Do they really have to grow up?


Hanna and the forest

Hanna and the forest

This weekend my youngest daughter will come to visit.  She is on a reading break from university and will be able to spend a couple of days with me.  After the great time with my son I look forward to the opportunity to connect with another of my children.  Hanna, as  I said is the youngest of my children.  If I had to sum her up in a word I would use the word ‘quirky.’  She is so like her brother and sister in some ways and then so different in others.

Hanna has always been creative and free spirited. From the time she was able to make things she believed in making gifts, cards and tags rather than buying things.  The funniest of these gift givings was when we opened our beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts from Hanna and each one of us received something that belonged to the other.  Hanna was really young at the time and she thought it was a great idea to go into other family members’ rooms and find something special, wrap it up and give it to another family member.  It was a pretty amusing Christmas morning as we all tried to balance our shock with gratitude so as to not hurt her feelings.  After that she mastered the art of homemade gift giving and we each have a collection of pottery, drawings and crafts Hanna has thoughtfully made and gifted us with. In the last few years it was actually hard to watch her become less free and creative as she felt the pressure of the world around her and the need to fit in with her friends, a work schedule and rigours of university study.

Hanna and I have been pretty tight but it has been a painful process for me to allow my last child to grow up and explore who she is.  I have learned much from Hanna, some of which I have not learned willingly.  I described this last year as, Hanna transforming from “Heidi” to ‘party girl” in one easy year.  She doesn’t like that description but for me, a mother wanting to hold on to the last bit of innocence of childhood for my baby, it seems accurate.

Fast forward from a party summer, a totalled vehicle and not enough money saved to make it through the next year of university and here we are.  She is doing well in school, learned to drive a standard vehicle, basically all on her own and is again pursuing her creative spirit.  She is studying her two passions, physical education and art and has decided to follow in her mother and father’s footsteps and get her degree in education. She will be an awesome teacher and I think she will be very satisfied in that career.

Hanna's latest art work

Hanna’s latest art work

This weekend when she comes I will try to remember that she is no longer my little girl but a developing young woman with talents and hopes and dream all her own which I need to honour.  I have already made her a batch of ginger cookies to take home with her and have apples, salmon, dried fruit and a few other treats for her to take back to school with her that will comfort, nourish and remind her of home.  She loves homemade soup and is very good at making it so I thought today I would play with scone and biscuit recipes so that we can freeze a bunch for her to take and reheat on those cold dark nights when she is having a bowl of soup.  Her absolute favourite are cinnamon buns so when she gets here we will mix up a batch of sweet dough together from Beth Hensperger’s book, Beth’s Basic Bread Book. I love the Caramel Rolls Recipe on page 47. Hanna also loves a good BBQ steak so I have ordered up some really good, hormone free Rib Eye Steaks from my favourite butcher and we will feast on those Sunday night.

Hanna is also a nature lover.  This is my daughter who will call me to say ‘hi Mom, I’m at the top of a mountain and the view is so great.”  When I ask her who she is with, she replies casually, “just myself.’  Although I am not keen on her being in the woods alone and not telling anyone where she is going, it does make me proud that she is so confident and comfortable in the woods.  So, this weekend we will walk in the forest, along the ocean shore and maybe even have a hotdog roast over an open fire in the yard one afternoon.  She will tell us her funny stories and crack us up with her quirks, like getting the ending sound of a word wrong or using a word that rhymes with the word she should be using, or telling us to ‘adios’ when she gets annoyed.  We will laugh, share food, the outdoors and memories from days gone by together and perhaps I will be feeling generous enough to share my new bottle of Taylor Fladgate, 10 year Port with her by a roaring fire one night.

ready for a night by the fire

ready for a night by the fire

I am anticipating her arrival with warm thoughts and a busy kitchen!

Big Ideas

The other day I decided to take a walk through the nearby forest and check out where the trails lead to.  As I was walking I got a Big Idea. I have a passion for teaching people to be ecoliterate so why not turn this walk into a lesson in forest ecology. You may be asking yourself what ecoliteracy is. Basically, it is a big word  which means to be literate in the ecologies. Ecoliteracy is a term coined by David Orr, an American educator and physicist, Fritjof Capra in the 1990s. To be ecoliterate means to be literate in how ecological communities work together to sustain themselves and work together with other ecologies to create an integrated, organized, sustainable community.  Ecoliteracy also means to be able to apply tenants of ecological systems to human society in order to minimize the impacts on the earth and to understand the importance of diversity along with empathy among all living things, including human relationships.  The goal is to use nature’s model to find ways to be gentler on the environment and live in unison with nature’s systems and cycles  without causing irreparable damage. It also means to develop empathy and honour diversity as nature models.

