Monday, May 25, 2009

Real coffee!

Evan and I have made some Ethiopian friends via the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society's host family program. It has been quite the adventure, having to explain the quirks of one's culture really makes you think... 'yeah, why DO we do that?'. We asked Haile, the head of the family, what was the strangest thing he had come across, and he said it was seeing ads for apartments that said, 'no kids, pets ok'. That completely mystified him. And now that I think about it, yep that's weird.

Anyhoo I digress. A significant result of our new found friendship is that it has ruined me for regular coffee. Coffee is a major part of social interactions in Ethiopian culture. There is a ceremony involved in drinking coffee together, and everyone drinks three shots that have a ton of sugar in them. It's an afternoon ritual; they think it's strange that we drink coffee in the morning. Genet, Haile's wife, roasts the green beans herself over a burner in a pot, or has one of the children roast it. Because of the smoke alarms in their place (a feature of Canadian life they find VERY annoying..), they roast it on the back stoop. Usually Eyob does. Picture a 13 year old boy, wearing shorts, rubber boots, and a ski jacket, roasting coffee in the snow. That was the scene this winter...

The coffee is amazing, sometimes Genet grinds it with some cardamom or cloves. Out of this world. And it is beautifully smooth, no bitter bite at the end. There really is no comparison to pre-roasted beans. I've been wondering how to roast my own without ruining a pot or setting off the smoke alarm, and then I found this post, which recommends using an air popcorn popper. AHA! a solution. now I just need to track down some green beans, a feat in itself..

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ven. Hyon Gak Sunim

I met Hyon Gak Sunim when I was in Korea. It was great to hear his voice again when I found these videos, he has a kind of English Korean hybrid way of speaking, with Korean inflection and these great expressions that echo the way his great teacher Zen Master Seung Sahn would speak. I met Zen Master Seung Sahn twice when I was in Korea -- once at 5 in the morning when he was walking around the temple grounds, and once during a retreat. They say the three keys to gaining enlightenment are: 1. To be born a human, 2. To meet a great teacher, and 3. To wake up to your true nature. So I'm already two thirds of the way there! The last step should be easy, right?

Canadian Gothic

Here we are, or I should say here's Evan, getting the garden started. Yumi and I avoided the hard work and made cookies instead. Spring is kinda sorta here, although the forecast calls for frost tonight. Could someone remind me why I live in a place that frosts on May 20?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Julie's Kitchen

For anyone who enjoys Julie Van Rosenthal's terrific blog, Dinner with Julie.. thekitchn is featuring a tour of her kitchen, and it is as beautiful as you might expect. The cyber-snooping Apartment Therapy enables is just way too much fun...

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Evan and I are living in a 1913 600 square foot house, with a 60 lb pup. We are looking for a home to buy, which will probably mean being in another smallish house if we want a big yard for growing food. I've always been fascinated by tiny houses -- trolling tinyhouseblog and oogling minihome. These spaces seem so harmonious. My house, on the other hand... we try but clutter is a sneaky thing. It really does feel like there is some kind of switch in our heads, embedded young, that if you have a problem you must buy something to solve it. This habitual view is so ingrained it is easy for marketers to flip the switch, even for those trying to consume less. I went to an eco trade show in Vancouver, and there was a slogan at the entrance that read: "Buying Your Way to a Better World". Yeesh.

It is a constant process, trying to purge objects with no function and find solutions that don't involve buying something new. I find it really challenging to counter that instinctual reaction. It's the same one that causes me to go to the grocery store and buy more groceries because I'm heading home and am not sure what is in the fridge. Which results in beautiful food going bad before we can eat it. Doing better in that department is definitely going to take more awareness and planning. I am so used to instant everything that planning ahead to avoid waste and clutter is stretching a whole set of muscles I didn't know I had.

Fortunately for me, my choices and priorities mean that I will likely be in a small house for the rest of my life. Which is just fine, it will mean less clutter out of necessity. I am really enjoying learning about the Not So Big House approach. In this clip, the author Sarah Susanka talks about the role of home in our lives. Please excuse the mildly annoying intro, what Susanka has to say is worth the wait..

Propeller Sustainability Series, "SHELTER: Part 1" from Alexia Prichard on Vimeo.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spring energy

I love the energy of spring, it is carrying me through right now. I need all this mania and new life energy, to make it through many career and school related obligations that come to a head this time of year. Oh, and I have to get married somewhere in there as well.

So there hasn't been too much creativity in the kitchen going on. Actually, I've made some pretty good food, but don't have time to take pictures of it! Also, I need to learn how to take proper photos. My pics remind me of the ones my grandma used to take on this long skinny camera that had a cube flash you snapped on the top. The viewfinder wasn't lined up with the lens on the other side, so there are a few dozen photos of me as a child, headless. I've got to work on the photography thing.

One AMAZING food I have recently enjoyed.. sunchokes fried in butter. I bought a pound of them at Blush Lane weeks ago and didn't think they would be any good after a few weeks in the fridge. But they were spectacular. If you have never tried this food you really need to.

This is all the photography I can handle at the moment.. self-portrait with broad bean plant. Sprouted from bean, no less! I didn't even need to get off the couch for this one..