October 30, 2019

Learning To Cook Our Favourite Restaurant Foods - Vietnamese Salad Rolls

Salad rolls with peanut sauce. Fresh, colourful, and tasty. Very tasty.
Recipe at bottom of page.

Eating out is fun. Who doesn't like someone else to do all the cooking and cleaning up? But at what cost to your food budget?

Eating out accounts for about 44% of what the average North American stuffs in their pie hole every year. The food bought may be yummy, but it is also several times more expensive than the same food made at home. 

Many years ago Linda and I were looking to tighten our budget. Eating out was a natural place to look to save a lot of money. 

Rice paper is available in the import section of your grocery store.

We decided to eliminate eating outside our home, something that could potentially save us thousands of dollars a year. 

We began to miss some of our favourite restaurant foods. We had to either learn to live without them, or learn to make them ourselves. We chose the later alternative.

That meant learning to make dishes from Mexico, India, Thailand, and Vietnam, among others. It has also meant many years of enjoyment learning about different cultures, geographies, and foods. 

Vietnamese salad rolls with peanut sauce provided one such tasty lesson. 

We had them tonight, and they did not disappoint. We added dried basil and green onions from our garden. Salad rolls often include shrimp or pork. We made ours with tofu.

They are considered an hor d'oeuvre, although we ate ours as a main course. 

Next time we will pair them with a hot and sour soup recipe that we made earlier this week for the first time.

Our cooking knowledge has come in handy now that we live in a rural area where there are few restaurants of the type we would frequent back in the day. 

We can still enjoy the foods we learned to love in restaurants, and save a ton of money in the process.

Start saving money now by reducing restaurant visits, and increasing home cooked meals. Save money, have fun, eat well. That's what I call a win-win-win.

Vietnamese Salad Rolls With Peanut Sauce Recipe

In this recipe, the only thing that needs to be cooked is rice noodles, and they cook quickly, say, 2-3 minutes at a boil. When they are done, drain and use cold water to cool off. Drain again.

The tricky part is rehydrating and handling the rounds of rice paper. The dry rounds are immersed in warm water for a few seconds. I leave mine in the water for up to 60 seconds, then transfer them to a clean, dry cloth for another 30 seconds (to absorb water), then on to a plate for filling and rolling.

I usually soak and use two at a time to make a roll. That is because a single rice paper is difficult to handle and roll without tearing. 

Once on the plate, we filled the round with:

- rice noodles, cold

- marinated baked tofu, strips

- green onions

- shredded carrot

- shredded lettuce

- bell pepper, sliced

- basil, fresh or dried

To roll up:

- filling should be at bottom end of round. Fold sides in and over the filling a bit, then start rolling up from the bottom, holding it all together as you go. Be patient, and once you get going and repeatedly make one after another, it becomes meditative. If you roll it tightly it will all stick together, no problem.

To make the peanut sauce combine:

3 tbsp peanut butter

2 tsp   Bragg or soy sauce

1 tsp   sesame oil

1/2 tsp chili flakes

Top with a few fresh peanuts.

If sauce is thick it can be used as is, or if you like it runnier, dilute with a bit of water, or coconut milk if you have some on hand. 


October 29, 2019

Quitting Consumerism


You have permission to not buy anything today.

Determine to get off the treadmill of materialistic existence.

Let go. Gain more.

Take a serious look at your life, and the life of your community.

Imagine a better world that you know is possible.

Build it.

October 25, 2019

Repair Then And Now

We used to repair things not so long ago. That was back when manufacturers made a profit by offering well made items that people could reliably use for a long period of time. If worn or broken they could be revived for continued use.

Now money is made by by offering shoddy items that are not durable, and must be replaced often. In many cases the items are purposefully designed to fail early in their life.

The main attraction is that they are inexpensive. But only initially. 

If you have to repeatedly replace shoddy products, it ends up costing everyone a lot more.

Any time something I own breaks, I repair it if I can. If I can't, I learn how.

So many of the things I own show evidence of past repairs. They all have a wabi-sabi imperfection that makes them unique, and I like that, scars and all.

To throw out and replace items would be to condone the blatant waste for profit model that is sullying the planet with great heaps of crappy, broken junk. Every repair I make is a victory for frugality and economy.

