Thursday, January 29, 2015

Beautiful World

I captured these sky photos while out on a walk the other day. I was very fascinated by the sky and took many photos. 

 I am always fascinated when the clouds up above are moving very quickly and changing the look of the sky. 

Down below there was no wind but up above, there was obviously a lot of activity. My focus was on the moon which kept getting covered by the clouds. I hope you like the series.

Joining in with Skywatch Friday

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Yesterday Spring Seemed So Close

Yesterday was filled with sadness and joy all in one day.

I first heard the news about my Kenya friend losing her child. Mother and family are going through an incredibly rough time right now; financially and emotionally and for the mom, physically too. See my blog post here if you have a moment.

Much later I went out for a walk.

The day was gloriously warm and sunny. A rarity in Vancouver over the winter months.

There were some early signs of Spring. 

I'm not sure what these blossoms are but they caught my eye.

The last time I took a photo of this fountain it was frozen solid. Yesterday it flowed freely.

Some rose hips were evident. I haven't noticed this bush here before.
A palm tree on someone's balcony beckons me to African shores.

I smiled as this senior cycled by on his tricycle.
A helicopter in flight. Can you spot it?

It seems like this kind of warm weather seems to happen around this time every year, give or take a week. Whether it remains is yet to be seen. At any rate, the real Spring is not so very far away from now.

As the sun was disappearing, it brought lovely pastel colours to the skies.

I like the look of the bare leaves like lace against the sky. The transit wires give added interest

I managed to take a shot of the half moon before the light got too low

I captured these pansies just before I stopped at the final store.  They are on the corner of two main city streets that get a lot of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. So you can see that pedestrians have been using the planter as an ashtray. What a shame!

 It was the end of my picture taking as night fell (just after 5 p.m.).

You can see the twin (mountain) peaks of the Lions way in back of mountains and the towers of downtown.
 Though it was sunny yesterday, today was a bit misty and foggy at higher levels.
In the east they are having winter storms.

I hope you are warm wherever you are in the world.

Joining in with Our World Tuesday

Thank you to hosts:

 Lady Fi
Our World Tuesday Graphic

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Sad Story

A friend I met in Kenya many years ago had to be rushed to Tenwek Mission Hospital a few days ago due to complications with her pregnancy.

Sadly she lost the baby at 31 weeks despite the hospital staff making heroic efforts to save the child.

In her culture the unborn child must be buried within the day so several members of the community were at the hospital to receive the baby's remains and take him home for burial at the family compound.  The mother could not attend the burial as she is still in hospital.

Compounding the pressures on the mother and her family is the fact that the hospital bill for her care is enormous. It is a huge concern for them and I don't know how they will meet the cost. I can only pray.

I'm posting this so others can pray too. Not just for the bills to be met but for the grieving hearts and the physical trauma to heal properly. It takes time.

If you can spare a few minutes, please have a look at this short video. It is of the highway the young mom would have had to be transported on to get from her home to the mission hospital  She would have travelled for close to two hours as they rushed to the hospital in vain trying to save the baby.

Travel in Kenya is not easy. What is considered a short distance in North America takes much longer to travel on the highways of Kenya. It is usually a bumpy and jarring ride and is very tiring. Since my first trip to Kenya there have been many highway improvements but there is a lot more to improve.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Gluten Free

Hello friends,

As I was cleaning out and organizing my kitchen cabinets the other day, I took stock of the various specialty flours I've purchased over time and never used. I decided they must be used soon. This will not only free up more kitchen cabinet space but also allow me to test how they affect my blood glucose levels. Right now I have: millet flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, maize flour, dark rye flour, coconut flour and some kind of gluten free all purpose flour made by Red Mills.

I decided to try the All Purpose Baking Flour first as I need a bit of bread. This flour contains a blend of gluten free flours from potatoes, sorghum, tapioca, garbanzo and fava beans and is designed for those sensitive to wheat and gluten. This mix can be used for homemade cakes, cookies, breads, muffins, pancakes and waffles.

