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Monday, December 31, 2012

Taking Stock of 2012



The end of another year is here and just as I've done for the last few years, I'm taking a few moments to look back at my progress on the goals I set for 2012. These goals are really mostly guidelines for me to keep moving forward through the year rather than hard and fast rules about what I need to do. They probably aren't that much interest to my readers but I do it because I find that setting out broad goals each year helps me to keep things on track and gives much needed structure to my year.  Blogging about it makes me more motivated to work on the goals and holds me more accountable for my time.

Last year, I structured my goals into several categories: Spiritual, Health & Lifestyle, Family, Financial, Hobbies and Home.


SPIRITUAL

  • Implement an appointment time for prayer and study
  • Use a good study guide for bible study
  • Support one person in reaching their goals
  • Make one loan to a female entrepreneur in a Kenyan village
  • Cultivate and nurture Christian friendships
  • Implement an appointment time for writing & gifts to my sponsored children in Kenya
  • Continue to keep in touch with childhood spiritual leaders

I made good headway in all of these goals though there is some room for improvement. I managed to meet all of my spiritual goals but need to improve on consistency of appointment time for prayer and study. One thing I added to these goals over the year was reading my Bible chronologically and I will continue with that goal in 2013. One thing I found helpful was reading at night rather than in the morning.

I supported 2 people in moving forward with their post-secondary goals this year and helped two women with their business goals. I had been saving pennies as a way of raising funds for Kenyan women. I will no longer be saving pennies because the Canadian Government has abolished the one cent coin and it will no longer exist as of  February 2013.  I will miss the penny coin for many reasons.

I've made a decision not to continue providing post secondary or business assistance to Kenyans in the foreseeable future.  My hope is that the assistance I was able to provide will be enough to encourage the receivers on their respective journeys.  I will continue to provide help to Kenyan villagers in various ways as the Lord leads and enables.

HEALTH & LIFESTYLE


  • Continue to learn about diet for diabetics & incorporate pulses, grains, dark green veggies into cooking.
  • Learn to make artisan bread
  • Make more multigrain bread
  • Get more Omega 3 EFAs, vitamins, fiber & antioxidants
  • Implement an appointment for stretching
  • Ride my stationary bike for 30 minutes 3x per week, increasing to every day
  • Resume weight training
  • Continue with my swimming lessons
  • Take a water aerobics class
  • Laugh more
  • Learn new computer skills
  • Upgrade my skills on smart phone/tablets, etc.
  • Clear up computer files and photo files
  • Continue to broaden my base of friendships & participate in my various group meetings & get togethers


I was not successful with several of my health and lifestyle goals; mainly those goals which required physical activity. I did continue to learn more about incorporating healthy eating habits, and getting more Omega 3 EFAs, vitamins, fiber and antioxidants in the diet but this did not help me achieve weight loss or better blood sugar levels.

Looking back over 2012, I see that I was hampered more often than not by long periods of constant pain and inability or limited ability to walk or exercise.  This again made weight issues very challenging,

In 2013, I hope I can make more progress in a fitness regime and find some way around my pain issues.  I am not on pain killers or anti-inflammatories.  Over the year I tried several different approaches to naturally combat inflammation but it didn't seem to make much difference to my pain levels.  I simply have to keep trying in 2013.  I did undertake some steps to radically reduce some stress in my life and that can only help my overall health (and blood sugar levels). 
 
I was also able to upgrade my skills on my smart phone and my computer tablet, though I didn't make much progress in learning new computer skills like Photoshop.  I did make a new website/blog for Missions of Hope, Kenya. However this is no longer published as the volunteer heading the missions is in a life transition right now. Perhaps it will be revived in future and so the work is not for nothing.  

Sometime during the year, I killed my computer hard drive, about the 4th time in 5 years that I've completely lost my hard drive. It is always a headache when that happens as it means lost money, lost time and lost files. I spent a fair bit of time trying to recover as much as I could. There wasn't much time or interest left in the year to learn new computer skills.

