Category Archives: Uncategorized
I have really enjoyed doing this. It hasn’t been easy because I had to redo a lot of the stitches to get it right. Here are the photos of my progress in the past month:
TaDa!!!!!! Today I finished stitching the last characters. Thankfully now I don’t have to ‘kill myself’ for not completing it within the 6-month time-frame that’s allotted to each of us!
And now it’s onto the illumination for the text, an optional choice in the stitching — but since I have lot’s of empty space, I’ll do one, even though it’s going to be a challenge to find the right colour combination. Stay tuned to part 3!
My friend invited me to a synagogue to see some wonderful needlepoint and to a listen to a presentation by her sister-in-law. I was immediately drawn to photograph the huge project hanging on the walls of the huge room in the synagogue.
Being an avid crafter all of my life, embroiderer, crocheter, knitter, sewer, quilter, scrapbooker, miniaturist, sketcher, painter and artist, it would come as no surprise that I was mesmerized by the project that was before my eyes.
Having never participated in Shabbat services (even when living two short blocks from a synagogue for several years) I do not consider myself to be religious in any way. But if a Jewish holiday is coming up, I always prepare a lesson and a craft or cooking activity in class about that holiday. I do possess knowledge of the religious and historical significance of most of the holidays and avidly cook traditional food that I serve during them. To me, it’s all about bringing family together to celebrate Jewish tradition, but not in the pure religious manner.
One spin off is being a part of something much bigger than just doing some cross-stitch. Imagine I’m part of a worldly group of thousands and cross-stitching the Torah in Hebrew, including: an agnostic Jewish woman, a Mormon fire chief, a Muslim immigrant from Turkey and a Mother Superior at a church in the English countryside to mention just a few.
During the presentation, I was enlightened to the Torah containing 5 books, being: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. What I had seen on the walls was only the first book. They needed more than 300 more volunteers. I was in!
Signing up to cross-stitch a portion really did surprise me though, but looking back, I thought it was inspiring, a way to go back to my Jewish roots, participate in a huge project and do my share, along with create something so meaningful and do some handwork, something that I hadn’t done for many years.
I was so eager to get into the work and dug right in. I thought it was good enough to baste the borders on the cloth! Then stitch, rip out, stitch, rip out for the first row and part of the second. Humm! So much ripping out and I was going to run out of thread. I hadn’t carefully read the instructions, helpful hints or tips and at first I thought I had failed. Well, failure is not a word in my vocabulary. So I decided that I’d better be a ‘good student’, I went to do my research.
After the first week of stitching and I have finished 2 complete rows (5.5 more rows to go)…and I think it looks pretty good!
My portion is Numbers 7:55-7:58. It is part of the story of an outsider from another country who has an affair with the wife of the Israelite leader at the time. This causes a war between the countries. The Israelites win and the punishment is that the outsider must pay retribution in the form of one silver charger of the weight of an hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering, one golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense, one young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year, for a burnt offering and one kid of the goats for a sin offering. My portion is short and leaves a large portion at the bottom of the aida cloth which is big enough for an illumination (illustration) for embroidering. Being in China while doing this stitching, I am thinking that I may embroider a yuanbao, which is ‘boat-like’ type of silver or gold ingot currency used in imperial China. Since the illuminations are limited to 5 colour choices and grey or silver isn’t one of them, I’d have to get creative!
If I don’t finish in 6 months I won’t kill myself, but I certainly will think about it…haha@!
For more information on how to sign up to stitch, or to visit the exhibit at Darchei Noam in Toronto, visit torahstitchbystitch.org (mention my name and they’ll mail you a kit).
Interesting reading about this delightful project at http://nationalpost.com/news/religion/the-stitched-torah-toronto-tapestry-project-inspires-volunteers-from-around-the-world/wcm/53889c37-86c3-40d2-91e6-1e4ae6062e83
Every country throughout the world has their own typical or cultural bread. China is no exception with their mantou and baozi, which are rolls of dough steamed in stacked covered bamboo or (now) metal baskets at boiling temperature, sometimes being stuffed with meats or vegetable combinations. But perhaps a fairly unknown but interesting, tasty and most-like Western bread is Guandu Baba.
Baba is a yeast bread, made in my local neighbourhood market near Guandu Ancient Town in a 40 meter square bake shop. But it’s not your traditional Western loaf, cut into slices, but a 10-15 centimetre round, so delicious with a wonderful texture like some Western breads. Since finding Baba, the baking couple have become my friends, sharing our creations in bread making and our little secrets (even though the language barrier is great, we still enjoy our short conversations). When I asked to watch them and know more about this bread process, they obliged.
I have used Guandu Baba for making salty and fruit pizzas as well as my main breakfast food – cut into quarters, sliced in half through the middle, toasted in my small oven, and eaten with butter or jam or cream cheese. At this point I’d bet it’s even delicious with peanut butter.
No matter where you live in the world, if you’re a bread maker, your work starts way before your customers get their hankering for a slice of your bread or toast, and usually even before the sun comes up. My bakers, who come from DongBei in northern China, are no different. Mr. Wang Jing Zhang and Mrs. Bi Yi Min start their loaves rising at 6am and continue to bake and serve their customers until the last of their daily supply is sold – that’s usually 8pm. You could say that bread making is not an easy life. But it’s a rewarding one – as “bakers feed the world”.
It’s said that Westerners eat bread and Chinese eat rice. Of course there is much truth to that in general, however Westerners eat bread more often in loaves, whereas Chinese have just as many varieties of bread products to choose from. What starts off as basic dough, but by changing the shape or changing from wheat to rice flour, produces a huge variety of foods by mixing in or sprinkling on some spices, more or less salt or sugar, other ingredients, such as eggs, or vegetables, or adding or subtracting oil.
