Monday, November 29, 2010

Quirks & Quarks and the Lost World of Radio

Ah, the CBC: providers of radio, television, news, my internet homepage, and most importantly, HNIC.

(HNIC = Hockey Night in Canada, for readers from outside Canada). Although stereotypes aren't nice, it's true that very nearly all Canadians are nuts for hockey. It wasn't always an official national sport, but we complained enough to have it join lacrosse as one of two official national sports. Lacrosse is a lot like hockey without ice, in fact. And it's even rougher, if you can believe it. Cross-checking is legal - ouch! The hockey lust runs deep in our collective culture - we sing songs about it (both seriously and in self-deprecation), we can't help joining games of pick-up road or pond hockey (usually road hockey out here on the South Coast - not a lot of deep freezing going on in Vancouver - Link here to a video during the Winter Olympics where we had accidental daytime highs of near 20 C or 68 F!), and we just stop short of worshipping hockey heroes as demi-gods. . . just.

I suppose I don't need to give any more examples of how hockey is important to Canadians - I've just included an entire unrelated paragraph on the subject when I meant to be talking radio!

Get on the Grados and tune in to CBC Radio (t-shirt optional)

Radio is definitely living on the periphery of modern communication these days, and I feel that gives it a cool, counter-culture status. I enjoy listening to it knowing millions of others are sifting through the new pop-up advertisements on YouTube and other websites. No, I really enjoy listening to non-commercial, government-funded programming on the CBC. I maintain that it's better for your brain, too (and certainly easier on the eyes!). I rather wish CBC television could do away with the ads, too.

CBC Radio One (English language - we have it in French, too!) has many programmes that are well worth tuning in for (DNTO is one, and so is The Early Edition and The Current in the mornings). There are other channels, too: CBC Radio 2 is mostly classical music and Radio 3 is independent Canadian music. (frequency guides here)

But my best-loved and most recommended programme of all is on Radio One, hosted by Bob McDonald on Saturday daytimes, repeating on Monday nights. It's the one and only "Quirks & Quarks", the last refuge of the closet scientific-infophile on the airwaves.

Screenshot: Quirks & Quarks homepage (courtesy

November 13th's show was Quirks & Quark's 35th Anniversary Special. Way back in the day, David Suzuki hosted Quirks & Quarks (if you don't know who David Suzuki is, you're probably not Canadian and not into environmentalism! Check out the David Suzuki Foundation here, and his profile on Wikipedia here). Here's a quote from the Quirks & Quarks website on the 35th Anniversary show:
It's been 35 years since Quirks & Quarks debuted on CBC Radio (with host David Suzuki). Back then, there were no cell phones or personal computers, no knowledge of the human genome, dark matter, or MRI. And Pluto was still a planet!  So we're going to take you back to 1975, and look at how much science has changed since we first went on the air. We've assembled a panel of 10 Canadian scientists, and asked each of them to tell us about the most significant change, development or discovery that has happened in their field of science since 1975. Recorded before a live audience at Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.
Yes, when I heard that you could be in the audience for the taping of the 35th Anniversary show, I pulled out the calendar and started to shout to my fiancee that we'd be going! And then I noticed it was in Toronto (c'mon, really?!). Lucky Leafs fans.... I guess they need some breaks after all (that's hockey trash talk, if you didn't realise it)!

Quirks & Quarks runs for an hour, and generally has about 6 segments with interviews from either the scientist who made the discovery or conducted the research, or an expert explaining this complicated phenomenon for the layman (you don't need to be any good at math or physics to get this stuff - totally accessible to all!). They have Fact-or-Fiction to address common (or uncommon) misconceptions about scientific matters, comedic discoveries, and some really wild astrophysics findings that they dumb down so biologists like me can appreciate them.

