January 30, 2011

Same old story. The past week has been loaded with teaching, house, and Dexter. When I tried to hang out with a good friend after work the other day, I actually fell asleep.

Fatigue aside, I have been wearing lots of polka dots.

And I baked an epic amount of cookies the other day.

And made lemon curd.

However, the most exciting thing is... we started a Bokashi compost!

Michael Thomas, an eager environmentalist, got in touch with Don about our family starting up one of these urban composts (no worms, no mice) in our home. Mike is doing a little experiment where he places these Bokashi composts in a variety of environments (urban couple, apartments, houses with lots of kids, offices) and we're supposed to keep track of our compost's progress and how we feel about living with it.

Awesome, huh? This is the perfect hibernation project. Don and I have always wanted to start a compost in the backyard but it just never ended up happening. Now we have the perfect excuse, and a very "us" way of doing it. With the combination of our organic stuff going in the compost and the blue bag recycling we get here in Edmonton? I am really eager to see how little garbage our house creates.

So here is how it works:

You take your compost stuffs (we had tons of coffee grounds, some mini oranges that were dried out, pear core, banana peel, mint stems, cucumber skins, and garlic skins).

Your assistant gets you the bag of Bokashi.

And you get your pail ready.

Dexter and Don sprinkle Bokashi in the bottom of the pail.


*sprinkle some more*

Add food scraps.

Sprinkle more Bokashi.

Dexter insists on more Bokashi.

Then we covered it with a plastic file folder thing (they suggest squishing it down with a plastic plate or something like that, to minimize the exposure to air, especially in the beginning before the compost is super packed down). Covered it up, and now we will repeat the sprinkling of food scraps and Bokashi as food scraps become available.

Apparently there is an amazing compost tea that we get to drain every 3ish days, and diluted with water this can be used on our house plants (or the garden in the summer). It's supposed to make the house plants go insane.

We were also told that the compost very rarely goes "wrong" and that each batch is really unique. Sometimes it has more moisture and sometimes less. This can be controlled with adding more Bokashi and making sure to give the compost a stir every now and then to make sure the moisture is evenly distributed throughout the mix.

If it does go horribly wrong, the batch can merely be dumped into the regular trash and taken away to the city's own composting system. Or if everything is broken up and you want to start a new batch? Take your mega-compost and place it in the garbage, and your compost will assist and accelerate the city's compost. So awesome.

Stayed tuned for my Bokashi updates, and if you're interested in a Bokashi experiment of your own, you can get hooked up at Ecoliving Organics or if you're in Edmonton you can find all these goodies at Earth's General Store.

The frozen roads may keep me bungalow-bound, but that won't keep me from doing regular everyday things that make ecological sense. Bokashi!

Toddler Mealtime.

January 26, 2011

So Dexter is so cute all the time, right?

Then imagine my surprise when it's time to have some potato leek soup at lunch time.

The horror!

Ah, the wonderful adventure of mealtime with a toddler.

How charming.


Shaping Public Transit.

January 25, 2011

I just got word yesterday that Raymond Bachant, the president for North America Bombardier Transportation, will be giving a talk tomorrow at noon!

It's exciting for me to imagine the same sort of fervour people usually have for new cars and pick up trucks, applied to trains and trolleys.

And this, quoted from the notice I received:

"With hundreds of vehicles now being manufactured in our country, Bombardier is set to deliver the next generation of streetcars, subway cars, light rail vehicles and commuter trains that are the backbone of rail based public transit system in major Canadian cities."


If I didn't have a physio appointment I absolutely cannot miss (oh chronic back pain from motor vehicle collision, how I detest you), I would be there. Perhaps one of Mr. Bachant's talks can be found online somewhere...

If any of you readers happen to attend, please drop me a line in the comments to let me know how it was!

Sunny Day.

January 23, 2011

Though the snow is epic, the sun finally came out! Since coming home it's been a constant barrage of duty and darkness. Quite literally, the sun is only out for a short period of time.

We seized the opportunity to walk about snowy Belgravia, and to photograph the knee-deep snow.

Our 5 minute journey to the dog park was made so pleasant from shovelled walks.

You have to bring treats if you're going to let Dougal off leash, or else he might not come back.

Dexter with his mommy!