(I like to call them) my bakers use one small grill-type round ‘oven’ for their many varieties of bread-type foods. Interesting enough, the temperature of 150C was used for all products, only shortening or lengthening the cooking/baking time…all done without a timer, amazingly!
When asked how she learned to make these breads, Yu Min, replies, “There’s no big secret to our recipes. These are the original green foods, free from chemicals with no food additives and made with pure ingredients. They’re the ones that we’ve been eating since we were little kids.”
The baba dough consists of plain wheat flour, water, yeast and a very tiny amount of MSG. When saying this she puts her thumb and finger together to suggest a pinch! The dough is mixed and shaped into larger than fist sized discs and set aside in their warm, small shop to rise on baking sheets until about doubled in size. The baking procedure is simple. Three babas at a time are placed on bottom of the ‘oven’ – a very lightly greased surface – and using the hand, are flattened. Then the lid of the ‘oven’ is closed. The babas bake on one side for 5 minutes, then are turned with wooden tongs and cooked on the other side for another 2 minutes with the lid closed again. After much discussion about the correct name for this oven, it’s been determined that the oven is called a “Bing Cheng 饼铛”. Voila, fresh, hot, wonderful smelling Guandu Baba!
This dough is also used to make the large flat pancakes with a heavy, long rolling pin, in two flavours. More oil is added and the first pancakes come out of the oven quickly, then are sprinkled with sesame seeds on top, cut into small bits and put into a small plastic bag with a toothpick from snacking as you walk along doing your errands. There’s a lovely, crispy sesame taste to these.
The same pancake is morphed into a spicier snack, with a mixture of chilli sauce, sprinkled with green onion on the top.
The dough that’s wrapped in clear plastic is the original recipe with some oil and eggs added into the dough, and following the same procedure as above, is cooked in more oil and done very quickly.
The morning I was there, they had already made over 30 babas, many other kinds of bread products, and nice warm soya bean milk. And that was at 9:00 in the morning. During the mid day they will make another batch or two of dough and continue to bake more breads throughout the day, keeping their booth stocked with the tasty morsels that the customers have grown to love over the 6 years they have been in Kunming.
I am wondering if they’re going to expand or sell their business. Just last week, they had a woman and her son working together and the baker seemed to be teaching his sister-in-law and nephew how to do what he and his wife have been doing for so long…baking baba and traditional street snacks. It’s quite normal that with two more pairs of hands in the back, their business will improve, just as long as they don’t move or close down that will be fine…that would be a pity for all of the residents of my neighbourhood but mostly for me!
My hats off to this talented couple who, like so many others in the same shoes all over China, work incredibly long hours in cramped quarters with recipes passed down from generations using simple utensils and equipment to feed the masses with ever tasty and predicable breads!
If you try any of these recipes, I would love to have your feedback in my Comment Box:
- Copper pot rice April 19, 2013
- Yunnan-style Hongshaorou March 19, 2013
- Mint and green onions February 27, 2013
- Yunnan-style red beans and shiitakes January 29, 2013
- Yunnan-style tomato salad December 24, 2012
- Shredded chicken with chili sauce November 29, 2012
- Spicy taro and greens November 11, 2012
- Yunnan-style pork and egg custard October 2, 2012
- Yunnan-style lotus root and pork September 16, 2012
- Yunnan-style edamame beans and garlic September 1, 2012
STORY NUMBER ONE
Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago . Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.
Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was Capone’s lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time..
To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends, as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block.
Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.
Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object..
And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.
Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son; he couldn’t pass on a good name or a good example.
One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done.
He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.
Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street … But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine.
The poem read:
“The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still.”
STORY NUMBER TWO
World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare.
He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.
One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top up his fuel tank.
He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship.
His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.
As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet.
The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.
Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber’s blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent.
Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly.
Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction
Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.
Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft
This took place on February 20, 1942 , and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.
A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.
So, the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.
SO WHAT DO THESE TWO STORIES HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER?
Butch O’Hare was “Easy Eddie’s” son.
(Pretty cool, eh)
A moment in history…
The password is iaf
On Wednesdays and Thursdays I go to a very upscale mall to teach a class of little 2-year olds. It took one week to build this 4-storey tree. And it really is amazing. It came in a minimum of 50 parts, with each row of parts. Once the tree was in place there was the job of getting all the ornaments in place. Quite lovely!
Merry Christmas to one and all!
The Top 20 Positive “Feel Good” Songs of Popular Music
Popular music is filled to the brim with superficial songs about sex, drugs and money, but it can also be used to uplift, or present a philosophy lesson within the confines of a three to four minute song.
One of the best things music can do is to lift us up, or help us think about how to be better people.
For this playlist I wanted to select the top 20, positive “feel good” songs in popular music. Not just happy songs mind you, but songs that can be used much like a self-help book. The lessons contained in these 20 tracks can be viewed as enlightening, or sappy, depending on your point of view. But they all offer valuable lessons for life.
I have tried to ignore the fact that some of these songs have been overplayed, or have not aged well, and instead focused on selecting tracks with an overwhelmingly positive message. Many of the artists who made the cut are worthy of more than one track, but I have chosen to limit the list to contain only one song per artist.
I have ranked the top 20 from my own experience, and since music has a different impact on all who hear it, your list will certainly differ from mine, but one thing I am sure of is that these 20 songs are truly positive, inspiring, and for the most part, loved.
One glaring omission for many will be the absence of John Lennon’s Imagine. Sorry, but the line “Imagine there’s no heaven” just doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. And since this playlist was put together on pure gut emotion it was easily kicked to the curb.
And so, I present the top 20 positive songs of popular music:
3. All You Need Is Love – The Beatles