Monday, June 30, 2008

You Can Heal Your Life

In an effort to continually improve myself, broaden my horizons and be the best I can be, I have purchased two books to read.

The first by Martha Beck "Finding Your Own North Star" is a book that teaches how to read your internal compasses, articulate your core desires, identify and repair the unconscious beliefs that may be blocking your progress, nurture your intuition, and cultivate your dreams from the first magical flicker of an idea through the planning and implementation of a more satisfying life.

The second book "You Can Heal Your Life" written by Louise Hay states, "If we are willing to do the mental work, almost anything can be healed." The author cured herself after being diagnosed with cancer.

This book could potentially change a person's life. Ms. Hay connects the relationship between emotions and aliments and encourages us to take responsibility for our lives. Seems simple, but a much more difficult art to truly master in one's life.

These two books follow a similar thread of reading in which I have engaged over the past few years ............

The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz .... one of my favourite books. I keep a condensed copy of these agreements with me at all times.
The Secret - Rhonda Byrne
The Seat of the Soul - Gary Zukav
Soul to Soul - Gary Zukav
A Complaint Free World - Will Bowen
A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle

The main theme in these books ........ live your life positively - live in the moment or the now. Don't spend time obsessing about the future - you don't have it yet. Let the future take care of itself. That is not to say that we should live our lives fatalistically but realistically.

Although we have no guarantee that we will even be in the next moment, we must prepare ourselves with the belief that we will be here to enjoy it.

Our higher power (whomever you believe in) lovingly takes care of the birds and wild animals. They do not want for anything, so let us believe that our higher power will also take care of us.

With that in mind however, we should not just expect our financial security and well being to drop into our laps.

We have been given as humans the amazing capability for thinking consequentially, so by engaging this ability we can also reason that our future will not be satisfying or nurturing without advance planning.

Now on to my physical improvement program. Along with these books, I also purchased a yoga dvd.

My daughter Sebrina has been participating in yoga for a few years and truly enjoys it's many benefits. I have many times wondered if I am capable of the yoga movements given my myriad of physical limitations, but have been assured many times by Sebrina as well as a couple of yoga instructors that it would be most beneficial for me.

Yoga is a very personal movement program - you don't push beyond your physical limitations - only go as far as your body will allow. In time hopefully with practice, my body will gain back some of the flexibility I have lost due to arthritis and the lack of movement over the years. Pain has a funny way of stopping you in your tracks. When it hurts the body's most natural reaction is to not move in order to protect that joint, when in fact the best thing we can do and should do is to keep moving. Over the many years I have lived with arthritis, I have gone from quite active to very little moving, so this is going to be quite the mountain I have to climb to gain back a small modicum of my flexibility.

I had been hoping to purchase Shiva Rea's Flow Yoga for Beginners, but presently can only source it in the US, so instead I went to Chapters and purchased Ali MacGraw's Yoga Mind and Body featuring yoga master Erich Sehiffmann.

Clean white sand and a cool predawn sky are the backdrops for this stunning video which constitutes an excellent, well-balanced workout.

The first minutes focus on ujjayi breathing, then Ali leads us through a complete practice of shoulder stretches, sun salutations, back bends and twists, and standing poses.

If I enjoy this, I will then move onto Shiva Rea's Yoga Shakti which Sebrina is presently using,
(in fact Jayden, Zander and I had a little fun yesterday with a few Sun Salutations and Downward Facing Dog poses).

As I make my way through these new books and make my entrance into beginning yoga movements, I will update on my progress.

For all of you yoga enthusiasts, please feel free to leave me any positive affirmations, or encouraging instructions. I can use all the help I can get with this new venture.

Exercise and me don't mix too well ... sort of like oil and water, but I realize I don't have a choice anymore. If I want to stop the threat of aging and my continuously advancing arthritis I must do something physically positive for myself now.

Who knows .... maybe I'll love this. I already have a yoga state of mind in my ability to still my mind and have taken steps towards cleaner eating, now I just have to let my body be part of this calming life I am creating in my mind.

"You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state."

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Sneak Peek

On my last post about my craft room, I had said I was feeling a little pink.

After spending quite a lot of time looking through wallpaper books and not finding what I had in mind, I decided to paint instead which actually works out cheaper. Under $100.00 for the entire room.

