Archives for posts with tag: Christmas

Lady B and Rosemary: looking after things, 24 hours a day

We have a couple of new mascots in Fleurbain, and both would like to wish you a merry Christmas. Lady B came onto the scene at the same time as Rosemary, who had spent the summer in our friendly neighbourhood community garden. They are both over-wintering in Fleurbain, taking full advantage of our large bright windows and welcoming atmosphere.

All the best to you in 2012!

Natasha Henderson and Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

This is something I introduced to my family a few years ago. At first my family did not know what they were; they had so many questions! Why are these cookies so small? Are these cookies for humans? Uhhh, yes. After a brief explanation, these peppernuts have been a continuous hit. I decided to modify the recipe for my brother Tyler, because he seems to feel better on a gluten-free diet.

The original recipe was given to me by a sweet lady I know named Margaret Boldt from Osler, Saskatchewan. I think her recipe is the best because she is not afraid to use the right amount of spice.

Since rice flour is perfect for cookies, doing gluten-free is easy and advantageous with this recipe ; rice flour is sweet and it makes baked goods extra crunchy.

Gluten-free Peppernuts

2 cups of rice flour (brown or white)

1 ½ cups of gluten free flour (Bob’s Red Mill)

2 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cardamom

3 tsp star anise

1 tsp ginger

¼ tsp pepper

1 cup unsalted butter

1 ¼ cups brown sugar

½ cup molasses, honey or maple syrup

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together the flours, baking soda, salt and spices.  In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar, then add molasses, eggs and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.

Shape into two flat discs and refrigerate in containers or Ziploc bags for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350’F.

On a gluten free floured surface, roll out a disc and form a long cigar shape.  Using a sharp knife, cut these into little peppernut shapes.  Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.

It usually makes the most sense to freeze something you are not going to eat right away.  These cookies keep very well for a long period of time in a sealed container that is placed in a cool location likely because they are dry and there is a high amount of anti-oxidant spices in them.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal.

Christmas is quickly approaching and I am in a bit of a funk. I guess this is what happens when you put together the following:

  • I enjoy making traditional foods to mark the holidays,
  • I lost 25 pounds this year by maintaining a somewhat consistent effort in modifying my diet and adding a good dose of exercise (Yes, I did!),
  • I have witnessed clients and friends also lose a lot of weight this year by doing the same thing,
  • and I also have watched others receive diagnoses for illnesses related to diet and lifestyle; namely, Type II Diabetes.

Yeah, she is totally over-thinking this one. Go back to sleep Rosebud!

You might suppose that I am over-thinking the whole thing. I can hear a voice say, “… but it is only a few days… you can easily work that off in a matter of weeks… you are so good most of the time!” Well, I hate to admit it, but the holiday eating usually lasts for more than a few days. Getting back into shape is not always an easy thing. I keep in mind that I am a habitual person; if I become accustomed to eating sugar everyday, then it is really difficult to make the change back to not having a daily dose of sweets. This is not just me. Overall, the traditional holiday eating has simply become too much. It can become sugar overkill once I add up my family’s special treats, my partner’s and friend’s special treats, and so forth. And really, this does not do anyone any good.

In some ways, however, I might not have the same problem this year. First of all, I am now running a business. My business really keeps me occupied, and so I don’t have the same amount of time to think about creative culinary pursuits. Bye, bye Martha-Stewart-me!  As well, I have seriously started to crave daily exercise.  Most days when I think, “Oooo, I should start baking!”  I have to run off to a dance class. All of a sudden that baking is not as important to me.  Oh yeah, perspectives change in the process of running, jumping and moving about. Being fit quickly becomes very important to me because I simply want to enjoy growing further in doing what I love to do.  Since this year’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are on the weekend, I also think it will be a shorter celebration that will not last for days and days.

One thing that helps me feel alright about dropping some of the supposedly necessary, but not very healthy traditions is to remember that it is the people that keep traditions alive.  We all share the power to make this year happen in so many different ways.  We can make our traditions something that is beneficial to ourselves and to our loved ones. I think realizing this truth has been hard work for me this year. I have never faced all of this with such honesty! Wow! I know professionally what my clients need to hear when they face certain health problems, and I know how to put together 12 kinds of cookies and squares for the holidays. But I am finally letting each of these types of knowledge come face to face. Viola: the funk!

