Or Bear-steria.

No matter what you call it, my little small town is buzzing with it.  Bears!  They are everywhere!  I even saw a bear recently while on a drive to Bala.  The bear was on the side of the road and ran like hell from our car.  We caught this photo of him running:

Run Bear Run!

The hys-bear-ia comes from a recent bear attack on a human.  Or as the Ministry of Natural Resources likes to call it: "human-bear conflict".  There have since been sightings all around the region: Midland, Elmvale, and even on the concession road I live on.  Yesterday, there was not only a bear sighting in Elmvale, the Ministry of Natural Resources came in and shot a bear cub with a tranquilizer and returned it back to the wild.

I hope that the recent attack and the sightings are encouraging people to educate themselves about bear safety and reminding us all that we share the woods and planet with animals that are much bigger than us.  According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, bears mostly avoid humans, but if there is a shortage of natural foods available to them, "bears will look for other food sources – primarily your garbage" and "once bears learn where to find and get a non-natural food source, they will return again and again."  So keep your garbage in a bear-proof container, and keep your Green Bins clean of any food smells (I will be cleaning mine out today to be sure it smells like soap and not food).  I am trying not to hop on the hys-bear-ia train, but following some tips on the Bear wise website is not a bad idea.  I also haven't gone on any walks in the woods for the past few weeks, as I would rather not disrupt any bear activities that don't want to be disrupted (plus it makes my Mom feel better if I'm not in the woods with the bears).

Though I think Bear safety and awareness is important, some of the headlines surrounding recent Bear activity have been a little over the top.  Two local papers ran the following headlines: "Bear reported in schoolyard" and "Bear sighted near Midland school".  When I read those headlines I pictured children playing on swing-sets at recess, running around having fun, when a bear strolls in and starts acting all crazy, causing the children to run for safety.  What actually happened, however, was that the Bear was spotted at 11:30pm.  At night.  To me, that is a little different than the Bear wandering through a schoolyard full of children.  I suppose "Midnight bear stroll in schoolyard" doesn't get the Bear-steria flowing nearly as much as "Bear reported in schoolyard."  I will save my rant on the media for another day. :)

There is a lot of great information about bears on the government website, so check out the following to educate yourself about Bears and Bear safety.



Posted by Jen B On Saturday, May 29, 2010 1 comment
With almost two weeks in the ground, some of our vegetables are thriving and some have died.

Here is the body count:

Cucumber: all 3 died
Beans: 2 of 12 died
Peas: 1 of 5 died
Onions: 1 of 4 died
Corn: 2 of 10 died
Spinach: 3 of 10 died

Everything else seems to be growing all right.

Basil is getting really strong!
 
Romaine and spinach are really coming along!

We got our peppers planted.

Our zucchinis already have flowers!

Early last week we thought many of the plants weren't going to make it, so we added more seeds to our greenhouse and started some new sprouts growing.


We started more romaine (6), oregano (2), dill (2), cucumber (3), and zucchini (3).  The cucumbers are already sprouting, so hopefully we can get some going again early in June.  Hopefully this round of cucumbers wants to live!!  :)

Posted by Jen B On Friday, May 28, 2010 No comments
Everything I know about making sushi I learned from my friend Sarah.  She took me on my first shopping trip to get all the supplies at Christie and Bloor in Toronto, and even walked me through my first preparation.  I’ve been making sushi rolls on my own for years now, and they are always worth the effort.  Though I have tried making different varieties (I experimented once with putting tempura in the roll - really tasty!) I mainly stick with a simple version of California Rolls.  I got a major craving for them last week and picked up all the supplies so I could make them at home.  Yummy as always, I thought I would share my sushi making with you.

First, you need supplies:
(L-R) Imitation crab (leg style), avocado, English cucumber, 
sushi rice, mayo, and a sushi mat.

Also, most importantly the nori sheets:

You should also pick up some wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce to eat along with your prepared rolls as per your taste.  I love pickled ginger!

Cook the rice as per package directions.  Let cool.  While rice is cooking/cooling, cut your avocado, cucumber, and imitation crab into long strips.

Step 1.  Place nori sheet on sushi mat.  Spread rice on nori sheet evenly to the edges.  Spread a little mayo onto the rice.

Step 2. Place you strips of cucumber, avocado, and imitation crab on the rice at bottom end of the nori sheet.
Step 3.  Roll.


And Roll.

And Roll.

Step 4. You now have a sushi roll!  Set rolls aside, with the seam on the bottom to ensure they stay rolled up.

Step 5.  Slice the rolls into individual, bite size pieces.