I chose Benjamin Moore "Rose Petal Pink" and then tattooed the wall with "Cloud White".

Here is a very small sneak peek at the colour and part of the tattoo. I did one wall today to see how I feel about it. The tattoo actually covers 48" x 30" ..... In both pictures, I zoomed in close so you could see the pattern.

My only concern is that it may look bubble gum pink when I'm done, but I think this is a soft enough pink so as to not give that appearance. I'll keep my fingers crossed, I've never done an entire room in pink before, so I hope with all the white furniture and my pine harvest table that it won't be like sitting in a big pink bubble ........

Here is an extreme closeup to show part of the pattern.

I'd love to know what you think.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Best Alternative Therapy Is A Garden

This morning I decided to go for a stroll around my garden.

Here are some of the lovely flowers blooming in abundance today.

The garden is doing extraordinarily well this year thanks to the abundance of rain throughout the spring and now summer and the heavy snows we had this past winter. Although we are not too crazy about all this moisture the plants seem to just love it.

My very favourite David Austin rose bush. It has no less than 50 roses open right now with probably another 40-50 buds ready to open when these ones are finished. I'm sure I'll be dead heading for quite some time when these roses are done or I could just let them turn to the hips, but then I wouldn't get any more roses .... hmmm, think I'll do the dead heading.

The lilies are getting ready to explode with colour, check back in a few days, I'll post a picture when they open. These lilies are the most spectacular flaming orange when they open.

My Ladies Mantle which got rained down yesterday with the severe rainstorm that came through in the afternoon, is still lovely even as they lay on the ground.

These pretty little Coral Bells held their own against the fierce winds and rain and seem to be enjoying the sun this morning.

I love my garden, albeit small. I feel so calm and peaceful when I sit on my deck with a cup of tea and just gaze upon the lovely colours of the flowers and fill my nostrils with their scent on the wind.

Ahhhhhhhhhh ... heaven.

"Take me into the garden, my boy," he said at last. "And tell me all about it."

And so they led him in.

The place was a wilderness of autumn gold and purple and violet and flaming scarlet, and on every side were sheaves of late lilies standing together - lilies which were white or white and ruby. He remember well when the first of them had been planted that just at this season of the year their late glories should reveal themselves. Late roses climbed and hung and clustered, and the sunshine deepening the hue of the yellowing trees made one feel that one stood in an embowered temple of gold. The newcomer stood silent just as the children had done when they came into its greyness. He looked round and round.

"I though it would be dead," he said.

"Mary thought so at first," said Colin. "But it came alive."

Excerpt from The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Monday, June 23, 2008


There was a bit of excitement today at Don's office, when one of the employees stepped outside and snapped a couple of pictures of this funnel cloud, which thankfully did not touch down.

Pretty spectacular pictures though, don't you think???

Thank goodness it did not touch down as this is a densely populated area both residential and commercial.

It certainly could have turned into a disaster.

The unpredictable weather patterns .... strong hurricanes, tsunami's, tornado's, earthquakes are awe inspiring and makes me feel rather small in the grand scheme of things.

Men & woman round the globe strive to gain total control of their environment, but when met with the forces of nature we must humble ourselves in it's presence and realize that this is one thing we cannot control.

Flickr Meme

I've seen a few fellow bloggers doing this, so I decided to give it a try.

It's fun and interesting to learn a bit about the blogging friends I've made.

Following is what you do:

Answer these questions, using the search function in flickr:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. What is your favorite drink?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. What is your favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. What is one word that describes you?
12. What is your Flickr name?

Then you do as follows:

• Type your answer to each of the questions above into Flickr search.
• Use only the first page of results, pick one image
• Copy and paste URLs for the images into Big Huge Lab's Mosaic Maker to create a mosaic of the picture answers.

Here are my answers:

1. Barb ..... 2. Sushi ...... 3. Woburn Collegiate ...... 4. Blue ..... 5. Anthony Hopkins ......
6. Bloody Caesar ..... 7. Alaskan Cruise ..... 8. New York Style Cheesecake ..... 9. Grandma
10. Family ...... 11. Creative ..... 12. Pooch

So, come on join in the fun and give this a try - I'll look forward to seeing your answers when I check in on your blog....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Family Get-Together

Yesterday we got together with all of Don's family ... sister, brothers, wives, children, parents and my parents. We enjoyed a great visit, enjoyed a delicious meal of souvlaki pork, buttermilk & garlic marinated grilled chicken breast, veggies & hummus, quinoa salad, potatoe and egg salad, sushi & maki (of course) and then fresh fruit & lemon squares for dessert.