Since completing my research in ecoliteracy, mainly food security and sustainability, I have not had a chance to really take time to develop lessons that I and other teachers can use.  I teach students, family and friends all the time, just  little bits and pieces, but this on this particular day I decided to start the creation of a unit on forest ecology.  My idea was to document a variety of flora and then go home and organize the pictures and create an Inquiry question that would enable students to begin to investigate and create understandings of how a forest functions and sustains itself.  What I thought would be a half an hour walk turned into an hour and a half and culminated with me coming out on a beautiful back road in the city that I did not know existed.

What follows are some of  the pictures and my meandering thoughts about how I could use these pictures to teach others who may not be able to get out into a coastal rain forest, about the unique relationships  that allow nature to sustain itself.  I can see this fitting into a variety of grade levels and curriculums.  I’ll see what I come up with.

NOTE: this is just a snippet of a unit.

Big Ideas: How can we understand connections and systems by looking at a forest? What are some of the relationships seen? How can you equate or use the relationships you observe in the forest  to human relationships.  Give examples of human  to human relationships and human to nature relationships that model something you noticed from the forest.

The video link at the bottom of the page could be used to Segway into a class discussion as well as the following activities.      


Choose one of the following:


Look at the pictures below and write one paragraph of what you see in the pictures.  Use language that describes the colors, textures, shapes, depth, layers and anything else you notice.

Try to imagine the sounds you might hear in this forest.  Write a paragraph that describes what this forest might sound like if you were standing very still in it.

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Can you name any of the things you see in the pictures?  List them.

What colour seems to dominate all of the pictures?  Using your knowledge of plants cells, adaptations and relationships in nature to explain why you think the colour you chose tends to be so prominent.

Have you seen any of these plants in nature?  Where were they?

Look at the pictures below.  All of these plants are……?

Is there anything they all have in common?

What differences do you see in them.  Record you observations in a chart with the labels, size, shape, colour, detail.

What do you think the purpose of these plants is in the forest?  Research that question and record what you find.

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This is a nurse log.  What is a nurse log and why is it important in the forest?  Can you think of any ways that humans interfere with the importance of a nurse log? Explain.


I Get to Choose


Picking apples in November

This morning I was awake before the 6am alarm.  It is a gym morning and usually I really don’t want to get out of the warm cozy bed but today I was ready to be up before the alarm went off.  I headed off to the gym in the dark and was motivated to work harder than I usually do.  After my ‘what’s the hurry’ attitude yesterday I felt rejuvenated.  I left for the gym knowing I could work as much or as little as I wanted.  With that freedom of thought and permission to do what felt right, rather than having a preconceived notion of what I should do based on what I was able to do a couple of years ago, came a little extra motivation.

I felt great after my gym workout and was greeted with a steamy cup of coffee on the porch with my partner.  He had ventured out into the dark morning for a run and was back before me.  We sat and listened and looked at what was happening in the yard.  Within a few short minutes we observed the Juncos and Towhees in the rhodos and on the ground under the winter vegetation.  Next, I noticed a familiar sound and looked way up to see two bald eagles soaring and chirping at each other.  As I returned my gaze to the ground something moving quickly along the fence caught my eye and there was the grey squirrel running along the fence and over to a neighbouring tree.  All this activity caused my senses to be heightened and immediately I was aware of the sounds of loons and ducks coming from the ocean below the cliffs at the other end of the property.  Accompanying that was the sound of the sea bell ringing, warning ships of shallow waters.  Such activity early in the morning.

A little observation of how the natural world is up and busy first thing in the morning causes me to rethink wanting to linger in bed.   I guess the early bird really does get the worm.


Cardamom Cookies

So, now it is time to get on with my day.  I am visiting my parents later today and so I thought it would be nice to bring a treat along.  Yesterday I made some apple crisp to share with them but I really want to bring something that they can have for a few days.  Lately, I have been feeling particularly drawn to my Scandinavian roots.  Last night I made Finnish Meatballs from Tessa Kiros’ book Falling Cloudberries and so today following that same urge I remembered how much my Dad loves Cardamom Cookies.  I don’t have the recipe my Mom used to use which was a recipe of my Dad’s aunt so I looked one up on the internet.  I came across the recipe for Swedish Cardamom Cookies that looked similar to the ones Mom made.  They are rolled and in the fridge chilling and I will bake them just before I leave so that I can arrive with a just out of the oven batch.

Mom and I are going to make Shepherd’s Pie together when I get there, another one of my Dad’s favourites and so I am looking forward to an afternoon with my parents.

The recipes for the cookies and the meatballs are on my recipe page or can be found by clicking on the link in the blog.

What is the Hurry? Cease striving and know………….


