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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gung Hay Fat Choy

It's been a busy few days since I posted last.

I've been trying out some different knitting patterns. Hopefully soon I will unveil a few of the finished projects.

Here is a sneak peek at one of my "works in progress".

  It is a little baby cap.


I've also been busy making and cancelling appointments. Don't you hate it when you wait for an event and the hosts/organizers cancel?  This has happened twice this past weekend for two events I was looking forward to later in the month.  On the other hand, that is probably just what I needed right now so I can catch up on things around the house and all the budgetary matters (bill payments and tax issues).

On Thursday night, I did get together with 3 people I know and 23 more that I didn't.  My friend who is an acupuncture doctor organized a dinner for the Chinese New Year; which this year, is called, the Year of the Dragon.  Chinese New Year actually started on Monday but we had our dinner on Thursday night to avoid the crowds.
Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is known as "Spring Festival," the literal translation of the Chinese name 春節 (Pinyin: Chūnjié), since the spring season in Chinese calendar starts with lichun, the first solar term in a Chinese calendar year. It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western Carnival. The festival begins on the first day of the first month (Chinese: 正月; pinyin: Zhēngyuè) in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. Chinese New Year's Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chúxī (除夕) or "Eve of the Passing Year." Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the "Lunar New Year"....
According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian (Chinese: ; pinyin: Nián). Nian would come on the first day of New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nian became Hongjun Laozu's mount. (Source: Wikipedia)

With such a large group of diners, we ended up sitting at 4 different tables. There were 9 at my table. On my left were Madeline and her husband Alfred, an elderly couple. Alfred is blind so I helped him by explaining the various dishes that we were being served and by making sure he had enough to eat. On the right of me were two women, Freida and Suzette, who are now Canadian citizens but  originate from Texas.  Freida hosts a radio program on international women's issues and Suzette is a gardener.  Across from me sat a man whose name escapes me though I've met him before and his wife, Victoria. The  man is originally from Tehran, Iran and his wife is Canadian. They recently closed down their restaurant business which is too bad since their food was very good.  It is very difficult to make a go of a restaurant in this city and so many of them close every year. Fortunately the couple each has other work.  Rounding out the table were two women, Bernadette, who works at one of the larger local grocery stores and Trudy,who I think lives in my acupuncture doctor's building.  The entire group was friendly.  There was not a quiet moment or lull in the conversation.

It was my first time at this particular restaurant and besides very tasty food, it was also very good value for money.  Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the food until we were almost finished.

This photo was taken near the end of our meal. The green beans to the left and the chicken cashew to the right, were two of my favourite dishes.

The restaurant, Szechuan Chili Restaurant, is a humble restaurant tucked away in a corner of a small strip mall on a busy street. It is not a place, I would normally pass on my way to anywhere so I was happy to try it. I'm always open to new places to eat especially when I'm with such a large group of people.

Our menu consisted of:  spring rolls, deep fried wonton, Szechuan Chili Dry Ginger Beef, Breaded Lemon Chicken, Mixed Four Kind of Vegetables, Deluxe Orange Peel Chicken, Fried Green Been Szechuan Style, Sweet and Sour Pork, Chicken Chow Mein and BBQ Pork & Shrimp Fried Rice. To top it off it was suggested that we order two more dishes to make sure we had enough to eat. So a few of the ladies ordered for the rest of us and decided upon Diced Chicken with Cashew Nut and a prawn dish which was loaded with vegetables.  I would say that every dish was great but I especially loved the vegetable dishes and the green bean dish. Lemon Chicken seems to be extremely popular because by the time it got to Freida and I there was not much left. Nonetheless, I did not go hungry. In fact, I could not partake of the Dry Ginger Beef or the Orange Peel Chicken which are the two dishes that arrived last.

It turns out that Alfred's favourite dish is Chili Dry Ginger Beef.  So we gladly had it wrapped up along with the remaining rice and vegetables for he and Madeline to eat later.

I would like to end with another quote from a well known, Canadian financial expert

... Chinese Dragons, unlike western dragons, are benevolent creatures. They offer you the chance to reach for the brass ring, to dream, and to make your dreams come true. Spring is particularly important to the Dragon, so what you put in motion in this spring will carry you through the year.
Lest you think Lucky is all in the mind, let me point you to a stody done by a Professor Richard Wiseman at Britain’s University of Hertfordshire who studied lucky people for ten years. He found that folks who feel lucky do differ from those who do not, but not because of some outside force. It turns out that “lucky” people pay more attention to their surroundings, are more extroverted and open-minded and are optimist. Since the soul of “luck” is opportunity, the more opportunity you encounter, and the more willing you are to see that opportunity, the luckier you will be. (Source Gail Vaz-Oxlade)

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
(Best Wishes and Congratulations. Have a prosperous and good year!)