Dip in soy sauce and garnishes of your choice (wasabi, pickled ginger) and enjoy!

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, May 27, 2010 No comments
There was a deal at Shoppers last week where photo prints were only $0.10 each if you bought over 50.  I usually have a full folder on my computer called “to print” just in case a deal like this comes up.  I printed 130 photos, all for scrapbooking purposes.  I will have pages to work on all summer probably!

The Shoppers with the digital photo lab is in Wasaga Beach (about 20 minutes from here), so I dropped the photos off in the afternoon and went back in the evening to pick them up.  The cashier handed them to me and said: “We’re neighbours”.  John then recognized her and said hello and I said hello.  We are in fact neighbours.  Like 20 feet from door to door neighbours.  For a while now.  I have waved at her many times from my bike or while on walks, and I’ve even eaten her baked goods at Christmas.  But until I picked up my photos twenty minutes away from both of our houses, I didn’t know what she looked like up close and I never actually said a real hello.  Funny how that happens. 

I never meant to avoid meeting her properly before now, it just never happened.  I have a smiling and waving comfort zone when it comes to neighbours.  In Toronto I always just smiled and waved at the people I didn’t know in my building, and never actually introduced myself.  I even had countless conversations with people in the laundry room, but never said: “What’s your name?”  When I lived on the main floor of the house that was three apartments, I didn’t even have a smile and wave relationship with the downstairs neighbours; we never met.  Even though we were both there for three years, I have no idea what they looked like.  I only met the upstairs neighbour after a year and a half because he bought the house and became the landlord.  Funny how that happens. 

I’m glad I finally really met my current neighbour.  She likes photos too, and she showed me some photos she took of hummingbirds.  It’s neat that a photo deal in Wasaga Beach allowed us to meet.  Next time, though, I won’t drive so far to say hello.  :)

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, May 26, 2010 No comments
POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!  With Lost finally coming to a conclusion, the internet has been a-flutter with vocal lovers and haters.  Kudos to the tonnes of bloggers that have already put forth their reviews. Other than saying that I loved the final episode and I am satisfied with how it fits into the rest of the series (regardless of all the unanswered questions and who Sayid ended up with), I'm going to leave it to the many more hard core fans on the internet to write the reviews.  I want to give myself the opportunity to watch the entire series again before I thoroughly judge it beyond my initial reaction.

I celebrated the series finale at my Bro’s, making a few party favours to honour this show that has provided 120 hours of excited "what-is-going-to-happen-next" entertainment.

Following some suggestions from  The Ack Attack, I made the Bro’s and I each a boarding pass to attend the party:

I also picked up some snacks and re-labeled them with the Dharma logos (print your own here):


I am really looking forward to watching all six seasons again so I can experience some “Ooooh!!!  I get it now!!” moments on previous episodes.  Should be fun.

If you are looking for analysis and reviews, both positive and negative, here are some links you should check out to see what people are saying:

Entertainment Weekly

The Ack Attack

io9 (hated it) or io9 (liked it)

Or just Google "Lost Review" and you'll come up with about 300,000 results.  Lots of people are talking about it.


So long Lost! See you in DVD/reruns!

Posted by Jen B On Tuesday, May 25, 2010 No comments
I was making my turn into the grocery store parking lot earlier today, just as Journey's Don't Stop Believing came on the radio.  I parked the car and naturally had to delay my entrance into the store - there was a party happening in my car!  I belted out all the lyrics in the parking lot, enjoying a great song in gorgeous weather.  I am overjoyed that the summer temperatures are finally here!  Have a great long weekend everybody!

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, May 20, 2010 No comments
I am working through the easy projects I put into my Ravelry queue.  I knit this fancy little dishcloth dress rather quickly and I think it came out quite well.

It is supposed to be a dishcloth, but I don’t think it’s all that practical.  It looks super cute though!  The photo that went with the pattern had it hanging off of a bottle of dish soap.  So sweet!  I couldn’t get mine on a bottle of dish soap (it is resting on a bottle of hot sauce in the above photo!), as I didn’t make the neck opening as big as the pattern suggested.  To make the neck opening bigger I would have had to crochet a chain, and I wasn’t in the mood to learn to crochet the day I knit this.  Maybe next time.

