For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Getting into the groove

The past few weeks, we've all been slowly getting things going in all sorts of different directions.  We've altered our usual weekly schedule to fit in a few new or different things.

Youngest has started up with a voice coach.  She loves to sing and has a fabulous voice.  Now she's going to learn how to use and control it.  She's had all of 3 classes so far and is quite enjoying it.  When we interviewed with the voice coach and made the decision to go with her, she asked Youngest to burn a cd with some of her favourite songs.  Severl of them, the coach has never heard of before, and she commented favourably on my daughter's wide ranging tastes. *L*  She's got songs from Vitas, Gowan, Great Big Sea, and a whole bunch more, including songs from Disney's Hunchback, Fiddler on the Roof and Phantom of the Opera.  Anyhow, those are once a week.

We've also been going to a different home school organization's weekly park days, though now that the weather is getting cooler, those will be stopping.  The girls aren't interested in going to the park days we've been going to for the past few years anymore, though we'll probably take in a few now and again.

The big thing we're getting ready for right now, though, is a road trip. After 4 years, we're finally going to be heading back "home," to visit family for (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend.  It's going to be a double family reunion.  It's going to be a tight schedule.  It'll take us 2 days to drive out there, unless we drive through the night (NOT my preferance!), we'll be there for 3 nights, but have to leave early on Thanksgiving morning to get back home at a respectable time.  I've been able to reschedule Youngest's voice lesson, so we don't have to hurry back for that anymore, but we'll still need time to rest up from the trip.  More specifically, to give my husband time to recover physically.  His back has been giving him troubles a lot lately, and the trip is going to be quite painful for him. 

One of the things we're looking forward to is bring back some of the boxes we'd left behind when we moved, expecting to send for them rather quickly.  That didn't quite work out, and we've been really missing our library!  We won't be able to bring everything back with us, but we at least want to bring back the books.  We've got encyclopedia sets and referance books that are very handy to have.  How many boxes we'll be able to cram into the van is questionable.  Even with the back bench seat folded down, we'll still need room for our suitcases. We won't need to pack a lot for such a short trip, but it'll still need space.  Then there's the camera bags and at least one tripod we'll be bringing along.  Ah, well.  We'll see how it works out.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Library List

Our weekly schedule for the year is going to be changing, as we're looking into joining another local hs'ing group that meets on what is normally our library day.

Eldest has gone all out in studying art; specifically watercolour techniques. She explains here. In the process, she's been putting on hold as many watercolour (and watercolor) books she can find in the library system. Hence the current pile of related titles.

Mastering Light & Shade in Watercolor: Infuse your paintings with luminosity and dramatic contrast.
Painting Wildlife in Watercolor
Paint a watercolor landscape in minutes: Buildings, Bridges and Walls
Paint a watercolor landscape in minutes: Atmosphere, Mood and Light
Paint a watercolor landscape in minutes: Skies, Mountains and Lakes
Watercolour Series: Hills & Mountains
Robert Wade's Watercolor Workshop Handbook
Watercolor for the fun of it: Flowers & Leaves
Watercolor for the fun of it: How to Sketch with Watercolor
Reader's Digest - The Ultimate Watercolor Course: Simple Techniques to Paint Like the Pros
Exploring Watercolor: Creative Exercises and Techniques for Watercolor and Mixed Media
The Watercolourist's Guide to Painting Buildings
Watercolor: Painting outside the lines: a positive approach to negative painting
Chinese Brush Painting: Step by Step
Watercolor made simple with Claudia Nice: Complete easy-to-follow instructions from start to finish
Simplifying complex scenes in watercolor: 18 hands-on projects
Light up Your Watercolors Layer By Layer

This is just the list of what was waiting for pick up today. She maxed out the number of holds the library allows, and has already taken out dozens more that I never blogged about over the summer, with more she wants to put on hold once there's room again.

Yeah, she's passionate about her art. :-D

Youngest is still working on a couple of books from before, including one on drawing in the Graphic Noir style. Lately, though, she's been plowing her way through old, again mostly film noir, movies. This week she has:

"Crossfire" Hate is Like a Loaded Gun. This 1947 movie features Robert Young, Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan (a suspect a bit of confusion on the set with 3 Roberts starring!), along with Gloria Grahame, Paul Kelly and Same Levene.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Anthony Hopkins. This is a newer version than I'm familiar with (other than the Disney version, of course). It stars Derek Jacobi (who played Brother Cadfael in the tv series) as Dom Claude. Lasley-Anne Down plays Esmerelda. Looking it up, I see was was a TV version from 1982. No wonder I've never heard of it before.

The Usual Suspects. At 1995, this one is positively new.

As for myself, I borrowed books with specific requirements. We're finally going to heading out to see the families next month, and I want to make gifts. Since I still haven't figured out what I want to make for this year's Christmas decorations, and even if I did, it's unlikely I'd have time to actually make enough of them to bring along, I was looking for quick projects in crochet. Hats, Scarves. Accessories. That sort of thing. With that in mind, I got...