P.S. If you missed my post on the appeal for Jeremiah, please read here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Urgent Appeal

Dear Friends,

We have an urgent appeal for a young student, named Jeremiah Lokol who lives on the border between Turkana and Pokot areas; one of the poorest parts of Kenya. I met him in September when I was on a food relief mission to the people in that area.


Turkana people waiting for food relief

Jeremiah


Jeremiah has just been accepted to the top school in the country and this has made my day with this news.  But he needs tuition and school uniform costs in a matter of days (by the end of this month) so I am making an URGENT appeal to everyone.

Sadly, everything that Jeremiah's family had was stolen by their neighbours just around the time the parents were planning to sell some cows and goats to pay for his education. Some of you will know that in this area the people are pastoralists and they suffer from cattle raiding.

Standing with some Turkana women holding their water cans.

As the boy comes from a family of  9, it looks like his dream of attending the school which is located in Kikuyu town near Nairobi, might not become a reality. He might lose the chance of joining this great school and achieving his dream of becoming a pilot after finishing high school.

What we need to do is gather everyone's support to ensure he can go to school. He needs everyone's support to make this possible.

The fees and costs for term one are 24,943 Kenyan shillings ( $304 Canadian, $275 Australian, $292 US, 222 Euros, 187 GBP) There are additional costs of 6695 Kenyan shillings for school uniforms ( $81 Canadian, $74 Australian, $78 US, 60 Euros, 50 GBP and some modest amount for travelling to the school and making sure he has the other clothing and bedding he needs.

I am praying to God for someone to come forward and answer the prayers for this family and this boy.

Please pray with us and help to raise awareness of the Missions of Hope by using the share buttons at the bottom of this post. If you can do more than pray, please donate now at the donate button on the upper right of this website.

If you have any problem with the Pay Pal button you can send the donation to kerichojoy[at]gmail.com Thank you and may God bless you.

Jonah

Monday, January 23, 2012

What's Happening in My World?

We had another major storm pass through on the weekend. The winds were howling for two nights. I saw on the news that ferries serving the islands off of Vancouver were shut down due to the bad weather and power was knocked out in many places.  I was snug inside and safe from the storms. I was blessed that my power didn't go out at all.

The small amount of snow we had was washed away by the rains and the temperature has warmed up considerably.  I spent the blustery day yesterday making progress on  my goals.

One goal is to finish the baby afghan. I had started out making dishcloth squares in a new-to-me pattern.  One of the ladies in my knitting group suggested I sew them altogether into a baby afghan and I thought that was a great idea. I made about half of the squares last Fall and finished the other squares today. I just have to decide on which colour to use to crochet all these squares together with and I'm leaning toward a cream colour. I also like the blue in the yarn.


I am still a newbie knitter and have only made dishcloths and slippers. I needed to make enough of these squares to practice the stitches but I see I still need more practice*smile.

I also started my second paper book over the weekend (I have a few electronic ones on the go) entitled, Paris, 1919 by Margaret MacMillan.   This one I've had in my library for awhile now and thought I'd better get at it.


Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 is a colourful, epic history of the momentous days after World War I that saw U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and the other Allied leaders reshape the world. Wilson arrived in France to referee the Paris Peace Conference only a month after the war's end, sailing into a French port past an avenue of British, U.S., and French battleships. The world, horrified by the millions of war deaths, was desperate for peace and embraced Wilson's call for a League of Nations and self-determination for all peoples. Enthusiastic European crowds greeted the U.S. president and posters bearing his face lined the streets.
It was a conference unlike any other in history: attendees redrew borders, rewrote international relations, and tried--unsuccessfully--to contain German militarism. It unfolded in the midst of massive social upheaval as Europeans awoke to widespread hunger and the inequalities of their age. In the pressure cooker of Paris, this bubbling stew of social and political forces boiled over, and many of Wilson's dreams were dashed. The world lives with the legacy of these few months. Not only did the conference produce a new map of Europe and the Middle East, it led to the infamous Versailles Treaty, often blamed for provoking World War II. MacMillan, a University of Toronto history professor, argues that the Allied leaders did their best, and to blame World War II on them is to absolve Hitler and his appeasers. MacMillan could perhaps be accused of bias: her great-grandfather was British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, one of the main political players in 1919. However, her book has been acclaimed by historians and has won Britain's richest nonfiction award. Complete with backroom intrigue, personal drama, and vivid characters, Paris 1919 is a vital contribution to our understanding of the last century and the current one. (Source: Amazon).
I picked this book up several years ago because I was fascinated to learn that political leaders of the day redrew borders. I didn't learn this in history class. I'm not sure why I waited so long to begin reading it other than I have so many books in my library that I have yet to read and this is just another one. I'm sure I will learn a lot from it.

