Friday, February 28, 2014

Spring Failure

This is a picture of a snow squall that came into the Greater Toronto Area yesterday morning. One minute the sun was shining, the next minute you couldn't see across the road. This pic was taken from the CTV helicopter. They also have an interesting time-lapse video of the advance of the squall here .

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Apparently this is what we can expect next week:

If this freezing cold weather continues, we might spot this fellow on the road:

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Knitting a Garden

Anyone in the NYC vicinity with an interest in both gardening and knitting might have found this event in Brooklyn of interest.

This is an art exhibition of knitted floral and plant sculptures at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden that recently ended on January 22. Check out some of these amazing creations.

Tatyana Yanishevsky, Tiger Lily, 2011. Knitted yarn and steel. Photo by Karen Philippi.
Tiger LilyTatyana Yanishevsky
yarn, steel
60” x 60” x 50”
photo by Karen Philippi

Compare the following works to the photo that follows...

Here are some more beautiful works:

Ruth Marshall, Lotus, 2013. Knitted, crocheted, and embroidered yarn, wire, fabric stiffener, fiber, and pins. Photo by the artist.
Lotus, Ruth Marshall

For anyone interested, here are the bios of the artists:

Tatyana Yanishevsky
A Soviet-born artist living in the United States, Tatyana Yanishevsky’s work draws strongly from the natural world and is informed by her training and experience as a biologist. Her main body of work, The Knit Garden, is a collection of anatomically correct botanical forms created out of yarn. Each piece is hand-knitted using a variety of fibers, colors, and stitches to re-create the various organs of the plant, and the knitting process, stitch by stitch, conceptually mimics plant growth. Her sculptures vary in scale and range in form and style from realistic toward abstraction.
Secret Forestyarn200620” x 12” x 5”photo by Karen Philippi
Secret ForestTatyana Yanishevsky
20” x 12” x 5”
photo by Karen Philippi

Ruth Marshall
New York–based Australian artist Ruth Marshall’s work is a synthesis of concepts relating to conservation and visually interpreting natural forms in flora and fauna. “Exploring the precarious balance of our human relationship to nature reacquaints society to the world that we are in danger of losing. My work aims to communicate through science, nature, fine art, and a high level of craftsmanship all the inherent drama in the decline of this relationship, to respect the impressive will of the wild kingdom, and to fuel the search for survival.” She has become internationally known for her hand-knit pelts of exotic animals endangered by the illegal skin trade; for this exhibit, Marshall has created a life-size lotus.

Santiago Venegas
Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Santiago Venegas has lived in New York City for twelve years, and makes work that explores the relationship between textiles and their environmental impact. For this exhibit he has created a sweater that blends fashion and flora using locally sourced yarn that has been naturally dyed.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

And Then I Saw This

Right after the owlet video was posted, this boxer video arrived: (sorry about the ad, but you can "skip" it after 5 sec.)

A Little Owl Play

Even Owlets Practice

I can't resist prolonging owl love a bit longer and showing you this video:

Monday, February 24, 2014

News from the Nest

The Decorah Eagles have their first egg of 2014, laid late yesterday afternoon. This is mom on the nest this morning, but both mom and pop take turns sitting on the nest. Mom usually takes the overnight shift.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Snowy Owls

A snowy owl is seen at the Leslie Spit in Toronto. (MIKE QUIGG)

I just found out that a group of owls is called a "parliament". It seems that there are many parliaments of snowy owls are making their way southward from the Canadian Arctic down to the open fields, beaches and airports of Newfoundland, eastern North America, Bermuda and Florida.

Snowy owls are migratory birds. It used to be thought that higher numbers of Arctic owls drifted southward when more northerly prey was scarce, but fairly recently there has been new information that the reverse is true. Last summer the snowy owls' chief prey, arctic lemmings, were particularly numerous so that the owl nestlings enjoyed a higher than normal survival rate.

When prey is abundant, snowy owls lay up to 9 eggs and of these, there are, in normal years, maybe two owlets that survive to fledge. Last summer though, thanks to the abundance of lemmings, there are now vast numbers of young snowys taking to the air and exploring widely during their southern migration. 

snowy owl © Norman Smith
Since there are so many more snowy owls around, bird watchers are spotting them more often and their sightings are making headlines. See The Globe and Mail .

One of the unfortunate things about so many snowy owls in our more populated part of the country is that they look for landing areas that resemble the Arctic tundra - low and flat, such as beaches or airports. At airports they scare off other birds, such as gulls, but they are, in turn, threats themselves to aviation.

For some reason people find owls attractive in a way that they do not find, say vultures and buzzards attractive. Owls, with their wide, forward stare and beautiful plumage, seem "cute" to many of us (including me) and it's important to keep in mind that owls are raptors: expert and ruthless hunters.

