Friday, 29 November 2013

Shroom Love

One of the things I love about autumn is going mushroom hunting. Not for ingesting, I'd like to clarify. While I love the idea of foraging for edible wild food, and I know that I could use resource guides to help me find edible wild mushrooms, I am too chicken to do so.

I love the seasonal quality of finding mushrooms on my walks and how they spring up out of nowhere when the the weather turns wetter and colder. I have regular places to check for them, and when I find them it always gives me a little thrill to take their photo.

Here are my favourite photos from this season. These photos can also be found on my Instagram account, crustyroll35.

My absolutely favourite mushroom photo, however, can be found here at my {this moment} post. I expect to see smurfs dancing around it.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Late Fall Garden

This year I expanded my fall garden to include more greens that we enjoyed in the summer (mustard, kale, chard), as well as some new ones to try growing (gai lan and pak choy). I also did some carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and turnip. The last item into my garden was garlic. My fall garden is somewhat limited because it is in a north facing backyard with very little direct sunlight.

The broccoli, cauliflower and gai lan are not faring very well. Maybe when the warm weather returns in the spring the broccoli and cauliflower will give me a nice early harvest. Fingers crossed. I hope whatever ate my gai lan enjoyed it.

Although I am not going out into the backyard frequently enough, I am pleased with how things are going. The kale and chard from the summer are still going strong and we use these whenever we remember to go out before dark. With the early evening in the northern hemisphere in November, I had to go out with a flashlight this past week to get some greens for my pasta sauce.

I planted red mustard in the early fall and it is doing well. I am pleasantly surprised to see that the green mustard that I let go to seed in the summer reseeded on it's own as well. 

The Brussels sprouts are filling out and getting big and round. I harvested some for our Thanksgiving dinner in October but made sure to leave the stalks growing so I can harvest the rest for our Christmas evening dinner with the family. It always makes me proud to have homegrown food for such a special family dinner.

My turnips and pak choy are the surprise hits of the fall garden this year! I shouldn't be amazed, yet I am delighted at the difference fresh pak choy tastes compared to the store bought variety. It tastes perfect sautéed in some oil, garlic and ginger. And oh the turnips! I realize that they aren't to everyone's taste, but they have so much flavour when served garden to table. I was raised with them either boiled or steamed, then mashed with cooked carrots, but I want to try roasting them, as an Instagram friend suggested.

Next year I want to remember to add cabbage to my fall garden.

I regularly post in-process photos of my garden and its results on Pinterest, as crustyroll35.

Friday, 15 November 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Amanda Soule at SouleMama.  

"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments."

I Would Do Anything For Love, But I Won't Do That

Everyone has their line in the sand, the one thing that goes too far. For some people it is too much to ask them to compost their food waste. For others it is too much to ask them to use a menstrual cup.

I believe I have found my line in the sand. For all that I love the environment and would do anything to protect it, I won’t use “family cloth” instead of toilet paper.  From the lyrics of the Meatloaf song, I would do anything to be more eco, but I won’t do that.

What is family cloth you ask? In the quest to reduce single use disposable items, many people are using small pieces of cloth, like a small face cloth, instead of toilet paper.  The idea is that the cloths can be kept near the toilet, like toilet paper, and placed in a sealed container when soiled or wet. Then they are washed in the washing machine and reused again and again. A quick Google search will bring up hundreds of blog posts on this subject, the pros and cons and how to use them. One of my favourite companies, Luna Pads, sells them and promotes their use

In theory I am down with this idea. After all, I used cloth diapers with all three of my daughters and I use cloth feminine pads. I think nothing of washing them. Why would I throw away diapers and pads when I don’t throw away my underwear?

In my mind, however, using reuseable “toilet paper” just seems different. Without getting too detailed, I think it is the soiled part, rather than wet part, that has me squeamish. It’s just a bit of toilet paper, no big deal, right?

Actually it is a big deal. 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Peace Poppy Problem

This post may get me into hot soup, and I am not the sort of person who thrives on conflict and controversy. I feel very strongly about this, however, so here I go...

A year ago I posted a tutorial for making reusable poppies for Remembrance Day.

Click to read it. 

My intent was to show how to make a poppy that can be worn year after year instead of the plastic flocked poppies distributed by veterans. As a teacher I get upset with all the discarded poppies I find around the school grounds and on the gym floor after the Remembrance Day ceremony.

Apparently people took issue with the fact that I wasn't supporting veterans by doing so. I am confused about how this could be the case, however, as I still donate at my school to the veterans' poppy fund even though I do not take a new poppy each year.

I also made and wear a white peace poppy for Remembrance Day, for many reasons outlined in my original post. This year the Canadian Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino has made headlines saying that the white peace poppies are offensive to veterans and an attempt to "politicize Remembrance Day."

I find this very interesting, considering that I find traditional Remembrance Day ceremonies are already politicized. People speak of our soldiers who died for our freedom and our way of life. The poppy as a symbol dates back to the First World War and harkens back to the poppies growing between the crosses of the war dead in Flanders, Belgium, when a generation of young men died for very convoluted political reasons. Fast forward to World War Two, of course no one would argue that we would want to turn back the clock and let Hitler continue his mad march across Europe committing genocide, but what of all soldiers and innocent civilians on all sides who died? We only remember and give thanks for our soldiers? All wars are political and the decisions that lead up to war are political in their very nature. We must be careful when we speak of "just" wars, as if some are good and some are bad.

On Remembrance Day I think about the fallen soldiers, most of them young men like my grandfather (who served in the RAF in WWII) who volunteered because they believed the political justifications for going to war that the governments put forth at the time. I think about their faith and determination to do what they believed to be right at the time, and I weep for their suffering and loss. I remember all the wars that I have learned about and remember the horrific mistakes and acts that were committed in the name of a "just" war and hope that we have learned from history.

