Moving…

Hey Folks,

As part of a little birthday surprise, my hunny set up my blog with my very own domain name. So, I’ll be working there from now on. So, please please correct your RSS feeds and your links to my blog to go to:

http://yukonchatterbug.com/

There’s no wordpress in the address anymore.

Woo Hoo!

Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday to me

Warm Beet Market Salad

For a scrumptilicious fantasmagorical warm beet salad, get fresh ingredients from your local market (I can’t say enough about the Fireweed Community Market), and toss ‘em all together. You never know what you’ll end up with. In my case, I ended up with this wonderful spur of the moment recipe.

  1. Boil red and white beets
  2. Boil (or steam) carrots
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in pan.
  4. Sauté:
    • green onions
    • dill weed
    • sliced mushrooms
    • sliced collard greens
    • sliced beet greens
  5. Add to mix:
    • sunflower seeds
    • dried cranberries
    • 2 tsp. lemon juice mixed with zest
  6. When carrots and beets are cooked, slice and add to salad mix
  7. Toss salad with salt and pepper to taste

I had never tried collard greens before, and I didn’t know you could eat beet greens. Apparently turnip greens are also edible. Who knew!

Oh, and I purchased a beautiful original painting from Stace Pshyk.

The Language in my “Cuisine”

After reading Croque-Camille’s post about Chicken Pot Pie, the light went on. Literally. There’s nothing more frustrating than reading a new recipe and encountering all kinds of food-related terminology that baffles you. It’s a sure way for the cookbook to collect dust on my shelf. At least CC explains them: CLEARLY.

A while back, I was looking at a Marchand de vin sauce and was baffled by the term mirepoix. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, but later found out that it’s the same thing my grandma, my mom, and I always did to prepare a stock, soup, or stew. It’s your basic aromatics of celery, onion, & carrot used for a base, except that’s what WE always called it: la base. The same goes with a lot of specialized food terms used by chefs. Many of the terms, I’ve realized, refer to methods that my grandma always used in the kitchen and with which I am familiar.

There are many other food-related terms, that over time I learned was terminology used by professional chefs or wanna-bes. But I also find it amusing how, when people want to sound sophisticated, they really, really like French words. And then, even I have a hard time pronouncing French terms the English way (like hors d’oeuvres), but that’s for another post.

Now I think I’ll go and prepare brochettes au saumon as an hors d’oeuvres before serving Duck à l’orange for dinner. I thinkCrème brûlée would be perfect for dessert.

Boy, do I need a good pastis as an apéritif before I get started.

Kiwifruit sauce

For the last week, I’ve been trying to find creative ways to get rid of foodstuff before it’s too late. “Never buy groceries on an empty stomach, my mother always warned me. I usually try to heed her advice, but for my last trip to the store, I must of had a brain fart, so I ended up with almost every fruit and vegetable under the sun.

Trying to get rid of way too many kiwifruit resulted in a tasty sauce that’s delicious over vanilla ice cream. Something has to balance out all those fruits and vegetables! Here’s what I did:

  • peel the kiwifruit – use a teaspoon and scoop the fruit out (I had about 10)
  • put in a food processor
  • add 1 cup white sugar
  • add 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime juice mixed with zest (adds a nice tang to the syrup/sauce)
  • simmer for about an hour

I poured the sauce into an empty bottle and keep it in the refrigerator. Deeee-lish!

Skype Hype

Living in the Yukon, long distance calls can get expensive regardless of which end of the phone you’re on. Even when using calling cards or special long-distance plans through the telephone company, the costs still add up.

Before I moved to the Yukon, I lived in southern Ontario and was subscribed to Sprint. For a low monthly flat-rate fee, this plan allowed for unlimited long-distance calling ANYWHERE in Canada (so they said in all their advertising campaigns). Eventually, they capped the number of minutes you could use, and then would charge 10¢/min. for additional minutes. It was still reasonable and perfect for calling home in northern Ontario.

