Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Day Twenty-Nine: Some Place I'd Like to Visit

The Falkland Islands. I'd heard the name in passing a few times, but I had no idea what or where they were. I discovered them recently while playing one of my favourite time-passing games. I open Google maps, grab the little street-view man, close my eyes and drop him somewhere. Most of the time you just hit open water, but this time I landed right away on the above photo. Wow. What is this place? I did a little research, and completely fell in love.

I was a little uneasy when I read it was a British territory, imagining indigenous people being robbed of their lands, or killed, but apparently the islands were completely uninhabited when they were discovered. There was some messy business with Argentina not that long ago, but things seem to have settled.

Ignoring politics, it's just a beautiful place.

Pristine oceans.

Luscious farmland.

Incredible scenery.

Perfect weather (for me).

I'm determined to make it there at some point in my life. Even if it does mean a LOT of flying (ugh).

Monday, 28 November 2011

Day Twenty-Eight: A Skill I'd Like To Learn

Oh man, there are so many! Seeing as my long-term goal is self-sufficiency, I have a long list of skills to learn. Pretty high on my list right now is soap making. I've started reading through a few tutorials (Chickens in the Road has a great one), and I feel ready to begin learning, I just have to wait until I have the money to get the starting equipment.

Hand made soaps always look so delicious. Sometimes it's hard to resist biting them... I know that would not be so good though.

Does that not look like delicious fudge? Mmm... I might have to go make fudge now.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Day Twenty-Seven: Myself, One Year Ago

One year ago, we had just had our first snow.

I was working at a bakery with this crazy, awesome lady.

I had just put up my Christmas tree, and was crafting felt rose wreaths in red and white.

This year, we just had our first snow, the crazy, awesome lady has just gone on maternity leave, and I'm starting at the bakery she's leaving, I'm putting up my Christmas tree right now, and I'm crafting a sweater.

I suppose not a lot has changed.

Day Twenty-Six: Something I'm Looking Forward To

I'm knitting Andy a sweater for... Christmas? I'm not christian, and I don't really celebrate "Christmas". I do love Christmas trees, and I love doing holiday type things, and making people presents. I don't like store bought gifts that people don't really want or need, and I don't like christianized-formerly-pagan holidays. Okay, I should probably stop here before I start getting hate-mail, and just go with good ol' Festivus.

Anyways, I'm knitting a sweater, my first non-scarf knitting project, and I am so excited to finish it. Or, at least, to get to point where I can make Andy try it on (and so help me if it doesn't fit).

It's a really simple pattern. A basic knit, knit, knit, purl, knit, purl for the hem, and stockinette for the body. It took me quite a few tries to figure out how to knit in the round properly, especially switching from knit to purl and back, but once I got the hang of it, it's really quite a breeze. I'm about 70 rows in now, I have to do approximately 170 for the torso, then the shaping (which I'm nervous about), then the arms. I'm really hoping it will be done by New Year's.

I'm following along with Nina's sweater class on Knit Picks.

Also, I had no idea it would knit up into stripes, but I am thrilled by it.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Day Twenty-Five: The Contents of My Purse

Really, I don't carry a purse most of the time. Either I stick my wallet in my coat, or if I'm going to work or getting groceries, I take my backpack.

I do have a really awesome purse though, and when I use it lately, this is what I pack.

Wallet, stuffed with all kinds of cards and ID's (I know it's bad to keep it all in one place, but I never learn), and if I'm lucky, cash.

iPod Touch, for music, wi-fi, and list keeping.

Cell phone. It would be really convenient to have an iPhone, and combine two into one, but I currently pay $10 a month for "pay and talk" and I really don't want an iPhone sized bill.

Chapstick, ever-present.

A mint, 'cause I'm an old lady like that.

A sharpie, they are always useful!

Gloves, because it's getting cold out there, baby.

All neatly tucked inside my wonderful book-purse I bought from Rebound Designs (by far the splurgiest/girliest purchase I've ever made).

Day Twenty-Four: Something That Means a Lot to Me

Living organically has come to mean a lot to me over the last few years. The older I get, the more I strive to be as close to complete sustainability as possible. I still have a long way to go, but I know I am headed in the right direction.

Whenever possible I eat locally and organically. I do so by making informed choices when I shop, and by preserving what I can through canning, drying, and freezing seasonal foods.

I'm very happy to announce that I found a new job, and even happier that they share many of my values, and also source their ingredients locally and ethically as they can.

I'm very excited to start working on Monday. You can check out their website here.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I never got around to posting about my vegan Thanksgiving, so now that it's American Thanksgiving it seemed like a good time.

It turned out so well, I would definitely do it again.

Andy on the right, Andy's brother Matt and his wife Rita on the left.

We had lentil-walnut loaf, veggie stuffing, sweet potatoes with pralines, garlic mashed potatoes, quinoa stuffed peppers, mushroom gravy, and for dessert, vegan apple pie and vegan chocolate cream pie! Also hot mulled cider.

