The Art of Giving

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It’s that time of year again when the weather turns cooler, the days become shorter, and snow is in the forecast, signaling the start of the holiday season. It is a wonderful time for family and friends to share good times together and to give thanks for our blessings. While many of us enjoy the tradition of gift giving, shopping for the perfect gift for everyone on our list can be stressful! The increasing availability of on-line shopping, gift cards and longer store hours makes shopping and gift giving easier, but there is a growing interest in giving meaningful gifts. Perhaps there is an art to giving in the same way there is an art to conversation, writing poetry, or creating music?

There are many great ideas for meaningful gift giving (simply google meaningful gifts) and while I have chosen a few that resonate with me, you may want to start you own list before the holiday season begins.

THE GIFT OF TIME

In our busy lives, time is such a finite and precious commodity that to give our time may be the most valuable gift we can provide. Consider giving time to a community project or a charity. The possibilities are endless; from visiting an old age home, to volunteering at a hospital, your time is a welcome gift! Perhaps this could be a family initiative, which would have the added benefit of time spent together.

THE GIFT OF MEMORIES

One of life’s certainties is that we come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. When that day comes, what remains are memories shared with loved ones. A friend of mine recently gave each of her children a camera along with a note about the importance of building shared memories. From that day forward, her family has focused on creating memories rather than giving gifts, a beautiful intention, which has lasting impact.

THE GIFT OF A HANDWRITTEN LETTER

While handwriting is one of the few things that are unique to each of us, the art of handwriting is all but disappearing.  Writing a letter takes time, thought and effort and can be a very meaningful gift. It is a wonderful way to share stories, tell someone how much they mean to us, or tell what we admire about them. Some of my most cherished gifts are the letters written to me by my mother. I can remember who she was through her words and unique handwriting style. There is no time like the present to write a letter to someone you love. All it takes is a pen, paper and a willingness to share what is in your heart.

THE HANDMADE GIFT

In a world where we yearn for simpler times, the lost art of handmade gifts is making a comeback. Handmade gifts show that we value the time, care and attention that went into making something special. This year, consider spending time to make a few gifts, or go to a local arts festival or craft sale to find something unique. Not only will you give a one of a kind gift, but you will also support people who make a living with their hands and creativity.  A handcrafted gift is sure to please and may be one of the few things that may not get tossed out before the next season arrives.

THE GIFT OF NO GIFTS

Invitations for special occasions often include a note suggesting a charitable donation would be appreciated in lieu of a gift. From a child’s first birthday, to milestone celebrations throughout life, the gift of charity is a gift that reaches out to many. This growing trend acknowledges that our presence at an event is the gift, while at the same time provides an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. There are many options available on-line, which make it easy to combine gift giving and donations, so why not consider this for the holiday season or throughout the year?

These are just a few of the ideas that I have discovered and like. You could start your own list of meaningful gifts, and bring the art of giving into your life. You may find you enjoy gift giving and the holiday season more, and I’m sure your loved ones will appreciate it and so will the planet!

This holiday season Toronto’s First Anonymous Art Show in support of Art for Cancer Foundation, is a great source for meaningful gifts. The show will be held December 3-6, 2015 at AFC Place, 1884 Davenport Road, Toronto. Established and emerging artists have donated hundreds of 8”X8” paintings which will be exhibited and sold for $100.00 each.  The artist remains a mystery until after the purchase.

100% of proceeds will go to support free creative programs for people living with cancer offered by ART for Cancer Foundation

Further details available at: www.artforcancerfoundation.org

Happy holidays and happy giving!

Creatively yours,

Angela

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Hey out there!

Hello All!

How goes your summer? Seems to me that the clock speeds up from Canada Day through to Labour Day. It’s hard to keep up with events and activities, and harder still to reflect on them and keep them in memory. Here’s a quick post from me, in an attempt to do both those things.

We went to a very pleasant Canada Day barbcue where the food and company were top notch. One of the guests is an organizer of the Ferguson Memorial Walk, an activity day, and walk in support of Orangeville’s Family Transition Place, and the White Ribbon Campaign.

As the evening got darker, I saw something I have never seen before. Across the back yard, our host held up something large and white, it looked like a garbage bag.  At the bottom of the bag was a sort of lantern, and a young partygoer was lighting this lantern with a long bbq lighter. It took at least a minute to get the flame going. A couple of minutes later, the large bag filled with hot air, and rose off the ground, into the sky. It looked wonderful, rising very quickly and moving out of view over the trees. Here’s the photo I snapped.

Flying Lantern

Very cool! Now, there was some discussion about whether launching such a thing was a safe idea. The packaging assured us the lantern was completely biodegradable, but we were also worried about it catching trees on fire, or causing a hazard to aviation, or to bats. What do you think? Have you seen these?

We ended the evening with a distant view of the Orangeville fireworks. A very satisfactory night out.