It's great to feel like I'm making progress on my goals for the year.
Having goals helps keep me focussed on the things I want to do and gives structure to my time.
How about you dear reader? Are you making progress on your goals for 2012?

Click on the badge and join in to see what others are doing around the world.



Friday, January 20, 2012

Basic White Bread

I'm still looking for my favourite bread recipe. One day, I will try making artisan bread because I love crunchy, chewy bread.  For now I am still making the traditional bread loaves and experimenting with different recipes. I often substitute whole wheat or multi-grain flour for some of the white flour in the recipes because of my diabetes.  But in this batch, I only used unbleached white flour. The recipe is from the Robin Hood (maker of flour) website.


Ingredients:

1 tsp (5 mL) sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) water, warm
1 envelope (8 g) active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp/11 mL)
1 cup (250 mL) milk
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter or margarine
2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) water, warm
5 1/2 cups (1375 mL) white flour

Directions:

1. DISSOLVE 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sugar in 1/2 cup (125 mL) warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle in yeast. Let stand 10 minutes, then stir well.
2. HEAT milk to lukewarm. Stir in butter, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) sugar, salt and 1/2 cup (125 mL) warm water. Add milk mixture and 2 cups (500 mL) white flour to dissolved yeast mixture. Beat with wooden spoon or electric mixer until smooth and elastic.
3. STIR IN 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) of remaining flour gradually. If necessary, add more flour to make a soft dough which leaves sides of bowl. Turn out on floured board. Round up into a ball.
4. KNEAD dough, adding more flour as necessary, until dough is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky (about 10 minutes).
5. PLACE in lightly greased bowl. Turn dough to greased top. Cover with greased waxed paper and tea towel.
6. LET RISE in warm place (75°-85°F/24°-29°C) until doubled (45-60 minutes).
7. PUNCH DOWN. Turn out onto lightly floured board and divide into 2 equal portions. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
8. SHAPE each portion into a loaf. Place seam side down in 2 greased 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 3/4" (1.5 L) loaf pans. Cover with tea towel.

The bread dough is ready for it's second rise.  I guess I could have made the loves nice and neat and smoother but I think these will taste the same *wink.

9. LET RISE in warm place until dough rises 1 1/2" (3 cm) above top of pan in centre and corners are filled (45 to 60 minutes).
10. BAKE at 400°F (200°C) on lower oven rack for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from pans immediately. Brush top crust with butter if a soft crust is desired. Cool on wire racks.
11. QUICK NOTE: This recipe makes 2 loaves. You can double the recipe to make 4 loaves.


Cooling the bread. I think it turned out nicely. I gave it a taste test after cooling.
The bread was delicious. It was also soft and moist without being full of air.

  Nutritional Information

Servings Per Recipe 8
Per 2 slices (85 g)
Calories 214
Protein 6.9 g
Fat 3.4 g
Saturated Fat1.9 gm
Carbohydrate 38.9 g
Fibre1.1 g
Sodium 451 mg
Cholesterol 8 mg

Vitamin A 3 %DV
Vitamin C 0 %DV
Calcium 0 %DV
Iron 12 %DV
 
These did not last very long because the loaves were small. I also made two larger, multi-grain loaves later in the week. Those will last a little longer.

How about you dear reader?
Do you have an easy bread recipe that you believe is tried and true?
I'd love to hear about it.

Baked Beans on a Cold Day

We had a storm overnight. The snow kept falling through the night. Though I see it didn't amount to a whole lot of snow on my patio, the snow did cause havoc on the highway. The sky is dreary and grey and it will start raining soon making the roads icy. The forecast is more rain over the weekend so it should melt all the ice and snow away over that time.

It was, in short, perfect weather for some baked beans. I don't make baked beans very often but I am committed to making and eating more "from scratch" dishes using pulses and grains. Often I use dried peas, lentils, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, barley, cous cous and bulgar.

For people with diabetes, consuming lentils, peas and beans helps control blood glucose management. Compared with some other carbohydrate sources, pulses have a lower glycemic index. Studies have also shown that consuming pulses can result in more stable blood glucose levels after meals.
Pulses are high in fiber and protein, low in fat and moderate in calories. One cup of cooked lentils or dry peas contains about half of the daily fiber recommendation for adults. Foods higher in fiber content usually help people feel “full” or satiated at mealtime.
 (Source: Wikipedia)

Here is the recipe for the baked beans.  I increased every ingredient by 2 1/2 times so that I would have leftovers. I served the beans with some very lean sausage tossed together in a fry pan with shredded savoy cabbage and a small amount of oil. The cabbage and sausage made a nice savoury counterpoint to the sweetness of the beans.