After mixing the flour was quite lumpy.  The directions said to flatten or smooth out the top with a wet spatula. I did do that.  I see that the bread dough did not bake and smooth out but that is fine by me. The shininess comes from the butter I spread on after baking.

It came to a nice golden colour all around except in the very center of the loaf. The instructions are to bake the loaf for an hour but after ten minutes you put a layer of tin foil over top to prevent it from getting too brown. As you can see the edges of the loaf are much darker because I didn't tightly close the foil over the edges.

The profile of the bread makes the loaf look flat. It isn't quite flat but neither is it nice and round like most loaves made with wheat flour. I am sure that is because this is a gluten free loaf. Read the role of gluten in bread here.

Taste test: After baking the bread which I found to be light and moist, I gave it a taste test.  While it wasn't my absolute favourite, there really was nothing wrong with it. I usually prefer a heavier texture than these slices of  bread but overall I think this bread will serve nicely when toasted or butter with bread (and/or jam.

The bread recipe was taken from the package on the flour.

 I read several online reviews of people who also used the flour. It seems that people either love it or hate it. If you don't mind the taste and you have gluten sensitivities this flour would be a good all purpose flour for you to try. I found it didn't have a huge spike on my blood glucose levels after I ate some.  I may try it again for making cookies or cakes in future.  For now, I will use up the flours I already have.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Menu Plan #3 & Thoughts on Posting on Line

Hello friends,

(If you missed my Sky Post, you can see it here). This is a bit of a hodge-podge post as I start off reviewing my experience over the past week with my menu plan. I then share some thoughts on posting too much information on line before sharing my menu plan for this week.

I'm going into my 3rd week of menu planning and enjoying it quite a lot. I am finding I am eating healthier and have less cravings. On the day I went out last weekend without eating properly for lunch, I did end up eating very poorly that night. Some days are just like that.  Even though I took a light lunch with me, I guess I ate it too late to really help keep my blood glucose levels stable.

This past week, I did manage to shop the flyers for those things that were on my menu plan. Of course not everything was on my plan but I didn't waste so much fresh fruit and vegetables since I did not over buy. In the past, I would often buy far more fruits and vegetables than I could possibly eat. I always felt it best to have a lot of healthy stuff on hand but generally could not keep up to eating it all. Now I only buy what I need for my meals and snacks. I also only buy the specific meat, fish or fowl that I might need for the week.

It is early days but it seems to be working out just fine. I would rather have to go to the store and refill on staples like celery, onions and carrots rather than have too many in the fridge at any one time.

Since I cleaned out my food storage cabinet last weekend and can see what is in there, I am also starting to use it. Eventually it will free up more storage space in my cabinet for those things I really want to keep on hand and not just those specialty items which I infrequently use.

I made two dishes requiring ground beef this week: chili and meatballs with spaghetti. I had enough ground beef to make enough chili to last for a few lunches and enough meatballs to stretch out for 3 meals. Since my freezer is no longer stuffed to the limit, I was able to freeze ahead for a few meals later in the month.

Even though the meal planning is working out for me, I am feeling a bit tired and hence a bit lazy to do another week of planning today but I need to peruse the flyers so I best get at the task at hand. I was too busy watching youtube videos on how other people save money.

Nothing new there for me.  I don't know why I wasted so much time on that activity today as I do a lot of things already to save in ways that work for me.  I guess I keep hoping to find new ways and means that I haven't thought of, read about, or viewed before.  There are only so many new ideas in the world but it is always amazing to me just how many people post a video of themselves talking and talking yet never say much of substance. Or they have something important or useful to say but instead of saying it and moving on they say the same things 20 times over in a 10 minutes video. I would far rather read a good blog that I can scan if necessary and zero in on the things of interest. I also like the sense of support and camaraderie that a blogging community can provide.

On youtube and I gather other social media, I'm learning that people can at times be very negative and hurtful to others and at times it can be downright dangerous.  It is not a good idea to post photos, location information and very personal information on the world wide web for anyone who wants to to view and consume as they see fit.  Even those of us who just post photos face the constant danger of keeping your photos within your ownership.  Every day people scan the internet and steal the works and art of others. I don't bother to try and protect my photos much but the other day I was scanning some websites and I came across my photo in a local news article from a reputable paper on line and there was absolutely no credit given. I myself use photos from the newspapers but I always credit the author or creator when I know who it is. That is just common courtesy.

