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sotre isleI did a grocery shop today to get ready for my “Beyond Mr. Noodles” project. Knowing I only have $140 for the entire month of November resulted in an entirely different shopping experience from my usual. Everything seemed SO EXPENSIVE to me.

One of the first things that struck me is that you need money to save money. For instance, I wanted a package of frozen peas. If I bought two packages of them, I could get them for $2.00 a piece. But if I wanted to buy only one package, it would set me back about $2.29. I ran into a friend in the store who suggested I go shopping with someone else…they could take one bag of peas and I could take the other and we would pay $2.00 each. I’m trying to decide if that’s cheating. I think it kind of is.

The second thing that hit me was how expensive spices are. I ended up only buying iodized salt (the sea salt was more expensive) and ground pepper (as opposed to peppercorns, that again were more costly). I also purchased a can of sardines in spicy sauce, thinking I could use that sauce as a seasoning in other dishes I make. Other items I bought include:

1 bag brown rice – $2.27
1 bag black beans – $2.99
1 bag red lentils – $2.99
1 bag onions – $1.77
1 bulb of garlic – $0.72
5 carrots – Yukon grown – $1.29
1 box whole wheat spaghetti – $1.48
2 cans of sardines – $2.00 for both
1 green cabbage – $1.21
1 bunch cilantro – $0.97
Package of salt and pepper – $3.29

AND
1 5-pound organic chicken raised locally – $34

Yes I know. This last item is scary and it may totally backfire on me and stop me from completing the month. But I did set out to learn if I can, by shopping strategically, have at least some organic foods in my diet. I figure I am going to have to get at least 14 meals out of this one chicken to make it affordable. Let’s see how I do.

Total spent so far: $54.98

Total left for the month: $85.02

I am trying to figure out if I can afford to buy flour and baking powder so I can make tortillas. Other things on my wish list include salsa, apples, local free range eggs, and seeds for sprouting.

What craziness have I taken on here?

mr_noodlesCould you live on a food budget of $5 a day? Could I? That’s the challenge I am setting for myself for the month of November.

Why?

There are a myriad of reasons. But it all started with a package of Mr. Noodles. Actually, many MANY packages of Mr. Noodles.

I was helping out at the Whitehorse Food Bank recently, sorting through mounds and mounds of donated food. There was Kraft Dinner, instant rice and pasta packets, canned fruit and veggies…and hundreds of packets of Mr. Noodles. I remarked to a colleague that while this food might fill bellies, it certainly wasn’t what I would consider nutritionally sound, and it was likely pretty low on the enjoyment scale.

At the same time, I was hearing comments both in the media and in my own community about the high cost of organic food. I belong to the Potluck Food Co-op, and as much as I can, I try to choose food that has been raised or grown in a way that is earth friendly. On the surface it might appear more expensive than groceries in the big box stores, but it’s really not when you add in all the hidden costs of industrially produced food. That being said, if I am a single mom struggling to make ends meet each month, I’m probably not even thinking organic is remotely possible. Could I convince them otherwise?

My brain started working. Could I feed myself in a way that is good for both body and planet, and do it on a very limited budget?

Some research showed that a number of people in the U.S. have done this sort of thing. Some ate on $1 a day, but that was non-organic, only eating two meals a day, or using their skills as an extreme coupon clipper. When I looked at their diets, I wasn’t convinced that they were getting all the nutrients they needed.

I considered $2 a day. But not even that was realistic here in the North, given our higher food costs.

So I hit upon $5 a day.

It’s a pretty arbitrary number and I am not at all sure that I can manage on $5 a day. But I’m willing to take the plunge to find out. Here are the rules:

  • I have $140 to spend for the month. I can spend it all at once, $5 a day, or anything in between.
  • I can use coupons if I find any that are useful to me (often but not always, coupons are for pre-packaged foods that leave a lot to be desired in the nutrition department)
  • I can use food I already have in my cupboard or fridge/freezer, but I have to calculate how much it cost and subtract it from my $140.
  • Within the month, I can accept one evening out at a friend’s house to enjoy a meal, and I can partake in one work-related event that involves food. Apart from that, all my other meals must come from my grocery budget.
  • I can forage for food, although this is likely a moot point since I doubt I’ll find much in November in the Yukon.
  • All my spices and condiments that I use must also come out of my $140 budget.
  • I won’t ask my family to participate with me. Joe and Jamie will continue to cook and eat as they normally do. I may even help cook some of their meals, depending on what else is going on in the household at the time.

