Thursday, December 30, 2010

Flare out

Just outside of Edmonton is an oil refinery.  Like all oil refineries, it has a flaring stack.  The lights of the refinery are visible from much of our city, including our downtown balcony.  Depending on the size of the flame and the weather, we can usually see the flare itself, or at least a cloud.

Today is somewhat different.

I happened to be watching the news, which I normally never do, hoping to catch a friend of mine in another province being interviewed, when I caught a story about the flare being unusually large.  Emergency services have been getting calls about it all day.  The station's helicopter was over the area, filming the blaze and smoke, and we were assured that the refinery was doing this on purpose.  Then they moved on to other things.  Eventually I change the channel to another news program where I was hoping to see my friend while working on a scarf I was crocheting.

Now, picture this scene.  In the living room, I've got the tv on.  My husband is playing WoW with headphones.  My friend's son, who is living with us right now, is on his laptop with an earbud in one ear loud enough that I can hear him playing WoW, too.  There's also conversation and a very loud cat to add to the volume level.

Through all this, I'm noticing a strange, pulsing noise, just barely auditory.  It was loud enough, however, that my husband took off his headphones, wondering what was making it.  I had been wondering that myself and got the impression that it was coming from outside.  I muted the tv and we listened for a while.  Then I realized what it might be.  Grabbing a pair of slippers, I headed outside and saw this.


We grabbed the tripod and tried for a few shots, but they mostly didn't turn out.  Since it's -20C with a wind chill, I didn't try too hard, either.  I did, however, switch from the 18-55mm lens to the 70-200mm.


It's kinda got this whole Mordor look to it, don't you think?


This is as far as I could zoom in, with the ISO at 1600.  I missed a lot of potential shots, as the flames would occasionally spurt high up, but with the long exposures, it was rather difficult to catch them.

This was, indeed, the source of the noise.  In fact, I could still hear it when I started this post, though it seems to have stopped for now.  Though this refinery is visible from our balcony, it's not anywhere near us.  It must have been quite the thing to hear in the neighbourhoods at the outskirts of the city!

I can certainly understand why so many people were phoning emergency services about this!

Oh, and while I was freezing outside, getting these shots, I think I missed seeing my friend on tv!  Oops.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a joyous Christmas, and may 2011 be a year of peace, happiness and prosperity for you and your loved ones.

See you next year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse
Originally uploaded by amkb

Anna: Dec. 21, 2010. The first time in almost 400 years that a lunar eclipse has fallen on a solstice.

These photos were taken by my daughter. They are 30% of the original size, but I have done no other adjusting to any of these images. Any blurring or double images you see are due to the movement of the moon and starts during long exposures.

Click on the image to be taken to my flickr page and see the rest of the set.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Valley Snow

Valley Snow
Originally uploaded by amkb

Step one: look outside the window and notice how lovely and fog-like the falling snow looks. Decide it's worth going outside to take a picture. Grab grandpa slippers and camera, check the settings, move the draft stopper and open the door to the balcony.

Step two: put away the camera. Grab hat and neckwarmer. Grab shovel.

Step three: shovel off nearly two feet of snow. Maybe we should do this more often. Think about how putting on a jacket probably would have been a good idea, too. Sure it's only -12C, but it *is* snowing, and the wind is blowing clouds of it off our roof. Onto me.

Step four: track snow across the house while returning the snow shovel to the front door. Return for camera. Quickly run out and snap several pictures and hope at least one of them looks all right.

Step five: stop to remove grandpa slippers before tracking snow across the house again. Replace draft stopper. Remove wet hat and neckwarmer. Upload pictures to computer.

Step six: look at photos and realize my shoulders are rather wet from melted snow.

Step seven: choose photo, resize in PSPX2, write blog post. Shiver. Time to go change into something dry!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sun Fog

This is a six picture stitch of the morning sun on the river valley.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Night Lights

My older daughter and headed out to see the city Christmas tree, which had its official lighting this past weekend, and to experiment with a few other night shots.

Christmas lights

Of all the shots I took, I ended up going with a relatively low exposure time.  High winds ruined the longer exposures.

