Sunday, December 16, 2018

Granny's Christmas Reading: Review of "Half-Broke Horses" by Jeannette Walsh

Half Broke HorsesHalf Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I motored through this well-written, tell-it-like-it-was memoirs ("true novel") of Jeannette Walls' maternal grandmother. I am not quite sure why I picked it up, except that I was in a compulsive reading state (allergies, fed up with FB), since my experience reading the memoir of Walls' own childhood, "Glass Castle" was the sort where I felt triggered and zoned-out after reading it.

Then I remembered how Walls had held her maternal grandmother up as the one safe and nurturing adult in her childhood. This was that story.

Top-rated courses sale: Save up to 90%!


Lily Casey grew up on a Texas ranch in the early 1900s-- she was her father's 'right hand' in many ways, and helped him with breaking horses for his carriage horse business. She was an all-round hard-working rancher as a child, and also had an active brilliant intelligence that helped her get ahead in the "3 Rs" and have a recognition early-on that she didn't have to be reliant upon an early marriage (as her mother said) to have a good life. She went about having an adventuresome, passionate, active, fun-loving time from the time she left home to be a school teacher in some far-off, remote place at age 15 through her eventual marriage to a man 20 years her senior until her years as the grandmother that Jeannette Walls looked up to.

One of the book cover reviewers suggested that this book was a Laura Ingall Wilders type of story, but for adults. I would agree with that, and how I loved that author's family adventure stories when I was a child.




View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bree and Smoky Bree Vegan Cheese Recipes: Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Nut-free, Soy-free


My husband grew up in a European home (he was born in Canada, the only child in his family to have accomplished that) and cheese was a big feature of everyday eating and entertaining.

He loved cheese.  Any kind.  Soft sweet Camembert or "hand-made" Cheeses that smell and taste somewhat like a sporty boy's laundry (not that I've tasted that, but you know...).  I honestly don't think there is a cheese that he did not love.

Then.... we began to cross from ovo-lacto Vegetarian Land (a nice place to live if you adore dairy products and eggs) into Vegan territory.   We did it for health reasons, mainly (we ALL have dairy sensitivity and/or allergies), and for ethical reasons (our older son got physically ill when served an egg as a small child-- he was adamant that we were eating a baby chick-in-the-making.  And you know, he WAS right.

The more we learned about the many benefits of eating vegan, the faster our face accelerated into the vegan arena.  Three of the four of us are now vegan.  So, my husband has done some 'flexitarian' moves throughout our calling ourselves vegan (i.e., eating cheese here and there when he is out, mainly-- none comes into our house).  He still loves dairy cheese, but is not so much in love with being congested, having that moldy cheese breath, or knowing what the cholesterol is doing inside his arteries.

But it wasn't until I made these particular "Bree and Smoky Bree" recipes, that we both went "ah hah!"   Try them and see what you think!!

BREE CHEESE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can Full-Fat Coconut Milk (organic, of course)
  • 1 T. fresh Lemon juice (or 1 ice cube of frozen lemon juice)
  • 1/4 C. Water
  • 2 tsp. Coconut Aminos (or Bragg's Aminos)
  • 2 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 2 T. Nutritional Yeast (not Brewer's Yeast or Baker's Yeast)
  • 2 T. Agar Powder (not Agar flakes)
Powder Mix, measured out and sifted into a small bowl:
  • 2 T. Corn Starch (organic) or other starch such as Arrowroot or Potato Starch
  • 1 T. Tapioca Starch
  • 1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
  1. Blend the first 7 ingredients on high in a blender until fully mixed.  The coconut milk will look curdly, but that is okay-- it will smooth out in the next step.
  2. Pour the blender ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk continuously over medium-high heat until the mixture bowls.  Reduce heat and continue to whisk for another 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.  (HAVE YOUR POWDER MIX READY)
  3. Pour the hot mix into the blender, and then immediately add the Powder Mix.
  4. Blend right away until the mass gets thick (doesn't take long).  Scrape down the sides of the blender.
  5. Pour into any shape of container you wish.  You can lightly oil the pan, or you may use silicone containers that do not require oil.  I used a pie plate in this recipe and it is easy to cut wedges like you would with a wheel of actual brie.
  6. Allow it to set in the fridge for about 2 hours or overnight.
  7. Slice and use.  It becomes firmer over time.  Use up in about a week.  Makes a wonderful spread for sandwiches or on crackers, etc.  Eat for dessert with fruit of choice.
SMOKY BREE CHEESE


INGREDIENTS:



