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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy Thoughts

After 3.5 days of  non-stop snow early in the week the sun came out to say hello.


There were also some atmospheric low lying clouds left behind.

 

I like the lightly striated clouds against the pale blue sky.


I also like the cross in the newly renovated church steeple which peeks out above the leaves. At night it lights up the sky.


I wish you all a beautiful weekend with happy times and happy thoughts.



Joining in with Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

For the Ladies - Frugal Hair Colour

Today's post is really for the ladies and particularly those of a certain age. Ahem, the age where you must decide to colour your hair or go au naturel (grey).

I never coloured my hair as a younger woman. Instead I would have it permed on a regular basis whenever I had a shorter "do".  Eventually I gave that up and grew my hair out.  That's when my hairdresser talked me into getting highlights. I really liked the highlights but after years of getting them done and starting to go gray, I needed touch ups more often than I wanted.  This was not only costly but not good for my hair which tends to need a permanent dye to address it's colour resistancy.

I searched in health stores for a more natural alternative.  However these proved unsatisfactory when I discovered that most of them also contained chemicals.  After looking on line for a solution, I reluctantly decided to experiment with henna. This wasn't an easy decision because henna tends to colour the hair red which is not my colour of choice.  Also henna does "take" on dark hair too well and my hair is naturally dark brown.  Nonetheless I decided to give it a try.  I debated about whether to order from an on line company but my then hairdresser told me that some of her clients bought their henna locally.  After hearing that I went to the local Punjabi market to look for henna.

I found a few different brands bags at a store which isn't terribly far from my neighbourhood. Both brands were similar in price and cost approximately $10.00 (Canadian dollars) for 1 kilogram of  henna powder.  I purchased 2 bags about one and a half years ago and am now half way through the second bag of powder.  For me a 1 kilogram bag lasts for at least a year doing root touch ups and one or two whole head applications. I have a lot of hair compared to most women so I also use more powder than many women would need.

Top of my head after henna and light blow dry.

Before I can colour my hair, I first have to mix the powder.  I do this by putting some henna powder in a plastic or glass container to which I add a liberal helping of cinnamon powder.  I then add some warm (not hot) coffee and stir well until all the lumps come out.  I tend to like my henna mix on the thicker side so it doesn't run down my face and neck after application and while waiting for the colour to take. Sometimes I add plain yogurt or olive oil to the mixture so condition the hair.  I am usually only colouring the roots so I do not add the yogurt or oil very often.

My hair is quite thick and long so requires a lot of henna or colour.

I do my own application and then wrap my head in plastic or with an old towel.  After that I go about doing my daily chores or will sit down and read a book.  I make sure not to get chilled and to keep my head warm.  Some people use a hair blower to heat up the hair after it is wrapped in the plastic.  I leave the henna on anywhere from 2 - 6 hours then hop in the shower and wash it all off.

Once the henna sets it gets quite hard and crusty.  You really need to scrub it and rinse it well. Once I towel dry my hair, I add some oil to the hair ends and blow dry my hair.  This is generally the only time I use the blow dryer.  To keep the henna colour fresh, do not wash your hair too often.  A few times a week is enough. Daily washing will deplete the colour more quickly. 

This pic is a little blurred but you can see the henna is reflected throughout the length of my hair though I only do the whole head of hair about twice a year.

On average, I colour my hair at the roots every 2-3.5 weeks. I don't have a lot of gray hair but those I do have are very strong and colour resistant.  To make matters worse they mainly come out around my hair line at the temples and crown so they show quite readily.

My former hairdresser charged me $60.00 (Canadian dollars) to apply henna that I pre-mixed and to give me a cut and/or blow dry. If I went to the hairdresser every 3 weeks at $60 a visit, this would cost $1020 plus tax (Canadian dollars) a year. When I was getting highlights it cost more like $80 a month ($1160 annually for highlights and hair condition every 3 months).  Even that was a good deal compared to most salons in town where women I know pay at least double ($160) and more.  The price is probably even higher now but I haven't checked since I never go to a high end salon.

It's been about 6 months since I've had a trim.

Now I go to a completely different hair dresser.  She gives me a super deal and only charges $40.00 (Canadian dollars) to apply the henna and cut and blow dry my hair.  Even at these wonderful prices, I only go about twice a year to get my entire head of hair coloured and to get a cut and blow dry.  Sometimes I splurge and get a hair conditioning.  I can condition my own hair too but I seldom do. Sometimes it is nice just to have someone else do it for you, isn't it?

