August 31, 2006
If you're looking for more to read, why don't you check out our homeschooling blog at
I hope everyone has a safe holiday weekend!
August 30, 2006
On a lighter note, Bee and I used the rest of the blueberries that we bought at the market to make ourselves a blueberry pie this afternoon.
She was a big help cutting the strips for and helping to weave the lattice top. Inspired by our craftiness, she used a small metal measuring cup and leftover dough to make a miniature pie for their Littlest Pet Shop animals. So cute!
Blueberry pie isn't always pretty, but it sure does taste good! Maybe I should run a piece out to my friend in the garden...
August 29, 2006
I spotted this lovely duo of nasturtiums and spiderwort in the garden today and thought the combination was striking.
Only in a coastal garden would you find this lurking in the shadows! I use seaweed collected from my inlaws' beach as mulch, and noticed this guy staring up at me this morning (actually, I'd be willing to bet that he hasn't stared at anything in quite some time).
Water, water, everywhere...
Watching the news tonight, I was shocked by one of the top stories.
Water shortages are fairly common in August, so that in and of itself isn't too surprising.
However, being on the coast and subject to rain a good 8 months of the year, we don't usually have to worry too much about conserving water. Well, today one of our most beautiful and popular towns has had to take the drastic measure of shutting down restaurants and hotels in an attempt to conserve what little water they have left. The surprising thing is that it's not somewhere in the dry, arid section of the province, it's Tofino, possibly the wettest place in Canada, a town that's surrounded by water on 3 sides and shrouded in fog and dampness most of the year. Everything there is covered in moss.
My husband lived there as a child and has fond memories of it's lush landscape and aquatic lifestyle. Life in Tofino revolves around water - fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking, surfing, you name it. The irony is that the water that attracts the huge number of tourists and new residents is ultimately responsible for creating such a huge demand on a limited water supply.
Talk about a wake-up call. I just wonder if it will even register with people. We in BC have lost absolutely huge tracts of forest to the mountain pine beetle because it doesn't get cold enough in the winter anymore to kill them off, and all that dead timber lying around fuels massive forest fires that have destroyed whole towns and livelihoods. Trees native to our temperate rainforest climate are starting to die off because it's getting too dry for them. Neither of these things seem to have caused much of a stir.
I was going to keep this short, wasn't I?
Here's a link to a story about Tofino's situation if you're interested:
August 28, 2006
It's ridiculous how satisfying it is to look at the bright rows of jewel toned jars, imagining the winter mornings to come made so much better with warm bread and jam.
August 27, 2006
Well, last year I finally found the recipe I've been looking for, and they taste as good as the best Kosher dills you can buy.
If there's an open jar in the fridge, my kids will polish them off in no time, usually placed atop a nice thick slice of cheddar cheese.
For every quart jar of pickles that you want to make, you will need:
1 lb. pickling cucumbers (about 3 inches long),
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
1 sprig of fresh dill weed
1 head fresh dill weed (or a good a pinch of dill seeds per jar)
Brine (enough for 7-8 quart jars):
4 cups white vinegar
12 cups water
2/3 cup pickling salt
Wash cucumbers. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours (this makes the pickles crisp). Refresh ice as needed.
Sterilize as many 1 quart canning jars and lids as you will need in boiling water for 10 minutes (I usually do an extra one, just in case).
Combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt in a large pot and bring to a boil.
In each jar, place 2 half-cloves of garlic, one head of dill, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar. Then add 2 more garlic halves, and a sprig of dill. Fill jars with hot brine. Seal jars, wiping rims to remove any residue.
Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Store pickles for at least 8 weeks before eating (good luck with this part, I don't think we lasted more than a couple!).
Refrigerate after opening.
August 25, 2006
One of my favorite summer breakfasts.
I absolutely love peaches and I firmly believe that the only way to eat them is fresh, standing over the sink, with the juice dripping off your elbows. And while I often can't resist their charms long enough to turn them into anything else, I do take the time on late summer mornings to make pancakes with peaches and yogurt for breakfast.
I usually slice the fruit and stir them up with a little sugar and some lemon juice before I start the pancake batter. That gives them a chance to release their juices, making them even more sumptuous. When the pancakes are ready, pile on the peaches, a dollop of plain yogurt, a drizzle of maple syrup, and you've got sunshine on a plate.
It's probably a good thing that I can only have this for about 3 weeks of every year (oh, and believe me, I do).