  • 1 can Full-Fat Coconut Milk (organic, of course)
  • 1 T. fresh Lemon juice (or 1 ice cube of frozen lemon juice
  • 1 T. Liquid Smoke (I used Hickory that I bought at the health store)
  • 1/4 C. Water
  • 1/2 tsp. Coconut Aminos (or Bragg's Aminos)
  • 2 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 2 T. Nutritional Yeast (not Brewer's Yeast or Baker's Yeast)
  • 2 T. Agar Powder (not Agar flakes)
Powder Mix, measured out and sifted into a small bowl:
  • 2 T. Corn Starch (organic) or other starch such as Arrowroot or Potato Starch
  • 1 T. Tapioca Starch
  • 1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
The directions for the Smoky Bree are the same as for the Bree, but with the addition of the Liquid Smoke, and a lesser amount of the Aminos.  

I made mine in large silicone muffin cups, but again, you can choose any shaped pan.  I got about 3 large muffin-size cheeses.





Friday, November 23, 2018

Praying the Scriptures for my Grandies


We have two sweet, beautiful, loving granddaughters-- currently 11 and 13-- and it is my greatest desire to be the kind of grandmother who upholds her granddaughters in prayer daily.

We live in different provinces and have varied, busy schedules that do not always allow for us to connect by phone or social media in that satisfying way that can occur when you live nearby your loved ones, and can gather on a fairly regular basis for meals, chats, concerts, movies, sleepovers, church, just for the sheer joy or as a support.  Prayer is really key to our having the relationship we want with our grandies.  Regardless of distance or other access issues, we can play a significant role in their lives by interceding through our prayers for their needs.

Praying the Scriptures

Sometimes when we pray we find ourselves repeating the same phrases, wondering if we have really conveyed what it is we are wanting God to provide. 

 The Bible is God's Word for us.  There are hundreds of different translations in hundreds of languages.  You can read it or listen to it read by someone else.  If you have already started or established a personal relationship with Jesus, the actual "Word" for each of us, << as you can read about in the first chapter of the first book of John, one of his disciples, I am certain that you will find the use of Scriptures will really enhance your prayer experience.  If you are not a Christian, but just want to learn about this type of prayer, welcome! 

God values prayers in your own words that you pray, and He is faithful to answer them.  It is not mandatory to pray with attached Scripture.  But using the God-inspired phrases that have guided people through the Ages is a wonderful powerful blessing for the person doing the praying, and for the grandchild who is being prayed for.  

You can read the Bible and pray as you find verses that particularly resonate with you-- often in Proverbs or Psalms-- but you can also find a lot of books and blogs that have done the work of sorting out appropriate scriptures for different situations, needs, desires.  Then, you simply place your loved one's name into the Scripture, and voila! you are "praying Scripture" for them.

I am reading an older version of the book called Praying the Scriptures for Your Children: Discover How to Pray God's Purpose for Their Lives available in several different formats through Amazon.  The author, Jodie Berndt, has included a lot of wonderful assists in understanding and "customizing" Scriptural prayer to individual and situational needs.  It's an easy, enjoyable read with lots of wonderful examples of how God has responded to prayers on a lot of different areas such as faith, character, safety, relationships with peers and siblings, and for the understanding and awareness of purpose for the child's future.  I will be reflecting on some of what Jodie writes in upcoming blogs (topics listed below this article) about praying for our grandies, as well as using other books, blogs and videos to elucidate the joys of being a personal prayer ministry to your grandchildren.  I hope you will check out the blog posts and be blessed through this delightful way to contribute to your grandchildren's lives, now and in their futures.  (I have met so many grateful adults who tell me that "my grandmother prayed for me".)


You can subscribe to Organic Granny posts via email by going HERE.  Free.  Includes new vegan recipes, gardening posts, and Praying Scriptures for the Grandies.  Private and Non-Spamming. 

Discovering How To Pray God's Will for My Grandies

I believe that God's Will is ultimately for the very best in our lives: health, relationships, wisdom, learning, etc.  The rub is in recognizing that God knows the beginning from the end-- He has a plan for our lives, and for the lives of each one of His children-- and what might seem like God's Will, might be our own slightly blurry understanding of how things must work out to appease our less than crystal clear perception of what He truly has planned for us.    The New English Standard Bible quotes Paul as writing the following in a letter to the Roman Christian Community (Romans 12:2):
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

When we pray using  actual words from Scripture-- the picture of what he truly desires for us and our families-- we glimpse the wonderful, powerful, positive gifts he wants to give us and those we pray for.  He has a purpose for each one of us, and it is 'what is good and acceptable and perfect'.  Praying daily will reveal that purpose for each of our grandchildren, and for each of us individual praying grandparents.  Exciting, yes?

