Monday, July 25, 2011

Making our own Sea Salt

The thought struck Paul recently that we live near the ocean and can therefore make our own salt out of seawater. We searched a bit online and found that it was quite easy, so yesterday we tried it out.
On Saturday, we took a couple of empty 2L pop bottles to the beach (side note: Tons of whales! Maybe even a Fin Whale!) and filled them with sea water.

We then put that water in a big pot and boiled it away to almost nothing. Towards the end it started popping and sputtering like popcorn.

So, when it was more like wet salt then water, we spread the salt on a pan and dried it in the oven:
It came out looking kinda like snow:
We got just over a shaker's worth from 4L of sea water. Plenty to last us awhile, and we may never have to buy salt again!

Genuine Newfoundland Sea Salt.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Awesome Conversation

Me: Who all lives at our house?
G: Mommy, Daddy, M and G.
 Me: Is that it?
G: ...and Elephant Gerald.
Me: Yes, you have lots of animals and toys.
G: Oh, and God! God lives here too!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Little House & Cornbread

We started reading chapters books to G recently. I love how kids can love all levels of books at the same time. She's entertained by the simplest board books (like the ones with a colour per page), loves to look at picture books and can sit still enough to hear about a chapter out of a bigger book.

Our first chapter-a-night book has been Little House on the Prairie. It has just enough pictures to keep her entertained. G can get a little restless, but I'm often surprised at how she'll parrot back what she's heard in the story. She loves the horses - Pet and Patty and often asks for pictures of them.
It's also given her her first nightmare, though! There's a scene with wolves and she got a little upset and a bit obsessed with wolves. We had to tell her "there are no wolves in Newfoundland" and she has repeated that mantra a few times.
I found myself feeling emotional with the descriptions of the wide prairie. I used to be able to leave the city and find myself on that prairie, with it's wide open skies. There are some that can't see the beauty in the prairie, but I always will. Newfoundland has spectacular views, but I do miss those rolling fields of wheat and canola, and the gorgeous sky.
I have always loved the way food plays a role in those books, especially the simplicity of the food. So, when I spotted The Little House Cookbook at the thrift store the other day, I grabbed it immediately.
G and I got very excited about making food from the book.

So we decided to make the very simplest cornbread recipe.

It was just fat, cornmeal, salt and water. And it turned out fairly well, though hard to get off the pan. G was a fan, I preferred mine with a bit of maple syrup. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Half Days on Wednesday

I am lucky enough that I have the freedom to decide my own schedule. I’m a grad student, which despite how it may sound, IS a job. I get paid (not much, but some). I have work to do. If I don’t do the work, I don’t get the pay. But (right now anyway) the work is almost entirely product-based, which means nobody cares if I do it from 9-5 on Monday to Friday, or if I do it all in a 30 hour spurt on the weekend. As long as it gets done. So my schedule is flexible.
But since I want to finish my degree quickly I pretty much think of myself as having a 9-5 job. I go to my office (or study room) every morning, and come home at around 5 every day. I try to put my studying away when I get home so that I am really home and present for my family when I am home, not distracted.
My big exception to this is on Wednesdays, when I take a half-day and let Jan go off on her own. Sometimes she goes out in the morning, and sometimes in the afternoon. It doesn’t matter. I look forward to Wednesdays. Although I really love my work, Wednesdays are great for a lot of reasons.
Firstly, it makes me feel like a good husband, which is always nice. I love how happy Jan is after she’s had a chance to spend a few hours drinking coffee at Starbucks, or browsing at a used book store, or even just grocery shopping without two kids. She gets to have some time to herself–some time OUT to herself, and I like being able to give her that.
I also love being able to spend time with my kids and no one else. When G was a baby, Jan and I each worked part-time, and I got a lot of time with her by myself. I really believe it helped me be a better father, because I didn’t have anyone else to rely on or to pass the buck to. It was all on me. It was sink or swim. And that gave me a confidence, and a competence, but also a closeness to my daughter that I think would have come more slowly otherwise. I don’t get that as much with M, and I miss it. But on Wednesdays I get that. It forces me to build my parenting skills–to learn how to deal with two kids at once and no help–but it is also a chance to spend some undistracted time with my kids.
I know many dads don’t have the same flexibility I have, and aren’t able to just take a half day once a week. But I really can’t overstate how nice it is to spend time parenting without a net.

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Of Tents, Black Flies, Sandy Beaches, and Long Bible Stories

There are so many things to say about camping this week, but over all it was fantastic. We drove out to Terra Nova National Park and camped with my parents for three days. They were in their camper van and we bought a tent for the occasion.
We've been told to prepare for anything when it comes to camping in Newfoundland - sun,cold, rain,even snow- but our weather was perfect. It was sunny and warm the entire trip. We were able to relax, and G loved being outdoors. We brought several toys with us, but she played with a bucket and shovel the entire time - digging up sand and dirt in the campsite and filling the bucket with rocks and pine cones.
Tenting with kids can be challenging, but we tried to be pretty relaxed about it and I think it worked. G slept on an air mattress and I think was the most comfortable of all of us. M slept between us quite happily.
The first night, it was quite hard for G to fall asleep, especially with it being light out. She talked to herself and played in the tent until it was dark and we came to bed. Even then, she had trouble settling, so Paul told her a story. He began with another tent-dweller, Abraham, and continued to tell the story of the Patriarchs from Genesis. He had just made it to Joesph when G was finally asleep!
On Thursday night, we went to the interpretive theater put on by the park staff. We were unsure if it would be worth it to go (especially to keep our kids up late), but it was well worth it. If you ever have the chance to go, do it, it's hilarious.

Other highlights of the trip included picking shells off the beach with G, discovering an actual SANDY beach up in Eastport and seeing some more of this big beautiful island we live on.

There were also a few lowlights of the trip as well! G got carsick on the way out which involved a bit of a detour to get Gravol, and a bit of a stink in our already hot car. The mosquitoes weren't too bad, but the black flies were awful (in the evening). Poor M got bites on her head and G got bites around her entire hairline. I counted about 30 bites when we got home, poor thing!!
The other sadness was that I forgot the memory card for our camera, so I have no pictures of my own! My parents took plenty, however, so when I get some from them, I'll stick a few here.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


When we moved to St. John's, we had one goal: see some whales.**
 This week, we totally accomplished our goal.
(there are no whales pictured in this picture, but there is a hilarious sign of a guy falling into a wave)

My parents have arrived, driving all the way from Saskatoon to St. John's in their camper van (you can read about their travels here). So we went out to Cape Spear with them on Wednesday and saw several humpback whales swimming off shore! 
It was amazing to see them, and so very exciting for Paul and I. Neither of us had ever seen whales in the wild before, and it was one of things we had been looking forward to about living on the ocean.

Today, we went one step further and took a boat tour from Bay Bulls NL to see both the puffins and the whales. We forgot our camera (boo!) but we did see both! Tons of puffins, who are very cute and, as someone described them to me, like little flying potatoes. Unlike some of the soaring sea birds (gulls, etc), puffins flapflapflap their wings like crazy. It seems like they are constantly panicking that they'll fall from the sky. The colours on their beaks are very cool and G was very, very impressed.

But, of course, nothing can compare to the whales. We watched two humpbacks surface and flip their tales at us from about 20 feet away. It was exhilarating to see such a big animal so close, and fantastic to watch G get very excited. While others were oohing and ahhing and asking questions about white markings and fins, G asked the most important question of all...
"What are their names?"

**Note: we actually had many goals.