Sunday, May 27, 2012

You Might Have Mason Bees and Not Even Know It!

About a week ago my friend Catherine and I were chatting on her front porch and I noticed a mason bee slip into a gap between the cedar shingles. I looked closely and saw that some grooves contained the detritus of old cocoons that had been kicked out of the nest. Then I saw another mason bee fly into a secret hole and another. Her home was absolutely alive with mason bees! Catherine was tickled pink, since she is a friend to all pollinators and has a honey bee hive in her garden. Her porch is actually facing east, so like the experts say, it gets the morning sun which is important to the bees. Now be sure to check the outside of you house to see if you have any signs of secret residents!

Beespeaker News Flash

 Hello folks!

Hope you are having a fabulous weekend. For those of you who are interested in bee plants for Vancouver, I have contributed my list to Sharon Hanna's blog for BC Living Magazine.

 My partner Peter Courtmanche is a sound and media artist and he recently created a piece for the audio-art stories commissioned by CBC and New Adventures in Sound Art. It will be aired June 1st at 1 pm on Radio One (CBC AM). The piece is "Free Energy" by Peter Courtemanche, featuring the (speaking) voice of High Spirits soprano Katharina Alheit.

Finally, Peter Courtemanche is curating a series of audio art shows at Lucky's Comics and Books and the first is a show by a fantastic artist named Diana Burgoyne.

Lucky's Comics and Books + An Audio Gallery present "Sound Drawings" by Diana Burgoyne,
an exhibition opening on Friday June 8th at 7pm, the show runs until July 2nd.

Lucky’s is located at 3972 Main Street in Vancouver (near Main and
24th). Open 7 days a week from noon-ish to 6 pm (5 pm on Sundays).

Each sound drawing consists of a large piece of paper with a speaker
and sound circuit connected to two copper strips. A pencil line is
drawn between the two strips and the electrical properties of the
graphite create an oscillator circuit. The sound that is generated by
the oscillator will change every time a new line is drawn or erased.
At the start, the drawings produce low frequency clicking sounds. As
the lines become thicker and more numerous, the sounds escalate and
become high pitched squeals.

Diana Burgoyne is an “electronic folk artist.” Her work is based on
the utilization of simple electronic circuitry made from relatively
rudimentary components. Since the early 1980s, she has worked as an
artist and educator within the field of New Media creating
performances, installations, sculptures and workshops in Canada and
internationally. She was awarded the 2009 Fleck Fellowship by the
Banff Centre for the Arts and has been teaching a class entitled
“Creative Electronics” at Emily Carr University of Art and Design
since 1998.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bathtub Teas

If you're like me and have been doing a lot of digging in the garden lately, it's time to soothe your sore, aching muscles with a bathtub tea. It's so simple. All you need is a piece of cotton with a loose weave--cotton muslin is ideal. You can also use bits of worn-out vintage cloth in cotton or linen. I use about a ten inch square.

Take a hand full of epsom salts and put it in the middle of the cloth, then add your herbs on top. You can use fresh herbs if you're using the tea the same day or within two days. Otherwise, use well-dried herbs. You can see here I've put in dried lavender, malvia petals and rose petals for a soothing, relaxing bath. These are better than bath bombs imo, because they don't leave bits of detritus floating in your bathtub or clogging the drain.

Gather up the corners and tie a piece pf string around the top of the herbs and voila! You've got a tea bag for your bathtub. You can put this in right as you're running the bath and leave it in while you soak. Just don't wash your hair in the water as salt's not great for your locks. You can re-use the cloth and don't forget to compost the herbs. In fact, you can just dump them right onto your garden soil. The lavender will repel cabbage moths and their ilk.

Here's a list of herbs you can choose from put in your bathtub tea:
lemon balm: relaxing
rosemary: soothes aching muscles, boosts immune systerm
lavender: relieve tension, relaxes, good for acne (women's herb)
roses: compassion and love
peppermint: increases circulation
spearmint: lifts the spirits
sage: good for colds and flues
lavender and rose: good for sleep
pansies: good for skin (women's herb)
lavender/rose for relaxation
calendula: good for your skin

I highly recommend this excellent resource: Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing, Using and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs by Tammi Hartung

Monday, May 21, 2012

Birthday Chocolate

 This year Peter was is Brussels for his birthday, but he returned home to a lovely cake made by our neighbor Deana. It was dense and moist, iced with a ganache glaze and decorated with almonds, mint leaves and a handmade chocolate rose.

We just happened to have some vanilla ice cream in the fridge. My favorite combo!

 Peter brought us some gorgeous Pierre Marcolini chocolates from Brussels, each a little burst of intense flavor. I found them less sweet than a lot of Belgian-style chocolates, more towards the French style. My favorites were saffron and thé citron. Gone, but not forgotten....

Friday, May 18, 2012

Saturday, May 19 Bouquets Garnis Workshop at the Sunset Community Centre

Gardening: Bouquets Garnis and Sachets
Lori Weidenhammer

A drop-in family workshop inspired by the Moberly
Community Herb Garden for folks who want to get up
close and personal with some herbs that are easy to grow
in your garden for cooking, making tea and crafts. Make
a tea-bag style pouch containing herbs that you can drop
in soups and stews. Learn how to tie up sweet-smelling
herbs to put in your drawers and closets to make your
clothes smell nice and keep the moths away. 
FREE In the Sunset Lobby
Sat May 19 10:00am-12:00pm

Sunday, May 13, 2012

For Mom

As I was researching my talk for Stone Soup this weekend I realized how much my love of baking comes from my mom. My mom is a wonderful cook. I had a sweet tooth as a child. Still do. Mom allowed me complete freedom in the kitchen. She taught me the basics of baking and I taught myself to bake new things as soon as I could read cookbooks. Mom used to say I made better meringues than she did. I had beginner's luck and a naive fearlessness.