Altogether I would tally my hair grooming costs (cost of henna, cost of hairdresser) at about $90.00 (Canadian dollars)  annually.  This is a huge savings from a few years ago when I was going to the salon every month and spending $1070 more annually ($1160 - $90 = $1070).  My pocket book is healthier and my hair is healthier too.

I'm not sure how long I will continue to apply henna to my hair. It is quite a lot of work to apply even though I only colour the top and sides of my head.  The job is quite messy and my gray hair grows out very quickly. For the time being I am enjoying the savings I get from doing my own hair. Surprisingly I also like the (copper) colour and shine I get.

The colour in natural light is not quite as bright as you see in the photos.  The hair has a different tone when the camera flash is on it.  Another bonus of doing my own hair is that I don't have to spend hours at a salon.  I can do other chores around the house while I wait for my colour to set or read a book or watch television.

What about you dear reader? 
Have any of you given up on fancy hair salons? 
Do you colour your own hair or perhaps barter with someone to do your hair for you?  
I'd love to know. 
Perhaps you've given up on hair colour altogether and gone natural. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Relaxing Week

I've spent the week simplifying my life a bit so I can have more rest.  I cancelled a number of my appointments for the next two weeks and eliminated a lot of email and spent a good deal of time just relaxing and taking things easy. I didn't realize I was quite as tired as I was and I'm sure this bit of quiet time will do me a world of good.

Cancelling my appointments was simple. It not only bought me a bit of time this week but also eliminated expenditures of approximately $65.00 (Canadian) on herbs and travel.

Unwanted or no longer needed email was easy to deal with too. I tend to sign up for a lot of email alerts for a variety of things.  This week I spent a little time to unsubscribe from numerous email alerts I've been getting daily for years.  I do read almost every email I receive because it only takes a moment to scan and/or read it. I decided that I don't need most of this email anymore if I haven't found enough use for them in years. I can better use all the minutes I spend weekly on other more useful or constructive things. So "unsubscribe", "unsubscribe", "unsubscribe" ...was the order of the day, rather than "delete", "delete", "delete", lol.

It's been a steady week and I've needed the time to rest and make some progress on chores around the house.  When I'm resting I can never just lounge around and do nothing.  So resting is also a time when I read or do some crafting to use my time wisely.

This week I made good headway on the first of  Ken Follett's Century Trilogy.  In an earlier post I said that I had been too distracted to get into the book, The Fall of Giants.  It isn't so much that I don't  find it interesting.  Rather, I did not have the time to properly get into the book.  Given it is 985 pages long, it is difficult to keep track of the characters or follow the story, unless  one can read it for a few hours at a stretch.  Especially at the beginning.  This week I  was able to read for uninterrupted periods of time and finished the book. Yeah! I now look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy.


Experimenting in the kitchen was another fun activity this week. First up was a "new to me" recipe for scalloped potatoes.  Next was a beef & squash stew on another day.  Both of these hearty dishes were a hit and I'll have to try them again some time. I'm thinking of baking some no knead bread soon; or perhaps I should make a small amount of bread pudding to use up some stale bread I have in the fridge.

It continues to be quite cold here.  It started snowing big flakes on Saturday and hasn't really let up.  Even so there is only a small amount of snow on the ground.  A lot of it melts before it has time to solidify. The cloud cover is definitely here and one can't see the mountains.

You can see the snowflakes are very big. You can't even see the mountains.

When it is this kind of weather I don't tend to venture too far.

Early in the week I had an opportunity to spend time separately with two different friends.  We met up for coffee at local Starbucks in my neighbourhood.  One friend gave me a number of books she thought I might like.  She is older than my mom but she and her husband are still active and live in their own home.  They had an elevator installed about 5 years ago and so this is likely where they will live out the rest of their days.

My other friend is also quite elderly and has a number of health issues.  It has been getting harder and harder for her to climb the stairs to the attic apartment she has in an old house.  She is trying to declutter so she can move into an apartment with elevator access.  In a few weeks she has to go to the hospital for a special test for her heart.  I plan to accompany her and bring her home for an overnight stay while she recovers since she is not allowed to return home to stay alone.

Saturday I stayed in a did a few loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and swept the floors.  I also managed to colour my own hair using henna powder I mixed. 