Have a look at the past episode guide here - I'll bet you you'll see something that catches your imagination. You can listen to them online over your computer from anywhere in the world via streaming audio or by podcast. For example, a Fact-or-Fiction on redheads; how whale poo (which stinks like nothing else) feeds the oceans; why penguins wear 'tuxedos'; how sharks can smell 'in stereo', and so much more! Dark matter, dinosaurs, ancient human artifacts, the plausibility of living on the moon, why the honeybees are dying, factual information on climate change, how to win at game shows (the famous Monty Hall problem), you name it!

Two favourite books of mine either featured or referenced on Quirks & Quarks

I've even bought a book featured on Quirks & Quarks - The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely. Not my usual genre of literature, but I really enjoy it (nearly done)! It's a collection of thoughts on humans (and other animals) and our less-than-logical behaviour that is filled with interesting behavioural experiments done on humans. Have you had no success at all with on-line dating? Want to know why? It's not you, it's the interface - it's just not how we humans find mates naturally, so we end up meeting all sorts of people based on commonalities that although probably don't hinder a relationship, certainly won't jumpstart one! Also, it is true that men will routinely play 'out of their league', whereas women will, at least superficially, settle for less. (That's not just true of internet dating, but in real life too. Bet you'd figured that one out on your own already!). I'll let you read Dan Ariely's book for the whole story (it's a good one!) - it might even make you feel better! (Link to his website here).

Quirks & Quarks is seriously one of the best diversions out there, and it will give you all sorts of things to think about and talk about without stretching the sinews of your mind too far. The science is 'dumbed down' so as to be accessible to anyone. To my crochet and knitting friends from Ravelry: why not listen to an episode on your next knit/crochet session? Easier than watching TV and much more interesting (I promise!).

Listen to this week's Quirks & Quarks here, and enjoy relaxing and feeding your mind the old fashioned radio-way!

Tonight's show: a real-life invisibility cloak like Harry Potter's (or in the Lord of the Rings or even covering starships like Romulan Warbirds in Star Trek) - no really, Physicists can almost do it! Or maybe they already can?! (If yes, forgive me if I avoid using the women's washroom in the Physics and Math buildings for the remainder of my life..). Looking forward to listening to this episode (which also includes a fact-or-fiction on 'frozen tears'! No Canadians know this for sure 'cause there's no crying in outdoor hockey...).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Keeping Warm this Winter

 Alright, I'll freely admit that I'm not made of the same stuff as the hardy Eastern* Canadians (*Eastern meaning everything East of Kamloops...!). When the temperature drops to below -5 C and the windchill approaches -20 C, I'm not a happy camper.

I might just be a wussy, lotuslander used to the balmy winters and mild summers of coastal British Columbia, but I have a theory (or two) as to why we on the South Coast are so intolerant of the bitter cold. The first theory is weather-proofing of our buildings (or more accurately, the complete LACK of weather-proofing). When there's a wind storm, my curtains billow wildly despite a locked sliding patio door (the gap's so big you could slip things through it!). When there's a heat wave, any candles (and sometimes soap) will melt in my apartment. Can you see where this is leading?

 Whoever built this apartment building that I currently reside in clearly did not see any merit in 'insulation'. Right now, in this -8 C weather, my floors (above the car-park) are so cold that even rubber-soled boots provide little protection from the bite. If you'll recall from my previous post on energy-efficient housing, I have two cracked single-paned windows (one of which is actually a hole - I can fit a finger through it!).

The second theory on why Vancouverites whine in cold weather is that it's a wet cold and not a dry cold. There is a difference, let me tell you! You try living through weeks of 1 to 2 C sleet and tell me you feel warmer than you do in a dry -10 C!

Regardless, I'd like to think that after a year and a half of living here I've come up with some great tips on how to stay warm in a draughty, poorly-insulated slum-style apartment during the few cold weeks we have in Vancouver (though I hear that the forecast is for a very cold winter this year).

