Many Hats of Me: 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

DIY Hydroponics Garden (save your summer plants during the winter!)

For the past two summers, I have tried growing a few vegetable plants on the sunny side of my house with poor results. The young plants bought from the nursery never had enough time or warm weather to mature. This year, I decided to try something completely different: hydroponic gardening.

What is Hydroponic Gardening?

Hydroponic gardening is the growing of plants in a soilless environment. There are 6 hydroponics gardening methods:

  1. Ebb and Flow
  2. Nutrient Film Technique
  3. Dutch Basket (Drip System)
  4. Aeroponics
  5. Wick System
  6. Deep Water Culture


Ebb and Flow

Ebb and Flow uses pumps and a large water reservoir to periodically flood the plant roots with nutrients and water. An easy method is using a large plastic tote to contain the nutrient solution with the plants sitting in a deep tray on top of the lid. The nutrient solution is pumped into the tray from the reservoir below, and then is allowed to drain back into the reservoir.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Late Night Bites: World Street Kitchen Restaurant, Minneapolis

World Street Kitchen

Global Cuisine @ World Street Kitchen

World Street Kitchen (or "WSK") is a fast food restaurant with a contemporary ethnic flair. The food is inspired from all corners of the world: Korea, Vietnam, China, Mexico, New Orleans, and the Middle East.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

DIY Kaldnes Media Aquarium Filter - A Step-By-Step Guide

What is Kaldnes Media?

Kaldnes media was designed and developed in Norway by the combined efforts of education, government and private sectors: the Norwegian University of Science (NTNU), the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF), and Kaldnes, a Norwegian industrial company. 

In the early 1980's, NTNU and SINTEF were developing sewage treatment technologies involving moving media. By the end of the 80's, the partnership had successfully developed a new method of treating wastewater called "the moving bed biofilm process". By this time, Kaldnes was getting involved, and plans to produce and market the technology were begun, with a newly formed company Kaldnes Miljøteknologi AS.

This new sewage treatment was intended only for municipal use, but other industries, such as aquaculture, quickly adopted the media and the process, now called the Kaldnes Moving Bed (KMB).

How Does Kaldnes Work?

Kaldnes media are small pellets made of polyethylene that look like wagon wheels. The media come in different sizes, but aquarists primarily use the K1, the smallest size measuring 1cm in diameter. As you can see, the plastic media have a lot of ridges and surface area for nitrifying bacteria to grow.

K1 Kaldness Media

K1 Kaldnes Media

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Exploring Downtown Victoria BC: Empress Hotel and the Soda Shoppe

A Family Trip to Victoria, B.C.

Last summer during my visit to Vancouver, my family took a trip to Victoria, British Columbia by ferry boat. Our ship left Vancouver at 9 AM and we arrived at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal at 10:30 AM. From there, the drive to Victoria is about 1/2 an hour.  

Parking Options Downtown Victoria

There are two options to park in downtown Victoria: metered parking and indoor parkades. Metered parking allows you to park from 1/2 an hour to 90 minutes during the week. Weekends and statutory holidays are free.

We parked at the Victoria Central Public Library parking lot located next to the library at 735 Broughton Street. The map below is the address of the central library. Parkade parking allows you to park for a longer period of time at a central location.

This particular parking lot is FREE on the weekend too. Just make sure you press the button for a ticket to release the parking gate. When we tried parking on a Sunday, it took 10 minutes to figure out how to open the parking gate without paying with our credit card. More information about Victoria parking is located at the cities' parking website.

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Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC

Downtown Victoria inner harbor with the Empress Hotel in the background
Downtown Victoria inner harbor with the Empress Hotel in the background

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Taking the Ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, BC

BC Ferries runs a passenger ship from Vancouver to Vancouver Island from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. The ships run hourly starting from 7 AM. Please check the schedule before planning your trip. I suggest you arrive at least 45 minutes before the sailing time to ensure that you don't miss the boat (literally).

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BC Ferry Fares

The fares vary depending on how you will be traveling on the boat. You can take your motorcycle, car, bus, or bike onto the ferry. Of course, you can also walk onto the ferry when you are dropped off by local transit. There are also discounts for groups of 16 or more people, and seniors. Please check the following page, BC Ferry Tsawwassen schedule of fares (current from February 14, 2014). You can also visit the BC Ferry website.

BC Ferry top deck on a sunny day.
Outdoor top deck on a sunny day, BC Ferry

Video of the ferry ride to Victoria

Onboard the BC Ferry

Once we park our car on board the ferry, we try not to dawdle and make our way directly upstairs to stake out a nice seating area for our large group. There is WIFI throughout the ship, but it is weak at best. 

Computer work area, BC Ferries
Computer work area, BC Ferries

Shopping on Ferry

There is a small shop on board the ferry that sells locally inspired giftware, food, and personal items that you may have forgotten to bring on your trip. 