So, back to the drawing board I go!  My friend Chitra says, “don’t bake anything this year!”  I am not sure I am ready to do this, but I am ready to do the following:

  • Seriously scale back on the sweets and sweet drinks. Instead of many different kinds of cookies, I have narrowed it down to two: gluten-free peppernuts (I will share the recipe with you tomorrow) and chocolate shortbread cookies. I might also do Christmas Rocky Road… but that is it! I can hear some of you say, “But what about regular shortbread, and butter tarts, and Christmas cake, and peanut brittle, and nanaimo bars, and sugar cookies, and almond crescents, and truffles, and gingerbread, and fudge, and peppermint cookies, and, and…” Well, I just can’t do that. Not this year.
  • Allow myself to move beyond tradition and create what I know are totally healthy, digestible and guilt-free meals with fish, vegetables, meats, nuts and fresh fruit. Making a plan that doesn’t cause worry is like a new way to relax.
  • Focus on making gifts for loved ones that are not food related: a homemade hand cream, a tea, a knit scarf, and so on. I have lots of ideas.
  • Share time with friends and family that involves more MOVE and less FOOD. We will go play outside. What?  Yes, it’s cold outside! We can wear layers, my friends. Bundle up and expand on tradition!

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal.

Small Works, the exhibition currently in Fleurbain, has had an effect on me. I spend a few hours each day in the presence of this collection of artworks. There are works by twelve artists (or artistic teams) to enjoy, and it is all food for thought. I like to compare and contrast the different approaches to art-making, media, and what I imagine the individual artist’s inspiration might be. I take all this in, and then process what the works have to say to me, the viewer.

I would like to share a little about each of the artists’ works with you here. Before I begin, I would like to thank each artist for submitting their work to be in this show. I had sent out a call-for-entry a while back, and was fortunate to receive some top-notch submissions. There are forty paintings, prints, photographs, and mixed-media pieces to explore by Montreal’s established and emerging artists.

Carole Arbic - Garden Party series

Carole Arbic‘s pieces in the show are a joy, a description of painting and layers. The colours are bright, but there is subtlety in the combination of them. Two of the Garden Party series feature little pieces of broken mirror, so that the viewer is reflected back to themselves within the piece. This reflects something about art in general; that the understanding of art is dependant upon context and who is looking, perhaps even more than who made it and what their intentions were. In looking at Arbic’s five pieces, it is difficult to not choose a “favorite”, based on colour or painterliness or any other number of influences.

Lorraine Miller Emmrys - "Apple (Falling Into Feminine)"

Lorraine Miller Emmrys has included three pieces in the exhibition. One of the pieces is “larger” but is composed of smaller pieces. Apple – (Falling Into Feminine) is a story. It describes a timeline of youth, change, decay, rebirth: the cycle of life. There is a glimpse into the artist’s ruminations about femininity, about life itself. How do we inhabit our apple, our body, our knowledge? How does that change with time?

Darlene St Georges - "Bee Palm"

Darlene St Georges has created intricate floral botanical paintings that speak of a zen-like observation. To paint in this manner is to leave one’s self and go to another place, and the experience for the viewer can be something of a similar experience. If you allow the painting talk to you, this will happen. Bee Palm is a striking and captivating piece; you want to stay with this flower, and live like a bee.

Natasha Henderson - Pigeon series

Natasha Henderson is me. Now, to talk about pigeons. The pigeon is an amazing, tough, and somewhat endearing little city-bird. I like them, so I opted to paint some. The Pigeon series is my recollection of pigeons, be they singular or seen within a group. In appearance, I love their differences in markings, their subtle colours. In personality, I like their work ethic and how they simultaneously have a sort of laissez-faire attitude.

Francoise Issaly - "Structure Cigale (Small I)"

Francoise Issaly‘s work is beautiful. Again, I feel transported by the zen-like practice and appreciation of painting. In Structure Cigale (Small I), I feel as though I am glimpsing into the heart of a jewel. It is something of a treasure, a feeling of a branch, of something poetic. I have many readings of this painting, and it is the sort of piece to have a good conversation over.

Thaneah Krohn - "Candy Lace"

Thaneah Krohn is sharing a selection of funky, familiar, and sometimes mysterious photographs of Montreal. All five pieces evoke the spirit here. During the vernissage I overheard: “That’s my Montreal!” I would have to agree. For those of us who love this place, we just can’t get enough. Candy Lace is a delicious photo of that gingerbread-styled woodworking you see decorating the old mansions and apartments around town. Often painted bright, happy and beautiful colours they are like candy and bring joy to the day-to-day life of Montrealers. This photo allows us to glance at this joy whenever we feel like…

David Merk - "Tim Lid Coprolithe"

David Merk is sharing some from his Coprolithe series. These marble pieces are fascinating, and thought-provoking. Detritus of contemporary street-stuff find their way into the permanence of marble. Like any archeological finding, the things from the street reveal a bit about our society. A Tim Horton’s lid, discarded work-gloves, and a Second Cup cup are all some of the things used during a typical work-day: objects used and discarded. Art can lift vision and ideas from daily existence, and art resembles and reassembles life. We are reminded of this in Merk’s works.

