Cars

Next week, I’ll take possession of my sixth car. It is interesting that I have had so few cars. I proclaim not to care very much one way or the other. But, as my husband began the search for car #6, it quickly became clear that I do have strong preferences.

And so I should. Both my father and husband are extremely well versed in all details of vehicles – make, model year, full retail prices; they can spot tiny differences as they zoom past on the freeway. Their opinions were hard to ignore. I’ve spent many hours walking through car lots, even junkyards, looking for a certain part or hopeful to find a hidden treasure.

So I really started to look at cars in the past couple of weeks. I drove the “cheaper” version of my wrecked car. And my list of possible cars became very short for a number of reasons. Turns out when you are spending tens of thousands, details that are second nature to my husband start to become far more important to me.

It occurs to me that most of my cars have not been my choice. More often, a little bit of chance and circumstance.

  1. 1977 Chevrolet Monza, rust colored – new to me in 1986. Bought this from a family friend for $100 who wanted to buy a weed wacker with the cash. Of course he didn’t need the money. Wanted the car gone. We were soon to realize why. The list of repairs, (including rebuilding the engine, changing the head gaskets many times, chronic carburetor problems) are too long to mention. Suffice to say, in the first summer when I stopped for gas, (which it was a guzzler of), I also had to refill the radiator with water and usually add a half litre of oil. Nice. Drove that baby for 7 years. When I was off to Vancouver with it, my Dad said famously, “find a boyfriend that can fix cars”.
  2. 1991 Geo Storm, black on black – new to me in 1995. I bought this in the US for about $7,000. It was on a Ford lot and my boyfriend, who would be my husband, gave me the down payment from Canada when the loonie was about 60 cents to the USD, ouch. I financed this car and probably didn’t negotiate one bit. I did not even test drive it. Just loved the look of it. This car had a major problem with the struts and I had one replaced in the first month, under warranty. My husband would come in handy for years later, changing those struts regularly.

    Jeep - my son age 2

    Jeep – my son age 2

  3. 1990 Jeep Grand Cherokee, red with grey leather interior – new to me in 2001. This would later be called “Darth Maul” by my son. But he was to young at the time to know what a menace this vehicle was at times. However, those “times” where never under my command. My husband bore the brunt of the breakdowns and the quest to fix the strange things that seemed to go wrong. I loved this truck. When my children were young, it was perfect for infant seats and toddler car seats. The leather repelled everything they threw at it. It was extremely sure footed in the snow and even on ice, which we experienced much of in those years. This was our first family vehicle and we had some epic adventures.
  4. 1994 Acura Vigor, kind of a brown color with taupe leather inside – new to me in 2003. This was a fun car, 5 speed, heated seats, go fast engine, lots of other luxury features. I felt like a serious grown up in this car. After a few good years, we ended up limping it into a Honda dealer for a trade in on car #5.
  5. 2004 Mazda 3, grey with grey leather – new to me in 2007. This was the first nice “late model” car I ever owned. 5 speed, one owner, low kilometers. We paid, what seemed to me at the time, a lot of money for this car. Of course, when your first car cost you $100, well, you see how far I’ve come. My kids named her, Queen Amadala. We had no major problems with this car, until late March of this year. Coming into the entrance of the George Massey Tunnel at rush hour, I was hit twice after I came to a full stop. Evidently there was a fatality that day in a separate accident at the other end of the tunnel. So, it was really a lucky day for me.
  6. 2010 Acura CSX, charcoal with black leather – new to me April 2014. I can’t even imagine how nice this car will be to drive. It has an integrated hands-free iPhone system, navigation, XFM, 5 speed, v-tech engine, another 3 year Acura certified warranty, etc. I’ll never understand, or forget the experience of negotiating the price at the Acura dealership, which my husband conducted. It is a very formal, offer – counter, new offer, counter and so on. All written down on a piece of paper and the salesman bouncing up and down like a yo-yo to get approvals. Both sides throwing out statements to support their numbers. Strange game.

So it ends, my list for now. I’m sure I’ll drive a few more, see a few more places. The fun is in the journey, not only the destination.

Folk Wisdom of Mexico

Proverbios y dichos Mexicanos

I picked up this little book in the condo we are renting. I love finding these little treasures. Especially when the subject is local. Gives me a glimpse into the culture, the customs and the feelings as if we too were living here.