The lentil loaf is from Oh She Glows. The only changes I made were to skip the raisins and I used red lentils instead of green because I had them on hand. Delicious.

The stuffing was pretty basic, but tasty. Day-old loaf of home made white bread, celery, scallions, pecans, garlic, and tons of fresh herbs, tossed with veggie stock and baked (We made a huge pot of veggie stock a few days earlier, and used it in almost everything).

Mashed sweet potatoes with Earth Balance (we used it to replace all the butter for the dinner and it worked great) and a little coconut milk, topped with pecans baked in a little brown sugar and maple syrup. This was a big hit.

(Not pictured) Mashed potatoes with Earth Balance, roasted garlic, and fleur de sel.

Quinoa stuffed peppers. Cook quinoa in veggie stock, add pureed mushrooms, tomato paste, onions, garlic, and spices. Stuff into hollowed out peppers (the red were the best), top with barbecue sauce and bake in a little olive oil until tender.

Mushroom Gravy. Cook some chopped mushrooms in veggie stock (or use mushroom stock), season as desired. Add a little coconut milk (or almond/soy milk), simmer for a few minutes. Thicken with flour or potato starch.

I won't give you the recipe for my vegan pie crust, because it was awful. It was the most crumbly, hard to work with crust ever. I'll have to keep working on that. The filling was amazing however. For my apple pie I like to precook my apples with Earth Balance, a vanilla bean, organic cane sugar (processed white sugar is NOT vegan, as they use animal bones in the bleaching process, yuck), cinnamon, mace, cloves, and allspice. Cook it low and slow, until it starts to caramelize a little. Oh man... Then just fill your shell and bake as usual, it might take a little less time. The best part is, your apples are already cooked down, so you won't get a shrunken pie.

For the chocolate cream, first, watch this video on how to make whip cream from coconut milk. Brush the bottom of your shell with melted chocolate. Melt 400 grams (14 oz) of good quality dark chocolate (I like Callebaut) over a double boiler and gently stir in 200 ml coconut milk. This makes vegan ganache that tastes exactly like regular ganache! Let this cool. Whip another 200 ml coconut milk, following the instructions in the video, then very gently fold it in to the cooled ganache. Pour this into your shell and let set in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. Top with more coconut whip cream. This is SO GOOD. You'd never guess it was vegan. (Sorry I didn't get pictures.)

I do recommend using the Thai Kitchen brand coconut milk if you can. I used a can of the Thai and it whipped perfectly, and I used a can of Chaokoh and it didn't work at all, though this may have been a fluke.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Day Twenty-Three: Eight Things You Didn't Know About Me

1. I am incredibly neurotic about certain things, for example, I have to walk on the left side of people. I can suppress this sometimes if I'm walking with someone I don't know well, and I'm trying hard to hide the crazy, but it drives me nuts. It's not as bad if I'm with a group of people.

2. I have two weird genetic quirks passed down from my mother's side of the family. One, my middle finger nails won't grow straight, they curve under on themselves. Two, my tear ducts and my throat are apparently connected (or more connected than they should be?), if I blow my nose too hard I get snot bubbles in the corners of my eyes. Also, I can taste my eye drops. Gross.

3. I'm allergic to everything that comes out of the water. Shellfish, regular fish, even seaweed. I'm also allergic to most scented/dyed products.

4. I really, really, like picking other people's zits. (I'm gross tonight, aren't I?)

5. I have a birthmark on my nose that is invisible most of the time. It shows up when I blush or get angry.

6. I was apparently a suicidal baby, as when I was two I threw myself (not fell, threw) down the stairs and fractured my skull. Other than that I've never broken a bone.

7. I have huge feet. Size 13 woman's. Shoe shopping tends to make me cry.

8. Most people assume I'm white, I look white. My father's side of the family are as white as it gets, blonde haired, blue eyed, but my mother's side is actually a mix of Portuguese and British-Guyanese.

My very Hispanic Grandparents. How beautiful are they?

Day Twenty-Two: Some Place I’ve Traveled

It all began with a calendar photo.

It was on the wall at work, and it was so beautiful. I checked the fine print, and discovered this was a picture of Nova Scotia. I knew very little about Nova Scotia at the time. When I was a kid I loved Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables of course), but Nova Scotia?

So I came home and poked around on the internet for a while. An hour or two later I was trying to convince Andy that we should move there. An hour or two after that, he was convinced.

Of course, we needed to see if it was as great in person as it was on paper, so we saved up some cash, bought out plane tickets to Halifax, and waited impatiently for June.

This was my first plane trip, ever. It was terrifying. I always thought I was afraid of flying, now I know I am. Still it was worth it because Nova Scotia is even better than we could have imagined.