Kimberley Mok

Kimberley Mok has included terrific illustration-style prints of her drawings. The three pieces depict aspects of this city by a quirky, observant mind. Again, people are drawn to these pieces and ask each other “which is your favourite? And why?” I have my personal one… though all three pieces are appealing. The simultaneity of ideas found in Carpet Moebiusis what I keep coming back to… Carpets, prints, butterflies and Escher… neighbourhoods and rejuvenation. Rebirth and recycling. Very smart.

Michel Pedneault - "Alpe"

Michel Pedneault has paintings that just keep saying new things to me. Interesting in the best of painterly-ways, they are done in an expressionistic manner. I feel a sense of empathy for the subjects of the works, be they human or landscape-based. Alpe is loose, with lively yet soft colours and brushwork. A solid and seemingly effortless composition is practically perfect in a classical sense. As with all painting, this (and Pedneault’s other pieces) are so much better to experience in real life…

Sarina Rahman - "Untitled 1"

Sarina Rahman has included two mixed-media pieces that utilise fabric remnants. The shapes created by the fabric evoke ideas about foliage and natural forms. They are abstract, however, so that the viewer can respond with their own story to the remnants and indications presented by Rahman. There is an examination of the tactility of materials here, and it is difficult to Not Touch The Artworks…

Patrycja Walton - "Falling Petals I"

Patrycja Walton has shared some very lovely abstract paintings with us. The Falling Petals series uses unusual yet harmonious colours in a mix of a sort of white background/base. The petals that fall are chunks of colours, the background is the white. However… like so much in painting, the background isn’t really a background. The negative space is on a level with the “objects”. There is paint, there is an idea of depiction… and again, if you allow yourself, you can be transported to another place.

Julie Webb and Meredith Hayes "Montreal: Une Belle Perspective"

Julie Webb + Meredith Hayes have shared two pieces, and both are captivating as portraits of place. One is Montreal, the other is New Zealand. As Webb is a native of New Zealand, now living in Montreal, this makes sense. Both places feel like “Home”, and this love of both places comes through in the work. The format of presentation is appealing both as a structure (the photographs are cleverly mounted on varying layers of reclaimed MDF board) and as a composition of units. Viewers of the Montreal piece have commented to me about the familiarity of the individual shots, and yet the formal composition speaks of something larger. The greenery of the New Zealand piece is very calming, yet full of life. As I spend more time with these works, new aspects keep coming forward to me.

I am in a place of privilege, allowed to see this exhibition on a daily basis. You can come and see it any of the following times:

Tuesday December 20 to Friday January 6, 3pm-6pm each day. Closed Mondays and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Finissage January 7th, 12pm to 6pm

Another option is to check out the online gallery. It isn’t as good as the live-version of the gallery… but you can visit (and re-visit) any time you like.

See us at 460 St Catherine West, Unit #917. Located to the left of Future Shop on St Catherine Street close to both McGill and Place des Arts metros.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Structure Cigale (Small I) by Francoise Issaly

Some of Montreal’s artistic talents have come forth to present their gifts… to you. Visit us at Fleurbain during this season to take in some painting, photography and more… not to mention a cup of tea or glass of wine (depending on time of day!)

Garden Party 3 by Carole Arbic

BIG VERNISSAGE: Saturday December 10, 6-9pm
Sunday December 11, 3-9pm (informal fun vernissage part two!)

Tuesday December 13 to Friday Dec 16, 3-6pm each day
Saturday December 17 EXTENDED HOURS 11am to 9pm

Sunday December 18 to Friday December 30, 3-6pm each day except Monday.
Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day.

Tuesday January 3 to Friday January 6, 3pm-6pm each day. Saturday January 7th Finissage!!! 12 noon ’til 6pm…

Abundance by Lorraine Miller Emmrys

Work may be purchased and taken away for gift wrapping/giving on the spot. If you can’t make it to the show, or would like to look at individual works again, please see our online gallery

Come join us for some festive fun. Tea’s always on…

All images copyright the artists.

New Year's Eve fireworks in Paris

Happy New Year!

Choco-Almo-Date Balls (Or Choco-Almond Balls, CABs, their nick-name), are wonderful. Delicious, easy and fast to make, and somewhat healthy too! Over the holiday season I kept a bowl of the gooey-mix in the fridge, as well as a small saucepan of the melted chocolate ready-to-go. I made some last night, so that my New Year’s Eve guests could enjoy the last of them. Any leftover chocolate drizzle? Well, someone is bringing a mystery dessert, so we’ll see if melted chocolate would work with it, I’ve also got some whipped cream… perhaps a New Year’s Sundae on Sunday is in order on the second day of the new year.