When my boyfriend at the time moved to the Yukon a few of months before I did, I thought, “Perfect! It won’t cost me an arm and a leg to call him.” I even called their customer service line to ask whether their plan covered calls to the Yukon.

“Anywhere in Canada” replied the clerk without a second’s hesitation.

The first statement I received after started my long-distance calls to the Yukon looked normal. Two months later, however, I was out a few hundred dollars. Okay, I’ll just call them up and set things straight.

ME: “Doesn’t your plan cover long-distance calls anywhere in Canada?”

THEM [Again, without hesitation]: ” Unlimited calls anywhere in Canada Ma’am.”

ME: “Then can you explain why I’m being charged for calls made to the Yukon? Last time I checked, it was still in Canada”

THEM [After a few minutes detailling account information and putting me on hold to check]: “Oh, because of extra costs involved, Sprint now charges an extra fee for calls to the Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut.”

ME: “Hhhmm, you didn’t charge me on my last statement, so it’s obviously very new. Can you tell me how Sprint informed its customers of this change? There was nothing indicated on my last bill — I even read the fine print — and there were no leaflets in the envelope. I didn’t see anything informing me that your rates have changed.”

THEM: “Our rates haven’t changed Ma’am. It’s still only $xx to call anywhere, uh, I mean, almost anywhere in Canada.”

RING!!!!! WAKE UP LADY!!!! You’re charging an extra fee and claim that your rates haven’t changed?

In the end, after a bit of haggling and a few phone calls later, the company finally agreed to remove the extra charges on my telephone bill, and told me that any calls to the Yukon from that day forward would incur the extra fees. You can imagine how irritated I felt the next time I saw their TV commercial advertising, “Call anywhere in Canada…[blah blah blah].” I have very little tolerance for false advertising. I think they eventually changed the wording.

Fast forward to calling FROM the Yukon.

The ridiculously high long-distance calling rates here prompted me to purchase a calling card. I researched price per minutes, connection fees, everything, and finally settled on a plan through VOX. I won’t bore you with the details, but about the same thing happened: initially, fees are straight up; suddenly out of nowhere, I learn that my minutes are being sucked into a dark, mysterious, black hole; a call to customer service confirms a new surcharge for callers in the Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut.

Damn these long-distance telephone companies!

Today, I found a new option for long-distance calling that’s affordable. SKYPE. For about $30/year, I can make unlimited – well, up to 10 000 minutes according to the fine print — long-distance calls anywhere in Canada and U.S. using the Internet. I just plug in my headset to my laptop, and dial-up any land line or cell number.

I doubt very much that I’ll ever use up the 10 000 minute limit, unless I plan on being on long-distance calls for 5½ hours a day. Even my mom would get sick of me.

When I tried making my first phone call this morning, it was like when the sun rises, and the colours dance in the sky and warm you. It was like being right there, next to my mom, talking to her. It was divine.

Now I’ll just have to keep a close eye on my credit card bill. Hopefully, this time the hype will last.

Reading Power: Teaching Students to Think While They Read

Do you like to read? If you’re a teacher and/or a parent, do you want your kids to understand what they read? Of course you do, but what some people fail to recognize is that there’s a huge difference between reading fluency and reading comprehension. They’re both important, but sometimes we tend to emphasize the former over the latter.

Here’s a wonderful resource that was recommended to me by a local teacher:

Reading Power: Teaching Students to Think While They Read – (you can see the book online by clicking on the link)

Written by Adrienne Gear (from Vancouver)

The book is only 144 pages (means you can get through it in no time) and breaks down five strategies (or “powers”) to help with teaching reading comprehension:

  1. Connecting
  2. Questioning
  3. Visualizing
  4. Inferring
  5. Transforming (Synthesizing)

There are sample lesson plans to help teach each strategy with the use of picture books, and this with primary and intermediate levels. By using picture books, the stories are short, and students focus on the strategy more than the story. Once students learn and practice using each strategy, they apply them to other readings (i.e. novel studies, literature circles, etc…).

