Melkam Fasika

Two weekends ago we had the pleasure of going for an Easter celebration at my Eritrean friend Aster’s house. It was a joyous, relaxed occasional, with a plethora of food and good company.

Melkam Fasika

We had a dazzling array of food. It’s neat to talk with Aster and the other Eritrean women about the differences and similarities between Eritrean and Ethiopian food. There are more similarities than differences, of course. That’s the way we feel about each other. One of my two besties is Menbi, who is Ethiopian. And the other of her two besties (one is me!) is Aster. I remind myself on occasions like that that not everywhere would gatherings of Ethiopians and Eritreans take place. To add to that, there were Orthodox, Evangel Christians, Muslims and Buddhists at this Easter celebration. Both Jason and I felt blessed my our community and the acceptance of Habesha friends. We love it that 1/2 of the conversation is in Amharic (with side conversations of Tigrayan and Oromiffa) and 1/2 in English. It helps my brush up on my Amharic understanding when the conversation is mixed, too.

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One of the other gems of the day was when I was talking to the Jordanian woman who lives in Aster’s basement with her family. We had met before, but didn’t know each other’s families. “Which one is your husband?” She asked. There were two white women , including me, at the celebration, so she didn’t know if we were the interracial couple. “The white one, I chipped back with a smile.” As a mom of two daughters who live as minorities in a majority white culture, I relish those few moments when my us and I are the ones in the minority.

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The last highlight of the day was the honour Aster bestowed on me when she asked me to make coffee for everyone. Granted, she was using my jebuna (Ethiopian coffee pot,) since I have the biggest one in our group. But instead of just using it, she asked me to prepare the coffee. For those of you that don’t know, in Ethiopian culture, the woman of the house prepares the coffee. If she has a daughter that is old enough (her daughter is getting there, but was playing with the other kids,) she can do it, or a younger relative. Anyway, my punchline was that I was enlisted as a younger cousin or member of the extended family would be, and it tickled me pink.

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I hope you all had lovely Easter celebrations as well, and enjoyed the peace and friendship of your communities.

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Stinging Nettle Chickpea Salad

Stinging nettle chickpea salad with bacon

Yesterday, we ventured into a new realm of wild crafting cooking. It was the first time I cooked stinging nettles. Everyone loved it!

There is a fellow in town who makes a living wild harvesting plants and mushrooms. He sells them to local chefs and our grocery service, Urban Harvest. When we saw the nettles as an option in our weekly grocery delivery, we ordered one bag for the clinic (my husband practices herbal veterinary medicine,) and one bag for the house. Herbal tinctures are easy to make. But nettles to eat?

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First, I read a bit about cooking nettles and making them safe. The Wolf College has a lovely helpful post… We saw these guys at the Mother Earth News Fair, and they were fabulous! I felt reasonably confident I wasn’t going to burn my children’s mouths out.

Then I went to the garden shed, got some gloves, and ventured in!

Recipe: cook little bits of bacon in some olive oil. Add a can of washed chickpeas. Stir about in the bacon fat. Meanwhile, with gloves! Wash the stinging nettles. Chop them up, and boil them in salty water for five minutes. Now you can handle the nettles. Drain and throw them in with the bacon and chick peas, add a little sweet mustard, champagne vinegar, salt, and well! Delicious, hot, stinging nettles salad. I served it with garlic roasted squash.

Enjoy! And remember, wear gloves until the nettles are cooked.

Cultivating my twins’ individual hair styles

I have twin eight year old girls. To the majority of our friends, and even most of the children on the school playground, they are identical. Since they came to us three years of age, we have rarely dressed them the same. Instead, we have helped and nurtured them develop their own sense of style. Both my girls wear their hair fabulously naturally, but they have their own distinct hair style preferences.

My daughters are Ethiopian, and culturally, cornrows are a preferred protective hairstyle. Living in Canada, we have access to thousands of style inspirations for multiple cultures, so we have tried dozens of different styles.
One of my daughters is quite preppy… She often wears simple outfits and prefers functional clothes. Her face is a little longer, and she looks fantastic with styles pulled up and to the back of her head.
My other daughter, is a little more eclectic and her style. Sometimes she is Bohemian, sometimes she is funky, but she is always impeccably accessorized. This is the girl that can pull off a fro-hawk with confidence, and has an inate cool that I could only dream of pulling off.

