Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yarn-wrapped wreath

A quick DIY for the door to replace the winter wreath I made last year. The wreath form was found at a garage sale for 25¢, the yarn was from my mom's collection, and the buttons were scrounged. The most expensive part, by far, was the three sheets of purple paper I bought from Michael's, at 89¢ per sheet. I had wanted to make the flowers from upcycled felt, but couldn't find any purple... To be honest, I'm not in love with the flowers, and might replace them if some felt comes along, but until then I'm just happy to have some colour on the door.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring, unsprung.

I hope the seeds we planted yesterday don't mind this little snowfall...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day

This year we spent Earth Day starting to plant our vegetable garden.

Last year, we were lucky enough to spend Earth Day in the splendour of some of the most dramatic natural scenery on earth... We finished up our California roadtrip in Yosemite National Park, a place of stunning granite cliffs, roaring waterfalls, and towering red pines.

No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls
seems to glow with life... as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had
gathered her choicest treasures...
—John Muir 

To escape the hoards we hiked up to the viewpoint for Nevada Falls and Half Dome, past the busy viewpoint a bit farther down at Vernal Falls. Part of the trail we took was buried under snow, which made for a rather heart-stopping ascent as we scrambled up the steep snow-face (actually, the descent was far worse) but, as always, it was well worth it. 

The exquisite sight, sound, and smell of wilderness is many times more powerful
if it is earned through physical achievement, if it comes at the end of a long and
fatiguing trip for which vigorous good health is necessary. Practically speaking,
this means that no one should be able to enter a wilderness by mechanical means.
—Garrett Hardin, The Ecologist, February 1974

Friday, April 20, 2012

Weeknight hike, complete with bear!

One of the many things I love about Ottawa is the proximity to great hiking. Take last night for instance. Weekends are usually the time for hiking, but when you can get from door to trail in twenty minutes, and the sun doesn't set until about 8pm, why not get out for a hike after work?

The Promenade de la Gatineau isn't open until early May, so we parked in P3 by the gate and set out on the paved trail, detouring as soon as possible onto the first earthen trail. We met up with the end of a service road where there is a man-made mound with a fenced-in station of some sort. Curious, we walked to the top of this mound and there, across the grassy green was a big, healthy-looking black bear! Heart rates immediately through the roof, I did a quick scan. Phew! No baby bears. (My nightmare: big bear in front, little bear behind me... and me, monkey in the middle...) Though the bear seemed quite unperturbed by our presence, and may have allowed us to observe him from a distance for a while, I didn't want to contribute in any way to his habituation. So we slowly and discreetly made our way back down the slope, and joined trail #66 which ran off the service road.

Nerves slightly on edge for the remainder of the hike, we made sure to keep up our chatter up, since we hadn't brought our bear bell. In all honesty, I hadn't even thought of it, since in all the times I've hiked in Gatineau Park, I've never seen a bear. (And I wish I had some photos of the bear, but it wasn't my primary concern at the time!) 

Two deer startled us (and/or we startled them) as they dashed through the forest, white tails high. Nerves no less on edge, and the setting sun dimming our beautiful forest setting, we were slightly relieved to reach the Promenade, where we didn't have to worry about where trail #66 would end up (since it's neither on our winter map nor our summer map, yet there are blue signs on the trees). While walking down the shoulder of the Promenade, we could marvel at the speed of the cyclists whizzing past, and enjoy the rest of this beautiful evening.

Mark's phone has a super-cool tracking feature!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Raw brownies and kale chips

How about sweets first, then the salty. My friend SV made a batch of these brownies when I was over for one of our feasting marathons, and I was hooked. They are unbelievably scrumptious, but may cause a food processor burnout. Mine nearly ground to a halt trying to blend up the sticky sticky dates, but any struggle is well worth it.

The Raw Brownie
Recipe from My New Roots

2 cups whole walnuts
2.5 cups dates
1 cup raw cacao
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ tsp sea salt

1. Place walnuts in food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground.
2. Add the cacao and salt. Pulse to combine.
3. Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like cake crumbs, but that when pressed, will easily stick together (if the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates).
4. In a large bowl (or the pan you plan on putting the brownies in), combine the walnut-cacao mix with the chopped almonds. Press into a lined cake pan or mold. Place in freezer or fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are very cold). Store in an airtight container.

I am loving all the amazing recipes featuring kale lately (Adrienneats has posted a lot of awesome ones, this one's one of my favourites). Salads I get, but chips? From kale? Really? I was so curious to try them. And when I finally did, I can see why they're so popular! I would describe their texture as crispy, but too delicate to call crunchy. Because they're so crumbly, like a dry autumn leaf, I imagine storing them in a jar is best, but mine never made it past the cookie sheet...