You might recall that I’d originally taken my mother’s old Family Favorite recipe and tinkered with it. Yes, I hate to say it, but these are better. Next year my family will receive some in the mail in advance of Christmas. Fortunately, they are always open to trying new foods, and will eat them even though my little CABs break with tradition.

My goal for next year’s “baking” is to have a second fridge-based, non-perishable item that I can make up a little bit here and there whenever needed/wanted. Freezer log-cookies, that’s an idea. I like doing something simple like “melting chocolate and dipping things in it”, though. Does anyone have more ideas? The Lazy Gourmet. Isn’t that a brand-name already…

Natasha Henderson in Montreal, not Paris.

Basic, basic, basic supplies are all that's needed for this gift. That, and an idea.

When I was a kid and Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day or Easter or a birthday or… any holiday rolled around, I would break out the felt pens and paper and glue and scissors. I would make my family and friends little imitations of “real world” honours, things like badges, crowns, and certificates. When I grew a little older I transferred this urge to cut, draw and paste my gifts into the idea of specialized coupons.

Coupons are great to offer services that cannot be wrapped up in a box: “One Free Car Wash”, “One Free Babysitting”, “One Dozen Cookies (need 24 hours notice)”, “A Vacuum of The Entire House”… you get the idea.

You could use some of the simple book-binding skills we covered the other day, as I did in the example below. Simple-simple! I just cut may paper to size, stapled once. I took care that the pointy-bits of the staple went to the inside. I also cut a little into each page just inside from the “binding”, so my coupon-recipient would find it easy to rip them out of the little book.

Easy gift: Proving that it's the thought that counts.

All of the papers in the Coupon Book were destined for Recycling… they’ll still be recycled, just are being diverted along the way.

Natasha Henderson in Montreal, wishing everyone a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas!

“Ooof! There is no time left, yet I still need a meaningful gift!”

No problem.  All you need is a couple jars, 2 or 3 commonly found ingredients and 5 minutes.

Ready, set, go!

Caffeinated Sugar Scrub

Caffeine is a very popular ingredient in cosmetics at the moment. Amongst it’s many attributes, it is said to increase circulation and thereby decrease the occurrence of cellulite.   Sugar is a popular exfoliant.  Oil helps to nourish the skin.  Put the three together, add some scented ingredients, if you wish, and you have a great scrub for arms and legs.

Ingredients:  1/4 cup fresh fair-trade organic coffee grounds, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup oil (sunflower, grapeseed and olive oil are a few ideas)  And what can be used to compliment this rather robust scrub?  I think 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp cardamom, 1/4 tsp dried ginger goes well with the coffee and sugar.

Salt, Bay Leaf and Pink Pepper

All you need is rock sea salt, bay leaf and pink peppercorns. This can be used to season vegetables and meats such as fish and chicken.



Lavender Bath Salts

Ingredients: equal parts epsom salts and baking soda, *organic lavender essential oil.

Use 20 – 30 drops of organic lavender essential oil per cup of the epsom salts and baking soda mix.  Typically people recommend adding a 1/2 cup to the bath.

* Yes, organic lavender oil.  Lavender essential oils are some of the most adulterated essential oils on the market.  You want great quality, especially if you expect a therapeutic effect.

vanilla and spices to be covered with sugar

Vanilla and Spice Sugar

Ingredients: vanilla bean, sugar, optional spice including cinnamon stick and cardamom pods

For those who put sugar in their coffee, a special gift could be a little jar of sugar with a whole vanilla bean in it.  You could also add a cinnamon stick, some cardamom pods or whatever spice you wish.  This vanilla and spice sugar can be used for coffee, tea and even in baking.  Be sure to let the recipient of this gift know that they can refill the jar with sugar many times and the vanilla will continue to imbue the sugar with a vanilla essence.

You are not going to believe this… Compost!

Last week I received an exciting gift from my friends, Julie and Mer.  It was a box of vermicompost.  My friends compost fruit and vegetable scraps by feeding these scraps to a worm farm in their basement.  Julie and Mer found that they were rich in compost this year, so they packaged it up and gave it away.  Don’t worry, they did not send over the whole worm farm, just the compost.  I love this gift because I have a couple houseplants and it feels good to feed these little plants some “local” homegrown vermicompost from friends.

Happy Holidays from Tammy Schmidt in Montreal.

A simple sewn oval-shape, complete with bell and catnip inside...

