Welcome to Plaid Eggnog!

Welcome to Plaid Eggnog!

Jan 31, 2010

Gryffin-gram 2009: The Year as Gryffin Saw It

by Gryffin the Welsh Terrier

Every year, I (Gryffin) write a review of the year in  my own unique bark - er, voice! Some people and pups have seen it already, but in case you haven't, here it is...

Hello from Gryffin, in our backyard! If you were here in person, I’d be so glad to see you I’d jump all over you. Steve and Julie have turned me loose (or hooked me to the long, retractable leash?) to tell you about our life in 2009.

Photo: I enjoyed destroying the feather duster this spring.

We began 2009 by ringing in the New Year with our friend Chung in Calgary. While the humans all partied with friends, I enjoyed Chung’s condo, and its terrier-level garbage bins.

The winter this year had a real long cold snap. The thermometer outside my window can be distracting when I bark at people walking by, but it said -30c every night, from early December through to almost March. Brr! That meant weeks of being forced to wear my winter coat and Velcro boots on our walks. Grr...

Another sight out that window is St Patrick’s church, where Steve and Julie have shared the role of Priest-in-Charge for 2½ years. I also really like our weekly trips to Church of the Ascension in Arborfield. I get to bark at all the cows during the 120 km / 80 mile trip, then they let me run loose in the hall... sometimes.
2009 was an exciting year at the churches.

Maybe the biggest event was updating the parish Photo Directory for the first time since 1997. I even got included in our family’s photo, right in front, too!

Julie had some interesting speaking engagements this year. In March, she spoke at the annual Lay-reader Licensing service at St. Alban’s Cathedral in Prince Albert. Then in June, she was the teacher at a 3-day Ladies Retreat at Camp Okema, near Prince Albert National Park. And she spoke to several groups about the mission trip she and Steve took to Guatemala a few years ago.

In addition to their shared priest work, Steve and Julie also share the role of Associate Editor on the monthly Saskatchewan Anglican newspaper, writing and gathering stories from around the Diocese, and of Webmasters for the Diocesan website . This year, Steve also became Webmaster for The Anglican Planet monthly newspaper. And Julie continues to write travel stories for the local newspapers. Those two seem to like writing. Maybe they’ll write next year’s Gryffin-gram! Naw, I’ll probably keep this job.

In their spare time, Julie writes to her hundreds of penpals, and Steve has been working on his guitar skills. They started a monthly photo club in town too, that meets right in our house – a very exciting night for me! 8-10 people come each time - I love company! Each month, the club talks about a photography topic, and shares their photos on the month’s theme. And Julie’s card club has turned her into a card-making master. 

May 6, 2009 was Steve & Julie’s 15th Anniversary – I don’t know what that would be in dog-years, but a lot. They celebrated with a week of tenting in the Black Hills, in South Dakota and Wyoming, USA. They liked what they saw so much, they went back on their big vacation trip in the summer. The full trip went through Alberta Canada, then Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota on a tenting tour of 10 National Parks and Monuments in the “Wild West” US states.

They didn’t take me, though. I stayed home and looked after Julie’s parents, who came to visit for a few weeks in June and July. And I had lots of fun when Steve’s parents came over Christmas!

Steve & Julie went down to North Dakota one more time, in August. They took a week and tented in the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The park is named after the 26th US President, a man who ranched in the area in the late-1800s, and did a lot for parks and conservation. He’s now one of the 4 faces on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. We later learned that Steve and “Teddy” are distant cousins. Steve & Julie hiked in the back-country of the park in the mornings, ever vigilant for bison and rattle-snakes, then in the afternoon, they read works by the ‘Desert Fathers and Mothers,’ 4th to 6th century Christian writers. I wish I’d been there to chase – I mean, to see and admire from a polite distance – all the prairie dogs and bison in the area.

One autumn highlight was a trip to see the Moscow Ballet perform Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, in Prince Albert. Julie had always wanted to see a professional ballet, and she found it to be enthralling, a transcendent taste of culture.

You can keep up with Steve, Julie and me in lots of ways in 2010. They post cute photos of me on Flickr and we’re all on Facebook (actually, I’m on Dog-Book). Blessings in 2010!

Love, from Gryffin 

Jan 30, 2010

Experience the steam era today

This article is slated to appear in the local papers in late January / early February.

By the Reverend Julie Golding Page

Do you remember when steam engines chugged and puffed their way through our region? Although we never lived through the steam era, my husband, Steve, and I were lucky to experience it for ourselves by visiting some historic sites south of the border this summer.

Visiting northern Utah’s Golden Spike National Historic Site took us back in time to a monumental day in 1869, when engines from the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railways met to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific for the first time.