PRAYING SCRIPTURE FOR THE GRANDIES (POSTS):

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Best Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Recipe - vegan, GF

Best Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes Recipe- Yes, As Good As It Looks! 
If you enjoy roasted brussels sprouts, this recipe is one of the best that I have come across.  It is pretty easy to put together in a short time, and makes for a lovely holiday dish or addition to a potluck.

I love brussels sprouts-- or teeny cabbages!  And I also love the combination of the slightly bitter brassica with sweet potatoes, that you get in this recipe.  Because, of course, sweet potatoes have that ... um... sweetness that offsets the slight herby bitterness of the sprouts. 

The recipe I was inspired by used finely grated lemon zest and thinly sliced scallions... I have substituted my health-promoting whole lemon and garlic puree, that you can learn about and use as well in this recipe-- Chris Wark from Chris Beat Cancer swears that this formulation destroys cancer cells, and really amps up your immunity in general.  Or just go with the lemon zest and thinly sliced scallions.

Sometimes when I am working with Brussels Sprouts I think of that song from "Sesame Street" that drilled the number 'ten' called "Ten Tiny Turtles" and included these lyrics:
                             
                             We'll need ten cans of black-eyed peas 
                                 They give you good strong muscles 
                                    Ten of those tasty sprouts 
                                       The ones that they call brussels 



This particular recipe contains olive oil and vegan margerine, or coconut oil. If you are cooking without oils and other visible fats, you can make your usual adaptations.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 pounds (700 g) Brussels Sprouts frozen or fresh trimmed and halved
  • 1 medium to large Sweet Potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 C. (or less) Extra Virgin Olive Oil  (or melted Coconut Oil; Broth for Oil-Free)
  • Sea Salt or Kosher Salt, and cracked Black Pepper
  • 1/4 C. (60ml) Maple Syrup
  • 1/3 C. (80ml) Balsalmic Vinegar
  • 3 T. Vegan Butter or Coconut Oil
  • 1 T. Whole Lemon and Garlic Puree OR 3 Scallions, sliced thin and 1 tsp. Lemon Zest

METHOD FOR MAKING THE BEST ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS & SWEET POTATOES

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F/230C
  2. If using frozen Brussels Sprouts, I found it helpful to parboil them (in water to cover until a good rolling boil) for a couple of minutes.  Drain immediately in a collander and let them cool a few minutes.  I use the frozen organic baby Brussels Sprouts from Costco and do not need to half them or trim them.  For fresh, farm-grown Brussels Sprouts, trim them and half them.
  3. Toss the sprouts in the oil and salt and pepper.  Repeat with the sweet potatoes.
  4. Put an oven rack on the bottom of your oven.
  5. Line your baking dish or broiling pan with parchment paper.  Arrange the veggies on two ends of the pans, fresh brussels spouts cut ends down on one end, and sweet potatoes on the other end.
  6. Roast the veggies for about 20-25 minutes on the bottom rack.  They should be deep brown, perhaps even charred.
  7. Bring the Maple Syrup to a simmer over medium heat in a small sauce pan, stirring continually with a wooden spoon.  Let it simmer for about 3-4 minutes before removing from the heat and whisking in both the vinegar (pour slowly to avoid bubbling) and the butter and a pinch of salt.  Return to the medium heat and continue to whisk continually until the syrup and vinegar have transformed into a a glossy, bubbling glaze that is beginning to thicken.  3-4 minutes.
  8. Transfer the Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes to a large serving bowl (or a serving vessel that you might want to use in a microwave oven at the potluck).  Add the glaze and the Lemon-Garlic Puree (or Scallions/Lemon Zest) to the bowl and toss to combine.  
  9. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes for the First Time!

Sweet Potatoes from California on the Left & my son's Homegrown 'Radiance' Sweet Potatoes to the Right!

When I buy sweet potatoes-- the ones with the orange flesh-- I generally call them 'yams' and they generally come from California.  (My son was very serious about their being sweet potatoes-- here is information about the difference between a sweet potato and a yam).

Sweet potatoes figure in a lot of Southern U.S. cookery, and have made their way into Canada over the years of my adulthood.  I do believe that you could buy them in a can (yuck) when I was a child, but that was about it.  In Northern Saskatchewan, where potatoes were always white.

I remember eating them caked with brown sugar.  The taste of the sweet potato was unfamiliar and not as comforting as the good old "Irish" or white potato I grew up with, so the sweet potato with the addition of brown sugar just seemed... disgusting.
This beautiful orange flesh makes me call this a yam-- but it is a sweet potato!
But then, more years rolled by and I became a vegan.  I began to really enjoy the sweet potato (still calling it a "yam")-- in savoury casseroles, in soups, even as a dessert pie-- and of course, as fries!