I think it is better to be somewhat discreet on line though not everyone shares my view and even though I think the way I do, I still have lapses in judgement and application of my "rules".   I especially think it is good to be discreet and use wisdom when posting photos of people and especially of your children or other people's children.  This is basically an invasion of people's privacy. That is why I rarely post people pics or pics of myself for that matter. I have noticed that there are some people who are careful not to show faces of children or other people and I commend them for that. Those of you who follow and read me know I have posted photos in the past of family or those we help in missions. I have certain criteria for doing so (example, my family members post on line or a child's photo when they are too young for recognition). I also post photos of those we help in Africa though am even more conflicted about that. I really don't want to downgrade the dignity of the people and yet I want to educate or raise awareness of the conditions so that others might be positively influenced to help.  When I post about Africa, I try not to give precise location information though I do need to give some details to help situate things.

Anyway, I'm digressing. It is because I just got off of youtube and was a bit distracted, smile.

Without further ado, here is my menu for the coming week.(By the way. I posted a link to the Curried Red Lentil Soup from last week's menu. It was my first time making this dish and it was so delicious. It will be a new favourite and so easy to make as long as you have the spices and red lentils on hand).

In making my shopping list this week I see there are sales on the beef and pork I intend to use. Also I see there are some great prices on chicken so I'm buying just a bit more than needed for another week.


Breakfast - Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch -  Leftovers
Dinner - Beef Stroganoff, green salad


Breakfast - Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch -Boiled eggs, strawberries, apple chunks, cheese (pack to church)
Dinner - Roast pork with roasted sweet potato/parsnip "chips", kale salad


Breakfast -  Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch - Pork sandwich on lettuce leaf instead of bread
Dinner - Spaghetti & Meatballs, romaine salad, strawberries & kiwi


Breakfast - Waffles & banana
Lunch - Tuna salad sandwich on rye bread
Dinners - Stirfry (with left over pork), fruit salad


Breakfast - Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch - Vegetable soup, rye bread
Dinner -Roast Chicken & Veggies


Breakfast - Fruit pancakes (using leftover fruit in freezer)
Lunch - Salmon Chowder or Potato Leek Soup, fruit
Dinner - (Leftover from last week) Turkey with stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts or green beans


Breakfast - Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Basa Fish with creamed corn and green veggies

* Snacks - bananas, green smoothie, yogurt, peanut butter on rye crackers

Bon appetit!
Here's to another week of healthier eating.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

One Day This Week

Credit: Photo and quote from QuotesTree

The hooded clouds, like friars,
Tell their beads in drops of rain.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Joining Skywatch Friday here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Memories & Music

Hello friends,

How are you today?

It is a beautiful sunny day here at last so I intend to catch a few rays before they disappear.

My post is brief today after such a long one last time. I will finish responding to commenters later today or tomorrow.

In the meantime, instead of sharing a photo of a bright sunny day I will share with you some beautiful cowboy art set to one of the best voices I've ever heard for all around soothing music in the country genre.

I was listening to this wonderful singer on Saturday while I cleaned the kitchen cabinets.

It brought back a lot of memories of when I was a teenager and my siblings and I would be babysitting every Saturday night (and more often too). It also brought back lovely memories of Kenya. Believe it or not, the music of Don Williams, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton is very popular in many parts of Africa, including Kenya.

When I was babysitting, I would also watch television or listen to music as most teenagers do.  Lots of times the parents had a wonderful music collection of all kinds of country artists.  Included in one household was the music of Don Williams. The song I've chosen to share is one of my favourites of his because though the words may depict someone who is on the razor's edge of depression, he is also believing in God and holding on to the promise of a better day coming.  The music itself is fast paced and very upbeat and makes me want to dance for joy. (As an aside, there is also a video on youtube which shows Don Williams' visit to Zimbabwe. If you'd like to see it you can see it here . It is a 1 hour documentary. If you can't watch it all, at least watch the first 3 minutes. It will touch your heart).