Crochet a blanket - it'll keep your lap warm while you work, too!
Hot Water Bottle and Lots of Blankets: This will make it more difficult to get out of bed in the morning, but it's a fantastic way to pre-warm a very cold bed, especially when you place it at the foot of the bed (under the covers). Polar fleece (can buy recycled-plastic polar fleece!) is an affordable fabric that comes in many colours and patterns - buy a little and sew yourself a simple hot water bottle cover. With hot tap water to fill and a polar fleece cover, that water bottle will stay warm right into the morning! The other bonus of the bottle cover is the ability to place it directly on or under your feet - that rubber can be uncomfortably hot! Unlike the architect/builders of my building, I do understand the importance of insulation. Add a few blankets (they don't have to be thick!) to trap in the warm air. In the morning, reuse the now slightly warmish water to water houseplants or to set out for the birds in a shallow dish (see last tip).

My Mom made this cover to match my bedding. Awwww.
Draught Dodgers/"Draft Stoppers": I mentioned these handy little inventions in the energy-efficient apartment posting as well, but in weather like this, these things really pull their weight! At the moment, I'm using a spare mattress to act as a giant draught stopper - it's wedged into the door frame of the aforementioned gappy sliding door. It's an eyesore, but it's helping! In the same way, there are products that work to help mediate the downsides of single-paned windows as well though these are definitely things you need to seek permission from the landlord before installing. In contrast, the stuffed-snakey wedged under the door doesn't require any approval.

'Well-loved' slippers with proper soles - a must for frigid apartment floors
Soup, tea and coffee: Never underestimate the psychological and physiological value of hot liquids this time of year! Holding a mug of anything hot will warm your hands (and through circulation, the blood returning to your heart). Now obviously the majority of these tips won't be overly energy-efficient (I'm not going to beat the energy conservation drum in this post - see my earlier one for that aspect!), and please remember that your electric stove-top with it's coiled metal resistors as elements are seriously energy inefficient! Use only the one element to cut down on energy wasted in the 'warming up' phase. If you're concerned about your energy bill, try using the microwave - they waste a lot less energy. Making soup from scratch on the stovetop is also a great thing to do - by standing beside the heated element, you'll be directly absorbing some of that lost heat! And break out the old fashioned thermos! It's the original "reusable coffee cup" after all! Another great example of how insulation is really the key to keeping warm!

Part of my extensive tea selection that's built up over the years.
Hot baths: Again, not energy-efficient (or water-consumption prudent!), but skipping the early morning shower in favour of an evening bath is my favourite cold weather cheat. Maybe I am back to thumping the energy-conservation method, because I'm about to point out that if you shower in the morning when it's sub-zero outside, you're very likely to blow-dry your hair before stepping outside (unless you dig that literal 'frosted' look). Also, if everyone else in your building is showering at the same time, that water heater is working overtime! So skip the morning shower (do the wash-cloth thing if you have to) and spend all day looking forward to that apres-dinner soak. Bring in a book and stay in until the water is tepid. Nothing will bring up your core temperature better (except maybe exercise.... see next point). Dry off quickly, jump into warm pyjamas, and slip into your hot-water-bottled bed!

Exercise: Well, why not, right?! You need it anyway! What's preferrable: waiting at the bus stop for 20 minutes, trying to jump up and down to stay warm while remaining inconspicuous, losing the feeling in your toes, having your runny nose begin to freeze, or walking briskly home for 30 to 40 minutes? I choose the walk every time! I can usually get past the halfway mark before a bus passes me (immense psychological value in that!) and I'm certainly warm by that point, too. When I walk into my frigid apartment, I actually feel a little on the hot side and often enjoy (very temporarily!) the coolness of the parquet floor! My heart's pumping well, my blood is warm as are my muscles. I've also helped to burn off the Christmas-season cookies and treats that sneak their way inperceptibly into my diet this time of year! Another added bonus: the sidewalks are a little less crowded (though I might note that the bike lanes and the pedestrian traffic doesn't dip nearly as much as the car-junkies proclaim as they try to argue against the implementation of bike lanes. You can't see much zipping past in a single-occupant vehicle, you fat oafs!). Get a little exercise and enjoy the crisp air - so long as you're dressed appropriately (gloves and scarves!), you might consider making it a regular occurrence! Now is also a great time to sign up for an indoor fitness class (think: holiday foods!), and there's no shortage of options: hot yoga (or regular yoga, which is what I prefer! Link here to my friend Sarah Jamieson's yoga page), pilates, kickboxing, aerobics and step-classes, indoor bootcamps, weight training, even something like a circuit class at CURVES - all of these things will keep you warm, fit and trim throughout the holiday season! For $5.10 (adult) you can attend a public skate at the Kitsilano Community Centre ice rink (12th & Larch), or go on Wednesday afternoon and attend the Loonie/Toonie skate! Skating is wonderful exercise and a quintessential Canadian winter activity. Or for free, you can go out and play in the snow just like the under 12 year olds...! I'm sure throwing a snowball or two on top of shovelling the drive will leave you huffing and puffing in no time.