Have I forgotten anything? I’m open to any suggestions you have for inexpensive but healthy ingredients and recipes. I’m expecting to learn lots, and I hope you will follow along with me on this journey.  I will start on Nov. 2nd (Nov. 1st has already been scheduled as Joe’s birthday dinner and I am not willing to forego that) and will continue until I run out of money or until I make it to Dec. 1st. Wish me luck!

My oh my it’s been a while! Life has a way of taking over sometimes, with little to no time left to blog. Since I last posted:

1. Had a wonderful long week-end in Vancouver in September, enjoying the early fall there.

2. Booked a trip next spring to Istanbul!! So excited!

3. My grandson started walking :-)

4. Spent tonnes of time in my garden, harvesting and getting it ready for next year.

5. Been doing research for a new project in November, which I will tell you about very shortly. So do check back…I promise I won’t be absent so long next time.

marmoleumRenovations. How I dislike the chaos they require!

For the past few weeks we have been working around no washer and dryer, no toilet in the main bathroom, and all the contents from our family room and tiny spare bedroom smooshed into our larger spare and master bedrooms.

However the end is in sight. We now have an almost finished laundry room (still need to install shelving and baseboards), new flooring has been laid in the main bathroom, as well as in the family room and the tiny spare bedroom (out with the old carpet and in with some marmoleum that is the colour of the Caribbean Sea). Over the week-end I managed to get two coats of paint applied to the family room and one to the bedroom (a very pale blue in both rooms), and we are almost at the stage where we can start putting everything back together again.

Hopefully getting rid of the carpet will ease Joe’s dog allergies, which have been getting steadily worse over the summer. Some nights he can hardly breathe, so if this doesn’t work I will sadly need to start looking for a new home for Chanel. It will break my heart to see her go, so I am going to try everything possible to flush out the house. I also just bought an air purifier, hoping that might help.  Note: photo taken from this website.

Just returned from a holiday in Newfoundland, where I hiked parts of the East Coast Trail on the Avalon Peninsula. What a gift this trip was! I have been to the Rock a few times before, but mostly stayed within St. John’s. Having seen this part of the province was added proof of what a special place it is, and just how beautiful.

I arrived too late in the season to see the icebergs, although my friend Ted and I shared a scotch with 10,000 year old iceberg ice that he had collected a few weeks previous.  What I did see were dozens of whales! One day, sitting at the edge of a cliff looking over the ocean, whales were continuously breaching all around me. It was incredible, and it made my heart glad that these beautiful creatures seem to be doing OK in spite of all the garbage we humans are dumping into the oceans.

There are lots of photos on my Facebook page, which I have opened to the general public to view, but here are a few of them:

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This photo, of the old lighthouse at Cape Spear, was taken by my friend Ted Blades, who joined me for the last day and a half of the hiking.

This photo, of the old lighthouse at Cape Spear, was taken by my friend Ted Blades, who joined me for the last day and a half of the hiking.

By the way, I want to give a shout out to the East Coast Trail Association and the volunteers who do a fabulous job of maintaining this trail. Many thanks for all your hard work.

Joe and I just returned from a week in Juneau on the Alaska Panhandle. We went there in large part to witness a large Tlingit cultural gathering that takes place every two years. But apart from that, we enjoyed the stunning beauty of the place and the ferry rides there and back (complete with whales, seals, a rainbow as we headed into Juneau and a bald eagle sitting on the dock waiting for us as we arrived in port). Here are just a few shots…lots more on my Facebook page.

Our ferry was much smaller than these big cruise ships docked in Skagway.

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Party onboard…drumming and singing in one corner, traditional weaving in another, and lots of laughter and teasing.

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Merndenhall Glacier

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Tlingit travellers arrive in canoes for the big cultural celebration.

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One of the singing/dancing/drumming performances

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Southeast Alaska is definitely bear country!

My new ‘traffic cone orange’ shoes. I got them for my summer travels, since they pack down very small in the suitcase. But I have to admit…I love how over the top bright they are!

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Just now getting around to catching up on my blog posts. Last month, my friend Lucca and I headed to a little place called Friday Harbour on the San Juan Islands, Washington State, for a week-end. Pretty little place with very friendly people. I was reminded again of how difficult it must sometimes be for introverts to live in the United States, given that it appears to be a country full of outgoing and vivacious folks.

