Sunday, December 28, 2008

Snow Fun

On Friday evening it changed from snow to rain. I wished it had cleared for a while and I had caught a photo of the house in snow. This was the most we've ever had piled on the house. So on Saturday my husband went out to capture a few photos before too much of the snow was lost. I think it looks pretty neat, what do you think?:
House in snow
This one looks almost like a postcard of our house (except I'd need to Photoshop in a blue sky instead of the greyish one):
House in snow
Here is a shot of the back yard and shed in a blanket of snow:
Back yard in snow
In the afternoon, my husband shovelled a path across the back deck, and insisted that we all go play in the snow while he cleared the remainder of the deck:
Clearing the snow on the deck
So we all set to work building snow creations. My son & I built what I will call the Throne of David:
Snow throne
No, not that throne, the throne of my little David:
David's snow throne
My daughter took her turn at sitting on the throne:
Sitting on snow throne
The kids also built a fort (which joined into the back of the snow throne), with help from my husband (who supplied them with snow by the shovelful):
Kids in snow fort
Snow fort
Snow fort

Friday, December 26, 2008

Enough Snow Already!

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, and are finding some time to relax and enjoy visiting with family (or playing with new toys - like our Wii system)!

This is more snow than I can ever remember in Vancouver (BC), and certainly in December! We must have had about 3 feet of it already, and it still keeps coming! Even the garbage trucks didn't venture down our street earlier this week, so it will be 2 1/2 weeks between pick ups this time, instead of the usual 1 week!

This summer I built a fairy house for my daughter, and have made a good start on a fairy garden around it:

Fairy house in summer

When I was preparing the garden for winter (which I never quite finished, but got pretty close), I decided to leave the fairy house out, and get a photo of it with snow on the roof. Well, it didn't take long this winter to get my wish:

Snow on fairy house
But then it kept snowing:
More snow on fairy house
Today when I looked out, the fairy house is completely buried, only a white bump in the white landscape. I had a thought to run out there and rescue it, but then again, the snow is a few feet deep, so I'll instead wait and see if it will bear the load. Let's hope when it turns to rain, it starts gently, not a downpour.

But as the song says, since there's no place to go... Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow!

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot More Like Christmas

I don't suppose I ever feel really ready for Christmas, but we are sure getting closer as the countdown continues. My husband helped me put the lights on the tree on the weekend (I've always done it by myself before, but this year even the ladder didn't allow me to reach the top). So then my 9 year old daughter and I put on most of the ornaments (the top ones and the star were placed from the loft). We still have more we can add, and we need to add the tree skirt at the bottom, but it's beginning to look pretty good (click any of the photos for a slightly larger view):
Christmas tree with decorations
Cookie treeWe tried out our new "cookie tree" kit which we bought from Regal Gifts this year It turned out pretty good, except we discovered that if you stacked only one cookie of each size (which is implied by the kit), the tree turned out too short (tree on right). When I discovered this, and started stacking approx 2 of each size (tree on left), then it looks much more proportioned like a real tree.

My 7 year old son made a cute "gingerbread" house at school, except it is made from graham wafers, "glued" together with icing:
Gingerbread house
Now all that's left is to wait to find out whether our family will all be able to join us, due to the heavy snowfall lately. My in-laws recently moved out into the valley (to Agassiz), where they've had fierce winds and even the TransCanada highway was closed one day. Here in Burnaby, it has been very cold but with little or no wind. We've had more snow (more than a foot here) than usual, and certainly unusual for this early in the winter.

I understand that the Inuit have 7 different words for what we call "snow". The kind we've had is the dry-and-no-good-for-snowmen-type-snow. So instead, the kids did their best to enjoy it in their toboggans today.
My daughter with her Ski Doo toboggan
Here's a few pics of the kids, trying a snowboard approach to the sledding:

They were happy to have their cousin join them today as well:

I like this photo of him, caught in mid-air as the "snowboard" is slipping away from under his boots... (Good thing the snow provided a relatively soft landing.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

After a beautiful clear morning, the clouds rolled in, and by this evening we had a light layer of snow covering the roads, sidewalks, and garden.

We took advantage of the good weather, to go to a Christmas Tree farm, and cut down a beautiful Douglas Fir. This year we tried out the Aldor Acres farm in Langley. After cutting the tree, we enjoyed visiting the animals, all of which are friendly and can be petted. There were some very small bunnies to hold. The goats had a few small kids. The horse had a foal, as did one of the donkeys. There were also pigs, and a lama. Nice crackling fire and hot chocolate, too.
Gorgeous monster Christmas tree
We have a beautiful 18' high ceiling in our living room, and no furniture yet (except a baby grand piano), which allows us to get a pretty good sized tree. Last year, it was the biggest and fullest yet, at about 12'. This year, I guess we got a bit more carried away, at a whopping 15' high. I don't know how I'm going to get up there to put the lights on, and a topper. Oh well, it looks pretty amazing, anyhow, even without decorations (see photo right).

