Monday, August 31, 2009

Make hay while the sun shines

Or honey, as the case may be.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Organized crime

Since I started acquiring masses of jewelry supplies in July, I've been mostly keeping them in baggies since I knew I would be moving out east soon after, so there was no point in doing any heavy-duty organization. Since I got to Montreal on Friday I've been itching to organize my junk - yesterday Davis took me to Canadian Tire and we picked up a hand drill for my metal stampings (so excited to start using it!) and this baby:

It was about $20 and has 96 little boxes. I was torn between this one and an upright one with 60 little drawers, which was only $10. But I thought with the extra space I might as well go with this one; plus I can pull out each tray and look at all the contents at once, whereas with the drawers I'd have to pull out each drawer individually to find what I was looking for.

It was a bit of a pain in the butt to sit and pop in all the little dividers. I also found out that unfortunately they don't sit quite flush to the bottom and top, since the corners of the dividers are slightly rounded. I guess if you're storing screws and nuts and bolts and things, that might not matter, but if I were to store the boxes on their side as it's designed for, little tiny things like jump rings and fine chain would slip out of their boxes and visit their neighbours. In the end I don't think it will be a big deal, I'll probably just store the box on its side.

I divided my supplies into 4 categories for each of the 4 trays. Findings:



and finished products.

Because I don't really have my own studio or office, I'm just storing my box next to my desk. It's pretty convenient though; much better than digging through plastic baggies!

I love hardware stores.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back to civilization... of a sort

I returned yesterday from my week in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, and I am surprised to say I actually really enjoyed it. I went as part of a class I am taking at university about wildlife management, so we conducted vegetation surveys, learned to shoot a dart gun, watched a black bear get radio-tagged, and learned about deer, marten, beavers, flying squirrels, salamanders, and all sorts of other crawly, furry, flying creatures.

I like nature, and I like the outdoors, but I was fully prepared to detest spending a week at some field station in the middle of the bush. On the contrary, I came to value the quiet stillness, the millions and millions of twinkling stars that you can't see from the city, the black nights with crickets chirping you to sleep, the loons calling on the lake, the smell of bonfire and being with friends, waking up at dawn with the fog hanging over the trees... I got back Friday night feeling a little jarred by the cars and the noise and the people and the buildings. Even five days in the forest can change you.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

30 000 feet

My heart is heavy today, leaving the west coast and heading back to school. I enjoy my classes a lot, and my semi-compulsive self is comforted by the routine but I hate leaving my family and my hometown.

Next week I will be in upstate New York for a school trip so I may be rather quiet here for a while.

In the meantime, I have been participating in a charity event on Etsy, where 20% of the sales from participating shops are donated to Saving Shelter Pets, an organization devoted to bettering the lives of abandoned animals. This event is ongoing until the 26th of August; to find out more and to see which shops are involved, please see this website.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Campbell Valley Regional Park

On our way back from Blackwood Lane winery in Langley (more about that another day - really excellent wine though), we stopped at Campbell Valley Regional Park and went for a brief stroll. It was hot, so we didn't walk too long, but we did manage to see some winged and furred creatures!

This flight of swallows was actually snapped in Delta. And apparently, even though they are perched, flight is the correct collective noun for swallows. I love collective nouns.

It's so hard to take pictures of dragonflies; right after I got the Nikon for my birthday, Davis and I spent the day at the Japanese gardens in UBC trying to snap dragonflies. An hour later and all we had were two hundred blurry pictures. I guess it's appropriate that we were doing this in a Japanese garden - the exercise in patience is probably zen... or something. If I'd been thinking faster I would have upped the shutter speed, but I was just trying to get a picture of the little bugger.

Some berries. Or hips. Or something. Botany was my lowest grade last year.

Birds were always darting across the path and munching on little goodies they picked up along the way. They were moving so fast we were working on a shoot first, identify later rule. We identified this as a probable song sparrow.