We spent the week-end just walking around, visiting the local farmers’ market, watching a local production of Annie (it was great!), and of course eating some tasty food and drinking wine!

Here are just a few pics from the trip:

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View of Friday Harbour.

DSCN4198It didn’t take us long to find the cheese shop, with a wonderful cheesecake with lemon curd. Mmmmmm!

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We stayed on a boat the first night, but it was a bit too funky and rustic for our taste, so moved to a hotel for Night 2.

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Took a taxi to the southeastern part of the island where we walked among
the old trees. I always feel better after being washed with ‘tree energy’.

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Lucca ignores the sign and parks herself on the railing at the beginning of the hiking trail.

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And look who came out to meet us at the end of the hike!

 

Cleaning out my camera’s memory card, I found these photos.

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Alan, holding Caleb, while Jamie looks on.

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Grampa Joe and Caleb look out the train window. We were travelling on the White Pass train out of Skagway, Alaska.

A couple of weeks ago, Iris and I headed down to Vancouver to catch Lady Gaga in concert. Unfortunately, the morning we were to leave we found out the Lady was sick and her gig was postponed until August. What to do?

We decided to go down anyway, and enjoyed a few days just hanging about in the city. I didn’t take many photos, but here are a few:

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This is the backyard of the friend we stayed with, complete with his beautiful Japanese-style meditation house. So peaceful!

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We spent a few hours at Granville market, where I bought a handmade broom. They made the brooms right there, and the smell of fresh hay was lovely!

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Glorious cherries from the market!

 

The company I work for is involved in a potential project that does not have much apparent support from Yukoners. Over the last several months, there have been letters to the editor and impassioned speeches at public meetings. Last night was one such meeting.

It’s no fun having person after person stand up to bash a project that I know was conceived with nothing but good intentions and lots of sweat and hard work. It’s also difficult to listen to statements made based (in some cases) on incorrect information. But all that aside, I am so proud to live in a place where people really care about issues and aren’t afraid to share their views.

I have lived in other places where I have seen a fair amount of apathy. I don’t think Yukoners can be accused of that.

Of course I have no way of knowing whether this project will end up proceeding or not. But either way, I hope that Yukoners never stop being passionate about what matters to them, and I hope they never stop caring about our little blue planet. xxx.

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I was standing in front of my open closet the other day looking for inspiration, and not getting much I am afraid. I haven’t bought any new clothes for a while, and truth be told I am bored with most of what I own.

Yesterday I did a big clean out, keeping only those things I still love and hauling off three bags to the local Salvation Army thrift shop. I bet if I did a further cull today I’d find another bag or two to donate.

While at the Sally Ann I did see one skirt that I liked and brought home with me…it reminded me of an old apron that my grandmother wore for years (I’m a sucker for anything reminiscent of the 50s) but it is a summer skirt so not going to help me out now. Time to get out the sewing machine I guess.  I’m not much for retail shopping (I find the quality leaves a lot to be desired even in the more expensive brands) and the pickings have been slim of late at the local consignment stores.

My new fairy tale books that I purchased with the money I received for being an Everyday Fluevogger.

My new fairy tale books that I purchased with the money I received for being an Everyday Fluevogger.

What a remarkable year we’ve just gone through…a grand baby who has given us great joy, trips to Ireland, San Francisco and the East Coast, one of the best summers and autumns weather-wise that I can remember, the realizing of a dream by helping to launch a local food co-op, some personal accomplishments on the yoga mat…so many good memories! And I am very excited about what lies ahead in 2014. Life just doesn’t get better than this!

Happy New Year everyone.

Christmas Day - our new born king!

Christmas Day – our new born king!

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There’s a reason people say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. However I couldn’t resist. This was at our staff Christmas party…we were the crew putting on our own version of the TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal”. I am of course the one with the full head of red hair.

Whoa! Can you believe these are Hush Puppies?? Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?

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I’ve been reluctant to post many photos of Caleb, since I don’t want to be one of THOSE grandparents who inundates my friends with hundreds of baby photos. However I have been asked for some, so here are a few.

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Madonna and child.

Madonna and child.

kitschy kitschy boom boom LizBeing the shoe addict that I am, I tend to buy the shoes first and then figure out what to wear with them.

I’ve been looking for some time for a dress or skirt to wear with my beloved Kitschy Kitschy Boom Booms. And yesterday I think I found the perfect match!