On a roll for being social, we made a date with our kids to see the Picasso exhibit at the AGO in Toronto. This was a fantastic exhibit. Picasso is an artist who can provoke a response from everyone. What a fertile creative life! The exhibit is on till the end of the summer, see it if you can. We went at 10am on a Tuesday and found that to be an ideal, quiet time to go. Some advice I wish I had followed:  check the free program that you’re given on entry to the exhibit. It lists the locations of Picasso items in the AGO’s collections outside of the exhibit. Although you can see these whenever you happen to be at the AGO, I think they might be especially interesting to see immediately after viewing this exhibit.

Art Gallery of Ontario, Galleria Italiano

The exhibit exits into this lovely space, the Galleria Italiano. Nice place to hang out while waiting for trailing family members. Photo by bobcatnorth, from Flickr.

After 2 hours of the Picassos, we didn’t spend much more time at the gallery. But we did go to see the William Kurelek room. His paintings fascinate me. In order to get to his room, we passed quickly through several other Canadian galleries, largely empty except for the iconic paintings. I resolve to return, soon. On a Tuesday.

All for now,

Elizabeth

Green Cleaning with Help from the Queen of Green

clean

image by mag3737, from Flickr

When I think of the colour green, I think of green cleaning.  I have always liked the idea of using cleaners that are not hazardous to our health and good for the environment.  That being said, I would rather buy a product that I think is a green cleaner than create my own concoction.  There is one product that most of us should have in our cupboards that many consider a miracle cleaner.  That, ladies and gents, is white vinegar.

The Queen of Green writes that vinegar removes 99% of surface bacteria, 80% of germs and 82% of molds.  I don’t know about you but I’m impressed!  Many of you may be familiar with some of the more common uses for vinegar.  Here are some that you may already know about.

1.  To clean and deodorize drain, pour one cup baking soda followed by one cup vinegar.   Wait 5 minutes and then pour hot water down the drain.

2.  To clean your microwave, combine 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup water in a glass container and bring to a boil.  Wipe inside of the microwave with cloth.

3. To clean cloudy glassware, soak paper towels in full strength vinegar, wrap around the inside and outside of glass, let stand, then rinse clean.

4. To remove odours from a lunchbox, leave a piece a bread soaked in vinegar overnight.

Did you know that you can remove persistent room odours by leaving vinegar in a bowl overnight?

I love picking up these tips.  My favourite use for vinegar is one I haven’t yet tried but would be very interested in finding out if it actually works.  Those of you who have dogs who had an encounter with a skunk know how difficult it is to get rid of that pungent odour.

Apparently, you dilute vinegar with 50% water, rub into your dog’s fur and rinse with warm water.  May need to repeated a couple of times.  Would love to know if this actually works.

You may want to take a look at www.springbreakup.ca and see what other green cleaning advice is available.  It is easier than ever to be green!

Happy spring cleaning,

Laurie

Happy Pi Day!

Pie for Pi Day, 2011

image by djwtwo, from Flickr

Today, 3/14, is my favourite unofficial holiday:  Pi Day, the day to celebrate the circle.  Today we make pi jokes, eat circular foods, and recite as many digits of pi as we can recall.

I’ve had a fondness for π since I learnt about it in high school math.  It’s a number that is unknown, yet a constant that’s essential.  I’m always on the lookout for pi references (an elusive search).  Here’s a quote I love:

…an expansion of pi to only forty-seven decimal places would be sufficiently precise to inscribe a circle around the visible universe that doesn’t deviate from perfect circularity by more than the distance across a single proton.

-Richard Preston, The Mountains of pi, The New Yorker, March 2, 1992

So, have a happy day today, eat something round, and give a mathematician a hug.

Elizabeth
Pi Day - March 14, 2008

image by dirvish, from Flickr

Go Green with Kale

One of my New Year’s resolutions (although, as you know, I don’t really make them) is to add more diversity to my diet.  I tend to eat the way I do for two reasons: one, I like the taste of a particular food item; or two, it is nutritious.  I’ve never been one to worry if there are too many calories or too much fat.  That being said, I am a creature of habit when it comes to including vegetables in my diet.  Although I do consume the suggested amount of veggies from Canada’s Food Guide, I do tend to eat a lot of the same ones.

Broccoli is always number one in my books.  I eat it every day (along with my ice cream although not at the same time).  Not only do I love the taste of broccoli (served with my roasted garlic hummus), it is one of the most nutritional veggies around.

Kale

photo by Farmanac, from Flickr

My new, fairly frequent addition to my vegetable repertoire is kale.  Kale is a form of cabbage and is high in beta carotene, vit K, lutein, not bad fibre for a green vegetable and reasonable in the calcium department.  It has been credited with lowering cholesterol and possessing a whole host of anti-cancer properties.  Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and has more flavour when it has been frozen.

I wanted to share a couple of recipes with you from a cookbook entitled Cooking Vegetarian (healthy, delicious and easy vegetarian cuisine) by Joseph Forest and Vesanto Melina.

Here are two of my favourite kale recipes:

AFRICAN CHICKPEA STEW

Makes 6 cups enough for 4 servings.