Sunday a friend I travelled with last October contacted me about a trip we hope to make together in early May.  We are planning to stay at the same lodge but this time have booked a cabin right on the water front.  I'm excited about that because I just love the sound of waves lapping against the shore.  My last visit there was very relaxing.  There are no distractions like television, radio, telephone or internet.  You have to read, walk, participate in activities or rest!

Our World Tuesday Graphic

I hope you are keeping warm and happy. 
Have a wonderful week ahead.

Our World Tuesday

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Beef Stew with Shallots, Butternut Squash and Parsnips


I caught the tail end of a cooking show two nights ago where I saw Italian chef Lidia Bastianich ladle out some stew. The gravy looked "to die for" and I couldn't get the image and imagined taste out of my head.

I immediately started looking for her recipe on line but couldn't find it. Then when I found out it was made with veal I decided I'll make mine with beef.

I took my inspiration from this Beef and Butternut Squash Stew recipe and as usual made it my own.

Ingredients:
  • olive oil
  •  2 teaspoons rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons thyme 
  • 2 teaspoons parsley
  • 8-9 shallots, peeled and cut in half in half
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 dried chopped prunes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 large parsnips, (cut into chunks of about 1 inch)
  • 1 butternut squash (cut into chunks of about 1 inch)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • chicken broth
  • 1 small-medium roast cut into 1 inch cubes or buy stew meat (about 2 pounds give or take a little)
Directions:

Heat frying pan and put in the oil and shallots and herbs.  You can use fresh herbs but if you have none, dried herbs will work just fine and smell divine. Cook the shallots until they start to get transparent then add the garlic until cooked but not browned.

Next add the cubes of meat to a bowl of flour until lightly coated.  Add the meat to the shallots and garlic and cook on low heat until it starts to brown. Take care not to have the meat stick to the pan but this will likely happen anyway. Once the meat is browned, add the red wine and chopped prunes. You can gently scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the flour. Cook this mixture for a few minutes at boiling point. At this point do a taste test and add more seasonings, more chopped prunes or flour/water mixture for thickening and flavour and cook together for another minutes or two.

Transfer the meat mixture to a large dutch oven or pot that you use to make stews and soups. Add just enough chicken broth to cover the meat and a little more.  Let this boil,  then turn the heat down to simmer.  Cover and cook for an hour. Add the butternut squash, parsnips, tomato paste and turn the heat up to boiling for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Some people add the vegetables when they put the meat on to boil however this can make the vegetables too  mushy before the meat has been tenderized.

Eat and enjoy with some crusty bread or toast.  A perfect dish for our coolish temperatures. We have had fresh snow on the mountains for two nights in a row. We are expecting more snow and rain starting in the wee hours of Saturday morning.


Fresh snow on the mountains for two days in a row. I'm sure the skiers are delighted. Me, not so much.


I make a lot of stews over the winter.  This is the best one by far for rich tasting and savoury gravy.  I'll definitely make it again.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Skywatch Friday

Hello friends,

I took these photos a few days outside my window two days ago.  We had a beautiful sunny day that day after torrents of rain a few days prior. It was sure nice to see the sun.  The temperatures usually dip when we don't have rain and the colder temperatures brought fresh snowfall to the mountain tops.  I don't like the cooler temperatures but I do like how the snow dusts the mountain tops. Fresh snow usually means that Spring is not yet here.  Hard to believe that over a month ago our temperatures we so warm that the pussy willows were coming out and some green growth was shooting up from gardens.


It was also nice to see a few birds flying high in the sky.  When it is gray and the cloud cover is thick you can't see the birds soaring high overhead. 


I snapped the next two photos the week before last but didn't have time to share them last week. Here they are now.



Thanks for visiting. I hope to see you again soon at your blog or mine ;-)

I hope you are all enjoying beautiful Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Out My Window

Hi friends,

How is your week going?

I hope all of you are doing okay with the weather in your area wherever you may live.  I see there is an awful lot of flooding in southern England and still a great deal of snow hitting various parts of the USA. In the wee hours of Tuesday morning I caught glimpses of the news about snowstorm in the Chicago area.

In my neck of the woods, we have had two storms over the weekend. One on Saturday evening and one on Sunday evening. I did go out to run errands in my neighbourhood on Saturday evening and the rain was coming down very heavily. It didn't take too long for my "rain" jacket to get soaked. Fortunately I did not have to go too far.