We had 7 children under 10 and 15 adults. Wow did our house ever seem small!!!!

Of course the day started out with Miss Gabriella in her poppa's arms as usual.

As you can see the uniform for the day was yellow & white .... an unplanned wardrobe malfunction. Sebrina, me and sister-in-law Tammy with son Jake.

Here is sister-in-law Sarah with nephew Jake who is mesmerized by the Moroccan lantern hanging from the gazebo.

Gabriella is enjoying the spray from the hose.

Uncle Paul, I've got two teeth, let's see how many you have!

Zander gets a little exercise ......

Zander and Ryan help Rebecca with a little horse back riding.

Vanessa says, I gotta get me one of these star babies.

As usual, Zander and Rebecca stuck together most of the time.

When it came time to leave, as Rebecca and Zander were getting into their cars, Zander jumped down and ran over to Rebecca and said "I forgot to give you a kiss."

Mammy and Gabriella make a little music.

Brother-in-law Glen and fiance Helen after an exhausting two days on a marriage course.

Hey did you two pass ... is the wedding still on for August 16th?

The parents enjoy each others company in the quiet of the dining room.

Ahhhhh, the end of another successful family get together. Tiring but ever so much fun.

Same time, same place next year?????

Do visit Sebrina's site to see some more lovely pictures of our fun filled day.

You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.
Desmond Tutu

Friday, June 20, 2008

Craft Room Completion Nears the Finish Line

My craft room is slowly coming together.

I have been using one of our patio chairs at my sewing table. It does swivels but it has one level only, which is ..... too low, so I purchased this new chair.

Although I did not purchase it from Pottery Barn, I think it may be from there. It has a very small amount of paint chipped off one leg so during my weekly visit to our local Homesense store, I came across it sitting all by itself and gently enticing me with the words ... "take me home".

How could I refuse this sly request from my new chair. So roll it I did up to the front of the store, where I promptly paid my $149.00 for this chair which sells at Pottery Barn for $379.00.

I just love a good deal!!!!!

Don't you just love it? It rolls around easily, has a hydraulic lift to place me at the height I need to sew properly and has the most beautiful white lacquered finish.

And here is the pièce de résistance. A lovely new computerized sewing machine with lots of stitches and many other features too numerous to mention.

Oooooh, the sewing I'll be able to complete with this magnificent piece of technological advancement.

I see more quilts and lovely new dresses in fabrics I could only dream of working with but never would have run through my last machine.

Maybe I'll even try my hand at a pair of tailored trousers.

Now I just have to decide on the colour of the room. All the furniture is white except for the pine harvest table. Somehow I'm seeing pink, but I am seeing wallpaper. As this room is just for me, I want it to be pretty.

So I guess a trip to our local wallpaper store is in order to see if they have anything that catches my eye. If not, maybe I'll just re-paint a lovely calming shade of pink ... a pink like an old fashioned David Austin rose.

A Little Project

So, I found this little table at our local Salvation Army shop for $15.00. A little sad, in need of some TLC and not in the greatest shape, but it is a Deilcraft which has historically been known for quality wood furniture.

Not knowing what to do with the darn thing but needing a table beside the sofa, I turned it around and gave it a good rub down with lemon oil, accessorized the top and used it.

All the while, the wheels were spinning trying to decide what to do with this table. As you can see it really was not that nice as is.

It has been about 2 1/2 - 3 years since finding this and I really was quite stuck on what to do with the darn thing, so off to the furniture stores I went looking for a proper table. Not finding much under $500.00, I decided I would give this little table an overhaul.

This picture is how it looked during the process of overhauling.

So here's what I did. I gave it a light sanding and spray painted it with an antique white lacquer. Then I ordered mirror to fit on each of the four sides. As well I ordered a piece of mirror to sit on top but decided to have that piece bevelled to dress it up a little.

