Sunday, June 28, 2009

Here's to the end of June!

Ahhh, how time flies when Summer's in the air, bees are a-buzzing, flowers are blooming, and birds are sing-songing! My days have included going to farmer's markets, more berry picking (get your strawberries before they're all gone!), lounging in the sun, getting a few more pots of plants for the deck (including some deliciously fragrant herbs!), experimenting in the kitchen, and finishing up at nutrition school, the end of which saddens me quite a bit. It's so important to find a community of like-minded individuals, and when people share a hopeful, nurturing attitude towards the earth and our future on it, it's deeply inspiring and feels absolutely wonderful! I hope we can all start connecting more in our efforts to make life a little greener, a little simpler, a little more compassionate :) 

One place that reminds me of this simple, old-fashioned kind of life is Fort Langley, a small historical town that is always fun to visit and stroll around in, soaking up the atmosphere and feeling any stress melt away. It's the perfect place for wearing big flowery hats, long dresses, and anything with ribbons :) There's some tasty gelato to be had also, and several antiques shops if that catches your fancy. 

Coming up, there will be lots of raspberries to pick and eat, as well as tomatoes, cherries, more nugget potatoes, and leafy greens. I had some delicious spelt pancakes yesterday, with jam and honey from Krause Farms. It was a bit of a sugar overload, but delightful and delicious nonetheless :) 

Oh, and another festive event going down this weekend and other days to come is the Vancouver Jazz Festival. There are plenty of free outdoor performances, mainly on Granville Island and in Gastown this weekend, and this event is always fun if you're a fan of music or summer festivals. 

Here's hoping everyone's end of June is full of joy and light!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

What a great day to honour our dads and show them some much needed appreciation :) One way of doing this is to have some delicious buttermilk pancakes! Some farmer's markets offer these up, but you could also make your very own in the comfort of the kitchen. Then maybe take them outside to savour in the fresh air, surrounded by some greenery :) Here is a recipe for buttermilk cornmeal pancakes:

1 cup flour
1 cup organic cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
  1/2 tsp coarse salt
   3 tbs sugar
   2 large eggs, lightly beaten
   3 cups buttermilk
               4 tbs unsalted butter, melted, plus 1/2 tsp for griddle

1. Place skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tbs melted butter, and whisk to combine. The batter should have small to medium lumps. 

2. Using a ladle, pour the batter in pools two inches apart. When the pancakes bubble on top and are slightly dry around the edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on the bottom, about one minute. 

Have a wonderful, festive day!

P.S. This photo is from UBC Farm - simply gorgeous!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pretty Crane

Oops, it's been a while, hasn't it? I've been busy acquiring tomato plants for the first time ever, dropping my jaw in Eco-Nutrition class (the name of my textbook is 'The End of Food', sigh), and eating delicious strawberries from Krause Berry Farms (have I mentioned they open today? if I could, I would run over there right now to pick some more yummy berries, but that will have to wait til Saturday). I am gradually trying to eat more seasonally and to be more mindful of the origins of my food. 

An interesting exercise to try is to go to your regular supermarket and figure out the origin of 5 food items, including the country and region. It's really not as easy as it seems. Packaged products are especially tricky as they will tell you the address of the company, but of course not where the "food" actually came from. And then there are bulk items, such as nuts and grains. And what about bread? Where were the wheat and other assorted grains actually grown? Then you can try finding 5 local items, grown somewhere not very far from where you live. In a supermarket, that is very tricky. Thankfully, at this time of the year it's very fun and important to go to a farm or two yourself, or to a farmer's market. There's nothing better than connecting with the origins of your food and eating from garden/farm to plate. It's also a very important political statement as you are supporting small farmers rather than transnational corporations. 

Now for the picture :) This was taken at Reiffel Bird Sanctuary, where the Sandhill Crane seems to live quite happily. I don't think I've ever seen a bird that big and graceful before. 

Last Sunday was also Car-Free day, which is not only great for the environment but it also brought out tons of community spirit and togetherness that we rarely seem to experience anymore. Hooray for community! 