So, this year our vegetable-farmer-son grew sweet potatoes for the first time!  On an acreage in deep boxes near Powell River on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.
The lot of the sweet potatoes from his harvest-- some were in the 1# range, many were like peanuts lol

The fruits of his labour are really pretty amazing!  He had many little puny ones, of course, but in general the plants put off about 3-5 tubers-- some weighing in the range of 1 pound.  (He said he saw organic tubers at Whole Foods that were in the 2 pound range, but there is no Whole Food Store around here, so I didn't see those.)

And he really didn't get his cuttings into the ground until July, by which time the tubers had begun to develop in #1 nursery pots and grew, as a result of the cramming, crooked.  He plans to do his own cuttings this coming year, and be ready to go earlier.  If we enjoy the hot summer we had for the last couple of summers, he hopes to get something like 100# of sweet potatoes with a goal of 200# in years to come.
Add the cuttings to a cup of water for about 4 days to sprout

So, you can start your own plants by cutting the vine stems and putting them in a cup of water for about 4 days to root, and then into the number #1 pots with some soil, or maybe right into the ground.  They grow straight downward.

Sweet potatoes love sun and heat.  Our son only watered his plants at the time of planting and later on when they were particularly dry.... that is TWICE over the growing time!

He grew them in a 4 x 8 raised box with soil amended with peat moss, cocoa coir and compost. He mulched with fur chips.  He thinks that they would do well in a green house or covered with a sheet of plastic to suck up the heat.

You can read more about/order the cuttings for the new variety called "Radiance" here from the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario.

SOME FAB VEGAN RECIPES FOR SWEET POTATOES








Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Classic Vegan Roast (or Burger)

This roast recipe is adapted from a recipe in the March 1998 issue of Veggie Life magazine when vegan cookery was really in its infancy in North America.  You might be able to find these 'classic' magazines in a local thrift shop like I did.  They are gold!



INGREDIENTS: T=Tablespoon  C=8 oz Cup  Pound=16 oz  g=Gram

  • 1 medium organic Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or use water or broth)
  • 3 cloves organic Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C. chopped Walnuts
  • 1/4 C. organic Rolled Oats (Gluten Free, if you eat that way)
  • 1/4 pound (115 g) Shitake Mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 2 C. organic Vegetable Stock or Water (I use the vegan stock from Costco)
  • 1 T. organic Soy Sauce
  • 3 T. Dijon-style Mustard
  • 3 T. organic Ketchup
  • 2 T. Red Wine, Balsamic or Apple Cider Vinegar (what you have)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • 350 g organic Firm Tofu, crumbled small (a regular size block of firm tofu)
  • 3 T. organic Starch (Arrowroot, Tapioca or organic Corn Starch-- what you have)
  • 1 C. organic Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs (or Gluten-free Bread Crumbs)
  • 1/2 C. Rolled Oats to coat (Optional) 


  1. I like to measure out all my ingredients into ramekins or bowls before starting and then I can just do the 'cooking show' dump as needed.  A food processor could be used to do most of he job (above), just process each item separately as required: onion, walnuts, mushrooms, tofu.  Mincing the garlic with a knife is likely easier.                 
  2. Saute the onions in a skillet (fry pan) over medium heat (about 5 minutes, until soft).  Add the garlic at about the 4 minute mark (just before the onions are done) for another 5 minutes.  Transfer the onion and garlic to a large bowl, and set aside.
  3. In the same frypan, toast the walnuts, stirring often (BEWARE: turn your back and they will scorch), for about 3 minutes, or until fragrant. 
     
  4. Stir in the oats and mushrooms with the walnuts, and saute, stirring, for about 5 minutes.  
  5. Add the Vegetable Stock (or Water) and turn the burner to high.  Reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes, to reduce the liquid.
  6. When the contents of the pan seem almost dry, stir in the soy sauce, mustard, ketchup, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Cook until thickened, and then add to the bowl with onions mix. 
      
  7. MAKING THE LOAFPreheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 177 degrees Celsius.  I used parchment paper in my loaf pan, but you could use a light coat of oil, or a silicone pan-- the idea is to be able to remove the baked loaf easily.  Spoon in the mixture and press down.  You can add a coat of crumbs or oats (press them down well).  Bake for 40 minutes until firm.  Allow it to cool for about an hour before slicing.                                                                             
    Oven-ready Classic Roast Loaf
  8. MAKING BURGERS: Shape into 8 burger patties.  Dredge (coat) both sides of the burgers lightly with rolled oats. Saute in minimum oil for about 4-5 minutes each side, until brown and crispy.  