My grandfather, like many veterans who cannot speak of what they did and witnessed during wartime, never openly spoke of what he experienced during the war. He did talk of his angst about terror he caused innocent people in the cities he bombed nightly in Germany, which made him question everything he was doing.

However, it seems that all we as a society have learned is that we will not let terrorists and tyrannical leaders, as determined by us, have their way. So along with my red poppy of Remembrance, I wear a peace poppy in the hope that we have learned from the past and that we will work toward a better, more peaceful future. This may be terribly naive, as the political systems of the past have not changed and wars will continue to be fought in the name of freedom when really they are protecting a privileged elite's hold on money and power.

If soldiers made great sacrifices to protect the freedoms that we enjoy today, is not one of my freedoms to exercise my freedom of speech to promote peace by wearing a peace poppy? It is people's right to be offended by my points of view just as much as it is my right to express myself. I just fail to see how my peace poppy, in conjunction with my red poppy, can offend someone?

For a more intelligent and well argued discussion of the reasons to wear a peace poppy, please read this article.
Remembrance Day banner made by my class.

I love how my school does the Remembrance Day ceremony. It is respectful of veterans who served in any war, respectful of the sacrifices that they made that they believed to be best at the time, while at the same time asking people to think about a better world with peace for all, regardless of where one lives. Students read poems and sing songs about peace, be it on the playground, at home or in the community. My favourite part is the parade of nations when our students represent their birth countries to show the diversity of our community, while at the same time showing how we are all the same. 

This year, as with previous years, I wear both my red poppy, in remembrance of the sacrifices the soldiers made, and my white poppy, in remembrance of all innocent lives ripped apart due to the forces of war. I also think about the environmental destruction of war.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Winter Squash Soup

I realized recently that I have not posted anything on this blog for three weeks because of so much going on with my kids, my job and my family. I thought autumn was a time to slow down in preparation for the long winter months ahead?

My spirit may come alive with summer, but I think autumn is my favourite season. The smell of the crisp air on an autumn morning should be bottled up to enjoy all year long. I never tire of the changing colours of the leaves that make the walk to school with my girls an adventure. Around each corner is a new sight that I feel compelled to capture with my camera and post on Instagram. We have had an unseasonably dry fall and this has been a bonus for outside time, but in some ways I miss the typical Raincover that can feel like a hug from an old friend. That's not to say that we haven't had some epic rainfalls recently that have temporarily flooded streets. The extended period of foggy days in October were wonderful while they lasted, with the eerie fog horns bellowing on the Fraser River.

With the change of seasons I have been delighted to get out my knitting needles and try some new projects. I call myself an advanced beginner who is still getting used to all the possibilities of knitting in the round. The couch blankets have also made their return to the tv room, along with my favourite pair of slippers.

Even though life with three busy daughters, a job and volunteering has taken over my time recently, I have tried to find the time to continue to make as many of our meals from scratch as I can. On this eco journey that I am traveling I try to make as many homemade meals as possible to avoid needless packaging and additives. Of course this can be a challenge when life gets out of control with commitments, as it has recently.

One of my favourite fall foods is soup. Prior to marriage and kids I made huge pots of soup all the time, freezing them into single serve portions, making an easy quick meal for a single person living alone. My husband enjoys soup but not in the same way I do, and my children are definitely not open to some of the more adventuresome soups I enjoy making. I love making soup because it is so easy.

Winter squash soup is a must as far as I am concerned, and I have made it with pumpkin, acorn squash and butternut squash. This time I made it with kabocha squash, which is a Japanese "pumpkin." We had roasted kabocha squash for one of our Thanksgiving dishes and I enjoyed it so much I bought another. It has a lovely soft orange colour that I think makes for a pretty bowl of soup.

one winter squash (your choice of kabocha, acorn, butternut, pumpkin), roasted
one medium cooking onion, chopped
several cloves of garlic, chopped finely
one inch section of ginger (approx), chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste
one to two tablespoons of butter (can substitute with olive oil or coconut oil)
a handful of corriander seeds, toasted and ground
one to two cups of whole milk or cream (add to achieve desired creaminess and thickness)
fresh cilantro as garnish (optional)

To soften the squash, which ever variety is used, I roast it at 400 degrees F (200 C) in the oven for approximately thirty minutes until it is to the desired softness (I like browned bits on mine). Sometimes I roast it in wedges with the outside left on.

A must in any soup, or any meal as far as I am concerned, are onions and garlic. For winter squash soup I like to add ginger for a delicious zestiness,  sauté everything with butter for richness. If you are afraid of butter I urge you to do some reading about the benefits of butter. I have also used coconut oil but for this soup I wanted the flavour of butter. I suppose olive oil could be substituted but in my humble opinion fall and winter soups should be made with butter.

I like to make my own soup stock because of the rich flavour and overall health and eco benefits. If I use my own stock I do not need to add salt or pepper as it has already been seasoned to my preferences. In a rush, however, I use organic stock from the store. Pour the stock in with the browned onion mixture and add the roasted squash. At this point I would add salt or pepper to taste.

While the soup is simmering I toast coriander seeds harvested from my summer garden, then grind them with a mortar and pestle to release the aromatic flavours. With the ginger, garlic, onions and corriander added to the soup the kitchem smells amazing at this point.

I let this simmer on a medium low heat until it is starting to bubble, then I use a hand held blender and pulse the soup until it is smooth and creamy in appearance. The soup can be eaten at this point but I like to add some milk or cream to add to the smooth texture of the soup. I like to pulse with the hand held blender once more.

Before enjoying, I like to add some fresh cilantro from my fall garden to go with the coriander seeds.