I hope everyone gets to eat some lovely red berries this weekend. There are still many lettuces in season, as well as yummy nugget potatoes (try roasting them with red onion, olive oil, rosemary, coarse salt), radishes, spinach, rhubarb...and there is so much more just waiting to burst with life and flavour and earthy goodness! 

There's no better time than now to eat seasonally and locally :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Paradise Found...

...and conveniently located at my old university campus :) UBC Farm is a little speck of heaven here on earth - as soon as I walked into this glorious space I felt embraced by nature and utterly rejuvenated. This was the year's first market day and there was a lineup before the official opening time, people were so excited to get their fresh veggies! 

There is lots to report and I will post a full recap later. For now, I just want to say that this is a must-visit - seeing everything flourishing, the chickens running about, the bees busy at work, the wildflowers, the big green trees protecting the perimeter, the dragonflies and butterflies...nature in gorgeous harmony and so tranquil (yet always busy growing!)....ahhh :) Life is nice :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Berry Picking - Hooray!

These days, many people are asking where they can go to pick healthy, wholesome, spray-free berries. Strawberries are hiding just around the corner, almost ready to be...well, devoured :) The key is finding a good local farm to meet our berry-eating needs. The biggest misconception is that you have to go somewhere that has organic certification. Only large farms that sell to corporations can afford to pay for the certification. Nowadays, there are many farms growing "certified organic" produce simply because there is such a hot market for them, yet the farms themselves are still industrial, heavily mechanized, may exploit workers, and may not employ sustainable farming methods. Though the produce may be "organic", the way in which it came into the world still feeds into the exploitative, industrial model which puts emphasis on the end result rather than on how it got there. 

Smaller local farms are often run by families who are intimately connected with their land and put a lot more care and love into their crops. The best way to figure out which farm is best for you is by making a list of the local options and then visiting them one by one, getting a feel for the place and tasting the goods :) Sometimes you can even meet the farmers and really get to know exactly where your food comes from. 

In the greater Vancouver area, my favourite place for berry picking is Krause Berry Farms. Not only are they extremely ethical and deeply respectful of the land which they farm, but their berries are out of this world! Going berry-picking there is like a little trip to paradise. They also have a little bakery and you can sit on the porch eating shortcake, pies, and old-fashioned milkshakes if that's what your heart desires! I love the energy of the place and greatly look forward to going there again this summer. 

Krause Berry Farms aims to open on June 18, as long as the weather cooperates :) That's in just a short week! I will take my camera on my first day out there and take lots of pictures of delectable, sunshine loving, wholesome strawberries :) And I will eat them! 

UBC Farm Market!

What gorgeous days we've been dabbling in! I hope everyone is getting to savour them as summertime does tend to fly by very quickly! I have been trying to treasure these lovely moments and linger outside, surrendering to the tranquility of nature rather than running off trying to be productive :)

This Saturday, June 13 UBC Farm is having its very first market day of the year! There will be farm tours, speakers, live music, a 100-Mile Pancake breakfast, children's activities, baked goods, local artisans, and of course lots of fresh wonderful food! It definitely sounds like an event not to be missed! The hours are from 9-1pm so come out early to enjoy all the festivities and celebrate the farm :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Happy Go Lucky

I recently watched the film Happy-Go-Lucky, starring Sally Hawkins as Poppy - an ever optimistic, cheerful, and energetic primary school teacher who brings a very unique attitude and way of being to life and to her way of relating to other people. Somehow, she always chooses to stay positive and buoys herself and others up even when things seem evidently bleak. This doesn't really sound terribly fascinating or special perhaps, but the way in which her character is gradually revealed is beautiful. 

