstream Park to witness the annual salmon run. We aren't really used to these types of cold, clear days so we bundled up as best we could. Normally the salmon run make the whole park a pretty smelly place as fish who have spawned lie dead on the side of the stream. However, the very cold temperatures had frozen the dead fish so we were not subjected to the smell of decomposing salmon.

It was quite novel for April. To see these big salmon struggle against the current and from time to time exert great effort and jump over a branch or shallow spot. She was also amazed at the number of seagulls that come to feast on the remains of the salmon. I must admit they were in impressive numbers this year. We sadly only saw eagle while we were there, I guess they were outnumbered by the gulls. April asked many times why there were so many dead fish and what happened to them. We talked about how their lives are not long and how they have returned to this stream to lay eggs so their babies can be born in the spring and then pass away. They die so that other animals can eat them. Animals like eagles, gulls, bears and raccoons need food too and when the fish die they become dinner for other creatures.

As we wandered around the park, we really started to feel the cold. Luckily the nature house was the perfect escape from the frost. We checked out their displays on owls, eagles, salmon and mammals while we warmed ourselves. It is such a fun and interactive place for children. Unfortunately, we visited on the same day as several school groups so we were limited to the areas where the lectures were not.

It was finally time to pack it in and head home. Our walk back to our car was just as enjoyable. We saw many many mushrooms, small icicles, little winter wrens, a few small waterfalls and we stumbled across a small arm of the stream where some salmon were struggling in the shallows. It was great to be able to get close and watch the strength and determination of these creatures. We finally found our car and headed home. However, as with all of April's new experiences, she spent much of the rest of the day talking about salmon. Music to my nature-loving ears.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In a Shoebox

For our family Christmas isn't just about the gifts. It's not about what we give or receive. We believe in the spirit of the holiday; the joy, the kindness, the cheer. Last year we simply made monetary donations but this year I felt April was old enough to begin taking part in giving to others.

Operation Christmas Child is something I did as a child. I remember enjoying greatly the process of choosing special things to fill our shoebox. It seemed like the perfect activity to do with a young child. We talked about how some children are alone or live in a place where their families can't give gifts. I told her how some children have never been given gifts or even cards on the birthdays or Christmas. We agreed that it would make some little girl or little boy very happy if we put some special things in a box and sent it to them for Christmas this year.

It took a couple reminders but April did seem to understand that the items she chose at the store were not hers to keep. We were choosing items to make some other child's Christmas special. I thought that one of the boxes should be for a girl between the ages of 2 and 4 as many of the things April selected were appropriate for her own age group. She chose crayons, paper pads, stickers, My Little Pony, a toothbrush, socks, a lovey, a ball and several other special things. We also decided that we should send one to a little boy too so we chose things we thought her male friends would like. For both boxes April made special cards. She carefully selected Christmas stickers, her favorite stamp and made sure not to leave a single corner untouched. Watching her make those cards and tell me about the girl that lives far away might have been my favorite part.

Today we put it all together and dropped off our boxes. In the car we talked about how the boxes would go on a truck, then a plane and then probably another truck and finally handed to a child. We talked about how excited they will be and what April thought their favorite things would be. She was so proud and happy to hand over that box of toys and she seemed to really understand that we were doing this for someone else's happiness. And that made us both feel happy. We don't do these things for the pat on the back or to make our images better. Making others happy and offering a helping hand is good for the soul and I find it makes the things in our own lives seem that much more precious.

If you and your family would like make a shoebox, you can find more information here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Soap and Spice

Soap making is still a new hobby of mine. Although lye doesn't strike the same fear in my heart as it once did, working with it seems daunting sometimes. I find I still get nervous when I'm trying a new recipe. It took a local soap making course to get me over my initial fear of lye but since then I've used the same recipe over and over. It's a good one that's for sure but it was time for something new.

As the holidays are approaching I was inspired to try the Holiday Spice Soap. It really was a big change from what I've done before. Different oils, different additives and two colors! I was nervous. And I became so discourage when I realized I didn't have what I needed for the recipe. So instead of going back to the same old soap, I headed over to Soap Calc and made my own Spice Soap recipe. I will share it with you here but be warned this soap has not yet cured so it hasn't been tested. It certainly smells heavenly though.

Spice Soap
125g Canola Oil
200g Coconut Oil
75g Shea Butter
200g Palm Oil
100g Castor Oil
300g Olive Oil

140g Lye
380g Water

5ml rosemary essential oil
15ml clove essential oil
15ml orange essential oil

3tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Combine lye and water and stir until dissolved, set aside. Combine carrier oils and microwave for about 3 minutes or until dissolved. I like to mix my lye and oils when they have both reached 40C. Quickly mix until you achieve trace consistency. Add essential oil and mix. Pour 3/4 of mixture into your soap mold. Quickly combine cocoa powder and spices with remaining soap mixture. Pour over your mold and use a spatula to "swirl" together. Allow to cool for 24-48hours then cut into bars. Store in a well ventilated place to cure for 4-6 weeks.

Now I did not do a very good job of swirling. My soap mold turned out to be almost too small for this batch so swirling was difficult without making a mess. I'm still pretty happy with the result. I was concerned that I had added too much oil but as it is curing it appears to be just fine. Hopefully three weeks from now I will have some hydrating, cleansing, delicious smelling soap.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tiny Tea Leaves

I am ashamed to admit how long this little sweater took me to make but it is finally finished. I do really like the look of the tea leaves pattern (I have one in my own size on the needles) but I will admit it wasn't as fun to knit as I'd hope. Perhaps it was the yarn, I'm not sure where I got this yarn but it's not a favorite. Although wool it had an almost acrylic feeling to it. I suppose none of that matters since April says she likes it and it is warm.

Since this project was started so long ago it appears this sweater will not last as long as I had hoped. When I cast on, I chose the next size up. Wow, I'm so glad I did. Still, it seems a little tight in the shoulders and the sleeves might be a bit short. For the time being however, she is more than happy to wear the "sweater mama made".

Sunday, November 10, 2013


We have been under-the-weather here this weekend but the quiet pace lends itself to more time for reflection. We have been thinking of and talking about all the freedoms we enjoy, our gratitude to those who make them possible and those who have fallen in protection of the lives we cherish. Though I had hopes of attending some of the Remembrance Day events with April tomorrow, I think we will continue to quietly discuss the importance of the day. Perhaps we will look at pictures of our relatives who are veterans and talk about what they did for us. I hope you all are able to take some time this weekend to talk to those you love about what Remembrance Day means to you and share how you honor our veterans.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Learning at the Lake

This visit happened a while ago but unfortunately the post got lost in the shuffle. On this day we visited Swan Lake with some friends of ours. It was a chance to run off some energy and observe some fall beauty. On our walk we were on the lookout for plants like duck weed, nettle and the invasive hawthorne. We found plenty of fungi which the kids are always intrigued by. And we kept our eyes open for wildlife like ducks, swans, herons, hummingbirds and squirrels. It was a beautiful day but the animals were scarce. Not a duck in sight the whole time we were there.

So after a lovely walk, we stopped in at the nature centre. The kids got to visit with the turtles, frogs, lizards, fish and toads. They also had plenty of hands-on exhibits like nests of different local birds, wasp paper, bones and lizard skin. April also liked the owl exhibit, really aren't we all suckers for owls? It really is a wonderful centre for education on local wildlife and I look forward to bringing April here for years to come.

It was such a lovely day and April chatted away to me about all the things she saw and discovered on our way home. I love when the excitement doesn't end when the trip ends. She loved telling us about the mushrooms and the caterpillars and turtles and frogs while we had dinner. It was a wonderful way to end a special day.