All in all I am very pleased with the table and for the princely sum of (remember the original $15.00), $100.00 for mirror and $10.00 for paint, I have a new table for under $150.00.

Not too shabby, considering anything new would cost me well over $500.00 and anything deco with all this mirroring would have been considerably more.

It looks quite glamorous and I placed a glass lamp with a white shade and crystal finial on top as the cherry on my new sundae.

Being a rather girly girl I just love glamorous, girly, pretty things.

So what do you think???

If you explode the pictures, you can see better the details on the table.

Tasha Tudor

This morning I read with sadness on a friends' blog that Tasha Tudor passed away yesterday at her home, surrounded by her family and friends at the grand age of 92.

She was born in Boston, Massachusetts on August 28, 1915 and was named after her father, the naval architect Starling Burgess, known as "The Skipper".

She married Thomas McCready in 1938 in Redding, Connecticut.

Her first story, "Pumpkin Moonshine", was published in 1938, as a gift for a young niece of her husband. They were divorced in 1961, and her children adopted her name. A later marriage, to Allan John Woods, lasted only a brief time.

Her 19th century designs are comforting, taking us back to a time when life was less threatening and complicated. She has illustrated such classics as Little Women, Wind in the Willows, The Little Princess, Mother Goose and The Secret Garden, giving them an authentic simplicity and charm. She illustrated nearly one hundred books, the last being Corgiville Christmas, released in 2003. Several were collaborative works with a New Hampshire friend Mary Mason Campbell.

Tudor lived in Marlboro, Vermont in a replica of a 19th-Century New England homestead, replete with antique utensils, tiny windows and doorways of varying sizes. Her son Seth built a replica and lives next door with his family.

She made her own clothing — fashioned after 19th-Century apparel — and raised Nubian goats for their milk.

Through the years Tasha received many awards and honors, including Caldecott Honors for Mother Goose in 1945 and 1 is One in 1957. She received the Regina Medal in 1971 for her contributions to children's literature.

There is an online memorial on her Web site was open for fans to share their feelings and memories of her. The address is

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Pet Stone

Along my journey to be gluten free, I have endured quite a lot of abdominal pain, bloating, pressure, gas, etc....

Removing gluten from my diet has certainly made quite a change in how I feel - no more severe bloating or always feeling like I have overeaten after a meal containing gluten.

However, even with removing gluten from my diet, I still experience considerable abdominal pain. Pain which hits around mid abdomen, pushing up into my diaphragm and piercing through to my back. I have noticed that it increases with different types of food ... anything fatty, cruciferous vegetables, red meat (a little) and dairy.

I have known for a few years that I have a gallstone, so wondered if it could be causing all this discomfort. I spent some time researching my symptoms and they certainly match the list I found in my "Nutritional Healing" manual.

So I decided with great trepidation to go to my doctor to followup on this pain. I usually try to resolve health issues naturally before resorting to medical and chemical treatments, but at this point feel that I have exhausted my resources regarding this discomfort.

So off I went to see my doctor who promptly sent me for an ultrasound & blood tests (results not in yet). When the technician was performing the ultrasound, I mentioned to him that I knew I had a "pet" gallstone and was it still there? When he completed his examination he asked me if I wanted to see my "pet". He turned the screen towards me and I got to see the picture of my over 4mm gallstone residing quite comfortably in my gallbladder. Naturally he could not tell me anything else, so I will have to wait to see the doctor for the radiologists report.

Until I hear back from the doctor, I will continue to watch carefully what foods pass my lips.

The following foods are what I should avoid - fast foods, oily foods, spicy foods, red meats, eggs, pork, onions, fowl, milk, corn, beans and nuts. As well cruciferous vegetables, brussel sprouts & spinach can cause gallbladder discomfort. It is also recommended that sugar in the diet be reduced.

By changing to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (vegetarians infrequently get gallstones), I hopefully can decrease the pain I am struggling with daily. Pear & apple juices help as well. Following more closely a vegetarian diet would most likely provide me relief, so as I said in my "Can I Do This" post, I really think I need to make this change in my lifestyle and "meat a treat".

I have found that I do not experience too much pain until later in the day as my breakfast is frequently a fruit smoothie and lunch is my vegetable load up.

As well six to eight glasses of water a day will help to maintain the right water content for bile.