My mom made me fantastic birthday cakes. My childhood birthdays each had a theme.  My favourite was my Raggedy Anne cake made with coconut on the icing. Mom indulged my love of chocolate and she made really good cakes from scratch with farm eggs. Cake mixes were a joke to me. Who needs a mix for something as easy as a basic cake? In fact, cake mixes were an insult to the intelligent home baker. Icing in a tin was an abomination. Frozen Sarah Lee cakes were the Food of the Damned. We were country women and we baked from scratch.

Today sweet friend Catherine made some blackberry oatmeal squares from scratch in honor of Mother's Day which we ate in her dining room with whipped cream. She thickens frozen blackberries with cornstarch and cooks them down with brown sugar. Delicious!

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stone Soup Festival is This Saturday

Please join me this Saturday, May 12 at the Britannia Library at 1 pm I will be talking about community, ecology and food from my experience growing up on the prairies as part of the Stone Soup Festival on Commercial Drive.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sweet Sunday

 Sundays should be sweet, full of light and cups of tea drunken at leisure in a garden full of spring blossoms. I decided to make individual sticky toffee pudding cups inspired by Sticky, Chewy, Messy Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth by Jill O' Connor. I picked up a copy in the library because I'm trying to keep my son interested in baking. He browsed the cookbook and said, "There's enough chocolate in that book to kill someone."

This is the first tea party of 2012 chez nous.

Tulips, forget-me-nots, rhodos, lilacs, strawberries, clematis, et al.

 Later in the afternoon we were invited over to Catherine and Dave's for Deana's awesome lemon meringue pie. Deana learned this recipe at cooking school and it is a classic, piled high withe ethereal egg whites and garnished with a lemon rose. Much ceremony is made over the cutting of the pie and a phone call to the chef confirmed it must be sliced all at once with a hot straight-edge knife.

Deana had learned to bake the proper way, weighing all the dry ingredients. She searched the neighborhood for a baking scale and ended up making the trip to Zellers to find a digital kitchen scale. Her attention to detail means she's got the makings of a serious baker. We are very lucky to taste the results of her work: tangy, creamy filling and the perfect flaky crust. Here's to more sweet Sundays!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ramps in the Dumplings

 I have friends and relatives who generously give me perennials from their gardens. But I have to admit that I am really bad at a) labeling the plant and b) remembering what the heck it's called. Such was the case when a pot of little bulbs started to bloom with little white allium-like flowers. Then I was cleaning out my e-mails from months ago and I saw a note from my friend Robin saying she had left a pot of wild garlic or ramps on my doorstep. The light bulb went on. These are ramps! Cool! What the hell are ramps?

Well, it just so happens that a while back Peter was at a sound art conference in Toronto and he brought back some wild garlic at a farmer's market at some kind of art barns. He was just about to make pork dumplings for supper so I went out in the rain and picked some ramps for him. He was not happy about how mucky I and the ramps were, but he was otherwise delighted.

 Those dumplings were delicious. Our son gobbled down several helpings. There are lots of anecdotes that say eating ramps makes your breath heavily "perfumed". You have been warned. Actually, one of my sharpest childhood memories is going visiting with my dad and chatting with a Czech farmer near a patch of wild garlic. The sharp scent seared the image in my memory.

Peter's heading off to Belgium next week, but when he returns we've got to have ramps and spot prawns! Yee haw!

Sharon Hanna's Book Launch Dates

Here is the latest publicity information about Sharon Hanna's launch of The Book of Kale from Harbour Publishing:

(BTW, I have been turning people on to kale smoothies. This morning I concocted a smoothie with goat's milk, yogurt, kiwi, pineapple, ice cubes and kale.)

Sharon Hanna at Local and Sustainable Day in North Vancouver

Meet Sharon Hanna, author of The Book of Kale. She will be giving out samples of the mouth-watering recipes in the book, as well as starter plants. She will also be available to answer any kale-related questions, and of course, sign copies of the book.

Date: Saturday, June 2, 2012

Location: Save-On-Foods at Park and Tilford (North Vancouver)

Time: 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Kale event at the UBC Botanical Gardens

Come celebrate the release of The Book of Kale with author and kale-evangelist Sharon Hanna at the UBC Botanical Gardens "Friend of the Garden Annual Meeting". Sharon will be talking about joys of growing and eating kale. Ask her any questions, and get your copy of the book signed.

Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Location: UBC Botanical Gardens (6804 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver)

Time: 11:30am to 1:00pm

Official Launch for the Book of Kale

Come celebrate the release of The Book of Kale with author and kale-evangelist Sharon Hanna. There will be mouth-watering samples of recipes from the book, and Sharon will be giving a talk on the joys of growing and eating kale. Ask her any questions, and get your copy of the book signed.

Date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Location: Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co., Kitsilano (1876 W 1st Ave.)

Time: 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Kale and Wine Tasting

Come try some of the delicious recipes from The Book of Kale, expertly paired with a selection of wines. While you're at it, meet kale-evangelist Sharon Hanna, ask her any questions, and get your copy of the book signed.

Date: Sunday, May 27, 2012

Location: Broadway International Wine Shop (2752 West Broadway, Vancouver)

Time: 3:00pm to 6:00pm