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A sea of boxes

A sea of boxes


We’ve moved, again. This time, within the same city, but what a production nonetheless!   When we moved from London to Vancouver, Elliot was that bit younger and it didn’t seem to bother him. This time around, whoa. For the month before it was a constant discussion of what was going in the truck and what was going in the car (the dog is not going in a box in the truck, no). The few nights before he would wake up crying and telling me he didn’t like all the packing boxes. My heart went out to him, because I hate change, even when I know it is for something better. There were a few times I wanted to cry in this whole process too.

Now we’ve been in our new apartment for about four days, and the unpacking goes on and on and on and on. We have the benefit of moving into a larger place, so at least there is space to move around. Our new neighbourhood is a 2-minute walk to the seawall, has lovely playgrounds and some neat new parks to explore nearby. I’ve already had offers of tea and a chat from three different neighbours. This feels right.

Though, if any of you could put in a good word with the unpacking fairy, I’d be ever so grateful.


iPad app review: Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra

iPad app review: Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra

Naxos Records' My First Orchestra app

As a musician myself, albeit a keen amateur one, I’m always looking for ways to involve Elliot in listening and talking about classical music. We watch concerts on TV, we listen to it around the house and talk about how the music makes us feel, maybe about which instruments we can hear. Sometimes if I’m feeling brave, I get out my cello and let him bow while I stop the strings, or we drag out the accordion for a bit of a polka party.

When I spotted Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra iPad app, I had to try it.

Tormod the Troll takes you on a journey around the orchestra, learning about the different instrument families and what each one sounds like. You get to hear a few composers talk briefly about their music, and Tormod even has a go too. The app is for ages four and up, though Elliot is only three and a half, he is quite interested in it. There is a lot of text on the screen most of time, and I was sure this would turn him off, but it doesn’t seem to. He goes back to it quite often of his own accord –  I have to admit I was thrilled!

photo 2-1

A price of $4.99 CDN is likely to stop a few people in their tracks, but let me tell you why it’s worth it.

Naxos Records has an interesting story – they are relatively new as record companies go, beginning only in the late 80s. Starting out as one Hong Kong entrepreneur’s idea alongside his high-end audio equipment business, Naxos grew into one of the most innovative and interesting classical record labels out there. They commit to recording new classical music, which is something spectacular in itself as the market for these recordings isn’t huge, and they keep their prices low. It’s incredibly important now, because without Naxos we wouldn’t have the ability to hear some of the newest composers at all. Within traditional classical music, they tend towards young performers and lesser-known orchestras. These are not substandard recordings, by any means.

Of course, this means they have an extensive catalogue to draw from when it comes to an app like My First Orchestra, and for your $5, you get full recordings of over 30 pieces of music. Full-length ones, not just clips. Whether your child will sit through an entire recording is something else of course.

There is loads to explore here, and I would happily recommend it. No wonder both the Sunday Times and the Guardian picked it out in their best apps lists.

Note: I just spotted this isn’t available in the US, but it’s good to go for the UK and Canada.

Disclosure: None, I spotted the app myself and paid for it.


How to make naturally dyed easter eggs

How to make naturally dyed easter eggs

Naturally dyed easter eggs | Erin at Large

I remember dyeing eggs with my mum when I was little. I remember her blowing out the shells, and the state of the egg carton after it was dripping with food colouring. I remember the year we tried to draw on the eggs with melted wax and then dye them.

This year, I was gripped with the urge to dye eggs at about 3 in the afternoon. Elliot was busy painting at the kitchen table, so I grabbed a few eggs from the fridge, a pin and a bowl and got started.

Only, I couldn’t remember how to do it.

So – after phone calls to my mum, consulting the oracle of Google, and some trial and error, I present you my new-found knowledge on the subject of natural easter egg dyes.

It’s a bit messy. It is a bit time consuming. On the plus side, you can usually get started with minimal planning as you’re sure to have some of these things around the kitchen already. One thing I love about these dyes is how well they look together. With commercial dye kits you can make god-awful looking collections of things, and despite no real thought to how it would come together, my eggs look gorgeous.

Blowing out the eggs

I am the only one in my house who eats eggs, unless they are well-concealed in a cake, so I chose to blow out my eggs so I could freeze the innards. There are loads of instructions on the interwebs for how to do this with egg blowers (?) etc, but this is the quick and dirty I-didn’t-plan-ahead version.

You will need:

  • eggs (I used a mixture of brown and white, which looked lovely)
  • a pin
  • a hairbrush (or something else hard to knock the pin in)
  • paper towels
  • a bowl
  • wooden skewer or something else slightly larger than your pin, ideally with a pointy end

1. Wash your eggs, you will be putting your mouth on the shell.

2. Hold the pin on one of the pointy ends of the egg, then carefully and gently knock the pin into the egg with the flat side of the hairbrush. It shouldn’t be difficult. If it’s not working, try a different spot on the egg.

3. Push the pin in and out a few times to make a decent hole, then repeat on the other end.

4. Pick whichever end looks easiest and then gently work your skewer into the hole to break the yolk inside. You may need to work with the pin first to make the hole bigger.

5. Hold the egg over the bowl, bigger hole facing down. Put your mouth on the small hole and blow! Eventually all the egg insides will come out. You can freeze these for later.


Dyeing the eggs

I tried to make dye with the red bits of rainbow chard – it didn’t work. I tended to be liberal with my sloshings of white vinegar, it seems to act as a fixer for the dye as well as making the colours brighter. As the eggshells will still have a bit of egg inside, I put my shells in the dye when the water was still close to boiling to both sterilise them and satisfy my impatience. You will need to leave most eggs in the dye overnight to see a decent colour change, except for purple cabbage which is crazy stuff.

Dark pink: Cut 1 beetroot into quarters and boil with 4 cups of water for 15 minutes. Fish out the beetroot chunks, add 2 tbsp of white vinegar. I also did this with red onion skins, which was purported to produce jade green on one site I looked at. It didn’t, but I got a lovely dark reddy pink.

Blue: Take a quarter of a red cabbage and cut into chunks, boil with 4 cups of water for 15-20 minutes, add 2 tbsp of white vinegar. The pale blue eggs in my photo I did by using the dye right away. If you leave it to cool with the cabbage in it for longer, the dye becomes much stronger, and turns a darker purple colour. The mottled-looking purple egg above was in water I left cabbage in overnight, and only put the egg in for about 15 minutes!

Green: I have yet to find a decent green. What I have tried that didn’t work: spinach, grass clippings, kale. Suggestions gratefully received below.

Yellow: Add 3 tbsp powdered turmeric for 4 cups of boiling water. Add 2 tbsp of white vinegar. The beautiful dark yellow egg is a brown one I put in the turmeric dye.

I found the best way to do this, as blown-out eggs float, is to put the eggs in an old yoghurt container, pour the dye over, and then put another container of the same size on top, filling the top container with a bit of water until it holds the eggs under the surface of the dye.

Originally posted on my old blog last year, but I’ve edited and updated for this year. Enjoy!