There are flushes used regularly by naturopaths to rid the body of gallstones which I have considered, but my concern is - what if this stone is too large to pass and gets stuck in a duct, then I have a serious problem.

Here is the flush:

For the first 5 days, take 4 glasses of apple juice everyday or eat 4 or 5 apples, whichever you prefer. Apple juice softens the gallstones. During the 5 days, eat normally.

On the 6th day, take no dinner. Avoid food after 2 pm. At 6 pm, take a teaspoon of Epson Salt (magnesium sulphate) with a glass of warm water. At 8 pm, repeat the same. Magnesium Sulphate opens the gallbladder ducts.

At 10 pm, take ½ cup olive (or sesame) oil with ½ cup fresh lemon juice. Mix it well and drink it. The oil lubricates the stones to ease their passage.

The following day will produce gallstones.

A naturopath Dr Chiu Nan suggests performing this cleanse one a year to improve digestion.

So I have questions which I certainly will want to ask my doctor, for example what if I submit to this surgery (providing the gallbladder is the cause of my pain) but the pain persists ... then what?

What does he think about flushing the gallbladder? Although I think I know what his answer will be.

Is it possible to completely eradicate this pain solely by diet?

Health issues certainly push me to research, research and research some more. I like to be totaly informed before I seek medical help. I want to be aware of all of the options so I can intelligently discuss these with my doctor.

So in keeping with all of the information above, I will continue to work on my diet in the hopes that maybe I can ease this pain and possibly flush this stone.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Fathers Day To Three Special Men

Happy Father's Day to the three very special men in my life this Father's Day weekend.

First to my dad, who always provided me a good home, strong moral examples and some fun along the way.

My dad as a published author is always in his office writing, writing, writing. Even at his great age of 88, he still pumps out book after book and manages to write, publish and send a newsletter around the world every month (by snail mail not email).

Many memories come to mind from my childhood - memories of going to his office when I was very young and getting to sit on the President's desk, memories of going to hear the Toronto Symphony orchestra with just my dad, memories of him hard at work writing, memories of him drawing quick little pictures for me.

Memories came fast and furious when I stopped this weekend to think of my father and of my childhood. Many always makes me smile.

One year on our way to Florida we stopped to pick up some take out. Daddy came back to the car with the trays of food, handing it out with a stern warning not to spill anything, We all sat enjoying our food and then suddenly he leaned over to get something and .... oooops over went a very large glass of pop all over the front seat. I remember my brother sat up and said in a rather loud voice "Sure glad that wasn't me". We still laugh about that till this day.

On another trip to Florida, we stopped at a restaurant for quick lunch. I remember we all sat a counter - diner style (remember this was the 60's). I had fries on my plate and wanted ketchup, so my dad handed me the bottle of ketchup. I picked it up and gave it a shake. Unfortunately the last user did not twist the cap on tight enough and I remember the cap slowly tipping off as the ketchup flew from the bottle across the counter and right up the drapes on a window at the side of the counter. That little accident gave my dad a good belly laugh.

Another time after church on Sunday my dad took us all down to the King Edward hotel in Toronto (a very nice restaurant) for lunch. When lunch was over we ordered sundaes. One wasn't enough for my dad so he reached across the table to help himself to my mom's. She swatted his hand and the cherry he was after bounced right off the table and continued on its' journey across the restaurant.

The scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts bounces the escargot across the restaurant is a vivid reminder of that episode.

My dad as a writer and published author, taught me the value of books and instilled in me a love of the written word. I love words, reading words, understanding words, being able to spell words, writing words - thanks Dad and Happy Father's Day.

The next man in my life is Don - my husband.

You are a wonderful dad to my children and the best poppa to our grandchildren.

Although not my childrens biological dad he has shown them love, respect and yes financial support as a father would. I remember watching him pace each time Sebrina went into labour and saw the pain etched on his face until his girl was delivered.

His love for Sebrina and her children is unparalled and he has always been a good friend to my son Todd.

Here he is with his two favourite girls who he just adores. Thanks for being such a great dad and Happy Father's Day to you too.

Then Mike, Sebrina's husband and my son-in-law.

Mike, you are like a son to me. I love you for the way you love my girl, and for the wonderful father I have watched you grow into.

Ryan, Jayden, Zander and Gabriella could not have asked for a better dad.