I went in to a local consignment store (to take in three pairs of shoes I was ready to say good-bye to), and I came across this skirt.

 

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The photo doesn’t do it justice. It’s a vibrant turquoise silk with lots of swish and swing. It was made by a local woman who used to be a designer. I love the fact that she used purple raw silk as part of the attached crinoline slip.

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What I don’t like is the waist band, which is made out of a stretchy material. It’s warped and the tailoring is not up to par.

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I’ll find a small piece of silk and replace the band. I also hemmed the skirt – she had finished it with a serger but had left it at that, and I don’t care for unhemmed clothes. In any event, when I’m finished with it, I think I’ll have a skirt that I love and that I’ll wear for years.

The arrival of a baby in the household is always an adjustment for everyone, including the family pet. Watch as Chanel meets Caleb for the first time.

What the heck is that??

What the heck is that??

It's not a squirrel. It's not any of the neighbourhood cats either, even though it sounds a bit like one.

It’s not a squirrel. It’s not any of the neighbourhood cats either, even though it sounds a bit like one.

Time for a closer look. I've never smelled anything like this before in my life!!

Time for a closer look. I’ve never smelled anything like this before in my life!!

You're  kidding me, right?? It's a human and IT'S STAYING??? And you think bribing me with cheese and extra walks is going to work?? MY LIFE IS RUINED!!!!

You’re kidding me, right?? It’s a human and IT’S STAYING??? And you think bribing me with cheese and extra walks is going to work?? MY LIFE IS RUINED!!!!

 

 

 

Mother-Son Love

Meet Caleb, born today at 10:41 a.m. Congratulations Iris and Wade!

Can't focus on a darned thing today, waiting for that baby to come. So I made some pickled beets as a detraction. Now what?

Can’t focus on a darned thing today, waiting for that baby to come. So I made some pickled beets as a distraction. Now what?

Still no baby, but here are some shots from Iris’ baby shower.

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I’m starting to work on a new project. This one will be some time in the making but the photo gives a hint as to what it’s about. I am also looking for as many people in Whitehorse as possible who wear and love Fluevogs and who are willing to be in a creative group photo featuring your footwear. Let me know if you are interested.

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Spent the day in Teslin yesterday at a big Tlingit First Nation celebration. Tlingit come from many parts of Alaska, B.C. and Yukon to celebrate their culture with song, dance, crafts, games, etc. Here are just a few images from the day:

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Note these woven blankets: they are made from goat’s wool. The yarn is hand spun, then hand dyed, then woven on a loom. It takes about two months to prepare the materials, and another 1 to 3 years to weave the blanket. Below is a photo of a woman working on a child’s version.

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Elder Paddy Jim teaches others how to make a fish trap out of willows.

teslin3teslin8Even my ice cream had a native motif! Note how it’s melting…it was a very hot day in Teslin.

DSCN3942There would have been boat races. However someone recently went missing in the lake and the body has not been recovered, so as per tradition there were no activities held on the water during this festival.

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Just a few thinnings from my veggie garden. I find instead of going hard at it, if I do a small bit of gardening every day I am able to keep up.

Just a few thinnings from my veggie garden. I find instead of going hard at it, if I do a small bit of gardening every day I am able to keep up.

Sorry for my long absence. I’ve just been so friggin’ busy!! I have so much more to say about Ireland. And our new grandchild who’s about to enter this world. And what a glorious summer we’ve been having. And other stuff too.

However, it’s a Friday night after a really crazy work week and I am brain dead. Stay tuned tomorrow after I’ve had a good night’s sleep!

Night all.

It’s probably no coincidence that it was Irish musician Bob Geldof who spearheaded Band Aid, raising something like $14-million for famine relief in Ethiopia in the 1980s. It’s also likely no coincidence that per capita, the Irish apparently give more money to famine relief than just about any other country in the developed world.

Ireland has had an intimate relationship with hunger. It wasn’t much more than 150 years ago that Ireland lost about a quarter of its population when the potato crops failed several years running.  About a million people died and another million emigrated to North America and other places around the world.

I won’t go into all the details about the cause of the famine. There’s a lot more to it than a bunch of rotten spuds but you can read about it on the web. Suffice to say this period in history has deeply marked the Irish people.

There are something like 15 famine monuments and museums around the country. I saw two of them; both were profoundly poignant and powerful.