While knitting this dress, I was reminded of the cute little dresses that my Nanny and Aunt Shirley used to make for Barbie dolls to wear that would cover up a toilet paper roll.  When I was young, I think every relative we would visit had one of those Barbies in the bathroom guarding the toilet paper.  :)

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, May 20, 2010 No comments
Did you watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution?  There were only six episodes from March to April, and the episodes I saw drew me in and kept me glued to the television.  I am always inspired by passion, and Jamie Oliver is extremely passionate about educating people about healthy eating.  He has critics, naysayers, people telling him he can't do it - but I find some people tend to name-call the person starting the revolution.  For too many, change is easier to ridicule than embrace.  Jamie Oliver was out there, using his passion to try and help people for the better.  I applaud him for that.

It was timely for me to watch the Food Revolution, as I have recently started making myself more aware of what I am eating and actively trying to make healthier food choices.  I'm not on a diet, but I am cutting back on all the junk that I have been eating for the past while.  I have a few bad habits when it comes to food, the worst of which is late night snacking.  The later I stay up, the worse it is.  And it isn’t just snack food that I have - many times I have ‘second dinner’ late into the night.  I am well aware that this isn’t the best way for me to treat my body.  With summer on it's way, I needed to change my bad habits. So far I have made three specific changes regarding what I consume.

First, I made a Do Not Eat list.  Basically I brainstormed a bunch of foods that I should not eat on a regular basis.  Some foods that made the list are: doughnuts, chips, pop, fried chicken, fast food, and entire bags of candy.  I am not yet willing to completely cut these foods from my life, but I don’t want to eat them very often either.  My new mindset is that treats should be just that - treats.  Believe me, I love food.  I find it to be one of the most satisfying, comforting, and social things to do.  So for one day a week (generally a weekend day) I have set myself a ‘treat day’ where I can eat any of the bad foods on my list.  The other six days in the week, I respect the Do Not Eat list. 

Second, I scheduled healthy snacks and keep them on hand. I know that I love to eat late at night, so I have scheduled snacks to eat late so I don’t just eat a hot dog.  My favourite snacks currently are almonds, applesauce, yogurt, fruit smoothies, air popped popcorn, and granola bars.  Having these options in the house has definitely kept me from making bad choices.  The logic is simple: if the decision has already been made before I get hungry, I won’t impulsively eat something unhealthy. 

Third, I (mostly) measure my food.  I don't follow any real guidelines, I just have either 1/2 cup or 1 cup of most things.  Or if there is an option to have more than one of something, I try to stick with just one (i.e. potatoes, dinner rolls, etc.). I feel full when I eat, so I am not starving myself by any means, I am just not eating a giant plateful of food now.

I have been on this ‘plan’ for about two months and I like that it is simple and easy going.  I am too obsessed with food to have strict rules about it, but having some general guidelines has been beneficial.  Some days it is incredibly easy to stick to the plan, other days it is practically painful.  I just have to remember to take it one day at a time.  I recently made an amazing discovery that is encouraging me to keep with it, though: my thin jeans fit.  Those jeans have not fit for a few years now, and it definitely feels good to get back into them.  Beyond that, I’m pretty sure my body is happy to not have to process french fries while it is trying to fall asleep.  On the whole I would say, so far so good! :)
Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, May 19, 2010 No comments
With the weather looking great for at least the next week, we took the plunge and planted our vegetables and herbs on Sunday.  Upon planting them, we realized that we started our sprouts far too early, as many of them grew very tall in their Jiffy Pots.  At least four of our bean plants had grown beans on them!  Crazy!  We will know better for next year to start them a lot closer to planting day.

The Garden - 2010

As some of the sprouts were very tall, we had to use steaks to hold them up until their roots grow strong enough to hold them up on their own.  Hopefully the roots take hold soon and all of our plants make it.  We already lost some of our sprouts prior to planting day, as the dill, a few carrots, a spinach, and a romaine sprout died.  I think they were probably mad about being in the Jiffy Pots so long.  Sorry sprouts. :(

Here are some photos of what made it into the garden this year:

Basil (2), Oregano (2), Cilantro (2)

 Green Beans (12)

 Peas (5), Carrots (5), Onions (4)

Romaine (4)

Spinach (10) - we like spinach!

Tomatoes (3)

From back: Corn (10), Zucchini (3), Cucumber (3)

We left room in the garden for some pepper plants that aren’t yet big enough to transplant.  Pretty soon we’ll have red, green, jalapeno, and mini-bell peppers!  So excited!

Pepper Sprouts

I am very happy that we were finally able to plant.  I hope the weather stays nice and all our little veggies take root!  Some of them were looking a little weary out there today - but we'll have to see how they are in a few days.  Hopefully they all grow really big so there are lots of yummy veggies to eat throughout the summer!

