Thursday, November 28, 2013

Clothing room update -- another great reuse centre

The clothing room at the Distribution Centre for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (the small chapel on the corner of 108th Avenue and 109th Street, just outside St. Joe's High School) has gone through a major upgrade since I was last there in February. Over the last 8 months my mom kept me up to date on my favourite folks who come to the Centre, and on the SSVP's reno plans and progress. Yesterday, for the first time since Shadow-puppy joined our family, I went to volunteer (after taking him for a long walk) and to see the "new" place.

Here's a view of the tiny bit of floor space where clothing for men, women and children used to be displayed:

(You can't see the second crowded aisle on the other side of the housecoats...)
And below, the cramped room where volunteers unpacked donated clothing.

Over the last several months, furniture and large items were moved to another building to facilitate the reorganization and renos, and some generous people donated a hefty sum that was used to brighten the entire space, rearrange the different "departments" somewhat, and enlarge the clothing area. Old walls were removed and new walls added, different sections were moved around (I'm not sure where the repair workstation went -- forgot to ask) and the whole place received a fresh coat of paint and new lighting.

The renovations are a vast improvement.The new and improved Terry Mahon Clothing Room (named for the son/brother of our generous donors) feels four times the size of the old space, which has now been transformed -- the small space where shoppers had to climb over each other to get clothing items for men, women and children is only one of three larger "shopping" areas. The old space is now just the women's section...

Look at those nice wide aisles!

A well-lit, full-sized men's section fills the space where 
walls and shelving units once were (back then, the men's "department" 
-- though you could hardly call two shelves and two racks a department -- 
had been squished against one wall and into a dark corner of the old space):

I love the bright new area where kids and babies clothing, books 
and toys are displayed... there's even a live plant! 
The ceiling is high, making the air circulation much better 
than it used to be... and the lighting is vastly improved!

We also have room to move as volunteers, 
with a long high table for unpacking donations 
and lots of shelving with bins for storing extra items 
so that we don't run short of things so often.

The City of Edmonton has an excellent Reuse Centre, but this non-city-affiliated one is my hands-down favourite, mainly because of all the people with "hearts for the poor" who work here, and all our homeless friends who visit. Saving stuff from the landfill isn't as important to us as helping people in need, but I'm sure the City's Waste Management Services would be impressed with our efforts to reuse, recycle, and reduce the stuff that goes to the landfill! 

Thanks to the Mahon family for their generosity, and congratulations to Daryl D. and all the volunteers who renovated and reorganized this place to better serve our brothers and sisters in need, especially Louise and my mom, who put things in their proper places. 

"Well done, good and faithful servants!" 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Simple Suggestion #188... Live within your needs (Buy Nothing Day 2013)

Do you remember Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos' wife Imelda, the woman with 3,000+ pairs of shoes? No? I guess I'm really dating myself!

We've all heard the phrase "live within your means," meaning, don't spend more money than you have, be frugal, choose sensibly, and only buy that which you can afford. But Imelda could afford all those shoes -- she was living within her means even though she had rooms and rooms of shoes and clothing at a time when most people in the Philippines were living at subsistence level. (Really, they were unwittingly bankrolling her and her shoes -- until they ousted her hubby.)

Ever since a little quotation out of the writings of a fellow named Nilus of Ancyra landed in my inbox last month, I've been thinking how it would be better if people like Imelda and our present day celebs -- and all of us, too -- lived "within our needs" instead of our "means." Here's what Nilus had to say:
We should remain within the limits imposed by our basic needs and strive with all our power not to exceed them. For once we are carried a little beyond these limits in our desire for the pleasures of life, there is then no criterion by which to check our onward movement, since no bounds can be set to that which exceeds the necessary.
Nilus was an abbot in charge of a monastery in Ancyra, Greece, early in the third century. From all accounts, he was a wise, spiritual and thoughtful man... who would probably shake a finger at Imelda (whose aide got caught last week selling a Monet painting that went missing when Ferdinand's dictatorship ended with the People Power revolution in 1986). Nilus would also roll his eyes at all the other excesses with which we surround ourselves now, shake his head and say, "People, people, when will you wake up?"

The abbot of Ancyra was the kind of man who would encourage us all to join the Buy Nothing movements that have recently appeared in social media, simply because our "onward movement" -- toward the pleasures of life in the form of addiction to our possessions -- is running our earth (and many of our brothers and sisters in the developing world) to ruin. Would Hurricane Haiyan have been so powerful if we weren't spending so many of the earth's carbon resources to ship unnecessary "stuff" all over the planet?