Speaking of migration, snowy owls travel vast distances. Here's the map of one owl tracked between March 2012 and January 2013:
  •  Owl 99906, a juvenile female, was equipped with a transmitter and released at Parker River Wildlife Refuge (in Massachusetts)  on March 4. She moved south near Boston's Logan Airport and was spotted there on Monday, 12 March. From March 12 - April 26, the owl is moving north relatively quickly compared with some of the more recent past owls and as of 26 April she was east of James Bay in Quebec Province. She continues to move north and by May 25 was approaching northern Quebec's Ungava peninsula region. PTT temperature and activity sensor values are within normal parameters.

Overview of Owl 099906 movements between March 6, 2012 and January 15, 2013

Snowy owl hunting for prey in winter snow

Here's a video about a snowy owl rescued in Ohio recently:

Video: Rescued snowy owl recovering at Lake Erie Nature ...

More excellent snowy owl videos at this BBC website.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's That Time of Year Again

Today  the Decorah Eagles started spending a lot of time on the nest. Sometimes both at once, often the female by herself. In the picture above, Mama is on the left. She's bigger and more ferocious-looking than Papa. There are other differences as well which I have put in a previous post. 

Below is Papa.

Last year the first egg was laid on Feb. 17, so I suspect the female is feeling broody and the male is supporting her behaviour. Maybe tomorrow morning she will be sitting on her first egg of 2014. I believe the whole cycle hinges on the length of daylight. 

This pair of eagles are experienced parents and their nests have been under video surveillance for a few years. I took these shots this afternoon while watching them via the live web cam installed just overhead.  

Magnificent, aren't they!! You can count on regular updates throughout the season.

Chris Hadfield

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Late on a July evening in 1969, when Don and I were in our car on the road between Port Carling and Bracebridge returning to the city after a cottage weekend, we listened on the radio to live coverage of the first landing on the moon. It was an unbelievable moment, in the same realm as knowing where you were when you heard about JFK’s assassination.

It’s funny to think now that at that very same moment a 9-year old boy, listening to the same broadcast, was inspired and motivated to transform his life into the reach for the stars. Chris Hadfield, from that moment, imbued everything he did in life with the intention to better himself so that he too could qualify as an astronaut. For the next 26 years he worked hard at  everything he did - school, sports, improving his skill-set - and became the best that he could be. In 1992 he was selected to be a Canadian astronaut and in November 1995 he was launched into space for the first time.

Learning, practice, learning, practice, skills upgrades, learning, practice: it all continued even after that first space flight. Finally, during 2012-2013, Chris Hadfield spent 144 days in space and became the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. He was at the top of his game.

His book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, serves not only as an autobiography, but as a guide on getting the most out of the life with which we are each gifted. Hadfield works hard and plays hard and rarely does a moment go by that he does not maximize. Yet he is charmingly self-effacing and it’s easy to become a fan. His use of Twitter during his ISS days to connect, educate, awe and inspire is unprecedented. I’m a huge fan. (Witness some of his tweeted pictures that I posted on this blog Jan. - Apr. 2013 )

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An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth belongs in homes and schools everywhere. It’s an affable read, with biographical information, technical details (but not excessive, thank heavens) and photographs. I really enjoyed it and most people I know will also like it a lot. Thanks to Jacquie and Lionel who gave it to me for Christmas! xo!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chocolate Brownies

Valentine's Day is coming closer, so naturally my thoughts have been turning to chocolate. The other day I tried a new recipe for gluten-free brownies. Other g-f brownie and flourless cake recipes I've tried, with almond flour, have tasted really good, but I didn't care for the texture. This recipe from Skinnytaste uses black beans, of all things, so I was a bit doubtful about how the texture would turn out.

Actually, I'm fascinated with recipes that have alternative or unusual ingredients, so for me, making black bean brownies was a great adventure and the bonus was that I enjoyed the end result.

The recipe calls for use of the food processor, so I made sure I processed the heck out of those beans and the result was pretty good, texture-wise. The comment from my other half was that maybe they weren't as sweet as other brownies and I'm thinking that's probably a good thing (I confess that I cut down just a teensy bit when adding the sugar).

Anyway, thanks to Skinnytaste, here's the recipe. About the beans, though: all the beans in my pantry are in 19 oz. cans, so after I drained and rinsed the beans I poured them into a measuring cup and removed a quarter of them before throwing them in the food processor. You'll notice a couple other unusual ingredients besides the beans: balsamic vinegar and ground coffee. Yes, I used them both. The brownies were amazing. In fact, I think I'll indulge in one right now with a cup of afternoon tea. Wish you were here to share one with me!

