Thursday, 28 March 2013

Edible Dragons

In the spirit of getting a little more adventurous, Ariel and I decided that every time we visit the grocery store, we'll try something new. Some ethnic dish, maybe, or an exotic spice, or something wild and crazy from the produce aisle.

Sometimes our palates are less that pleased, but often, the "new" food becomes a family favourite. Such is the case with Dragon Fruit (or, as it's more formerly known, the white-fleshed Pitahaya).

Glamour Fruit

Ariel adores dragons, so anything related is an obvious choice for her. The idea of eating something from the cactus family fascinates me; plus, we think the Dragon Fruit is especially pretty. It looks kinda like a hot pink pineapple, though smaller and less prickly. And when you slice it open--Surprise! Inside, is milky white flesh dotted with tiny black seeds similar to a kiwi.

The skin has almost a rubbery texture, and peels easily, which means it's easy to prepare and makes very little mess. I like that in a fruit. We're fascinated by the contrasting colours, and, being pink kinda girls, we're still trying to figure out how to use that pop star pink skin as fabric dye.

At first glance, the fruit appears a bit dry, but is juicy as a melon when you pop a chunk into your mouth. The flavour is very delicate: mildly sweet with a little hint of tartness here and there. The tiny seeds add a nice little  crunch.

My husband doesn't think much of the Dragon Fruit, but the kids and I give it two thumbs up. It's an inexpensive, easy-to-prepare delicacy that's pretty enough, well, to eat!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Entomology Art

 My daughter's fascination with all things that squirm, wiggle, slime and crawl began in toddlerhood. I remember her at the age of two, sitting in a lotus pose in her carseat with a squirming ant pinched delicately between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Whenever I'd hear, "Mommy, can you please hold these for a minute?" I'd first look for tiny legs wiggling out from between the cracks of her little fingers before I'd agree to hold whatever she was clutching. 

Recently, my husband found a beautifully intact (dead) dragonfly on the deck of the ferry he works on, and brought it home for Ariel. Later, she found a large moth that had died with its proboscis extended, which she spent hours examining with a magnifying glass. Eventually, an assortment of tiny wings--some bird, some insect--found their way into her collection, along with a piece of wasp hive and a pretty yellow moth. 

Dead insect wall art may not be everyone's cup of tea. But Ariel wanted to hang hers on her bedroom wall, and we knew that storing them in paper cups and old light bulb boxes wasn't the most reliable way to keep them safe. 

Here's what I did:

I bought three, inexpensive shadow boxes from a crafts store and punched out the plexiglass, then washed them with watered down Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey for a lovely, weathered wood effect. The frames are roughly (translate: cheaply) made, but I didn't bother sanding the wood because I liked the rustic look created by the raised grain.

The frames didn't have hangers on the back, so I used my small staple gun to attach a bit of ribbon for hanging.  I didn't bother to paint the entire back of the frame; only the parts that show when you look at the shadow box from the front.

I used a lovely scrap of oatmeal coloured silk to cover the wooden frame backing. I simply cut a square piece one inch larger than the backing, and attached it with fabric glue-tape. Then I very carefully attached the dragonfly to the wooden backing with a straight pin. I did the same for all three frames, attaching the smaller insects and wings with a tiny dab of hot glue, using tweezers to arrange the most delicate specimens without damaging them.

I inserted the backings into the frame and voila! I like the look of them. They are little bits of  Mother Nature's perfection, with Shabby Chic appeal. To me, the rough, muted grey wood looks sophisticated paired with the silk, and the ribbon gives a little pop of fun colour, like robin's eggs in a nest of twigs. 

My only complaint: the slight rippling of the fabric, which appeared when I put the frames back together. Next time, I'll use more glue-tape to adhere the fabric firmly in place.  

I think they'd look smashing in my dining room, but then again, not everyone likes to look at bugs while they eat. Perhaps I'd better stick to shells...

So, bugs on the wall: Ick or Art? I suppose, as with so many things, it's all in the eye of the beholder.

Friday, 8 March 2013

In Honour of International Women's Day: A Confession and A Challenge

It may seem an odd confession to make on International Women's Day, but I'm afraid that in some ways, I'm not a very good feminist.

Let me explain. I believe every woman and girl should be loved, cherished and respected for the way she enriches this world, no matter where she lives or what path she chooses for her life. I am committed to raising my daughter to believe, right down to the core of her being, that nobody can ever hold her back from creating her own future. But do I always set a good example?

In my house, there are definite blue and pink jobs. Most of the time, it's a division according to my husband's and my particular talents, which makes sense; in fact, to recognize each other's strengths and weaknesses and work together accordingly forms the foundation of any good partnership. Doug's great at fixing the plumbing, while I've got a knack for managing finances. He doesn't mind taking out the garbage, while I don't mind giving the kids a bath. But there are times when I wonder: do I hide behind my so-called weaknesses to get out of doing distasteful tasks? I could learn to renovate the garage, but I don't know much about home repairs. Plus, I absolutely hate measuring things. Is this just a shameful excuse?