What do we really need in order to live a joyful life? Love, food, shelter, and clothing. Too much more than that gets in the way of our joy because it demands that we spend less time with those we love and more time working to buy, own, maintain and defend what we own. Once we have our basic needs covered, do we really need to buy anything more? How many of those 3,000-some pairs of shoes did Imelda wear more than once? She probably couldn't even remember each pair!!! And most of them have been destroyed in the last few years' floods in the Philippines...

Mention of Black Friday, November 29th, the big kick-off to Christmas consumerism, has been lurking around for the past few weeks, but I prefer to think of it as Buy Nothing Day, a holiday from consumerism. The day after American Thanksgiving needs to become another day of gratitude for and awareness of our fulfilled needs rather than an all-out-gimme-gimme-consumerfest, no matter what stores have planned for us that day. News coverage of Black Friday the last several years seems to indicate that we take shopping far too seriously in North America, and could all use a shopping-free vacation! Imelda included.

To be honest, most days of my year are Buy Nothing Days (except for groceries), so my contribution to the Buy Nothing movement this year is spreading the word here, and sharing this little poster (feel free to copy and paste all over the internet, or email me under my profile and I'll send you a PDF file for printing and posting anywhere your heart desires).

And here's the challenge to all my readers: try living within your needs. Why not observe Buy Nothing Day on Friday, November 29th? Feel free to check out the Buy Nothing Christmas website on my sidebar (click on the top bar titles ("Alternatives," "Resources," "Stories," etc. if the links on the page don't work for you). See what the next seven days as a Buy Nothing Week feels like. And the Ultimate Challenge -- make 2014 a Buy Nothing Year!

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Something to make you smile on a Monday

Like the rest of Rider nation, I'm a happy girl this morning. 45-23 was the final score in front of a hometown crowd, and I suspect they're pretty groggy in Regina today.

My good mood makes me want to spread a smile around... so here's a funny little video of a german tongue twister-like story. I wonder how many times the narrator messed up and had to start over! I know I couldn't manage it! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Balance on a Sunday

Today will be a day full of fun... the Saskatchewan Roughriders, my favourite team from the Canadian Football League, are playing in the Grey Cup final in their hometown (my birthplace) of Regina, Saskatchewan. My extended family and I will get together to watch the game on TV, but there are even more excited people in Rider Nation who will be watching the game live, including quite a few of my Saskatchewan cousins. Stay warm and cheer loudly, everybody! Go Riders! Green is the colour!

Here's a video (with a catchy tune) that gives you an idea of the kind of zaniness that the Rider Nation displays on game days. Toques may be required underneath those watermelon hats at Mosaic Stadium today (temp expected to be just below freezing) but then again, excitement and a few pocket flasks may be enough to keep people warm and happy!

And for those of you who could care less about Canadian football, here's something of a counterpoint to football excitement -- an extremely focused woman who gives an amazing demonstration of concentration and equilibrium. Today, I'm thinking about how we all need balance in our lives. Fun and excitement, relaxation and peace. Make both part of your Sunday, if you can. I find this video of Miyoko Shida's talents very calming. Thanks to my friend Mark for bringing it to my attention. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Simple Suggestion #187... Take your travel mug

Sometimes I wonder if some people think of their paper coffee cups as a status symbol -- like it somehow makes them feel "cooler than average" to walk around carrying a brand-name cup of java. More than likely, they just don't think about doing things differently. But MetroVancouver has created a wonderful little video to point out the wastefulness inherent in those convenient, single use cups... Thanks to Laura H. for bringing it to my attention!

This week's challenge?? Make it a personal rule that if you want a coffee-shop cup of coffee, it has to be in a reusable (or travel) mug... every time. Enjoy your joe while thumbing your nose at waste and intentionally depriving the landfill!

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"I not grumpy t'day": thoughts on paying attention

My work-at-home life has shifted out of the house for the past two weeks as I've been filling in for L'Arche Edmonton's receptionist, who is away on vacation. I've really enjoyed my mornings in the office in spite of a few frustrations with technology breakdowns, mainly because I get to see my friends at work. There's no human interaction when I'm writing L'Arche history at my kitchen desk.