A cup of Tea and Time

It’s raining again today and I find myself in a rather contemplative mood.  Last night we went to a seminar on Port.  That’s right, Port, the fortified wine from a certain region of Portugal. I first became enamored with Port right about the time I discovered Sherry, by making the Chanterelles sautéed with Sherry that you have heard me wax on about.  I love sitting by the fire, watching the flame of comfort in the dead of winter and sipping a glass of Port out of my prized Waterford glass; a gift from my Mom. Just another example of how food and drink can have stories woven into them if you allow yourself the indulgence and time to create and recall.

This brings me to what I am contemplating today.  Time.  It seems to be a common theme in my brain these days. I am recognizing a pattern in my thoughts and behaviour in regards to time.  When I have time to slow down why is it that I create busyness that really does not add meaning to my existence and when I don’t have time, I fantasize about all the wonderful, meaningful things I would do with time if only I wasn’t so busy?

So here I am today with time.  I am not currently teaching and so my days are spent blogging, cleaning, cooking or doing whatever I like.  However, what should be a time of bliss seems to have turned into a chronic ‘to do’ list coupled with a frenzy of thoughts that are not conducive to my well-being.  Thoughts about what I should be or do, like maybe I should be working harder to be thinner, maybe I should be walking two hours a day and going to the gym everyday instead of just 3 days per week.  Maybe I should be doing yoga every morning and every night, after all yoga is one of the things I wanted to do more of when I was working but didn’t have the time. Alas, if I do the yoga and walk a couple hours a day I have used up half of my day and then I won’t have time to experiment in the kitchen, blog, research, create a seminar and oh yes, what about weaving and knitting more and starting to journal on a regular basis. Oh and I wanted to read more while I am off work.  I thought I could spend time just sitting and reading and flooding my brain with a whole new wave of knowledge and stories to add to the fabric of my soul and perhaps meld into own book.

Do you see what I mean?  Seriously, what is all this banter in my brain about?  I think I might have an idea what this is.  It occurred to me a few weeks ago while visiting a Chapters book store and sharing what I thought were some good reads with a stranger, that I have read an awful lot of self-help books in the last few years.  I believe I have only read 2 or 3 fiction books in the last 5 years.  It is not as if there is anything wrong with that but perhaps it is a symptom of the thing I struggle with most.  Self acceptance.

Why is it that I always seem to be striving.  It is not as if I find myself walking around feeling useless or no good all the time but subconsciously I believe the ‘not good enough’ thought  is always lurking, waiting for an opportunity to dominate my thoughts.  It doesn’t take much. Perhaps my compulsion to read more and more and create more and do more and be more, more fit, prettier, thinner, etc. is all the same thing.  Perhaps I have abused myself and the precious time I have here on earth.

Last night as I was listening to a CBC podcast of Tapestry, Mary Hines was interviewing a philosopher who made a statement that shocked me.  He referred to the fact that most of us have about 1000 months here on earth.  What? 1000 months, really?  When I thought about life from that perspective it changed my thought patterns abruptly.

How can I spend one more minute working myself into an unhealthy frenzy so that I can fit the criteria of what I think the world expects of me.  What do I expect of me?  Hmmm, I’m so tainted by the influence of others and the world that I think that I will have to give that some serious thought.

In the immediate future, as in today, I think I will do those things that I think I would like to do when I find myself feeling hurried.  I started the day with 40 minutes of yoga for stretching out my aching back and leg while listening to gentle music and the calm voice of the instructor.  After that I did quickly vacuum and clean the shower but then I pulled myself back to that gentle place.  A hot shower, some lavender body cream and a steaming cup of hot coffee with cream. After that,  reading from the current book I am enjoying and some sharing of  ideas with my partner while listening to the gentle rain fall, as we sat out on the porch. I followed that up with a boiled egg and toast.  I put the egg in one of the egg cups a friend brought me from Prague and thought of her while I ate.

After clean-up I took the time to make a cup of tea rather than gulp down a second cup of coffee, (which I usually don’t finish) and then moved onto blogging.  So, what is next? Following my instinct to stay slow and calm I think I will go to my weaving room and settle into the rhythm of threading my loom, a slow, repetitive task that I find calming.  Perhaps I will read some more later and then try a new recipe, something yummy to take to my parents tomorrow when I go to visit them.

After that I think I would enjoy a nature fix and there are many trails that weave through a forest that used to be a nut grove around here.  I will put on my boots, raincoat and hat and be sure to take a bag with me just in case I come upon some fallen walnuts that I can collect and bring home.

Maybe I will finish the evening off by the fire, knitting, contemplating the flame and sipping a glass of Port from my Waterford glass and acknowledging that this is how I want to spend the remainder of my 1000 months.  Unhurried, aware and satisfied with what is while being ever cognizant of what could be.

