Happy Mother’s Day from my sweet girls

This morning I was surprised by some cute gifts for Mother’s Day. But the best gift of all were the books the girls gave me. The book from Spice, especially, made me cry. It’s amazing to see yourself through your child’s eyes, and what makes them feel loved. One of the girls cards said “Dear Mommy, you worry about me, and I like that. I love you! Happy Mothers Day.”

From Sugar..

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From Spice…
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Sisters Trip to Portland

Before Christmas, my brother in law asked me to find a CD of Damien Rice,  in Irish folk/rock singer for my sister Ena’s Christmas present. Despite looking in the few stores, I didn’t have any luck on the CD. No one buys physical music these days! But one evening in May, I came across concert tickets for the same guy, performing in Portland. I thought “what the heck, she’ll love it,” and spontaneously bought the tickets. I mailed one to her when they arrived, and announced that we were going on a road trip, wether she liked it or not. Ena was delighted! And so in April, we headed off on our four day whirlwind trip down to Portland to see an Irish folk singer.

Ena and I live a few mountain ranges away from each other, so we agreed to meet in Spokane and then continue on our way to Portland.

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Apparently my brother-in-law was slightly concerned about our ability to meet up in a foreign city without cell phones (I ditched mine almost a year ago when our clinic opened and my daily work/home life shrunk within three blocks.) Surprise surprise, maps and preplanned meeting times still work.

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Ena and I explore the sites of Spokane, including taking a gondola ride over the river. That was pretty cool.

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We scrounged up some gluten-free grub at Gastro pub in a trendy Spokane residential neighborhood, and headed out for our night in the cabin.

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For our budget trip, I had booked a cabin in Potholes State Park. It was practically deserted this time of the year, and we had a restful sleep, waking to the sound of the marsh humming on our doorstep.

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Then onto Portland!

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We stayed at an HI hostel, right in the middle of a trendy shopping and residential neighbourhood. It was great! I’ve stayed at countless hostels, all over the world, and this was one of the best… Clean, simple rooms, a beautiful shaded garden between the four buildings that constitute the hostel, and spacious kitchen to make our own food.

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We rode the tram to the concert, and found it very easy to get around. 

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Otherwise, our time was spent shopping, eating and walking.

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I wanted to see what the hipsters (and their dogs!) We’re wearing, to incorporate new ideas into my store. I definitely picked up some awesome product ideas, as well as some cute low boots.

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Spending a couple of days there, I really jived with Portland. It is beautifully lush, and the laid back atmosphere and attention to style really suits me. I’ve always said if I ever had to live in the U.S., it would be in San Francisco, but maybe, in the imaginary border crossing, it would be Portland instead.

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After too short of a visit, we headed back home. This time, we drove north, then east, and spent the night in a yurt in a wooded state park.

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The next morning, we took a hike through the woods, following the river, and got our legs ready for the long journey home.

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A trip like this is a special gift. And that’s the way I feel about my sister. As teens, we often didn’t see eye to eye. I thought she was reckless and she thought I was a stick in the mud. But by the time our twenties rolled around, we realized that we have way more in common than we ever thought. We share interests, values, and a lot of great jokes. For the last 18+ years, I’m lucky to have counted her around my best of friends.

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Bonus picture! For fans of my puppy:

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Wine Wednesday: Sargamuskotaly Tokaji Late Harvest

One of my personal wine fetishes is a passion for sweet dessert wine. The sweeter does not mean the better… Dessert winds are all about the perfect balance between aroma, acid, sugar, and mouth feel.

Wine Wednesday: Sargamuskotaly Tokaji Late Harvest

Probably the best value wine that I know of in this category is Tokaji from Hungary. Hungary and wine, once upon a time, was very popular in Europe. But the methods have fallen out of favor, and The region’s exquisite quality is ours for a bargain these days.

The most famous kind of wine from this area is Aszu. The grapes are affected with Noble rot, picked individually, and then fermented in their own best of wine.

This is not a bottle of Aszu, however. This is a late harvest wine.

You can taste in wine that some of the Yellow Muscat grapes have been affected by botrytis, Noble rot. But the sweetness comes mainly from harvesting the grapes as the colder temperatures set in on the late harvest. It’s a fresh, modern style with the backbone of botrytis, found only a few places in the world. Awesome. And the best part of all, is that this little bottle is on $12 in my province!

If I haven’t already convinced you with the price in the pedigree, let me lure you in with a description. The wind is a medium yellow color, clear around the room as it is only two years old. The aroma is full of honeysuckle, orange blossoms, white lilies, beeswax, and buttermilk. When you take a sip, take a big sip….And feel that luscious full wine swirl around in your mouth. Note the high acidity, the balances the sweetness. It has a delicious pineapple taste, with tropical lilies, strawberry blossoms and a mouthful of honey. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Of course you can drink this with dessert, but I love a glass appoint self. Some of my other favorite pairings are with popcorn, pad Thai, salty nuts and pate on crackers.

Enjoy!

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

alicante-bodega

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.

spring braids ad

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…

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