Simple toys for your and your friends’ cats are an easy gift to DIY at this close-to-the-end juncture. Little mouse-shapes, balls with catnip and crumply things inside (such as plastic packaging) are simple to make. Just cut a circle or oval shape, sew it together “inside out”, then turn “outside out”, and sew on a little patch for ears/face.

Mice are nice! If... you are a cat.

I used felt for the body, and then sewed a little ball of wool on top as a nose. When I stitched the two oval pieces together, I took a piece of raffia and set it to be the tail. It’s a double-tail, for a super- fun mouse that is beyond the usual. Also, by doubling the raffia (or wool) there is less chance of the tail being ripped off during exuberant play.

Another idea you could make for a kitty (and their human pals) is a little set of Cat-Grass. My cat-grass is a staple in Iggy’s diet (my cat’s name is Iggy) as he is a completely-housebound cat. He needs some greens in his diet to aid in digestion, and to keep the barfsies at bay. We are all happy when Iggy has a supply of cat-grass. You can give your friends a little cute pot of dirt, and a little packet of either cat-grass (available at many pet stores) or oat seeds, if you can find them.

Kitties appreciate cat-grass. If your cat "throws it up" the first day, don't hide the grass from your cat. They've just binged due to excitement. Once cat-grass is a regular part of your pet's life, that won't happen any more.

Natasha Henderson, purring in Montreal

Canadian Santa Claus drawing from 1875

Santa seems to be reminding us that sharing is one of the most important things to do during Christmas

When the heat of the season is upon us, there are a few ways we stay cool.

Break it down into little tasks. Decide to do a couple things every day and stick to that.

Be realistic as to what you can accomplish in a particular time-frame. It might be lovely to have a home bedecked with every imaginable DIY project out there, but if it is a total stress to accomplish, is it really worth it in the end?  A few branches and a couple candles are great seasonal décor items that require minimal effort to put together.  One plate of freshly homemade cookies (or choco-almo date balls) is always impressive.

Take time to relax. Take a bath, listen to relaxing music, watch your favourite seasonal movies or go out to dance.

Make more time for yourself and drop some things off “the to-do list”. Do I really need to make THAT many types of cookies? Do my guests care if my bathtub is sparkling or not?

Cook simply, for example soups and wraps.  Even if I am making the full traditional Christmas lunch, I try to prepare some things ahead of time so that I am not overwhelmed on the day when everyone is together in my home.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Working together can be part of the celebration.

Keep your regular routines in place, but spice it up here and there whenever it will be fun to do so! For example, if you really want to make reindeer-shaped pancakes, then do it! However if “everyone expects” you to make reindeer-shaped pancakes and you’re not feeling up to it, then do something from your “Christmas Fun List” when you do feel so inspired.  These activities and projects can be enjoyable, enlivening processes that help us find joy in the dark of winter.  If it is not, don’t do it.

Know that it’s not all going to be ruined if everything is not in place. It will be ruined if you have a nervous breakdown.

Stick to a budget. It is obvious that dealing with outrageous credit card bills in January, while trudging through the dark of winter, will not be pretty.  Everyone will still love you even if they don’t receive gifts that are completely beyond your budget.

Order things online. For example, we can order things online through Etsy and send them to loved ones.  Easy-peasy stress free gift giving.

If you are feeling emotionally frazzled, take a break from sugar, alcohol, grains containing gluten and dairy. Buy a big bunch of kale, some brown rice and the protein of your choice.  I know that this is the last thing we want to hear right now, but sitting down to simple meals helps to create peace.

We take time to chat with friends. Calling up a therapist can also be a good idea.

Take it outside. Take a walk after meals, go skating, go skiing.  Get a good dose of fresh air and take the time to exercise every day.

If you can, Don’t Drive. Notice how coo-coo it is out there right now? Avoid being outside during rush hours.

Try some fun things that could become new traditions… an example: three of my family members would go to Mass on Christmas eve. Two of us would not. My brother and I would make healthy pizzas while everyone else was away, play Beatles music very loudly and sing along, do our own thing. Then when everyone else came back, the music would change to soft carols, and we’d all share a nice supper together. My brother and I were assigned a task: “Make Supper” but it was made to be fun.

The last entry reminds me of that Dar Williams song, The Christians and the Pagans.  Taking on others and their religious expression, choice of profession, lifestyle, political leanings, etc., during the holiday creates a great deal of stress.  While being gracious towards others tends to be perceived as near-miraculous, often it can help a great deal in reducing stress.

Write a letter to Santa.

Two words: Take Out.

One word: Yoga.

Natasha Henderson and Tammy Schmidt, keeping the stress to a minimum in Montreal.

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