Kale Chips
Recipe adapted Feather + Anchor

Curly kale
Olive oil
Sea salt
*Other optional toppings: soy sauce, sesame seeds, cayenne pepper, ground pepper etc.

1. Tear kale into small pieces and drizzle with oil, salt, and any other toppings you wish, and toss until coated. As Erin mentions, keep the oil/liquids to a minimum (I made a batch with too much soy sauce, and they took a lot longer to dry out) and place on a cookie sheet in a single layer without overlapping edges.
2. Bake in a 200º oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the kale is dry and crispy. 
3. Feast.

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's a sprouting miracle!

I've tried sprouting in the past, but with no success. But after many years, I thought I'd give it another go. And I was met with success, but after a rather random and hodge-podge process...

I have a mason jar with a sprouting lid (screen), which always gives me drainage issues. No different this time. The gelatinous membrane that surrounds the soaked seeds plugs up the screen before I can fully drain them. Not helpful. I've tried various ways to get the water out of the jar (from the angle I tip the jar, to gently tapping on the screen to remove the stuck seeds, to frenzied, vigorous shaking...), but inevitably I can't get all the water out, and the seeds are always sitting in water. Even so, I did notice after some days that little sprouts were starting to emerge from some of the seeds. So they were germinating, but they needed better aeration.

We were going away for Easter weekend, and I was tempted to bring the sprouting jar with us so I could tend to them twice daily (not kidding), but instead we decided to pour the entire contents of the jar onto a paper-towel covered plate and leave it in the sun. We added water until there was a good puddle, to minimize the seeds drying out, but unsurprisingly, when we returned three days later, the seeds were baked onto the paper towel. It looked and felt very much like a large flatbread cracker. We were both certain that we'd killed the delicate sprouts, but thought, what the hey, we've got nothing to lose, so we added some water and somehow... impossibly, a day or so later, there was this:

And then a few days later, this:

Perhaps it only seems miraculously to me, because I don't know what I'm doing, and I wasn't expecting much to happen. But I was flabbergasted. I wish I understood the process more so I could replicate this success, but in a more intentional way. But, no matter how I got here, I've got tasty arugula sprouts! Delicious on salads, wraps, burgers... anything!

We've been re-watering the plate when the paper towel gets dry, and they've been doing great for a good week now! I'm not sure if I should expect them to grow any taller (currently about an inch high). I would love to hear any and all sprouting stories! Please share any sprouting wisdom/tips/hints; I could definitely use more info.

UPDATE: After a minimal amount of internet searching, it turns out that arugula seeds are "mucilaginous" which means they form that gelatinous membrane around them, and they shouldn't be sprouted in a jar (though my seed packet directed me so... argh). So now I know why I was having so much trouble and am encouraged to try again.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


We missed it again. Last year we tried to see Luskville Falls at it's spring run-off peak, but missed it. This year, same thing. But it was a lovely hike regardless.

Monday, April 9, 2012


On branches and in flower beds, under and around the detritus of last year's withered blooms, life is pulsing. It doesn't really seem like much is happening, but silently, discretely, the landscape is changing from brown to green, as new shoots are beginning to peek through the soil. Stems and leaves reaching skyward, unfold; unfurl.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Earth evening

Earth Hour seems like the perfect time to start reading Thich Nhat Hanh's "The World We Have."
I think I need to start reading by candlelight much more often.

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do
to the web, we do to ourselves. All things
are bound together. All things connect.

                                                                       — CHIEF SEATTLE, 1855

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


A day off is wonderful. A day off in Montreal, partaking in as many of the gastronomical delights that I can get in my belly, is even more wonderful.

At Kazu, I had an incredible salad with the most tender and scrumptious tuna/salmon. Pure heaven. I'm not surprised Kazu has such a great rating on Urbanspoon, or that there was a line-up outside waiting for the place to open at noon. It's most definitely worth waiting for. I was so sad when that salad was over...

Bagels at St-Viateur (always super yum; I love the mathematically impossible fifth quarter of bagel they serve you, plus the bucket of cream cheese that accompanies it). Then hot chocolate and almond pastries from Caffè Art Java while we read for a while.

We had hoped to have dinner at the vegan restaurant Aux Vivres, but the hour-long line-up told otherwise. We wandered, dejected, back to St-Denis, and found Mouton Noirs, which was fantastic! Dejected no more! Mark tried their signature lamb, and I had a tasty, tasty salad. And had we not been about to drive back to Ottawa, we would most certainly have apported votre vin from the conveniently located SAQ across the street.

We did things other than eat too! We shopped a bit, and walked quite a bit. But mostly just to get us from metro stations to the various eating stops...