Rockland Community Garage Sale

The whole town of Rockland sets aside the holiday Monday of the Victoria Day Weekend every year for the Rockland Community Garage Sale. The sale centers around the parking lot of the Independant Grocer on Laurier Street, where a flea market pops up for the day while the main store is closed. (I believe the garden center was open, though.) While this is the hub of activity, the sales continue throughout the town and a leisurely walk or drive around will lead you to some scores.

I spent the day out searching for finds with a friend of mine. She’d been going to this sale for many years, and she is the one who alerted me to its existence — I’d never gone before! My friend was hoping that a particular booth with scrapbooking supplies would be there again this year; sadly, we never found that particular vendor. However, we both came away with some fantastic bargains.

Front to back, left to right, I came home with:

– a bag of white Christmas bead garland (free)
– a bag of tiny Christmas balls (free)
– three sets of light-up LED shoelaces ($5 each)
Borderlands for the PS3 ($5 — and yes, somehow I didn’t have the original game)
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS ($5)
Pokemon Pearl Version for the Nintendo DS ($5)
Pokemon Diamond for the Nintendo DS ($5)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief for the Nintendo DS ($5)
– a brand new Hogwarts scarf ($3)
– a fish bowl or possibly a candle globe (free)
– a small lunch box ($0.25)
– a bread maker (free — to replace mine, which I’ve worn out)
– Super MasterMind ($2)
– a massive load of glass marbles ($10)
– two pictures ($0.50 each — and I only want the frames to try out Epbot’s frame resizing tutorial)

According to my math, that means that I spent $56.25, which is generally more than I’ll spend in a day of thrifting, but those DS games will be saved for Thing 1’s birthday, so I feel I’m ahead of the game there.

I think my favourite find, I think, was the big bags of marbles. This was a combined purchase from a couple of different sources, but I love the look and weight of them all. I’m determined to teach the girls how to play this summer. I don’t know how they’ve managed to miss it, but although the kids have a double-set marble run that they build regularly, they don’t play the game the way I used to as a kid. I think it’s a good thing to learn, and maybe they can teach it to their friends. Who knows, perhaps I’ll start a classic childhood game fad at their school?

Ottawa Comicon 2018 Friday Pro Pics

As we do every year, we went to Richard Dufault‘s booth and had him take professional pictures of us in our costumes. As such, all the photos in this post are his work — and, as always, they are great!

Our Friday cosplay was from the video game Borderlands 2, which my husband and I play and, after Thing 1 watched us play for a while over our shoulders, we decided she could play along with us. Thing 2 is much too young for said game play (she’s really more on a Terraria level at this point), but she has watched over her big sister’s shoulder as she plays and had to get in on the fun.

My mother joined in on this cosplay even though she doesn’t play the game, and she went as a pretty darned good Scooter, and NPC who is the son of Mad Moxxi and Jimbo Hodunk, brother of Ellie. She made most of her costume, although my father made her armour and wrench out of foam.

I went as the player character Gaige the Mechromancer, although you might note if you look at the reference photos that there are some liberties taken with the costume. One of the great things about this game are the skins (alternate colour schemes) and heads (exactly what it sounds like) that you can earn throughout the game to customize your character. I chose the Grease Monkey head and Horrible Religion skin. As for the fact that I’m missing a few accessories… Well, I ran out of time. I was pretty proud of the fact that I made my first ever foam armour in the shape of a prosthetic metal arm, though. It’s not perfect, but not bad for a first go! And I am wearing a wrench on one ankle in a holster, and a hammer at my back in a belt pouch… But of course you can’t see that in these pictures, because I was trying to show off my “arm”.

Thing 1 went as the player character Maya, the Siren. The reason she’s holding her hand with the “tattoos” the way she is is that she’s supposed to be summoning kind of a lightning ball or a force bubble, which is a physical manifestation of her Siren power. (Trust me, it makes sense in the game.) That’ll have to be edited in at a later date. As with my costume, Thing 1 got to choose the skin and head, so she’s wearing the Professor of Pain head and the Light Urple skin. I chose to kind of de-sexify this costume a bit, i.e. remove the “boob window”, since Thing 1’s only a kid and I didn’t think it appropriate at her young age.

Last but not least, Thing 2 went as Tiny Tina. Yes, purists will notice that there are a few accessories missing, but I challenge you to keep a myriad of props attached to an excited six-year-old… I didn’t even try, and went with a simplified version. The only real impracticality of the costume she did end up with was the mask on the side of the head, which kept having to be readjusted. Thing 2 really liked being able to pose in silly ways and still stay in character, since Tiny Tina is actually a child in the game — and a demolitions expert. Trust me, it makes sense in context.