However, this kind of wisdom would not necessarily come form merely living here. We would need to understand the language, inside and out. Without growing up hearing these stories passed down through generations, the essence, the real meaning may not make sense.

Translated into English, the understanding gap gets a little wider, I think. But it is interesting to interpret in our own way. Learn by viewing old ideas in a new light. (And I feel a little bit caught in a Modern Family episode, with Gloria talking about “her country”.)

*Flies don’t enter a closed mouth.

*There is more time than life.

*Ambition never has its fill.

*Blood boils without a flame.

*One must learn how to lose before learning how to play.

*When in doubt of what is right, consult your pillow overnight.

*Conversation is food for the soul.

*All the time spent angry is time lost being happy.

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Making cheese

This week, while listening to the audio recording of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle“, I learned that you can make cheese at home. I had no idea. My daughter was listening to that segment with me and proclaimed she was very much wanting to make cheese. (This is picky eater #1)

Yesterday we did it. Our first creation – lemon cheese.

The recipe, if you can call it that, is ridiculously simple. 2 ingredients. I watched a video on YouTube and basically followed those instructions.

  1. Have ready, 1/3 cup lemon juice and a colander in the sink lined with cheese cloth or a nice clean tea towel. (I have not been able to find cheese cloth at a grocery store in a long time.)
  2. In a large pot, over medium high heat, (or it will take forever), stir 2 litres of milk. I used Avalon Dairy‘s 3.25%MF.
  3. The video explains to watch the edges of the milk and notice the little bubbles that appear as the milk is about to boil. A recipe says 175 degrees F. I don’t have a proper thermometer, but my meat one registered this temperature, if not a little hotter.
  4. Take off the heat, pour in the lemon juice and continue to stir as the curds form. To limit the taste of the lemon juice, the recipe suggests using less than the full 1/3 cup. But my daughter was keen and in the whole thing went.
  5. Pour into the waiting colander. This is where cheese cloth would be nice as it is so fine. Squeeze out the whey. Open up and add salt along with herbs or other flavour. My daughter wanted salt only. Tie into a ball continuing to let the whey drain off. After about 20 minutes, I put opened the cloth and put the ball on a plate as shown above.
  6. Evidently this keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Although I will be surprised if ours last beyond today.

I am hooked. And that is not surprising. Cheese is an ancient food whose origins, predate recorded history. It was likely an accidental result of transporting milk that came in contact with natural rennet. So our milk drinking ancestors have consumed cheese since the beginning.

Now I am on the hunt for the ingredients to make 30 minute mozzarella. And I’m keen to find and try other kinds of milk. Stay tuned.

The Haida

On Sunday, my parents were available for a few hours of sight-seeing before they were heading back to Calgary. We decided to drive over to UBC and have a look around MOA, the Museum of Anthropology. My husband and I have talked about this a few times before and were looking forward to the day. After a few short hours, it became apparent that this would take several days to see all the exhibits. We had no idea of the treasure that has been sitting in our backyard all this time.

After looking through the photographs and doing a little more research today, I have a little better understanding of the Haida. Their artwork and totem poles are the larger pieces on display, so upon entering the Museum space it is very awe-inspiring.

For at least 10,000 years, the Haida people and their ancestors have lived on Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands), an archipelago of 150 islands off the North-Western coast of British Columbia.

Monumental totem poles carved of red cedar are one of the means by which Haida people, today as in the past, honour their ancestors and record their histories, territories, and inherited privileges.

My thoughts go back to my recent experiences in Alberta learning about the Blackfoot Nation. As well, reading about the Coastal people portrayed in the novel, “Vancouver”. It is with the descriptions in this novel that I often visualize what it must have been like to be an early settler here on the Coast. When I start to think about complaining of the non-ending rain, I only have to conjuror up one of the many scenes from the book, where the hardships of the land would have been unbearable by today’s standards.

Some related posts and pages from: The Good Stuff

Blackfoot Crossing

Ages

“Vancouver” by David Cruise and Alison Griffiths

Heart of a kitchen

If the kitchen is the heart of a home, then the main counter is the heart of a kitchen. At least that is the case in my house.

