About Me

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Inukjuak, Quebec, Canada
Always up for a new adventure. I love Musicals, photography, my family, road trips, and beads. So far I have been fortunate enough to teach in Japan, South Korea, Kenya, and the Canadian Arctic. Currently in my 5th year in the frozen North and up for any new adventure.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Great Brownie Experiment

This school year I needed a new challenge that would allow me to channel my stress energy into while enjoying something I enjoy.  I decided to try and find the best brownie recipe.  I sent out a call for recipes from friends and families and they did not disappoint.  I cut off the number of recipes to try at 30 due to the amount of chocolate I would need, not to mention sugar etc.  Since roughly September, I have been bringing in different kinds of brownies to leave in the staff room to be tasted and judged by my fellow teachers.  After all, who better to judge than teachers who are generally in severe need of chocolate and sugar on those really tough days.  Huge thank you to all my willing test subjects, I know that you put your taste buds and waistlines on the line for me and my experiment.  I am attaching the document file that includes all the recipes, as well as the notes from the judging.

The top five brownies were as follows:
The Katherine Hepburn (with walnuts), The Double Decker (brownie with white chips layered over chocolate cookie dough), Caramel Swirl (caramel with pecans), Brownies on the Brain (chocolate chips and cocoa nibs), and The Mocha (coffee & pecan).

And the winner is.... a tie! Katherine Hepburn and The Mocha tied for best overall brownie.

List of the competitors
#1 – Original “Fry’s Cocoa” -nice & fudgey, “tastes like chocolate milk”, rich chocolate taste
#2 – Katherine Hepburn (with walnuts) -love the nuts, good chocolate taste
#3 – Peppermint with ganache -“chic” look, good mint flavour, maybe add mint to the white chocolate swirl, “reminds me of girl guide cookies”
#4 – “Oh Chocolate” (two owls cafĂ©) - darker than original, very chocolatety
#5 – “Rich Fudge” Fudge 1 -texture is more like cake
#6 – Mocha (with pecans) -“wow, taste buds blown away”, love the nuts, richer flavor, good classic look
#7 – Cakey Brownies - “like a dense chocolate cake”
#8 – Chewy Brownies - similar to fudge but good
#9  - “Fudgey” Fudge 2 -“nice bite to them, good fudge taste”
#10 – Dulche du leche (Ten special) – nice, couldn’t taste the cayenne but good orange and coconut
#11 – Peanut Butter swirl – a bit dry, need to swirl the pb more
#12 – Brownies on the Brain (with cocoa nibs) – excellent, wow chocolate flavour, almost as if there was booze in them
#13 – Caramel Swirl – mmm caramel, delicious
#14 – Brownie Bouquet “fluffy” – ok but denser than imagined
#15 -  Blondie 1 – more like cookie dough, strong vanilla taste
#16 – Skor Brownies – delicious, love the bits of skor
#17 – Double Chip Brownies – very dark, ‘almost’ too much chocolate with the added chips, not much pb chip taste
#18 – Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies – nice, slightly fluffy texture, not too much cream cheese taste
#19 – White Chip Orange – meh, not much orange taste, odd texture with the graham cracker crumbs
#20 – Double Decker Black & White – Fantastic, delicious, love the contrast, definitely a favourite
#21 – Guinness Dark Brownies – rich dark flavour, almost like a dark cake
#22 – Caramel Pecan – good caramel flavour, nice ratio of nuts
#23 – Dulche Coffee Brownies – ok, caramel was a bit odd, didn’t use the icing
#24 – Peanut Butter Chip – yummy, good chocolate taste, nice ratio of pb chips, one of the favourites
#25 – Double Peanut Butter Paisley – great pb taste but not really chocolate, difficult to swirl the chocolate syrup
#26 –After Eight Mint Brownies – excellent mint melted taste, dark and not overly sweet
#27 – S’mores brownies – Crumbly with the graham cracker crumbs, marshmallow kinda slips off
#28 – Red Velvet cheesecake brownies – Yummy, very nice 
#29 – Malt Ball Brownies – excellent, nice sugar/caramel flavour

#30 – Pecan pie brownies – lovely, gooey and chocolatey 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Some days....

It has been a crazy month so far and some days it seems like everything is against you.  Freezing weather (hasn't been warmer than -35C since Christmas), cranky students, rush for end of term and report cards, hockey tournaments in and out of town (which means high absenteeism), and wacky internet connections.  This morning at recess I found that a student had tied a rope into an empty noose and hung it in the far stairwell, probably one of the most disturbing things that I have seen in quite awhile.