In my professional capacity as a freelance journalist (and formerly financial office-type), I hide behind nothing. I don't let gender or insecurities get in my way. I am ambitious, I set goals, and I do my best to achieve them. I'm not afraid to flex my intellectual muscles; to jump in and get my brain cells dirty.

But when it comes to fixing a leaky toilet, or changing the oil in the car, or installing a baseboard heater, I step back and let the men in my life do their thing.

What holds me back? I'm small for a grown up, and not very strong. I get scared easily when it comes to physical things (I didn't even ditch my bike training wheels until I was eight years old!). I get frustrated and embarrassed when I can't do something simply because...I just can't. And some things are boring or tedious or distasteful to me. Like everyone else, I have things I'm good at and love doing, and things I'm lousy at or just plain hate.

In Grade 9, I was one of only two girls who signed up for woodworking class. The project for the term was to make a side table with one drawer. Failure to complete the project meant an F grade. Our teacher pulled us girls aside and told us if we found the side table too hard, we could make a lamp instead and be graded the same as all the boys who completed their "harder" project. I was furious! How dare he be so condescending? No way was I taking the easy road; I'd show him what girls could do with a few board feet of lumber!

Near the end of term, I was sadly behind and in danger of failing the class. My problem? I was deathly afraid to use the big machines. Maybe it was the slideshow of horrible, machine-related injuries our teacher showed us at the beginning of the term by way of safety training. But I couldn't get near the table saw.

I chucked my self-respect to the wolves and meekly asked if I could, after all, make the lamp.

As it turned out, I adored making that lamp. I had no fear of the lathe, and loved shaping my laminated blocks of wood into something beautiful. I loved seeing the wood grain appear as I chiseled and sanded the curves until I could hold my design in my hands. I drilled a hole through the centre, wired it, added a matching lampshade and turned my project in. I got an A in that class and gave the lamp to my mother for her birthday.

Was this just a matter of working within my talents and abilities, or did I simply wimp out? To this day, I'm filled with equal parts shame and pride whenever I look at that lamp.

And this is where Glamping comes in.

I think the biggest reason I've taken to glamping so passionately is that it challenges me to get comfortable outside my comfort zone; to pick up my power tools (no table saws, though) and fix up my trailer myself. The dangling carrot is that I get to pretty up my very own playhouse exactly the way I want!

The whole idea is that it's a girl thing. Grab your toolbox, girls! Says MaryJane Butters, the Mother of All Glamping Sisters. You don't need a man's help to refurbish your vintage trailer or drive you through mountains and valleys to get to that glamping rally halfway across the country! You can park your trailer like a pro, pump your own sewage, fix a flat tire along the way, and set up the prettiest darned campsite anyone's ever seen! This glamping thing is all yours; don't let anyone tell you how to do it!

I feel like someone waved a magic wand over my head and said: "I hereby grant you permission and the physical ability to do what you've never done before." I'm not sure I've ever been inspired quite in this way, but I'm determined to this glamping thing all by myself, pink jobs, blue jobs and everything in between. Like my turned-wood lamp, I think I've found a way to master stuff outside my realm of comfort in a way that simultaneously allows my talents to shine. I'm driven by a need to prove to myself that I won't back down, won't give in, won't wind up sitting in the passenger seat forever after while my husband parks the trailer. There's a whole lot of character development going on here, thanks to this whole glamping thing and all my Fairy Godmothers out there who are already doing it. I can't wait to see where it takes me.

From Canada and Australia to Europe and all across the United States, Glamping Sisters are doing it for themselves. Three cheers for every blessed woman out there.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Have Bucket List, Will Travel

Do you have a bucket list full of places you'd love to visit in your glamper? 

Ours is filling up fast. By the time our glamper is ready to roll, we might need a bigger bucket! 

Here's a travel destination to get us started:

Tofino, Vancouver Island, BC

From our home in Sidney on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the small, coastal town of Tofino is only a few hours' drive north--ideal for newbie glampers like us. The wilderness here is just about as Beautiful British Columbia as you can get! Ever heard of Long Beach? Or the famed West Coast Trail? Or Pacific Rim National Park? Well, this is it! Orca and grey whales, hot springs, and the wide open Pacific ocean...Mother Nature doesn't get much better than this. Hey, don't forget your surf-board, baby!

MacKenzie Beach. Photo used with permission from Bella Pacifica Campground.

Bella Pacifica Campground had me at the first glamper-themed photo on their too-cool-for-words website. We'll be right at home there--I'll even bring along my guitar for a little campfire croonin'. At night we'll fall asleep to the sound of the big surf crashing on the sands of MacKenzie Beach...

Photo used with permission from Bella Pacifica Campground

and first thing in the morning we'll race to see who's brave enough to test the cold waters first. Surf's up!

Photo used with permission from Bella Pacifica Campground

Photo used with permission from Bella Pacifica Campground.

Good thing my kids are homeschooled, 'cause we'll probably want to stay awhile!

For more information (and gorgeous photos) visit: