Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Autumn's Finale

We have seemingly overnight gone directly from autumn into winter. I didn't dare check the temperature today, but I can tell you that it was chilly. The chill came as a shock to the trees in my yard as well as by this morning they had shed most of their leaves and left a lovely blanket of colour on my lawn. And all the things that I was hoping to accomplish outside before winter began! It looks like I'll now be raking instead.

Despite their beauty, I can't help but think how sorrowful the leaves look with the droplets of water. Perhaps it's just me suffering from melancholy at the realization that this will soon all be over and winter will be here.

This tree (sadly) is not in my yard, but I felt that I had to include it. It just seems so majestic and grand at this time of year.

On a more upbeat note, in honour of halloween, if any of you would like to see pictures of some creatively carved pumpkins, check out Scott Cummins' work at pumpkingutter.com

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Chai Tea

With the temperature quickly cooling down there is nothing more comforting and satisfying than a cup of hot chai. So I set about to make a batch today. There is no end to the diversity of recipes when making your own chai, and I must confess, that each time I make it, it is a little bit different. But it always creates a wonderfully spicy aroma that fills the house.

Chai is basically black tea brewed with spices and milk, although I usually make mine with soy milk and find it just as good, if not better. For the longest time I either bought the mixture or treated myself to chai lattes at various coffee shops. This was until my good friend Cheryl shared her relatively easy no fuss recipe. I was hooked. The added benefit, I could control the amount of sugar used or simply use honey instead. I have since experimented with adding in a few other spices. This is roughly what I've come up with:


4 C water
1 large piece of ginger peeled and sliced (vary this depending on how much heat you like)
sprinkle of cinnamon (or throw in a couple sticks)
8-10 whole cloves
10 cardamon pods crushed

Bring to boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add about 6 or 7 tsp of black tea (or about 3 tea bags) and steep for 5 minutes.

Strain liquid and add 1 1/2 C of milk or soy milk and about 2 Tbsp (or more) of honey (or sugar) Reheat gently and serve.

If you feel adventuresome, you can try adding some peppercorns and / or star anise.

Ecological Footprint

What's your footprint? For any of you who have not already assessed the amount of resources that you use and whether or not these levels will contribute to the sustainability of our planet, there is a fun, easy to take quiz at the Earthday Network website. This Ecological Footprint Quiz estimates how much productive land and water you need to support what you use and what you discard, giving you a rough idea of your ecological footprint relative to other people in the country in which you live. It is not highly detailed and they suggest not being discouraged if you score high but are already living a sustainable lifestyle as there are some factors that don't have anything to do with what you consume, i.e. where you live and the size of city in which you live.

As you can see from my test results, although I am below my national average, I still have a ways to go to contribute to the sustainability of this planet.

FOOD 1.5


So what am I going to do?
  • Well, I've been thinking for quite some time about the 100 mile challenge. This is a challenge to only buy food products that have been produced within 100 miles of where you live. Not only does this cut down on the distance your food travels to get to your table, but has the added health benefit of better nutrition as your food is more likely to be vine ripened. For more on the 100 mile diet check out this website.
  • I already compost and recycle absolutely everything, but where I probably fall short is I don't always remember to bring my cloth bags to the grocery store. I need to make more of an effort here.
  • Now here is the big one...I need to free myself from junk mail and flyers. Can you imagine how many trees we would save if everyone refused flyers. With the internet these days, I figure I can check out the specials online, or have a quick look upon walking into the store. This would also greatly reduce the amount of paper I take to recycling each week.

I'm sure that there are a ton of other things that I can do...but one small step at a time. I challenge all of you to take this short quiz and decide what you can do to make our earth a better place. Good luck!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Things I Love about Nelson # 2 - Heritage Buildings

Nelson has more heritage building per ca pita than any other city in British Columbia and about 350 of them have been officially preserved. But one of the favorites in the area that captivates many is the famous Blaylock estates.

Obviously this isn't your average heritage building. This Tudor style mansion was designed by the same Montreal architects that designed the Banff Springs Hotels and other famous CP hotels across Canada. It was originally a summer home for Selwyn Blaylock. "Now who was Selwyn Blaylock?" I suppose you're asking. Well I don't know too much about him other than he was originally from eastern Canada and came out to the Kootenays in the late 1800's for a job opportunity to manage a smelter plant in the small town of Trail. This is the smelter that later became known as Cominco and still is to this day.

This is the driveway that leads up to the wrought iron gates that mark the entrance to the 13 acres of Blaylock estate. I think it looks especially lovely at this time of year with the blanket of colourful maple leaves.

The grounds, in many respects, are the real attraction at the estate. I love the variety of trees and bushes set against the chiseled granite walls. I have had a chance to visit the interior of the mansion, and although it is beautiful and grand, parts of it are quite dated. A family that owned the estate in the 70's redid some of the rooms with a very "Dynasty" feel.

All the ground are in pretty much their original state, with the exception of a few trees that have unfortunately been removed in recent year. But I suppose on the plus side, it gives us a clearer view of the house that could very easily be the setting of any fairytale story.

From the moment you round the bend in the road and catch your first glimpse of the grounds, I am sure that Blaylock will capture your heart and fire your imagination as well.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Canadian Terrain

Today on CBC Radio's, "As It Happens," they were discussing what appears to be a giant face carved into a rock surface about 300 km south east of Calgary just north of the Trans Canada Highway. Curious, I had to check it out. The head, which is about 250 m wide, clearly resembles a native person in full headdress. And even more strange, as the host of the show commented, it appears that the image is listening to ...an Ipod. This image was discovered by someone scanning the area using Google Earth. If you would like to check out the image, the coordinates are 50° 0'38.20"N 110° 6'48.32"W or you could simple click on the following Google Earth link. For those of you who don't know what Google Earth is, it's a program that was launched last year which lets you search, scan and zoom-in on hi-res satellite photos from all over the globe's surface. Very cool. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fall Photos

I love this time of year. The foliage is so colourful and the air so nice and crisp. This year has been especially nice as it has also been so dry, which as you can see from the photos has the added benefit of nice dry crunchy leaves...the perfect type to rake into a big pile and jump into to. It is equally lovely to go for a nice walk and hear them crunch beneath the feet. I also love the mixture of trees in this area. With so many different species there is quite a blend of different colours. I tried to capture that in some of these photos, although it looks like I mainly took pictures of yellow trees today, although, if you look carefully, you'll also see some of the red and orange along with the coniferous green.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Kootenay Lake

I found this poem in an old book at the library. Perhaps not totally politically correct, nor the best piece of literature, however, those who have visited the Kootenay's will undoubtedly remark that in close to 100 years, in some ways not much has changed in these parts.

Kootenay Lake

Down in the Kootenays,
Live a lot of Folkses
Some of them are human
And some are just jokses.
But all are very happy
In a quiet sort of way, --
Never very gloomy
And never very gay.

The climate is so temperate --
For Canada, you know --
It only get just cold enough
To put a coat of snow
Up upon the mountains,
Making them so white
And wonderful to look at,
On a moonlight night.

And then there comes the Spring,
When the birds begin to sing
And all the Kootenay poets
Make "sing" rhyme with "spring;"
But no one ever reads them
So it doesn't matter much
If they're written with a rhyme, at all
Or just in double Dutch.

But the Spring is quite delightful,
The water is so blue
One would have to be a Shakespeare
To paint it all for you;
When all the woods are washed
In a little April Shower
And all the mountains seem to get
Much greener every hour.

And then there comes the Summer
With its hot, dry, sun;
With its swimming, fishing, boating
And every kind of fun;
With everybody busy
The whole day long, --
Done nothing in particular
And that not long.

and after that, the Autumn--
Or as they say "The Fall"
Which aesthetic people claim
Is the best time of all;
With Nature running riot
In Brown, Red and Gold
And the trout cooking better,
For the water's getting cold.

And all through the year
There come the Kushanook,
The Nasookin and the Moyie
Into every little nook,
Wherever there's a settler
A Mine camp or town,
They call for freight and passengers
All up the lake and down.

Sometimes they will land you
Upon a solid wharf.
Somtimes upon the beach
They have to push you off.
But always quiet and courteous,
And always with a smile, --
Which makes it very pleasant
And a trip worth while.

That is why on our Lake,
Live a lot of Folkses,
Some of whom are human
And some are just Jokses.
But all are very happy,
In a quiet sort of way.
And after that, why after all,
There's nothing more to say.

Taken from Kootenay Kuts and Other Jingles --
A Small Collection of Rhymes and Reasonings of a Rambling Rancher
Pherewan Brown, 1929

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Hi everyone. Sorry for the absence. I really should have let you know before the fact rather than after, but I had company and finding time to get online just didn't happen. In any case, I should be back again starting tomorrow. Ciao.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Indoor Use of DDT a Clean Bill of Health?

I was shocked to read in the paper today that on September 15th the World Health Organization endorsed the indoor use of the pesticide DDT for malaria control in poor nations (I'm still not quite sure how I missed that anouncement when it first came out) . The shock came primarily from the article being a backlash against environmentalists for succeeding to create the ban 30 years ago in the first place. The gist of the article was that environmentalists created a unfounded / unresearched alarm to the pesticide resulting in large protests which in turn put enough pressure on governments to quit using the product. The article went on to say that none of these claims against the pesticide ever had any scientific basis. Upon doing a little more research, I discovered in a WHO press release that they do indeed now take the view that, "extensive research and testing has since demontrated that well-managed indoor residual spraying programmes using DDT pose no harm to wildlife or to humans."