A delicate little wisp of a Wilson's warbler. Do you think he feels emasculated that I said that? The photo turned out a little grainier than I would have liked - the bird was about 15 feet away and darting around in the leaves, which made focusing difficult. Even with my 200mm zoom lens, I had to crop the photo to get as much detail as I could.

We tentatively identified this as a young rufous-sided towhee. We thought young robin at first, but it doesn't seem nearly speckly enough and it was a little on the small side for that.

Cheeky chickadees always make good models. This was a particularly bold crowd - not quite to the point of landing on our fingers and palms, but they followed us down the path hoping for handouts and buzzed around the bushes only a foot or two from me and my camera.

We were lucky enough to catch this brown creeper working its way up a mossy tree.

We saw quite a few Douglas squirrels in the forest, but they're so quick and shy that we would usually just see a featherduster tail disappearing into the brush off the path. This dark grey squirrel was scavenging for nuts someone had left, and he was hesitant to leave this goldmine until we were nearly upon him.

A day of wine and birds - can't ask for much more than that!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Llewellyn the Great

Two years ago my mother adopted two cute but highly overbred Persians from the humane society. She named the male Llewellyn fairly quickly, as she is interested in the history of many of the different cultures in the UK - the Scots and the Welsh especially. The female we had difficulty coming up with a name for - Alba, Guinevere, Boudica - none of them seemed to fit. We started calling her Princess out of lack of anything better, as it suited her delicate appearance and imperial personality, and the name sort of stuck. We've decided her formal name is Princess Milkweed - weighing in at a hefty six kilos (I weighed more when I was born) she has a difficult time going for her walks in strong winds.

Walks. Llewellyn came declawed and Princess is, as mentioned, diminutive. Both cats love the outdoors but because of this their adventures are limited to our small fenced back garden. My mom will occasionally take them for outings in the common area behind our backyard. They're very well-behaved, don't dart off, and generally just sniff at bugs and chew the grass. The problem though, is getting them back home. They really resist. My mother has discovered the best way to do this is through distraction - she drags a leafy branch along the ground and eventually they end up at our back gate.

Like so.

This cat cracks me up.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I am mildly arachnophobic. It's a condition that has improved considerably over my life; when I was in my teens I couldn't handle the itsiest, bitsiest spider within a 12-foot radius of my person. At this point, as long as its diameter is less than 3 or 4 mm it can hang out as long as it likes. Half a centimeter to two centimeters and it gets thrown outside like a drunk from a bar. Bigger than that and I call in reinforcements (aka Davis).

In Montreal, we don't get huge spiders, though I'm sure there must be some. The biggest we get is probably the size of a nickel, but it's those tall leggy ones (not harvestmen). In Vancouver, the long growing season tends to produce some nice-sized monsters... still midgets by Australian or tropical standards, I'm sure, but big enough to make Davis squawk when it darts out from behind the television.

My mother trapped this sucker last night. I'm very proud of her. We relocated it to the foot of the driveway; hopefully it doesn't have a strong sense of philopatry. Don't scroll down if you are severely arachnophobic - I have friends who would be strongly disturbed by the photo below.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Etsy find of the week - glossy glass by BPR Designs

I love glass. I love its coolness, its transclucence, it's candy-like hardness. I use a lot of glass in my own work, and it's spoilt me for lucite and plastic. BPR Designs is based in Portland, Oregon, and specializes in unique, handcrafted fused glass. Living in the Pacific northwest like myself, many of these pieces are inspired by the colours of nature.

I love this slumped blue gin bottle cheese plate. I was torn between choosing this and the wine bottle as my favourite - I do love my wine - but I was so attracted to this bright blue colour. It makes me wonder if the artist has ever seen Harvey's bristol cream sherry bottles? I am ignorant about the ways of glassmaking, but that colour is beautiful and deserves to be a cheese plate! Back to the item being featured - I think this would make an excellent hostess gift, or a great centrepiece at a dinner party. Those cherries look tasty... I could also go for maybe some raspberries and brie...