How have been cultivated their personal styles? Our daughters share a closet, but they don’t have double of almost anything. We start our shopping at the secondhand store, and fill in with the off-season sale racks.

For hair inspiration, we scroll through images of their favorite natural hair fashion icons, like Alicia Keys, Willow Smith and many others. My daughters also found it helpful, in the first few years, to look through pictures of their previous styles. According to my youngest, she could see what she thought looked nice on her, and then would selectively pick those style.

When we are doing a multi-week style, I ask them to describe what they would like, and also tell me how they want to look. Then I tailor their style to fit other practicalities, like where their part was last time (avoid!) if they are biking or swimming, and who will be caring for their hair in the next few weeks.

Hopefully these tips will help you cultivate your own child’s sense of natural hair styling. Remember, hair is supposed to be self expression, and fun. Enjoy nurturing you child to develop their own expression of self.

Wine Wednesday: Tarima Organic Monastrell

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Can you imagine a wine growing region that is so hot and dry, the vines can’t be grown in rows? Instead, the 30 year old vines are grown in a funnel shape, to capture the maximum moisture, and sent it directly to the root of the plant.

Yesterday I picked up a 2012 bottle of Tarima Organic wine, from  Bodegas Volver. The grapes for this juicy, hot-blooded wine are grown in a harshly warm climate off the coast of Spain, on the west side of the Mediterranean. The region is DO Alicante, which is close to one of my favourite Spanish wine areas, DO Jumilla.

I poured the inky purple wine into short Riedel glasses for supper. “I can’t tell what colour it is!” one of my daughters said, and she went to the office to get a piece of white paper to hold underneath it. (Yes, this is Sugar, the Little Chef.)

Tarima Organic

The wine was opaquely purple. Everything about it showed the climate it was grown in.

It had intense aromas of red bricks, cherry, steel, cinnamon, coal brickets. It’s incredibly intense – I can’t imagine enjoying it without food, but then again, I can’t imagine not enjoying it with food! We served it with mashed sunchokes and potatoes, bison steak and shitake mushrooms. It needed all those big flavours to cope with the intensity of the wine.

More cherries to taste, and this dusty, tumbleweed, herbaceous flavour. Hot with alcohol, but balanced with high acidity and dusty, soft tannins in full force.

Absolutely intense, and delicious, and for under $20 – great deal! Maybe a new grilling favourite?

Ecotherapy: Spring gardening with my puppy

It’s the first day back to school after spring break, and I just finished an hour of yard cleanup in the backyard. The birds are chirping, and I can see Laughlin and Tully are sunning themselves on the back deck. (Maggie, meanwhile, has chosen a quiet place in the sunny living room.)

We’ve been working away at the yard for almost a month now… Boy! It takes a lot of work to keep our little backyard homestead running.

Gardening with my puppies

Gardening with kids and dogs is a messy business. First of all, we don’t look outside for four months of the year. Except to pooper scoop of course. But besides that, we just let everything run amok over the winter months. Then in the spring, there is a lot to do. There are toys, garbage, and overgrown vines everywhere.

The kids add a bit to the mess as well, as they are finally getting outside and playing our d the neighbourhood. Below is a “nest” they made in the front yard magnolia tree last night. They’ve also set up the hammock, despite the apple branches still all over the ground.

Kids and spring gardening

On top of the usual maintenance, we didn’t really do a lot last fall. We were so in the midst of starting our clinic that we didn’t even eat all the tomatoes on the vine. Sacrilege! We just didn’t have the time. So there were tomato vines to take down, perennials to cut back, and all the usual autumn maintenance as well, on top of the spring work this year.