Happy Father's Day!!!

Budding Ballet or Super Socceer

Our neice Rebecca loves her ballet and enjoys demonstrating her abilities at every change she gets .... but she also enjoys playing socceer with the Tim Horton's team.

Which will be the one that she excels in ... only time will tell.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Can I Do This??

This article came to my attention this morning as I was reading my regular blogs and I found it very interesting and thought provoking.

For quite some time I have been considering taking meat out of my diet. Don (meat & potatoes man), would still want meat and I don't wish to prepare different meals at dinner each evening, I am left with the question "just exactly how do I achieve this goal easily?

This article demonstrates a slightly less painful way to achieve my goal.

Read on readers .....

LET’S suppose you’ve decided to eat less meat, or are considering it. And let’s ignore your reasons for doing so. They may be economic, ethical, altruistic, nutritional or even irrational. The arguments for eating less meat are myriad and well-publicized, but at the moment they’re irrelevant, because what I want to address here is (almost) purely pragmatic: How do you do it?

I’m not talking about eating no meat; I’m talking about cutting back, which in some ways is harder than quitting. Vegetarian recipes and traditions are everywhere. But in the American style of eating — with meat usually at the center of the plate — it can be difficult to eat two ounces of beef and call it dinner.

Cutting back on meat is not an isolated process. Unlike, say, taking up meditation or exercise, it usually has consequences for others.

The keys are to keep at least some of your decisions personal so they affect no one but yourself and, when they do affect others, minimize the pain and don’t preach. (No one likes a proselytizer.)

On the other hand, don’t apologize; by serving your friends or family less meat you’re certainly doing them no harm, and may be doing them good — as long as what you serve is delicious, and that’s easy enough.

Reducing the meat habit can be done, and it doesn’t have to make you crazy. Although there will undoubtedly be times you’ll have cravings, they’ll never give you the shakes. So, in no particular order, here are some suggestions to ease your path to eating less meat.

1. Forget the protein thing. Roughly simultaneously with your declaration that you’re cutting back on meat, someone will ask “How are you going to get enough protein?” The answer is “by being omnivorous.” Plants have protein, too; in fact, per calorie, many plants have more protein than meat. (For example, a cheeseburger contains 14.57 grams of protein in 286 calories, or about .05 grams of protein per calorie; a serving of spinach has 2.97 grams of protein in 23 calories, or .12 grams of protein per calorie; lentils have .07 grams per calorie.) By eating a variety, you can get all essential amino acids.

You also don’t have to eat the national average of a half-pound of meat a day to get enough protein. On average, Americans eat about twice as much as the 56 grams of daily protein recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (a guideline that some nutritionists think is too high). For anyone eating a well-balanced diet, protein is probably not an issue.

2. Buy less meat. How many ounces of meat is a serving? For years, the U.S.D.A.’s recommendation has been four ounces a person, yet most of us have long figured one-and-a-half to two pounds of meat is the right amount for four people. (Our per capita consumption of meat hasn’t changed much over the years, and remains at about a half-pound a day.) Change that amount, and both your cooking style and the way the plate looks will change, and quickly.

Remember that most traditional styles of cooking use meat as a condiment or a treat. This is true in American frontier cooking, where salt pork and bacon were used to season beans; in Italy, where a small piece of meat is served as a secondo (rarely more than a few ounces, even in restaurants); and around the world, where bits of meat are added to stir-fries and salads, as well as bean, rice and noodle dishes. In all of these cases, meat is seen as a treasure, not as something to be gobbled up as if it were air.

For many of us who grew up in the United States in the last 60 years, this is the toughest hurdle. The message (remember “Beef: it’s what’s for dinner”?) was in our psyche from before we could hold a fork. We may have vegetarian nights, or seafood nights, but when we have meat nights, there’s often a big piece of meat (or poultry) on the plate, with starch and vegetable to the side.

3. Get it out of the center of the plate. You don’t have to jump into utterly unfamiliar territory; just try tweaking the proportions a bit. You might start by buying skinnier pork chops, or doling out smaller slices of steak .

Build the meal around what you used to consider side dishes — not only vegetables, but also grains, beans, salads and even dessert, if you consider fruit a dessert — rather than the meat.

