Archive for October, 2012

October 31, 2012

Staring down a fear: Did you meet October’s challenge?

On October 1, I posted this challenge of the month:  Do one thing that scares you.

Now, on October 31, (and, fittingly, on Halloween), it’s time to reflect back on this challenge.  Did you confront a fear — large or small — and act anyway?  Were you able to consciously blast through one of your boundaries, creep into the corners of your comfort zone, or defy your own perceptions of “possible” versus “impossible”?  What was the result?

Whatever your experience, be proud of your efforts.  Even the simple act of acknowledging a fear is a major step towards one day overcoming it.

To quote a Japanese proverb:

Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.

Delve into the murk.  I’ll bet the bottom isn’t as distant, nor as dark, as you think.

Happy Halloween.  halloween smiley

October 31, 2012

Where do Olympic mascots go when they “die”?

Ever wonder what  happened to that Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic mascot “Quatchi” — the stocky, smiling sasquatch with the blue earmuffs?  Seems he’s hanging out in a tree beside the Fraser River in Prince George, British Columbia — at least that’s where I happened upon him a few weeks ago…

Photo of Vancouver 2010 Olympic mascot "Quatchi" in a tree by the Fraser River.

Perhaps he was enjoying the autumn sun during a tour of his reputed home of “Canada’s mysterious forests”?

Nice to see that, almost two years after his Olympic contract went belly up, he’s still smiling!  Good man!

October 25, 2012

Trust your instinct – one woman’s story

In the book Women of the West Coast:  Then and Now, (a collection of stories about women who have shaped, and been shaped by, the west coast of Vancouver Island), there is a story that speaks strongly to me. It is the story of a woman named Maureen, and how she came to operate the popular Common Loaf Bake Shop in the village of Tofino, B.C.  It is a story of serendipity and unwavering belief in the self and the soul’s wisdom.  Allow me to paraphrase the story, as told by author Marnie Anderson, for you:

Maureen was a caseworker in inner-city Toronto when she decided to take a year off to travel and explore new directions in her life.  She bought a van and made plans to drive west across Canada, then down to South America. Shortly before leaving, Maureen happened upon an article describing Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  She decided to go there.

“It was love at first sight,” writes Anderson of Maureen’s reaction to Tofino, B.C.  The ocean inlet surrounded by mountains was “entirely soul satisfying.”  Maureen stayed in Tofino for several days — long enough to learn that the village lacked a bakery — before continuing her travels.  She spent a year in South America, but Tofino stayed with her.

“On a late summer day in a small village in Ecuador,” writes Anderson, “everything began to come together in Maureen’s mind.  After months of travel and exploration, not the least of which were her own boundaries, she suddenly knew what she wanted to do with her life.”

Open a bakery in Tofino.

Maureen had no previous baking experience and no guarantees of success.  Her family and friends thought her crazy.  But she didn’t let these things sway her.  She didn’t want to return to her job as a city caseworker.  She had come to believe that there was something else she was meant to do in her life, and she trusted her instincts enough to act on that feeling.

Over the next several years, Maureen doggedly carved out her own success.  She moved to Tofino, found a job cooking for a construction crew, and on her first day looked up the “recipe” for grilled cheese sandwiches.  Months later she rented a room in a local arts centre and built a tiny bakery, renovating the space herself on a learn-as-you-go basis.  Her first loaves of rye bread were, Anderson writes, “hard, brown little bricks, which she rather hesitantly offered for sale.”  One friend dutifully bought a loaf every few days, later reasoning that “if he kept buying her products she would eventually learn to bake.”

Eventually, she did.  Maureen patiently persevered, and by the early 1990s her bakery — relocated to a much larger space — offered an array of breads, cookies, loaves and muffins coveted by residents and tourists alike.  A staff of 13 manned the counter, and the daily runs of cheese buns and cinnamon buns were often sold out by noon in the tourist season.

Maureen’s bake shop also became a meeting place for the “doers, thinkers and creative people” of the area, as well as an unofficial home base for the Friends of Clayoquot Sound, an environmental group that successfully protested logging operations on Meares Island and other coastal areas.