This was a tasty dinner.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups navy beans
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions

  1. Soak beans overnight in cold water. Simmer the beans in the same water until tender, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Drain and reserve the liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  3. Arrange the beans in a 2 quart bean pot or casserole dish by placing a portion of the beans in the bottom of dish, and layering them with bacon and onion.
  4. In a saucepan, combine molasses, salt, pepper, dry mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and pour over beans. Pour in just enough of the reserved bean water to cover the beans. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
  5. Bake for 3 to 4 hours in the preheated oven, until beans are tender. Remove the lid about halfway through cooking, and add more liquid if necessary to prevent the beans from getting too dry. 
Notes:  I  soaked my beans for a day and half and boiled them in my rice cooker until they softened. I changed the water half way through as I've heard that this cuts the gas that is often a problem when eating beans.  This approach meant my beans were ready in half the time but I let them cook for 2.5 hours to make them nice and well done. I omitted the bacon because I was making sausage.

Enjoy!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

'Twas a Busy Sky Day

On this particular day the skies were busy with planes and birds. Within a few seconds of taking my first photo, I spotted two planes in the air. I was also able to capture some seagulls perched on a building and others in flight. All in all, it was a great day for sky watching!



Can you spot the small plane in the sky?


I wonder where this commercial jet is going? I'd like to be going too.


Click here to sky watch with others from around the globe.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Wealthy Barber Returns

Though the first two weeks of this month, I felt rather tired, I'm having a good week so far in this third week of January.  In the first half of the month, I did a lot of resting and didn't push myself  too much.  I used the time to think about different activities and events that I hope to take part in as part of moving forward in  my goals. I also used the time to continue treatment for my leg and to get myself organized.  My sleeping pattern got messed up in December and this continued into the month of January so I've been working on trying to improve that as well.  It takes me a long time to get back into a good sleep pattern once it's out of whack.  Probably because I suffer from a couple of sleep disorders. For those that don't suffer from sleep problems, give thanks for you are lucky! Sleep is so important not only to energy but to good health in general. When you don't have it, you surely miss it. 

A stunning scene greeted me early Tuesday evening when I took this photo.  Just a few minutes later, the sky became dark and the ski lights on the mountain were brightly shining. You can see them in the photo at the top of the mountain. Click to enlarge the photo.

Very recently we've had a "large-ish" snowfall so it gave me good excuse to stay indoors and try to catch up on cleaning; basic things like vacuuming, washing down the counters, laundry, baking, etc.  Daily tasks like this take me much longer these days and tire me out. It is tiring walking around on a painful leg but I am happy I can still walk around at all. I truly am.  I continue stretching and going to massage therapy though I've reduced the appointments from one hour to 30 minutes.  This way I can get a  few more appointments covered under my extended health insurance plan. I've also started drinking mangosteen juice for inflammation. I don't know if it works yet because it is a little too early to tell but it won't hurt to give it a try.

I'm taking the new year slowly.  I like what blogger, Melissa Tchieu, said to me a few posts ago.  She said "RESTFUL INCREASE is what you need to achieve this year."  I thought that was perceptive and also accurate. I will rest in God and give my progress up to Him as best I can.

One of my goals for this year is to read 24 books. I read 24 books last year and want to do the same this year. It isn't a lot of books as such, but it is a lot for me and I also want time to do other things as well.

The first book, I've read is entitled, "The Wealthy Barber Returns" by financial expert, David Chilton. I found the book funny and, at the same time, full of financial wisdom.  I actually enjoyed this book more than his first one because I think it is more accepting of the way people really are about their money. Chilton distills financial advice down to a few realistic steps that people can take to improve their financial situations. Much of the book covers ground that I've learned over the past decade or more, but it was still great to have a review.  There were also a few bits of information that were new to me and it is always good to learn something new.

David Chilton writes in an easy style that everyone can understand. For example, here is his opening to the chapter entitled "Emergency Funds"
MANY IDEAS IN THE WORLD of personal finance sound great in theory and appear to be logical and well thought through in books, but seldom work in real life.
 Exhibit one: emergency funds.
Financial writers love these things. And for good reason.  We live in unsettled and unpredictable economic times. Bad things happen. What idiot wouldn't recommend saving at least six to nine months of after-tax income to carry us through rough patches?
This idiot.
If you are intrigued and would like a review of this book, you can read one here. Not everyone likes the book and the reviews from ordinary people will give you a good sense of whether the book will appeal to you.