Locally, I made several new friends and participated in a number of group gatherings as well as organized a few of my own gatherings, outside of my home and inside my home.

New things added to my list of things to accomplish in 2012 included: undergo eye examinations, find a new dentist (and get a treatment plan in place), do all the paperwork to get a new CPAP machine, schedule a course of massage and foot reflexology.



FAMILY

    • Continue regular schedule of communications & attend to needs
    • Implement a regular schedule to write spiritual memoirs
    • Conduct necessary research for spiritual memoirs
    • Plan a vacation for my niece
    • Continue to make contact with relatives who are shut-ins
    • Plan a trip to visit extended family, for missions or personal trip



    Saving pennies for Kenyan women~May 22/12 - $89.55


    It was important to really focus on my family this year due to ageing relatives and their various health needs. In May, I was able to visit my last living uncle before he passed due to complications of surgery related to colon cancer. The trip to see him with my brother pleased him greatly. (At the same time, we were able to meet several other relatives and see how they are doing). Our comfort is in knowing we will see my uncle again some day but understandably his daughter who saw and spoke to him every day, misses him a lot. She paid a visit to my own mother in October and that was a wonderful surprise for my mom. 
     
      I made a good start on writing my spiritual memoirs but have a lot of work yet to do to research some of it with my mother. Due to mom's health this cannot be done at my own convenience and I pray that I will be able to get what I need soon. Also the progress on actual writing was hindered by mobility issues since I was unable to get to my writing group in the latter part of the year. 
       
      One of my goals was to keep contact with elderly relatives and childhood spiritual leaders. I tried with limited success to keep in touch with two older lady relatives. Mostly when I called them they were not at home but I did try. More recently I made contact with one and let her know that I would like to visit her when the weather warms. She is very excited. I'm excited too as I will see some new to me countryside.
       
      I also wrote several times in recent years to my former Sunday School teacher. I hadn't heard from her in a long while and recently her daughter wrote to let me know that she found my address when packing her mother's belongings. She is moving her mother in with her own family due to the memory loss. It was touching to hear.
       
      Finally, I planned a vacation for my niece to come and visit me over the summer and to spend her birthday with me. She was thrilled when we went to see the theatre production, "Mary Poppins" and also enjoyed our picnic and our travels on the small ferry boats around Granville Island. I had initially planned for a one week visit with my niece but she ended up staying for two weeks.  We had a nice time together despite my mobility issues.


        FINANCIAL

        • Continue to pay down debt
        • Budget "to zero"
        • Live below income
        • Save more
        • Continue saving in the snowflake jar fund for miscellaneous projects
        • Think two or three times before spending
        • Continue to implement strategic charitable giving
        • Review insurance coverage & investment matters
        • Investigate & buy silver

      I managed at long last to purchase some silver coins for my long term needs. I also implemented budgetting to zero on a monthly basis. This made it difficult to meet the on-going missions needs in Kenya.  Consequently, this type of budgeting didn't work if I wanted to help the Kenyans with some immediate and pressing needs. These needs also made it impossible to pay down debt despite living well below my income.

      I managed to continue to save some modest retirement funds but couldn't manage to save anything in a bank account for other needs.  Fortunately I received some tax refunds to help me with some household needs.  In 2013, I will be implementing a more stringent regime of charitable giving so that I am able to meet my own obligations as well as continue giving to the mission field.

    HOBBIES
        • Read one or two books per month
        • Create an edible garden
        • Crochet a doily or a baby outfit
        • Knit slippers (1-2 pair), possibly learn to knit sweaters or socks
        • Finish the knitted baby blanket
        • Make dishcloths for gifts
        • Learn to machine quilt
        • Consider sales to raise funds for charitable giving
        • Use up stash of materials before buying more

        I was able to complete a number of creative works though I did not stick to my list of intended projects. Instead, I made many dishcloths, hats, scarves and blankets; all of which went into my Etsy shop. I had hoped to raise funds for charitable giving but haven't sold anything.