1 tbsp coconut or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock or water
2 cups peeled, diced sweet potatoes or yams
1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup brown rice
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup peanut butter
2 cups thinly sliced kale
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp black pepper
Tamari
Hot chili pepper sauce

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until translucent.  Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes more.  Add stock, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, rice, and salt; bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until rice is cooked.  In a small bowl, blend peanut butter with enough liquid from the stew to make a smooth paste.  Stir this paste into the stew along with kale, lemon juice, pepper, tamari and chili pepper sauce to taste and cook for another 5 minutes.   Adjust the seasonings.

This nutrition-packed stew has a good balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate.

One of the reasons I enjoy this cookbook is the mix and match approach the authors take to putting together a meal.  Under the entrees section of the book, the authors have a section called International Roll-Ups where they provide recipes for six possible fillings based on various cultures.  This recipe includes many of the same ingredients of the first recipe.  The nice thing about this recipe, is that you can make the sauce (keeps for a couple of weeks) separately and your family can add the sauce and other items as they like.  I often poach chicken and add to recipe (did I just say that?) for the boys in the family.

Here’s the recipe for African Style Roll-Ups

1/3 cup cooked brown rice
1/3 cup mashed yam
1/3 cup sliced kale, lightly steamed
¼ cup alfalfa sprouts (yeah new ingredient)
2 tbsp spicy peanut sauce (recipe below)
Dash of hot pepper sauce

Spicy Peanut Sauce

½ cup unsweetened, unsalted peanut butter
½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup chopped ginger
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chili paste
2 gloves garlic

Put all ingredients in food processor or blender for one minute.  Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks

Give these recipes a try and let me know what you think!  Think green!

Laurie

Creatively Yours: Connecting the Dots

Heart us

image by amountofcoffee, from Flickr

You may have noticed something new about our blog in 2012. We are connecting the dots! Laurie, Elizabeth and I have decided to build upon each other’s ideas, and so when Laurie asked if you are grateful for your slow cooker, she was connecting to the idea of gratitude. Clever! And that is how conversation goes; we start off talking about one thing and end up talking about something completely different. As I don’t have any good recipes to share, I will let the slow cooker cook, and begin a new conversation on some upcoming events in February.

First off, February is heart month. That is a nice way to get us thinking about Valentine’s Day. Believe it or not, I heard a radio announcer the other day reminding men to remember the date (not once but twice in the same day).  Having just been to the grocery store, I don’t know how anyone could forget.  And then last but not least, there is Family Day, which is that nice extra holiday we get to spend with our families in Ontario. To my way of thinking, these three events cover some very important aspects of our lives: health, love and sense of belonging.

What will you do this February for your health, love and family?

LOVE to hear from you!

Creatively yours,

Angela

Slow Easy!

owl crockpot

image by daftgirly, from Flickr

Are you grateful for your slow cooker?

I was out walking in the woods with a friend a week or so ago and began discussing the topic of gratitude.  Somehow we ended up talking about slow cookers.  Aeron is often out at the barn prior to dinner and finds it very convenient to start dinner before she and her daughter Emily leave for the barn.  A warm dinner is ready to eat when they return.  Aeron says that she finds it easier to eat well balanced meals when she is using her slow cooker.  She will be sharing her best slow cooker recipes with us shortly.

Do you remember having a slow cooker or crock-pot in your home when you were growing up?  The modern day slow cooker was developed by a company called Rival Industries using the trademark name Crock-Pot. The Crock-Pot was designed in the early 1970s based on the design of a bean pot called the Beanery.

With the emphasis on conserving energy, slow cookers became popular during the energy crisis.  The slow cookers were also a good choice for the record number of women who re-entered the workforce or began to pursue interests outside the home.

The motto for the Crock-Pot was “cooks all day while the cook’s away.”

I personally do not use my slow cooker to prepare my evening meals on a regular basis.  I do however use it frequently to prepare hot cereals overnight.  Here are two of my favourites:

This first recipe is based on a porridge recipe in The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook.

Crock-Pot Porridge

½ cup cracked wheat or bulgur 
1 ½ cup steel-cut oats

½ cup rye flakes

½ cup brown rice

¼ cup wheat germ7 ½ cups water or combination of liquids (rice milk, soya milk, almond milk)

4 ½ tsp vanilla

It is possible to add any dried fruit or nuts to this recipe.  I serve mine with ice cream!

Preparation:

Place all ingredients in a large crock-pot.  Stir well to combine all ingredients.  Cover.  Set on lowest cooking temperature and cook overnight.

The second recipe is not really a recipe per se.  This one is taken from Cooking Vegetarian.

Hearty Whole-Grain Cereal

Makes 4 cups

1 cup uncooked grain (such as amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, kamut berries, millet, oat groats, spelt berries, wheat berries or wild rice)

4 cups water

Put grains in slow cooker and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours until the water has been absorbed.

Try the recipe first with 2 or 3 grains.  Later, you can experiment and create your own!  Both recipes can be served cold as a pudding (again especially delicious with ice cream) or refrigerated and reheated as needed.

Do you have a favourite slow cooker recipe or website that you would like to share?  Let us know!

Laurie