Watching children (and dogs!) play in the snow is a great way to enjoy the 'inclement' weather
Space heaters: Alright, this could be an entire post of it's own! Some are dangerous (carbon monoxide from oil-filled electric radiators, fire-risk for virtually ALL models of heaters!), and all carry some risk and require special care (keep them well away from furniture! Polyester couch covers burst into flames really, really easily! Remember the 'over-heating laptop fires' - they were left unvented on these sofas and beds!). I'm sure there are energy-efficient ones out there, but not any I could afford. We bought a small, cheap heater with safety features (very important! Automatic safety shut-off, for example) and which isn't left running overnight and importantly doesn't run from an extension cord. Always read the instructions for these things! Use the heater to heat the room you're in and be sure to unplug it when not in use. In fact, unplug EVERYTHING that isn't in use - you'll save a lot on your energy bills! Space heaters need to be used sparingly and cautiously. Don't leave them unattended - it's better to have a cool room when you come home than a burnt out shell of an apartment!

A note re: your feathered friends.... Imagine trying to stay warm when you live outdoors! The caloric needs of the wildlife just to stay warm are immense! Birdseed can be a total rip-off (I buy mine in bulk from Kitsilano Natural Foods when I get out that way - avoid specialty bird and wildlife stores to avoid the sky-high prices!), and I have discovered that half the things on my kitchen floor that get swept up are edible! So I always throw my sweepings onto the balcony, I shake out the toaster crumb tray outside, and all those unpopped popcorn kernels, rolled oat flakes and the stale Cheerios in the bottom of the box get regifted to the little guys huddling on the railing trying to stay warm. Dried out stir-fry noodles on the stove-top, unwanted crusts, crumbs in the bottom of the cracker box, stale nuts and seeds, petrified raisins you forgot you owned - don't trash these! I've even chucked out expired pork chops that the crows went nuts for (note that as a pescetarian I would have little use for pork chops to begin with!). Another good thing to do is fill a small container (shallow - like a hummous container or those shallow cottage cheese or sour cream ones) with warm water - the availability of water is pretty scarce when it hasn't come above freezing in days and days. It'll be frozen by the time you get home, so make sure you melt it or provide another container the next day.

Homemade birdfood: crumbs and stale stuff!
Homemade birdfood (snowed on) and the recent addition of cheese muffin pieces - big hit!
And finally, a related thought that is a little more important than the sweet little songbirds - the homeless and the impoverished. Knowing that birds require an enormous amount of food to stay warm in this weather, you can imagine the caloric needs of a young man at this temperature! Give generously to food banks and outreach kitchens, and remember the needy always (not just at Christmas or during the winter, but all year round). As miserable as you are walking to a car or bus, imagine being outside all day and night. While we're at it, let's get back to demanding more social housing! Everyone deserves a warm place to sleep at night.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Operation: Christmas Child

No cute kiddies to shop for this Christmas? It's just not the same when you don't have a child to shop for at Christmastime, is it?

Shoeboxes of Christmas cheer for a boy and a girl!

And yet, there are millions of children living in poverty around the world who won't receive a gift this Christmas. Hmmm.

