23 November 2009

Yankee Sailor

The following is something I wrote on the OKP (Online Kitchen Party on http://www.greatbigsea.ca/) last night, but felt it would be appropriate to cross-post here.

The new song that Alan Doyle played in Olympia on Wednesday night really touched my heart.
"Yankee Sailor" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecnsiUEpOXo

This reminds me of the stories my dad would tell. Nearly had me in tears. Listening to it again since in the safety of home, it had the tears streaming down. Alan kept the intro pretty polite.

He talks about American servicemen that were stationed in Newfoundland while the local boys were stationed elsewhere during WWII. Local men would then return to find their lady loves off with someone new.

My dad lied about his age to join the Canadian Army during WWII (he was only 14), and got in for a minute 'til they figured out that he'd cheated his vision test, too (he was blind in one eye). So Dad was one of the guys that stayed behind in Canada. There were jobs, as the majority of able-bodied young men were off at war, but times were still tough, just coming out of the Depression. Local guys could [maybe] afford to take a girl out for coffee and pie, but the Yankee soldiers could afford a full dinner and movie, etc. The American servicemen in Canada were showing up the local guys at every turn. Americans were paid more than military personnel in the other Allied countries, too.

I say that Alan kept the intro polite as far as describing the situation because he only talks about the women marrying the Americans and leaving together. He doesn't talk about the girls who fell in love with the "Yankee Sailor" but then were left behind (sometimes pregnant), after having alienated their local boyfriend.

This happened all over. Newfoundland and Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries, I'm sure. When my dad was living in Australia in the early 1950s, someone in a bar couldn't tell the difference in the accent between American and Canadian, and so someone called him a "Yank". Dad told the guy he'd give him to the count of 10 to take that back. "Oh yeah? Why is that, Yank?" When they found out that Dad was a Canadian, they bought him drinks the whole rest of the night, apologising for the mistake.

The history behind this song was felt strongly by so many people all over the world.

27 October 2009

Afterschool Snack: Apple Cornbread

The windy, wet weather has returned to the Pacific North'wet', and so this sounded perfect. It's cooling on top of the stove right now.

Apple Cornbread (Vegan)

1 c. yellow corn meal
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. organic sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 "egg" (= 2 Tbsp. ground flax + 3 Tbsp. water)
1 c. non-dairy milk (soy, hemp, rice, etc.)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 c. applesauce
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 apple (honeycrisp is what I used)

Mix "egg" in a little dish and set aside to soak & set up a bit. Sift dry ingredients together into bowl; add wet ingredients. Stir until smooth. Cut apple in eighths & cut out core; slice thinly into batter & fold in. Bake in greased 8-inch square pan or iron skillet. Bake 25-30 minutes at 425.

10 August 2009

Is it August already? Friendship Bread update etc.

Wow, is it August already? Where did the time go? I'm not ready for all this!

Actually, for a quick update since the last post (end of May ~ wow):
1. We've had a couple of heat waves come through (that I swore were trying to kill me). Today feels good, though... raining off and on, but still 20c(68F) inside the house without having to turn the heat on!

2. I started a new project of scanning in my dad's old photo album. Many of them, he developed himself. Cool old Black & White pictures from all over Western Canada & Western US, Australia, and both North & South Islands of New Zealand. Still more to do, but I got a big chunk done! [Part 1; Part 2.] :)

3. More hiking in the woods. When it wasn't too hot and I had to hide inside, we went for shaded walks through the woods and along the saltwater.

4. Vegan Meetup Potlucks! Word has spread about the monthly vegan potlucks that I host, and the group is growing. Looking forward to another one this coming Sunday (late afternoon). http://www.meetup.com/Olympic-Vegans [Come hang out with us and have fun!] We even had a guest speaker on June 30th ~ Emily Shaules talked about the wonders of a Raw Vegan diet.

5. Had "iguana green" streaks dyed into my hair. Didn't last long... they've faded out bad. New colours next week, especially in time for the trip to Toronto. :)

6. Took a "girls-only" mini-vacation to San Francisco, California to visit my friend Janice. Had a wonderful time, took lots of photos that have me considering going professional, and got horribly (HORRIBLY) sunburnt. Lessons in life, right?

7. Sprucing up around the shop. Painting woodland scenes atop the outdoor bistro table set... Painted the couch in the back into a striped design of black, blue, & sparkles. More to come.