August 24, 2006
They're actually my favorite thing to sleep on - buckwheat hulls! What you're looking at is what's inside the pillow that I sleep on every night.
I bought a pair of these pillows several years ago when my husband and I started to have neck troubles, and now we can't sleep on anything else.
The thing I love about them is that they mold into just the right position to support your head and neck (kind of like a water-filled pillow without the waves). Thankfully, despite their rather crispy appearance, they don't make a crunching sound when you're sleeping on them (which was initially my husband's biggest fear about them).
Though they may take a little getting used to, once you've adapted to them, I think they're the most comfortable pillows out there, and are a great alternative to the chemical and petroleum cocktail that makes up conventional pillows. They're filled with an organic, renewable, non petroleum-based material, and when they have gotten too old to use anymore, we can just throw them on the compost pile (or use them as an experimental garden mulch)!
To learn more about buckwheat pillows, click here.
August 22, 2006
With this luscious bounty before me, I decided to make a roasted tomato pasta sauce for dinner. I used to make something like it when I was away at university (I was lucky enough to live in a house with a garden all to myself at the time). Even though it was a mere couple of years ago (*ahem*), I don't remember exactly what I used to do, so tonight I just winged it. According to my family, the result is worth remembering. Here is what I did:
Roasted Tomatoes Margherita
Take copious amounts of fresh ripe tomatoes and slice them about 1/4" thick. Lay them in a lightly oiled baking dish (I used a 9 x 13) so they're overlapping each other.
Roughly chop some fresh basil (as much as you like - I used about 1/2 cup of leaves, packed) and tuck it in between the layers of tomatoes.
Mince lots of fresh garlic (about 4-6 cloves, depending on the size) and sprinkle over the tomatoes and basil.
Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over everything (I'd say several tablespoons to 1/3 of a cup).
Add some freshly cracked pepper and season with salt.
Put the whole thing into a 400 degree oven and roast for approximately 45-55 minutes (don't let it dry out).
While the tomatoes are roasting, put a pot of water on for the pasta. I used spaghetti tonight because that's what I had, but it would be really good with penne or something similar that would cradle the chunks of tomatoes. (I probably used about 12 ounces of pasta, but I guess it depends on how many tomatoes you've got).
When the sauce looks done, pour it over the hot pasta in the pot and toss to coat. Add extra salt and pepper if necessary.
We were torn over what kind of cheese to use with it, so we tried both feta and parmesan. My daughter and I liked the tang of the feta with it, but my husband liked how the parmesan brought out the sweetness of the roasted tomatoes and garlic. Chevre, asiago, pecorino or any other flavorful cheese would probably taste great too.
Check out Sweetnicks' ARF/5-A-Day Tuesdays for lots of great healthy recipe ideas.
August 21, 2006
A William Shakespeare rose. This one is spectacular in person (it's an intense purply wine colour and the inside is bursting with ruffled petals), but my camera can't seem to register the colour properly. Every time I take a photo of it, it ends up looking slightly blurry with a neon pink tint to it. This is the best I could do.
I have a new found love affair with dahlias!
August 20, 2006
Baxter (below) is our sweet old boy. We adopted him from the SPCA when he was about 4 (he's 10 now). There was a kitten there the day we found him, which my daughter was desperate to have, but there was something about Baxter's wise green eyes that were begging me to take him home. When they opened his cage so I could pet him, he immediately leaned out and rubbed his face against my cheek. I was smitten.
It's hard to tell from the photo (especially laying next to the dog), but he's a rather large cat. I don't like to think of him as being overweight necessarily (ahem), but he is really long in the body and "big boned". He also has the patience of a saint. When my son was a toddler, he used to try to ride him (he absolutely loved horses and I guess Baxter was the next best thing), and this amazing animal would just sit there patiently until J decided that he'd gotten to wherever he was going.
Maybe it was due to having spent so much time at the pound, but Baxter used to be terrified of anything remotely resembling a dog, so he was understandably unenthused when Princess came into our lives (especially since, as a herding dog without an actual herd, she tends to try to organize the cats' lives), but as you can see, he's adapted to her presence quite nicely.
Being rather "big boned" and loving a good meal, it became obvious earlier this year that he was in all likelihood diabetic (he began showing signs of increased thirst and urination, and his hind legs became so weak that he could hardly walk). We put a call into our lovely veterinarian, a holistic vet who only does house calls, and put him on a no grain diet right away. Within a day he was noticeably better, and in less than a few weeks he had all the strength back in his legs. As a result, our cats are both on a permanent low carb diet.