Posted by Jen B On Tuesday, May 18, 2010 No comments
I’m just going to put it out there that I play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).  I haven’t been playing very long (I am only on my second “campaign”) but I play enough that it was decided that I should have my own set of dice - preferably pink dice.  So we went on a trip to the game store in Barrie and I picked out some pretty cute dice that I can now infuse with my power so they can assist me on my campaigns.  I don’t actually believe that one can infuse dice with power, but my character does, so I’m doing it for her. ;)

I got my dice home and realized I needed a dice bag.  Thanks to my new addiction to Ravelry and all the geeky patterns within, I quickly found at least ten dice bag patterns to choose from.  Only problem - they all involved double pointed needles.

As with most new knitting techniques, I was intimidated to try using double pointed needles (dpn).  I’ve had a set of dpn’s for over a year, but five needles instead of two sounded a little to advanced for my abilities.  That is actually my line of thinking about all new techniques - they must be too advanced for me.  It is silly to think this way, as I have continually proved to myself that I am capable of learning new things, but I still have this hesitation to start projects that have new techniques.  It probably has something to do with my self-imposed perfectionism - that inner voice that is demanding me to “make sure you do it right.”  I just have to keep in mind that trying something new is amazing in itself and if at first I don’t succeed, I can try, try, again.

Thus was my experience in learning to use double pointed needles.  Even with the help of an internet teacher,  it took me three tries to get it right.  My first attempt, I had my stitches cast on evenly across four of the needles, but when I knit them “in the round” I did it in such a way that the needles didn’t come together in a square like they are supposed to.  Oops.  I pulled out the stitches and tried again.

This is wrong somehow...

My second attempt, I got the needles to form a square, but must have crossed my stitches, because it just didn’t look right. Plus one of the needles fell out of the stitches it was holding, which made me a little cranky, and without thinking on how to fix it, I just pulled the rest of the stitches out and prepared to try again.

Third time was the charm.  Something just clicked and I was knitting in the round as if I knew how.  Following my internet instructor's advice, I put a stitch marker on my first needle, so that I would know where the start of my “round” was.  I don’t actually own stitch markers but a twisted pink paperclip worked perfectly for my purposes.  This was incredibly helpful, as I can’t imagine having to remember where the round started - that sounds like far too much counting for me.

Much better...

I am really happy with how my dice bag turned out.  It is adorably pink for my adorably pink D&D dice.



The only problem I experienced with this project, is that by the time I finished, my left hand was cramped and achy from the hours of holding the square of needles.  Plus, the points on my needles are quite sharp, and the index fingertip of my left hand was actually red from repeatedly being stabbed with the right hand needle.  The next project I make with dpn’s, I am going to try and be more aware of how intensely/awkwardly I am holding the work in my left hand, so that I don’t end up with carpal tunnel syndrome.  As for the fingertip stabbing - I wonder if this is what people use thimbles for?  I just might have to get one.

Posted by Jen B On Monday, May 17, 2010 4 comments
A few weekends ago my brother, brother-in-law, and I went on a road trip to some scenic spots in semi-northern Ontario.  I detailed our use of the new GPS system in a previous post, and thought I would now share some photos from our adventures that day.  Our first stop was Big Chute, a place my dad took us to explore when we were kids.  On the way there we saw a bear!  We also saw some pretty old rocks!  We walked around in places that signs told us not to!  We played safely and our rebelliousness actually made for some pretty fantastic shots!

 That is a freakin' bear...running from our car.

 A friendly sign greeted us.

Scenic Big Chute zone

Boats are lifted on this from one waterway to another.

The boats have to go up this massive hill first.

When boats come through, this area fills with water.
You're not supposed to play here - it's dangerous.
But look at me on that rock - I'm not scared!

The sign behind Bro says "Extreme Danger."
But he's not scared either!

This photo makes me think I walked on the moon.

Old rocks! Like billions of years old.
So saith the sign.


Posted by Jen B On Friday, May 14, 2010 No comments
Through the magic of the internet I found myself signed up to a social networking site that is specifically for knitters and crocheters.  Called Ravelry, it has been around since 2007 and Wikipedia says it has about 600,000 users.  Well, about 600,001 now.  I don’t exactly need another internet obsession in my life, but now that I have joined, I am so into it.

The hours that I have spent on Ravelry so far have involved setting up my profile and searching the countless patterns available to the community.  In the profile section, you get to list projects you are working on, post photos of finished work, have an RSS feed of your blog, list all the needles you own, and list all the yarn you have on hand. There is even a cool function that lets you save patterns into a page called the “queue”.   The queue lets you keep track of all the patterns you have found online that you want to try.  I already have nine patterns saved in my queue, as I spent the weekend searching through all the different patterns this site has to offer.  There are literally thousands, and many of them are free.  In my extended search I found quite a few patterns that are geek oriented (Star Wars, Firefly, superhero themed) and I’m excited to knit some geeky things in the future.  I put a pattern for knit Chainmail in my queue!  Is that geeky or what?