        I learned that buying all the supplies (some second hand but most of it new) even on discount, and careful shopping,  is rather expensive. I bought a lot more fabric than I intended as it seemed I never had exactly what I needed. I learned a lot by trial and error about how to go about future projects and purchasing what I need.

        It is probably not the best use of my time to make things unless I want to take them with me to Kenya on a missions trip since I was not very successful in sales. Either that or I need to figure out how to market my products or simply let my product development and sales develop more organically.   I am not the kind of person that will set up shop in a temporary stall to sell things. However, I am happy to have learned how to make new things and have already given some of my crafted items away.

        I surpassed my modest reading goal of one or two books per month and started reading the Bible from front to back after I completed 25 books for the year. 

        I was able to put in an edible garden and a lot of container flowers.  My edible garden had tomatoes, corn and peppers.  The peppers and the tomatoes did very well but the corn wasn't edible. For some reason the corn did not mature this summer unlike other summers.  I will reconsider what to plant next summer.

    HOME

      • Complete major decluttering project

          Yeah, I completed the HUGE decluttering project that seems to have gone on forever. I managed to get rid of all my excess clothes left over from my working days. Rather than continue to try to sell them on line, I bagged them all up and gave them away. Kitchen items, craft it and knick knacks were all bagged up and given away through my local chapter of Freecycle. I am still working on offloading some paperwork and excess photos.

          Additions to my list of the activities for 2012 included: renew patio space and replace some pieces of old furniture and  several small and large appliances.  Patio furniture was repainted, and new purchases included an umbrella for the patio table and a bird bath for the little birds to enjoy. A much needed sofa and chair were also purchased in the summer and kitchen appliances were purchased in the winter. I was very blessed to purchase all these items at good prices. I make it a point to carefully look for sales and the best quality within my budget I can so that whatever I have will last me for years to come. The last time I had a new sofa or appliances was several decades ago.

          At first blush, it seemed my year was filled with health challenges and little accomplishment.  But I tried to stay positive and keep on forging ahead as best I could.  I can hardly complain with all the terrible things that have been in the news all around the world.  As I age, I am mindful of the Bible teaching to be "content".  I try to keep a balance about what I'm feeling and doing and am learning to "go with the flow", though this is easier said, then done.

          After I've reflected over the year, I realize that my progress was or better than satisfactory.  I was able to accomplish a lot of the household tasks and creative tasks that I've been wanting to accomplish for a very long time. I was hampered in my progress by health challenges but am grateful to God.  He has helped me not only survive the year but get through some challenging projects and assignments.
          As I move into 2013, I pray for better health, not just for me but for loved ones and the many people I've met through blogging who also suffer from ill health.

          May 2013 be a blessed year for each of you and may our Heavenly Father grant you peace, good friends and good health.
          Happy New Year!

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

    Journey to the Moon

    Christmas is over for another year. I hope that each of you enjoyed the day in your own way wherever you were and however you celebrated.  This year's celebration was different for me and my family.  One brother and my nephew and I drove to the north a few hours away from where I live and there we spent a few days visiting my mother and my niece.

    This photo is on the highway going northeast from Vancouver. One doesn't usually see the mountains so clearly defined. On a rainy day you cannot see them.  On a clear day it is usually too bright to see the mountainous outline.

    I love the wintery looking sun.




    The mountains are beautifully silhouetted today.

    I rented a motel room with a small kitchen unit in case I decided to cook something while I was away. It turns out that I only cooked once (bacon and eggs).  But the kitchen unit was nice to have as I was able to keep juices, fruits and breakfast cereal on hand.  I like to minimize eating out in the restaurant. It really gets tiresome if you are on a road trip.