This video features some fantastic cowboy art too which I thought might be fun for some of you. I am not a cowgirl but I grew up in cowboy country.  Many of my relatives were rodeo fans. I also have a few cowboys in the family, the youngest being one of my nephews.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thoughts on January so Far

Even though you're growing up, you should never stop having fun.
Nina Dobrev
(Bulgarian-Canadian actress)

Hi friends,

I've had a very busy few weeks and yet I've been feeling oh so tired. In some ways I've got a lot done and in other ways not.

Each year I find the months between November and end of February hard to take and especially January and February. I live in a place where we get so little sunshine over that period and by January I am really feeling it. This year I think more so than usual.

These kinds of days are still a few months away.

I've already done a lot of reading this month since I haven't been up for a lot more.

Here is a good book if you are interested in adventure to other lands or if you have an interest in elephants.

I've also done a lot of organizing in terms of setting myself up with things I need to move forward in the coming months: a stash of material to make a few items for my mother, a summer wardrobe that I've been pulling together over the last few months (almost done), a few additions to the winter wardrobe and replenishing linens and towels. It feels good to get these things out of the way. Bit by bit I've been also making my way through the house getting things tidied. I've got bigger ideas for moving things around but that will take a bit more time.

I found I haven't been sleeping well at all this month and my body really feels it. Then I started taking Vitamin D3. I don't know if that helps with sleep at all but since we don't get a lot of sunshine for many months where I live, I know supplementation is a must.  I think it is working already. After just a few days supplementation, I got the urge to start cleaning my kitchen cabinets and reorganizing them. Trust me, this is a job I don't like doing.  It is very hard to reach deep into and even to see into the backs of these cabinets. So as you can imagine, it is a job that very much needs doing and one has to feel like doing it. I'm glad I'm feeling like it now so I don't waste the sunny days to come with cleaning the cabinets, lol. Here is a link to read more about Vitamin D3 supplementation in case you might need it too.

I was inspired by seeing some videos of young women who totally organize their homes (I thought I was organized).  Seriously, I personally think people have too much stuff (myself included). Since I travelled to Africa many years ago now and experienced just how little so many people have, I've learned that we really don't need that much to live on a day to day basis. Food, shelter and a few garments are the key things besides family and friends. 

Over the ensuing years since my first visit to Africa, I determined that I needed to downsize my "stuff" and have been doing so bit by bit.  I do have to buy and replace things when they break or get worn out.  Add that to "stuff" I see and think it will help me organize or I can use it in a new recipe, and so on , and it does make it a bit more challenging to get to a good point of balance with "stuff".  I keep trying.  Knitting supplies and fabrics and all the tools required to make anything with these materials are what I tend to spend on besides food and household related items.  Yarn and fabric are  things I need to buy new if I want to make things.  (I gave up on buying used yarns because of the problems of not having enough to make any real projects I wanted.  Now I buy new yarns and fabrics on sale as much as possible.  It can take up quite a lot of time to build up the yarn stash and yet it still takes so much room to store until you have enough to start working with. I truly don't have space so I've had to purchase some baskets and try to limit myself to the colour batches I am going to use in future.  The challenge is to use these things and not just let them become clutter.  Some of you will remember that I also inherited a lot of fabric and craft items from my mom when she moved into care.  Though I did get rid of a lot, I still have a lot that I kept.  All the medical type equipment takes all the space in my downstairs storage unit and then some. I also have many of her papers and my dearly departed sister's papers and personal mementos too. I hope to give a lot of this to her son when he is settled down post education years.

Though I am fairly organized I do still have areas of too much clutter. It happens easily in a small home when you have a number of different collections, and if, like me you are keeping things that belong to others.  I need to keep better organized in some areas.  One area that needs a better set up is in my kitchen with spices and canned and dried goods.  I don't have a pantry or a closet or garage where I could store food.  So I have no choice but to make the best use of one awkwardly placed and shaped kitchen cabinet. It is the only real place I have to store food.