Nearly every culture has dishes in which meat is used to season rice or another grain. Consider dirty rice, fried rice, pilaf, biryani, arroz con pollo: the list is almost endless.

Similarly, there isn’t a country in the world that cooks legumes that doesn’t toss a little meat in now and then. And mentioning stir-fries and pasta dishes here seems almost too obvious.

But you need not go transcultural. When you make stew, soup or another dish with many ingredients, you make a decision about its main ingredient and about the quantity of that ingredient. If you think of meat stews or soups, chicken pot pie, even lasagna, you’ll quickly recognize that the decision to load them up with meat or to use meat as an ingredient of equal importance to the others is entirely yours.

The same is true when you’re grilling. Compare these statements: “We’re grilling a leg of lamb and throwing a few vegetables on there,” and “We’re grilling vegetables and breads, and will throw a few chunks of lamb on there.” Again, if you see the meat as a treasure, things change.

4. Buy more vegetables, and learn new ways to cook them.

If you’re a good cook, you already know you can make a meal out of pretty much anything. If you open your refrigerator and it’s stocked with vegetables, that’s what you’re going to cook. You’ll augment the vegetables with pantry items: pasta, rice, beans, cheese, eggs, good canned fish, bacon, even a small amount of meat. We’re not discussing vegetarianism, remember?

If you’re not a good cook, you have the opportunity to learn how to cook in what could turn out to be the style of the future.

5. Make nonmeat items as convenient as meat. There is a myth, even among experienced cooks, that few things are as convenient as meat. And while there’s no arguing that grilling, broiling or pan-grilling a steak or chop is fast, it’s equally true that almost no one considers such a preparation a one-dish meal.

By thinking ahead, and working ahead, you can make cooking vegetables as convenient as what in India is often called “non-veg.” Spend an hour or two during the course of the week precooking all the nonmeat foods you think take too long for fast dinners.

Store cooked beans in the refrigerator or freezer and reheat as needed, with seasonings. Keeping precooked beans in the freezer will change your cooking habits more easily than any other simple strategy.

Reheat cooked whole grains for breakfast with milk or dinner with savory seasonings. Wash tender greens and store in a salad spinner, covered bowl, or plastic bag. Most other vegetables can be poached, shocked in ice water, drained, and served cold or reheated in any fashion you like — sautéed quickly in butter, steamed, grilled or made into a gratin or something equally substantial.

6. Make some rules. Depending on your habits, it may be no bacon at breakfast; it may be no burgers at lunch; it may be no fast food, ever; it may be “eat a salad instead of a sandwich three times a week,” or “eat a vegetarian dinner three times a week.” It may mean meatless Fridays. It may mean (this is essentially what I do) meatless breakfasts and lunches and all-bets-are-off dinners.

7. Look at restaurant menus differently. If you’re cutting back on meat, there are three restaurant strategies. Two are easy, and one is hard, but probably the most important.
The first: go to restaurants that don’t feature meat-heavy dishes. It’s harder to go overboard eating at most Asian restaurants, and traditional Italian is fairly safe also.

The second: Once in a while, forget the rules and pledges, and eat like a real American; obviously you can’t do this every time, but it’s an option.

The third is the tricky one: Remember you’re doing this voluntarily, for whatever reasons seem important to you (or at least seemed, until you were confronted with the lamb shanks on the menu). Then order from the parts of the menu that contain little or no meat: salads, sides, soups and (often, anyway) appetizers. If all else fails, offer to share a meat course among two or even three or four people; many restaurant entrees are too big anyway.

I distinctly remember (no great feat; it was just over a year ago), the first time I was in a restaurant and ordered two salads and a bowl of soup.

My companion, who had long known me as a meat-first kind of guy, asked, “Really?”
The waiter asked, “How would you like that served?” And then life went on as usual. Wasn’t bad at all.

Reprinted from the New York Times - Mark Bittman - June 11, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

If You Can't Feed a Hundred People, Then Just Feed One

Today I was excited to receive these pictures of Adanu - my Ethiopian foster daughter (she is the little darling in the orange jacket) and her family from CHOIR.

Candian Humanitarian Organization for International Relief is the organization I sponsor Adanu through.