Samitarian's Purse organizes the distribution of shoeboxes full of new toys, trinkets, candies and school supplies from people like you and I to children living in abject poverty around the world through "Operation: Christmas Child".

The website provides packing lists (recommended items) for boys or girls in three age ranges: 2-4 years, 5-9 years or 10-14 years old. One of the biggest requirements for children living in impoverished countries are school supplies. This one was a bit of a shock to me - I seriously had trouble believing that a 8 year old boy would be excited by pencils and coiled notebooks! But it's exactly what is needed; without school supplies, a child cannot attend school. I'm sure kids around here would simply deep-six their backpacks off local bridges if it meant being able to skip school, but in places like Nicaragua, Sierra Leone and Uruguay there's probably not much else worth doing if you're not in school with your classmates. (The aforementioned countries are some of the places that boxes from Canada get distributed to - each giving country tends to cover certain regions to ensure even distribution. For a list of where the boxes go and other FAQ's, follow this link).

Collection week is November 15th to the 21st at various centres (i.e. Ingledews downtown), so if you'd like to get a box together, now is the time to make haste!

Hit up the dollar store, Daiso/YokoYaya1-2-3 and the like - I promise it won't take long to get enough to fill a box! And if you're a skilled shopper, you can pack a box for around $20 with everything a kid could need. Simple toys from your fond childhood memories are no-brainers, and it feels really good to pass on those games to someone else.

A Christmas shoebox for a 5-9 year old girl
Important items to include are hard candies (can't be the soft, melty type - no chocolates); pencils, pens and notebooks; small stuffed animals or toys; hair clips; socks; t-shirts; toothbrushes and combs; and soap (only if in a Ziploc bag so it won't melt and ruin the gift!). Look here for the "how to pack a box" instructions. There's a list of things you can't include (including toothpaste due to customs rules!) as well.

For a 5-9 year old boy - my favourite is the harmonica.
They even encourage you to write a personal letter and include a photo of yourself for the child to receive.

Samaritan's Purse asks that a minimum donation of $7 accompany every box (either pay online or include a cheque in your box - boxes are inspected before final shipping) to cover the shipping and distribution costs involved.

You can decorate your boxes (I painted one and wrapped the other using wrapping scraps leftover and reused from last Christmas) however you like. It's one of those TV-style wrapping jobs, where the lid is wrapped separately for ease of access (ever noticed that in movies and sitcoms? They undo the ribbon and lift the lid - rarely any tearing of paper. It must take too long). The volunteers and customs agents have to have easy access, so keep it in mind. I think wrapping a detachable lid separately has it's advantages; you don't need as big a piece of paper, and you can have different paper on the top than the bottom and still make it look tidy!

This is the first year we've put together shoeboxes, and it's been a lot of fun to choose toys and goodies. The trouble is trying to fit it all into a shoebox! Friends of mine have done this every year for ages, and they feel it just isn't Christmas without the shoeboxes.

There's a special emphasis on getting gifts to Haiti this year as well, so please consider putting together a gift package for someone who would desperately need some Christmas cheer! I think you'll enjoy putting it together almost as much as they'll enjoy receiving it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Traditional German Christmas Market - in Vancouver!

This photo of wurst, and all photos courtesy Dr Erin Tranfield (Heidelberg, GER)
My beautiful, brilliant, globe-trotting friend Erin recently enraged me by telling me about the fabulous "Christmas Markets" that happen each year in Germany. The cookies, the stollen, the wurst and beer and the carts of high-quality handmade crafts . . . scheiße. Jealous is too mild a term.

Dr Erin enjoying "Feuerzangbowle" - a drink of rum, sugar and wine!

Erin says, 
"The markets are places to hang out and enjoy the company of friends and family.  They are not materialistic markets filled with stuff to buy.  There is some stuff for sale, but it isn't the main point."
She also mentions that taking photos is difficult because they are so crowded with people out enjoying the atmosphere of the market and sipping hot drinks. There's something so insanely appealing to me about that description - I'd love to experience that sort of community-wide revelry and relaxation without it being a giant marketing campaign for Coca-Cola or Telus or any number of corporate giants! You can read more about the centuries-old tradition of German Christmas Markets here

Revellers at a Christmas Market in Germany (E. Tranfield)

Don't you wish you could attend a German Christmas Market? Well now you can!