The downward streaks seen in various places are "dripping" lights that move down the entire length of the tree.

Christmas lights

To give an idea of just how strong the winds were, this shot was taken with a tripod and 4 second exposure. 

A windy night

This one is another 4 second exposure.  The longer exposure times had the flags virtually invisible.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November Sky

The joys of having a husband that's a morning person.  He gets shots like this while I get to sleep. ;-)


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Goodwill Treasure

Anna:  I took our younger daughter to Goodwill yesterday, as she was on the hunt for a Halloween costume.  While there I spotted a fascinating treasure, unlike anything I've seen before.  It was so beautiful and unique, I couldn't resist grabbing it.  I'm now posting a series of pictures.  See how long it takes you to figure out what it is - it should be obvious fairly soon.

First, the bowl.


Starting from the bottom, up!  Here's an inside view of the bowl.  The bowl actually gets covered, so I didn't see that it was decorated until I was standing in line to buy the set.  A pleasant surprise.


A side view; there are three of these little focal points around the bowl. 


Here is the tray, which fits over the bowl like a lid.


There are four of these matching, handle-less cups.  It was the cups that tipped the balance in my decision to buy the set. 


Looking at the inside, do you notice how strangely thick the sides are?  Yet it's not as heavy as one would expect.  Here's why.


The cups are double walled.  The liquid tight plug can be removed, revealing the narrow space in between the walls.


If you haven't figure it out yet, yes, this is a tea set, and here is the tiny little teapot, barely bigger than my own hand. 


It comes with a strainer for loose tea leaves. 


I love the little decorated lid.

The pot holds just enough water to fill the four little cups.  No room for seconds!


Finally, the entire set put together. 

What I figure is, boiling water is meant to be put into the bowl to help keep the pot and cups on the tray warm, and the cups get boiling water poured into their double walls as well.  The pot and cups are so small, however, I can't see how any tea would have a chance to get cold before it's all gone!

The bottom of the bowl reads "Taiwan Ei-Long Art Ceramics."  I've looked through their website, but haven't found another set like this, though I'm in love with their celadon line.  I've have found some similar sets, though.  

Note the prices at those links?

I got this set for $19.99

I don't know why this set got donated to Goodwill, but to whoever decided they didn't need it anymore, thank you! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Morning Snow

Morning Snow
Originally uploaded by amkb

Anna: The snowfall we woke up to this morning. Certain family members were as excited as little kids!

Personally, I could see it holding off for another month or so. ;-)

At least it shouldn't last long.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


One last photo to catch up...


Take one sun spot.  Add cat. Blend thoroughly. 

The Harley-bug is so cute, she makes my teeth ache. LOL

Proud Owner

Proud Owner

My younger daughter decided she wanted an acoustic guitar.  Since then, she's been setting aside half her allowance and any birthday money she got towards buying one.

Yesterday, after almost a year of saving, she became the proud owner of an acoustic guitar.  We know nothing about guitars and will now be looking into lessons. 

I hope she has many years of enjoyment out of it. :-)

Zombie Zone

Anna:  I've been remiss in posting photos here.  Most of my photography lately has been for my craft blog.  I just haven't got around to uploading other photos here. :-(

To make for that, let's start with this one.

Zombie Zone

Not too long ago, the girls and a friend took part in a local Zombie Walk.  My husband was with them taking pictures until he used up both memory cards.  I was waiting at where they were supposed to finish the walk, but ended up meeting them part way through, getting shots of the zombies as they walked past me at an intersection.

I was trying to avoid using flash, so a lot of my photos just didn't work out.  Some of the failures, however, were still very interesting.  Like this one.  It looks so surreal. 

I like it. :-D

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall Colours

Fall Colours

Anna: Some views of the beautiful fall colours, taken on our balcony. 

(Click on the image to go to my flickr site and see more shots.)

After living for 3 years with a view of a back lane, parking lots and high density housing, I'm really appreciating the valley views we have now!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon
Originally uploaded by amkb

A view of the harvest moon from our balcony.

Click on the image to be taken to my flickr page and see other images.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


We have a very large, wide desk.  Large enough that we can have the desktop computer in the usual place, and still be able to use the back of the other desk.  Philippe has his work laptop there, set up on a dock with a full size keyboard.