In a short period of time, repair shops have largely disappeared from the community commercial landscape. Perhaps they will return as we work at the retrieval of good ideas that got tossed while under the influence of  consumerism.

My prediction is that repair shops will be making a comeback, and I will welcome, and support, them.

In the meantime, in a boost to fans of frugality everywhere, there is a wealth of how-to-repair-things information online. 

One example you might want to check out is iFixit, where one can get information on fixing a wide variety of items. They think it is time for a Consumer's Bill Of Rights that allows the right to repair.

Happy repairs.


 - to open everything we own
 - to modify and repair our things
 - to unlock and jailbreak the software in our electronics


 - to repair information
 - to products that can be repaired
 - to reasonably-priced, independent repair shops

October 21, 2019

Not On The Ballot

The ballot I would like to see.

The Canadian political gangs are throwing another election today. The ballot, as usual, will give voters a choice between different gangs that all basically stand for the same thing - business as usual.

Our choice is between do-nothing business as usual, and do-something-but-not-the-best-thing green tinged variety of business as usual.

Nowhere in our "democracy" is anyone presenting any alternative to the system that has brought us poverty, endless war and environmental collapse. All of them will tell you that there is no alternative. 

Isn't that like running an election with only one candidate? 

'Yes, you can vote. The Capitalist Party is your only choice. Please indicate what colour you would like it wrapped in.'

The ballot I cast today became an exercise in trying to limit the damage by trying to decide which gang will be the least harmful to the health of the nation. 

Hardly inspiring. 

I would like to see a global vote on the system itself. 

But that is not on the ballot.

What I Want

Here is what I want in life, in a nutshell. I could probably tweak the list a bit, but overall, this is it.

Wholesome food

A warm, dry dwelling

A bicycle (and helmet)

Clothes to keep me comfortable in all seasons

At least one good friend

My health

A big garden

Kitchen supplies to make whatever food I enjoy

Basic tools

Bonus things that I enjoy, but could live without if I had toguitar, art supplies, snowshoes, simple furniture, a computer, camera, and chocolate.

It always amazes me when people want more than the basics, more than enough. Once one has enough, what is the more for? Why expend so much effort to get more than one needs?

Considering there are still about 700 million people on the planet living in extreme poverty, it seems that having just enough to live a simple life is something to be very grateful for. 

So that is what I want. What else? Nothing.

Keeping my wants in check allows me to have what I want most of all - a lasting peace of mind, an unhurried simple life, and a liveable planet.

October 17, 2019

Top 10 Things I Like About Biking Over Driving

No cars allowed on this bike path on an abandoned rail bed.
It is peaceful, quiet, and safe

As I wrote about here several weeks ago, our van broke down in our driveway leaving us without motorized transportation. Since then I have been able to identify and fix the problem myself. 

Using a small set of tools, and with direction from videos and manuals on the Internet, I was able to identify the problem and implement a solution that worked. 

On this ride I had the whole trail to myself.

While it was satisfying for me to fix the problem myself without the aide of an expensive mechanic, it was akin to fixing a carbon cannon with which I could continue to use to blast up our ailing atmosphere, so the back patting was short lived.

My route passes by a farm that grows apples, pears, blueberries and strawberries.

Even though the van is back on the road again, I have been continuing to choose biking for my grocery trips into town.

Here are the top 10 things I like about biking over driving:

1. I save money by not driving.

2. I get much needed exercise outside in the fresh air and sunshine.

3. Riding lowers my carbon footprint.

4. The ride itself is beautiful. And FUN.

5. When I drive I do not feel like I am walking the talk. Am I serious about reducing my impact on the environment, or not?

6. Each time I ride I get closer to my goal of not owning a motor vehicle at all.

7. I get to witness seasonal changes along my route every time I make the ride into town.

8. A good part of my route is on an abandoned rail bed trail through the forest. It is peaceful and safe.

9. Riding cleans my mind and invigorates my soul.

10. Driving is dirty and inefficient, while riding is a sensible Earth-friendly alternative.

Back on the pavement toward the top of the hill, and getting close to home. My ride is almost over at this point, but the smile and afterglow will linger.