Today is Friday the 13th and the school just went dark, lights and water are out, but random rooms still have power.  Should have stayed in bed this morning but since I am the teacher that really isn't an option.  Reminds you of that cartoon "But mom I don't want to go to school today" "I know honey, but you have to go, you are the teacher".  Now we wait on maintenance to try and fix the problem.  Personally if it were my choice, I would give in and let the students out to go watch the hockey tournament at the area, it is where they want to be anyway and it would make all the teachers happy on this Friday from hell.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why do I live where the air hurts my face?

It has been a running joke that I have been seeing posted around Facebook and tossed back and forth between my sisters and I.  One of my sisters lives in Arizona and when she starts talking about how much she missed a real winter we remind her that going outside in the winter can often make your face hurt.  Now granted I am living a fair bit North compared to my sisters but walking home from the post office today, arms full, and nose freezing in the -45C temperature I was reminded that I do indeed live where the air hurts my face.  I could have of course pulled my scarf further up over my face but then I would have had the glasses icing up and the resulting blindness for the rest of my walk home.  Eternal dilemma during a winter walk without my contacts.  Made it home in one piece, glasses fogging, and nose just about ready to fall off from the burning cold.  Ahhhh winter :)  But there are wonderful compensations to living where the air hurts your face.  The pure icy white of the frozen bay and river, the undisturbed snow drifts after a storm, the dancing northern lights, the clear winter skies, and the excuse to drink hot chocolate and tea with friends pretty much anytime from October clear into May.  Bundle up, stay warm, and enjoy the winter.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Back to Reality aka the End of Christmas Vacation

They say that students are the ones that mourn the end of their Christmas/winter vacation and having spoken to a number of my students over the break I do know this to be true.  However I might argue that their teachers may feel the loss of vacation even more keenly that their students particularly if part of your vacation was spent travelling trying to get home.  I did not travel this holiday season but the majority of my colleagues did; taking anywhere from 6hrs to 48hrs to get home.  That is precious vacation time spent in a plane, car, or train that is doubled when you factor in the return trip.  Weather and mechanical issues can also impact the length of time in transit as a number of my colleagues experienced coming back north today, spending more than 24hrs either in an airport or on a plane due to delays.

Even without travel involved, Christmas vacation always seems to pass too quickly.  There is always something that I meant to get done but couldn't find the time or was distracted by other events, tasks, and responsibilities.  While I would say my vacation was productively spent getting organized both professionally and personally (ie: shredding, scanning, and filing) I certainly didn't do everything I wanted.  Time seemed to slip away and now it is Sunday night before school starts and I still have work to do.  Never fails, best intentions and all that...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Terry Fox Run 2014 or the end of my hair

This year I was part of the Terry Fox committee at school and to help the students meet our fundraising goal this year I made a little wager.  The deal: if the students could raise $2000 for cancer research by the end of September I would let them shave my head.  They rose to the challenge :)  After movie nights, classroom coin collections, and the final donations collected during the Terry Fox Run, the students beat their goal.  So on October 3rd, there were 12 teachers ready to get a cream pie in the face as well a pie for the principal, and a line up of students ready to aim and fire.  And after the pies were thrown and pictures were taken it was time to put my safety and hair into the hands of my students.  Despite their excitement and pride at having reached their goal, they were a little nervous about actually cutting off their teacher's hair and shaving her head.  But after their nerves settled they got to work and snip, snip my hair was cut off (to be donated to Locks of Love), and next up came the clippers.  In the end there were only two of my students that were brave enough to actually shave my head and they did a very good job.  Long hair to peach fuzz in a matter of minutes for an excellent cause.

A New Year in the North

-34C with the windchill and light blowing snow.  Will there be fireworks in the Arctic? Absolutely!  After spending a quiet Christmas holiday in Inukjuak getting organized and looking after a few huskies, cats, fish, and plants for my fellow teachers I was looking forward to the fireworks tonight.  When I went to let the dogs out for their final pee of the night I was not sure about the way the weather was looking.  The blowing snow seemed to be picking up and the wind seemed stronger; not a good thing when you are planning to set off fireworks.  Luckily, this is the Arctic, no trees and lots of snow.  After getting confirmation from a friend that the fireworks were going to go off as planned I prepped for the weather.  Two layers of long johns: check, fleece neck warmer and touque: check, -40 boots, parka, and paluks: check.  Grabbed the tripod, an extra battery, and tucked the camera into the parka to keep it warm until the show got started; I was ready to go.  I headed down to the river to get a good spot that was out of the wind with a good view of the spot they were setting off the fireworks from.  Skidoos, hondas, and trucks were headed down the river road as parka bundled people waddling through the snow to the river bank to see the show.  Got my tripod set up just in time and settled down into the snow to watch the snow.  This is my third New Year's Eve in Inukjuak and the fireworks never disappoint.  There is some thing wonderful about being bundled up in the freezing cold and watching fireworks explode against an empty background of snow, ice and rock.  Halfway through I put the camera away and just sat back to enjoy the show as people shouted Happy New Year and honked their horns.  Walking back home, nose tingling with the cold, I loved the fact that people were calling out Happy New Year as they roared past on their skidoos and hondas.  It gives you a feeling that it will be a Happy New Year.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trapped Killer Whales and their "Fate'"

