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David Suzuki’s words stick with me

January 2, 2013

Sometimes I get so busy with life that I forget to write some of it down. Much of life goes by without being noticed, as I expect it does with the majority of people in our modern world. Sometimes a thing will continue to hover in my mind without actually becoming a write-able topic. Haunting. Persistent. Lurking. Like this. I caught a goodly bit of an “epac” presentation on TV that now hovers. It’s not going away, so I’m putting down here what I have managed to capture.

David Suzuki’s shows are always interesting. Perhaps not glue-to-the-seat interesting, but worth watching, a staple in the stable of Canadian shows. Then I saw his talk: 2012 National Symposium Lecture in Prince Edward Island (Canada). How different from the shows… Not just glued to my seat, but rivetted. Superglued. Heart and mind grabbed so hard that I had to write down a few things, desperately scribbled in a frantic endeavour to record important ideas, many being direct quotes that burned themselves into my brain…

  • Words are not actions.
  • Harper’s ‘law and order government’ breaks its own laws.
  • Proportional representation as a better method of determining better leadership.
  • “… need to evolve…”
  • We have elevated the economy over the ecology to our detriment.
  • The fighting will continue until we shift the paradigm. Clean air, water, soil, clean energy from the sun, biodiversity. The human animal is still connected to nature. An intelligent creature would not pollute their environment. “There is no Plan B.”
  • “Nature is the source of our well-being and our lives.”
  • “We can affect the future by what we do now.”
  • “An economy in constant growth is cancer.”
  • “Limit growth to what nature can manage in order to support us.”
  • Read Jeff (Geoff?) Rubin’s “End of Growth”.
  • “Enshrine the right to a healthy environment in our constitution.”
  • ‘Pacha Mama’ of Bolivia and Equador, environment as a being with rights. Bhutan’s happiness as gross national product.
  • We’ve got to put fences around humans!

So, now what? For me, it’s brought a fresh awareness of my personal actions on our finite planet. What is the size of my footprint? Will there be anything left for the children and grandchildren of my generation? That -is- how immediate this is!

We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into apathy! -Each- of us needs to do what we can, because, as we each do our little bit, those collective bits become a great wave, a movement that is greater than the current craze for “Occupy” gatherings. How much of your “overhead” do you supply? Food? Clothing? Transportation? Shelter? Power for any of that? How much do you rely on outside input? How far do those supplies have to travel? Everything we do has a cost, and we can recognize who pays, or will pay, for it.

We don’t need to go back to the Stone Age, but we do have to alter how we occupy this planet. It starts with our awareness of our choices, and continues with making more sustainable choices as we find and develop them.

Are you on-board?

Food for a Milonga

June 23, 2012

So many things go into making a successful milonga, a dance event of Argentine tango, or, as one of my dance partners says, “Tango Argentino!”

I won’t go into the customs that make Salon Tango, the social dance, so welcoming, nor the reminders to attendees. This milonga calls for a finger-food potluck. An appetiser array. So here is some of my research, with a hint of experience from my medieval events… Of course, this post started because I never know what to bring!

Thanks to Lynne for many ideas and a reminder of “lots of toothpicks.”

Project Tango has a “Food Volunteer”. The part that is relevant to us is:

“vegetarian items only
“mix of fresh fruit, veg, sweet, salty, chocolate and non”

The parameters us are: food that is non-smelly (dancing is close embrace); finger food that is not messy (dancing could happen at any moment); safe to eat at room temperature (no cooking facilities); easy to grab and go (the dancing thing again); prepped before the dance, ready to eat; easy to serve and clean up. Skip the garlic and onions; add the mint and rosemary and cinnamon and other herbs and spices to make your shared breath pleasant.


  • apples (cored, sliced, dipped in lemon juice), grapes, berries, cubed melon, orange wedges
  • carrots (sticks or baby), bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, sliced jicama
  • crackers (or bread cut relatively small, or small buns)
  • cheese (brie and camembert styles and triple crèmes are good with fruits; harder cheese, not too strong, are Cheddar or Gouda cheese, dry jack, Swiss (Emmenthaler) styles, Gruyere styles, many “tomme” styles and Parmesan styles)
  • cookies (chocolate and a non-chocolate; mini cookies are especially nice)
  • chocolate covered pretzels (sweet *and* salty)
  • Hot Chocolates’ ginger pieces in dark chocolate (hint, hint)

Chips or other savory snack like popcorn are kind of a “maybe” because greasy fingers on nice dresses and suits are impolite.

