Saturday, March 26, 2005

Snapshot of Japan

Random picture of Japan from my trip : This is the Zen garden at Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavillion (in the background - not actually finished in silver). This garden represents the Pacific Ocean, Japan and Mount Fuji. (Photo taken July 4, 2004.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Cabane à sucre : special report

The cabane à sucre this weekend was great. I’ve never had the chance to do this before, despite my otherwise solid Canadian upbringing in the eastern half of this country (Nova Scotia, Québec, Ontario) – even Randal had been to some such parties as a kid, as apparently every year during Festival des voyageurs in Winnipeg, a sugar shack would be set up.

So, yes it is possible to overdose on maple syrup. But I was good and stopped short of a fifth tire. Here’s how it works (the non-scientific explanation) :

Once you have collected a lot of sap from maple trees (by tapping them with a little pipe, of sorts, and placing a bucket to catch the sap), you have to heat it up for many many hours. Guy, my dad’s cousin’s husband, told us that the sap must thicken 40 times before it is ready to eat. He was heating it up in a large pot on an outdoor wood stove. You have to keep about two inches of sap in the pot at all times. When the syrup is just about right, he’d transfer it to a pot on the hot-plate in the cabane, where Louise (my dad’s cousin) would then stir it a bit longer, then take spoonfuls of syrup and drizzle it in small amounts into a bowl full of snow. From then, you roll up the syrup quickly (a second or two after it hits the snow) onto a popsicle stick, then cool the rolled-up syrup a few second more on a cookie-sheet covered in snow. Don’t wait too long or it will get too hard! It’s sticky, sweet, and utterly dee-lish.

In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls, at the age of 3, goes to visit her grandma on the other side of the Big Woods in Wisconsin, and they eat maple syrup cooled on the snow (minus the popsicle sticks). That was how I felt today, except we didn’t have a big fiddle dance afterwards. :)

And, oh, did the dog ever have a good time!!! Well, not at first. He was sick in the car on the way down, losing his breakfast all over his towel and Randal’s jacket. Once there, he was a little flustered at first by all the people and Poupée, Louise and Guy’s big black standard poodle. But it was finally not too cold for him to play outside (mon pauvre petit chien frileux), and we took him off his leash once everyone assured us he would not run away. Oh my! He had a grand time cavorting and snuffling through the snow, launching himself into massive drifts, running around, sliding on the icy driveway, and playing “who-will-be-the-last-to-scent-this-snowdrift” with Poupée. (We never did figure out which one won that game in the end.) Rémy, Louise and Guy’s son, took us down into the snow-covered woods down to a (frozen and snowed-over) creek and the dog came joyfully bounding down. Only once he began sinking down too deep in the snow did Randal carry him. I fell in the snow up to almost my waist many times, and once through the ice over the creek (the water is apparently quite low as I didn’t even get my boots wet - but it made a fun crunch noise as I fell through).

Saturday night, how well did we sleep!?!? Rion passed out on the couch around 8:30 - unheard of for him! I followed suit snuggled alongside around 10:30, and we didn’t wake up until after 4:00 a.m. the next morning.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

World Water Day

And today was World Water Day ... Who knew?

Here's lookin' at you, kid ...


...Ah, the good ol' 4 a.m. cocktail party days, eh?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Uh, welcome to my life ...

So I’m sitting in my room looking at a small pile of boxes that I never bothered to unpack (I only moved in last September; practically last week!). Decide to open one for kicks. It’s filled with books that I had in my old office in Toronto. Some law textbooks, a text on cyber-forensics, a few binders of materials collected from seminars and conferences, and so on. Plus, uh, a cheque from my (former) insurance company for just over $300 for some prescriptions I had filled shortly before leaving for Southeast Asia. Dated June 17, 2004. D’oh. I vaguely remember being somewhere in Japan or Thailand in July wondering whether I had actually remembered to tie up all the loose ends financially before leaving. This includes a vague memory of a $300 cheque. But I figured it must be okay, and the thought was promptly gone. This is a sign, I think, that it is high time I get more organized around here (story of my life). Can’t remember what the timeline on depositing cheques is : a year or six months? So Tuesday I will have to go to my bank (Monday I’m in Montreal for work) and see what can be done about this.

I have normally been very good about this sort of thing. Recently there has been a spate of gaffes, however. Last month it was discovered by the good financial-forces-that-be at my workplace that I had not submitted for my relocation allowance. Oops. My supervisor straightened that out, and I received it (a substantial chunk of change, I might add, that has now in turn been diverted toward my student loans). More recently, a rent cheque that went astray (I still maintain that wasn’t my fault). I discovered a number of unused travelers’ cheques (from aforementioned Southeast Asia trip) sitting in a desk drawer - that was a nice discovery as they are now part of my next “travel fund” (likely destination : Amsterdam and/or Paris). Oh, and on the non-financial side of things, I have been carrying around for four days now a package that needs to go to the post office in order to be mailed to my sister-in-law. Her birthday present, over a month late. (Sorry, Agnes!) I’m sure there’s more that I have conveniently forgotten about.

In other late-breaking news, tomorrow we are going to a cabane à sucre party. One of my dad’s cousins who lives in Ottawa has invited us. It is at her cabane in Cantley, in the Gatineaus, which are mountains (OK, not according to BC standards, but give Central/Eastern Canada a break here!) about 25 minutes north of the city. Should be fun. I have never been to a cabane à sucre party (sorry - I’m obviously not a French Canadian with a proper upbringing). Will post back to advise how it is and whether it is indeed possible to overdose on maple syrup. I think we’re bringing the dog, which will be wild...

(On a side note, my language icon in my task bar seems to have disappeared completely. The Gremlins really are on a rampage against me these days! ...I also keep trying to use my mouse, but it’s currently unplugged, so that’s at least a perfectly rational explanation.)