The bonus here, is that if you plan on buying picture books for your classroom or your personal library, you can buy with a goal in mind. Included are lists of books that are ideal for each reading power (strategy) for primary and intermediate. Many of the books recommended are already in our elementary school libraries – I checked!

Reading Power is based on and adapted from another longer work called Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goodvis.

Check it out! This book is a real gem.

Trip to the market brings unexpected surprise

While living in Toronto, it was very rare (and I mean rare) to meet someone you knew when going downtown. Once I bumped into a friend on a subway platform, and that in itself was a story to be told. We were both shocked at meeting each other.

In Whitehorse, it’s the other way around. Maybe that’s why I always feel so refreshed after Thursday’s trip to the Market. Today I met:

  • A friend and colleague I’ll be working with this year
  • My boss
  • A friend of the family
  • Parents of kids I’ll be teaching this year
  • 5 kids I’ll be teaching this year
  • Several acquaintances (4)
  • A couple of friends
  • And the biggest surprise: FAWN

We’ve never met face-to-face, and in an e-mail I sent this morning, I mentioned we should get together to meet for coffee, since we only live a short walk from each other. Her and Michael have posted pictures here and there of each other, and I immediately recognized her when I saw her, and let me tell you, she is very pregnant, very glowy (if that’s a word), and very gorgeous. Have you ever met someone whose eyes have two colours? I couldn’t help but to stare at her eyes. Don’t take this the wrong way, please, but I know beauty when I see it.

Nice to meet you Fawn!

Iditarod Musher’s Sauble Beach Romance

Looking at the most searched for terms that bring people to my blog, I tried to make up a title to see what would happen. I can’t imagine an Iditarod musher on Sauble Beach, but hey, ya never know! They do get winter, and as long as there’s snow (and dogs), there can be mushing, no?

I’m not sure I’d want to be on that beach come spring time. The little packages left behind would certainly make for an unpleasant day at the beach. But there are cleaning crews out every morning to pick up the previous day’s surprises, so again, anything’s possible, no?

Now, if I could only hook my friend up with a northern musher, then perhaps I could write a post about it. She’s the one with not one, but TWO cottages on Sauble Beach. Bitch!

Any takers?

Grandpa’s Old Fiddle

Growing up, special occasions were marked by family get-togethers, food, and best of all, good music. The one instrument’s sound that stands out in my mind is that of the fiddle. It was the main attraction and accompanied by accordion, guitar, or harmonica. My job was keeping time with a pair of old, scratched and tea-stained spoons taken out of the kitchen drawer. Trying to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of Orange Blossom Special or other favourites, my spoons would become a blur between my lap and open hand. I always joke that I learned to play the spoons before I could eat with one. When we visited both sides of the family, my grandpas were always ready, fiddle under chin and horsehair on strings.

I was only six when Grandpa J. passed away. My understanding of what was going on at the time was summed up at the wake when, looking at the open casket, I turned to my grandma and said, “This means I don’t have a Godfather anymore, right Grandma?” After everyone had gone, the old brown fiddle with its peeling finish was tucked away in its dusty black case on the top shelf of Grandma’s bedroom closet. I don’t know how many years it stayed there, but I secretly hoped that she was saving it for when I would be old enough to have it. I dreamed of some day learning to play it.

For many years, when spending time at Grandma’s house, she would ceremoniously place her little black cassette player right in the middle of the formica-topped kitchen table. With a smile on her face, she would press the “play” button with her crooked finger and gently hush me. When the recorded sound of Grandpa’s fiddle filled the air, she would close her eyes while her body started to sway to the sound of the music. She was transported back in time. A time when her legs were much younger, her joints were not swollen, and Grandpa was still around to play “une p’tite jigue” on his old fiddle. Sometimes she’d get right into it take my hand and spin me on the linoleum floor. Refusing to join her was not an option. I’d get a soft pinch here, a harder one there, until finally I would join in with her dancing.