Beginning on the 24th of November this year (2010), the Vancouver Christmas Market will open on the plaza at the QE theatre downtown. It runs until Christmas Eve, daily from 11am to 9pm, and describes itself as an authentic German Christmas Market. Wooden huts decorated with pine boughs and strings of lights, live entertainment, the hot apple cider - sounds like an ideal environment to get you in the holiday mood!

I'm really excited to try Glühwein - Erin says it's delicious and a little unexpected; a mulled wine made of red wine (with or without the addition of liqueur or rum) with sugar, cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, spices and a touch of citrus.

Traditional German treats (E. Tranfield)

There are over 35 vendors, many of which are really from Germany (i.e. 'Toy Wonderland' form Dresden). The descriptions of the handicrafts are the most appealing to me (being a vegetarian, oh alright pescetarian, I miss out on the bratwurst . . . but not the beer, cookies or chestnuts!) - here is an excerpt from the mainpage for the event:
The merchandise will include authentic wood carvings and wooden toys, knitted cloves and scarves, Christmas pyramids and tree balls, tin toys, stained glass, and nutcrackers in various sizes as well as live glass blowing demonstrations.
Kitchen wares at a German Christmas Market (E. Tranfield)

And the food (in the kid's market, children can decorate their own gingerbread!):
There will be a mix of food and merchandise booths including some specialties such as German bratwurst and Leberkaes, traditional Christmas cookies, Lebkuchen, roasted chestnuts and spiced Christmas Cake (Stollen). Beverages will include hot spiced apple cider and authentic hot spiced red wine (Glühwein) and a selection of German beers.

WURST! (Sausages!) Photo by E. Tranfield

Unfortunately, this is a CHEAP-NOT-FREE event, and admission (all day) costs $5 per adult (kids under 6 are free).

In Germany, each city has a unique design for the year's Christmas mugs (E. Tranfield)
However, if you visit between 11am and 2pm on a weekday, general admission is only $2 for an adult. Why not visit over your lunch-hour? That's my plan - downtown transit is so convenient!

A spice vendor in a German Christmas Market (E. Tranfield)
Visit the Vancouver Christmas Market website: or after November 24th the market itself on W. Georgia (Hamilton and Cambie for entrances).

A bustling German Christmas Market (E. Tranfield)

Thanks again very much to Dr Erin Tranfield for sharing her photos of the beautiful German Christmas Markets! Now if only we had architecture like THAT as a backdrop! Wow!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What to do on a rainy, cold Rememberance Day Holiday

2nd Poppy of 2010 . . . I always lose at least one.
Tomorrow is Rememberance day in Canada, and with its sombre and retrospective tone generally comes cold, wet rain. The forecast for this year's cenotaph ceremonies, wreath-layings and parades on the South Coast is the usual one (if you suffer from Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder, might I suggest tuning into the CBC's coverage of the Parliament Hill ceremonies? It's usually clear skies, sunny and cold in Ottawa).

I'm not going to go all soppy and start reminding everyone why we must NEVER FORGET, ever ever ever - but I will say that history repeats itself and let's be sure that while we have breath in our bodies we preach and practice peace (what good was their sacrifice if we conveniently forget it a few decades later?).

Valle d'Aosta Cabbage Soup (Moosewood New Classics). Incredibly good!
Anyway, it's still Soup Season in my little apartment, and I've rattled off a few more (tonight was Creamy Chestnut Soup - I was so hungry to eat it I forgot to photograph it). Also made tonight (for lunches) was Basque White Bean Soup (pictured further down the post), which was very economical and super healthy. Still loving the full-fat, cheesy, baked Valle d'Aosta soup the best, though. Who knew a cabbage soup could taste so good?! I guess butter, baguette and 2 cups of Fontina cheese will do that.