Now I'm sure that malaria is a horrible disease and I would hate to see it go unchecked, however, I must wonder what a "well managed programme" looks like and who is responsible for overseeing that the use of this chemical remains "well managed." I also wonder who is really behind the push for the increased use of DDT as there seem to just as many on the opposite side of the fence who claim that there are better alternatives that are just as efficient for controling malaria. On one website it was stated that Mexico, who committed to ending the use of DDT by 2007, has been so successful in the use of alternatives that its DDT manufacturing plant has ceased production owing to lack of demand. Further, Jorge Mendez, Mexico's director of their malaria control programme, declared that it is 25% cheaper for Mexico to use alternatives. The Pan American Health Organization even went so far as to express reservations about the effectiveness of broadscale application of DDT for malaria after one of its studies showed that in the late 1980's and early 90's, malaria rates went up in Brazil even as spraying of houses with DDT increased, but rates dropped after Brazil shifted to alternative control methods.

Despite the WHO claiming that indoor residual spraying programs pose no risk to wildlife or humans, it seems that researchers in both Mexico and South Africa have found that humans living in areas where spraying took place have raised concentrations of DDT and it was estimated that breastfed children in those areas were being dosed at levels exceeding those recommended by WHO. Despite the fact that not all the dangers of exposure to DDT have been proven, I need to wonder if we want to be part of this massive experiment until they are.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

How Does Your Garden Grow?

With diminishing daylight hours and the increasing chill as we move into October, I now feel that we are headed straight into Autumn...and yikes! beyond that winter. So I thought I'd share a few pictures from my garden while I still have the chance. I've been meaning to get out there (the garden, that is) and do a final "tidy," but thus far I haven't gotten beyond sitting still on the deck and trying to capture some warmth from the sun's fading rays. And despite the few weeds, I'm still enjoying the persistant blooms.

My roses are still blooming ferociously and probably will until the first frost (I hope). A lone poppy has made it's way into my autumn joy. I must be getting new poppies as my poppies were done long ago.

A few more pics of some of what else is still out there.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Things I Love about Nelson #1 : The French Bakery

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.
Mohandas Gandhi

If you wander a half block up from Baker Street and turn into the back alley behind the bank of Montreal you'll encounter an intoxicating aroma of baked goodness that will transport you directly to the boulangeries of Paris. This hidden gem, an authentic French bakery, is called "Au Soleil Levant." Inside this cozy, rustic boulangerie, you will instantly feel a connection with the old world charm of France: open hearth ovens, neatly formed dough rising, baskets full of crisp bagettes, almond filled croisants, brioches, and fougasse.

This is a family owned and run business in the heart of what my friends and I jokingly call the "French Quarter." La société francophone is just around the corner and it is not uncommon to hear "la belle langue" in the vicinity or within the bakery. So go ahead and try out your French, as I'm sure it will bring much delight to the owners.

All the breads are as tasty as they smell. The wheat (or grains, depending on the bread) is freshly milled before being used. The bakery uses their own starter and has many alternatives for this health minded community. If you don't / can't eat wheat, you'll find breads made out of spelt or rye and occasionally they will have tartelettes with nut pastery. On different days of the week they offer specialty breads flavoured with various nuts, seeds, fruit, and of course...chocolat. For a quick inexpensive lunch, ask for a mini baguette with warmed brie and caraway seeds, or one of my favorites, a savory fougasse.

Bon appétit!!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Feature Fruit: The Plum

I was thrilled when browsing through some old cooking magazines to run across a recipe for Plum Clafoutis. I've only ever made clafoutis with cherries, but couldn't imagine why one couldn't substitute plums which seem to be so plentiful at this time of year. The concoction that I ended up making was a combination of the recipe I had found in the magazine and another one that I had made before with cherries. The one recipe had less sugar than the other and the other more eggs. So for a less artificially sweetened more custardy dessert, this is what I came up with.

Plum Clafoutis

about 6 fresh (tart) plums
1/2 C flour
1/4 C sugar
4 eggs
1 C milk
2 Tbsp melted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush shallow pie plate with melted butter.

2. Pit the plums and cut into chunk size pieces, layering on the pie plate.

3. Sift the flour into a bowl, add the sugar. Gradually add the combined eggs, milk and butter, whisking until smooth and free of lumps.

4. Pour the batter over the plums and bake for 30-35 minutes. The batter should be risen and golden. Dust with icing sugar if desired and serve immediately.

Clafoutis is a classic French batter pudding, a specialty of the Limousin region. Clafoutis comes from Clafir, a dialect verb meaning ‘to fill.’