Dips are only a little messy. Hummous (recipe below), soft cream cheese and laban (quality yoghurt, drained for a creamy cheese-like consistency; see below) all take well to crackers and veggies.

Meats, even cured meats, have issues with temperature, especially if the day is hot; it’s easier to just avoid them altogether.

A Little Bit More

(this section mostly from the New York Times)

  • Top rye flatbread with thin slices of crisp apple and shaved country ham, prosciutto or regular deli ham and bread-and-butter pickles.
  • Tapenade: Combine about 1 pound pitted black olives in food processor with 1/4 cup drained capers, at least 5 anchovies, 2 garlic cloves, black pepper and olive oil as necessary to make a coarse paste. Can also be a dip. Use sparingly; it’s strong.
  • Portable Caprese: Skewer a small ball of mozzarella, a grape tomato and a bit of basil leaf. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil.
  • Marinated mushrooms: Cut button mushrooms into chunks and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let rest five minutes. Spear two chunks with a piece of Parmesan about the same size.
  • Stuff Medjool dates with a piece of Parmesan or Manchego or an almond. Or fresh goat cheese. Or mozzarella, and bake until the cheese begins to melt.
  • Gently cook raw nuts in oil or butter (or a mixture) with salt and spices — pimentón, chili powder, curry powder, ginger, sugar — whatever combination you like. When they’re fragrant, bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool.
  • Coat good olives in olive oil mixed with rosemary, thyme, and/or lemon or orange peel; spices, like chilies, are O.K. Let sit overnight if time allows.
  • Fill endive leaves with crème fraîche or sour cream and drained ricotta mixed with chopped parsley, thyme, and a little olive oil.
  • A dip of puréed white or other beans (if canned, drain them) with garlic and olive oil in food processor, adding olive oil as needed. Stir in lemon juice to taste. You can add cumin or chopped rosemary with lemon zest.
  • Hummus: Truly one of the great culinary inventions. Mix four parts well-cooked or canned chickpeas with one part tahini, along with some of its oil, in a food processor. Add cumin or pimentón and purée, adding as much olive oil as needed. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste; garnish with olive oil and pimentón.
  • Drain good whole-fat yogurt in cheesecloth for 15 minutes; squeeze to remove remaining liquid. Add salt, pimentón and olive oil. Thin with a little more yogurt to use as a dip, or serve on crackers or bread.
  • Mix four parts drained yogurt (as above), farmer cheese or cream cheese with one part sour cream, until creamy. Add thyme and chopped parsley (or any fresh herbs), salt and pepper.
  • Start by draining yogurt as above but do not squeeze; or use sour cream. Stir in chopped seeded cucumber, bell pepper, scallion, dill, then add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Or use chopped arugula and/or cress, with some herbs. Or use horseradish and/or Dijon mustard, with or without vegetables. Or chopped fresh parsley. Always taste for salt.
  • Mash four parts goat cheese with one part fig jam for a spread.

Actual Recipes

(I’m sorry to’ve lost the source; tell me where they come from and I’ll add the info)

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

Yields: serves many
Prep time: 10 min
Fresh strawberries, washed, hulled or unhulled, and dried
1/2 cup good-quality aged Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
Place strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and powdered sugar in separate bowls.
To serve, let each guest dip a strawberry into the balsamic vinegar and then into the powdered sugar.
Serves many.

Watermelon Cubes with Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Yields: 6 servings
Prep time: 15 min
About 1/2 pound seedless red or yellow watermelon flesh
1/2 freshly-squeezed lime juice
Traditional Aceto Balsamico (aged Balsamic Vinegar)
Cut the watermelon flesh into 6 (1 1/2-inch) cubes.
Use the small end of a melon-baller to remove a scoop of flesh from one side of the watermelon cubes, creating a small cavity for the juice.
To serve, place a watermelon cube, cavity-side up, on each of 6 small plates and squeeze a little lime juice over them. Fill each cavity with balsamic vinegar. NOTE: I use a dropper to add the balsamic vinegar.
Makes 6 servings.

Pão de Queijo
Pao de Queijo is a Brazilian cheese bread made with tapioca flour. They’re puffy and chewy, like Japanese mocha, and perfect finger food, great for dipping! This Brazil recipe is really simple and will not take you long at all. This recipe is also great for coeliacs as tapioca flour is gluten-free.