Abundance in November


Heading up the main path from the river

After a soggy Saturday, yesterday was a glorious sunny day.  It was also the fall back time change so we had an extra hour in our day.  Craving some outdoor time and some sunshine we headed out bright and early for an adventure to hike the Canyon Trail in Campbell River area. We hiked along the river, past a hydro power plant and then I found a trail straight up the bank into a wonderful 2nd growth forest.

The path through the forest was very well maintained and the scenery was phenomenal.  We got in about two and a half hours of good hiking and witnessed the aliveness of the forest, even in November.  The forest floor is so green with moss, ferns and Salal right now.  It is strange how a dark place exudes life in its lush greenness.


view of part of the canyon

Of course among all the moss, twigs and ferns mushrooms abound.  I could not help myself and just happened to have a bag in my pack to store my foraged finds.  I am not familiar with mushrooms except for Chanterelles and so with my eyes peeled to the ground it wasn’t long before they started appearing.  Sometimes I would be alerted of their whereabouts by the one lone Chanterelle on the edge of the path.  From there I would look for a vein of them and usually was successful in finding one or two more.  As we walked deeper into the forest I found myself stepping off the path when we were on a mossy slope with plenty of Douglas Fir trees around.

It was again like a forest treasure hunt for me.  I got my partner involved eventually and the addictiveness of mushroom picking bit him and soon we were calling to each other with enthusiasm as we discovered little patches of the buttery morsels.  We picked enough to sauté with our moose roast dinner and some to make a batch of Mushroom Rosemary Soup.  Last night we feasted on the mushrooms sautéed in butter and garlic and served with roast moose, roasted carrots and potato wedges accompanied by Pear Lavender Preserve and Pear Brown Sugar Cardamom Preserve. Delicious.

pear lavender preserve from late summer pear harvest

pear lavender preserve from late summer pear harvest

Today after cleaning the rest of the Chanterelles I am going to make another of my favourite recipes from John Bishop, Oyster Mushroom with Rosemary Soup.  I will be substituting Chanterelles for Oyster mushrooms.  Along with the soup we will be having green salad with four kinds of lettuce, pomegranate and pears as well as some delicious looking  Feta Chive Scones that I can’t resist trying from Joy the Baker.  You can find the recipes by using the links or going to my recipe page.

Time to get cooking.

Waste Not Want Not

Waste not, want not.  How many times did we hear that when we were growing up?  I don’t know about you but I heard it fairly often.  Today I am back from over two weeks of travel and so it is time to deal with a few things left from our Canadian Thanksgiving.  I hosted dinner this year and was fortunate to have friends supply the turkey from their farm.  What I wasn’t expecting was the same friends to bring me an additional gift.  Upon their arrival, with a sheepish look on his face my friend held up a double plastic bag lump and said, “after our conversation the other day about not wasting food and using what you have to create nutritious, delicious food I just couldn’t give this to the dogs.”  I wondered what he was talking about.

It turns out that he had spent the day deboning turkeys so that he could freeze some turkeys in pieces rather than whole birds.  I have had one of the BBQ turkey breasts at his house and believe me they are to die for.  Huge succulent breasts that supply enough white meat for several meals.  Yum.

Anyway, the big lump turned out to be a turkey carcass that he was going to feed to the dogs but he thought better of it because of a conversation we had where I was bemusing about how easy it is to eat economically but well.  One of the things I mentioned, was never throwing out vegetable peels and bits or bones left over after a meal.  So there he was gifting me a turkey carcass and because I was leaving the next day I did not have time to deal with the carcass so I froze it.  Today I took the carcass from the freezer to use for making turkey stock.

I got a tip from a friend about roasting bones before you boil them and so for the last several years I have been doing that.  The roasted bones give so much more flavour to the soup stock and also create a beautiful brown coloured stock.  Why would I make soup stock you might ask?  Well, not just for soups. remember my son hates soup.  No, I use soup stock when I make risotto, when I make polenta, for flavour when I cook rice and in several other recipes such as short ribs and stews.  I freeze the stock in 2-4 cup portions and my freezer is never without a supply.  I have not bought soup stock in a very long time and it used to be a staple item on my grocery list.  I like to have vegetable stock, poultry stock, beef stock and fish stock in my freezer at all time so that I am prepared for any recipe I might want to make.

I thought I would show you how I make turkey stock and then give you a few links to recipes that use stock.

How to Make Turkey Stock

0Place the turkey carcass or bones in a roasting pan and sprinkle with a little herbs of provence and salt and pepper.  Put into a 375 degree oven and roast until golden brown.

0  When the carcass is browned remove from the oven.       0 Place in stock pot and cover bones with water.  Simmer for one to two hours.

0 Strain the bones out from the liquid.   0

0 Place a lid on the stock and chill overnight.

Skim any fat that has set on the top of your stock off and discard.

Pour stock through a fine sieve and then freeze in desired amounts.

Here are a few links to recipes that use stock.

Basic Risotto


101 Soups