    We ordered Chinese take out for one dinner and had more than enough for two meals for all of us.  I did eat in a restaurant for dinner on one night. I had spaghetti and meatballs instead of the usual fare and it was a nice change.  For Christmas Dinner we again ordered take away turkey dinner. The dinner included freshly roasted turkey with mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, gravy and toast. My niece and nephew's late mother used to make waffles on Christmas Day so in honour of that we also ordered waffles.  My brother did all the running back and forth to the restaurant and the room, which was nice of him!

    These farmlands are between 1 and 1 1/2 hours drive northeast of Vancouver.

    After dinner and gift opening on Christmas Day, I took  my niece to see the movie "The Hobbit" in 3 D. It was a very good film and I look forward to the sequel.  Seeing a movie with my niece on Christmas Day is a tradition.  I used to take my mother to the movie on Christmas Day as it was the one day of the year that she would venture to go and see a movie.  But she hasn't been able to go to a  movie for some years so now I take my niece.  My niece loves popcorn and she looks forward to an annual movie with her aunt (and sometimes other members of our family too).
     
    In between all these activities, we also spent a lot of time visiting my mother at her residence and trying to make sure any errands and jobs she needed help with, were done.  We put up some decorations and photos for her and generally helped her get organized. If all goes according to plan, my brother will return next month for a shorter visit with her as he picks up a medical lift chair that mom used to use.  I will either keep it at my home and use it or try to sell it.


    Seeing mist on the mountains always reminds me of the movie of Diane Fossey, "Gorillas in the Mist".

    We are getting closer to our destination and the sky is breaking clear in a few spots. I love the winter wonderland all around us.
     
    I had a difficult time on this trip. Some of you might remember me having had numerous issues with my right knee. That issues comes and goes but I can usually manage quite well.  However, the night before I was to leave for my Christmas trip, I had such enormous pain in my left leg and I could barely walk the next day.  The pain and compromised walking continued the entire time I was away.  I almost cancelled my trip but I did manage to rally myself and get out of town.  Anti-inflammatories and over the counter pain medicine did not help.

    When I checked in at the motel, the clerk mentioned that she had a similar knee experience to mine.  When her doctor sent her for a leg scan it was discovered that poor blood circulation had blocked her veins.  The solution was to put a stent in her veins but she said she still suffers from pain. I do not know if this is my problem but it certainly sounds like it could be.   All along I had been thinking my knee problems were caused by arthritis or muscular issues.  I really do need to get my doctor to check it all out. 

    Since I managed to get away on the Christmas trip, I also tried my best to enjoy my time.  I had a lot of help from my nephew and my brother in managing with the daily tasks and for that I am very grateful.

    I spotted the moon coming out and managed to capture it before it went behind the clouds.

    I am now back home now.  I'd like to rest but I have an eye appointment in the morning. I really don't feel like going but it is better to get it out of the way before my many appointments coming in the month of January.

    I love to see the moon wherever I go.


    I hope you enjoyed the photos today. Have a marvellous and safe New Year's celebration if I don't visit with you before then.

    Please join others around the world for more beautiful photos of the sky at Skywatch Friday.


    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    Merry Christmas Everyone!



    nutcracker 'Twas the Night Before Christmas nutcracker
    (or A Visit from St. Nicholas)
    by Clement Clarke Moore 






    'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
    not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
    The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
    in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. 


    horse


    The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
    while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
    And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
    had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap. 


     



    When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
    I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
    Away to the window I flew like a flash,
    tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash. 


    bells


    The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
    gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
    when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
    but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. 






    With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
    I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
    More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
    and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

    "Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
    Now, Prancer and Vixen!
    On, Comet! On, Cupid!
    On, Donner and Blitzen!
    To the top of the porch!
    To the top of the wall!
    Now dash away! Dash away!
    Dash away all!" 



    horse


    As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
    when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
    so up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
    with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too. 

    bells

    And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
    the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
    As I drew in my head and was turning around,
    down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
    He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
    and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
    A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
    and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. 



    His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
    His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
    His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
    and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
    The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
    and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
    He had a broad face and a little round belly,
    that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. 

    bells

    He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
    and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
    A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
    soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. 

    horse

    He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
    and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
    And laying his finger aside of his nose,
    and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. 