Maureen’s story, as told by Anderson, speaks of a woman with the strength of mind to trust (and act on) her own instincts — even if they initially appeared to lead her in bizarre or unexpected directions.  Unlike many people in today’s fast-paced world, Maureen gave herself permission to take unstructured time off, during which she allowed her ideas and experiences to percolate at their own pace — a process that eventually led her to her life’s calling.  Serendipity guided Maureen to Vancouver Island in the first place, but it was her own steadfast belief in both herself and the validity of her goals and dreams that kept her there.

This inspiring woman was ultimately able to find success according to her own definitions (the only definitions that really matter in the long run).  Would that we could all be so fortunate in our own lives.

October 17, 2012

Laugh of the day – October 17, 2012

For all you gardeners out there….

"Pickles" cartoon by Brian Crane, October 17, 2012


October 14, 2012

A quote to start your week (happy ☺)

I have always liked this anonymous quote:

Life will always be full of challenges.  It is better to admit as much and decide to be happy in spite of it all.

Have a happy week!

October 13, 2012

How to make crabapple sauce

Today I had the pleasure of making crabapple sauce with family friends.  Here is the process, in a nutshell:

  1. Shake the crabapple tree to let loose a rain of apples. It helps to lay a tarp under the tree so the fallen apples are easier to see and collect.
  2. Gather the apples into a large bin or bag.
  3. Wash the apples:  Take them inside, pour them into the sink (in batches, if necessary), fill the sink with water and swish the apples around to rinse off any dirt or bugs.
  4. Remove the apples to a large, tall stock pot.  Discard any apples that are green, rotten, bird-eaten or generally undesirable looking.  (Bruised apples are fine, though!)
  5. Fill the stock pot with water until you can just see the water coming up beneath the pile of apples — about an inch or two from the topmost apples.
  6. Boil the apples on high heat, covered, until they break down and turn mushy.  They will fill the kitchen with a mouthwatering aroma when they’re ready!
  7. Remove the pot from heat.  Squeeze the apples, in batches, through a strainer or colander placed inside or over a large bowl.  We used a soup ladle to scoop the apples into the colander, then used the back of the ladle to mash the apples against the sides of the colander.  This process separates the apple sauce (which oozes through the colander into the bowl) from the skins, stems, cores and seeds (which can go into the compost).
  8. Place the extracted sauce back in the pot and reheat to boiling.
  9. While the sauce is reheating, prepare/sterilize clean jars and lids for canning.  We sterilized as follows:  Lids – place them in a glass pie plate and pour boiling water over them.  Jars – Line them up on the counter and fill the first few jars with boiling water.  (When you are ready to fill a jar with sauce, as per the next step, pour the boiling water from that jar into the next empty jar in line, fill, and repeat down the line.)
  10. Scoop the hot sauce into the sterilized jars with a ladle or glass measuring cup.  Fill to about an inch or half-inch from the top.  Use tongs to take a sterilized lid from the pie plate and place on the jar.  Screw the lid band in place loosely and turn the jar upside down for a minute or two.  Repeat until all your sauce has been canned.
    (Note:  It is important to sterilize the jars and lids immediately before you start the canning process, so all germs are killed and the jars will seal properly.)
  11. Let the batch sit to cool.  As the hot jars cool, the temperature change creates a vacuum seal between the lid and the jar rim.  You will hear “popping” sounds as the slight convex dome of each lid snaps down tight.  Once the jars have sealed, tighten the rim band or remove it completely.
    (Note:  You can tell if your jars have sealed properly if the convex dome of the lid is now concave and doesn’t pop up and down when you press on it.  Discard (or eat the contents of!) any jars that don’t seal properly.)
  12. Label your jars and store your home-made crabapple sauce in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to gobble it up!

I was surprised at how little effort and time was required to make up this tasty treat.  No need to add sugar, either — folks who want a sweeter sauce can add sweetener afterwards, to their liking.  We got about 5.5 litres of sauce from one big stock pot of apples.  Our sauce was a beautiful golden yellow hue because, well, that was the colour of the apples this year!