I picked the book up at half-price; a real bargain!  I thought I would give it to my nephew, the one I'm helping with his budget so he can finish the year at university.  After further thought, I decided he probably wouldn't read it so I'd better read it myself.  By the way, it looks like my nephew's money woes will be substantially alleviated by the news that he will receive a generous bursary. Once his funds arrive, I hope that we can sit down and go over his budget categories to allocate his funds, and ensure he stays on the right path.

I hope that you dear reader are also have a good start to the year and also time to reflect on how you want the year to unfold. Blessings as you move forward!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Web Goes on Strike




January 18th, 2012 is the largest online protest in history, to stop the internet censorship bills, SOPA & PIPA. Join in by blacking out your site and urging everyone you can reach to contact Congress now.

I'm not actually American but on January 18th, I will not be blogging or publishing comments on my blog or commenting on other blogs.  I do not support internet censorship or more government control over the internet and America's actions will have ramifications for other countries.
 
I will resume blogging on Wednesday, January 19, 2012. Thank you for your patience. In the meantime, I offer this short article from the Canadian Press.

~~~

Canadians to join Wikipedia protest of anti-piracy act

Online encyclopedia to black out site for 24 hours at midnight

Posted: Jan 17, 2012 6:52 AM ET

Last Updated: Jan 17, 2012 4:46 PM ET

Some Canadian websites are pledging to join Wikipedia and other prominent sites in a protest blackout on Wednesday.

The self-imposed blackout is a protest against proposed anti-piracy legislation in the United States that could have far-reaching effects for Internet users and companies around the world.

The Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act could allow website addresses to be blocked when complaints are filed about copyright infringement.
The Wikimedia Foundation says the proposed U.S. law would harm the open internet and make more censorship possible.
The Wikimedia Foundation says the proposed U.S. law would harm the open internet and make more censorship possible. (Wikipedia.org)
 

Search engines and websites could be compelled to remove links to sites accused of copyright violations, and web payment processors and advertisers could be forced to stop doing business with alleged offenders.

Tucows (TSX:TC), a Toronto-based company that manages over 11 million domain names and provides other Internet services, is planning to temporarily take down its popular downloading site, which hosts more than 40,000 programs. The legislation could theoretically affect Tucows if someone claimed it was allowing downloads of software illegally.

"There will be hundreds of thousands — maybe a million — people impacted by not being able to download the software they want but we feel it's important," said Ken Schafer, executive vice-president of products for Tucows.

"It's not just about inconveniencing them, it's about getting to those people and making them aware of this issue and getting them to take action."
Law professor Michael Geist, who is Canada's Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, and social media service is also among the Canadians taking part in the protest.

Other popular sites that are participating include Boing Boing, Reddit and the blogging platform Wordpress, which is encouraging its users to join the cause.

Only the English portion of Wikipedia is going offline Wednesday, reads a message to users signed by Canadian Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

"My hope is that when Wikipedia shuts down on Jan. 18, people will understand that we're doing it for our readers. We support everyone's right to freedom of thought and freedom of expression," she wrote.

"We believe in a free and open internet where information can be shared without impediment. We believe that new proposed laws like SOPA and PIPA, and other similar laws under discussion inside and outside the United States, don't advance the interests of the general public."

Low Fat Cranberry Apple Muffins

I made cranberry oatmeal cookies on the weekend and I decided to look for a good recipe for cranberry muffins. These ones are low fat and not too sweet. I substituted oat bran for the wheat bran because it is good for the cholesterol levels.

Leading nutritionist and author, Leslie Beck has this to say about oat bran.
Oat bran has long been touted for its soluble fibre. About one-half of the fibre in oat bran is soluble fibre, the type that lowers LDL (bad) blood cholesterol. Soluble fibre is a soft fibre that absorbs water as it moves through the digestive tract. In addition to helping lower cholesterol, it also keeps blood glucose levels in check. Technically, oat bran is not a whole grain (since it's actually only one part of the oat grain). But because of its exceptionally high fibre content, it can be considered a whole grain.

A landmark study published in 1963 was the first to document the cholesterol-lowering effects of oat bran. Since then, there's been no shortage of research to support the many health benefits of a diet rich in soluble fibre, including oat bran.

A notable study published in the Western Journal of Medicine in the late 1980's found that study participants who ate two oat bran muffins a day for 28 days experienced a 5.3% decrease in total serum cholesterol, and an 8.7% decrease in LDL cholesterol, compared to no change in participants consuming wheat muffins.
I won't be eating two muffins every day but adding oat bran wherever I can seems to be a good thing for keeping my overall cholesterol levels in check. Besides that it is a good source of fibre.

I didn't have any apple sauce so I chopped two small apples and boiled them in some water with a small amount of brown sugar until soft. I did not wait until they were mushy as I like chunks of fruit in my muffins.

   Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups oat bran
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (I put 1/cup as I don't like things too sweet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped frozen cranberries

Directions

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or use paper muffin liners. In my case, I use silicon muffin containers and I don't grease them. Mix together oat bran and milk, and let stand for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together applesauce, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla. 
    Beat in bran mixture. Sift together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir into bran mixture until just blended. Fold in blueberries. Scoop into muffin cups. 
    Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly tapped.  
    Taste test:  These muffins were not very sweet and had a nice tartness provided by the cranberries. I made a boo boo however. I didn't have the oven high enough for some reason and ended up cooking these for twice as long as necessary. In the process the outside of the muffins became a little rubbery and hard. I cooked them in my newish silicon muffin pans and I'm thinking that might also have something to do with it.  I've just read on line that overmixing the batter can also lead to a rubbery texture. I think that was also part of my problem though the recipe clearly says "stir...until just blended". I will be more careful next time.
     Does anyone else notice a negative difference when cooking in a silicone muffin pan? Baking bread in my silicon pans seems to work just fine but I've noticed the muffins lately are rubbery in texture.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mountain Moods

  
An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
 
Martin Luther King, Jr.
(In honour of Martin Luther King day)