This was my sky on Tuesday February 18, 2014 after a weekend of heavy rain.


Sky overhead on Wednesday, February 19, 2014.
Others in my city had much bigger problems. Apparently downed trees knocked out power for awhile to about 20,000 homes. Huge, old growth trees, came out by the roots in many neighbourhoods to fall on houses and damage cars. The winds I heard rattling through my fireplace over the weekend were so powerful as to uproot humungous trees. I think the storm hit Vancouver Island much harder. Other parts of Canada were also hit hard as the storm that hit the United States travelled north and closed part of the Trans-Canada Highway.



 I was sitting snug in my home.


View out my window late Wednesday, February 19, 2014.


Since mom moved in to the new facility I have been busy responding to emails and phone calls from the new facility about her care. Her wheelchair suddenly stopped working the 2nd night of her stay there and the technician wasn't able to get there for another 48 hours. Fortunately he worked late on Valentine's Day no less and had it ready for her on Saturday morning.  This was a huge relief as the chair is brand new and we weren't sure what the problem was (we do know it wasn't from lack of charging).

A few visitors have been by to see mom.  Last night she was supposed to have a visit from her grandson but he couldn't go up the mountain highway due to road closure.  The highway is still closed today and he is faced with a hefty towing fee for flagging a tow truck to get him out of the snow.  At least he is safe.

I've managed to deal with one of mom's health issues that has been causing me concern for some time.  That is how to get affordable dental care for mom. J Abbott commented on the previous post that it would be good if mom could avail the services of a mobile dental unit. I could not agree more but for the most part such services don't exist in Canada.  I was able to find someone who will see mom and no t charge more than the insurance will pay.  I know mom will need many more appointments with the dentist as well as various specialists.  I am glad this process is finally underway and I hope the dentist works out to be a good one.

Joanne and Kay also commented on my previous post about mom possibly benefiting from having a roommate. This could well be true. We will have to wait and see. Let's put it this way, I don't want to move her again any time soon.  If she gets along with the room mate (and the new ones that will fill the room), then that would be great.  Mom's current room mate seems to spend a lot of time in bed and doesn't talk much, though she can talk.

Other than dealing with mom's needs, I am slowly getting back to normal; resting, lots of laundry, cooking and reading.  Sometimes when I have too much to do and can't focus to get things done, I turn to cooking or baking.  The ham and scalloped potatoes I made the other day were delicious.  Tuesday we enjoyed pea soup with the left over ham. A perfect dish for this kind of weather.

I'm reading two crafting books: one on crochet and one on quilting. I recommend both to anyone interested in these timeless crafts.


I'm also nearing the finish of  Long Walk to Freedom:  The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.  I've enjoyed it immensely. It is a great backgrounder for anyone wanting an inside look at the history and development of South Africa and the role of one hugely influential man, Nelson Mandela.  May he RIP.


I'm still feeling very tired but will go out this evening to try and make progress on another long book (The Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett). I've renewed this book several times as I keep getting distracted. It is good but as it is yet another book that deals in part with WW1, I'm afraid I haven't made much progress.  Since I will soon be finished with the book on Nelson Mandela I will be able to focus on the The Fall of Giants. I am half way through this very long book it so it doesn't seem so daunting.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Long Saga is Over

In late June my family and I looked forward with great anticipation to moving my mother into a new care home. We felt it was going to be very good for her since it was "state of the art" facility and brand new staff. Boy were we ever wrong!  It has been a virtual nightmare for mother and I and a very tiring and stressful one at that.  We have now moved mom back to her former facility and the difference is like night and day in a good way.  The move went smoothly though it took long as most of her things needed to go into storage.  She no longer has a private room. That was the only way to get her moved quickly.  There was only one hiccup which wasn't of the facility's making and that issue has since been resolved.

I had a couple of not very nice surprises about mom's condition.  One of them was the state of her pressure wounds.  Right after moving mother was assessed by her new nurse as having stage 3 pressure wounds, rather than the stage 1 which she was told by staff at the former facility. The new nursing team is working around the clock to treat and pack the wounds.  Part of the treatment is keeping mom in bed for much longer stretches of time so they can turn her on her side and relieve the pressure. In between lying in bed she gets up and motors around.  This keeps her happy.  The other problem is the terrible state of her oral health. I have to locate a dentist as soon as possible and make an appointment to address several problems, not the least of which is pain.