Crabapples down.  What’s next?  😉

Photo of jars of homemade crab apple sauce

Home-made crabapple sauce. Yum!

October 12, 2012

Book recommendation – “Sleeping Naked is Green” by Vanessa Farquharson

I highly recommend the book Sleeping Naked is Green by Vanessa Farquharson.  Farquharson is a twenty-something arts journalist from Toronto who pledges to make one “green” change to her lifestyle each day for one year, and to keep every one of those changes going for the duration.  From switching to recycled paper towels and toting a reusable coffee mug to selling her car and unplugging her fridge, Farquharson shares her experiences — and their impact on her life — on her blog Green as a Thistle.  Her book is a humourous, candid look at what it takes (or doesn’t take) for the average person to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Check out a list of Farquharson’s 366 lifestyle changes here:

Cover image of the book "Sleeping Naked is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged her Fridge, Sold her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days" by Vanessa Farquharson

“Sleeping Naked is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged her Fridge, Sold her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days” by Vanessa Farquharson

What I found particularly interesting was Farquharson’s final assessment of the effects her “green year” had on both herself and the people around her.  Some examples:

  • After lowering her thermostat to 64 degrees Farenheit (18 degrees Celsius) and keeping it there for months, Farquharson soon found herself “uncomfortably hot in most other indoor environments.”  Her body had adapted to the lower temperature, despite the extra blankets and sweaters she had required to weather the change at first.
  • After switching to natural, non-toxic cleaning and beauty products, Farquharson found her body reacting adversely to the run-of-the-mill products she had used before.  “When I was staying over at [a] friend’s place and had to use her concentrated, Clean Breeze-scented, neon green laundry soap as well as the purple lavender dish soap, both of which were crammed full of artificial fragrances, my eyes kept bursting into tears and my nose suffered perpetual seizures,” writes Farquharson.  “I’ve always prided myself on not being one of those flaky, ultra-sensitive types with weak immune systems.  But after making my body adapt to a more natural lifestyle, it’s apparently decided that, from now on, it will accept nothing less.”
  • Finally, Farquharson’s green challenge rubbed off on her family and friends in some unexpected ways.  Her formerly indifferent mother now stocked her fridge with only organic dairy and free-range meat; her SUV-loving father rented only subcompact hybrid cars while travelling; her friends carried coffee thermoses and bought bicycles to cut car use; and her co-workers shunned disposable water bottles and take-out lunches.  “Over the course of a year, I watched my friends and family make changes I never thought they would,” writes Farquharson. “At first, it would often be for my sake, just to accommodate my green restrictions, but now I truly believe they’re doing it for themselves and for the earth.”

Interesting book, and inspiring, too.  In the end, every little step we take towards attaining a more sustainable lifestyle helps!

October 9, 2012

Intentions for the Earth

I came across this blessing of sorts in the first few pages of the book Women of the West Coast: Then and Now by Marnie Anderson:

May we always recognize, and make allowances for, the seemingly diverse needs of man and nature.
May we realize that, in the end, they are the same.

October 8, 2012

Why I love B.C. – A certain grocery chain…

Thrifty Foods on Vancouver Island!  Need I say more?

Photo of Thrifty Foods store in Sidney, British Columbia.

October 6, 2012

Chuckle of the day – Today’s hippies are so restrained and practical!

I smiled after reading this passage in Vanessa Farquharson‘s book Sleeping Naked is Green:  How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged her Fridge, Sold her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days.  It’s a tongue-in-cheek description of the modern-day environmental movement:

Back in the sixties, hippies went all out — burning bras, getting high, tossing beer bottles or bricks into the toilet tank to save water.  But today’s hippies don’t have the same edge:  they’d never burn a bra because that would be a waste and pollute the air; they’d never drop acid or smoke anything other than organic weed because that would be putting unnecessary toxins into their bodies, which by the way are sacred; and they’d rather install a proper dual-flush toilet than use a brick as the latter could corrode the plumbing and is probably better off donated to Habitat for Humanity anyway.

Kind of true, isn’t it?  😉