Monthly Archives: February 2008


China is a hot topic around our place at present and has been for some time now. The reason being that L13, A11 and I will be in China in July this year. As I have mentioned many times the girls belong to Stellae Boreales, a violin ensemble. In the first two weeks of July the ensemble is traveling to China to visit and perform in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

Of course it is a costly exercise to take fourteen musicians and their entourage to China so fundraising is a high priority. The group held their first fund-raising concert back in November and their second is on April 13th. We have the next month to sell tickets, solicit advertising and procure silent auction items. We also have some amazing parents seeking grants and sponsorship from a range of sources.

Every weekend the girls are involved in rehearsals and lately a slew of performances as well. Although it is quite a bit of practising the girls are enjoying being part of a great group of musicians. The camaraderie has developed as the musicians rehearse, travel, eat and kill time together. As a regular attendee of both rehearsals and performances I can see the friendships that have formed over the last months and years. This will only add to the excitement and enjoyment of spending two weeks in China together.

The musicians, including A11 and L13, have been writing about the events of this year and preparations for China. You can read their impressions on the Stellae Boreales blog.

Family Day

Ontario had a new holiday today: Family Day. Andrew had the day off but for the rest of us the only change to our normal routine was an extra hour of sleeping in. It is a bit sad that we spent our Family Day this way but we have had a few interruptions to our schedule lately so I deemed it necessary that school continue.

Last week was far from normal as the girls were at the NAC for a day and a half performing with Stellae Boreales in concerts for schools. They thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being back stage, eating with the orchestra members in the Green Room and performing in five concerts to large audiences. B7 and I went to one of the performances where we sat in one of the boxes, giving us an excellent view of the stage.

Yesterday we celebrated Andrew’s birthday with pancakes for breakfast, a morning at church and an afternoon watching the Ottawa Junior Youth Orchestra in concert. Laura is a second violin in this orchestra and it was great to see them perform their varied and challenging program. While we were enjoying the concert freezing rain was falling outside, turning the carpark into a skating rink. We arrived home without incident but heard this morning that a 737 slid right off the runway into a snowbank.

Snow days

As I have mentioned we have loads of snow this year. This has meant quite a few snow days for the school kids but our children don’t seem to get snow days. We do have days in the snow, however. Ottawa is in the middle of Winterlude, the winter festival held in February each year. One of the attractions is the giant snow slides. So group of four headed to the snow slides last week.




Last Friday afternoon we tried a new location for skiing. It was a wooded area not far from here. Wind had not dislodged the fresh snow from the trees so every tree was still and laden with white. The children skied along discussing how it looked just like the snow scenes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (now why doesn’t that surprise me?)



We did not head down this hill on our X-country skis, by the way.

Two soups

I have two soup recipes to share with you. The first, I made and the other I enjoyed at a friend’s house.

Beef and Barley Soup with Mushrooms

½oz(14g) package dried wild mushrooms such as porcini
1 cup boiling water
1 tbs vegetable oil
8oz(250g) stewing beef, cut into ¼” dice
2 onions, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, peeled and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cracked black peppercorns
½ tsp dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
½ cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 tbs tomato paste
6 cups beef broth
sour cream
finely chopped dill

  1. In a heatproof bowl, soak dried mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve, reserving liquid. Chop mushrooms finely and set aside.
  2. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware.
  3. Add onions, celery and carrots to pan and cook, stirring, until softened. Add garlic, salt, peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaves and cook, stirring , for one minute. Add barley and stir until coated. Stir in tomato paste, chopped mushrooms, beef broth and reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker.
  4. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3-4 hours. Discard bay leaf. Ladle into individual bowls, top with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with dill.

taken from Delicious and Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes Judith Finlayson.

Orange Squash Soup

1 butternut or buttercup squash
1 tbs butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbs ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp cumin
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
¼ cup orange juice concentrate
4½ cup chicken broth
¼ tsp nutmeg
pinch cayenne
salt and pepper
sour cream

  1. Cook squash. Heat butter and add onion, ginger, cumin and cook about 3 minutes.
  2. Add carrot, orange juice, broth and squash. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until carrots and tender
  3. Blend in blender and puree until smooth.
  4. Add spices, return to heat and serve with dollop of sour cream.

Wintry conditions

A snow storm blew in mid morning yesterday and continued for the rest of the day leaving us with a foot or more of snow to deal with. We were out most of the day for our history lesson, followed by cross country skiing. Skiing in amongst the trees kept us from the bearing the brunt of the blowing snow but by the time we finished my hair was two big white clumps of snow. Our homeward trip was a little slippery in places; by this time a lot of snow had fallen and the van had trouble getting going again after it stopped at stop signs.

This morning we woke to bright sunshine but a white, white world. Four of us did some tag team shoveling in order to get out to music lessons and orchestra. Although we live very close to a main road, our own street is often not plowed until well after the surrounding streets. Once out of the driveway I immediately became stuck in the street. Andrew and a couple of neighbours helped push me into the “ruts” so I could drive fifty metres and get stuck again where our street joins the main road! They pushed me out again and we were fine until I attempted to return in the afternoon.

On entering our street I was happy to see the plow had been by, but as I turned the corner I realised the plow was only a few houses ahead of me and the cleared space in the road was only one car wide. I reversed out again, ran an errand, giving the plow time to finish and Andrew time to clear the entry to our driveway. All this detail may seem quite unnecessary to those to live in this city too, but I am still amazed by the whole “snow removal routine” which must be put into practice every time a storm hits. So it is for those who are have never experienced what is now a familiar part of my winter.

After rehearsal were over we met up with a group of people Andrew works with to skate on the canal. It has been open for just over a week and was full of people. The weather was great for skating not too cold and not too warm, just around -4°C. As it was a family skate, I did not feel too bad about my shaky style, there was a 5 year old with the same technique. We spent an hour skating before enjoying a potluck dinner and heading home. The night was not over for the girls who are playing at the Viennese Ball tonight. Stellae Boreales has two time slots finishing at midnight!