 ~~~~~

I captured the mood of the mountains at several stages this past  weekend. It always fascinates me how quickly the weather conditions can change.





We were expecting a big snow storm on Saturday but it didn't amount to much; at least not where I live.  We did get a mild sprinkling of snow on the mountains and in the city which you can see in the photos below.



The storm did arrive overnight on Sunday. This morning's news said that some schools were closed up the valley, about an hour or so away from me.  Big snowflakes were falling here outside my window a few moments ago and fog shrouded the mountains.
Right now though, the sky has cleared a bit and the snow has stopped.

I am not sure what the next few days has in store.  So far it is not too bad where I am but I intend to stay cosy indoors.  This is a good time for me to "catch up" on housework.

Click on the badge to join in with others from around the world!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Low-Fat Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies


NOTE:  I've just been advised by a reader that she cannot leave a comment. I apologize to all bloggers who experience the same issue. I've recently set blogger settings to allow "embedded" comments. I know that this used to cause commenting problems for some people. Blogger's new comment feature requires "embedded" comments.  Hopefully blogger will soon resolve any issues associated with this change.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour (white or whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (I used about 3/4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup fat-free vanilla or plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons canola or corn oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups uncooked old fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (original recipe calls for raisins)

Directions:

HEAT oven to 350°F. Cover 2 cookie sheets with
parchment paper or use non stick teflon cookie sheets.
COMBINE flour, baking powder, cinnamon,
baking soda and salt together in small bowl.
COMBINE brown sugar, yogurt, oil, egg and
vanilla in large bowl. Add flour mixture to make
a blended dough.
STIR in oats and raisins.
DROP mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches
apart on prepared cookie sheets.
BAKE for 10 to 12 minutes until very lightly
browned. Do not overbake.

I made about 33 cookies with this recipe though it says you can make 40. I had to watch how much I put in each spoon. Surprisingly the batter spread well.

I slightly adapted this recipe from a Sun Ripe Raisin recipe book.  These cookies are low sodium, low fat and low cholesterol.


 My taste test reveals a crunchy cookie, not too sweet, quite airy and delicious.

 NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
Daily Values:
Dietary Fiber 4%
Nutrients per serving (1 cookie): Calories 63, Protein 1.1g,
Fat 1.1g (Sat. Fat 0.1g), Carbohydrates 12.7g, Dietary Fiber 1g,
Cholesterol 5mg, Sodium 63mg.
Note: Since I've added 1/4 cup less sugar, each cookie should be a few calories less than stated but that is only if you make 40 as per the recipe suggestion. If there are fewer cookies, the calorie count per cookie will be higher but still very reasonable.