This lovely roast makes fabulous 'meat-less loaf'' sandwiches for lunches.  8 servings.

Here are some other plant-strong recipes that you might enjoy:

5 Sausage Recipes for Transitioning Vegans

Vegetarian Turkey Recipes

Yummy No-Meat Balls

Sometimes vegans and vegetarians are scared off organic tofu and other organic soy products by well-meaning (?) "health researchers".  Check out the following reviews of scientific studies by Dr. Michael Greger at Nutrition Facts.org to put those fears to rest:

Who Shouldn't Eat Soy?

DOCTOR Greger'S NOTEs

What if you’re at high risk for breast cancer? See BRCA Breast Cancer Genes and Soy.
What if you already have breast cancer? See:
What if you have fibroids? See Should Women with Fibroids Avoid Soy?.
What about hot flashes? See Soy Phytoestrogens for Menopause Hot Flashes.
What about genetically modified soy? See GMO Soy and Breast Cancer.
How deleterious is hormone replacement therapy? See How Did Doctors Not Know About the Risks of Hormone Therapy?.
Synthetic estrogens used in animal agriculture are also a concern. For more on this, see Zeranol Use in Meat and Breast Cancer.
If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to Dr. Greger's videos for free by clicking here.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

How To Make Quick and Easy Plum Jam in your Oven!

Delicious Roasted Plum Jam
I am very grateful to live in a place of bountiful fruit. In our yard we have grapes, thornless blackberries, a golden plum tree, hazelnuts, saskatoon berries, blueberries, apples, green figs, and quince. We have an Italian plum tree that has not yet been very forthcoming, but that's okay, because this year two friends gifted us with lovely dark blue, plump, little prune plums. Another friend sent over some sweet, delicious pears from her tree. We are blessed with delicious fruit and generous friends!

So, what to do with all these plums? 
It is true that I love fresh fruit.  I blame my un-fruited childhood in rural Saskatchewan.  Yes, we did have berries of many kinds, wild and garden-grown, but we did not, or at least on our farm, have any large tree fruits... crabapples don't count.  But here I am with a surfeit of fruit in my twilight years.  And I am adverse to all the work involved in making "preserves" in the traditional way.

You will not be finding this anytime in my 'back storage room':

 However, I heard from a friend about a friend's easy-peasy jam-making where he just did everything re the sterilizing in the oven.  That sounded like a good idea.  But specifics please!

And then I found a recipe for roasting plums on the internet-- roasting them to turn them into jam!  If you are a fan of roasted veggies (as I am), you will know that roasting holds the lovely primary and subtle flavours of food better than other methods, such as boiling.  So, with that recipe, I went to town, making a couple of adjustments for what I had in the house vs. what was called for in the recipe.

It starts with slicing up the plums and putting them on pans...

Look at the variation in colours!  Actually some of them were a little riper than others.  (That cream-coloured stuff is not butter or margerine, although it looks like it, but a whole grated lemon-- I freeze the lemons and then go through the arduous task of grating them in lieu of juicing-- yes, it is time-consuming.)  Notice that there are NO stones on the sheet above, just plum slices.
This pan of plum slices also includes the accompanying stone for each plum.  Reminiscent of Paul Simon's "Mother and Egg Reunion" in a very vegan-vague way.  Really, the plum stone is supposed to lend an almond-like (?) flavour to the jam.  Although, DO REMEMBER to remove the stones before you put the jam in the jar.

By this time, I am already salivating, loving roasted vegetables as must as I do. And I also love home-made jam, so it seems fairly likely that this will be a hit for me.
Oh, yes. yes. yes.  This is the real stuff, this roasted plum jam.  You have to try it.  The recipe is written out for you just below a couple more pictures of this caramelized, jammy jam.  I used Coconut Sugar to get the caramelized flavour.  You can go with whatever sugar you want!  Sugar is sugar (and apparently 'date sugar' is NOT sugar-- it is basically a whole food sweetener, being the dried and grated dates grated up to resemble some sugars... although it is much healthier, being a whole food and not a "refined" food.)