One of the cats has claimed it as her personal butt warmer.

So one day, Philippe is at the desktop playing World of Warcraft, when he suddenly sees a paw reaching up over the top of the monitor, batting at... something.

Then he sees this.


Then this.


After several attempts to get a photo without flash, he finally stood up and got this...

...just before she reached up and tried to attack the lens.

Because this is our muderous crack kitty who attacks ankles and hates to be petted, when she's not crawling under the covers to cuddle.

As I write this, her wide-eyed face has been popping up over the top of the monitor.  I think she's upset because the keyboard is on top of the laptop.  

Yes, she's sitting on the keyboard, anyway.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Learning to Fly

Originally uploaded by amkb

Looking across the valley from our balcony, we saw this guy "flying" down the park across from us. He'd fly his parachute down the hill, then gather it all up, trudge back to the stop and do it again.

Looks like he was having a blast!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Gone Batty

Gone Batty
Originally uploaded by amkb

Anna: The Little Brown Bat is still hanging out above our door. It looks like it's chosen that spot to hibernate. I tried to get some different angles, but it's so close to the corner, I can't really get the camera in there.

It's so cute! While I was taking pictures, I could see it's furry little sides moving as it breathed. I just want to scoop it up!

I'm not sure this is a good location for it to hibernate, though. It's well sheltered from the weather, but not the temperature. I'm a little concerned it will freeze. Will have to look for some information about that, and see if there's something we can do to protect it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Itty Bitty Batty

Itty Bitty Batty
Originally uploaded by amkb

Anna: As a friend of my daughter's was knocking on our door, he noticed this little smudge of fur above the doorway. As soon as he realized it was a bat, we immediately grabbed the camera! The gap it tucked itself into is about 3-4 inches wide. As I write this, it's still there. This tiny, adorable ball of fluff. It's all I can do not to try and pet it, or scoop it into my hands.

I love bats.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Price Point

Anna:  I was out for a walk today and ended up swinging by The Bay in a nearby mall.  For those of you outside of Canada, The Bay is a department store that's a step up from Walmart.  They've been trying to re-brand themselves as higher end, but they're still a pretty basic department store.  One I don't normally shop at because I find it too expensive.

But this... this takes the cake.

I have a daughter that loves to drink tea and is acquiring a substantial collection of teapots and mugs.  So when I saw some mid-size teapots at the end of a table, I went for a closer look.

At first glance at the price tag, I thought for sure there was a mistake.  There was no way they'd have teapots that expensive just sitting on a table, and besides... this is The Bay.  Why would they have a single teapot priced to high?  A tea set, perhaps, but just the pot? 

On looking at the other pots, however, they all had the same price.  Then I saw the matching sugar bowl and creamer.

Yes, the price tag on that pot, which holds perhaps 6 cups, really does say $304.99, and the sugar bowl really does read $173.99.  I didn't take pictures of the others, since security might get a little nervous, but the matching creamer was just under $150.  There was a tiny plate of completely different pattern, about the size of a saucer, for $18.50.  Plates big enough for entrees ranged from almost $80 to about $100.  A salt shaker was priced at almost $40.  The pepper shaker didn't have a price, so I'm guessing they weren't being sold separately.  At that price, that band of gold on the bottom had better be real!

So why are these priced so high?  I have no idea.  Perhaps that's real silver around the edge, but that wouldn't be enough to explain it.  About the only thing I can think of is that it's Royal Daulton bone china.

As for why they were all on the table, there was a big 75% off sign above them.  Even at such a steep discount, we're still looking at over $75 for a teapot.

Now, I'm all for things being priced for quality.  I've seen a tiny tea set that included pot with lid plus 6 tiny handle-less cups that might have held a quarter cup of liquid each, at most.  The pot might have held 2, maybe 3, cups of tea.  The set came in a satin lined box with recessed spaces to hold all the pieces.  It was priced at $1000, and I felt it was worth every penny.  Why?  Because the entire set was hand carved out of a single block of jade.  BC jade, to be exact, with it's distinctive deep green colour.  It was being sold in a shop that specialized in rocks, minerals and fossils, many quite rare and fragile, and most of which were found by the geologist owner who also hand carved many of the finished pieces himself.