I have come to realize, as I have been writing this, that I am especially enjoying this feature as I can slip in mentions of food as I talk about these beautiful pieces of glass art. The next item is a gorgeous green bamboo glass sushi plate that really makes me want some tuna sashimi, even though I have sworn off eating most species of tuna. I may have to settle for a smoked salmon, unagi, and mango roll. I love the clear and opaque shades of green in this piece, and the black lines add a bit of abstraction to it.

A bit of a departure from the forest and sea colour of the previous pieces, these bright citrus coasters look like slices of flavoured ice! These coasters deserve to be sitting under a tart lemonade, an orange smoothie, and a salty lime margarita.

Okay. I know it's over two months away. But I love Halloween. It's the ex-actress clawing her way out of the skeptical scientist persona. I love dressing up, wearing make up and glitter and impractical shoes that I would be too sensible for on the other 364 days of the year. I already know what I'm going to be for Halloween this year - do you?

This little ghostie is adorable! I love his comedic little face. This would be a great dish at a Halloween party - fill it with treats and watch the ghost appear as tummies fill!

Please do stop by BPR Designs' shop and have a look around. And definitely check out this awesome froggy candle bridge too!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I love to cook.

But some days, this is all I can be bothered to do.

It could be worse...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Backyard birding

I love spending the summers in Richmond, because we see so many different birds than where I stay during the school year outside Montreal. Richmond is flat, marshy, and relatively open, as opposed to Terrasse, which is smack in the middle of a deciduous forest with lots of dense conifers in our yard.

Our strata in Richmond doesn't let us feed birds anymore (shake fist) so we don't get the variety we used to. But we have a regular troop of chickadees that come through, sometimes accompanied by a few ragtag juncos or bushtits. We have cedar waxwings that pick through the hedges, and the barn swallows and tree swallows like to wake me up with their buzzy singing from the eaves outside our window. We often hear the strange call of the flicker in the evenings, and I have been lucky enough to see a pair of golden-crowned sparrows hopping through the grass. Down the street a few blocks is a wide, undeveloped chunk of meadow patrolled by a huge red-tailed hawk. There are often up to five bald eagles riding the thermals over the Buddhist temple nearby. And my mother has told me that in the winter, hungry Coopers hawks perch in the trees around the backyard and eye the cats when she sits outside with them.

I took these photos of some cheeky chickadees a few weeks ago. They seem to have little fear of the cats; they'll perch in the lilac tree just a few feet away from what are supposed to be their predators, scolding and calling and fluttering back and forth from twig to twig. The poor cats go nuts, chattering and mewling, but their hunting skills have been dulled by domestication (and probably inbreeding) and they get no farther than pacing underneath the lilac.

Yesterday afternoon I was taking some more pictures of a necklace I was trying (which I ultimately scrapped; it didn't feel right to me) and a young chickadee and its parent landed in the lilac bush. The baby was squawking and fluttering its wings pathetically but the poor mom or dad seemed pretty harassed, and picked at some dead flowers before taking off, junior in tow.

This morning, I was outside doing, what else, photographing some new pairs of earrings that will go up today or tomorrow. I heard Llewellyn chattering behind me as the high pitched trills announced the arrival of a small crew of dark-eyed juncos. Unfortunately I didn't have my zoom lens on and I knew if I ran upstairs to get it the juncos would be gone, so my pictures didn't turn out very well at all. But you can see the dark head which makes this Oregon junco a different subspecies from the slate-coloured junco we get out east, which is entirely grey.