I also get to see my friend, Thomas, every day, and I've learned something from him again -- my L'Arche friends with intellectual disabilities often cause me to reflect on what's really important.

Last week I discovered that it's essential to notice when Thomas comes into the room, and to say hello, no matter what my computer screen is demanding of me. On Tuesday, I was fighting with an email program that refused to either send or receive what had to be critically important emails (not likely) and was completely focused on it when Thomas arrived. He walked into the room, sat down at the table not far from my desk, and waited for me to notice him, which, unfortunately, I didn't for quite some time. When I finally did look up and say hello, he said, "I not talking t'you," in his angry voice.

Nothing I could say or do made up for the fact that I hadn't greeted him sooner. He sat, arms crossed, glaring at me, and eventually, got up and walked out. When I mentioned this to someone else, she said, "Oh, just be sure to greet Thomas right away, or he gets grumpy."

On Wednesday, when Thomas arrived, I said hello to him and asked how he was as soon as he walked into my room. His immediate, happy response was, "I not grumpy t'day," and I said, "I'm so glad. I like to be with you when you're happy." He spent a good part of the morning at the table near my desk, offering commentary on the falling snow or the situation in the parking lot ("lots of cars"), or in companionable silence. He didn't require a lot of attention, but it seemed important to him that I acknowledge his presence occasionally.

My experience with Thomas has me thinking a lot about these gadgets and gizmos that are always demanding our notice -- computers, TVs, tablets, smart phones and possibly a half-dozen other things that I don't even know about. They compete with our attention for each other, and if we let them win the competition, basic human interaction and courtesy lose out. How could a broken email program ever be more important than Thomas?

And yet everywhere we look there are people sitting together in different places, lost in their separate devices. Not that the devices are always an issue -- it's the lost-ness that is. As a technological society, we've developed the tendency to think that the business on those devices is terribly important. But it's essential -- and only human -- to be aware of those around us and their needs for our attention and care. When our devices start to suck us into unawareness of each other, it must be time to remind ourselves of our true priorities and turn them off.

It might just mean the difference between a "grumpy" or a "good day" for someone we love.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A magical winter day

The snow started on Friday night, and now we have a foot of it, with more flakes falling as I moodle this afternoon. I managed to take a few gorgeous pictures this morning before the wind started knocking fluffs of snow off the tree branches... Isn't it interesting how these pics, taken in full colour, look black and white?

Take a minute to find and appreciate the beauty where you are today!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Give a little love

I know I've posted this one before, but Noah and the Whale's song and this video are worth hearing/seeing more than once. We never know when a small action to help a stranger carries further than we think... Enjoy!

Video from KarmaTube

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Simple Suggestion # 186... Meet my friend, Mark

Mark A. Burch is one of the reasons that Simple Moodlings exists at all. I met Mark in 2007 at a workshop he led on Voluntary Simplicity and Nonviolence. It was a weekend that changed my life -- and it led to an amazing and valuable friendship.

Mark is a Voluntary Simplicity expert from Winnipeg, Manitoba. What that means is that he's a man who has thought deeply about life and figured things out. He's come to the conclusion that the complexity of consumer culture and its determination that we all buy, Buy, BUY is killing us and our planet. He experimented with living off-grid, but decided that there had to be a sustainable way to live within our urban settings. He's written several books about re-imagining our world in a way that builds a healthier way of life through simplicity, self-reliance, sharing, co-operation, and community. Retired from the University of Winnipeg, where he used to teach Voluntary Simplicity courses to young adults, he still leads many workshops and sessions on the topic.

Mark is my go-to guy when I have questions about living more simply and sustainably, simply because he's made the time to think everything through. He's also been a major support when I'm feeling overwhelmed by the bad news stories for our environment. His efforts have also introduced me to many others who are on the same journey into simplicity. It's an uphill battle, but it's only better with a friend like him.

My friend has come out with a new book that I intend to buy (it's not in the libraries yet, though I may donate my copy to my local library once I've read it...) because it's bound to inspire me to deepen my practice of Voluntary Simplicity (kind of like Hurricane Haiyan has underlined for me the necessity to have a smaller impact on our planet and thus not contribute to further superstorms...)

And so... I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Mark, via his two books. Stepping Lightly is a book I refer to frequently -- and I'm really looking forward to reading his latest, The Hidden Door. 

Meet my dear friend, Mark... and realize, as he does, that life and everything in it is a gift rather than something to which we are entitled...