A far cry from a rather plain bone chine teapot at The Bay.

No surprise to find these on a clearance table! :-P

Friday, August 20, 2010

Still smoking.

Here's what our valley looks like today.

Still smokey...

A great improvement from yesterday, though we're still supposed to be smokey through Sunday.  I've heard that there are as many as 292 fires burning in BC.

Good morning...

Good morning...
Originally uploaded by amkb

The view from our 3rd floor window at about 2 am. Not sure what's going on. Perhaps we'll see something in the news tomorrow.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where there's smoke...

Where there's smoke...
Originally uploaded by amkb

This is the view from off our balcony today. Edmonton is overcast with smoke from the forest fires in BC.

Downtown Edmonton

Update: Philippe took a photo with his Blackberry from his downtown office.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back at Taste of Edmonton 2010

Anna:  The girls and I were planning to use up the rest of our tickets for Taste of Edmonton today, but my older daughter wasn't feeling well, so it was just two of us, this time.  It was quite a lovely day for it, and the crowds weren't as thick as they were yesterday.  That didn't make it any easier to find someplace to sit and eat, though.  The space with grass and shade had very few picnic tables, but the beer garden was full of them - mostly empty.

Taste if Edmonton 2010

First, we stopped at Hawkeyes Too Restaurant and Bar.  We were going to have their Lemon Grass Chicken Wrap, but it had tomato in it, so we went with the Dry Ribs.  They were quite delicious, and the portion was quite generous.

Next, we visited Firestone Restaurant and Bar for their Bacon Wrap Scallops.  They were rather steep at 5 tickets for only 3 scallops (tickets are $1 each, or 10% off if purchased in advance, as we did).  There is very little seafood that I like, and I liked these scallops a lot, as did my daughter.  Comparing the amount we got to the dry ribs, which only cost us 4 tickets, did have me debating whether or not they were actually worth the cost.  I still haven't decided.

Either way, both dishes got a positive vote from each of us.

Taste if Edmonton 2010

Our next foray led us to Zen Shabu-Shabu Japanese Cuisine, Sushi and Grill for their Beef Tenderloin Wrapped in Bacon.  There were 4 pieces of bacon wrapped beef on the skewer, and they tasted quite good.

We also stopped at Tropika Malaysian & Thai Cuisine, getting their Roti Canai (Malay Bread).  Half the fun was watching the bread first being grilled, then smooshed on all sides before being hacked by a cleaver, then plated with some dipping sauce.  I really liked it, though my daughter could take it or leave it.

So that's two positive votes for the beef tenderloin, but one enthusiastic vote for the Roti Canai tempered with a "meh," neutral vote.

After this, my daughter and I were in need of hydration, but after seeing the prices on the vending machines, we decided to go to Three Bananas for drinks, instead.  Not that we ever need to have our arms twisted to go there.  We've often had their delicious pizzettes for lunch.

Next up, it was time for dessert.  Sorta.

Taste if Edmonton 2010

We searched out the Strawberry Cheesecake for my daughter, who is an absolute cheesecake nut.  This was offered by The Old Spaghetti Factory.  No surprise that my daughter loved it, but I find it too sweet.  One vote for, one... meh.

Then we got tempted by an old favourite, Green Onion Cake from Hong Kong Bakery.  Because we just can't go to a local festival without having some green onion cake.  Gotta have it.  Two enthusiastic votes in favour of the cakes.

At this point, we were ready to go home, but not without picking something up for my other daughter.  We picked up a few more tickets and got another Green Onion Cake, as well as...

Taste if Edmonton 2010

...some Vegetable Tempura from the Korean Village Restaurant, where we got the Seafood Pancakes yesterday - a treat I look forward to every year (I got a second one for myself) and Deep Fried Wonton with Crab Meat and Cream Cheese from Panda Hut Express.  Those are another treat we look forward too.  I was really impressed with the portion size for the Tempura Vegetable.  My younger daughter doesn't care for either, but my older daughter and I love them.