    He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
    And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
    But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
    "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" 



    I hope you liked this well known poem which always speaks to me of Christmas. 

    I am well prepared for Christmas this year. I managed to undertake my parties and preparations in a leisurely pace though I did have a hectic time with medical and dental appointments I was trying to squeeze in before the end of the year. 
    I decorated my small abode a week later than originally planned but that worked out fine since I was too busy with appointments to enjoy the Christmas decor before hand. I don't "do" tons of decorations. I like to keep things simple. I've "sprinkled" photos of my decorations throughout the lines of the poem.

    To my mind, absolutely none of these things that we've come to associate with Christmas (decorating the house, decorating trees, giving gifts to one another, attending parties, visits to family members, going into debt [for many], getting stressed out about the holiday preparations), has anything to do with the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In fact, I would venture to guess that most of these things are actually displeasing to him. But this isn't a post about judgement.


    I know that many people are trying to keep their focus on the real  reason for the season at the same time they are trying to juggle the other demands of the season with all the things we have come to accept in western society as Christmas.

      In my own life, I long for a simpler time and a turning back to what is real and true.  I want to honour my Lord as much as I can through what I do and how I choose to live life.  I am learning as I go and nothing is difficult in that regard.  I think that God is just leading me step by step to a different way of life and it is good. 

    I think you will agree that one of the best parts of the season is when we get to spend time with family and friends.
    So let me take this moment to wish each of you joy, peace and love and a happy time with those that you love. 
    There are many in this season who will be alone with no one to love and show them care. If you are one of these dear ones, I pray you would reach out to those around you, especially those that have no one else.  It will help you feel less alone and you will feel good cheer for moving beyond your comfort zone. 

      If you are someone who is blessed to have many loved ones in your life but you know someone who doesn't have friends and loved ones near, or someone who is a senior or a  "shut in", I pray you would  take some time to show them some love and joy this season in whatever ways you feel comfortable with (a card, an invitation to coffee or a meal, an offer to lend a hand with a chore, invitation and a ride to a service or an outing, a home made gift, etc.). You will really be giving a gift that brings lasting memories to you both.

    Wishing you and your loved ones all a very




     MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    (see you in the New Year)






    And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

    Luke 2:7
       




     

    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    A Little Poetry, Tea and Cake

    On Wednesday a friend who has recently returned from a holiday in India, invited a small group of women to her home for masala tea, nibblies and poetry readings.

    I thought this was a lovely idea and decided to share a happy poem. One that brings me joy when I read it or hear it.  I can  "see" the daffodils come alive through the words of the poem  "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud" (sometimes known as "Daffodils"), by William Wordsworth.  

    For the nibblies, I contributed some Gingerbread Cake.  I haven't made it before and I found it had a nice, dense texture which was perfect for dunking in tea.  I left my cake plain rather than add a sweet topping because I knew there would be other sweet nibblies at the gathering. I  added some fresh ginger to the recipe in addition to powdered ginger but it was the fresh lemon zest that really gave it it's great taste. Not too sweet. Just perfect.

    First I'll share the poem and then the recipe in case you'd like to try it too. 

    I wandered lonely as a cloud

    I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
    When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils;
    Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
    Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

    Continuous as the stars that shine
    And twinkle on the milky way,
    They stretched in never-ending line
    Along the margin of a bay:
    Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
    Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

    The waves beside them danced; but they
    Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
    A poet could not but be gay,
    In such a jocund company:
    I gazed---and gazed---but little thought
    What wealth the show to me had brought:

    For oft, when on my couch I lie
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
    They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude;
    And then my heart with pleasure fills,
    And dances with the daffodils.