At the beginning of the film Poppy is a force to take in, as she insists on always being "on" - cracking jokes nonstop, waving at people she does not know as she leisurely rides her bicycle, never letting the big grin drop from her face even when said bicycle gets stolen. Her sunshiny persona and flamboyant outfits do not seem to fit her surrounding environment, but what appears initially jarring, odd, and almost over-the-top is gradually transformed in our eyes as the film forces the audience to change its perception. Poppy is not cheerful the way a salesperson is cheerful, nor is she using her constant bubbly-ness as a buffer to protect her from the harshness of reality - as we get to know her better, we see how kind, intelligent, and compassionate she is. Rather than forcing the people around her to fit some kind of perfect, happy mold, she accepts all the she comes across without judgement, all while remaining true to her own spirit. When one of the students in her class becomes violent with the other kids, she shows such genuine care, compassion, and kind patience with him that we understand her motivations and world-view more clearly - she chooses to live with true optimism, cheer, and grounded energy but she never shuts the world out to maintain some kind of fantasy for herself. Instead, she sees the world more clearly because she refuses to judge or force it to change. She embraces the life around her, even when it seems scary and painful, and often this brings out the soul and humanity of those who have buried them or simply lost hope. 

It's odd to think about how rare a film like this is - a comedy that is a character study featuring little more than people's day to day interactions. More-so, a comedy that is about genuine happiness and optimism motivated by kindness and innocence. Here, laughter is not a coping mechanism to soften the blows of a harsh world, but a celebration of all the beauty and music that exists even in bleak places. It is always our choice whether we resist what happens and live with cynicism and dreariness, or whether we wake up to every day with hope, curiosity, and a genuine desire to live fully in the moment, embracing all that we come across without judgement and appreciating the freedom and joy that are always with us. 

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cool Treats

These hot days sure make me want to eat and drink all that is cooling and refreshing rather than the warming foods that I usually enjoy most. Typical summer refreshments include ice cream, iced cappuccinos, juice, popsicles, and alcohol of various kinds. Rather than going for these anti-nutrient rich items that dehydrate rather than nourish, it's great to get a bit more creative and make some healthy substitutions. 

My favourite cooling beverages include coconut water (the best thing for getting your electrolytes), freshly squeezed juice (or 100% pure juice diluted with some water), water with a bit of lemon/lime juice (also great for electrolytes), and iced herbal teas of all kinds (peppermint is especially refreshing). Fruit smoothies full of berries and a banana are also fantastic and very tasty. 

Ice cream is sooo good, there's no way that I would avoid it completely. One of my favourite places on the beach is a little gelato shop run by an Italian family that definitely puts quality first :) Their gelato is delectable and possibly one of the best desserts I've ever had. It is a treat though, not something to eat all the time :) Unless you go on an ice cream diet :) 

Since daily doses of ice cream may not be possible, some healthier alternatives include frozen bananas dipped in chopped nuts (and/or melted chocolate, yum!). This just reminds me of the frozen banana stand on 'Arrested Development' and makes it extra fun and enjoyable. An option in place of popsicles is to make your own using real fruit juice. Some people use ice cube trays that have fun shapes to make them extra entertaining for kids (I find them very entertaining also). Fruit can also be pureed, cut up into fun slices, and put on a stick to make it even more summery and exciting. I love fruit kabobs made with grapes, strawberries, and pineapple. Or apple. Or anything, I don't think there is any fruit that I do not like. This kabob may not be featuring seasonal eating, but it is a nice treat. 

These are just a few ideas to experiment with. Once we decide to get inventing and make things ourselves the possibilities are literally endless! 

Hope your summer is off to a tasty and beautiful start!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Wow, June is off to a hot start! The sun is shining bright, and everyone is flocking to the beach for some ice cream and outdoor ocean breeze-y refreshment! It's so lovely to go for a post-dinner walk by the ocean just as the sun is starting to lower and calmness is seeping into the end of the day. Ahh, the simple things in life :) 

Summertime always reminds me of childhood and the feeling of being carefree in the moment, not worrying about the future or other obligations because all that exists is the beauty and warmth and adventure of never-ending summer. It's such an expansive time, when the birds and flowers call for you to run outside and do whatever your sweet soul desires :) 

Welcome, Summer! And hooray for all this incredible sunshine!