With all this music in the family, there were always instruments to be found in our household. There was an old accordion with knobs held in place with elastics, my dad’s favourite, as well as a shiny chrome mouthpiece. These instruments were as sacred as the chalice and holy water in St-Anthony’s Church down the street; to my dismay, they were off-limits for my siblings and me. Yet, anytime I picked up an instrument, I always managed to play a little tune by ear, without any help. Yup, I was the musical one, but I always ended up singing since I could never be trusted holding more than a couple of spoons. How I wanted a fiddle of my own.

At one point, I don’t quite remember when, I learned that my cousin B. received the old fiddle. He was my grandparents’ Godchild, as I was, and in French Canadian Catholic families, Godparents are like an extra set of parents. His mother, my Grandmother’s twin, married an Englishman and never taught her children to speak French, but the traditions remained. On our birthday and at Christmas, we could always count on an extra-special gift from your Godparents. Even when my grandmother would introduce me to her friends, I wasn’t just her granddaughter – she always added that extra bit: “This is my Goddaughter, ma p’tite fiole, Carole.” As such, I felt special and reveled in the extra attention, but I was still disappointed about the old fiddle.

Though feeling selfish, I contained my disappointment until writing these words, as I still think about the fiddle on occasion. I wonder if B. has ever dusted it off to try to play it. I want to pick up the telephone and ask him what has become of it, but I fear the answer. Does he even still have it? You see, B. has never really settled down. He’s moved back and forth between relationships like a bow moves up and down its strings. He’s been unlucky that way I guess. Who knows if, with so many moves, the fiddle hasn’t gotten lost in the shuffle. On the other hand, perhaps he keeps the fiddle close to him as somewhat of an anchor in his tumultuous life, like a fiddler’s tapping foot that pulls the eye and keeps the beat as the notes escape and bounce recklessly around the room. Maybe the tapping foot is his, thanks to Grandpa’s old fiddle.

Where Home Is

St. Marys General Hospital

St. Mary's General Hospital

The children’s unit at St. Mary’s General Hospital is like any other. The playroom has a television on a shelf near the ceiling (why up so high?) and shelves are lined with more toys than Santa can fit in his sleigh. Alone in my room, I am given a crib instead of a regular bed. The metal on the crib is painted some khaki institutional colour: green, beige, or blue. I’m not especially happy to be here, but with my recent illness, I am told that I don’t have a choice, and besides, it’s only for a little while.

My grandmother had given me a doll as a gift, which I keep with me when I go to bed. It isn’t a Barbie-type doll; its body is larger, with some of its parts made of fabric. While I play with my doll, it slips out of my hands and I’m not fast enough. The doll ends up on the floor. I look around, and no one’s in sight that can come to her rescue. I stand up in my crib, carefully swinging one leg over the rail, and placing my toe on the bottom of it. Straddling the rail, I swing my other leg over and jump down onto the floor to rescue my fallen doll. As footsteps approach, I look up to find a nurse in a starched white uniform, hands on her hips, asking what on earth I’m up to. My pulse quickens and I can’t catch my breath as I try to explain. Quickly, I climb back over the rail and drop into my bed as she warns me not to try that again, or I’ll get a spanking.

I wasn’t doing anything wrong, was I? My parents were gone home, the nurses were busy, and I was alone. All I had was my doll, and the smell of my grandmother’s face make-up on its fabric. I could still see her wrinkled hands, swollen at the joints, handing it to me. Her face, the way it creased at the eyes when she smiled at me. My doll kept me sane between the prodding and poking of sharp needles and cold stethoscopes. I finally escaped those stark grey walls to finally be surrounded by my parents and sister.

