Thursday, April 30, 2009

Here's a ray of hope

Just happened on an article in the LA Times that suggests this flu may be milder than first thought. It really puts it all in perspective. Hopefully Mexico can get through this and be back to normal soon.

The sufferings of Mexico

Mexico's been hit with yet another public relations problem with the advent of the swine flu scare. It wasn't enough that people weren't visiting because they feared being gunned down by drug cartels. Now flights are being canceled and vacationers are exiting en masse. I've been following some reports from bloggers in Mexico about the impact of the swine flu scare on tourism in the towns and cities there. It's grim. Hotels and restaurants are closing and staff are being laid off. With no tour ships coming in the tourist services are hurting. For a country that depends so much on tourists for its economic life, this quarantine could be a death sentence for Mexico (at least the tourist areas) if it goes on for too long.

Already in Mexico City, where everything has been closed for several days, the financial impact of this crisis is estimated at 57 million US dollars a day through lost economic activity. This information comes from here. Poor Mexico.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cranberry rosemary seed crackers

Someone in my book club sent around this recipe for cranberry rosemary seed crackers. She got it from a blog, of course.

These crackers are supposed to taste exactly like the gourmet ones that come in a tiny beautiful box for $7 or more. So yesterday I stopped in at the grocery store and stocked up on the ingredients. I bought raw pumpkin seeds, millet, flax seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, plus molasses and dried cranberries.

For less than $10 I got what I needed. The whole wheat flour and milk I already had.

These crackers are pretty easy to make. You just mix the dry ingredients together in a big bowl.

Then add the molasses and soured milk and put into loaf pans.

The recipe calls for two very small loaf pans, which I didn't have, so I used a regular loaf pan and a little casserole dish. Here they are coming out of the oven.

After cooling the loaves, I wrapped them in foil and left them in the fridge overnight. Then this morning I sliced them as thin as possible and put them in a 250 degree oven for about an hour to dry out.

The recipe made lots and they taste as good as the gourmet ones. I like the way they look as well, even though they're not as regular in shape.

And best of all--no fat. I'm going to serve them on Friday when I have guests for lunch.

They're really easy to make and I still have enough seeds and cranberries to make another batch.
Here's the blog posting with the recipe.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Media loves the swine flu / Ruby Tuesday

Doesn't the media just love a pandemic? It’s almost as good as a terrorist incident and it’s even better than a juicy murder or a pit bull attack. Pandemics are great for selling papers and holding viewers in thrall. Personally I try to avoid reports of these kinds of things because they make me nervous and I don’t like that feeling. It interrupts the flow of my day.

At our house we don’t get the daily newspaper, and we don’t have cable TV. We get our news from the radio and from the local weekly. That way we hear the headlines and get a bit of analysis but we don’t have to experience the blow-by-blow freaking out about the terrible things.
Oh yeah, the internet helps too. I like reading blogs and alternative press on my computer. It gives me a perspective on the news.

Swine flu is the latest. But remember the avian flu? Remember SARS? Remember Y2K? We all react as if the sky were falling and the media just pumps up the fear factor. To me it’s the fear that’s the problem.

How can we live our lives when we’re afraid of invisible germs or computer viruses or attacks from the sky? A city full of scared people (or even worse a country) is not a nice place to be. The fear sets up an erratic energy that can move in very strange ways. I’m not worrying about swine flu (although I am washing my hands more). I’m not worrying about anything that I can’t do something about. If it comes to my town I’ll do whatever I can to get through it. Live each day to the fullest, I say. All we have is today.

Here's today's photo for Ruby Tuesday. It's the sun on the flowering currant in my back yard.

Now I’m going to feed my dogs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Garry Oak Meadows

Here on southern Vancouver Island we have have some large parks with old Garry Oak trees set in natural meadows with rocky outcroppings.

These tree are the only native oak trees in Western Canada and they are associated with a unique ecosystem known as the Garry Oak Meadow. In the spring the meadows are carpeted with the deep blue of the Camas flower and the bright yellow of buttercups.

These meadows are such beautiful places to walk on a sunny day. Many of these trees are very old and some of them are dead and dying--and they have their own stark beauty.

And in areas where they remain natural there are new Garry Oaks at various stages of growth.
These areas are dwindling as more and more building takes place around this area, but fortunately there is growing awareness of the need for protection.

These photos were taken in Uplands Park on Sunday. Over the next week or so the Camas will come into full bloom and the meadows will turn into drifts of deep blue. Beautiful.

You can see that Geordie and Maggie enjoy it too. Sorry for including so many photos. I just couldn't decide which ones to leave out.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dancing tree

Down by the tennis courts this lovely tree has been catching my eye for a while. I think it's a cherry tree, although I'm not that good at tree identification. Apparently this area was all cherry orchards sixty or more years ago, and many back yards still have the old trees there. This one has the most beautiful sweeping branches. It looks like they're swirling around themselves in a dance. They were beautiful in the winter when the tree was bare but now they're swathed in white and are just lovely. I actually lay down on my back in the wet grass to get the second shot. The dogs thought that it was great fun and jumped all over me.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Municipal Bureaucracy

We've had our plans for our front yard redesign since the middle of March and after six weeks of municipal bureaucracy we're still waiting for permits. It seems that the person at one counter at city hall doesn't bother to tell you about the requirements of the person at the next counter. We knew we had to get a permit to change the driveway. That took nearly a month. Only then did we discover that we also had to have a permit to plant on the boulevard (municipal property).