    William Wordsworth


    A small piece of Gingerbread Cake, strawberries and Rooibos Tea

    Gingerbread Cake 

    2 cups (260 grams) all purpose flour
    1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/2 cup 113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
    1/2 cup (105 grams) light brown sugar
    2 large eggs
    Zest of 1 lemon (outer yellow skin of lemon)
    1/2 cup (120 ml) unsulphured molasses (To prevent the molasses from sticking to the measuring cup, first spray the cup with a non stick vegetable spray.)
    1 cup (240 ml) milk


    Lemon Icing: (Optional)
    1 1/2 cups (150 grams) sifted confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar
    2 - 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter and flour a 9 inch (23 cm) round or square cake pan with 2 inch (5 cm) sides.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
    In bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest and molasses and beat to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the dry ingredients and milk, alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat just until incorporated.
    Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing cake from pan. Let cool completely and then, if desired, frost with the Lemon Icing. 
     
    Lemon Icing: Mix together the sifted confectioners' sugar and lemon juice until smooth. (The icing should be thick but still spreadable.) Pour the icing onto the center of the cake and spread with an offset spatula. Some of the icing will drip down the sides of the cake.

    This cake will keep for several days at room temperature. Can serve with softly whipped cream, lemon curd, or slices of apples sauteed in a little butter and sugar.

    Makes one - 9 inch (23 cm) cake

     

    Monday, December 10, 2012

    I've Got Mail

    I had a happy surprise today. I learned a few weeks ago that I had won a giveaway.  Since it was being mailed from Oklahoma, USA I was prepared to wait awhile.  My experience is that even a mailed package from California can take up to a month to reach me so I thought a package from Oklahoma would take a lot longer.

    I was pleasantly surprised that I did not have to wait as long as I thought I might.

    Isn't my little guy cute?!

    A photo of Roarbert the Lion and his lavender scentsy pak.

    Beth of Masterpiece blog, had this terrific Scentsy Giveaway. She let me choose my stuffed toy and preferred scent.  I chose Roarbert, The Lion and French Lavender as the scent pak to put inside. I love Kenya and I love lions so the choice was easy. I think Roarbert is adorable.

    If you've never visited Beth, please do so here. She is an awesome woman of God who shares from her heart.

    Thank you, Beth! 
    I'll take good care of Roarbert.

    Friday, December 7, 2012

    It's a Beautiful Day!

    Hi friends,

    We've had a lot of gray skies and rain this past while so it is wonderful to get a patch of blue sky and sunshine now and then.

    Here is what greets me today.




     


    The wind whipped up this afternoon and changed the shape of the clouds. It also revealed all the fresh powder of snow on the mountain tops.




    This is my submissions to Skywatch Friday today.
    Enjoy your weekend.


    Tuesday, December 4, 2012

    Grassy Dancer

    In my last post I mentioned I had been at the mall to see a movie. It so happens that the mall was also having special artisans and guests as part of the Christmas program. Every weekend there will be a different theme and different artisans.  It seems to be a great idea as I had never seen the mall so busy in all my years of going to it

    Even Santa made an appearance.

    I loved looking at all the brightly lit Christmas trees from my vantage point on the 2nd floor. Unfortunately my cell phone camera doesn't do justice to the sight.

    I promised in my last post to share a short video of a young boy I saw giving a dance performance in the mall. As I watched him I was very impressed and felt proud of him as  he danced in the tradition of the Plains Indians.

    I was too far away to get a good shot but this will give you an idea of the regalia of the young boy who is wearing white and turquoise.  You can see it much better in the video below.  The female dancers are wearing jingle dresses. I didn't get a chance to watch them dance as I had an appointment to get make.


    I'm not fully sure but I'm fairly sure *wink, that the young boy is dressed as a Grass Dancer and he is dancing in the spirit of the Grass Dance. I am not an expert on the dances so I've taken this short description from a website.

