Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Hallowe'en!

The boys are all revved up for a big night of Trick or Treating. Cal is dressed up as a skeleton, and Matthew as a cat burglar. Both in black head to toe - should be a fun evening keeping track of them in the dark and the rain.

Last weekend one of our neighbours had a Hallowe'en party. It was a lot of fun for both adults and kids. I made four different patterned cookies to take along. I have to admit that I was a little overzealous and it was kind of painful getting them all done. Oh well, I'm unlikely to learn any useful lesson from this as I'm sure I'll have forgetten the pain by next year.

Thankfully there weren't many colours, and aside from the Jack 'o lanterns, the icing part didn't take too long. My favourites were the spider and web cookies - they were simple, but they did involve planning ahead a number of days. I like to bake the cookies a day before I ice them to prevent fat from bleeding through the icing. And I wanted to add black sprinkles to make the spiders "hairy" so I had to allow an extra day for the white base to dry. It was worth it in the end, and the sprinkles gave the icing extra crunch that the kids loved.

I guess next up is Christmas cookies. I'm looking forward to these as this summer I bought these really awesome cookie cutters to make cookies that can stand up. Like a Rudolph with two sets of legs and a body that you bake separately and then assemble into a 3D creature.

I'm sure I'll be on here cursing them before you know it!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Hallowe'en wreath

I've become a wreath person. I'm not sure how it happened - maybe it's because I've hit middle age. Or maybe I just came to realize that it makes your house look a little nicer to have some sort of decoration up outside.

Oh, and I love the reactions that I get from the boys. Matthew's is usually something along the lines of "now that's a little unnecessary". Cal's is always complimentary, but he's much more sensitive than Matthew and might not want to hurt my feelings.

This wreath, though, they both love. It's so spooky and Hallowe'en-y.

I started off with three black boas (thank goodness for Dollarama - I can always count on them for the boas), a bag of ping-pong eyeballs, a bag of eyeball ring-pops and some silvery spider ribbon.

I just wrapped the boas around and around the wreath form, and then hot glued the eyeballs on. I considered adding in a sparkly black and silver spider,

but decided it was too much on the wreath.

Cal is soooo excited about Hallowe'en this year. And being the rotten disorganized parents we are, we haven't got a pumpkin yet. Alan went out after hockey on Monday night to find one, but the stores that were open were sold out. I guess we'll try tomorrow morning and hope for the best.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Auction Boys

Last month I took the boys to their first auction, up near our cottage. Matthew has been watching Auction Kings on Discovery Channel and was really excited to go. Cal, not so much.

We arrived about half-way through the proceedings and made quite an entrance, with Cal complaining loudly and me hissing at him to quiet down. I would have given up, but Matthew really wanted to go, so I bribed Cal, promising anything from the snack bar if he would stop whining and sit quietly for at least a few minutes. As I was taking money from my wallet his attention was caught by the auctioneer. And he was hooked.

I think I've created a monster.

Both of the kids were eager to bid, so we registered and got a number. It wasn't long before they were begging to buy things. Anything, and everything. There's a vacuum! We don't need a vacuum. But it's only $3!!!

I told them if I bought it I would expect them to use it twice a week on their rooms and lo and behold, it suddenly lost its appeal.

The first item I let them bid on was a set of two hats. Dapper Cal spotted them off to the side and I told him that we could buy them. The auctioneer started at $10, but I told Matthew, who was holding the paddle, to sit tight and see how low it would go. At $2 he signaled that he would buy. When the auctioneer asked $3, Cal's hand shot in the air, as I scrabbled to pull it back down. The auctioneer got some mileage out of this and a big laugh from the audience to see them bidding against each other. They got the hats for $2, and a round of applause.

Matthew wore his hat non-stop for about 5 days, so it was well worth the $1 we payed for it, even if it's a little too small for his enormous cranium.

And Cal made his very first art purchases. There were a variety of paintings, and he found two that he really wanted.

He was as proud as a peacock showing them off to his father when we got home. Thankfully he was convinced to leave them in his bedroom at the cottage - his original plan was to hang these beauties in our living room at home!