This new, inter-continental rail link enabled the USA’s settlement of the West, its development into a world power, and even the standardization of time across North America (due to the need for railroad time tables). Even things we now take for granted, such as the ability to send and receive mail from anywhere in a matter of days, can trace their origins to this day. For better or for worse, the rail link was a big step toward today’s highly mobile, interconnected lifestyle.  
On the site where the final (golden) spike was driven, there are working replicas of the steam engines that met to witness the feat: Central’s Jupiter and Union Pacific’s #119. We watched as the shiny, colourfully painted engines puffed their way up and down the track, emitting steam and blowing their warning whistles. By climbing up onto a platform next to the track, we were able to get very close to the engines as they passed, with the workers on the engine obviously loving their work and waving as they drove by. We were also treated to an ear-splitting version of the train whistle, as well as to steam clouds that enveloped us as the train went by.

A few days later, in South Dakota’s Black Hills, we had a chance to ride on the 1880 Train, a 19th century steam train, like the ones we had seen at Golden Spike. During the course of the two-hour round trip from Hill City to Keystone, we tried out a couple of different types of vintage rail cars: an open-air car with plain wooden seats, and a closed-in car with upholstered seats and beautiful, green stained glass in the upper windows. In the latter car, we could easily imagine ourselves in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

As we chugged along through the woods, we often crossed intersections with automobile roads, with the train blowing its whistle each time. Did you know that train whistles mean something, if you listen to their patterns? The warning that an intersection is being approached is made up of four separate whistles: two long, one short, then one long. We learned that this practice, still continued by diesel engines today, dates from the steamboat era. When Queen Victoria was on board, the boat would blow its whistle in this pattern—a “Q” in Morse Code, in honour of the Queen, to warn other boat traffic that the ship would soon intersect their path.

The steam engine puffed hard, spewing clouds of wispy smoke and releasing steam as it carried us through the forest, past 100-year-old mines and buildings that had served the pioneers.

Even though Steve and I had never been part of the steam era, the slow-paced ride on the train gave us a sense of nostalgia for bygone days. It reminded me of stories told by my mother, who grew up in a railway town. The steam engines came through each day, and if there was laundry hanging on the clothesline, the soot from the smoke would blacken it!

Are you curious about the steam era? Northern Utah’s Golden Spike is about a two-day drive from our region. Find out more about it online. For information about the 1880 Train in South Dakota, about a day’s drive from central Saskatchewan, check out this link. All aboard!  

Julie and her husband, Steve, share the role of Priest-in-Charge in the Anglican Mission Parish of Hudson Bay & Arborfield. They live in Hudson Bay with their precocious Welsh Terrier, Gryffin. Julie’s interests include travel, writing, penpals, movies, photography, cooking and reading mysteries starring female Anglican priests.

We're in the News!

Steve has been joking that we wrote half the stories in the local papers this week. We've got several stories printed in one, two or all three of our local papers: The Hudson Bay Post-Review, The Parkland Review and The Northeast Sun. 

Here are the stories:

3. Experience the Steam Era Today (we'll post this to the blog later)
4. HB Photo Club Begins Planning Public Photo Contest (we'll post this to the blog later)

Jan 29, 2010

Veggie Squash Chili

Need a recipe for comfort food during this cold time of year? And one that's healthy & guilt-free? Try this veggie chili - it's also a fab way to use all those squash and pumpkins saved from the garden last fall. Thanks to Julie's mum, Nancy Golding, for sending us this recipe.

Source: Chatelaine magazine's Superfoods mini-cookbook, with a few modifications by us

Prep: 10 min
Cook: 40 min
Makes: 2 L (8 cups)

796 ml (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
398 ml can tomato sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp) chili powder
5 ml (1 tsp) each cinnamon and dried oregano
2 ml (1/2 tsp) each cayenne and allspice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 L (4 cups) coarsely chopped squash
2 yellow or green peppers, chopped
540 ml (19 oz) can white or black beans, rinsed and drained
250 ml (1 cup) frozen corn or peas
dried chives, to taste
low-fat yogurt or sour cream

In a large, wide saucepan or fry pan, stir diced tomatoes with tomato sauce, spices and garlic. Bring to boil over high heat, then stir in squash. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until squash is tender, about 30 min.

Stir in peppers, beans and frozen veggies. Simmer, stirring often, until peppers are soft, 10 to 15 min more. Stir in chives and spoon chili into bowls. Top with yogurt/sour cream. 

Jan 28, 2010

Camera Shooting Mode surprises

I (Steve) agreed to talk at our next Hudson Bay Photo Club meeting about camera shooting modes. To do so, I spent some time exploring the modes on our Canon EOS Rebel D-SLR. It was quite an eye-opening exercise!