Hello! This is the finished product on Portofino Bakery's whole wheat toast.  It's not dainty, but it is DELICIOUS and that really counts for us:
INGREDIENTS:

  1. 4 pounds/2 kg Italian (prune) plums
  2. 200 g (7 oz) caster sugar (original recipe)- or other sugar-- I used Coconut Sugar
  3. Juice of 1 lemon (I used whole grated frozen lemon)
  4. Black Pepper in grater for pan #1
  5. 3 small jam jars with lids, sterilized in dishwasher or in oven


PREP:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F
  2. Cover 2 cookie sheets (or bake sheets of some sort) with parchment paper.
  3. Slice up about 4 pounds (about 2 kg) of Italian (prune) plums.  Stone each of them, and place them side up and side down (or all up, as I did) on both pans, 2 pounds per pan (1 kg).  On the second pan, place stones throughout in empty spaces.  
  4. Spinkle/spoon half the lemon juice (or grated puree) and half the sugar over the plums in each pan.
  5. Grate black pepper over the plums in pan #1.
  6. Either time the jars to be sterilized in your dishwasher (to come out at about the time your jam is ready-- about 30-40 minutes) or in your oven.  Please use directions online re warming the jars in the oven to co-ordinate with your hot jam being ladled into a hot jar.  I find the dishwasher idea to be pretty workable-- just remember to use the highest washing setting (*sterilize* on my dishwasher) and time to co-ordinate the sterilizing ending with the the jam coming out of the oven.  If you have any doubts about this, you might be better off just keeping your jam in the fridge vs. on the shelf in your pantry.  The jam done properly on a shelf can last for 1 year.  In the fridge, probably about a similar length of time.  It doesn't get a chance to sit around in our house.  As soon as you open it, refrigerate it after that.
  7. While jars AND jam are both hot, wearing oven mitts, carefully spoon the jam into the jars.  Jab it gently into the jars, making sure there are no air pockets.
  8. Seal the jars you are not going to eat from
  9. Enjoy!!  This is our current favourite jam: oven- roasted plum jam!

 You might also enjoy: Yummy Quick and Easy Fig Jam

Sunday, August 26, 2018

My Beef With The Dollar Stores

My current number one beef with the dollar stores might also be shared with a bunch of Pinterest and assorted website promoters: those neat little plastic organizers (containers, baskets, etc.) look good for about a year, and then they... disintegrate!  They have a much shorter life than the shopping bags we get from the grocery stores!

Maybe they are made of corn starch or rice starch or ??  In any case, perhaps we should be putting them in our compost bins?? (I'm joking)

I guess you do get what you pay for?  Who knew?

I have begun to replace the plastic storage/organizational containers with wire baskets, also from the dollar stores.  I also use large pretty dishes and trays in our main bathroom (yes, made from glass, pottery, ceramics) that I purchased at my favourite thrift store ("Too Good To Be Threw" in Courtenay, BC-- the prices are reasonable and the profits go to support programs for women and children escaping abuse). 

The work to bring down the clutter is still in progress.  Today we are going to go through a few falling-apart baskets upstairs that have accumulated rubble of various descriptions.  I want my husband in on this since he is the Dollarama maven in this house. 
This plastic basket fell apart bit by bit when I picked it up (with a jumble of small items in it, of course).  

So, have you run across this problem with plastic containers meant to organize your spaces in a pretty way?  Suggestions for replacing these kinds of containers? Your comments (below) are much appareciated!

You might also be interested in:
Sentimental Journey: What To Keep, What To Pass Along When You Declutter
Organic Granny Declutters-Simplifies-Minimizes 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A Healthy Workout for the Senior Mind: Caring for the Caregiver

Healthy Aging: An Oxymoron?

A Healthy Brain Workout

A while ago, a friend who was doing some at-home care-giving for her husband who had a terminal illness, called to invite me to go with her to a "workshop about brain health" that she read about in our local paper. Like many "boomers"-- that is, people born in the 1940s to early 1960s demographic-- I am interested in layman's "brain science" where it relates to my being able to make some practical lifestyle adjustments to extend the life span of my brain's health, and, I hope, forego dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
I said "yes" to her offer.
When we arrived I was surprised to find that the workshop was being presented by the local chapter of the British Columbia Alzheimer Society. I have older relatives diagnosed with Alzheimer's and thought that perhaps this would be a way to learn about how to avoid getting that dreadful aging disease.
The brochures laid neatly out on one of the entry tables were labeled: Taking Action for a Healthier Brain. The suggestions for maintaining or improving brain health included:
  • be socially active -- hang out with positive people and don't let the connections with family and friends go asunder. Continue to learn new things, join interest groups, volunteer, and even hold down a job if that gives you pleasure and purpose.
  • have a healthy lifestyle-- basically, eliminate junk food and high fat, high processed foods, get more exercise, keep your blood pressure down, reduce stress, quit smoking and give up the alcohol binges. Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity are all risk factors for Alzheimer's disease.
  • protect your brain from injuries by wearing a helmet when doing sports like ski-ing, cycling, and skating. Use safety features like handrails to avoid falls. Wear sensible shoes (I added this, it wasn't in the brochure), and drive safely while wearing a seat belt.
  • challenge your brain- keep your brain challenged everyday because that actually reduces the likelihood of developing the disease of Alzheimer's. Play games that stimulate problem-solving, like sudoku (my husband's favorite) or Literatii (my facebook word-puzzle game). Don't forget about jigsaws, crosswords, and chess. Another way to exercise your brain is to continue to try something new or the change the way you normally do tasks. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand, take a different route around the neighborhood when out walking the dog, learn a language (my husband has become fluent in Spanish and is an enthusiastic participant in Elder College classes that are offered in our community), learn to play the piano or join a writer's group, go to a museum, take a trip, enjoy hobbies.

