Friday, 24 January 2014

Niagara Falls

Last week we had a short reprieve from the bitter cold temperatures, but it didn't last long as the polar vortex swung our way again this week.  It isn't even the end of January, yet this is already feeling like the longest winter ever.

We headed to Niagara Falls last weekend for a hockey tournament.  Despite the fact that it's definitely more of a summer destination, there were plenty of tourists braving the cold wind with their cameras.  It was incredible to see the falls flowing while the river below was almost completely frozen over.

The mist generated by the falls created a layer of ice on everything.



A little hockey, a little sight seeing, a lot of winter.


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Thursday, 16 January 2014

DSLR Night Photography

So, let's say you have a DSLR camera.  A camera that you never take off of the Auto setting because manual photography is intimidating and the instruction booklet reads like a foreign language.  Suppose you want to shoot some night scenes, because there are some really nice shots to be captured at night, and also because there is considerably less daytime than nightime this time of year.

Attempts at photographing the moon come out looking like this.  Blurry and grainy.  Not at all capturing what the sky looked like that night.

So you go online, determined to learn the best way to take photos at night.  You find all kinds of useful information.  Of course, you share what you found:

DSLR camera settings and tips for taking city landscapes at night

7 Bright Ways How to Shoot Street Photography at Night

Night Photography - Taking Night Shots

Photographing the Night Sky Using Your Digital SLR

Night Photography Tips

Digital Camera World: Night Photography

And you ask for help.  Do you have any good night photography links or tips to add?  Please post them in the comments section!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Snow Days

So far the kids' Christmas vacation has been extended by two days.  Words like 'frost quake' and 'polar vortex' have entered the weather conversation.  We do love to talk about the weather, and as conditioned as we are to the extremes of winter, the state of affairs these past few days warrant more than a casual mention of wind chills and snow squalls.  

It's been COLD, bitter cold.  It's been snowy, and windy, and downright wintry.  I woke up in the middle of the night one day last week to a loud boom, when the overnight low was well into the -30's, colder still with the wind chill.   At the time I had no idea what it was.  Turns out if was a frost quake, something I'd never heard of before.  

We've been under a blizzard advisory for two days.  In all the years that I've lived here, I don't ever recall a blizzard warning.  Snow squall warnings are common, given our proximity to the Great Lakes and all the lake-effect snow they create.  Wind chill warnings aren't news either.  But a full fledged blizzard?  Those only happen on the prairies, or the maritimes, or the northern territories... not here.  Until this week.  All thanks to a pesky polar vortex.

The forecast is for warmer temperatures by this weekend, but we still have a lot of winter ahead of us. Plenty of time for more winter weather conversations.  Maybe even a few more snow days.  Cabin fever is great incentive to get crafty and make, oh, maybe a solar system or something.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Hello 2014, Happy New Year!

We greeted 2014 with waffles yesterday morning.  Belgian Waffles, fresh off the waffle iron seemed a good choice to start the first day of the new year.  Watching the Winter Classic was a great way to spend the afternoon, before heading out to the toboggan hill.

It was cold, and colder still today, -25°C.  As I watched the boys go up and down the hill, I reflected on the time we've enjoyed as a family these past couple of weeks.  It was a busy, happy time.  And it was the most wintry Christmas that I can remember having in a long time.  It snowed almost every day. 

Lessons were learned.  Like the importance of shovelling the driveway before trying to drive out of it.

An ice storm caused a lot of damage just days before Christmas, but those icy trees were a beautiful sight.

We celebrated Christmas three times in three days in three different cities.

Our leaning tree is the one in the middle.  

We ate and drank, and ate some more.  Turkey of course, a spectacular whole filet mignon, and a perfect ham.  Cookies, nuts, chocolates, cakes, and never ending snacks.  My Spinach Dip made a few appearances, as did my Pizza Buns which I'll have to share with you.  I discovered a new favourite red wine,  decided that Cosmopolitans are dangerously delicious, and was reminded that I still don't like champagne.

Fun was had by all, indoors and out.

And the Belgian Waffle recipe that I use?  The one that came with my Cuisinart Waffle Maker:

Buttermilk Belgian Waffles

4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
3½ cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten 

Lightly coat waffle maker with cooking spray.  I try to avoid using cooking spray and prefer to rub a small amount of vegetable oil around the surface with a bit of paper towel.  

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla, butter and eggs in a separate bowl until well combined.  If you don't keep buttermilk on hand, make your own buttermilk with one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar for each cup of milk.  Put the tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in your measuring cup, then add the milk to make one cup of buttermilk.  Allow to sit for a few minutes before combining with the other ingredients.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour two cups of batter onto the prepared, preheated waffle maker. Quickly and carefully spread the batter evenly. Close the cover and cook until indicator light lets you know waffles are ready!  Serve immediately.

This recipe makes 20 waffles, go ahead and cut the quantities in half if you're not feeding an army.  Also the 2 cup measure of batter is for a four slice square waffle maker.  You may have to adjust the amount if you have a different waffle maker.  As amazing as the kids think it is to watch the batter ooze out the sides when you've used too much batter, it's a helluva mess to clean. 

We top our Belgian Waffles the same way we top our Oven Baked French Toast, with maple syrup, strawberries and powdered sugar, but the waffle topping possibilities are endless.  How do you top your waffles?

Happy New Year!

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