Gift store, BC Ferries
Gift store, BC Ferries

BC Ferries Serves Starbucks Coffee

I was relieved to learn that the ferry serves Starbucks coffee, lattes, and cappuccinos, especially since I was on the road since 6 AM.

Coffee Shop, BC Ferries
Coffee Shop, BC Ferries

Seawest Lounge, BC Ferries

Seawest Lounge is the VIP section on the Ferry. It costs an additional $12.00 per person and includes coffee, tea,  fruit and other light snacks. It decor is more upscale and roomier than the rest of the ship and it's very quiet. The best part of the lounge is the strong WIFI signal. 

Seawest VIP Loung, BC Ferries
Seawest VIP Loung, BC Ferries

Fruit and light snacks at the Seawest Lounge, BC Ferries
Fruit and light snacks at the Seawest Lounge, BC Ferries

Complimentary Cofee at Seawest Lounge, BC Ferry
Coffee and Tea are free in the Seawest Lounge, BC Ferries

Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries

Some of the ferries include an all-inclusive buffet restaurant called the Pacific Buffet. It serves a variety of food, including seafood, salads, Chinese, and desserts. Price for the buffet is $17.40/adult and $9.50/child.

Seafood and pasta is served in the Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries
Seafood and pasta is served in the Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries

Chicken fingers, veggies and rice, Pacific Buffent, BC Ferries
Chicken fingers, veggies and rice, Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries

Salad bar, Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries
Salad bar, Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries

Cheapest Eats on BC Ferries

The self-serve restaurant on board the ferry is the Coastal Cafe. It serves a variety of basic food, such as sandwiches, burgers, and salads, which will cost around $12-$15/person. My brother found the most economical meal onboard the Ferry: the Pirate Pak. It includes a small burger, drink, and a dessert for under $10. 

Pirate Pak meal, BC Ferries
Pirate Pak meal, BC Ferries

Before You Disembark…

Double check to see if you have everything you brought on board the ship, such as phone chargers, cameras, extra bags, hats, and sunglasses. Also, make a visit to the washroom if your destination is Victoria, which is a 1/2-hour drive from the Swartz Bay Terminal.

Have a great ferry trip to Vancouver Island! 

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fisherman's Wharf, Victoria BC

A Short Walk From Downtown Victoria

On the second day of our 3 day trip to Victoria, we decided to visit the Fisherman's Wharf. The wharf  is just a short 15-minute walk from downtown Victoria BC. It's a great place to eat for lunch in the summer time.

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Fisherman's Wharf Houseboats

As you walk along the shoreline towards Fisherman's Wharf, you will see the brightly colored houseboats a short distance from shore. These houseboats can be purchased from a realtor, just like a conventional house. I took a look at some current listings and a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom house cost just under 300K.

house boats, fisherman's wharf, Victoria, BC
Brightly colored houseboats moored at Fisherman's Wharf

Monday, February 10, 2014

Chambar Restaurant, Vancouver, British Columbia

Chambar restaurant, exterior shot, Vancouver, BC
Chambar Restaurant

During our last week in Vancouver, my brother and his wife invited my husband and I out to dinner at a new Belgium-style restaurant near Gastown called Chambar. I was a bit skeptical since Gastown is infamously known for its unfortunate street people and drug trade. However, with the rise in Vancouver real estate prices, and limited downtown retail space, Gastown, and neighboring Chinatown are being redeveloped with trendy shops and restaurants. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

How To Make Chocolate Hearts

Date Night with Mommy

"Why don't we have a date night, Mommy?!" my daughter complained when I was leaving for an evening out with my husband. I promised her that we would have a special night one day soon and she allowed me to leave. Phew!

However, every day thereafter, she reminded me that I owed her a date. It's been two weeks and I can't put her off any longer.

"What would you like to do?" I asked.

"Something fun!" She exclaimed.

"Hmmm, ok." I spent the next two days thinking about this. Finally, I came up with a fun activity that a 6-year-old little girl would like and could do: making chocolate candies. She loved the idea. Yeah!

Chocolate Hearts Ingredients and Tools

I looked in my cupboard and pulled out some silicon ice cube molds. There were fish, hearts, stars, and Mickey Mouse. Without hesitation, she chose the heart mold.

We still needed some ingredients so we drove to Walmart and purchased a bag of Jet-Puffed marshmallows, Wilton Candy Decorating Pens, and Wilton Candy Melts in pink.

silicon heart candy tray, Wilton candy decorating pens, Wilton Candy melts, Pyrex small loaf pan

Silicon heart shaped mold, Wilton Candy Decorating Pens, Jet-Puffed marshmallows, Wilton Candy melts, a small glass loaf pan, parchment paper.

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