The people are so friendly. Everyone always talks about how the people are friendlier in such and such place, but this is the first time it's really been true. It's almost creepy how nice everyone is. The craziest part was the traffic. Most. Polite. Drivers. Anywhere. If you so much as glance across the road, all the cars stop to let you pass. Amazing. Especially after Ottawa...

Now I am going to flood you with photos.

The Public Gardens in downtown Halifax are not to be missed. Breathtaking.

I really love graveyards, and Halifax has some gorgeous old ones, including several filled with victims from the Titanic.

I want to live in that lighthouse.

The huge cargo ships turned me into a little kid. So cool!

The bridge connecting Halifax to it's sister city Dartmouth.


Halifax harbour as seen from our boat tour.

We Collins' are highly respected in Halifax.

Citadel Hill in the afternoon.

This store had really neat local arts and crafts, but also nearly killed me. I had a horrible allergic reaction to something in the store and spent the next two hours wheezing. Not fun.

Heading to the beach, Andy and I walked down the most incredible street, with crazy beautiful houses.

Loving those windows. And the colours!

This place was massive! Like the White House in pink.

Oh, and then there was the castle. Just chilling in the neighborhood.

This house had it's own bridge!

Blackrock Beach.

Andy, ignoring all the "Danger" signs and walking out on the slippery rocks.

Pretty! I also saw my first jellyfish and starfish while in Halifax, but couldn't get good photos.

It was an absolutely wonderful vacation. It is definitely our dream to move to Nova Scotia (did you know you can buy a farm house with five acres there for $50,000?!). It's just a bit tricky to get jobs from 1000 kilometers away. We'll figure it out though. Someday.

Day Twenty-One: Something I Could Never Tire of

I am a slave to the kitties.

Day Twenty: A Childhood Anecdote

Compared to my brother, I was "the good kid" as far as school went, but that doesn't mean I didn't do my fair share of shit disturbing.

In seventh grade I was attending Ayden Middle School in North Carolina. We had a lovely English teacher, who I believe was named Mrs. Frost. She was everything you could want in a teacher, and she always recommended the best books for me to read outside of the required reading list (Invitation to the Game began my love of dystopian fiction).

About half way through the school year, Mrs. Frost went on maternity leave, and we were given a substitute teacher. We'll call her Ms. Smith. Ms. Smith was about 102 years old, and a kindergarten teacher. She also liked to wear mini skirts. The majority of her class assignments were word-searches. However, Ms. Smith apparently did not understand how word-searches work, because when I handed my first one in, completed, she marked mine at around 25%, with big red marks around words I'd circled such as "retupmoc", and wrote across the top "you found some words!" When I explained to her that that was "computer" backwards, she said "I don't know how you do things in Canada, but here we read from left to right, left to right."

It was really hard not to punch her...

Those of us who actually cared about getting an education, were furious that half our year was being wasted, and the rest of the students hated her anyways because, damn, she was annoying. So I decided to start a petition for us to get a new substitute teacher. Every student in the class signed it, and many students from her other classes. At some point while it was being passed around, the principal got a hold of it. He came to get me out of class, and yelled at me in the hallway while holding a baseball bat, and told me that students don't have rights, and school is not a democracy, and that he would expel me if I tried anything like that again.

That evening he called my parents, threatening to suspend me. After I explained my side of the story, my dad just laughed at him. However, nothing was accomplished, and we still had to deal with Ms. Smith for the rest of the year, and she sent me to the office every chance she got (the only time I was ever sent to the office in my entire school career).

The Moral of the Story: Home-school your children.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Day Nineteen: A Silly Husband Portrait

My apologies for falling so far behind! It's a little crazy around here. Both Andy and I are looking for new jobs, and trying to plan a move. I have an interview tomorrow! I'm very excited about it. If I get the job I will actually be filling in for a friend of mine I used to work with at my last job, as she's leaving to have her first baby! Funny how things work out.

Anyways, this is supposed to be a silly self-portrait, but I've seen enough pictures of me this month, and this picture is too good not to share.

Watch out! Andy sprung a leek!

Apparently I'm a huge dork, but this makes me laugh every time. I'm a sucker for bad puns.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Day Eighteen: What I Wore Today

What did I wear today? Well when I rolled out of bed to get ready for work, still feeling pretty crappy from a nice bout of food poisoning (chip truck poutine = pain), I grabbed what was nearest to the bed, namely the jeans and sweater I had worn yesterday. Classy. Then i added some gigantic wooly socks because, BRRRR!

When I got to work I changed into my chef whites, which quickly went from squeaky clean to covered in chocolate and flour.

Then when I came home feeling extra crappy after my food poisoning caught back up with me and I yammied in the staff bathroom, I changed into pyjama pants and a very ugly, but very comfortable, bleach stained sweatshirt.

Yup, I am the epitome of high fashion.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Day Seventeen: My Family

My family from eldest to youngest.







We're a pretty furry bunch.