I applied for that on Monday (complete with a scale drawing) and a couple days later a fellow came out with a camera to take pictures of the boulevard. He was from the engineering department and he said he'll send the photos to the "parks people" so they can decide if they want to meet with us. Saanich has a thing about protecting trees and we have at least eight on the boulevard, which means we cannot do anything that will compromise their health.

What this means in terms of our plan to put some shrubs and native plants along there has yet to be discovered. I left a message for the tree guy in the parks department to call so I could arrange a meeting between him and the guy who developed our landscape plan--but haven't heard back all week. I've also found out that Saanich has a list of allowable plants and trees for their boulevards but it seems that this list is not available on line. So I'll have to go down to their office and pick it up. They are not making it easy for us to achieve our goal of improving the front yard.

Last night it occurred to me that we'll probably also need a permit from the municipality to install the watering system that we'll need to keep the new plants watered under the water-sucking cedars. Argggh!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Healthy breakfast

Harry likes to cook hot cereal in the mornings especially when it's chilly. We learned from our friend Kath to actually cook the fruit in with it and it's so tasty. You just toss in chunks of fruit from the freezer when it's simmering and even bananas (not frozen) are good when cooked. It's a favorite at our house. Now that it's getting warmer we'll shift into Harry's other specialty--a mix of cottage cheese, lemon yogurt and fruit (fresh, frozen, or dried) with a little granola sprinkled on top. Feels healthy and tastes yummy.

I was inspired to post about our breakfast by a blog with amazing photographs--simply breakfast. It makes me hungry just looking at them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An amazing experience

Leonard Cohen and his Unified Heart Touring Company held us spellbound for more than three hours last night at Victoria's Save-On Food Memorial Centre.

At the age of 75 Leonard skipped onto the stage, crouched down and launched into the iconic Bird on a Wire in that familiar deep and resonant voice. He had us in his hand. All of us from teenagers to grandmothers.

And the evening unfolded with a selection of songs reflecting his lifetime--and ours. From Suzanne through Everybody Knows and Hallelujah to recitations of recent poetry from his newly published Book of Longing, Leonard moved us through the evening--and our lives.

He is such a contradiction in his gangster's clothing and his crooked smile, always humble, sometimes joking, and putting everything into his singing. Moving us from giggles to meditation to hand clapping. The arrangements are impeccable. The band is fantastic; the backup singers sublime. Sharon Robinson and The Webb Sisters sing like angels. The last encore showcased them doing harmonies to a prayer, If it be Your Will, that will stay with me forever. Twice during the show he took the time to speak about each of the musicians and singers accompanying him, and followed each accolade up with a humble bow like a Buddhist monk.

We got home about 11:30 and all night long lines from those songs moved through my head, especially this one: There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in....

I'll end this with a quote from Pico Iyer's piece in the program, "...what Lenoard Cohen tells us is that all of us, in our solitary trembling, can come together in a kind of communion. So many of us have been listening to him alone, or sharing the songs with a single love as the night comes on and the candles begin to gutter. But here, for the first time in fifteen years, we're all together in our observances. People stand up to welcome the stranger home, and rise up again, and again, in battalions as they recognize their old lives coming up. No one needs flashing lights or changes of costume; the words and the feeling are enough."

Here's a clip of Leonard singing Hallelujahfrom a recent concert on this tour.
It was an amazing experience.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Leonard Cohen's coming to town

About a month ago I did something I've never done before--I lined up to get tickets for a big concert. I didn't camp overnight or anything like that but I got down to the ticket office an hour before the Leonard Cohen tickets went on sale for his Victoria concert. I'm so excited to be able to see this concert tomorrow night. He's been one of my favourite singer/songwriters since I first heard him way back in 1967.

I saw his poetry book, Flowers for Hitler, in the bookstore where I worked and shortly after that I heard Suzanne and some of his other early songs. They still can send chills up my spine. I love his songs. When I was in university he came to Vancouver and although I didn't get to see his concert then I recall that a friend of a friend did go--and claimed that she spent the night with Leonard. I'm not sure if I believe that but you never know. It was the 60s.

Harry and I did get to see a Leonard Cohen concert here about 12 years ago and he put on a wonderful performance. I'm so looking forward to seeing him again tomorrow night. I love his albums, all of them, and also the wonderful album by Jennifer Warnes called Famous Blue Raincoat. So it doesn't really matter what songs he does, I know that I'll be happy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April photos

I'm not a photographer but I'm enjoying capturing images with my little point-and-shoot camera. Plus I've been hopping around some photography blogs and loving some of the images I'm seeing. So I'm inspired to post these three photos for the photo challenge of The Four, who look for a visual response to a quote from Shakespeare, "April hath put a spirit of youth into everything."