In our tiny kitchen, the counter serves as the main hub of activity.

At the back of the photo, I was working on my goals, including a large sketch book, coloured pens and glue. To the left of that is a cotton knitted basket that I made, holding various iPods being charged. A box of tissues, a CD recording of Jimmy Buffets, “A Salty Piece of Land”, and a cluster of bananas in the next row. A cracker box on top of my iPad, a container of tomatoes and my cookbook run into the snack in various dishes. My husbands computer and papers and my sons blue pencil box pretty much covers it all.

This is a typical situation for our family. Probably pretty chaotic looking for some people and maybe a little tidy for others, (notice nothing has spilled on the electronics!)

What I want to do one day is set up a video camera with time elapse recording. Even a week would be great to show just how much we rely on this one piece of furniture to live our life.

Daggett Farmhouse: Hearth cooking at Greenfield Village open air Museum

I suppose, back in the day, the fireplace was the centre of the kitchen. Women would cook all day over it and sit by the light of it to sew and do chores in the evening. It was where the warmth radiated from and where the vital, life-sustaining food stuffs were prepared.

I often think that I could have done well in that time of history and then I see these kind of photo’s showing what looks to be back-breaking work. I remember clearly what that was like when I cared for my babies. For one thing or another, it seemed like I was stooped over for about 4 years.

For the most part, I remain extremely happy to be living in this time of history. Even if the only reason were for our modern kitchens, which let us produce food for our family in a fraction of the time that it used to only a couple hundred years ago.

Imprints at Rogers Pass

I have known about this place in the Rocky Mountains since I was a child. In fact, I can’t remember when I learned this was the gateway to British Columbia. Who knew what kind of fun would await us. Sometimes it was a short trip to the Okanagan, and other times we would ride the mighty BC Ferry over to Vancouver Island.

Nowadays, we live on the “other side”. So getting back through the Pass coming from either side is a huge relief. If we were able to make it from the East, pretty good chances we will make it home. And if we were able to make it through from the West, excellent chance of taking some turns the next day.

It is quite amazing that trains and cars can get through Rogers Pass in the winter at all. In the first winter of railroad operation in 1886/87 there was 12 metres of snowfall. Each season, there is a proactive effort to “manage” the snowfall that will affect the area. As the snow is accumulating in the alpine, experts are studying the conditions in anticipation of avalanche risk. When a motorist is turned away for a road closure, more often than not, the blasting has brought down a dangerous amount of snow and can take 24 to 36 hours, (or more) for crews to clear from the roads and rail lines. More on Rogers Pass National Historic Site –  http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/bc/rogers/index.aspx

This summer, on our family road trip, we stopped into the museum at Rogers Pass. There is no driving stress when the sun shines, the road is bone dry and the only snow visible is very high at the peaks of the Selkirks. Some interesting photo’s here show imprints taken from the park. I did not write down what everything was, so your guess will be as good as mine.

 

Other posts related to Rogers Pass:

Gjøa

It never ceases to amaze me. The tenacity of the human spirit. A person gets a kernel of an idea and then, over time, it grows into a fully fledged enterprise. Of course, it is not magic. The truly great accomplishments require a multitude of resources, both human and financial. Or do they?

Roald Amundsen was the expedition leader and Master of the Gjøa, which was the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage. The first thought that comes to mind is how small the ship is, as you can see by the photo. But Amundsen wanted a small crew, they were to live off the land and avoid all the excess, (cargo and people) which had plagued John Franklin’s expedition.

It was built and served for 28 years as a herring fishing vessel. And Amundsen had little experience in Arctic sailing. When you look at all these facts mounting up against him, it is a wonder that this mission was completed at all.

But there were a series of things that happened and contributed to success. Preparation was key. Technical knowledge had to be brought on board. But the people involved on this epic journey must have possessed the most important skill of all. For me, that would be the ability to effectively communicate. That is the pre cursor to everything in life that turns out well.

When the going got tough in the high Arctic, they turned to the Inuit for help. On display at the Maritime Museum in Oslo, there are many, many photo’s showing the details of surviving and even thriving while locked in the ice for 3 winters.