These were probably the most difficult and time-consuming costumes for the con, partially because I had to make three of them, partially because I had to work with stretch fabrics, and partially because the game puts so many tiny details into their character design! I do take comfort in the fact that we plan on wearing the costumes again for Halloween — provided that the girls don’t grow too much.

Serger

I reached a personal milestone last night: not only did I successfully use my serger, but I worked with stretch fabric and I didn’t mess up! I mean, it’s not perfect, but it works. It’s hard to describe the sense of quiet triumph that is running through me at the moment.

(Okay, well, I did put in a sleeve of Thing 1’s bodysuit inside-out, but that had nothing to do with either the serger or the type of fabric. Honestly, I can’t count how many times I’ve done that just with plain old cotton. It’s kind of embarrassing.)

A friend of mine has the same serger herself, and she was insistent that I use mine for its intended purposes instead of letting it sit and gather dust. She even threaded it for me, which honestly was the part that I found the most intimidating. (Well, that and the cutting blade.) My mom bought me this serger last year and I had such big plans for it, but I kept letting the complexity of the machine overawe me. Now I have dreams of simple circle skirts once ComicCon is over and done with…

Work in Progress

Still working on costumes! (This will remain a constant for the next week and a bit.) Hence, not a lot of cooking going on around here. But I do have some progress to report:

Thing 2’s costume is mostly done. I need to make two more pouches (why does this character have so many pouches?) and a bit more detail work. Oh, and a mask. But it feels almost complete, anyway. If you know the game, by now you’ll be able to recognize what it’s supposed to be, anyway.

In thrifting news, I was looking for costume parts the other day when I stumbled upon a food mill for $7.99. It’s pristine, in great working order, and has a total of three different sized disks. I’d been considering buying one of these new for ages, mostly for applesauce and apple butter, but I’d put it off because I really couldn’t justify the expense. But for that price, I wasn’t going to wait! Hopefully it will speed up the process come autumn.

Fire Station 54

I know this isn’t the kind of thing that I usually write about, but as this is a public venue, and I figure that I should take advantage of it as such. I wanted to say a big thank-you to the fire fighters at Fire Station 54 in Blackburn Hamlet.

You see, Thing 1 needed a picture of a fire station for a poster board that she was preparing for a presentation to her Girl Guide group. Instead of photocopying something out of a book or printing something she’d found online, I suggested that we take a drive and visit an Ottawa fire station. She was dubious at first, but then she was persuaded that first-hand reporting would be more impressive for her presentation.

So we drove out to Fire Station 54, where two fire fighters were in the middle of parking a truck on the side lot. I asked if I could take a picture of the truck with my good camera for my daughter’s project, and they were more than happy to comply. Then they suggested that Thing 1 and Thing 2 get a chance to sit inside the driver’s seat, then check out the inside of the cab and ask questions. Then the fire fighters offered to set up the outriggers and extend the ladder so the girls could see how high it goes (about five stories, apparently).

After they put the ladder away, the fire fighters suggested that the girls go on a brief tour of the station. They got to see the garage, the fire fighting suits, the dispatch room, and most importantly to the kids, the fireman’s pole (which is, in the case of this particular station, located in its own closet).

I have lots of reasons to respect fire fighters. I mean, they’re heroes, both to the community and to me personally. On July 16th, 2012, I almost lost my little brother to a house fire caused by an electrical fault in a nearly-new air conditioner. Although he did manage to get out of the house on his own, the fire fighters had to contain the fire and put it out. So I have a lot of personal respect for them as well. But now, after my kids were treated so nicely, our local fire fighters have made a great impression on our family. Honestly, Thing 1 is super pumped about the whole experience and now she wants to be one when she grows up. To this I say: work those muscles, girl, you’re going to need them!

Easter Celebrations

Our family’s Easter celebrations can happen any time over the long weekend, to coordinate with peoples’ schedules. Barring illness (we’ve had a couple of spring bugs work their way through our family over Easter, so those years nobody much cared about chocolate), though, the Easter Bunny visits after the kids go to bed on Easter Eve, so that there are gifts for the children to find first thing on Easter Sunday.

In our family, the Easter Bunny hides chocolate eggs around the main level of the house, but Easter baskets are put together by Mom and Dad. Although it may look like a lot of stuff, it’s generally dollar-store or thrift-store finds (except for the Skip-It-like toys this year). The downside is that sometimes the gifts aren’t of the highest quality, like the Crazy Eggs (Eights) deck from the dollar store that was entirely spades… Hmm, manufacturer’s flaw much? The toy I thought was the coolest was the Sew Science kits, which provided the materials and instructions for the kids to make their own sewn circuits that really light up. Super cool! I think the kids were most enthused about the K’Nex kits, though.