There is something deeply satisfying about all this work, however. Last year in the spring when I was dealing with bad health and stress at work, I took to starting my day with a half hour in the garden. It was my own little ecotherapy program. I found that every day I did this, my heart was later and my productivity was higher. There are many studies that show our connection with nature feeds the soul, and focuses the mind. It’s good for me to start the day with some exercise and fresh air, and the dogs love being outside with me together. They are calmer and more content through the day as well.

Spring flowers coming up

Gardening with the puppy has its challenges! This morning I found myself constantly looking over my shoulder. I usually let the chickens run around the backyard when I am doing some gardening, so they can get some extra greens. Tully is still learning about chickens, and how, specifically, to leave them alone. His sight hound instinct comes out, and I can see his body strengthening, lengthening, and aiming right for the hens who at peacefully nibbling. Then he bounds with joy towards their fluffy bodies. I had to throw myself on him a couple times, as he was galloping towards the poor birds, who were by this point madly clucking and running away.

It’s a work in progress. Just like a spring garden.

I remind myself that Maggie, especially, was horrible about the chickens when they first arrived, and now neither of the two older dogs pay them any mind. I will just have to be patient with him, and soon, too, he will be chicken proof. And as I train him to leave the chickens alone, I will also get more peaceful time in the garden.

They’re so happy! Video by Sugar and Spice

Along with writing emails to their family members, the girls have used their spring break to start hobbies in videography. Check out one of their video creations… Starring our cocker spaniel Maggie, our Cairn Terrier Laughlin, our Irish wolfhound Tully, and our rescue cats Vega and Haatim!

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We’ll be in Vegas with Bruno, Sam and Ed

Jason and I decided that this year was going to be about us. So like 20-something’s in tank tops, we are flying to Las Vegas the May long weekend for the biggest music festival in the world.

Last year, we poured all our energy into getting the clinic off the ground. Anything we had leftover, time or money wise, was spent on trying not to neglect our children. Our holiday savings were spent on going to Ethiopia with the girls, and our rare moments of free time were at family camp or family outings.

You can only ignore your spouse / business partner so long, so this year, we are trying to focus back on each other. We’ve been going on a few dates, and Jason’s been bringing me flowers (once, even without a reminder from the kids!)

I wanted to try to see Ed Sheeran this year… So love love his music… But I couldn’t get tickets to his Canadian concerts. Then I had this wild and crazy idea. Why shouldn’t we go to a huge festival, and see Ed Sheeran, as well as many of our other favourite contemporary artists? Much to my astonishment, Jason agreed. So in May, we are flying to Vegas for the two day long marathon festival of Rock in Rio!

Vegas is probably my least favourite city in North America. Seriously, I can’t stand the flashing lights, smoking and infernal clatter of slot machines. BUT… We are staying at a non-smoking, no gambling hotel. The concert is outside for two days. And it is just so dang cheap to get there.

We are poor as church mice at the moment, but we used Jason’s birthday money for the majority of the concert tickets, and points from our business Visa card to book the flights and hotel. Woo hoo! The only costs will be food, booze and souvenirs for the girls. And the beer hat with straws that criss cross his head for Jason.

Kidding.

Check out the lineup!

Ed Sheeran, of course. His song below is so romantic… I am already planning on molesting my husband in public while we sway in the sweaty crowd together. Yes, you can look forward tot that, honey.

But the big kicker for me, the most fabulous of all! Is BRUNO MARS, baby!! Yeah!! I can’t wait to see him and his band.

Jason’s favourite of the lineup is Sam Smith…

But there are also Jesse J, who is AMAZING,

John Legend, that amazing crooner,

And even Taylor Swift (I could scoff, but the truth is I’ll be bopping along…)

It’ll be a blast.

My daughters would be insanely jealous, except apparently going to their Auntie and Uncle’s house for the weekend is on par with a monstrous concert. You have a bit to live up to, Ena and M!

Now all I have to do is find a house sitter for my Tully baby and the rest of the crew. Anyone want to babysit a 80lb puppy??