Amazing Flour-less Brownies
Servings: 16 • Size: 1 brownie
Calories: 144 • Fat: 5 g • Carb: 26 g • Fiber: 3 g • Protein: 4 g • Sugar: 17.5 g
Sodium: 150 mg • Cholesterol: 23 g


·        1 (14 oz) canned low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
·        2 large eggs
·        1/2 cup cocoa powder
·        3/4 cup sugar
·        1/2 teaspoon oil
·        1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk (or dairy, skim)
·        1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
·        1/2 teaspoon baking powder
·        1/2 teaspoon baking soda
·        1/2 teaspoon of fresh coffee grounds or instant coffee
·        1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided (Hershey's)


Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease a non-stick 9 x 9-inch square baking pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.

Blend the black beans, eggs, cocoa powder, sugar, oil, almond milk, balsamic, baking soda, baking powder and coffee grinds in the blender until smooth and pour into a bowl. Fold in 1/2 cup chocolate chips until combined.  Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips evenly over the top of the brownies.

Bake the brownies until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 32 minutes.  Allow the brownies to cool completely before slicing them into squares.
Hope you will also have time to check out other awesome recipes at

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Amazing Architecture

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Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, Tokyo, Japan
Ice hotel at Sorrisniva, Alta, Norway
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Trashed, but still beautiful: church in Germany
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Waterfront clock tower, Cape Town, South Africa
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Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal
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Sangsang Madang, Cultural Art Centre in Seoul, Korea
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Ottoman Mansions on the Bosphorus, Borusan Building
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Hearst Tower, NYC
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The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
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The Prahran Hotel, Melbourne, Australia
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Tower of Terror, Tokyo
Photo: Heddal stave church in Notodden municipality, Norway
Heddal stave church in Notodden, Norway

Photo: Midrand water tower, South Africa.
Midrand water tower in South Africa
Photo: #pink

Amazing Architecture

Saturday, February 8, 2014

More About Knitting

I heard a CBC commentator on the radio this morning say that when he was at the top of one of the Winter Olympic Snowboarding runs he spotted either a volunteer or a spectator (I'm not sure which) sitting in the sunshine.....knitting!! Apparently knitting is very popular in Russia.

This sighting prompted me to post the latest on the scarf I'm knitting and to add a couple of extra things about knitting. 

Here's my scarf so far:

As you can see, it's getting quite long. I'm determined to finish the entire ball of yarn before casting off.
Now onto the Ravellenic Games 2014: A group of knitters (the challenge was dreamed up in 2006 by Toronto knitter, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Yarn Harlot) is participating in a side event to the 2014 Winter Olympics which involves each knitter setting a personal knitting goal to achieve during the course of the Sochi Games. This goal could be a first knitting project ever, as in learning to knit, or learning a new technique or taking on a really big or difficult project. The idea is to cast on during the Opening Ceremonies and cast off during the Closing Ceremonies, though if you missed the opportunity yesterday, what's to stop you now? 
I wonder if the knitter at the top of that snowboard run was participating in the Ravellenic Games

 The knitting project to end all knitting projects!
The other knitting news, or at least it's new to me, is Stitchlinks, a social network that believes that stitch-work, and knitting in particular, can have a beneficial effect on our health.  
  • Knitting can boost our self-confidence and focus our concentration, improve our self-esteem and provide an outlet for excessive energy.
  • Knitting can be meditative, causing us to relax, lowering our stress and anxiety (and our blood pressure). 
  • While relaxing, knitting can also stimulate our brains, especially if we are learning something new.
  • Knitting can be a social activity, as people communicate, share and encourage each other.
  • Knitting makes us happy, through our senses of touch and sight.
  • In the end it provides us with an article which we can either enjoy ourselves, with a sense of accomplishment or give as a gift, thereby making someone else happy. 
  • Is there even a downside to knitting??   
Owl knitting!  CUTE!  (And, no... I don't knit.  I have friends who do, and live vicariously thorough them.)

Here are the Stitchlinks Aims:   
  • To promote the use of therapeutic knitting and stitching through our research.
  • To provide support and friendship and build a global network of friends who understand and care.
  • To combine the knowledge gained from our research with practical health information to help you lead a more fulfilled life.
  • To provide up-to-date information in a down-to-earth format and a dynamic resource for those managing long-term illness, their carers and medical staff.
  • To provide information for those wishing to take a preventative approach to healthcare.
  • To motivate people to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing and to provide ongoing motivation and support in the self-management of health problems.
  •  To provide information for those using therapeutic knitting and stitching in healthcare, schools and the workplace.  
  • To provide information and support for those wishing to teach therapeutic knitting to individuals or run therapeutic knitting groups.
  • To promote crafting and certain other activities as a means of keeping people mentally active, motivated and socially engaged.
Stitchlinks has a research arm, pioneering research into the benefits of crafts, in particular knitting, and through this work developing therapeutic approaches which could change the way we, as a society, view and prioritise wellbeing and treat long-term medical conditions.

I think most people would agree that all stitch-work provides an enjoyable, creative and healthful benefit to practitioners. Why else would we take it up? I sure hope I can at least finish my scarf by the end of these Olympics - that's my goal now.