    The Grass Dance style is a very old dance rich in history that has become very popular. In the old days, it was the job of the grass dancers to flatten the grass in the arena before a pow wow. The name "grass" does not come from the stomping of grass, but it comes from the old habit of tying braids of sweet grass to the dancer's belts, producing a swaying effect. Today, Grass Dancers resemble a multicolored swaying mass of yarn or fringe on the dance floor. The Grass Dance is a very fluid and bendable style, with the dancers trying to move their fringe in as many places as possible at once. The Grass Dance style was born in the North, but its popularity has spread South, and now this beautiful style is available for everyone (Source: http://www.thinkquest.org/pls/html/think.library)

     For information about the Grass Dancing regalia please click here.

    I have embedded a short video of the young boy dancing.  It will give you a better idea of the regalia he is wearing and his footwork.  Pardon the shakiness right at the beginning of the video.  It gets better as it goes on.  I thought I had a second video to upload.  Somehow I seem to have lost it. If you find any problems with this video, please let me know. I may have to upload it again.


    This is my submission to Our World Tuesday today.


    I hope you enjoyed this short introduction to the Grass Dance and the young boy's performance as much as I did.

    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Anna Karenina

    From time to time I like to participate in memes; my favourite ones being Skywatch Fridays and Our World Tuesday.  I used to participate in Scenic Sunday too except that it doesn't seem to be so active.  The last week on line was from October. Oh well, I will present anyway *wink.

    I was at a local mall yesterday to see the new version of the movie "Anna Karenina". It is a movie I have seen before when Greta Garbo played the role of Anna.  I saw it as a child and the tragedy of Anna's story made such an impact on me that I never forgot the film.


    Many years later, I read the book while on a journey to Kenya. I enjoyed the book very much though I felt it was overly long.  Of course this classic, by Leo Tolstoy, was translated from Russian into English and that likely had a bearing on the length of the book too.



    If you take the time to view both the original trailer for the film and the trailer for the latest remake, you will see  just how differently the films were marketed to the public.


    The actors Jude Law, as Aleksei Karenin the, husband to Anna, as played by Keira Knightley, are superb.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson, plays Count Vronsky, Anna's love interest, but I don't think he fully succeeded in bringing his character to life.  He looked great in his military uniform and carried himself well as a Count and as a cavalry officer.  But I did not feel a depth to the character that Count Vronsky needed to portray so we can understand why Anna would throw away her life for him.  In the book you get a better sense of why Anna finds him irresistibly attractive.

    The other thing I did not like about the film is that it is set in a theatre.  This means you are constantly watching set changes glide in and out of the screen while you are trying to follow the story line, The sets are absolutely beautiful, but I personally did not like this approach.  I found it all quite distracting and unsatisfying.  When Count Vronsky falls off his stead at the racetrack, I would have far rather watched him ride his horse on a real track rather than on the theatre stage.  The theatrical approach worked for some of the film but overall I don't think it really worked for most of the story.  Finally, some of the actors, like the one who played Ann's brother, Steva, had a "campy" approach to his character and I don't think it was the right approach for the tone of the story which is rather serious.

    The way this film is shot in a theatre and with some over the top, actors reminded me a lot of the film "Moulin Rouge".  However,  "Moulin Rouge" was a musical and I loved it.  "Anna Karenina" is not a musical and I didn't love it.  By the time two hours had passed, I was tired and eager to get out of the theatre but there was still more film to see.

    I wouldn't discourage you from seeing this film.  Unlike me, you might actually enjoy the theatre setting.  You will definitely find the costumes and sets both sumptuous and beautiful. In addition, the tragic story of the consequences of illicit love does come through strongly as a result of  the marvellous acting of Jude Law and Keira Knightley.

    While at the mall I was also fortunate to have seen a surprise dance performance.  I managed to capture it on video and will be sharing it in a few days.  Please come back and check it out as it is rather unique and will be a treat for you.

    Friday, November 30, 2012

    Remembering Mombasa Skies







    A very short video clip. I uploaded it for the sound of waves.