So cute, huh? We really missed him while we were away.

Dougal went nuts in the snow piles. Got lots of exercise today.

No more sitting on the benches until the snow melts.

We missed the furry guy too.

We may have much snow and jet lag, but the family time trumps it all.

It was a happy, sunny day.

It's in these deep winter months that I really hibernate. Biking for me is about fun and efficient transportation all rolled into one. Although I do see people out riding, I am still biding my time for better conditions. In cities like Edmonton I feel as though the combination of cycling and public transportation, and perhaps some supplemental car usage, is likely to be more palatable to those who would otherwise consider transportation alternatives to just driving everywhere, all the time.

For me, the whole point about the blog is to share a bit of my life, a life where I am heavily conscious of my transportation choices. Were I to live in Hong Kong full-time (particularly in Mong Kok) I would no doubt never have to plan on buying groceries for a whole week, worry about whether I can push Dexter's stroller on the sidewalk due to the snow, or resign myself to knowing my cycling limits and needing to drive on occasion.

In these winter months my attitude towards transportation is much more defensive than it is offensive. The application of some perspective on moderation suits me very well, and since I don't particularly prefer driving, I only do it when I must. One can embark on the quest for sustainable transportation practice in a variety of ways. I like consciousness and choice. And sometimes I choose not to go out at all as a way to save a car trip.

Instead, we have fun in our neighbourhood doing hibernation-like things instead of battling the roads. Watching movies. Having brunch. Walking the dog on a sunny afternoon. Spending time building mega blocks towers with Dexter. Ordinary stuff that we should be careful not to take for granted.

There are many ways to save on trips made by car. Taking the bike or bus is one way. So is organization and planning, so less running around needs to occur with errands. Carpooling with friends is also handy. And even having an appreciation for hibernation can play a part. At least that is part of my strategy during this very snow-ful time!

Gaining Ground.

I must admit that it has been difficult to get back into the swing of things. Not so much in terms of work and Dexter, but the jet lag is having its way with me. The 4 am wakings and mid-afternoon/early evening slump are trying, though I can see it's slowly improving.

I thought I would look at some photos from this time last year and I stumbled across this one Raffaella took of me and Leanne one January evening in 2010. I love this one for a couple of reasons. One of the main benefits to riding my winter mountain bike is that I can carry it, which is very handy with the windrows and horrid residential streets during Edmonton winters. I like that I am wearing my favourite old boots. I like that I am wearing my trusty parka. And I like remembering an evening out with my friends!

Usually when I am taking the bike out in the winter there is no time for leisurely photo shooting. I just run to the garage, grab the bike, and ride! I also need to get on top of putting a front basket onto the Kona, so that I can carry more groceries and more easily lug around my camera.

The bottom line with this post is that I'm stuck in the trenches of reverting back to every day life, with very little sleep and free time. Though, I am looking forward to when I can once again feel enthused and energetic enough to photograph outfits and fun on the bike and good food and friends.

I look even more forward to when the streets are clear enough for me to ride again. I don't like playing the "Canadian Winter" card, but the snow here is... quite ridiculous. Oatmeal. A ride that would ordinarily take me 10 minutes can take me up to 35-45 minutes in this snow. Maybe I'll attach a sled to the Kona and pull Dexter in this monumental snow!

For now, be patient with me as I get back on track:)


January 19, 2011

We were told that Macau was a fun day trip, just a one hour ferry ride from HK. It's like Vegas, but with lots of Chinese people.

It was a crazy mix of East and West, with little corner stalls like this one.

Next to Portuguese buildings like this one.

Lots of shopping.

This cute girl was giggling uncontrollably because she was amazed at how tall Don was. She asked him if she could take a photo with him, so I doubled up on the photo fun.

It had been a really long time since I had been in a proper Catholic church.

OMG. I look so much like my mom in this photo! I really love how the public squares and benches are all tiled.

The streets are all cobbled, European style.

After a highly civilized lunch at Aurora, we went on a hunt for the Laikei ice cream shop. My uncle Albert is a big fan of the ice cream sandwiches there, and apparently the place hasn't been renovated or changed since the late 60s.

It was a time warp! And I got my hands on the infamous ice cream sandwich. Wafers on the outside and tri-flavoured inside. Coffee, egg custard, and coconut.