For years, I've used only the Tv (Shutter-priority), Av (Aperture-priority) or full-Manual modes. So I needed to learn what the camera did for the rest, especially the "Basic" modes where the camera makes all the decisions.

All the images I will use are on our Flickr stream, if you're interested! I'll note a few here.

In the Close-up mode,  we get a nice, shallow depth of field (F4.0), directing our attention to the point of interest. Worked pretty well, although I was surprised to have the flash pop up.

 In Landscape mode, the subjects are more distant and the camera deepens the depth of field to get more of it in focus (in this case with F11) and even used ISO 100, a good choice for the bright day. But the whole thing is slightly under-exposed: the hotel is so grey in the image, but is much closer to white in reality. This under-exposure was a recurring theme in the "Basic Modes."

I was surprised when the flash was used in Close-up mode, but no surprise that it is not used in "Disable Flash Mode." Obviously for this candle-lit scene I used a tripod, because there was so little light that it needed a slow shutter speed (1/20th second). Again, the scene is a bit under-exposed.

The "Full Auto" mode takes care of everything, turning the lovely D-SLR into a very basic point-and-shoot. Nice to not have to worry about anything, and it made some decent choices (I was most surprised that it chose the rather middling ISO 400 for this shot). But the snow and bright day have fooled it into badly under-exposing the image!

So I tried the same shot, but in "Program" mode, which has the camera set the shutter speed and aperture, but lets me control almost everything else. I set exposure compensation to +1 stop and got a more pleasing image (still a touch under-exposed)


At the club I'll talk about all the modes, but just one more for here. I switched to Aperture-priority to show the greater control possible in the non-basic modes. It lets me choose: do I want an image with all dominoes in focus? or one where they fade into the background? Av-mode lets me control the depth-of-field by setting a big aperture (F4.5, top) for shallower depth, or a tiny aperture (F22, bottom) for greater depth.

Hopefully, the talk next week will be neither too simple nor too advanced. My goal is to encourage members to get to know their cameras better, and to be more intentional in getting their images to look like they want.

Jan 27, 2010

Quotation of the day

We've embraced a lot of changes in our lives over the past 10 years - for example, living in 4 provinces, having 12 different jobs between us, buying & selling our dream house, completing 4 Master's degrees, traveling all over the USA, plus to Europe, Central America & the Middle East, and then being ordained as Anglican priests. As a result, this quotation seems particularly suitable:

Getting rid of dragons is not at all in my line, but I will think about it.

- Bilbo Baggins, in The Hobbit

If we can learn to successfully get rid of dragons, so can you - be encouraged, friends! :-)

P.S. This little dragon came from our trip to Conwy Castle, Wales, in 2008. We don't want to get rid of him, though...

Jan 26, 2010

Baked Salmon Topped with Mushroom Masala

Welcome to Plaid Eggnog, our new Blog! Thanks for visiting. :-) To reward you for stopping by, here is a recipe to get your culinary juices going on this fine winter's day:

This is a wonderful “fusion” recipe, using elements from both Asian and North American cooking. It comes from a gift given to Steve for Christmas this year. We draw categories from a hat to buy each other Christmas gifts. I (Julie) had to find something for Steve in the category of “cliché.” The cliché I chose was “red herring” – and I sent him on a scavenger hunt to the deep freeze in the basement to find said red herring. Well, it was not quite a red herring, exactly, but rather a pink salmon. Close enough, isn’t it? ;-)

The gift also included this recipe, modified from the Fall 2009 issue of Flavours magazine, along with a bottle of pinot noir (red) wine to pair with it. We just tried the recipe this week and heartily recommend it.

Serving Size:
1 person. Increase ingredients to suit your number of portions.

1 salmon fillet
2 Tbsp (30 ml) canola oil
½ tsp (2 ml) whole mustard seeds
½ tsp (2 ml) cumin
½ medium-sized onion, diced
1 tsp (5 ml) garlic, diced or puréed
1 tsp (5 ml) ginger, fresh or powdered
½ tsp (2 ml) cumin
½ tsp (2 ml) coriander
Pinch of turmeric
Cayenne to taste
1 cup (250 ml) sliced mushrooms, any type
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh cilantro or dried chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Heat oil in fry pan on medium-high. Add mustard and cumin to pan; wait for a crackling or popping sound, then add onions. Cook until onions caramelize. Add garlic and ginger and continue cooking for 30 seconds. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne, then cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown. Stir in cilantro or chives.

Place salmon in a casserole dish and top with cooked mixture. Bake in oven until cooked, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serving Hint:
Try serving the salmon with rice (we used a mixture of white and wild rice) and a vegetable side (we decided on cubed, baked sunshine squash and a spinach salad).