We're now out of tickets, but the festival runs until August first.  Who knows.  We might head back at the end of the week. ;-)

Storm on the Horizon

Storm on the Horizon
Originally uploaded by amkb

Anna: There's an exhibition going on right now, with nightly fireworks displays. We can see them from our balcony, albeit with a few power lines and posts blocking the view.

A couple of nights ago, I stepped outside to watch the fireworks to the north, only to be distracted by a flash behind me. That's when I discovered there was a far more dramatic fireworks display over our entire southern horizon. The lightning was quite frequent, so I grabbed the tripod and started shooting.

I managed to get a few decent shots (click on the image to be taken to my flickr account and see the others I've uploaded). While the ground strikes were dramatic enough, the truly impressive shots were ones like this, where lightning streaked from cloud to cloud.

I don't know how long the storm continued, but there was still a lot of lightning when I finally packed up and escaped the mosquitos.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Taste of Edmonton 2010

Anna:  I've got quite a few photos from the past while to post - just haven't got around to resizing them to post online.  Meanwhile, the girls and I took in Taste of Edmonton today.  We waited until the afternoon, to avoid the lunch time crowds.  You can check out all the photos from today in my flickr account.

One of the hard parts of the festival is fighting the desire to have nothing but our tried and true favorites, most of which we only indulge in during this festival.  We sought out dishes we haven't tried before.  First up are out "main course" choices.

Taste of Edmonton 2010

My older daughter was really looking forward to the Korean Village Korean Seafood Pancake, which we'd read about in a newspaper review.  She really liked it, but I found it rather bland.  My younger daughter and I both thought it was rather "meh."  Not bad, but nothing we'd go out of our way to eat again. 

So this one got one vote in favour and two neutral votes.

I was pleased to see that's Aroma! Italian Kitchen on the list.  It's a place I've wanted to try that we've just never got around to visiting.  They specialize in garlic dishes, which is a total winner in my books! We tried the Garlic Chicken Satay.  My younger daughter loves white chicken, while I prefer dark and my older daughter doesn't like chicken in general, so white chicken meat skewers would be touch and go for our little group.  I found it absolutely wonderful, as did my younger daughter.  My older daughter, on the other hand, got a taste of the sauce as she was about to take a bite and was thoroughly repulsed.  She couldn't eat it.  So her sister happily ate it for her.

Two very positive votes and one very negative vote on the chicken satay.

Next was the Cheese Empanada from Roma Bistro.  I don't think any of us have had empanadas before.  I thought it was quite good.  My older daughter really loved it, while it got a "meh," from my younger daughter. 

One good, one very good, and one neutral vote on the empanadas.

Next, we sought out some vegetable dishes.  This was a bit more challenging.  There were very few we hadn't tried before.  Here are the dishes we settled on.

Taste of Edmonton 2010

First, we picked up some Spanakopita from It's All Greek to Me.  My older daughter and I both love spinach and feta.  I like Greek food in general, so my expectations were perhaps a bit high.  I found it good, while my older daughter found it quite good.  My younger daughter, on the other hand, didn't like it at all.  But then, she doesn't like feta at all, so that wasn't much of a surprise, I guess.

Two votes for, one against, the spanakopita.

Next, we stopped at the Japanese Village for a Bean Sprout Salad with Ginger Sauce.  The sprouts were nice and crunchy.  I enjoyed the taste at first, but strangely, the more I ate of it, the less I liked it.  Not sure how that works.  The portion was quite generous and, this being our second course, the three of us couldn't finish it.  Neither of the girls really liked it, though.

Two votes against, one half-vote for.

Our third choice was another Japanese treat, the Canada Maki from Kyoto Japanese Cuisine.

First off, I need to be clear.  We aren't sushi types.  Personally, I detest cold rice, while my kids don't like rice in general.  Strangely, though, my older daughter and I have both developed at taste for California Rolls.  We've tried Maki before and didn't like it.  So while this was a beautiful looking offering, our expectations were rather low.