The good news is that though mom is now sharing a room, the things I packed for her fit nicely into the space.  We have retained her television and dvd player for her use but had to store the portable cd player, fridge, bookshelves, books etc.  She doesn't use any of this anyway but if you've ever dealt with an elderly person you know they like to have their things around them.   The only thing that helps deal with this situation is that mom is the one who decided over my objections, that she wanted a shared room.  That means she has to adjust to the situation. There are a number of positives about where she lives now.  Too many to itemize but a big one is that she is now she is able to "drive" all over the place without worrying about getting through doors by herself.

The new facility is located all on one level unlike her last residence. That alone really brightens her day.  Plus she was also welcomed back by so many people, staff and residents alike, and that can only lift one's spirits.  Since mother last lived at the "new" facility, there has been a change of management and I observe that things are much more organized and running better all around.  There is also a lot better communication with the family.  This is wonderful!  The long saga of dealing with the former facility is over. I'm so relieved. Now I can start to focus on some of mom's other pressing care needs like dental and eye care.


A huge snowfall was forecast for our journey.  In my city, the snow quickly turned to torrential rains but as we got an hour or two out of the city, the snow was coming down heavily.  These photos (above and below) show the early stages of snow fall.

 

By the time we got up the mountain, the snow was considerably heavier.  One hour from our final destination we passed one terrible accident on the highway due to the icy conditions.  The weather was significantly warmer and sunnier when we returned south a few days later.

I've been home for a few days and am slowly trying to get back into a normal routine. I am quite tired but have managed to do a few errands, lots of laundry and stock up on food for the weeks ahead.  This weekend I am taking it easy. I'm exhausted from the stresses and moves of the last 7 months.  We've moved mom 5 times in total (4 times within the former facility and once last week) and dealt with endless issues.  We may have to move her again if she gets a private room but have been told the wait is very long.  In the meantime I hope to get some rest.

It is a cold, rainy and windy night tonight.  As I sit here I am smelling the comforting aroma of a ham roasting in the oven and scalloped potatoes baking.  This kind of dinner is rare since I only roast ham about once a year at New Year's and make scalloped potatoes even less frequently.

It smells good!


Here is the recipe for the scalloped potatoes.

Ingredients: 

4 cups thinly sliced potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated cheese, to sprinkle on top
paprika

Directions:

1.   In a small sauce pan, melt butter and blend in flour.
2.   Let sit for a minute.
3.   Add all of cold milk, stirring with a whisk.
4.   Season with salt and cayenne.
5.   Cook sauce on low until smooth and boiling, stirring occasionally with a whisk.
6.   Reduce heat and stir in cheese.
7.   Place a half of the sliced potatoes in a lightly greased one quart casserole dish.
8.   Pour half of cheese sauce over potatoes.
9.   Repeat with second layer of potatoes and cheese sauce.
10. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
11. Top with some paprika for color.
12.  Bake uncovered for about 1 hour at 350°F.

The recipe for scalloped potatoes is from southernfood.com and is the first time I've tried it. I didn't have much cheese so saved it for the topping and omitted it from the sauce.   I'm used to mom's scalloped potatoes which is a much quicker and easier way to prepare them and doesn't use cheese at all.  Perhaps I will share that another time.

I like to cook the ham until it practically falls off the bone. I save the sauce for New Year's Dinner.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Busy Week

Hello everyone, I trust you are having a lovely weekend.

It has been very cold where I live but I've been keeping busy just the same.

Monday night I went to a cooking session with friends.  We made brown rice, white fish with Asian sauce that featured lots of ginger, an Asian salad (red and green cabbage with Asian dressing), slivered steamed carrots and almond cookies.  Then we all sat down and ate together.  It was a nice change to have fish since I don't make a lot of fish at my place.

On Tuesday a friend invited me over to dinner, to see his new apartment and complete some paperwork we are working on.  He made a lovely dinner of quinoa with veggies and a delicious tasting beef. In the end we didn't complete the paperwork because another friend who lives out-of-town dropped in to visit.  The paperwork is taking much longer than we had initially envisioned as my friend wanted to complete it in December.  His own schedule has interfered with completion but we are getting closer to being done!

On Wednesday I did a lot of work piecing together the African Flower Crochet afghan I started last Fall.  I did so much work on this project in November that I didn't feel like working on it in December and January.  Now I've got 3 rows left and then I'm done.  It is a smaller afghan than I was thinking it would be not having worked from a written pattern.  But I've run out of the right colour combinations so I think I will live with it.  It is plenty large enough to snuggle up in. I originally wanted to give this afghan as a Christmas gift but that time has passed so will probably now use it on my bed.