I haven’t engaged in the social networking aspect of the site yet, but there are hundreds of groups to join - everything from Tim Hortons Lovers to fans of Lord of the Rings.  I have only just grazed the surface of everything there is to find on Ravelry, and I have a feeling I'm going to be completely obsessed by the time I finish exploring it.

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, May 13, 2010 2 comments
Overheard the other day at the grocery store:
Girl A: “You are not allowed to buy bread!”
Girl B: “Why not?”
Girl A: “You have a bread maker!!”

I have a bread maker too. I “borrowed” it from my Mom last year and have used it non-stop ever since. It is from the ‘90s so it doesn’t have any crazy settings, but it can make a loaf of bread in 3 hours or mix up some dough in an hour and 15 minutes. I love the dough setting because you can shape the bread into whatever you like (buns, dinner rolls), or even make things other than bread (cinnamon rolls, pretzels, pizza dough). Yesterday it was all about the pizza dough!


Pizza dough is as easy as it gets when it comes to dough - it only has five ingredients - flour, oil, water, salt, and yeast.

I put all the ingredients in the bread maker pot and let the magic begin.


Ta-dah!  Only an hour and 15 minutes later and I had my very own home made pizza dough!


Next, I spread the dough onto an oiled pan.  I don't have a pizza pan so I used a rectangular baking sheet which makes an awesome version of a 'party pizza'.


My favorite part of home made pizza is the toppings. You can add as much or as little as you want, so you are only limited by your tastes and what you have on hand.  There was a lot on hand today and I have a habit of going a little overboard when it comes to topping a pizza.  I end up with a deep dish pizza without it being an actual deep dish pizza!

On hand toppings: pizza sauce, onions, broccoli, jalapenos, olives, 
roast chicken (leftovers!), zucchini, mushrooms, spinach

And don’t forget the cheeses!

Parmesan and Mozzarella 

The recipe says the pizza should bake for 25-30 minutes, but this pizza was so overloaded with toppings that we had to cook it for 40 minutes!


 Believe me, it was worth the wait!

Home Made Pizza = Mega Yum!!

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, May 12, 2010 No comments
For the past two summers we have grown our garden from already sprouted plants.  For some reason I thought it was too hard to grow vegetables from seed, so I would pick out the already started veggies that someone else grew (magically, I thought) from the store and plant them.  We would spend upwards of $70 on these pre-started plants, so this year we decided to see if we could grow our vegetables from seeds.

Our collection of seeds - veggies and herbs

Part of the motivation to grow from seeds came from our discovery of Jiffy Pots and Jiffy Greenhouses.  The greenhouses have 6 peat pellets in them where we planted our seeds in order to get them started.  Once the sprouts outgrew the greenhouse, we transplanted them into the Jiffy Pots, which are biodigradable pots that you can plant directly into the ground.  On planting day, no transplanting will be necessary, we can just bury each pot!  That sounds easy enough!

Greenhouse, Jiffy Pots, and peat pellets

This may sound really lame to say, but I am really fascinated that a seed can grow into a plant.  I took grade eleven biology so I know scientifically how and why it works, but watching them actually do it has been blowing my mind.  Just mix water, dirt, a seed, and some sun, and presto - you have a plant.  It has been a neat show to watch over the past few weeks.

 Bean Seed
 Bean spout in peat pellet, grown in the greenhouse
 Transplanted to Jiffy Pot
 Look at it grow!
 It is already getting big and is ready to be planted

So far my Jiffy Pot growing experience has been great.  Only four of the seeds we planted didn't sprout, and we planted well over 80 seeds, so I think those are amazing results!  Plus, even with the supplies we bought (greenhouses, extra peat pellets, all the seeds, potting soil), we have only spent about $40 this year on our garden.  We've spent a little over half as much as last year and we probably have five times as many plants.  Not only is growing from seed fun to watch, it also saves us money.  I love that.

Our current sprout collection

Our sprouts are ready to go into the ground and I am really eager to get them there.  We were going to plant our garden last week, but the weather forcast said it would be cold on the weekend - and it sure was - we got snow up here!  The weather is supposed to be warming up by the end of the week and hopefully we can get our vegetables planted then.  I have a feeling this summer is going to be great for gardening, and I can't wait to see what comes up!

Posted by Jen B On Tuesday, May 11, 2010 No comments
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