Valle d'Aosta again - so rich, this bowl made me feel utterly stuffed.

Making soup is a very relaxing and constructive way to spend a fall evening, or a soggy, cold Rememberance Day. I find I actually reflect more on the 'hard times' that our predecessors must have faced during both rationing and The Depression when I'm chopping up cabbage, squash and other veggies and trying to use every useful part of them. (Bet they didn't have saffron in their soups back in those days, like in the Basque White Bean one I made tonight. Ah well, it's not meant to be war-era authentic anyway).

Basque White Bean Soup (Moosewood Low-Fat Favourites)
In the times of rationing, much of the fresh food and grain went to supporting the troops, leaving the wives, children and elderly scraping by. Food production also declined, no doubt when most of the able-bodied young men left the farms for the frontlines.

Hence, the Victory Garden. Growing food in your own front yard was strongly encouraged by many governments worried about a growing food shortage. Female farm labourers in the Women's Land Army of the United Kingdom filled in for the shortage of strong young men working the field. There's some great propaganda posters of this in the Wikipedia article (see link) and elsewhere online.

I love my "Victory Gardens of Tomorrow" poster by Joeseppi!

Something else to do on a rainy, indoor-day: Watch a video from the American Department of Agriculture showing how to grow a Victory Garden in Northern Maryland. Slightly creepy (totally different style of media back then) and colourized after the fact, no doubt. It's hard to imagine having that much spare land! But despite all the differences, it's neat to see how gardening is so timeless. I've never gardened with a horse and plough, however. And the pesticide usage is, frankly, frightening. Calcium arsenic? Yeah, don't be spraying that stuff on your food! (I guess "Companion Planting" was a foreign concept to people in the New World at that time...?).

Victory Garden Instructional Video from Internet Archive:

Also, they sure had a LOT of pest and fungal problems! Crop rotation and container gardening would definitely help! Don't let this old video put you off vegetable growing - it's really not that hard! My lettuce mixes are happily growing on the balcony - so are my onions, carrots and 'oriental greens'. The beets aren't looking so hot, but I did start them late (from old seed, too).

As the video suggests, home canning of fresh food for storage isn't a bad idea (and another nice thing to do on a cold November day). I can't think of a better Christmas gift to be on the receiving end of than a homemade jar of jam or preserves! I mentioned this before in my Frugal Yule post, but I haven't had a chance to start on it yet. I'll probably just end up using the lovely little jars for giving rum butter (can't go wrong with that!).
You can buy all the basics for cheap at Canadian Tire

So that's my recommendation for Rememberance Day 2010 in Vancouver - remember and reflect with a moment of silence (either in person or at home) at 11:00am, then make soup, watch and learn about Victory Gardens, and consider starting (or planning for) home-canned foods for Christmas gifts.

In my next post: an exciting new Christmastime tradition begins downtown on November 24th...!

Monday, November 8, 2010

VPL Spring Booksale Dates

I attended my first Vancouver Public Library Booksale this past October (thank you Laura and Chris for the tip!). It was chaotic and crowded, but I found wonderful treasures in both the library and friends-of-the-library sales (separate tills, cash only) .
I spent less than $10 overall and got a Rudyard Kipling hardcover anthology (including The Jungle Book stories), Kingsley's The Water Babies in hardcover, an old-fashioned King James edition of the Holy Bible complete with colour plates (gorgeous paintings) and a book prize inscription from a White Rock school in the early 60's. Lovely - I love old books!
I also got a hardcover Japanese book (with hiragana next to the kanji so kids/gaijin like me can read it!) called the Christmas Box, and 6 PG Wodehouse paperbacks . . . at 55 cents each, I felt as though I was stealing them! I usually buy them for $5 apiece in used bookstores!
Nine dollars and change. I can't believe it, either!
Dates for the Spring booksale are April 28th to May 1st (put them into your planner now!), which is a Thursday to a Sunday. Full information is on the VPL event website, here.