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

God's good morning show

If you've been following these moodlings for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a fan of "ordinary miracles" and natural beauty. My sisters still like to tease me about my enthusiasm for beauty from the time when I was in my teens, and there was a fiery sunset to the west. "The sky is on fire," I exclaimed...

I can't help it -- it's always been in my nature. And I'm glad that it is, because when mornings like this one appear, I feel rich in ways that money cannot buy. Look at the gold in this sunrise!

True, it won't buy me a mansion, but who really needs a mansion? And God is always giving out free riches like these in better morning shows than you can find on TV. Not nearly as depressing as the morning news, that's for sure...

But I'm not advocating ignoring the morning news, either -- today the people suffering the effects of Hurricane Haiyan are very much on my mind. They can use our help and prayers this week. It's time to donate to an agency that can help. It's past time to cut down further on our use of fossil fuels that feed global climate change and cause superstorms. And a little prayer can't hurt, so here's my prayer. Perhaps you can pray it with me:

O God, 
we know that you have no hands or feet on earth but ours. 
Help us to use the strength and resources 
you have given us
to reach out to those in great need.
Show us how we can help to lift their burdens
and help them back to the abundant life
you offer to each one of us.
Direct our time, talents and treasure
according to your will.
Bless the people who are suffering because of Hurricane Haiyan,
and, through us, 
touch everyone who needs your tender care this day.


10:30 a.m.  A co-worker and friend at L'Arche is from the Philippines, and has lost a cousin and her cousin's husband to Superstorm Haiyan. The couple's three year old son is missing... please pray with me for them, for little Tarin, and for all who grieve...

Monday, November 11, 2013

We remember -- all over the world

Every evening at 8 p.m. in the city of Ypres, Belgium, our Canadian war dead are remembered along with other soldiers of the Commonwealth. The last post is played at the Menin Gate, a monument that holds the names of 54,896 soldiers who were killed in Flanders and have no other known grave. I have been fortunate to visit the Menin Gate for the evening ceremony, which was attended by a handful of people rather than the crowds in the video below.

During the German occupation in WWII, the playing of the Last Post was not allowed, but the very evening of liberation, September 6, 1944, the people of Ieper (the city's Flemish name) picked up their daily remembrance where they left off. Thanks to supercanadiandude for posting this video (and several others on the Remembrance Day theme).

Today we remember our war dead, our veterans, and those presently serving in places of war. Our family attended the indoor ceremony at the University of Alberta, where those who died, veterans and present day service men were remembered and honoured. God bless and keep them, and may we all strive for peace.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Come and fill our hearts with your peace

Tonight's Taize Prayer will be held at Strathearn United Church at 7 p.m. As we're into the Remembrance Day weekend, we are praying for peace, and for our veterans -- those who have given their lives for freedom, and those still with us. May they feel the Good Shepherd's care for them through the people who surround them, and may we all work tirelessly to end poverty, injustice and war in our world.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Simple Suggestion #185... Make the most of your jack-o'-lantern

Our jolly jack-o'-lanterns
Here's a suggestion I should have moodled last week!

The last few days, as Shadow puppy and I have gone on our morning walks, we've seen many frozen, saggy jack-o'-lanterns abandoned on front steps and planters. It makes me a little sad... there's good food value in those characters -- 1 cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin gives you 245% of your daily vitamin A intake, as well as 20% of your vitamin C, plus iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. So why not think about Jack in terms of pumpkin soup, pumpkin loaf or muffins, and pumpkin pies!

Cooked pumpkin chunks
Processing pumpkin is really easy -- just take your basic jack-o'-lantern and hack it into quarters with a sharp knife, top to bottom. Then cut the quarters into horizontal strips and slice off the outer skin off before chopping it into bite-sized chunks. Toss them into a large pot with a dribble of water (to keep them from sticking to the bottom at first) and cook them on medium heat until soft. Depending on what you want to do with your pumpkin puree, you might want to drain it for a few hours once it's cooked to get the store-bought pumpkin consistency if needed.

To make basic cooked, spiced pumpkin puree like you buy in cans, take 3 cups of pumpkin and add:
3/4 c (180 mL)sugar
2 tsps (10 mL) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 mL) cloves
1 tsp (5 mL) allspice
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ginger

Here are three of my favourite recipes using pumpkin. These days I'm frequently referring to them, as Suzanna grew more jack-o'-lanterns than usual this year!

