Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lighthouse Park, North Vancouver

This afternoon, between the Canadian Men's Hockey Team gold medal win, and the 2010 Olympics closing ceremonies, we decided to go for a hike in Lighthouse Park.
I love Lighthouse Park in Spring, since it is a scenic walk through a coniferous forest, with native underbrush (salmonberries and such) but without the annoying alders which usually line walkways and parks and other areas which have been disturbed or cleared. I am allergic to alder pollen, and starting - surprisingly late this year, considering the mild winter we've had - to feel the irritation of allergies.

We started out late, arriving at the park some time between 4:30 and 5pm. We took the trail down, to our first lookout, toward downtown Vancouver, with the faded outline of Mount Baker - which is actually some distance away in Washington State - appearing to tower above the city.

View to Vancouver from Lighthouse Park
Then on to the overlook toward the lighthouse itself.
Lighthouse ParkLighthouse Park
Then on to my favourite part, where we climb out onto a rocky outcrop, on the edge of the ocean.  It is especially refreshing in early summer, to sit on the warm rock, and enjoy the sun and gentle breeze on your face, while resting up for the hike back.

We were amused by this line of diving ducks...
Then as I was taking their photo, they started to dive one-by-one, still in line.
The low angle of the sun made for some fun photos, such as this one of our kids enjoying their pop together.
And thanks to our friend Betty, some romantic photos together also.
The sun was setting, as we watched our little flock of ducks floating out on the calm waters.
We enjoyed a last look at the setting sun through the trees, on our hike back to the parking lot.
We arrived back before it was too dark, the hike around the loop trail being approximately 1 hour.  We arrived back home (actually, at Fresh Slice on the way home) a bit too late to see the start of the Closing Ceremonies, which is why the kids are still up now, watching a replay of the first part of it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's and Gung Hei Fat Choy

In Vancouver, we're celebrating Valentine's, Chinese New Year (Year of the Tiger) and the 2010 Olympic Games.  Of course, I'm at my computer tonight, not really participating in any of these, but I still wanted to extend my best wishes to all out there who are celebrating.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Crazy Puppet Making

I say "crazy", since it's not like I don't already have enough work to keep me working late every night. Nor enough to do around the house. But yesterday, my daughter's favourite blue jacket/sweater which she has been wearing almost every day for I don't know how long (to the point where we have been threatening to take it away from her so she could wear something else!), finally died. The zipper pull broke off.

We were leaving the library to pick up my son from soccer practice and head home for the evening, when the zipper pull broke. I don't know who suggested it first, but suddenly we both agreed that we just HAD to make her jacket into a puppet, like she had made one of her brother's old shirts into a puppet at school earlier this year.
Puppet makingHe needed a friend - or sister, in this case.
Anyhow, suddenly we were planning where to shop for the supplies, instead of heading home to bed...  We would have liked to go to Michaels, but it was too far out of our way, so we stopped at Zellers.  Of course, they didn't really have any craft supplies, so we needed to improvise.

Instead of felt for the face, we found a soft microfibre washcloth in beige, which looked good for the face.  We already had a sheet of red felt at home from a previous craft.  So it was just a matter of hair.  A nice ball of messy brown soft yarn looked very promising.  We even picked up a $5 pillow, in case we wanted stuffing for the body (it would cost more to buy the stuffing, so the pillow seemed a good idea, and if we didn't end up using it, at least we had a spare pillow, which we could use anyhow).

Puppet making
The "David" puppet was based on a yogourt container, but for "April", we decided to use a margarine container, which is a bit wider.  The head is basically the container with the lid bent in half (a cut of the rim allows it to bend), with one half glued to the container and forming the upper mouth, the other forming the bottom part of the mouth.

I heated up the glue gun I had bought a while back, but hadn't used yet.  Sadly, I found out that the glue sticks I bought were too small, so although they did melt, I had to push them through with my finger, which was next to impossible to keep the pressure up adequately.  The bigger sticks (I didn't know there were different sizes!) would be pushed by the trigger mechanism.  So after fighting with this for a while, I switched over to a "tacky" glue, which is like a thick version of a white school glue, but seems to have a good strong hold, and dries fairly quickly.

I decided that instead of a nose on the outside, tying a nose around a little sponge ball would look realistic.  As a side effect, the face puckered, and I ended up with extra material, which I pulled into the rough shape of eyebrows.  Then I glued the face to the container.  I left the top & back free, so I could figure out what to do about the hair.

For the hair, I am pulling through a loop with a small crochet hook, cutting it, and then tying a double knot with the two ends.  That results in two strands of hair, and they are secured in place.  The lengths I choose roughly, since the odd one can always be trimmed back later.  So far the effect is pretty good.  But I don't know if I'll go any further, over the top and back of the head, or just the hair surrounding the face.  I had hoped to find something "easy" for the kids to help me with, but I always manage to make it too complicated, and end up doing the craft by myself.  It drives my husband crazy, but I can't seem to help it.