The afghan is nearing completion. 
 









On Thursday I cancelled my acupuncture appointment.  Instead I spent the entire day looking after business for my mother.  I will be going up to see her next week and there is always a lot to do before I get there.

Friday I went to the last session of the fashion seminar.  We also had a fashion exchange and it was a lot of fun. One of the nice young ladies who gave the presentations volunteered to modify a jean skirt of mine.  In return I will make her some baked goods with chocolate or bananas. I think I will make her two different items with each of her favoured ingredients.  Saturday I walked to the library to return some books and take out others.  After that I stopped off at one of my favourite neighbourhood restaurants and had a lovely dinner of mixed meat and tofu hotpot and (fresh) lemon bubble tea.

Monday is a holiday here at home. I will be on the road to visit my mom, sort out some of her things and put some things in storage for she will be moving again and this time has a shared room.  Her space is very small but at least she can get back to where she wants to live and she is prepared to make the sacrifice. It is very cold where she lives too but is expected to warm up a bit.

When I get back I have some appointments and get togethers with friends lined up.

Since I will be away for a short while I won't be able to visit your blogs until my return. Keep well and stay warm.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Birds on a Wire

The birds are enjoying a relatively sunny day.  But it is deceptively cold.  Snow is a possibility in a few days.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Hearty Eating ~ Hamburger, Bean, Tomato Stew

Kidney beans are one of my favourite types of beans. I soaked and cooked a bag of beans earlier in the week which were used in a few different dishes.  I used the majority of the cooked beans to make a bean-tomato-hamburger stew.

Ingredients:

  • 1 chopped medium onion
  • chopped green tops from 2-3 leeks or a few stalks of celery or zucchini
  • 3 finely chopped garlic cloves 
  • 1 can stewed & diced tomatoes or use 3-4 chopped fresh tomotoes
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 can of water
  • 2 tsp. of dried chili peppers
  • a few splashes of soy sauce  
  • 1-2 pounds of ground beef 

Method:

Brown the ground beef on low heat so you don't need any oil. Cook well and add a bit of soy sauce to taste and colour. Add onions, green tops from the leeks and fresh garlic and cook well. I used leek tops because I made leek and potato soup the other day and didn't want these to go to waste. I don't suggest you buy them just to use in this recipe. You can use celery or another vegetable of your choice. Zucchini would be nice.

Once the veggies are cooked you can add the large can of stewed tomatoes and the small can of tomato paste. Fill the empty large tomato can with water and add it to the hamburger and vegetable mixture.  Simmer the mixture for another 20-30 minutes.

This is quite a nice, thick hearty stew. It is not chili though if you want it hot you can certainly use a lot more chili peppers.  I think a nice dish of brown rice and/or salad would be good with this stew.  I won't be eating mine with rice because I added a bit of leftover rice from the other day right into the stew so it wouldn't go to waste.

This stew is made ahead for the week. Every week I try a different type of bean
or pulse and make meals around that particular item. Next time I will likely use green lentils.


Kidney beans are good for: cancer prevention, brain function, blood sugar, sulfite detoxification, digestive tract health, cardiovascular issues, energy levels and bone strength.  They are also high in protein (comparable to that found in meat or diary).

What about your dear reader?
Do you like kidney beans?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Changing Skies and Moving Forward

 I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.

~ Nelson Mandela


Ever since I was a child I always had a sense of optimism and hope.  My faith in God is a big part of that.  But even before I knew what faith in God was I had a sense of optimism and looking forward to future possibilities, joy and dreams.  If I wanted to do something, I didn't think of the obstacles; only the fact that it could be done.  I realize that not everyone feels this way and I know I didn't exactly get it from my parents.  So where does the joy and hope come from?  The idea that things can get better or will improve? That all is not lost?  That there is still life to be lived?  I think it must be a gift from God himself and for that I am very blessed.  I start this new month of February feeling oh so very tired but hopeful for a wonderful month ahead.  Even baby steps in a future direction are better than no steps.