Walking Is Brain Exercise

After reading over the brochure I was excited about the morning's events. I expected that there would be a nice little snack around 10a.m. too. I settled into a chair. Very briefly. Suddenly there was a group of women, many about my age, some older, moving with an organizer towards the door. I got up and clubbed with them as well. It seemed we were going on a half-hour walk. My friend and I exchanged glances. It sounded okay, but it certainly wasn't what we had expected. We took part in some gentle warm-up exercises, stretching mostly, and then headed out the door into the sunshine for a nice friendly walk along the riverbank of Courtenay. It was a beautiful sunny warm Fall Day-- the first really pleasant day we've had in weeks. We agreed that the idea to take a walk was genius! My pal and I might talk about going for a walk together, but do we? Not usually. This was a blessing.
At some point the leader of the walk asked us to:
(a)think of a name for our walking group and
(b)come up with some suggestions as to how we might support caregivers in our community who are looking after folks with Alzheimer's (I hear a woman volunteer say that she was caring for her husband with the disease).
My friend Pauline taking a walk in the sunshine along the River Park Trail in Courtenay

Humour Can Get You Over The Hump

My friend and I didn't even attempt coming up with a name for the group, but we did begin a dialogue about people we knew who were looking after loved ones with Alzheimer's and their trials. We agreed that it would be the kind and compassionate thing for us to offer our caregiver friends/acquaintances some time out -- we could look after the 'patient' so our friend could go for a walk or out to dinner with her friends. Back in the circle at the hall there were also other suggestions like bringing the Alzheimer's patient home with you, particularly if you had children around and taking the patient out for a drive sometimes.
After the walk we returned to the centre and prepared for a powerpoint presentation. The woman (introduced as Enid Mushypeas, Queen's lady-in-waiting/bodyguard) who stepped up to present had on a clownish ensemble and spoke with a thick Cockney accent... I got that she was going to introduce the idea of humour being a useful element in growing old (with or without Alzheimer's), and, as she pointed out, particularly important to cultivate if we wanted to have excellent care giving since it is quite likely, given a choice, excellent caregivers will choose to work with positive, easy-going, good-humoured people (with or without Alzheimer's) over curmudgeons. I still waited for the powerpoint to start rolling.
                                                 The delightfully hilarious Enid Mushypeas

Keep The Comedy Coming

No powerpoint. Instead we were treated to the most entertaining comedic presentation by a woman who purported to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of England, no less, or, as she had it, Lizzy and Phil. She had us in stitches. It was great to look around the circle and see everyone howling with laughter. It was a demonstration of how effective humour is as a learning tool and as a stress-release. How very relieving, too, that we weren't deluged with confusing explanations couched in psychopharmacological jargon (the Medical Model), as is humorously illustrated in this youtube video:

Psychopharmacologist

                                

Nia Dancing

My friend and I got up to leave, feeling very satisfied with our little learning foray, de-stressed by all the laughter. But it wasn't to be: a nice young woman named Ann Marie Lisch steps up and tells us about our next activity in brain health called Nia, short for Neuromuscular Integrative Action. Nia developed from a combination of dance, martial arts, and healing arts like yoga and Tai Chi, back in the 1990s.
[Nia] works to build strength, flexibility and balance. Every muscle in the body has neuronal nodal points, memory receptors that are connected to the brain. These receptors help create muscle memory and help store the physical components of emotional traumas (Rossi 1993). In Nia we use the body to heal the mind and spirit by joining muscular movement with introspection, intention, visualization, imagery and expressiveness. Body language and verbal expression are used to help bring forgotten feelings-pleasant and unpleasant-to the foreground of consciousness. from Nia: The Body's Way at InnerIdeas

NIA demo


The Nia Workout

We were immediately taken up by the jazzy music and the graceful method Ann Marie used to encourage us to begin with the patterns that she showed us (that is, dance, martial arts, yoga and tai chi, all done in a circle with delightful drum jazz music) and moved into patterns that were more natural to our individual bodies. Where did we feel we needed to go, what was a pleasurable movement to make? This was joyful movement. It turns out that Ann Marie offers classes to seniors in our community (along with classes for other groups of people). I felt so great after the session of Nia that I feel like I may just have tumbled upon an "exercise" technique that suits me in my maturity, a time when I'm pulled among the computer, walking my dog, various volunteer commitments, family, home, garden, and not very inclined to 'exercise' in the conventional sense.