Famine monument in Dublin. These folks appear to be leaving Ireland, walking towards the emigration ships at Dublin's Quayside.

Famine monument in Dublin.

Famine sculpture in Sligo, a town that suffered more than most in Ireland during the mid-1800s. These parents have scraped together money to send their child to America. There isn’t enough money for all of them to go; just the child. Here they are saying good-bye to her before she boards the ship.

I think of my own great-great grandmother Hannah Sarsfield, who apparently was able to secure a spot on a ship coming to Canada by offering to take care of one family’s children. It is said she didn’t have any food with her, and only survived because the ship’s navigator, my great-great grandfather James Coleman, took a shine to her, fed her, and ended up marrying her. Who did she leave behind to come to the New World, and what suffering did she endure? She was one of the lucky ones. On some boats, one in five people died during the journey. They didn’t call them Coffin Ships for nothing.

Contrast that with today, where no Irish B and B operator worth his or her weight in potatoes will send you out the door without a massive 1,450+ calorie breakfast. Below are examples of our ‘first course’, that consisted of fruits, breads, cereals, cheeses, etc. followed by a hot plate typically made up of eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, white pudding, beans, fried tomatoes, and sometimes mushrooms. In Northern Ireland, potato pancakes got added to that list.

The cold portion of the breakfast

The cold portion of the breakfast

The hot portion of the meal, and this one was actually modest compared to most others we were served.

The hot portion of the meal, and this one was actually modest compared to most others we were served.

When Joe and I protested that we couldn’t eat another thing, rubbing our rapidly expanding bellies, our hosts would say things like, “Well, you need a breakfast to keep you going all day”, and “Travelling around actually takes a lot of energy. We can’t see you going hungry.”

My theory is that this all leads back to the Great Famine. The Irish lived the unspeakable horrors of starvation, and to think about anyone going hungry these days must be incorrigible for them.

There is lots of information about how the Giant’s Causeway on the Northern Irish coast was formed by volcanic eruptions more than 60 million years ago. As the surface of the lava flow cooled, it contracted and crystallized into hexagonal columns. As the rock settled and eroded over time, the columns broke off so they now look like steps of various heights.

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Long shot

Long shot

But the locals know that the Giant’s Causeway was really the home and playground of a giant Ulster warrior named Fionn mac Curnhaill (or in English, Finn MacCool…I kid you not). Finn built a series of stepping-stones all the way to Scotland so he could spy on his rival and fellow giant, Cullihin. When he realized that Cullihin was much larger than him, Finn came running back to his wife – with Cullihin in quick pursuit.

Finn’s wife Oona was the clever one in the relationship. She dressed Finn up as a baby and put him to bed, warning him not to say a word. When Cullihin showed up looking to fight Finn, Oona asked him in for tea. She explained that while Finn has stepped out for a while, perhaps Cullihin would like to see their baby.

Cullihin was amazed at the size of the infant, and decided if the babe was this large, then Finn must be huge. Cullihin made a quick retreat back to Scotland, smashing the stepping stone bridge as he went.

Looking around the causeway, there are all kinds of signs that Finn, Oona, and Finn’s grandmother really existed (and still exist).

Here's Finn's boot that fell off his foot in his haste to get away from Cullihin and into the safety of his own home.

Here’s Finn’s boot that fell off his foot in his haste to get away from Cullihin and into the safety of his own home.

And here's Finn's pipe organ. It is said that if you go to the causeway at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning, you can hear him playing.

And here’s Finn’s pipe organ. It is said that if you go to the causeway at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning, you can hear him playing.

These are Finn's chimney stacks. It is said that if you see smoke rising from them, you know Finn is at home. Apparently he wasn't around the day we visited.

These are Finn’s chimney stacks. It is said that if you see smoke rising from them, you know Finn is at home. Apparently he wasn’t around the day we visited.

If you look really carefully just right of centre in this photo, you can see Finn's grandmother climbing up the mountain. She was apparently rather meddlesome, always being critical of Finn for not building the causeway the 'proper' way. Maybe he sent her up the mountain just to get a bit of peace and quiet!

If you look really carefully just right of centre in this photo, you can see Finn’s grandmother climbing up the mountain. She was apparently rather meddlesome, always being critical of Finn for not building the causeway the ‘proper’ way. Maybe he sent her up the mountain just to get a bit of peace and quiet!

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