The 3 portion serving was quite generous - and perfect for us, since everything was being split three ways.  It included a surprising amount of pickled ginger (which I love, but I'm the only one in the family that does), some wasabi and soy sauce.  My older daughter and I were totally impressed.  They were delicious.  My younger daughter, on the other hand, couldn't even bring herself to try it.  In fact, she chose to eat more of the Bean Sprout Salad, instead.  Her sister and I split the last one, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Two enthusiastic votes for, one too-disgusted-to-even-try-it vote against.

Which brings us to the dessert course.

Taste of Edmonton 2010

There were so many possibilities - and old favourites - to choose from!

First up, the Apple Crumble with Jack Daniels Carmel Sauce from On the Rocks.  The crumble was quite hot - hot enough to make holding it while we made our other choices a bit of a challenge - with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.  I really enjoyed it.  Personally, I prefer really tart apples for a dish like this, but found it quite tasty.  The girls, however, didn't enjoy it as much as I did.  They both found it good, but nothing they'd go out of their way to eat.  My older daughter complained that you couldn't even taste the Jack Daniels.  *L*

One enthusiastic vote for, and two not quite so enthusiastic votes for the apple crumble.

Next is the surprisingly bright green Leprechaun Pie from Brewsters.  Our expectations were actually rather low for this one - probably because we were put off by the colour a fair bit.  It's a mint flavoured pie with mint chocolate chips.  I happen to really love mint, but my kids aren't big fans of it.  Still, we all enjoyed this one.  My only complaint was that I found it a touch too sweet. 

Three positive votes for the brilliant green pie.

Finally, we had the Custard Horn from Pazzo Pazzo.  I was sure we'd had this before, but my kids told me we didn't, so we gave it a go.  It was wonderful!!  The pastry was light, crisp, and perfect.  The filling was bliss inducing.  Truly delicious.

Three enthusiastic votes for the Custard Horn.

By the time we had all these, we were pretty full (well, maybe not my younger daughter - it was a bit of a disappointment for her!), so we called it a day.  Tomorrow, we come back with the rest of our tickets, and will probably indulge in our tried and true favourites!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Slowly getting back to the routine

I just wanted to add a quick note to say that, little by little, we'll be getting back into the routine of photo blogging again. 

Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In my mother's garden

Originally uploaded by amkb

Anna: The girls and I made the trip to Manitoba for my brother's funeral this past weekend. While there, I visited with my parents as much as possible. This flower was in one of my mother's many gardens around their yard.

More photos of the trip are here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sometimes, life is harder to face.

Anna: I take a lot of pictures. Sometimes, I feel kind of intrusive when doing it, and I know my kids will sometimes roll their eyes at me when the camera comes out.

And sometimes, you wish there were more.

Yesterday, I found out my youngest brother was killed in a terrible accident.  He had been missing for several days before he was found. Living in another province from the rest of the family makes it difficult to keep in touch, find out what happened, when and where. I spent yesterday glued to my computer, constantly checking my emails, as it's the most efficient way of communicating - that and I couldn't really trust myself to talk on the phone.

With nothing useful or helpful to do, I found myself going through old photos of my brother.  I've been making dvds of photos and videos to share with my family for a couple of years now, so I decided to make a video tribute to my brother.

What I discovered is that I have very few photos of him.  My sister had scanned and shared old black and white photos, but I had next to nothing recent.  I had some I took during our visit on Thanksgiving last year, and I had some of him working that one of my SILs had emailed to me.  I had no recent photos that included his wife and daughter.

Sometimes, I don't know if I'm doing right by looking at life through a lens; that maybe the camera is getting in the way of participating in that life.

At times like this, I wish I'd been able to do it more.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

Anna:  Yes, I know - technically, Canada Day has been over for more than an hour.  I just got these uploaded not long ago, though.  For more photos, visit my flickr set.

I took more than 200 photos of the fireworks tonight, and most of them actually turned out!  I've only uploaded 2 of them so far - I might add more later, but definitely not tonight!

Canada Day fireworks, 2010

Both photos were taken near the end of the show, when the smoke was pretty thick and drifting down the river.  The combination of the smoke and the light from the fireworks gives the bridge a surreal look.

This one, I just really liked. :-D

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!