8. Seeing my older boy run off again and again. Good thing he always comes home. His team took 1st place in the State softball tournament. Now, he's off at camp up in the mountains. A couple of weeks ago, he formally took office as the Master Councillor of the local chapter of DeMolay. Threw a big party for that. Other than having one "meat option" for people, the whole dinner was vegan! :) It actually went over really well, and my cupcakes were a huge hit.

9. Homeschool. We've been taking it easy this summer, focusing more on "un-schooling". Paddy has been taking part in everything and helping out a lot. He really likes running the cash register at the shop, and he's become better at it than some employees I've had! :)

9. New Adaptations to the Amish Friendship Bread. Link to my original recipe. I'm taking a minute right now while the bread is in the oven baking. The recipe is never quite the same twice, especially with the option to add different things each time. I've stopped making the sugared crust on it anymore.

Originally, I was using Ener-G egg replacer, but have now dabbled with using ground flax seeds as an egg replacer. It's turned out really well. Sarah Kramer suggests using 2 Tbsp. ground flax seed + 3 Tbsp. water to replace each egg.

Last time, I added carob powder to the batch. That was a hit with everyone! Right now, the batch that is baking has hempmilk, "live" spelt flour from Farmer's Market, ground flax seeds (as egg replacer), applesauce, vanilla hemp protein powder, and pecans... but *then*... split the batch into 2 bowls. Added 1/4c. shredded coconut to one bowl; 1/4c. carob powder to the other bowl. Then marbled the 2 together into the loaf pans. The 1/4c. carob powder was a bit much, and needed a sprinkling of additional hempmilk to wet it so it would blend. [Here we go... picture of it just coming out of the oven!]

We went out for lunch today at Toga's. I had always wanted to go when they were a fancy gourmet restaurant, but didn't. Now, they've done a huge overhaul / remodel and are a lunch place... soup, sandwiches, salads, and baked goods. We had a Veggie Focaccia Panini, and then cups of soup (Curried Veggie Lentil, and Roasted Veggie) ~~ I have to say, it was really good. As we were looking over the pastry case, I asked if anything was dairy-free. Sadly, no. There was a marbled cake that Paddy loved the looks of, so I let him know we could "totally" do that ourselves. :)

30 May 2009

Homeschool Update 30 May '09

I think homeschooling my younger son is the best decision I could have made. This has really enriched both of our lives.

Yes, I have a generic curriculum on CD-ROM that I purchased in order to cover the basics, but the additional exploring and learning that we have been doing above and beyond the standard curriculum has been wonderful! We are following topics that we both find interesting, and allowing ourselves to be guided to the next topic from there.

Paddy is very interested in the Titanic, so he has been learning about the history, the tragic event, and new information that continues to surface. He has also learned about the Lusitania and the comparisons (and contrasts) to the sinking of the Titanic. He is absorbing the information and is making further connections. E.g., he perked up to hear that both ships were from Liverpool.

He has been reading a lot. He first read "Singing Wheels" by Mabel O'Donnell (illustrated by Florence and Margaret Hoopes), pub. 1957. This is a book from which my maternal grandmother taught elementary school. I then had him read a related book that I had written as an elementary school student, called "Getting Ready". Both are about the western pioneer movement. He is currently working on the 7th Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling. He is using the dictionary on a regular basis to look up words, and is learning the differences between my different dictionaries (1993 American Heritage College Dictionary vs. 1910 American Dictionary of the English Language).

His dad has been working with him a lot on math. He spends Mondays and Tuesdays with his dad. We are finding that he is at Grade 7 and 8 level math (as opposed to Grade 5, where he was bored silly). He is working on mean, median, and mode (statistics); cost vs. profit; and other topics.

I am also working with him day-to-day with simple math in his head, but to have a working comprehension. When we are gardening, we discuss many topics, such as history. When we talk about the different years that events occurred, I ask him how many years apart they were. 1623-1635, 1776, 1867, 1949, 2009, etc. This is similar to time I spent with my dad in the garden in my childhood.

Speaking of gardening, we have been working on a variety of plants, and the list keeps growing. In our bricked-in patch, we have (so far) rhubarb, nasturtiums, cilantro, Brussels sprouts, celery, and artichoke. We have 2 hanging tomato plants (the new upside-down planters that are the rage this year). We've also been working with decorative flower planters. He likes succulent "rock plants", such as "hens and chicks" and sedum, and so has his own collection going outside in the back patio.