The most important thing to know about Baxter is that he's a cantaloupe fiend (luckily, it doesn't seem to bother his blood sugar). He would leap over an open can of tuna to bury his face into a nice ripe melon.
Shadow came to us because of Baxter's big heart and generosity. We saw her for months prowling around our ground floor apartment, scrawny and wild-eyed, taking off whenever she saw us. She was still barely more than a kitten, but had clearly been abused by somebody (her tail is broken and bent and about 8 inches shorter than it should be). Baxter would catch mice and birds, leaving them at our back door as gifts, and Shadow would come around every so often and scoop them up.
Eventually it got to the point that he would invite her into the house and let her eat out of his bowl (oh how things have changed!), and at that point there was no getting rid of her. She wouldn't let any of us come near her for months, but she'd jump in through our bedroom window to grab a quick bite and then off she'd go. Occasionally she'd forget herself for a moment and come to one of us for a cuddle (she's extremely lovey and drools like a fool when you pet her), but then she'd realize what was happening and run off in terror. She calmed down more and more over the years, but was always a bit wild. Then we moved into our new house.
Shadow was so overwhelmed by the change of location that she didn't come out from under the blankets of our bed for days and yowled her head off non-stop. Eventually we got to the point of letting her out for short jaunts, but just when we thought things were going well, she didn't come home. There was a huge wind storm that night, and it went down below freezing for days (which it rarely does here) so we were really worried. We made posters and hung them everywhere. Nothing. B (our 10 you dd) was overcome with grief.
A week later, at 1:30 in the morning, I woke up to desperate meows coming from the back door, and lo and behold, there she was. Waking B to tell her that Shadow had made it home will always be one of my happiest memories. That was almost two years ago - we've never been able to figure out where she was.
Long story short, being lost for a week has changed our dear sweet Shadow - she no longer runs away if you approach her too quickly, and even comes out occasionally when we have company. I guess she's finally realized that she's home.
August 18, 2006
But now I've gotten away from my point, which was that I made one of my favorite recipes for dinner tonight (from the Moosewood Cookbook, of course) , and it makes an absolutely perfect summer meal.
1 cup dry bulgar wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
black pepper, to taste
4 green onions, finely minced (whites and greens)
1 packed cup minced parsley (I don't like parsley so I use cilantro)
10 to 15 fresh mint leaves, minced (or 1-2 Tbsp. dried mint)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup cooked chickpeas (I usually use a whole can), optional but highly recommended
1 bell pepper diced, optional
1 small cucumber, diced small, optional
Combine bulgar and boiling water. Cover and let stand until bulgar is tender (20-30 minutes).
While the bulgar soaks, combine remaining ingredients (herbs and onions can be minced in a food processor to get them nice and fine). Fluff bulgar and let it cool a bit, then add it to the rest of the mix and chill (for about an hour, but my kids are usually too impatient for that). Serve with warmed bread or pitas.
August 17, 2006
I've been sowing my winter vegetables, hopefully I'll have more luck with those. We typically have cooler summers here, being on the coast (which accounts for having a hard time with peppers, etc.), but our winters are very mild, so I'm hoping for better luck with the cool weather crops. I've planted lots of cabbage, rapini, kale, cold hardy lettuce, overwintering broccoli, and some spinach, so we'll see what happens with those. It's always a race to the finish against the slugs though - I usually try to relocate or redirect the little buggers, but I may have to play hardball from now on as they tend to decimate many of the things I try to start from seed.
Well, off to do some more puttering!
August 16, 2006
On our way home we splurged and stopped at our favorite organic grocer for a bagette, brie and lemon tarts (creamy, lemony goodness!) to go with our salad for dinner.
It's days like these that remind me why we've stayed here for so long.
August 15, 2006
The dry beans must be soaked for 8 hours or overnight. When they are sufficiently soaked, they go into the blender cup of the soymilk maker.
Add the desired amount of water to the pitcher and press start (I never said this was difficult). The machine heats the water to 170 degrees (which reduces the beany taste), blends the beans and forces the water through the bean mash to make the "milk".
I strain the finished milk through a gold coffee filter before flavoring (this makes for "silkier" milk).
Add a little sweetener, salt and vanilla, and you've got milk! The whole process start to finish takes about 15 minutes.
This machine can also be used to make various rice, nut and seed milks.
August 14, 2006
Anyone know what this is? It just showed up this week. I thought it was a balloon flower, but it doesn't seem to be.