Also, it is completely irrelevant to this post, but I am badly craving a ham and cheese sandwich. My dad is picking me up for dim sum in twenty minutes, so hopefully I can survive until then.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

F. Stop.

Today is my one-month anniversary with my beloved Nikon D60, which my beloved Davis and his parents and my parents bought me for my 25th birthday. I took photography for a year in high school, but along with trigonometry and iambic pentameter this knowledge has fled for greener, more fertile pastures. So I've been scouring my manual and my favourite photography blogs to try and reacquaint myself with things like shutter speed, ISO, apertures and F-stops. It's a strange world, but I'm having lots of fun.

One thing I've picked up is that wide aperture = small f-number = bokeh = good. Another thing that I've learned the hard way is that bokeh with jewelry = half your piece out of focus = bad. I decided to play around with apertures today trying to shoot my newest earrings to see how they compared.

This was taken at F/5.3 and 1/400 s. I like the softness of the base of the bowl, but I wish I could get both earrings in focus, or at least one whole earring with sand dollar and waterdrop.

This was taken at F/8 and 1/160 s. When I've been playing with the aperture lately I've been leaving the shutter speed for the camera to decide. All those choices make me a little anxious and plus, I can't figure out how to adjust them both on the fully manual setting. This one is pretty good, I think. More of the rear earring is in focus, though I'd like the droplet to be sharper.

This one is probably my favourite, even though my focus was a little off the sand dollar and more on the seahorse. But the droplets are in focus, while there is still some dreamy blurriness around the periphery. The F-stop here was 13, and shutter speed 1/60 s.

F/20, 1/30 s. To me not a whole lot of difference between this and F/13. I did notice though how the shutter speed is getting longer as my aperture gets smaller to compensate for less light getting in. That was making it difficult for me, without a tripod, to control shaking even with my vibration reduction lens. I was looking at Gorilla pods the other day because I had a coupon, but man they were still expensive. I know I don't need a Gorilla pod - that's like saying I need Nike shoes - but they are cool looking. Incidentally, when I was working at the animal care centre at UBC over the summer, someone brought in an injured snapping turtle who'd had his leg bitten off by a raccoon. The staff named him Tripod. I thought that was hilarious.

F/29, 1/13 s. The blurring is more obvious in this one. though the crystals come out looking pretty nice so maybe it was more a problem with the focus. You can see though that the bottom of the bowl is a lot sharper than in the earlier photos, and the texture of the table is starting to come through.

I can't even imagine being into photography before advent of the digital camera. I guess, when we did film photography in high school, that we were a lot more careful and took a lot more time to set up each shot. It makes me feel a lot of respect for photojournalists and sports photographers back then. I use at least 50 shots trying to take a picture of a stationary pair of earrings and pare that down to 5 keepers, if I'm lucky! If I'd had to spend time adjusting the exposure of a film camera while shooting these earrings outside this morning, I wouldn't have been able to turn around and grab this shot of my mom's tribbles:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Magical fruit

I love dried beans. There's something so wholesome and comforting about them, like a crusty loaf of fresh bread or a wheel of cheese. I bought a great 13-bean soup mix a few weeks ago, but the recent heatwave had prevented me from making anything tasty with them until today, our first day of rain in weeks and weeks.

Last night I popped two cups of these babies in a bowl of water. This particular mix has navy beans, black beans, pinto beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, black eyed peas, a variety of split peas, and some lentils.

This morning they looked like this:

In the late afternoon today, I boiled up 10 cups of water and dumped the beans in along with some pork button ribs. I was supposed to use a ham hock, but I couldn't find one anywhere in the grocery store. I love my grocery store, but we really need a local butcher. I figured the button ribs would be my best bet since they seemed pretty bony, and that's generally what you use in soups... right?

After simmering the pork and beans together for a couple of hours, I put in a can of crushed tomatoes, some bay leaves, a diced onion, pepper, chili powder, and a bunch of Italian seasonings. Another hour more, and I had:

It was pretty tasty! It probably could have benefited from a little more spices... maybe a few dashes of Tabasco. But served with a small spinach salad, a baked sweet potato, and a glass of my favourite Gehringer Bros riesling, it made a nice dinner!