The Outhouse

The Outhouse

For a time, my family lives in a small addition that had been built on the side of my grandmother’s farmhouse. There’s a large garden next to the house sprouting peas, carrots, potatoes. There’s a huge towering tree at the back of the garden, which will later become a favourite place to build a tree house. A wooden latch held in place with a rusty nail usually keeps the old creaky door of our place shut, and inside are two beds against one wall: one for my parents, the other for my sister and me. Two chairs sit neatly tucked under a tiny wooden table on the right, and straight ahead lies a kitchen smaller than a two-piece bathroom. In fact, that’s what it would eventually become after we moved out.

The toilet consists of an outhouse by day and a grey metal pail behind a small curtain by night. One evening, I groggily get up out of bed to use our “facilities.” My mother’s shrill voice resonates in my ears: “Be careful not to spill the pail!” Before I could barely finish calling back, some imaginary force tips over the bucket I’m sitting on – along with all of its contents – onto the rough wooden floor. My body tenses as I remain squatted, frozen, with wetness oozing around my stubby feet. My knuckles turn white as I keep my rumpled nightgown wrapped around my waist, fearing that the wetness will get at it as I hear my mother’s approaching footsteps. She doesn’t chastise me, but wets a cloth to clean my feet. The smell of disinfectant permeates the air as I sink deeper under the wool covers.

Our stay in that place was like the passing of a season. I didn’t know how we ended up in our next place, a small upstairs apartment. Early memories play tricks on the mind; it’s like trying to remember dreams. One minute you’re in one place, and the next, your surroundings are transformed and can be miles away, and the details aren’t always as clear as you’d like them to be. Anyway, somehow we ended up back up north, a four-hour drive on icy roads with nothing but jack pines on either side.

The new place has long outside stairs that lead to a large mudroom. It is scattered with a rainbow of coloured plastic toys and fuzzy animals. A thin metal door opens into a gleaming white kitchenette. Another doorway connects it to a slightly bigger living room, with barely enough room for the small sofa after the Christmas tree my father got from the bush is placed in one corner. On the opposite wall rests a small stand supporting a black and white television set with long metal rabbit ears extending to the ceiling. An upholstered chair sits in a corner, its metal feet scratching the hardwood floors beneath it. Lying on my stomach in my bed, I watch my father standing in front of the small mirror of the bathroom, turning the hot water faucet on and off as he shaves off the day’s stubble.

It’s Christmas Eve, and our home is bursting at the seams. I’m supposed to be asleep in my bed, waiting for Daddy to wake me for Midnight Mass, but through the noise and chatter of everyone filing in, I hear a distinct “Ho, ho, ho” coming from somewhere outside. My eyes pop open, and I can’t get up fast enough to greet Santa. I don’t know how many people come through our door, but it feels like an eternity as the jolly laugh gets louder. Standing just inside, I wave people through like a traffic cop, hurrying them forward with my hand so that I could get a glimpse. The moment is here, and a rush comes over me as I hear, once again, the jolly laugh. I dance from one foot to the other, rubbing my hands and craning my neck as far forward as my muscles will allow.

I’m usually happy to see my uncle. This time, however, he must have wondered why my shoulders dropped at the sight of him. After wishing me a Merry Christmas, I was whisked back to bed to await Midnight Mass, and the real jolly man in red.

I slip into my flannel peejays, feeling the softness and warmth on my skin. The pink and blue flowers on a white background make me feel dizzy if I stare at them too long. Eventually, I fall asleep, and the next thing I know I’m being shaken, “Get up Hunny, it’s time for Mass.” I jump out of bed and into my favourite dress and can’t help but to peek under the tree to see if maybe, just maybe, Santa might have passed through earlier than usual. This was Christmas, and this is our home.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

These are three of my earliest memories meshed together. I took a non-fiction creative writing class last year (my very first), and this was our first assignment. It was a challenge to find a common thread to three separate memories and put it all into one piece. This was the result. What is your earliest memory?

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