Pumpkin Soup (recipe also works with other kinds of squash, including zucchini!)

In large saucepan, saute 2 cloves garlic in 1 tablespoon (15 mL) margarine.
Add 2 cups (500 mL) chicken broth.
Add 5 cups (2250 mL) fresh pumpkin chunks.
Cook on medium heat until the pumpkin becomes translucent. Puree for a smooth consistency, and serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Easy peasy!

Pumpkin Loaf

Mix together
3 c (750 mL) cooked, spiced, pumpkin puree (see above)
6 eggs
1 1/2 c (375 mL) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 c (250 mL) lightly packed brown sugar (as a diabetic, I skimp -- you might like to add a half cup (125 mL more
grated peel from 1 orange
Mmmmm, it smells so good!

In another bowl, combine
4 1/2 cups (1125 mL) flour
3 tsps (15 mL) baking soda
3/4 tsp (4 mL) baking powder
1 c (250 mL) chopped almonds
1 c (250 mL) raisins

Fold wet and dry ingredients together and divide into 3 buttered loaf pans. Bake at 350 F (175 C) for an hour. Test with a toothpick (it should come out clean) to ensure centre is baked through.

Pumpkin Pie -- there is such thing as a pie pumpkin (supposedly sweeter than your run-of-the-mill variety) but this recipe works well with our ordinary garden pumpkins.

3 c (750 mL) cooked, spiced pumpkin puree (see above)
1 370 mL can of evaporated milk
3/4 c (180 mL) sugar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla
4 eggs

2 pie crusts (I make mine using Tenderflake shortening, following the recipe on the box. Also easy peasy!

Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
In a large bowl, combine the spiced pumpkin with remaining ingredients. An immersion blender works great if you have one.
Divide the filling between the two pie crusts. With strips of aluminum foil, carefully cover the edges of the pie crusts so they don't burn.
Place the pies in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 F (175 C) and bake for an additional 50 minutes, or until pies are set (do a toothpick test -- it should come out clean).
Let cool somewhat... and don't forget the whipped cream!

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Several years ago, my girls found a movie at the library. They were into Jane Austen at the time, and had seen the BBC's wonderful Pride and Prejudice series. I don't think they quite realized what they were getting into with Bride and Prejudice, their first Bollywood movie!

It was a rather tongue-in-cheek version of Elizabeth and Darcy's story, with handsome men and beautiful women -- and wow, could they dance! We enjoyed the flick, but I had forgotten about it until last week, when we had a little bit of Bollywood at our L'Arche Edmonton Heritage Day.

There's something quite amazing about Bollywood. Corny as it may seem at times, its romantic comedies offer beauty, a certain innocence, and amazing dancing that makes for uplifting entertainment. Bollywood movies reminds me of some much disparaged Hollywood musicals, which, while their acting often wasn't great, their music and dance numbers were totally incredible, even by today's standards. I think that's why Bollywood has caught my attention once again, making me wish that I was one of the dancers, though I'm not that talented and probably wouldn't be able to walk for a week after one of these numbers!

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the gorgeous, lively, and recent Bollywood movie clip we all danced to at Heritage Day. If you want a lot of colour, look for Balam Pichkari with the same two actors (top left on the screen) at the end! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Winter Psalm on a Sunday

It started to snow yesterday afternoon, a bit earlier than forecasted, and this morning the world is a different place. But I don't mind -- the garden has been put to bed and the produce put away, and I'm ready for some quieter winter evenings ahead, when I can actually read some books!

Today I remembered one of my favourite prayer books by Edward Hays, called Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim (1989, Forest of Peace Books) and looked into it for its winter psalms. Here are some tidbits from "A Winter Wonderland Psalm" (p. 124) for your enjoyment. I'm going to be praying some other winter psalms this week, I think...

...Be still, my soul, like a winter landscape
     which is wrapped in the white prayer shawl
     of silent snow fringed with icy threads....
Be still, my gypsy mind,
     from your whirling like a perpetual gyroscope,
     constantly restless, ever on the move....
Be still, my being,
     so that, like Lewis Carroll's Alice,
     you may, with grace, find the tiny, hidden doorway
     that leads to Wonderland.
Be still so that you can discover slowly, day by day,
     that God and you are one,
     to know in that Wonder-of-Wonderlands
     who you really are.