If I had a pantry like the one in this video  I would have no issues with keeping my kitchen tidy.  The woman in the video  is an organizational expert and has lots of wonderful ideas. However she has so much space in her house that very little of what she does can apply to someone in a small space like me. I can still learn a little from her and from some others on youtube and see how I can use the ideas in a more modest way. Virtually everyone who has a video on youtube to organize small kitchens has far more cabinets than I do, and a pantry to boot. Alternatively they are living in a pied a terre and I don't fit into either of those categories.

I went to Dollarama Friday and bought several containers.  I don't know exactly how many I might need so for now I bought 4 large and 4 medium and I think I am going to need at least 4 more medium containers.  That is probably all that will fit into my cabinet anyway along with the canned goods.  I may also purchase some fabric "boxes" to put a lot of my canned goods.  Some of the cans are currently "hiding" underneath a stand alone cabinet in my kitchen. If I put them in neat little boxes they perhaps go above the cabinets.  It is warm up there so they probably wouldn't last so long but this will accomplish two things:  using them up more quickly and  putting an end to my stock piling.  The meal planning I started recently is going to help a lot with both of these goals. 

I also spent time the other night re-arranging other kitchen cabinets so I can ultimately clear more of the counter space.  It is very difficult to do since I have so cabinet and counter space overall but every little bit of improvement helps.  I  moved my coffee pot closer to the kitchen sink where I can easily dump the grounds into the garburator without dripping on the floor. 

Starting in February all grounds and food scraps need to go to the common compost for pick up by the city each week. This is a new rule of the City Council to help conserve the environment. I totally agree with the change but it is expensive proposition for the City.  Taxes go up when things get expensive and there is the problem of rodents if the garbage is not picked up often enough.  I guess what I'm saying is I'm not really sure how sustainable this program will be. I read recently that another municipality in the area started garbage compost collection twice a week.  They've already had to reduce compost pick up to once a week when they realized how expensive it going to be.

Soon our City Council and provincial  government also want to have us vote on building yet another skytrain (above ground remotely operated trains). This again means more tax hikes and we've just paid for a new skytrain on another route and and all the other structural upgrades for the recent winter Olympics.  We've also just paid for significant highway construction and upgrades.  I am just not feeling up to paying for yet another skytrain though I really would like one. Increases to strata fees and special building levies come for me like clockwork every winter and so it is a lot to contend with when it all happens in a short space of time. It will be interesting to see if the property owners of Vancouver vote for or against the new skytrain because I know pretty much everyone would like one despite the cost.

The good news is my pension is indexed so I got an increase this month. The bad news is the cost of everything has gone up and there is more to come. In these kind of circumstances where I feel pressed, I do everything I can to remind myself just how blessed I truly am and I am grateful to have a small raise which I know many people do not get.

I'm going into my 2nd week with the menu planning. I have to say it is working out very well and I'm enjoying it so far. I also noticed that my blood glucose levels have already improved and rather than worrying about them getting too high, I have to watch that they don't go too low. Getting too low is more scary to me than getting too high though high blood glucose over the longer term is definitely not good. When I go too low I end up eating stuff that isn't too healthy just to bring my blood glucose back up.  I'm sure that as I continue I will find a happy medium for just the right way to eat. I am pleased with myself and think I've found a new tool to help manage my diabetes.

I started the weekend shopping for containers for dry goods. Saturday I shop for fabric to make mom a skirt.  I will also take in the new movie "Selma" about civil rights leader Martin Luther King. Sunday is fellowship  and I look forward to seeing friendly faces at church. In between I'm doing a lot of things that most of you have to deal with every day as well: cooking, cleaning, catching up with correspondence and telephone calls. I don't have any social planned for tomorrow like I often do. I feel like taking in a movie on my own because I have errands to run afterward. I just find it easier that way.

My post started with a quote about having fun. Sometimes I need to remind myself to have fun especially when I'm feeling tired and a bit down because of constant gray skies. Today I made my own fun. While I made dinner I listened to music in my kitchen using my phone and mini-speakers. This is so simple and something I never do though I know a lot of people do.  I'm hoping to listen to music in the kitchen more often. Mostly I listen when I am sitting at my desktop with the headphones on.  I may need different mini-speakers because the ones I have don't have very good volume. Or perhaps I can simply dig out my small radio from the emergency kit I've prepared and listen to the radio.