When CHOIR went on an expedition this past May to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Adanu was not in the school when they visited. So I was disappointed that I did not get an updated picture of her, but very excited today when I received these pictures with a note saying that a team member had gone to Adanu's home to visit and while there had taken a few pictures. This was so much better than one picture of her.

After returning home from Ethiopia last year, I could not ignore the desperation in the faces of the people there. Children no older than my grandchildren begging for one birr - that is equivalent to one dime, but it was a fortune to them. Do you know that the average Ethiopian survives on only $110.00 annually?

Fostering a child seems like such a small sacrifice to make, but it makes an enormous difference in the lives of these kids.

Seeing these pictures brought tears to my eyes. It was difficult to see the conditions that they are living in and they brought back the memories of what Sebrina and I experienced in Ethiopia. On a happier note, it was however, nice to see a picture of Adanu's family. I have only seen pictures of her in the past.

Her father died last year, but she still has her mother and two brothers.

Her mother labours hard to support her family, taking whatever jobs she can find in the fields, cleaning the streets, etc.... It shows in the face of this young mother what she goes through daily for her family.

It makes me feel good to know that I am helping this little girl have a better life with the opportunity to attend school and as well she gets a nutritious meal each and every day - something so many children in Ethiopia do not have access to.

Will this secure a better future for Adanu? I like to think that it will. It may help her to gain access to more opportunities through education, but the larger question is - how many more of these children are there who will die in the streets from hunger, from exposure, from a criminal act .....

I'll never forget the words of a taxi driver we befriended who told me "As long as I stay here in Ethiopia I will never have anything."

It is so easy to turn our heads and ignore what is happening in these countries, but how hard is it really to spare $1.00 a day to help a child like Adanu? That is less than the cost of one cup of take out coffee.

You may not get the instant gratification that a cup of coffee brings, but you will get something deeper and more lasting when you give to someone less fortunate than yourself.

"It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving."

Mother Teresa

A Little Quilting Update

Here is the first block for my new quilt.

The log cabin pattern is the template I eventually went with after searching through many, many quilting books for ideas. Each block has 21 pieces and finished measures 13 x 13.

Rather than set the blocks square in the quilt, I am going to set them on point, which means they will look like a diamond rather than a square. This picture below shows how the blocks will be set in the quilt. If you can imagine the floor as the square quilt, you see that the blocks look like a diamond against the square shape.

So far, I have made 15 squares, but this is the only one that has the full 5 rounds of 1" strips, the rest are still at 3.

With regard to the quilting pattern, for example, stitch-in-the-ditch or random machine quilting, or tied, or hand quilting, what I will back it with, etc ...... well, I just haven't gotten that far in the thought process yet. Besides I'm having way too much fun right now piecing.

It took me quite a while to decide on the pattern for the quilt, but after completing one square, I am very happy with the result.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Love These Dolls

We visited (as usual) on the weekend with Sebrina, Mike and the kids.

I got all comfy in my favourite corner of the sofa (with my bloody caesar of course) and asked Gabriella to bring me one of her new babies.

She especially loves the star babies. They're a great size for little hands and the bright colours of each star are visually appealing.

Here is Miss Gabriella with all her star babies.

Before I knew it, I had the complete assortment of Waldorf dolls and star babies piled up on my lap. I just couldn't resist asking Sebrina to take a picture of me with all the dolls.

What little girl wouldn't love to cuddle up with one of these soft, cuddly babies??

This big girl sure loves to cuddle up with hers.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sex And The City

One week ago, Sebrina and I went to see "Sex and The City".

I have never watched one episode of the show, so I was unprepared for what this movie was about.

What a great "chick flick".

I laughed, I cried, I cheered for the characters, I loved the fashions and really loved the interior decor.

The underlying premise of this movie is the friendship between women and how important it is.

The friendship between Carrie, Miranda, Kristine & Samantha has prevailed through marital problems, sexual issues, marriage breakdowns, pregnancies, breakups & time.

It was lovely to enjoy watching this movie with my daughter who is one of my best friends.

If you love fashion and interior decor, go to see this movie just for the drool factor.

Here's a small sampling of the apartments and fashion from this movie.

Carrie's apartment after a remodel - don't you just love the colour.
Kristine's bedroom - so calm, I can imagine dreaming here.
Miranda's kitchen - perky & inviting.
Friendship rules.


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