People always stare at us (like we're a bit crazy, which I guess is a fair assumption) when we haul in our tree and tie it to the roof of our car. This year, they commented that we must have a pretty big house. Yes, a high ceiling, for sure. And fortunately we measured the diameter of the inside of the base (5") before we went out, since this one just barely fit. A few others we had considered, would not have. So even with this one, there is maybe only an inch of space around the trunk for water, so I'll need to watch the water levels very regularly! And of course, the tree seems to weigh a few hundred pounds! I got a sore neck just holding it straight while my husband tightened the screws in the base. I don't know how he even managed to lift it up to push it into the base.

The good news is that the last few years, we've been able to enjoy the tree all the way through the birthday season also (which goes from January to early February in our house). I'm already talking about a "camping" theme with my daughter, for her next birthday party. If we get really ambitious, we can set up a tent in the living room, and the kids can pretend to be out camping. Could be fun.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Aquarium Blog and First Snow in Vancouver

I've been feeling a bit schizophrenic lately, bouncing back and forth between my new interest in fish and aquariums, and my usual favourites of gardens, plants, arts & crafts, 3D art, and recipes (Hmmm, come to think of it, I may have been schizophrenic for some time now...).

Anyhow, I've decided to launch a separate blog to continue my postings about my newbie aquarium experiences and observations, which is called Hooked on Fish. That way, people who find my fish stories interesting won't be bored with my flower photos or 3D art, and likewise I won't bother my regular readers (ha ha, who am I kidding?) with too many boring photos of my aquariums.

So my posting rate may go down accordingly (or at least that will be my excuse). It may have something to do with my work hours lately, too, and the activities surrounding the holidays and preparation for it.

I missed a great photo opp this morning, we just received our first snow in Burnaby, BC this morning. Nice blanket, within a couple of hours, completely covered the roads, sidewalks, lawn, garden, making it all a beautiful white. But then it turned back to our usual rain, and in less than an hour, looked wet and slushy again. So next time, I'll be ready with the camera, to take a quick photo. In the meantime, I have my photos of snow scenes from previous winters to amuse me.
The clipart today is courtesy of Microsoft.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Aquarium Joys : Shrimp Rediscovered and Snail Romance

The two aquariums have provided much joy, and little glimpses into a mysterious world. I cleaned the sponge filter in my secondary fish tank yesterday, and as soon as I pulled off the bottom of the filter, the little shrimp fell out with the water. This time, I didn't put him back right away, I found a clear shallow container, and placed him in for observation.

I took some photos but they are all a dismal failure. I need to read the manual on my digital camera, to change the focussing mode, currently it is trying to get all spots in focus. I need to make it a single-spot focus, but couldn't figure out how to do it. So as a result, the camera kept focussing on the container, and refusing to notice the shrimp moving around inside.

Here are my attempts, anyhow:
Mystery freshwater shrimp
Small mystery shrimp
Freshwater shrimp
He's very small, only a couple of millimeters long. So hard to make out much detail, but his colour is greyish, almost clear. When he swims, he usually ends up swimming on his back. When he lands on the bottom of the container, he curls up his tail, and runs along on his legs. No noticeable claws or any interesting colouration. I tried to search for any clue of what this could be, and likely it is some sort of "feeder shrimp". That is, shrimp which is commonly fed to fish. That would explain his appearance in my tank, and he likely caught a ride with one of the plants I purchased.

The snails also continue to provide lots of amusement. The two ramshorn snails have been getting friendly quite a few times lately. The two clutches of about a dozen tiny eggs each on the back of the filter, seem to have disappeared, so I suspect they have hatched. Two more sets of eggs arrived on the inside of the glass. I spotted the first one, and my son spotted the second one tonight. We also have noticed a number of small snails, of the pointy-shelled type.

In the main aquarium, the bumblebee (Clithon corona) snails have also been quite amorous lately, so that would be really sweet if we ended up with more of them. From my reading, it sounds unlikely that the larvae will survive in the freshwater (they may require more brackish or salty conditions), and if they did, they would surely be eaten by the fish. I don't want to move them to the secondary tank at this point, since I enjoy the challenge of searching for them in the main tank.
In the main aquarium, the pleco has taken to hiding under one of the plants, and rarely comes out, at least during the day. I miss seeing him, and wish I hadn't scared him that time, when he was hanging on the filter. The goldfish seem to be bigger every day. And hungry. I've started feeding them peas (frozen baby peas, thawed, them squeezed out of the skin). This seems to help the two fantail goldfish, who often become "floaty" after eating the goldfish flakes. I have been pushing the flakes under water instead of on the surface, so they will moisten more, and avoid having them gulping air on the surface. But still seem to have problems with their swim bladder many days, after the morning feeding. I feel sorry for them, trying to swim down, and floating back up.

Lots of fun. I'm so thankful for this element in my life, to add cheer and excitement. My 7 year old son enjoys the snails, too, and is an enthusiastic volunteer in helping me sweep the tank with the net (we have a fine-mesh shrimp net) to pull out bits of plant matter and goldfish excrement. Always something to do, or to see!
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