Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Berries Galore

Just like that, our strawberry season came to an end, short and sweet.

Now our favourite berry is in!

We went as soon as the season started and got our first haul of delicious blueberries - a whopping 26 pounds!  Daddy is the only one in the family who loves raspberries the most, so we picked him a nice 5-pound bucket to enjoy.  And there're of course our celebratory (and officially mandatory) ice-creams and sundaes after each picking!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Jack & Jill have settled nicely in our home without much hassle.  They are curious little creatures who love to poke around.  Because they're still tiny and so agile, it's hard to know where they're hiding sometimes.  Once we found Jill coming out of the laundry room looking like a dust ball.  We figured she has squeezed herself through the back of our washer and dryer.  Jack somehow got himself stuck under Serena's dresser with not a lot of room.  We could hear the meow but couldn't figure out where he was, until we saw this little white paw sticking out from underneath the dresser.

Serena loves playing with her kittens and watching them tackle each other silly. It's hard not to love those two cuties!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jack & Jill



Jack & Jill are 11-week old brother & sister with wonderful temperament.  Jack-Jack is cuddly and sweet, and Jilly is a rambunctious trouble maker.

Serena finally got her wish after years of asking.  Guess pet moths just didn't quite cut it for her!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Serena discovered a couple of caterpillars outside of her friend's house at the end of May. She named them Emmaline and Emily.

We took them home and made a nice little habitat for them.  It took us a while to figure out what they liked to eat - lettuce! Emmaline was the active one, always trying to escape.  Emily just liked to sleep.
Two weeks later, the caterpillars disappeared into their cocoons.  Funny how they decided to cocoon right next to each other on the same end of the stick!
Another four weeks later, we have a couple of moths!  We can't find an exact match in our research to identify the moths.  We're guessing they're either tiger moths or cutworm moths.  We don't plan on releasing them - from what we've read, they're not very good for our trees.

Now Serena has 2 pet moths!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pioneer Fair

Yesterday Serena traveled back in time to the Stewart Farmhouse built by Surrey pioneer John Stewart in 1894.  If she were a pioneer girl like Laura or Mary Ingalls whom she adores (Serena is onto the third book in the Little House series), she would perhaps find herself:

fetching buckets of water...

milking the cows...

pitting cherries...

separating the cream from the milk before churning some butter...

spinning wool...

making ice-cream if she could manage 45 minutes of non-stop cranking...

tending the vegetable garden...

and if she's not too tired from the day's work, she could play with a potato sack!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Beaty Biodiversity Museum

We discovered a great gem today - the Beaty Biodiversity Museum on the campus of UBC.  Its impressive and well organized biological collections of natural history contain over 2 million specimens.

The centrepiece of the museum has got to be this incredible blue whale skeleton.  There are only 21 blue whale skeletons worldwide for public viewing.  This blue whale was found on the northwestern coast of PEI in 1987 - its remains weighing in an estimated 80,000 kg!
It's funny to think that God created the blue whales, the biggest animal ever, to live on a diet of these teensy weensy krill.  A blue whale eats about 2 to 4 thousand kilograms of krill a day!  The krill are caught when the water is filtered through the fringed baleen (the black fin-like shape in the last photo).

See those 2 smaller bones dangling underneath the huge vertebrate?  They are pelvic bones.  Now why does a blue whale who has no legs need pelvic bones?  Apparently the blue whale ancestors were land mammals before they adapted to the water habitat for food.  Who knew?!
Serena putting together the right flipper of the blue whale.  Because of the difficulty of unearthing and displaying such a huge mammoth, the blue whale was left buried in PEI for 2 decades until UBC was granted permission to retrieve it in 2007.
The museum is filled with rows and rows of cabinets with lots of windows displaying different specimens.  The whole exhibit is well organized by collections, and the time line on the wall gives visitors a sense of the dramatic evolutionary heritage and biodiversity of our world.
Can you guess which collection Serena was most interested in?  The Marine Invertebrate Collection, a.k.a. "the pretty shells" section, its other technical label.
My favourite is this Pallid Carrier Shell. Carrier shells collect debris and other shells or stones and attach them to their own shells for protection and camouflage.  Look how beautifully the "debris" are arranged!  The carrier shells must know a thing or two about interior (or exterior?) design.
Who knew sea snails could be predatory and venomous?  These cone snails shoot out harpoon-like teeth to hunt fish with a poisonous sting.  They are found in tropical waters and their sting can be fatal to human beings. Watch out the next time you want to pick up a pretty little shell...
It was fun to look through jars and jars of specimens in the Fish Collection.  Serena was thrilled to see this ramora.  If you ask her, she'll tell you that "Ramoras are very special because they latch onto other fish with this flat lined suction.  When they latch onto other fish, they get protection, free rides, and sometimes small free snacks!"

Serena continues to amaze me with all the information she stores in her little head.  She was able to identify more specimens (esp birds) than I could in the museum.

"That's a weaver bird's nest, mom."
"What?!?  How do you know?  Are you sure?  What on earth is a weaver bird?"
Check label.  She was right.
"See, mom?", followed by a sigh as she walked away.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Evans Lake Summer Camp

The Ippel Trio had our first taste of summer camp at Evans Lake just north of Squamish.  Having grown up in Hong Kong, summer camps are not something I was familiar with.  Not sure why Keith had never been to camp in Ontario though.  (Perhaps Papa & Nanny could give us some insights?)  After 2 days of camp fun, Serena simply didn't want to leave.  We all had a fabulous time taking in the beautiful wilderness and making new friends with the other homeschool families.

The Evans Lake Forest Education Centre opened in 1960 and is located on a gorgeous mountain lake.  There are lots of trails for hiking, exploring, and playing tag!  (Food chain tag was so much fun - imagine 30+ different "herbivores" and "carnivores" and "natural disasters" wandering around the forest tagging or hiding from each other.)

Serena tried canoeing and archery for the first time.  If it had been a touch warmer, we'd all be swimming in the picturesque lake!

We had lots of free time to hang out and play games outside.  It was a good break for everyone (esp the dads) to be away from all things electronic for a couple of days!

At the end of each day, we gathered around the campfire and had hot chocolate and cookies.  There were songs, skits, jokes, stories... good spontaneous fun and goofiness all around!