(Update: General consensus seems to be that it is indeed a balloon flower!)
To see some other shots of our garden click here, here, here, here, and here (there are others scattered around, but I'll leave you with these!). To see some neat pictures that we've taken of the lifecycle of the ladybugs in our garden, follow this link to our homeschooling blog.
August 13, 2006
For dessert we had the yummy Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles that we made this morning. They're a nutritious take on the more guilt inducing variety and my kids just love them. These are a variation of the truffles in Nava Atlas' "Family Vegetarian Cookbook" (I've englarged the recipe somewhat and changed a couple of the ingredients).
In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup each of chocolate chips, salted peanut butter, and pitted dates until combined, then add 2-3 tablespoons of shelled hemp seeds (optional) and blend again until smooth. Roll into balls about an inch across and chill for at least a half an hour (you should end up with about 24 truffles).
I've been dreaming up all kinds of other combinations since making them, like substituting dried apricots for the dates (which were originally supposed to be raisins), or using almond butter and dried cherries (maybe rolled in cocoa powder?). The possibilities are endless!
It's amazing when we get to see things like this even in the middle of the city!
August 11, 2006
Come pay us a visit!
August 10, 2006
Baps are made from a milk based dough, so they're very light and tender (and squishy). We love them with homemade Baked Apple Butter (below), cheese, honey, jam, or just plain butter.
Their distinctive characteristic is a liberal dusting of flour, making them look a little like a jelly doughnut. Here's B. giving them their milk and flour facials.
And the final product! They're not exactly like the ones we buy (ours probably have a higher percentage of whole wheat flour), but they're pretty darn good!
August 09, 2006
August 08, 2006
Homemade granola has got to be one of my all time favorite breakfast foods. I've tried different flavour combinations, but I think the simplest ones tend to be the most satisfying.
It isn't exactly a low calorie breakfast cereal, but a little bit fills you up. My husband is the only one who eats big bowls full of it anyway, and he cycles 17 miles to work everyday, so it's not really a problem for him. I love to make yogurt parfaits with it - bananas, berries, or other fruit sliced into a bowl or glass, plain yogurt on top, followed by a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkling of granola.
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup canola oil (I now use only 1/2 a cup)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
8 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup shredded coconut
3 cups chopped nuts (any combination of pecans, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and/or sunflower seeds)
2 cups dried fruit (any combination of dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries, raisins, apricots, etc.)
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring just to the boil. Place remaining ingredients (except the dried fruit) in a large bowl and stir to mix. Pour syrup over dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Divide between two (greased) baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly brown (stirring halfway through). Let cool slightly before stirring in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.
Updated Oct. 20/2012 - We still eat this on a regular basis, but I've tweaked the recipe somewhat since the original post. I've reduced the oil to 1/2 a cup, as I can't tell the difference, and I don't see the point in wasting (or consuming) extra oil for no reason (especially if you're using the expensive organic stuff). I also bake the granola for a total of 45 minutes, adding the dried fruit after a half hour (for the final 15 minutes). I found that the granola would sometimes get sticky in storage as a result of the moisture in the fruit, and this prevents that (don't put it in for the entire 45 minutes, as it tends to burn).
Check out Sweetnicks ARF/5-A-Day Tuesdays for other healthy recipe ideas.
August 07, 2006
-Excellent source of essential fatty acids including Omega 3, 6 and GLA
-Lower blood LDL cholesterol levels
-Lower blood pressure
-Improve cardiovascular circulation & function
-Improve immunity levels
-Reduce symptoms of PMS & menstrual cramps
-Reduce inflammation and the symptoms of arthritis
-Reduce & treat dry skin and hair conditions
-Reduction of many degenerative diseases through preventative measures
-Hemp products are GMO-Free, Gluten-free, Herbicide & Pesticide free
The Canadian government legalised hemp cultivation in 1998 (farmers must be licensed and use approved seeds, so I won't be growing it in my backyard plot anytime soon). This is actually the one crop that my Dh feels strongly enough about that he has seriously considered dropping everything and becoming a hemp farmer.
We've got a great store in town (www.hemptown.com) that sells hemp clothing and other products, and on any given day one of us is wearing something made with this amazing plant. Hemp fibre requires no pesticides and much less water to produce than cotton, and the fibres are a lot stronger. It could also replace trees for making paper products and has great potential as an alternative fuel (it can be grown almost anywhere and could supply regions with locally produced biodiesel). Check out the links below to learn more.