Then we walked in the direction of a bunch of the casinos.

Wacky hotels have sprung up around the pre-existing buildings.

I can appreciate that hotels need to be glitzy, but I found I liked the MGM the most. It wasn't as "themed" as some of the other ones.

Oh, like the Venetian! It's uh... undeniably grand and luxurious, but it's so produced. I know that's the point. Fun to walk through and look at, however, I am not dying to stay there any time soon.

We took in The House of Dancing Water show. Very cirque du soleil, with an incredible theatre built for the stage which is actually a deep pool. There was lots of impressive diving!

After dinner we walked to the old village in Cotai and had rustic dinner at a Portuguese place, O Santos.

And then it was back on the ferry to catch a ride back to HK! Watch out for the rush to get on the ferry. Despite the fact that we were all scheduled to be on the same ferry, there was a frenzy when it was time to board. Same goes for standing in line for immigration and such. There seemed to be a need for pushing, shoving, budding, and total lack of manners. The person standing in line behind you WILL elbow you in the back several times. People will cut in line in front of you and pretend like nothing is wrong.

I had to turn around and inform the person behind me that they were hitting me, and request that they stop. And I also had to inform the lady who cut in line right in front of me that I was standing there first.

Man, its the law of the jungle out there at the ferry terminal!

Perhaps it's the laid back Canadian in me, but I'm used people holding doors open, queuing properly and requesting politely when they want to pass. I was happy to see such a wacky hybrid of a city, what with all its spectacle. If you go, just remember to bring your pushy A-game at the ferry terminal!

Sam Tung Uk.

January 18, 2011

Please forgive the interruption in posting! Travel and settling back into the bungalow have left me with scarcely any time in front of a computer. Good news is Dexter and Dougal were very happy to see us again and we're all one big happy family after the reunion. Bad news is that I'm sort of jet-lagged, but life is propelling me forward nonetheless.

For now, however, let me tell you about the day I took the Tsuen Wan line to the very last stop, and went to visit my dad's village.

See? Me outside of the village where my dad grew up. This is where he spent his childhood! The building has since then been restored and preserved as a museum so that people may learn about Hakka culture.

Warning. Now that I've gone through the photos from this day I realize that many of the pictures look similar. Here I am at the front door entrance of Sam Tung Uk. There are several entrances and little courtyards before you arrive at the temple in the middle.

Also, at this point in the trip I had become accustomed to Hong Kong's winter and needed to wear pants and buy a coat.

All about the Chan clan.

More passages before the temple.

And here we are at my dad's family's suite. I think this is technically next door to the actual unit he used to live in, because a few of the suites were consolidated for the purposes of the museum's displays.

The rooms are small. Very small. My dad, his three brothers and some cousins would all sleep on straw mats up in a little loft above the main living area (which had my grandparents' bed, the table to eat at, etc).

The design is interesting. The mini courtyard only has a roofline around the edges. The rain collects in the little square basin in the floor, you just walk along the sides to avoid getting wet.

The restoration team took great pains to find the exact sort of roof tiles used in the village's original construction. In the background there you can see the residential high rises where there used to be farmland.

It's a beefy roof.

Here is one of the "dining" sets. Pretty rustic, don't you think?

This is what a kitchen would look like.

And here, the little village temple.

There are lots of things you're not supposed to do at the museum. I find the funny one the one not permitting loud talking, since Hakka men have a reputation for being really LOUD.

It's sort of a maze of passageways and corridors.

After checking out the village (I had been there previously in 2007 but this was Don's first time) we went for a coffee break and then took a mini bus up the hill to visit the newly relocated Chan temple.

I am a big fan of these carved doors.

The door handles are so old school.

Same goes for the lights.

Talk about going back to my roots. Growing up I heard so many stories about my dad's childhood and how it shaped his character. Dad was really quite poor and his family basically grew all their own food. He flew kites and made toys out of found objects. He caught insects and got one new outfit a year at Chinese new year. It really makes me realize how much I take for granted, considering how different my own childhood was!

It was really an honour to visit dad's old home and I am very proud to come from a line of hardworking (although stubborn) people. Hakka women are known to be very capable and productive. Sounds about right:)

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