Not long after Christmas there was a great deal of excitement in my small part of the world.  A pod of roughly 20 killer whales were trapped in Hudson’s Bay about 30kms away from Inukjuak.  The wind, tide, and ice had shifted, trapped the whales and preventing them from reaching the open water.  The whales had only a small area open as a breathing hole with pack ice and ice floes on all sides.  The questions and rumors flew quickly around the school and town about where the whales had come from, what had caused them to become stuck in the ice, and what was to be their fate.  The foremost desire of many of the students and their teachers was to find a way to go out onto the Bay and see these beautiful animals in the wild; a first for many.

Early that afternoon I was bringing my sister to the airport to catch a flight home after her New Years visit to the Arctic and while we were checking her in there was even debate over whether they could convince the pilot to make a small detour over the area where the whales were stuck so that the passengers could catch a glimpse before winging their way south.  As I drove back to town after seeing Kat off, there were a number of skidoos and snow machines heading out of town across the ice as the afternoon light was beginning to fade.  A number of people from town were heading out to get a look at the trapped whales and the rest wanting to do the same.  The difficulty lay in the route.  The breathing hole where the whales were trapped was out on the edge of Hudson Bay, following a track of ice and snow covered bumps.  Without a guide or a good knowledge of the right way to go, a person could very easily get lost on the ice.  These are what had stopped many of the teachers from venturing out after school; that and the fact that the sun was already setting by the time classes got out.  But the thought of "wouldn't it be incredible to be able to see the whales" still remained in our thoughts.

That evening, photos and videos started circulating online and interest to go out on the ice began to rise.  At dinner that night, the whales were a large part of our discussion, specifically how we could get ourselves out to see them before it was too late.  We had a skidoo, a hamutiq (sled), and warm clothes but we needed a guide and a way to get the day off from school.  As dinner progressed we began to rationalize how this experience would be a once in a lifetime and wound up staging a kind of rebellion involving a flurry of phone calls, chats, and email conversation.  After contacting our centre director and a number of other teachers we decided that we had to try and get out there no matter what.  Our centre director agreed to find a guide that could take us out there and we decided that we would take a sick day in order to make it happen.  The next morning we arrived at the school, ready to go if there was a guide to take us, the principal was not happy with the majority of his staff taking the morning off but there was little he could do.  The group of us took the morning without pay and headed out on the ice. The weather was not great but we had a good guide and travelled out in convoy style for about an hour to get where the pack ice floes had trapped the whales.  After arriving at the site, the guide reminded us to follow his directions and to watch our step on the ice.  We climbed over jagged ridges of blue ice to the breathing hole that was being kept open by the movement of the whales.  There was a fair size crowd being directed by several elder hunters who were checking the ice and looking for weak spots.  It was a surreal experience standing on the edge of an ice floe, maybe 3 meters from these giant, sleek creatures.  It was saddening to see how much the area of open water had diminished over night as the temperature had dropped.  The tide and the wind were working against the whales, pushing the ice in, keeping the whales prisoner, and until mother nature changed her mind the situation was unlikely to change.  It was a beautiful experience but sad at the same time.

I was struck by the situation or even debate of what to do about the whales.  With youtube and other Internet media sources sending the situation viral, it was interesting to see people’s reactions.  Many believed that the government should send in a icebreaker to set them free, or that the community should take out chain saw and cut a path free like had been done in the movie “Miracle”.  It was interesting because it begs the question “What if”.  What if the polar bear hunter had take a different route home and had not found the trapped whales, what if the videos had never been posted?  The whales might have gotten free or they might have died depending on the weather and nature herself and we would never have known.  People were complaining about the injustice of a pod of killer whales being trapped and that the village had not gone out to cut them free, but knowing nothing about the reality of the safety for the people involved.  Floating ice floes or unstable ice trapped the whales.   It would not possible to cut a path with chainsaws ‘like the Americans’ without endangering the live of the people.  As for the idea of sending in an ice breaker, should the government ‘waste’ the money to fee a few whales when there are social problems in the North that are in dire need of aid. 

In the end, the village decided to send out volunteers to break up enough ice to keep the breathing hole free until the weather shifted, Mother Nature decided the matter for us.  During the night, the wind and tide shifted allowing the whales to find enough channels and free water to escape their temporary prison. As quickly as the excitement has begun it was over and village life went back to normal.  I will never forget the feeling of standing on an ice on Hudson’s Bay no more than 3 meters away from a killer whale.