To All the Somebodies

SOMEBODY is thankful for the support you have provided. 
-somebody wants to hold your hand.
-somebody hopes everything turns out all right.
-somebody wants you to be happy.
-somebody wants you to find him/her.
-somebody is celebrating your successes.
-somebody wants to give you a gift.
-somebody thinks that you ARE a gift.
-somebody hopes you're not too cold, or too hot.
-somebody wants to hug you.
-somebody loves you.
-somebody admires your strength.
-somebody is thinking of you and smiling.
-somebody wants to be your shoulder to cry on.
-somebody wants to go out with you and have a lot of fun.
-somebody thinks the world of you.
-somebody wants to protect you.
-somebody would do anything for you.
-somebody wants to be forgiven.
-somebody is grateful for your forgiveness.
-somebody wants to laugh with you.
-somebody remembers you and wishes that you were there.
-somebody is praising God for you.
-somebody needs to know that your love is unconditional.
-somebody values your advice.
-somebody wants to tell you how much they care.
-somebody wants to share their dreams with you.
-somebody wants to hold you in their arms.
-somebody wants YOU to hold them in your arms.
-somebody treasures your spirit.
-somebody wishes they could STOP time because of you.
-somebody praises God for your friendship and love.
-somebody can't wait to see you.
-somebody loves you for who you are.
-somebody loves the way you make them feel.
-somebody wants to be with you.
-somebody wants you to know they are there for you.
-somebody is glad that you're his/her friend.
-somebody wants to be your friend.
-somebody stayed up all night thinking about you.
-somebody is alive because of you.
-somebody is wishing that you noticed him/her.
-somebody wants to get to know you better.
-somebody wants to be near you.
-somebody misses your advice/guidance.
-somebody has faith in you.
-somebody trusts you.
-somebody needs you to send them this letter.
-somebody needs your support.
-somebody needs you to have faith in them.
-somebody will cry when they read this.
-somebody needs you to let them be your friend.
-somebody hears a song that reminds them of you.





Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wise Words

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. 

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight.  Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward.  Your life will never be the same again.  

~ Og Mandino

The best practical advice I can give to the present generation is to practice the virtue which the Christians call love. 

~ Bertrand Russell

The first and highest law must be the love of man to man.  Homo homini Deus est - this is the supreme practical maxim, this is the turning point of the world's History.  

~ Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity

I expect to pass through life but once.  If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.  

~William Penn



A prayer

Father, I pray for your people. I pray that your kindness will be their kindness, that
your love will  be their love, that your mercy will be their mercy.
I pray for your people to receive your grace, your power, your abundance;  for you have come that we might have life and have it more abundantly.
In Jesus' name, I pray and give you all thanks, honour and glory.
Amen

 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Someone Needs You

Hello friends,

I'm still on my blogging break but I wanted to thank you all for your kind comments on my last post. I have been enjoying some restful days while I also plan a bit of my schedule but I did say to a friend that I would be back on the blog if I have something to report concerning the Missions of Hope.

I do want to mention that my friend, Jonah has returned to what what I think is his last semester in his Master's Degree Program on International Development. He has been in an accelerated program to try and save money on his studies. Please pray for him to have excellent study skills and good memory and research and writing skills as he completes his thesis and prepares for exams.







The other student, Kipngeno, I've written about before. I ask you to continue praying for him as he is now at a critical juncture in the finances needed to complete his first year of medical studies at the Kisii University.


Here we have given him a small amount of money to get him started. It is only about 10% of what he needs to complete the year.  This amounts to about $88. Canadian dollars. I will round that up to $90.


This boy, Kipngeno, is a promising medical student and needs your help to continue his studies.

I know that perhaps the full amount required is too much for one person to take on but you can help to the amount of $90, $180, $270 and so on.

If you can help, please click the Missions of Hope logo below now.  You will be taken to the donate page. 

If you cannot help, please at least spread the awareness of the need an/or pray for this young man. Thank you so much and may God bless you.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Time has a Way of Moving On

Dear reader,

Where does the time go? It seems that the older one gets the quicker time passes and the Christmas season we just had is no exception.

This past Christmas was the first time I was at my own home for Christmas.  There was only one other time I was far from home and family at Christmas.  I didn't remain at my home though because I had been invited to a friend's for the holiday. I wanted to stay home but she insisted that no one should be alone at Christmas so I accepted her hospitality.  This year, I had a number of plans but everything was in limbo until the last moments before Christmas.  In the end I was at home and it was okay. I was looking forward to it and I thought I might actually have a nice rest from all the busyness of constant appointments concerning my leg, and all kinds of errands to run, before Christmas. Not!

It was quiet but it wasn't restful because I was very busy. Besides the rush of buying and getting Christmas gifts in the post (yes, this year I did buy gifts!), decorating my home and my tree, planning and buying food for Christmas dinner and generally getting things tidied up, I had a number of other unexpected projects.

A blogging friend of mine, Caroline, has been wanting to change up her blog for a very long time. I offered to try and help her though I am not a blog designer as such. Caroline had her own ideas about what she wanted and I learned that my skill set wasn't advanced enough to complete some of the specific work.  Not to fear though as I was able to give Caroline what she wanted through the assistance of my brother.  In the end, Caroline was happy with the overall result and I was happy to have helped her achieve her goal.