Puppet making
PuppetFor the mouth, I traced a circle with another margarine lid, and then allowed room all around to wrap over the container, and for lips on top and bottom.  That worked quite well, I think.  Although it doesn't really look like my daughter now, more like a grumpy old lady.
Anyhow, here she is so far.  I need to figure out what to do about the eyes.  We have some wiggly ones somewhere, but I think all of them are too small, so we may need to buy some.  The loose part of the washcloth drapes down in the back, but that may be quite fine.

The next step, once I think I'm not going crazy on the hair anymore, is to glue the head to the jacket, and gloves in the sleeves of the jacket.  For this I may be better to buy the proper glue sticks and use the gun.  I don't think this tacky glue will be strong enough.  Besides, I've used most of the bottle already.

Anyhow, that will need to be another day.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Spring Blossoms and New Garden Path Lighting

The weather today was beautiful, as was yesterday.  I took the opportunity to do some more garden cleanup, and also snap a few photos of the signs of spring.
It was just exciting to actually see shadows.  But seeing my underplanting of croci and daffs under the persimmon tree was pretty exciting too.
Underplanting of spring bulbsFirst crocus of spring
Snowdrop in February
This primula will soon burst into bloom.
This single yellow crocus seems the only one left behind of the planting I did a few years ago near the gunnera. I like the photo I snapped of this same crocus last year (although the technical quality of the photo was not good).
Single yellow crocus
The daylily "Kwanzo" (a vigorous daylily with triple orange blooms) is sprouting rapidly - every couple of days it is visibly taller.
Daylily Kwanzo
Okay, these don't really count as Spring flowers, but they have survived a few winters now, and do "reappear" in spring, mostly hidden in the growth of summer.
I absolutely love these little decorative frogs I bought in Gastown in Vancouver many many years ago. They have been outdoors year round for some 5 years now, and show no signs of fading or wear. At the time, I could only justify to myself buying 2, but if I ever see them again, I hope to buy even more, and some of the lizards too. If I ever meet the artist, I would like to shake his or her hand, and show him how well these little guys have survived many winters now. By summer, the climbing hydrangea will hide them in its foliage.
Cool decorative frogCool decorative frog
Decorative frogs on retaining wall
Tootsie at Tootsie Time recently hosted a giveaway and promotion for CSN Stores and their Lighting Stores. I stumbled across a Westinghouse low voltage "Bellflower" path light which captured my imagination, and I just had to order 6 of them. They arrived yesterday, and I was really pleased by their look, and the "Antique Brick" colour, which I was unsure of, turned out to be a very pleasant antique dark brown colour, very easily blending into the garden. Although now I wonder if the "Patina Green" colour would have looked more like foliage, and may have also been very attractive.

Anyhow, I assembled one, and then went outside, sticking it into the ground (although I had problem everywhere, that I couldn't budge it beyond the soft soil, into the clay layer), and taking photos. When I returned to the house, my daughter was laughing at me, and said I must have thought it was Hanna Montana, the way I was taking so many photos. Paparrazzi of garden ornaments? Hmmm, I never thought of myself that way.

Anyhow, I was surprised by the size and "presence" of this fixture. I guess once everything has grown up around it, it won't look so noticeable. But at this point in the year, I am able to see it clearly even from the house.
Path light visible even from the house
I decided also to bring a little bit of Spring inside with me, with a cutting from my young forsythia bush (which is only a few branches yet). The cutting also fulfills two other purposes. The original "bush" needed to be shaped, since this branch was sticking out in the wrong direction. Also, I am hoping to start another young tree from this branch, which I will trim into a "standard" rather than bush shape. This branch was straight and symmetrical enough (in a circular sense) to fit this purpose well. So I have stripped the lower twigs, and hope it will root up nicely (forsythia usually does).
Forsythia cutting
In the few days it has been in the house, it has gone from buds to blooms.
Forsythia cutting forced into bloom early

End of Birthday Season

The kids' party for my son tonight marked the end of birthday season (although the bowls of chips on the counter will continue for probably another week).  This year we again did a "Pokemon" birthday.  But unlike the Pokemon cake last year, which we decorated in Pokemon characters, and David got to keep all the characters, we made Pokemon cupcakes and each friend got to keep his Pokemon character.  That felt a lot friendlier.
Pokemon cupcakes
My son got a larger "cupcake" so we could add 9 candles to it.
Pokemon birthday
This year, he received lots of Pokemon cards as gifts, and most of his friends were from the "card club" (i.e. Pokemon card club) at school, so a lot of time was spent huddled together looking at Pokemon cards, and playing Pokemon. A few others played volleyball with balloons. And when Mario Cart on the Wii was started up, there were no shortage of boys wanting to race.
Pokemon cards
Overall, it was a fun party. But I'm also glad that birthday season in our house is now over.
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