This year Hubby and I got little Easter baskets as well, although this isn’t always the case. Hubby’s basket was filled with his favourites: Farm Boy fresh jujubes, Twizzlers Nibs, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, and Sweet Tarts. I got a big bag of Whopper Robin Eggs, sock yarn, and a cute Peeps lunch box.

Easter afternoon is basically time for everyone to eat chocolate, the kids to play with their new toys, and the adults to prep for dinner. I baked an apple pie using the crust from page 73 of The All-New Purity Cook Book (Elizabeth Driver, 2001), as usual, and the filling from page 678 of the Joy of Cooking (Rombauer & Becker, 2006 edition).

I was actually excited to be able to use my new-to-me Tupperware 12″ Pie Taker for the first time in order to bring the pie to my parents’ place. I was so happy to find this because I usually transport my pies in Ziploc bags, but the top of the bags have a bad habit of getting stuck to the top of the pie. The Tupperware worked much better!

I made hot cross buns again this year (page 37, Baking Bread: Recipes From Around the World for the Complete Home Baker by Audrey Ellison (1995)). I think they turned out much better than last year’s, but I’d forgotten that last year I burned the first batch cooking them at the recommended temperature for the recommended time. I almost made the same mistake again! Luckily, I got them out just in time. I think they should take 12 minutes to bake, max (instead of the recommended 15 to 20 minutes in the book). This year I also used the glaze after baking, and boy was it sweet and sticky! The kids seemed to like it, though.

Mom put on her traditional turkey spread for our family of four, my parents, and their good friends Mrs. and Mr. B. (I guess the more traditional roast would be lamb, but Mom doesn’t like it and since she’s the cook, what she says goes. Mom gave us all the choice between pork and turkey, and we chose turkey.) It was delicious! It included roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash casserole with walnuts, Brussels sprouts, gravy, and… Oh, what am I missing?

That’s right, everybody’s favourite part: Dad’s famous Yorkshire pudding! Dad only used to make this for roast beef meals, and then he’d only make a single batch. In the last few years we’ve managed to persuade him that any roast meat with gravy needs to be paired with Yorkshire pudding, and that a double batch in the bare minimum quantity. They never, ever go to waste.

Of course, my mom set the table with seasonally-appropriate cloth napkins and adorable napkin rings.

I wanted to say thanks again to Mom and Dad for hosting such a delicious meal! And I hope that you all had a lovely Easter — or, for those who don’t celebrate the holiday, a fantastic long weekend!

Seasonal School Snacks

I mentioned in my last post that since it’s in season, I wanted to do more cooking with maple syrup over the next little while. Well, after reading a book about kids learning to cook, Thing 1 has been bugging me to make fruit leather with her. Since fruit leather is just pureed fruit that has been dried, I figured why not? Also, it’s a great way to use up an overabundance of fresh fruit (not really a problem here in the spring) or the fruit that you’d forgotten about in the freezer (more of an issue of mine right now).

My parents actually used to make fruit leather and dried fruit for my brother and I when we were kids. This was the era of the Fruit Roll-Up, but my brother’s sensitivity to corn (and hence corn syrup) made most versions of this store-bought snack inadvisable. Actually, the dehydrator that I’m using now is exactly the same one we used when I was a kid; my parents let me have it when they realized they hadn’t used it since my brother and I moved out.

The instructions for the dehydrator recommend that if you’re going to use a sweetener when making fruit leather, you should “use corn syrup, honey or fruit juice instead of granulated sugar which tends to crystallize”. We’ve discovered that maple syrup actually makes a great, all-natural sweetener for fruit leather that does not crystallize — and it adds a lovely flavour as well.

As an aside, if you don’t have a dehydrator, you can make fruit leather in the oven by drying it out at 200°F (93°C) for eight hours or so… But a dehydrator is a much smaller machine and uses a lot less electricity, so if you’re going to make fruit leather often, I’d recommend buying a purpose-built machine.

This is also the week leading up to Easter, which in our family means at the very minimum it’s time to dye some eggs! The kids like to take hard-boiled eggs to school in their lunches, so I made up a dozen for the week.

I used food colouring to dye the eggs vibrant, food-safe colours. There are all kinds of kits out there for dyeing and decorating Easter eggs, but a lot of them aren’t intended for consumption afterwards, so I like to stick with food colouring. The kids may decorate more eggs over the long weekend, though, and those will probably be with paint and glitter. They might be old enough to blow out the eggs to create permanent ornaments this year. Well, I know that Thing 1 is, but Thing 2 is not always as gentle as her big sister… And empty eggshells are mighty easy to smash.

The nice thing about blowing out eggs for decorating is that you can save the yolks and whites and make lovely scrambled eggs, or breakfast burritos, or tamagoyaki (either by itself or in sushi), or egg drop soup. This way, no part of the egg would be wasted. I have to admit, wasting food is a pet peeve of mine. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but all efforts should be made not to, you know?