Ready in 20 mins
Makes: 16 Pão de Queijo
1 egg
175g tapioca flour
80ml olive oil
160ml milk
65g grated cheese
1tsp salt to taste
Preparation method
Prep: 5 mins | Cook: 15 mins
1.Pre-heat the oven to 200 C / Gas 6 and grease a cupcake tray.
2.Put all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth to create your batter. This recipe is quite simple so feel free to experiment by adding herbs and spices to the mix.
3.Pour the batter evenly into the cupcake tray and then bake in the oven for 15-20 mins until the batter has puffed up and they are slightly brown on top. Leave them to cool.

Strawberries dipped in chocolate…

Your food should be ready to eat, so dancers don’t need to fuss with it. It should not need knives, forks or spoons; it should be “clean” enough to eat with your fingers, or toothpick-ready. Label your serving plate so you can get it back, or remember to take it with you at the end of the milonga.

Say… You know all this already, don’t you…?

Lights with memories

December 29, 2011

Rowan's Fern
Thinking about this winter’s seasonal celebration (see how I skirted around one of its issues?), I am impelled to write something down…

There is always such a discussion in this household about “getting a tree”. Sometimes we’ve had a cut tree, with all the angst that goes with killing something that did not -need- killing; the tree’s resulting revenge of shed sap and needles infesting everything far surpassing the pleasure of its scent and stature. Sometimes we’ve had a live tree, planted as soon as the ground was soft, not always a successful transplant. Sometimes we’ve had an artificial tree, now lost in the dusty depths of time and … maybe that was a garage sale.

For many years we’ve just done without. Oh, maybe bring in a few tree-donated fronds for some natural green and scent, but that’s about it.

However, I always do something with lighting: strings of lights high and low, maybe a goodly display of candles in lanterns and a smattering of olive oil lamps.

It’s true that I’ve switched to LED lights from the old ones, and my candles are more often beeswax than paraffin, but the lighting remains. There is a special quality in the contrast between the outside dark, cold and wet/snowy weather and the bright welcome in the warm house that goes beyond the simple physical qualities. I’m sure it’s primal.

There is more…

The horizontally-strung LED lights usually get ornamented.

Memories accompany each ornament as they are lifted from the ancient gift-wrappings that protect them, making them doubly precious: the baker’s clay ornaments (“Joy”, “Love”, wreath, heart) from a nephew 4 yrs old, now with children of his own; a ceramic Old Man Winter from a gift exchange with a few friends still dearly cherished in my heart; four delicate laser-cut wood ornaments from a craft fair, bought by my DH (who -never- does this sort of shopping!); six yarn-and-popsicle-stick gods-eyes made by one of my sisters and me during one blustery winter’s evening; a few golden balls that adorned the wedding table of a dear friend; and more…

I have limited appreciation for my boughten commercially-made ornaments, no matter their charm or splendor; however, those treasures handmade by friends and family, or otherwise tied to heart-warming memories, are at the heart of -my- celebration!

May the joys and blessings of the season be yours now and always…

Reno contractors are… are…

December 10, 2011

I had the roof re-shingled a while back. At the time, there were no bathroom or kitchen fans installed, but there were plans to do so. The roofer said he’d be back to install the vents, the stacks, for those fans when their locations were confirmed.

Well. The locations are not only confirmed, but the fans are installed, venting directly into the attic. Which is a bad thing. But temporary, because the roofer said he’d come back to install the vents.

But the roofer does not return phone calls. It’s been, what…, 2 months now? I realize he is busy, but so busy he can’t give me a call to give me a guess on the time-slot needed to install 2 vents?

Of course, the insulation for the attic cannot be done until the vents are installed and the pipes connected between them and the fans. It’s now below freezing outside; I can feel the cold -falling- from the ceiling. I need the insulation… but first the connections… but first the vents…!

And the worst of this? I trusted him! I ignored the people who said to hold back 20% until the job was completed and checked. I trusted him to return, as he said he would, to complete the job!


Don’t trust contractors so much that you pay them up front, or that you pay them in full when the job is done. Wait! Sure, give them a down payment of a third or even half, if needed. When the job is done, pay them up to three-quarters of the total cost, maybe to 90%. Hold back at least 10%. Then… Ensure all the work is done, complete, and to the satisfaction of any and all inspectors. -Then- pay off the last bit.