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Feeling whimsical today… Appreciating this beautiful spring weather, and all I have to be thankful for…

30% Off Africa Sleeps Braid Balm

The original Africa Sleeps braid balm… and still, our best selling product! Made with local beeswax, organic, fairtrade shea butter and organic sweet almond and apricot kernel oils, it has just the right grip for braiding your child’s hair. Plus, it nourishes the hair and scalp while the style is in! Sometimes, the simple solutions are the best.

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In March and April, get 30% off braid balms with the SPRINGBRAIDS coupon. Happy shopping! And thanks for supporting our family business.

Isn’t that a darling picture of Sugar and Spice? They were only 3.5…

Love has no labels

I remember, before we adopted the girls, people asking me if we could possibly love “someone else’s children as much as we would love our own.” The simple answer is that we couldn’t love them more. Not possible. It doesn’t matter that we share parenthood with others. The funny thing about love, is that it is endless… through loving, you only open your heart more, and make more room for love. It opens you up to share with others, and not to be threatened by others’ love.

Sometimes we get too hung up on externalities, like where a child is born, or what religion we believe in. Love doesn’t see externalities. There is a fundamental need that we have to love, and to share that love with others. As the Dalai Lama was quoted as saying: “The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another.”

We can’t be colour-blind or ignore the society that we live in around us. But only through loving unabashedly, regardless of colour, religion, gender, age or ability, can we change that society to be more just, and more compassionate.

Our giant baby: raising an Irish Wolfhound pup

It's now been exactly a month since we brought home our new baby Irish Wolfhound, Tully. Boy has he grown! He's going from 26 pounds up to 50 pounds. Yes… That's doubling his weight, and doubling his size. All in a month. Everything is giant sized with a giant baby.

It's been fascinating watching him grow at such a quick pace, and getting to know him better as his personality develops. Tully means “gentle” in Gaelic, and that's exactly what he is. He's loving, fun, always up for an adventure, and exceedingly gentle and calm. For a puppy, anyway.

Raising a giant baby has had its unique challenges in unique situations. Everything is bigger!

Most puppies sleep, eat, play, and poop. And Tully is the same… Just everything is Tully sized!

“Little brother,” as I refer to him in relation to our cairn terrier Laughlin, needs some serious physical space. In preparation for his coming, we emptied out my office in the kitchen, and moved it into my workshop. We replaced the office with a leather futon, which we got from some kind people, secondhand. I say kind, because we got it for $60, delivered!

For the first week or so, we kept it up as a sofa, but it became obvious that Tully's legs outgrew the seat.

So we flattened it out, and now it is Tully's main haunt. Tully has three naps a day, and thankfully, mostly sleeps through the night. His naps are either on the sofa, if he puts himself down, or in his crate, which is in my workshop.

The crate was originally shortened up, so that he wouldn't sleep in one end and pee in the other. But again, his legs grew so that he needed to stretch out.

So Sugar and I made him a new crate mat out of camping phone. Yes, I own a pet store, and I can assure you that they do not make crate mats, 4 inches thick, readily available. So it was easier for us to just make one. Completely Sound of Music, as we made it out of old curtains.

His favourite place to sleep, however, is the back of the station wagon. He loves going on trips, even if it is doing errands around town. He'll spend hours in the back of the car, perfectly happily. But it is starting to be spring here… So we have to work more on the crate training so that we can leave him not only in the car, the clinic, and the backyard… But his crate inside as well.

 

Tully eats four times a day. Most puppies eat three times a day… But quickly growing giant puppies need to eat even more often. So four times a day I measure out his kibble and his homemade food, add probiotics, fish oil, and digestive enzymes, and grow the puppy a little bit more. Interestingly, most large breed puppy foods, however properly balanced for dogs who will be 50 to 100 pounds, have too high of calcium percentage for puppies that will be, er, 160 pounds, like Tully.

So we give him two thirds of his calories through a balanced kibble, that has a good calcium/phosphorus ratio and other vitamins and minerals, and one third of his calories through homemade food. I make up a batch every week or so of homemade goodness… We have no shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables in the Okanagan, even at this time of the year. I mix them up with eggs from the backyard, and other proteins such as an old bison roast from the freezer or some leftover roast turkey. I plunk ingredients into a nutritional calculator and calculate how many portions the recipe makes, so that I can add to his diet each day, without growing him too quickly.