I have not personally spent time in the Arctic, but I have 2 family members that have. Stories from them detail some of the hardships that life up North can dish out. There is a level of preparedness that is required as winter sets in that us Southerners can hardly comprehend. And then put this into the context of the time and circumstances of the Northwest passage.

Truly a worthwhile visit, if you find yourself with a free afternoon in Oslo, Norway.

Rocky Mountains

Banff National Park

The majestic Rocky Mountains.

These are among the young mountains of the world. 55 to 80 million years ago erupting from the ground. Then erosion took over and created dramatic valleys and peaks. At first glance, Europeans explorers coming across flat land must have almost been frightened. Surely they were; at thought of finding the passage through to the West.

There is an awe-inspiring feeling and a sense of peace that falls over you as you move through the range. They are so big that only the best position with the widest lens can even capture them on film. In the summer, the smell of the forest and the clean crisp feeling of the air combine with the sights to create a fantastic experience.

Conversely, in the winter the steep slopes gather snow in the most precarious way. It is as if you are being whispered to, “tread lightly through here, show respect”, otherwise the snow pack will give way and cover everything on the valley floor with an immense load.

Rogers Pass

As we travel along the highway with relative ease, it is interesting to think that not so long ago, even car travel was not that easy. My husbands grandparents talk of single track road and “wide spots”. Two meeting cars would have to decide who was going to back up to the wide spot which was sometimes miles in distance. Then flashback further to David Thompson’s work at finding the first route from which to even start building from.

Ages

When traveling in countries that are older than your own, why does the age of things seem so fantastic? Maybe it is more the evidence of age, the feeling that others walked in this very spot so long ago? Whatever the reason, it feels good to take a few moments and contemplate the lives of another time.

In most European countries that I have visited, the architecture screams out the period it was built in. In fact, the date is usually inscribed somewhere on the truly old buildings. Us newbies from the West of North America stand in awe.

But when you look closely at history, the actual facts, Calgary had pre-Clovis people roaming her plains 11,000 years ago. But they didn’t leave any buildings and their oral history leaves no evidence of having ever been there. And archeologists from around the globe can’t agree to most of the history. That is a shame, because their way of life was very different. What might we learn from their techniques of living off the land and in harmony with nature? Why did the Clovis people die out?

There was certainly adaptations made by the time Europeans arrived. But was there evolution of humans as well? Probably. Yet still we marvel at a church built 500 years ago in London. Interesting creatures we are, modern mankind. The collective wisdom from our long ago ancestors doesn’t survive the test of time.

This summer, I drove along many prairie roads and trails. I had not considered how old the land was in context of humans. A young Clovis woman from 12,500 years ago could have walked in my exact route. But it was not until I travelled all the way to Europe that I could fully appreciate what I take for granted back home. In a weird way, that alone was worth the trip.

Blackfoot Crossing

Since my parents purchased a cabin on the Siksika Nation, I have become more interested than ever before in Native Canadian history. It is a good time to be looking for this kind of information, particularly in Southern Alberta. The newly built Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park is a treasure. A world-class museum, permanent exhibits and visiting artists combine with significant outdoor re-creations.

There is so much to learn about the people of this land and how they lived before the Europeans came. It is a rich history and one that provides fantastic context for what it was like to thrive without all our modern-day conveniences. These people created a respectful culture. They moved with the rhythms of the land and the buffalo.

It is humbling to imagine what it was like to walk in their footsteps. To use every bit, every atom of the animal that was killed. To prepare for a long hard winter and be sure that everyone in the tribe was going to be taken care of.

If your path takes you out this way, do not pass up the opportunity to visit and pay your respect to the past. For without the wisdom of these ancient traditions passed down through the generations, many, many Europeans would not have established families here at all.

http://www.blackfootcrossing.ca/

Medicine Wheels

An invitation was extended by my uncle to go exploring. He started to explain the details – we needed to use a vehicle with high clearance, (rough roads) the destination was known but the exact route was not, (there would be wrong turns and doubling back) and it would take a while, (pack a lunch). Well my husband couldn’t say yes fast enough. He heard, “blazing trail”, “requires skilled driver”, “destination unknown”, etc.