Shadow Shot Sunday

Here's my shadow shot for this week. I'm enjoying looking for them. Now if only the sun would come out a bit more. Too much grey some days to even see a shadow.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pink Snow

Every spring there's a day when we get pink snow. It's when the petals start swirling off the plum and cherry trees and piling up along the sidewalks.

And it's just beautiful.

It doesn't last long--usually only a day or two so it was wonderful that my cousin Mell from Ontario was here yesterday to see it happen.

It feels like spring is really here now--at last.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My "to do" list

Sometimes my life seems to close in with details that leave my head spinning or wake me up at 2:45 am. That's what happened tonight. I woke up remembering that there were some emails that I hadn't taken care of when they came in a couple of days ago. By now they've slipped off the bottom of the screen and might get lost in the past if I don't take care of them. Then thinking of these got me started on the rest of the little things that I have to take care of tomorrow. My life isn't that complicated but sometimes things converge and I end up mentally writing a "to do" list at 4:30 in the morning.


Send emails to
  • the woman inquiring about flyball training for her dog
  • the writer of the article that didn't make it into the Citizen Canine newsletter
  • son Jamie to wish him good luck on his exam
  • the tenants about arrangements for their broken window
  • executive members about plans for the dog walk
Phone calls
  • Saanich parks department about plans for the landscaping on the boulevard
  • my sister about what we can bring to dinner on Friday
  • Brenda about the purse she left at my place last night
  • CRD to see if the newsletters are ready
To do
  • 9:00 Pilates
  • Shop for groceries for dinner
  • Pick up my cousin Mell at the ferry at 2:30
  • Drop off posters at vet's offices in Sidney
  • Vacuum and get the spare room ready
  • Write up minutes from last night's planning meeting
  • 6:00 Canine freestyle dance class
There may be more but I think I'll leave it at that. I had the idea that getting up and writing this down would allow me to get back to sleep. It may work or it may not. Now I'm going back to bed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Saturna Island Easter

Here's a pictorial sampling of the festivities on Saturna Island on a rainy Easter weekend. The ferry arrives at 10:30 and we stop at the community hall for the annual Easter bake sale and tea.

There is a lineup to get in because everyone wants to snap up the cookies, pies and cakes, not to mention the native plants at the plant table. Tea is served with homemade welsh cakes and there's a raffle with amazing prizes like a truck-load of sawdust (!) plus other treats. But for the kids, the highlight is the cakewalk. Here are some of the cakes to be won.

And here are some of the contestants hoping to be on the magic number when the music stops.

After the tea we headed up to the cabin on the ridge to start cooking for the big party at the barn.

We were bringing dinner down for 18 people so it was a big job to get it all ready on the woodstove, but we managed with the help of a few people.

My cousins at the farm had prepared a beautiful table setting, and I cooked the vegetables at the last minute in the electric wok.

It was a lovely dinner and enjoyed by all.

The farm dogs waited outside for their leftovers.

Sunday morning we awoke inside a fog bank. Because we're so high up, we are often actually inside the rain clouds--and when it's windy as well, it's pretty wild.

The Easter Bunny made it up there though, and Callie found lots of treats hidden around the cabin. Later on she and her parents went down to Winter Cove for an island Easter Egg hunt. For this one, hundreds of wrapped chocolate eggs are tossed everywhere into a field and every kid on the island goes down to gather them--even in the rain. The rest of the day we hung out at the cabin, warmed by fireplace and woodstove and doing indoor things.

This is Easter in the west coast island style.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter weekend plans

Easter weekend is our family's traditional time to get together at the cottage on Saturna Island. This is a rustic place set atop a ridge with a kick-ass view of ocean and islands below. The cottage itself has no electricity; we cook on a wood stove and use kerosene lamps for light. Since my niece Callie was a baby the Easter bunny has hopped up to the the top of the ridge to hide eggs and this year will be no exception.

We have food enough for a feast and the eggs to dye and candy and wine and all the other accoutrements that go along with a weekend away. There will be seven people and four dogs in a two bedroom cabin so we're hoping for some non-rainy weather to get out and about.

I'll take some photos to post here when I return. It's a stunningly beautiful place at any time of the year and especially in the spring.

Happy Easter to all.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Knockan Hill wildflowers

My sister Jan and I took the dogs (all four of them) up to Knockan Hill today for a little walk. Even though the sun was hiding behind some clouds it was a lovely experience. All of a sudden the fields and woods are full of wildflowers. The first thing we saw was the Avalanche Lily (also known as Easter Lily) on its elegant curved stem,

then the delicate yellow cinquefoil,

followed quickly by the Shooting Star and the Satin Flower.

Jan told me the name of this little yellow multi-flowered one, but can't remember what it was. It's tucked right into the grass and you'll walk right over top of it if you're not careful.

Here's Jan and the dogs checking out the view from the top.

Here's an amazing tree trunk,

And here's the last flower we saw on the way back down the hill. Jan calls this one Indian Plum.

I'm so impressed with the ability of my little digital point-and-shoot camera to capture these lovely flowers.