Otherwise, you’ll be sitting… waiting… for months… for a job to be done that is holding up all the -other- jobs that have to follow it…



November 20, 2011

Back of the hand view, spread over an emboidered jean jacket from the 1970s Every once in a while, someone posts a list of good things in their life, usually numbered, sometimes unique, sometimes ordinary. I like the idea of remembering and reminding ourselves of the good things in our lives, things that give us deep joy, things that enhance our lives, things that “feed the good wolf”. Here’s mine, for today:

  1. If life is measured by the number of things on a to-do list, I shall live very, very long! I am grateful to have such an -interesting- list! I discovered a unique yarn that makes interesting things.
  2. There are people who make interesting things to intrigue and enchant us. This yarn-maker is one, and I am happily ignoring the vacumning while I play with this yarn! I am grateful for the creativity in my life.
  3. The yarn came about because I needed to make a trip to the city and didn’t want to travel alone; Danielle agreed to come with me and she suggested the yarn shop. I am grateful for friends who lead me down new pathways!
  4. Further, I am grateful for time shared with friends, especially those who look for the positive aspects of life!
  5. As I write this, I also think of how I am able share this with you because of the computer, the Internet, the blog program, the camera, the graphics program, my knowledge of how to use them… and you, the reader. I am grateful for all these things and for you for being t/here to read and perhaps relate to my feelings.

Five things for which I am grateful. I may have more… later…

An Early Coptic Hairnet

October 31, 2011

hairnet right side

Side view of the hairnet

My persona wears a cap underneath her ‘isaba, something that absorbs perspiration when it’s hot weather and provides warmth when it’s cold. The information I have found so far is that it is either a netted cap or a fabric one. The fabric ones appear to be substantial, quilted with two or more layers. The netted ones are… problematic.

Finding details about a supposedly common accessory is frustrating. No idea on the shape or construction of something made around 1095 CE. I know that spr­ång was used in hairnets and caps during the Coptic era (maybe 3rd to 8th centuries) in the Near East, and again in the 14th century. No remnants have been found for the between time, but not too much of -anything- was found in graves. Nothing has yet been found to show that -knotted- hairnets were worn in the Near East. So…

First I made a little skullcap in spr­ång, much like I made some of the spr­ångwork pouches. It was great in providing a foundation for my ‘isaba. Then I misplaced it… when I needed it… I decided to make another, but based on extant pieces, just for a little more authenticity.

More research gave me little more than what I had, but what I found was inspiration! Several hairnets combining linen and fine wool, with a browband and drawstring edge! I chose the more gorgeous one and used the other pieces (and information about them) to support my choices in the re-creation.

The linen is white (linen was not dyed) and the wool is black (wool was usually dyed); the pattern is solid with diamonds on the linen and open lace on the wool. The browband, the topknot cord and the drawstring closure was usually in a contrasting color, so I spun some red wool for it. The linen was re-spun to make a thicker cord. The browband was woven on a backstrap loom. The cord is knotted to the browband just like those from the 8th century.

This was a fun project! And now I have a cap for under my ‘isaba.

(Documentation and other photos available upon request; this was entered into the Tir Righ Arts & Sciences Competition of Oct 22/11 and garnered the most points for a single entry. When I get a photo of me wearing it, I’ll post it.)

FB changes? More to it than that…

September 29, 2011

There is a lot of verbiage going through my mind, what with the most recent changes to FB. And my opinions about it, or anything like it, have not changed.

I still think FB, new or old, makes for a manufactured life: sweet and tasty, little substance or nutrition, easy to overindulge, and addictive.

Online social networking gives a semblance of “friends” with none of the depth of true friendship; hence the people with hundreds of “friends” but still a hunger for someone, anyone, who understands them.

The oversharing so common on these sites is another symptom of the lack of depth of open and honest friendships. There is no room for soul-searching when -everything- is out there, yet only the surface is skimmed and sifted.

Privacy, -not- being stripped naked for all to see, is a human need, oft discarded in the search for honesty and openness without regard for the social ramifications of doing so.

You can’t make friends with the click of a button! You have to work together, play together, go through hell together, discover the depths in each other, choose to spend time with each other in each other’s company in order to be friends. You have to find the special bits of yourself in your friend, and vice versa.

A friend is someone who warms your heart even when you just think of them.

No click of a link can make that happen.

… I think I’m venting… My apologies if I offend…