I had another unexpected project to help my nephew with his budgeting.  I didn't know that he had been struggling and was seriously considering dropping out of university.  Though he doesn't live with me and has an  "affordable" rental that he shares with others, we live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada,  perhaps even in all of North America (exception New York City), and the burden of the finances were proving to be too  much for him. 

I offered to take a look at his budget and see what the shortfall is and whether we could save his year. It took awhile to get all of his financials and to create a budget and a cash flow to the end of the school  year.  It was also a bit challenging figuring out what his real costs are in a few areas because of the holiday.  At this moment, he is also trying to renegotiate some of those costs.  We've established a food budget and come up with nutritious and affordable menu ideas and places to shop. They are menu ideas as opposed to recipes but I've kept them simple and easy. It will require that he shops the sales and cooks more.  He did say that he has been cooking more since he moved here so those skills will help him.  We have chatted about living within the budget categories, the difference between "needs vs. wants" and how to use a credit card. Shortfalls in the budget and ideas about how to meet them while trying to successfully manage a course load, were also important aspects of the budget "summit".

As an auntie and surrogate parent,  I feel it is my duty to demonstrate some "tough love". It is the first time that my advice and suggestions appear to be listened to and accepted. That means, this can be a very good learning experience for which life long skills can be learned and applied though I know it will be very challenging for him.  I will also be saving funds monthly for when he finishes his term as he will have no money left over to cover bills until the first pay cheque.  He hopes to sublet his bedroom which will help him a lot.  But he needs a back up plan if that doesn't work out and he still needs money until first pay cheque even if that does work out. I have a few stipulations for giving my help:  no credit card usage and renegotiating credit card interest rate, getting on equal payments for electricity costs, no gym membership, taking thermos (flask) coffee to university, no entertainment unless it comes out of the food budget. The budget is very strict. There is no fat. He will need to bite the bullet and commit to the plan or the year will have been a lost one in the sense that he will have incurred significant debt from student loans.  At least the debt will have been for a useful purpose, if he is able to finish the year and complete his courses with good grades.  Though the budget is very tight, I do feel it can be met with some hard effort and discipline.

I have tough conditions because I want him to learn financial discipline and responsibility for his own actions. If I was overly strict, I would simply say "get yourself out of it" and "you made your bed", but I think people need second chances. Sometimes you get a second chance and sometimes you don't.  In this case, he has a chance to set things right and it is now or never to learn some good financial management skills.  I've seen him struggle with some of the same financial issues now for several years though in different circumstances and he needs help but he can only benefit if he is willing. Right now to make some effort to change because he doesn't want to lose out on his entire academic year. Sadly, the issues he faces are not uncommon.  There are many people who fritter away hard earned money on "nothings", racking up debt, and wondering where the money goes.

To his credit, he does know that there are certain things that are costing him too much (like debit card bank fees) but he doesn't know how to fix the problems. He tries but then it seems to lead to other issues and then he gets into a cycle of issues.  I'm sure many of you reading this can relate and have had to deal with these kinds of issues yourself, or seen loved ones with similar issues, but different circumstances. I too, can relate, because I always had to learn things the hard way with  no one to teach me or guide me about financial matters. Thankfully I was able to begin to learn and get some measure of control over the myriad financial issues that we all have to deal with every day.

My medical issues and associated costs are another thing I was dealing with over Christmas.  As part of better financial management,  I wanted to get all the benefits from my extended health coverage for the year 2011 as I could. I'm still experiencing a sore knee and so I went to as many physiotherapy and registered massage therapy sessions as I am allowed under my health plan.  I also filled my eye prescription and my pharmacy prescriptions for the next several months.  Once 2012 rolls around, I have to pay a deductible before I get any prescriptions filled. I like to prolong that payment.  As a result of all this activity over the holiday, I now have my receipts ready for submission to the insurance plan.  I won't have the problem I often have of losing track of my receipts since I can submit them all at once.

Finally, I managed to take stock of my goals in 2011 and set new ones for 2012. I've got a busy year ahead and I am hoping that soon I can enjoy myself without the level of knee and leg pain present I had this past year.  I still have pain but hopefully things are improving. I do notice my right leg muscles and knee cap are not stiff like they have been for at least half a year.  Hopefully the stretching and exercises will really help.

Things have been much busier than I could have anticipated over the holiday but I feel like I am ahead of the ball for 2012 and ready to make the best of things.

A photo of a gate I took in Chinatown.

The truth is that right now I am a little tired so I probably won't be blogging that much for a few weeks. I want to enjoy the next few weeks and take things slowly as I begin to implement my plan for 2012. I hope you will come back from time to time and see me once I am back.




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