We were cutting up a store-bought pineapple the other day, and he asked me whether pineapples grew "right-side up" or "upside-down" off the trees. I told him that I honestly didn't know. I had him go look it up on Wikipedia, and then to come report back to me what he found out. He found directions on how to take the top of the pineapple (the sharp stems at the top) and plant them in a shallow dish of soil to grow another pineapple out the top. So we did just that... planted it, and now we'll see how it does.

I find that I am researching and reading more than usual in order to meet his learning needs. With our recent introduction to "Amish Friendship Bread" (see previous blog entry), I've been reading up more on various yeast recipes and researching vegan alternatives. Most recently, I am reading "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz and am fascinated by "the flavor, nutrition, and craft of live-culture foods". We are now experimenting with different yeast starters for breads, and considering our own homemade sauerkraut (choucroute), kimchi, miso, vegan yogurts, and more. The most recent addition to our projects is a sourdough starter from potato starch water and unbleached flour. The potato starch water is from cooking local Ozette potatoes (a native species).

Paddy enjoys the process and the interaction of baking the friendship bread. We do it a little different each time, and in turn learn more each time.
Unbleached flour vs. "live" spelt flour...
2/3 c. hemp protein powder vs. only 1/2 c. ...
currants & coconut vs. no fruits or nuts (forgot to add any on one batch) vs. raisins, fresh pineapple, & almonds... etc.
He is also learning practical application of fractions and conversions. Ex. doubling recipes and doing 1/2 recipes...
or that if 3 tsp = 1 Tbsp, then 1/2 tsp x3 = 1/2 Tbsp.

Paddy keeps in contact with other kids, too. He has his older brother still attending Grade 10 at public school. He also spends a lot of time with his cousin Leo (who is in Grade 7). He goes to Sunday School at church. He also participates in activities with the local DeMolay chapter. With DeMolay, he helped this morning with washing local law enforcement cars, trucks, and vans as a community service / civic engagement activity.

Starting today, he is also taking part in activities through the Olympic Park Institute's environmental education program. Today is an "Insect Hike" through the woods of the national park.

During relaxing times, we have been watching the series "Life After People". He finds it fascinating, and it is another way in which information is brought together from multiple disciplines in order to show a more complete picture.

We have been hiking in the woods and walking on beaches. We visited the local "Art in the Woods" exhibit, where you have to really search to notice some of the artwork. We've walked along the Elwha River and discussed traditional tribal boundaries ("usual and accustomed lands"), esp. between Makah and Klallam Nations. We've even had fun serving as "Twilight" tour guides to friends from out of the area.

There are so many other topics we have covered, but I'm not taking the time to cover here. Some include beekeeping, music, poetry, photography, art projects, and geography. Even though I've taken on additional responsibilities -- as both "Mom" and primary teacher -- it is an amazing adventure and is incredibly rewarding. Just think, it's only been 7 weeks so far!!

08 May 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

My friend Donna gave me a ziplock baggie of goo and a piece of paper, detailing the directions for "Amish Friendship Bread". This had me laughing. Especially at the end, where it says "Only the Amish know how to create the starter, so if you give them all away, you will have to wait until someone gives you one back." Told Donna it's a good thing she knows someone that's half (Amish) Mennonite [me]! :)

Anyway, the goo is a yeast/milk/flour/sugar mixture that is the perpetual product of this bread. The yeast starter becomes large enough for 5 portions... one to bake into 2 loaves, 3 to give away to friends in baggies to get them hooked, and then 1 to keep for yourself for your next batch (10 days later after baking the 1st batch). Donna had followed the directions, but substituted soy milk for the regular milk. So the dairy content had been diluted significantly

As I proceeded with my baggie from her (a product of her soy batch), I used hempmilk, unbleached flour, and organic cane sugar. So although this began as a dairy starter, the amount of dairy has been diluted even further. By the time I've finished with mine, the dairy content is probably negligible.

Here is the original recipe/directions, along with my notes [in brackets] for changes.


*Do not use metal spoon or bowl for mixing
*Do not refrigerate
*If air gets in bag, let it out
*It is normal for batter to rise, bubble and ferment

Day 1: Do nothing. This is the date you received the batter.
Day 2: Mush bag
Day 3: Mush bag
Day 4: Mush bag
Day 5: Mush bag
Day 6: Add to the bag 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk then mush bag [Use non-dairy milk (soy or hemp) for vegan version. May consider organic sugar, unbleached flour, etc. as other healthier substitutes.]
Day 7: Mush bag
Day 8: Mush bag
Day 9: Mush bag
Day 10: Follow the instructions below:

1) Pour the entire contents of the bag into a NON METALLIC bowl
2) Add 1 ½ cups flour, 1 ½ cups sugar and 1 ½ cups milk. Mix well. [Once again, substitute unbleached flour, organic sugar, and non-dairy "milk".]
3) Measure out 4 separate batters of 1 cup each into 4 gallon Ziploc bags. Keep a starter for your self and give the other 3 to friends along with a copy of this recipe. Should this not be passed onto a friend on the first day, be certain to tell the friend which day the bag is at when presented to them. It is helpful to mark the bag. When you pass this onto a friend the new Day 1 will be the day that you baked.
4) Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees
5) Add the below ingredients to the remaining batter in the bowl. Mix well

3 eggs [substitute equivalent of 3 eggs in egg replacer, such as Ener-G]
1 cup oil (or ½ cup oil and ½ cup applesauce) [I opted for the split with applesauce.]
½ cup milk [non-dairy]
1 cup sugar [organic cane sugar]
2 tsp cinnamon [to cut acidity, I do 1/2 cinnamon and 1/2 nutmeg.]
1 large box instant vanilla pudding [I substituted 2/3 c. vanilla spice hemp protein powder]
½ tsp vanilla [always add extra!!]
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 cups flour [unbleached is better]
You can add nuts, dates, whatever!

6) Grease 2 large loaf pans and mix additional ½ cup sugar and 1 ½ tsp cinnamon. Dust the greased pans with half of this mixture.
7) Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and sprinkle the remaining sugar on top.
8) Bake 1 hour. Cool until bread loosens from pan evenly (about 10-15 min). Turn onto serving dish. Serve warm or cold.

* If you keep a starter for yourself, you will be baking every 10 days. The bread is very good and makes a great gift. Only the Amish know how to create the starter, so if you give them all away, you will have to wait until someone gives you one back. ***Enjoy***


So if you want some of my vegan starter, let me know. We'll see what we can work out (distance/transportation-wise). My friend TinaMarie stopped by from out-of-town today, and she took all 3 baggies with her that were left over from this batch. She has people she is eager to hand it out to! :)

30 April 2009

Spring Rhubarb Goodness + Culture

For those of you that don't know, my dad's family are Russian Mennonites from Manitoba, Canada. I have many fond memories of visiting my grandparents outside Winnipeg (aka "Winter"peg) as I was growing up. It was a long trip, and we saved up to go once every 4 years. My Grandma Reimer's cooking was so delicious!! Her bread puddings and rice puddings were especially memorable to my childhood taste buds.

It's Spring, though, and I've been doing some work in the garden. I'm being adventurous this year, and am planning artichoke, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and finally taking care of my rhubarb. I'm ashamed to admit that I bought 2 lovely rhubarb plants 2 years ago, and they've been sitting in the shade (still in their original pots) under a tree in the backyard ever since. Thought for sure they'd be dead, but I'm pleased to report they're not! In building an official veggie garden in the back yard, I pried the pots loose from the grassy area, and found that one of them had stuck roots down through the pot and into the ground! I broke the roots as I was pulling it out. The corresponding stalks and leaves started to droop the next day, so I cut them and we had Fresh Rhubarb Mooss last night! :)

Oh, and by the way, I'm vegan. So here's what I did to make a traditional Russian Mennonite dish into something I could still have (and share with the kids):