So we set off early in the morning, my husband driving and my uncle navigating. Kids in the way back and my Aunt and I chatting away in the middle. The level of engagement to the particulars of the road decreased as you went from front to back. Once I realized that I have seen these kind of roads, (if you can call them that) many, many times before and that the scenery would not change much over the course of the drive, I was happy to sit back and relax.

These are the adventures of my childhood. Usually my uncle would be driving and he would have to be extra careful because his vehicle usually did not have high clearance. Like being a spotter on a boat, looking for dead heads, on the prairie you are keeping careful watch for the big rocks hidden in the tall grass that can really wreck your day.

As usual with these kind of trips, we found dozens of interesting things along the way. I had over 100 pictures taken before we stopped for lunch. What we came for was just one of the delights along the way. It was a case of truly enjoying the journey.

The Majorville Medicine Wheel is an important archeological site. The internet, is of course where we can find out so much more information than the little sign gave us (http://www.shrinesandsacredsites.com/mmw.htm) But the feeling of being within the boundaries of the sacred site and the surrounding area cannot be replicated by reading about it.

When we arrived back, a little later than we had planned, (surprise, surprise) my kids were the first to exclaim how much they enjoyed the day. “Why don’t we do this again?” It is so easy to forget that, for my kids the prairies are exotic. Imagine sky and land as far as you can see with no trees to obstruct your view? Imagine being able to run, as fast as you can for as long as you want? This was what I had most days as a kid, but I didn’t know anything different. As I experience the beauty of the land through the eyes of my babies it is a delight to look more closely and truly enjoy it as if it were the first time.

Prairie cactus

One room school house circa 1904

Caesar – man, salad or drink?

In fact it is all three.

The man, of course is known the world over as a Roman general and statesman. According to Wikipedia, he played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Caesar

The salad, is also well-known and has become a mainstay for most North Americans who dine in a restaurant. When I was in my early twenties, I went on a quest throughout the province of Alberta to see if I could find the best dressing. The variations are endless and most chefs regard their version as a “secret sauce”. I grew up in a house that regarded Caesar salad as an event. Not a mere salad to sit alongside other more important foods on the plate.

I recently entertained a guest from Norway in my home town of Calgary and we dined at a classic Alberta steakhouse that offered table side preparation.The look of surprise and delight and satisfaction at the event of “his first Caesar  salad”, was quite entertaining.

After that meal, I knew that a revision of the recipe rattling around in my head, (a dash of this, a pinch of that) was in order. So here is our family recipe for your tasting sensation!

  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp Tabasco
  • ¼ tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 1 container oil packed anchovies, (anchovies finely chopped and mashed)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, + oil from anchovies
  • 1 large head of romaine lettuce
  • 6 pieces of bacon cooked and chopped
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan

Croutons:

  • 4 slices of french loaf cut into cubes
  • 3 tsp dried assorted herbs (oregano, parsley, basil)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch of sea salt

For the dressing – (should start with a great wooden bowl) add the egg, lemon juice, mustard powder, pepper, hot sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire and garlic to a bowl and whisk until uniform. Slowly add the olive oil (s) and anchovies while whisking until the dressing is thick.

To build the salad, start by making the croutons. In a casserole dish combine all the ingredients and stir until the bread cubes are coated. In a 400 degree oven cook the croutons until they start to crisp, remove, let cool and try not to eat too many before making the salad.

In a large bowl add the washed and well dried romaine. Add about 1/4 of the dressing and toss well, you will probably need to add more dressing, but you do not want the dressing to pool on the bottom, so do not add to much to start. Add about half the bacon and croutons and toss again. Add the remaining croutons to the top of the salad followed by the bacon and the Parmesan. Serve promptly.

Unless you hail from Canada, or have wasted away a few hours on a bar stool in our fair land, you will not have had the pleasure of “A Caesar”. It is ordered like that. In a bar south of the border, you will likely get a very confused look from the bar keep. And if you get far enough to say – it is like a bloody mary, but clamato juice….you will be stopped right there – “clamato what?”

Again looking to Wikipedia it is quite an interesting tale about our distinctive cocktail. Not that any of that matters too much. It is a harbinger of good times ahead in the short Canadian summers. And oddly enough, we even put clamato juice in our beer! That same Norwegian couldn’t believe his luck to experience both the salad and the drink on the same trip.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesar_(cocktail)

Enjoy!