We have had a delightful winter weather-wise because we've seen more sun and had less rain than I can ever remember over the winter season. It has helped me to get my walking exercise in and I haven't suffered quite as much in the knees.  With the start of rain again I can surely notice the difference but I have hope for a brighter day ahead. My hope comes not just from my faith but also seeing some results in how I feel physically as a result of exercise, better diet, acupuncture and herbs. I am still going to sleep far too late and I'm working on trying to do better in this area.  One night though I was up so late (or early depending on how look at things) and I snapped this photo with my camera phone.

My night photos aren't the best but I love how the city lights twinkle in the dark.

The past week has also been busy with a number of things I won't write about it all but I told you in this post that I was going to attend a fashion workshop with a friend.  We went on Friday night.  There were about 17 ladies altogether.  We sat through an interactive 2.5 hour long workshop on fashion and dressing for your body type. The young ladies who gave the presentation are designers and they were a lot of fun. They brought in  all kinds of clothing and modelled them while they gave their talks.  It made for an interesting show.  Next week we are doing a clothing exchange.  Each of us has also been assigned to wear a particular colour.  No doubt the colours will illustrate why the colour is good (or bad) for us.  I've been assigned to wear magenta which I already know is a good colour for me.  But I cleared out my closets a few weeks ago so I will have to dig deep to find something suitable.


A friend I haven't seen for a long while told me he is moving out of the city, albeit temporarily. He will likely return this summer to commence a new chapter in his life by returning to university for his 3rd degree. In the meantime he is off on a holiday and for an extended visit with family members.  We had occasion to get together for coffee and reminisce a bit before he had to pack, be out of his apartment and fly off in the early hours of Saturday morning.

News of family illnesses kept me close to the phone this week. I have one cousin who was infected with MRSA a few weeks ago and has been in hospital on life support for a few weeks.  Just yesterday she was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit and into a regular ward. I have no idea how long she will be in hospital but am grateful she is on the mend and that she has the support of her church. I can't even go and visit her because she is about 1200 miles away. One of her sisters who lives even farther north had been visiting with her but unbeknownst to me was also scheduled for major surgery to remove one of her kidneys.  She underwent the surgery on Wednesday this past week and was already discharged and flew home today.

It is hard for me to believe how they could send someone so far from home on such a long journey before her stitches have even healed. My cousin lives in a very remote community where there isn't even a hospital. I just pray she will be okay. Her husband has been "holding the fort" and keeping the money coming in as my cousin couldn't work while keeping company with her sister. Living in a remote northern community can be very nice and has advantages but it is also incredibly expensive and the downside is being so far from extended family and not having any available medical or hospital facilities.  I've been praying for both of my cousins and am so happy that one of them who was so near death, has revived.  I had just talked to her in late December and was shocked that a week or so later she was struggling for life in hospital.  It really drives home how fragile life can be.

To relax a bit I've been reading more this week.  Reading is one of my favourite hobbies but I've been trying to cut it down a bit this year so I an focus on other things.  This isn't really working, lol.  This time I've picked up "Long Walk to Freedom" which is Nelson Mandela's autobiography. I decided to  read it after recently seeing the movie.  The book fills in a lot of gaps about Mandela's early life, education and political development.

This book is currently half price through Amazon or Chapters.
 
I was out and about in another part of the city the day before and took these photos for you.  This corner of the city is called Granville and Broadway.  Both of these are very prominent thoroughfares in the city and I thought it would be interesting for those of you who have never been to Vancouver to see what a typical street looks like.

This view is on Broadway facing East. Kaplan signage & building  has been there ever since I first came to Vancouver many years ago but most of the corner has changed.

Broadway Street facing East. If you carry on this way you will get to the neighbourhoods of Kitsilano and farther on you will get to the University of British Columbia.

This is the shop right on the NW corner of Broadway & Granville. Tea is sold here.  The window is reflecting Kaplan's across the street.

This is at the corner facing south on Granville Street.  Head south and you will eventually get to the Vancouver International Airport.   If you visit Vancouver and take a taxi into the city you will come down Granville Street.

The "Aristocratic" signage on the window of Chapter's Bookstore is in homage to a restaurant/diner that occupied this corner of Vancouver for decades.

Little flowers stalls like these dot the city but there don't seem to be as many of them as there once was.

This is at Granville & Broadway facing north on Granville. You can see the downtown highrises. You must cross the Granville Street Bridge to get to downtown.





Joining in with Skywatch Friday
 and
Weekend Reflections
 and
Mosaic Mondays
and
Our World Tuesday 
and
Blue Monday

African Music & Happenings