Monday, December 31, 2007

Armchair astronomy and space travel

This is the time of year in our part of the world at which clouds cover the sky almost continuously. It frustrates the astronomer in me. For instance, there are a couple of comets visible in binoculars at night right now, Mars and Saturn are at their best for this year, the winter constellations are coming up - but I can't get to see them. So, I resort to my past pictures, and also the internet.

To the left, there are some pictures I took of the Moon over a year ago. I suppose that you would have a similar view from a spaceship heading there - this is as close as I'll ever come to space travel.

You can certainly see many more (and better) pictures like that on the internet. Here's a new "location" for lunar images, for the most part provided by "earthbound" people who, like me, have an interest in astronomy.

I you're interested in the missions which NASA sends to the planets and their moons here are a couple of links:, Enjoy the views!

Below is the New Year's greeting from the Cassini-Huygens team at NASA - these folks are the ones who sent the Cassini probe to Saturn. That probe (along with the Mars rovers) is part of what I consider to be the most successful and productive "robotic" space undertakings ever:

Our family wishes you the same!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happy New Year

We wish everyone who reads this blog, and those you hold dear, a successful, prosperous, and (most of all) healthy 2008.

Christmas has come and gone, the kids got lots of presents, and we, as parents and grandparents, even received some practical and useful ones - among them books, which my wife and I always enjoy. Reading is one of our favourite pastimes.

In some respects, of course, 2007 has not been the best of years for us. But Derek and we've made it through - one learns quickly how important family and friends are in our lives. Thank you all.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

More from the old-fashioned kitchen

Our venerable kitchen has produced another crop of old-fashioned Christmas food - shortbread cookies. Our granddaughters lent a helping hand. Here are some pictures:

Getting the ingredients

a "little" butter

obviously this is "diet" food (you go on a diet afterwards)

cutting the shortbread cookies

onto the pan

the final goodies

making the "big cookie"


all done.

It's nice to see the traditions being taken up by the granddaughters. Perhaps they'll remember their grandmother "Mimi" at future Christmas celebrations when they have grown and have their own families, just as we remember our parents and grandparents at times like these.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The school festivities

The other day I mentioned the Christmas recitals and school functions in which our granddaughters are participating. Here are a few pictures of the school performances:
The kids and their teachers all did a wonderful job.
Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A busy time

It's been a number of days since my last post.

I'm sure that I'm not alone at being busy during this time of year. My "busyness" comes mostly from running a home-based, one-person business. My wife does all the shopping and baking (2nd Pulla installment today - see previous post). I don't like shopping - she loves it. Whatever few presents I buy usually come via the internet. Throughout the year, my wife is always looking out for gifts to give on various occasions, so we usually have our Christmas gifts assembled well before the shopping season starts.

As it is, our social calendar is also full until the end of the year, what with family and friends hosting little get-togethers, the grandchildrens' school and recital performances, etc. It is a joyful time. tempered to some degree by Derek's illness.

My wife and I wish all who read this blog a Very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, and, especially, Good Health.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Kitchen in Action

Some time ago, I wrote about our "old-fashioned" kitchen, which produces much of the food we eat when the family gets together. With the festive season coming up, we'll have another occasion to enjoy each other's company - and food, of course, will be a major part of that.

Over the many years we have developed some "family traditions". One of them is that my wife's expertise in cooking and baking has made her the "authority" to bake "Pulla" - a Finnish bread. It's meant to be served with afternoon coffee or tea, but it goes very well with our dinners, too. My wife learned the recipe from her mother. She makes some of it for most of our get-togethers, and so she did again.

Here are some pictures of the process of making it:

This is just the first "installment" - these loaves are gifts to other family members. There will be more (yummy, yummy!). It's a lot of work, and a labour of love. The Pulla is especially appreciated by our family members who have an issue with diabetes - they are slightly sweetened with "Splenda" (an artificial sweetener). The recipe calls for some sugar instead, but this tastes just as wonderful.

My wife knows what goes into the Pulla - and it's not preservatives or other "shelf-life-enhancing" ingredients. To preserve them, we freeze them until they are served. I don't think that you could buy these at any of the commercial bakeries or food stores.

This whole process is perhaps a bit "old-fashioned", but that's what you get out of an old-fashioned kitchen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pineapple Express.

As mentioned previously, the Pineapple Express arrived, and melted all the snow in about a day. The snowman is but a couple of snowblobs left on the grass Here are the effects:

The ghost of the snowman.

The pineapple express works fast - all the snow is gone.
Right now, it looks like we're nearing the end of the current pineapple express, with a break after all the rain.

Here's a break between systems rolling in from the Pacific:

fire in the sky

sunset on the clouds

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The snow

"Collecting" the parts

It's a "biggy"

Taking shape

And... here's the snowman

Well, all the snow in the last couple of days has put our family into the "holiday" mood. The granddaughters decided to build a snowman - and help with the other activity which my wife decided was to take place: setting up the Christmas tree. So the kids did their thing (see above), and (below) you see the results of the "indoor" effort. Of course, as I anticipated, I had to shovel enough snow to allow for safe pedestrian passage near our house.

We'll enjoy the scenery outside today, because tomorrow the "pineapple express" is slated to arrive all the way from Hawaii, with temperatures going up to 13 degrees Centigrade. We expect up to 50mm of rain here. It'll be a mess, and with all the melting snow blocking the drains and adding to the rain, some flooding is expected in the low areas. But, that's normal around here - we don't often get a "white Christmas".

Here's the tree - it'll be here to enjoy for the next several weeks.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

It's arrived

In good old European tradition, my wife put up the "Advent Calendars", each with 24 little presents attached - for our granddaughters. Each granddaughter will open one present per day, until the 24th of December, at which time we have our family Christmas celebration, with dinner and the giving of Christmas presents. So today, being the first day of December, both opened their first-day present.

The advent calendars themselves are needle-point, made especially for our granddaughters by a very good friend who lives in California. The calendars will always remind us of her - what a wonderful effort to make for "the kids".

Well, the snow which was predicted, and which announced its coming a couple of days ago, has arrived. Some time ago I speculated that the birds would be very happy with the "yellow apples" hanging on our neighbours' tree. Today, that came true.

Here's the snow

...and the birds are having a feast.