Fresh Rhubarb Mooss (aka Ruboabamooss; a type of Pl├╝memooss)
4 c. diced rhubarb
4 c. water
1 c. sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
3 Tbsp. flour (I use unbleached flour)
1 c. cream (I used hempmilk -- you could substitute your favourite non-dairy "milk")
~~~ Clean and dice rhubarb. Combine with water in a large pot. Cook until rhubarb is tender. In a separate pan combine sugar, flour, and cream, stirring until smooth. Bring to a boil and cook until bubbly. Add rhubarb mixture to cream mixture. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Cool.
(I poured it out into little dessert dishes and let it cool in the fridge 'til we were ready to eat.)

It's funny -- Ralph (age 16) loved it and was gobbling it up. Paddy (age 11) wasn't so sure of the tangyness of rhubarb. Asked him to have "3 more bites" -- and by then, he decided it was good after all and finished up. :)

For those that don't know, pl├╝memooss is a traditional cold fruit soup. As the name might suggest, it's often made with plums, but it is still the generic term we call any cold fruit soup. According to "Mennonite Foods & Folkways from South Russia, vol. I" by Norma Jost Voth, "This fruit soup, made with fresh or dried fruits, has been part of the Mennonite cuisine since the Dutch Mennonites lived in the Vistula Delta (Polish Prussia) in the sixteenth century."

25 April 2009

New to Homeschooling

Well, the adventure officially started off two weeks ago, but it's been awhile coming. The last straw put that poor proverbial camel in traction. Fed up with the inability of the public school to teach my son, and thoroughly sickened by their emotional/psychological abuse towards him... I pulled my younger son out of Grade 5 and started to "homeschool".

We've been working on finding a good groove that works for us. I'm still doing a gov't. contract job plus running a brick-and-mortar business in the historic downtown district. Luckily my boys' dad is very involved and he supports the homeschool idea. He works odd hours, and so works with our younger boy ("Paddy") while I'm doing the contract job.

One of the first things that he found in working with Paddy is that Paddy is thoroughly bored with Grade 5 math. In printing out math problems from websites, Paddy breezes through them in minutes. To challenge him enough that 24 problems take an hour, it was 3-digit by 3-digit multiplication... and 2-digit into 4-digit long division. No wonder he was hanging upside down out of his chair in the regular classroom!!

Something that I observed this week is that he has been avoiding writing at all costs. Paddy is thrilled with homeschool and is happy to work on anything... but then is changing the subject and wiggling out of writing. In Grade 1, his teacher went on and on about what a wonderful, creative writer he was proving himself to be. Now, teachers are threatening him with time in the Principal's office because he's refusing to write. After coming at the problem from a variety of angles, I finally had an innovative idea.

Yesterday morning, right after his older brother set out for the high school, we grabbed our fruit and went for a walk in the lovely sunshine. I brought a notepad and pencil with me so that we could brainstorm together as we walked. He claims that he doesn't know why he doesn't write anymore; he says he can't think of anything. This is the boy that will talk your ear off for hours if you let him -- we just need to get it on paper!

After hearing him out, I suggested that we start him a private blog -- one that only his dad and I can read. He asked what a blog was, so I explained. We talked about the importance of writing and the legacy it can create. A brilliant mind is wonderful, but if it's not written down (recorded), then it's lost to others when you're gone. We discussed that once he gets comfortable with writing his blog, he could open it up to more readers. He was intrigued, and agreed to give it a try.

When we arrived home after the walk, we sat down and set it up for him. Lucky guy -- the user name and URL name he wanted was available on the first try! He still said he couldn't think of anything to write, but I rattled off about ten different ideas. He decided on one of them -- writing about our week in Newfoundland last month. I'm pleased to report that he worked really hard on it, and he published his first blog post yesterday. It covers Days 1 and 2 of the trip. More entries to come! :)

In my mind, it's most important for him to get his thoughts out onto paper (or screen). We'll work on handwriting later. He already has very nice handwriting, but he still writes a bit big and slow -- he feels it has to be perfect on the first try.

In watching him compose his post yesterday, I got to thinking that maybe I should start my own blog, too. It's something that we can do in common, as well as to encourage myself to reflect on what we're doing and where we're going. Although I've toyed with the idea of homeschool since before his older brother started Kindergarten, actually making the commitment to stand up and do this is a little scary -- uncharted waters.

As far as curriculum goes, we've been making it up as we go for the past 2 weeks -- but it's good as we're finding where some of his strengths and weaknesses lay. In looking at different programs available, it's difficult to decide -- everyone seems to have their own favourites, but I have yet to see a concrete comparison between packages. In the meantime, I've ordered what appears to be a generic curriculum that covers the basics for Grades 6-8. It was rather inexpensive, so I'm not holding my breath that it be the most flushed-out program available. ...but if the basics are covered, I'll have no problem embellishing from there! :)

I've always joked that both my mum and grandma were elementary school teachers, and that they never stopped being teachers (whether at home, retired, etc.) throughout their life. I've picked up some of those same habits -- that everything is a learning experience, and there is always more information to share with those willing to learn.

My dad was a self-taught man -- was made to leave school midway through Grade 7. As a child during the Great Depression in Manitoba (and being the oldest of 5 at that time), he was hired out to a local farmer. He worked for his board and room; any wages he earned were sent home to his parents. Dad hated that he didn't ever finish a formal education, but as an adult he taught himself all sorts of subjects, especially in the winters when laid-off from construction. One winter, he taught himself to touch-type; another winter, calculus! He said that whether you knew it or not, everyone learns something new every day -- the day you don't is the day you die.

I'll stop rambling here for now. Wish us luck on this new journey. Never a dull moment! :)