But Tully grow so fast, twice a week I have to adjust how much he is feeding. You can do the math… He's grown between 6 to 7 pounds every week! Jason says there are two reasons now why I can't be hit by a bus. He would never be able to do the girls' hair, and he would never be able to figure out Tully's diet.

Tully loves to play… He fetches wonderfully, and loves to play tug as well. He has his own little collection of toys, and love stuffies as much as our old dog Hamish did. He also likes the prints around in the yard… It's somewhat earth rumbling when he jumps about, and comical, as he looks like a young cold with his gangly legs. Unfortunately, Tully has decided that he is a digger. Dang it. I've been warned against this, and know I will likely have volcano craters in my backyard in the future. Interestingly, Laughlin doesn't like his yard being dug up, though. So every hole that Tully makes, Laughlin pees in it to deter him from it next time.

Just like other puppies, Tully occasionally mouths and play bites. It's Tully sized though!

So his mouth easily fits my arm or the girls' legs. Whenever they wear a new set of leggings, he gives it a try… But the girls are really good at stopping, yelling “NO!” And then the other one running for his bunny to distract him. Luckily, even his bites are gentle.

This Friday, he is going to grade 3 for the first time! The kids are doing measurement in school, so I figured out a worksheet and the grade three kids are going to measure him once a month for four months. His tail, the circumference of his chest, his height, is weight… everything grows so dramatically, it will be fun for them to compare over a short period of time.

Totally has also been out to the pharmacy, back-and-forth to the clinic, and a little walks. He gets very tired if he walks more than three blocks… Seriously! The tires out easily, but everywhere he goes, people know him, call out his name, and stop to give him a pet. I'm teaching him to sit every time he meet someone, so that when he's older he won't accidentally knock anyone over.

Oh and the last thing puppies do… Tully has to go outside after every meal, after every time playing, and after every nap. If you do the math, that's at least 12 times a day. Wow! What a lot of work. I did forget how much care and attention a new baby takes… And I have to say that the number of times he goes outside is giant sized as well. But he's doing super well with his host training, so I anticipate he will be pretty bomb proof within the next month. Thank goodness I am around most of the time to be shuttling him in and outside.

I hope you enjoy the pictures! My mother-in-law said that my children have been replaced on social media by my puppy. Just for her… Here is a picture of the girls and Tully about a week ago.

He has grown 8 lbs since then.

 

 

 

Young, Gifted and Black: Jully Black

To celebrate Black History Month, I’m profiling some of Canada’s amazing contemporary musical heroes. Children and teens relate to music, and feel connected with singers. I hope knowing some of these talented stars will inspire your kids, as well as mine, to express themselves and walk with confidence. As my favourite singer Nina Simone exclaimed “Oh but my joy of today, is that we can all be proud to say… To be young, gifted and black, is where it’s at!”

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Born in Toronto, Jully Black is the queen of Canada’s R & B scene. Her proud glorious and powerful personality beams from the stage into the audience, telling you that she knows exactly who she is, and you love her for it. Her vocals are perfect, her attitude is bright, and her self-confidence is a lesson all young girls can learn from. Jully was the youngest of seven children; her parents were Jamaican immigrants to Canada. As a first generation Canadian, her story is one that thousands of young Black Canadians relate to.

I fell in love with Jully Black when her “Seven Day Fool” song hit the airwaves… it was so witty, contemporary and yet grounded in a rich history of music.

I’ve seen her in concert, and she’s so powerful, funny and confident. My daughters watch her videos and simply say “she’s cool.” Absolutely.

Quite a few of her songs have socially active lyrics, but she packages them in pop, singable packages. This is one of my favourites.

Jully doesn’t tour as much as she used to – she was mostly around Toronto last year. But if you have a chance to take your teen daughter to a concert (or one of the other venues she plays, like Pride Fest) I would leap at it. My daughters are only eight, but awestruck by her hair,  her powerful body, and learning lyrics.

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