Brain Gym for Seniors

We began to make our way toward the door, but again, another young woman, called Katherine-or-Kat, asked if we were interested in doing some "Brain Gym"She quickly added that the Brain Gym exercises could be done in a chair if we wished. We had the option of sitting, standing or sitting and standing, as we were moved. My friend and I hauled chairs into the circle (of chairs-- we were not the only ones feeling a little wobbly) and the Brain Gym began. There are many good videos online that will convey the spirit of Brain Gym.
Brain Gym is a physical technique that helps the brain and body work more effectively together to actually help to reduce stress and improve co-ordination, concentration, and self-confidence. The vision improvement exercises help with stability, depth perception and mental awareness. In the video below you can see how volunteers work with a seniors' group to "give back" some of the gifts they have received from the community themselves.                   

Support For Those Caring For Those With Dementia

Caring for someone with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, or other forms of dementia, can be extremely exhausting. As frequently happens, even well-meaning family supports can fall away leaving the care-giver feeling lonely and isolated. The Alzheimers Association of BC has support groups in place to offer a range of support services and social activities to encourage and promote coping for care-givers. You can find similar support groups and services across Canada here.
Alzheimers and Dementia Support Services for caregivers in the United States can be found here.
Groups for Carers in Australia can be accessed here.
So ended our lovely morning of laughter, new learning, lots of exercise, new friends and connections in the community, even prizes (I won a book of sudoku puzzles) and healthy snacks. The Queen's Lady-in-Waiting told us that an attitude of gratitude is also a marker for a healthy brain as we grow into our years. I feel grateful for people in our community who have put together this program and for friends who initiate spending time with me trying something new.
If you are a caregiver for someone with an Alzheimers or other dementia diagnosis, I encourage you to check out the resources in your community. If you can not find any groups listed above, speak to your physician (or psychopharmacologist). Perhaps there are others in your community who have also been asking to have a group and you can be a founding member!

**This article originally appeared on the writing community HubPages.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Figs For Sabbath Breakfast August 4, 2018

Ripe Green Figs from the first (breba) crop of the summer
When we first moved to Vancouver Island (November 2005), my husband was in awe of the neighbour's wonderful fig trees.  So we planted our own.  One of the two we planted withered and died (cursed?  
Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked. Jesus replied, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
Matthew 21:18–22  The Holy Bible
In time, however-- maybe about six years later-- the single surviving tree burst forth in prolific fruitage and has continued to this day.  It produces two crops.  Sometimes it rains and the droops mold before they are harvested (ahhhh) and sometimes (often) the second little knobs don't get enough of a hot season to mature enough to eat.  But there have been some wonderful pickings, and this year is one of those years.

This 'common fig'-- ficus carica--  does not require the pollinating services of a wasp from another fig tree.  Fig wasps are not generally available in colder climates.  While it grows in deserts, it is most happy next to an oasis (according to Wikipedia).  Our yard is like a desert in the summer-- a mountain ridge rising up from the highway that runs parallel to the Comox Harbour.  We generally start having a rainy season in early Fall, and throughout the winter months.  But no standing body of water in our yard.

Figs, dried, uncooked
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy1,041 kJ (249 kcal)
63.9 g
Sugars47.9 g
Dietary fiber9.8 g
0.93 g
3.3 g
VitaminsQuantity
%DV
Vitamin A equiv.
0%
0 μg
Thiamine (B1)
7%
0.085 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
7%
0.082 mg
Niacin (B3)
4%
0.62 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
9%
0.43 mg
Vitamin B6
8%
0.11 mg
Folate (B9)
2%
9 μg
Vitamin C
1%
1 mg
Vitamin E
2%
0.35 mg
Vitamin K
15%
15.6 μg
MineralsQuantity
%DV
Calcium
16%
162 mg
Iron
15%
2 mg
Magnesium
19%
68 mg
Manganese
24%
0.51 mg
Phosphorus
10%
67 mg
Potassium
14%
680 mg
Sodium
1%
10 mg
Zinc
6%
0.55 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: Wikipedia

3 Fun Things To Do With Grandkids in Edmonton, Alberta

3 Fun Things To Do With Grandkids in Edmonton, Alberta
Visit Fort Edmonton Park & A Review of Other Things You Can Do With Kids & Grandkids In Edmonton,Alberta (CLICK above)