Tomorrow I will have fun getting out and about and seeing a movie. I'll also feel like I've accomplished something when I get the fabric for mom's skirt. Next I have to make a sewing day later this week as I now have 3 full slips and one long skirt to make.

Whatever your plans are, I hope you too have fun. Before I know it the winter here will be coming to an end.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Beautiful Skies

The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through. 
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Menu Plan

Here is another week's menu plan.  If you'd like to see my last menu plan you can see it here.

I'm leaning more toward more vegetable based dishes this week.  All vegetable dishes this week are new to me except for the Red Pepper soup which I've made before (see photo below).  I plan to look to look for a few more tasty vegetable based dishes to make which I hope to add to my repertoire. It might take awhile to find just the right vegetable based dishes.

There are so many places to find good recipes on line that it can be time consuming. Here are some links to find healthy food recipes if you too are looking to plan healthier meals. I'll be making my way through them bit by bit.

I got these links from MyFitnessPal and in the past came across several of these links looking for recipes to try.

So how did week 1 go with the meal plan?

I think it went quite well. I did find it a bit labour intensive as I had a lot of different things on the menu. For the most part I had many of the main ingredients on hand and only needed to shop once.  Frankly, I just don't eat that much for lunch and dinner so I skipped one or two lunches from my first menu plan. Though I am working on trying to eat more in the morning for health reasons it will be a challenge for me.

In my effort to make sure I eat something for breakfast other than cereal, I baked muffins twice this week.  The second time I made more of them to freeze ahead for breakfasts on days when I'm in a hurry.  Most days I will eat hot oatmeal with goji berries (for sweetener).  Sometimes I add nuts. Lunches will consist of leftovers and sometimes a new thing thrown in here and there with a salad or fruit to round things out.

The cooking routine and time for preparation and cooking should also get easier as I get used to the new routines and new recipes.  I do know how to make many dishes without a recipe however I am trying to achieve: a consistent diet, a more balanced diet and one that isn't laden with carbs. This will involve looking for new low carb recipes for breakfast that don't require me to eat a lot of meat. So far the recipes I've found require too much effort so I will keep researching.

My meal plans start on a Saturday rather than Sunday like most people. Sunday seems to be the day when most people commence their menu plans.  My choice of Saturday had more to do with when I had time to draft a plan  than anything else.  In the past my big shopping was done on Wednesdays and Thursdays before the weekly sales ended and the new ones would begin. This may change too. I'll know more as I move forward.

I will be trying to sit down with the flyers next time to plan the menu.I don't intend to post every menu on my blog only my first several attempts as I work it out and see how it is going. I'm realizing that I like the freedom that comes with not having to worry or plan what to eat every day since it is already planned out. If I don't feel like eating something, I can simply switch the menu from one day to another. Making the turkey was a good idea too. Though it was quite a skinny bird, there was more than enough left over for freezing and for making soup.


Breakfast - Whole Wheat Pancakes or Waffles with banana
Lunch -  Red Pepper Soup
Dinner - Pot Roast & Roast Vegetables, salad 

Red Pepper Soup


Breakfast -  Muffins or leftover waffles
Lunch - sliced beef and green salad
Dinner - Stuffed bell peppers (using brown rice & leftover roast beef)

Breakfast - Cranberry - Lemon Muffin
Lunch -Egg salad, mixed cut vegetables
Dinner - Chickpeas, Spinach, Squash Gnocci 


Breakfast - Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch - Salmon Chowder, cut veggies
Dinner - Eggplant & Chickpea Stew


Breakfast - Cranberry Muffin
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner -Spaghetti & Meatballs, romaine salad


Breakfast - Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch - Greek salad?
Dinner - Chili, cornbread or cornmeal muffins


Breakfast - Cranberry Muffin
Lunch - Green smoothie, salmon or tuna salad
Dinner - Curried Lentil Soup, home made dinner rolls

Snacks * yogurt, fruit, green smoothies, crackers/cheese

African Music & Happenings