And as for me, I bought myself a new wooden bookshelf for $7. You see, I had this little problem going on beside the bed.

I love the new shelf. It needs a little work, but it's all surface damage and will be easy to fix up. That's a project for next summer, though.

All in all, it was a fun morning, and I now have eager companions to join me at auctions.

Friday, 18 October 2013

The smells of childhood

It's funny how a smell can suddenly transport you back to childhood. Every time I handle cut flowers I'm taken back to my grandparent's house; my grandmother was a florist in a small town, and she worked out of their home. I can see and feel the scuffed linoleum underfoot in her workroom and hear the snip of the scissors as she arranged bouquets (or casket sprays - I seem to remember a lot of funeral arrangements).

My grandmother died when I was still quite young, and my father's sister took over the family business. So I think of her when I smell that particular smell as well. And old damp barns - because she had one, not that she smells like one!

The smell of freshly baked bread - that's my Grammie Bea through and through. I think of her every time I mix up a batch of dough and take out a clean dishtowel to cover it while it rises. It's comforting to follow the ways of our parents and grandparents and take them through life with us, perpetuating the rituals and teaching them to our children.

Anyway, this trip down memory lane started this evening when I got home from work and my eyes fell upon this very sorry looking bouquet on my dining room sideboard. It actually looks a little worse in this picture than it did when I got home because I took the picture after I culled the not-yet-wilted flowers.

It was clearly in desperate need of some help. A couple of months ago I bought a vintage mercury glass frog, made to hold small bouquets. The bowl holds water and the glass insert on the top holds the flowers in place.

I love as it extends the time that I can enjoy flowers. When the big vase starts to wilt, I snip off any flowers that are still fresh, and make a mini arrangement that will last for at least a few more days.

I actually prefer the jaunty little bouquets to the bigger ones in vases. I should probably split up the flowers from the start - I just need to keep my eyes open for more antique frogs to hold them!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

I'm alive!

This week my sister finally prodded shamed me into action on the blog front. The month of September was a write off with work. And unfortunately, when the job that pays the bills collides with the blog that’s all for fun, work wins out.

My day job is running a medical research lab. I have about eight people (combination of grad students, post docs and technicians) that I employ. To keep them all paid and the lab running and filled with supplies, I have to get grant money from the federal government. Every five years these grants need to be renewed, and I’m at that point right now. I had one grant due on September 15, and a second one due October 1, so it was all work and no play for the last few months. Once October 1 passed I was so sick of writing that the blog just seemed like an overwhelming task. So it sat here neglected...

My lab studies bacteriophages (or phages), which are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. Every one of us has about ten times more bacterial cells than we have human cells in and on our body (bacteria are way smaller than mammalian cells). And  we have ten times as many phages as we have bacteria. So really, by numbers, we're 90% phage, 9% bacteria, and 1% human; a veritable smorgasboard of microbes, most of which are harmless, and some even helpful.

Phages can't infect us, only the bacteria that live in and on us. But they can do really nasty things to these bacteria when they exist inside them; the toxins that cause cholera, diphtheria, botulism, and E. coli O157:H7 (Walkerton outbreak) are all carried by phages. Phages carry and transmit antibiotic resistance genes and they sometimes encode genes that make the bacteria more infective and better able to hide from, or resist, the human immune system. In this modern age of antibiotic resistant bacteria (like MRSA and C. difficile), understanding how phages control the traits that make bacteria difficult to treat is critical.

On the flip side, because phages infect and kill bacteria, they could possibly be harnessed to do it in a controlled manner and  provide an alternative to antibiotics. My lab is trying to (1) understand all the ways in which phages make bacteria more difficult to treat, and (2) learn how to engineer them to attack and kill bacteria. 

So that's what's been taking up all my brainpower for the past couple of months. Thinking up five years of experiments for a dozen people, and writing grants that will convince a committee to give me millions of dollars is no easy task. Thankfully it's all over now until at least January, when I get the reviews back and find out if I made the cut and got funded. Success rates are about 15-18% right now, so it's a tough slog. 

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I don't have to rewrite - it really cuts into my home reno time!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...