Get Your Crochet On: Hip Hats & Cool Caps.
Quick Crochet: 35 fast, fun projects to make in a weekend
Crochet in No Time: A Simple, Stylish Collection of 52 Quick-Crochet Projects
Easy Crocheted Accessories: 30+ fun fashionable projects
24 Hour Crochet Projects

I've taken all of these out before, at some point or another. The last one even includes how long each project takes, which is good to know for what I have in mind.

So that's our list for this week. :-D

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cinnamon Caramel Cream

I guess all those cooking shows I've been watching while crocheting have come in handy!

Have you ever had one of those times where you crave... something? Nothing specific, and usually not something that you actually, you know, HAVE in a cupboard somewhere?

I had one of those moments yesterday. I was craving something luxurious. Indulgent. Decadent. But what? I had no idea.

Then I remembered a comment someone had said on a Food Network show about making caramel with brown sugar and cream. I've never made caramel before, but it sounded good. I had brown sugar, and I was pretty sure we still had a bit of whipping cream left.

So I started experimenting and came up with a creamy sauce that was a total hit. Here's the ingredients - quantities are not precise, since I didn't actually measure anything.

Cinnamon Caramel Cream

about 2 Tbsp butter
approx 1/2 cup brown sugar
a bit of water (1/4 cup or less)
whipping cream (a little under a cup, but I would have used more if I'd had it!)
powdered milk - optional - about 1/4 cup
ground cinnamon to taste
vanilla to taste

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, then add the brown sugar and water. Bring to a boil and cook on med. high heat to a syrupy texture, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Add ground cinnamon and stir until smooth.

Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream. When incorporated, return to heat and continue to cook at med. temperature until its at thick as you want it. Stir in the powdered milk at this stage, if using.

When at the desired consistency, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour sauce into a deep bowl and whisk while cooling. I did it by hand, but you might want to use an electric mixer. Continue whisking the sauce until it's completely cool. Pour into clean container and refrigerate.

This cream sauce thickens slightly in the fridge, but it still quite pourable and does keep a bit of that air from whisking. I was looking for an almost foamy consistency, but would have needed more whipping cream for that. It worked just find as it was, though.

After making the sauce, Eldest and I made a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up some bananas, strawberries and plain vanilla ice cream. It works well as a dessert sauce, or as a fruit dip.

The kids are already asking me to make sure I pick up more whipping cream on our next big grocery shopping trip, so we can make more! :-D I'm thinking a bit of nutmeg as well as cinnamon would be nice.

And yes, it did satisfy the craving for "something."

Sunday, September 06, 2009

What if?

Driving home today, we had the radio on an alternative music station the girls like. This evening, they were doing a show on alternate histories - those pivotal points in history where, had things not happened the way they did, we find ourselves wondering, "What if...? " The most commonly debated versions of these are things like "What if the assassination attempt on Hitler had succeeded?" or "What if the Nazis had won?" Others are things like "What if JFK, Abraham Lincoln, or Mahatma Gandhi weren't assassinated?" What alternate history would we have, if these "what if" moments ended differently.

Eldest had two interesting examples. One was;

What if Crete wasn't destroyed?

Crete was home to the Minoan empire. This was an advanced civilization, with some of their technologies being rediscovered only recently, that flourished 5000 years ago, then suddenly disappeared. There are some that believe that they are the source for the myths of Atlantis. Their technology and culture were highly sophisticated, with such modern conveniences as an elaborate sewerage system and hot and cold running water in homes. Their disappearance is still somewhat of a mystery, with blame being put on such things as a volcano, an earthquake and tsunami, famine, war, or combinations of several of these possibilities. How much different would our world be if the Minoans and their technology were never lost? One suggestion brought up was that the Roman Empire would never have risen to the power it did, being instead a part of the Minoan Empire. The fall of Rome would not have lead to the Medieval Dark Ages, where a great deal of knowledge and technology was lost. Would our modern technological and information age have happened millennia ago, instead of within the last century?

The other question that came up was;

What if the Avro Arrow had not been destroyed?

The Avro Arrow was the most technologically advanced plane of its time. In fact, much of its capabilities were not matched for many years after its destruction; a dark blot on Canadian history. The project was incredibly expensive and, when a new federal government was elected, shutting it down was one of its priorities. Shutting it down wasn't quite enough, though, as the prototypes and plans were also destroyed. Most of the developers ended up working for NASA, helping to put the first man on the moon. There are a number of theories as to why so much effort was made to wipe out these planes entirely.

I believe the destruction of the Arrow was as much a blow to the Canadian psyche as it was to the physical planes and plans. This was a project that brought Canada to the forefront of technology, worldwide. The excitement of this innovation could have spawned a culture of achievement. After its destruction, Canada faltered and fell behind. Personally, I think we have yet to recover from this, with our tendency to downplay our own achievements and look to other countries to emulate, rather than taking the lead ourselves.

One "what if" scenario suggested was that, if the Arrow had not been destroyed, Canada would have been the first to send a man to the moon.

All in all, it's a fascinating philosophical question.

So what is your "what if" scenario? Is there some pivotal point in history you can think of that might have change our world, had things gone another way?