    Joining the wonderful meme, Skywatch  today.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    Oatmeal - Molasses Bread

    After I cleaned out one of my closets the other day, I felt like making some bread. I used this recipe for some healthy oat bread. I used 4 cups of whole wheat flour, rather than the 3 cups white flour + 1 cup whole wheat called for in the recipe.  I also skipped the topping because I like to keep my egg usage to a minimum.

    Baking With Whole Wheat Flour - After I baked my bread, I read on line that if you want to keep your bread 100% whole wheat you should use vital wheat gluten so that your loaves are not dense and flat.  Vital wheat gluten is super-concentrated gluten flour, and it really helps to give low-gluten doughs better structure. Add one tablespoon of vital wheat gluten for every 2-3 cups of flour in your recipe.

    While I was kneading my whole wheat flour dough I did notice that the dough felt very hard. To make softer loaves, try letting the dough rest for about 20 minutes before kneading. This will give the flour time to absorb the water and soften the grains of whole wheat. There are some other ingredients that can be added to any recipe that also help make a softer texture: potato flakes (1/4 - 1/2 cup), honey (2-4 tablespoons), milk (replace some of the water), and butter (2-4 tablespoons) (all amounts are for a recipe making 2 loaves). [Source: www.thekitchn.com]

    In my case, I didn't add any gluten and I did find the dough a little hard when kneading. In the end it turned out just fine and there was no compromise in the moistness or softness of the bread. I guess i got lucky since I didn't know any better *wink.

    After the bread was baked I brushed some butter on the tops and laid the loaves on their sides to cool. This bread was very moist inside and the crust was not too hard or soft. It had just the right crunch.

    • Portion size: 2 loaves, 12 slices each

    Ingredients

    • 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) boiling water
    • 3/4 cups (175 mL) large-flake rolled oats
    • 1/3 cup (75 mL) fancy molasses
    • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, softened
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1 tsp (5 mL) granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup (125 mL) warm water
    • 1 tbsp (15 mL) active dry yeast
    • 3 cups (750 mL) all purpose flour, (approx)
    • 1 cup (250 mL) whole wheat flour
    • 1-3/4 tsp (9 mL) salt
    • Topping
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 2 tbsp (30 mL) large-flake rolled oats

    Preparation

    In heat proof bowl, stir the first two ingredients together (boiling water with rolled oats) and let stand for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. When the rolled oats are absorbed stir in the molasses, butter and egg.

    Meanwhile, in large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water and sprinkle in yeast.  Let stand until it is frothy (about 10 minutes).  Stir in oat mixture then add 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) of the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and salt to form sticky dough.

    Turn the mixture out onto floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

    Punch down dough; divide in half. On floured surface, pat each half into 11- x 8-inch (28 x 20 cm) rectangle. Starting at narrow end, roll up into cylinder; pinch edge to seal. Fit into 2 greased 8- x 4-inch (1.5 L) loaf pans. (Or shape each into round, stretching and pinching dough underneath to smooth top.) Cover with tea towel; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

    Topping: Brush loaves with egg; sprinkle with oats. Bake in centre of 375°F (190°C) oven until loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottoms, about 40 minutes. Let cool on racks.
    Additional information : Bread Machine Variation for Dough Only:
    Into pan of 2 lb (1 kg) bread machine, place (in order) molasses mixture, 1/2 cup (125 mL) water, sugar, salt, all of the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and 1-1/4 tsp (6 mL) bread machine yeast. Select dough setting. Shape and bake as above.

    Source : Canadian Living Magazine: February 2007

    My decluttering project has been going very well. I don't think I've ever worked so hard for several straight days since I moved into my condo. In the last few days I've cleaned almost every nook and cranny in the apartment as I eliminated things. When you move things from dark corners and shift things around, it gives you an opportunity to spot clean and deep clean wherever necessary.  Much harder to do when you live in a small space and are just living your day-to-day life.

    I continue with a bit of shopping and paperwork before I attend a few personal appointments, put up my Christmas decorations and attend a few Christmas parties.

    I hope all of you are enjoying your lead up to Christmas.

    African Music & Happenings