One more thing Linda and I have noticed is that our grocery shopping strategy has changed completely. Every purchase must be scrutinized carefully since I will be carrying the weight home on my back.

As a result, we have become more efficient at shopping, as well as cooking and eating. 

Now is a great time to have food from our most favourite "store" - our garden. 

That store is just outside our door. No car, or bike, required to gather food there.

October 11, 2019

Nature: The Universal Soul Salve

Out in nature is where I feel the best. All is as it should be here.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens and nature. 

Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”

- Anne Frank

October 10, 2019

Pity The Poor Billionaires

Pity the poor billionaires. The world is not as enamoured with them as it once was, and the moneyed are upset that they don't know where they stand any more. Are they winners, or wicked? 

Even though we traditionally measure success by how much money you have amassed, and they have more than anyone, a shift has occurred. We are starting to see these funded folks more as a global liability than the blessing that they consider themselves to be.

Show me a billionaire and I will show you someone that got to the top of the heap by way of tax evasion, environmental destruction, corruption, low paid workers, and a host of other questionable and outright criminal behaviours.

One study found that if the 3000 largest corporations had to pay for all the damage they were responsible for, none of them would be profitable. 

The companies in question were responsible for $2.15 trillion dollars in environmental damages in 2008 alone. One year. But wait, there is more.

We also have to include the $4.7 trillion per year in health care and social costs, lost ecosystem services and pollution.

In other words, if companies really did put people and the planet before anything else, there would be no profits. The "profits" can only be made through the exploitation of both the people and the planet.

Then there is corporate malfeasance, which outright steals untold trillions of dollars more from the global economy. All of this only to make a small group of people insanely wealthy. 

Can the world afford billionaires? Are such individuals a net benefit for society? Or are they a danger to themselves and others? 

Money hoarding can be a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, so if we do what some suggest, and eliminate the status of billionaire (not to be confused with eliminating people that are billionaires), we might be doing the billionaires themselves a favour.

There is no use hoarding all that cash if people don't respect what you do, or how you do it. 

We can see that the little men behind the curtain that have been operating the gears and levers of the billionaire assembly line, really only want love, just like the rest of us. They just don't know how to get it.

What a frustrating, yet humbling, moment that must be for them.

All 2229 of them.

No, we don't envy you. We pity you. 

You are wicked, and now you are a bunch of whiners, too. A former coffee company CEO, seeing where the whole thing is headed, is now asking us to call him and his fellow hoarders "people of means" rather than the now increasingly pejorative "billionaires". 

So I say to them, 

"People of means, please seek help before you destroy everything, including yourselves. Maybe, in the end, you will find the love you obviously want, but don't know how to get through normal, healthy means."

There is indeed nothing better than love, is there? Not even billions and billions of dollars.

October 7, 2019

Keep Buying, Everything Will Be Fine

Don't worry. Keep buying, and be happy... sort of.

I keep hearing that "the consumer is doing the heavy lifting" for the economy, that they are "holding up", and "aren't fatigued yet". Isn't this backwards?

I remember a time when the economy worked for the people, existed for the people, functioned for the people. Now, the people work for the economy. Now, nothing is more important than the economy.

So we get the following situations:

The environment is generally collapsing... but the consumer is still buying.

Manufacturing is down... but the consumer is still buying.

There is a "Retail Apocalypse"... but the consumer is still buying.

There is a global political crisis... but the consumer is still buying.

Depression and suicide have reached depressing proportions... but the consumer is still buying.

We are getting fatter and less fit... but the consumer is still buying.

Everything is breaking down, but not to worry - the consumer is still buying.

If I understand this correctly, as long as we keep buying, everything will appear to be fine. The only disaster that could befall the world that would actually matter is if The Consumer stopped buying. 

If The Consumer even dared to slow their acquisitional frenzy, there would be an immediate emergency declared that would require special and intense activity to repair. 

We would need to really DO something in that case. We wouldn't want to put the billionaire lifestyle at risk now, would we?

"I buy, therefore I am", will be the new motto to live by if the economic manipulators get their way. Today's Consumers will be tomorrow's Buybots.

So don't worry about all those pesky and unimportant emergencies scientists and environmental activists keep making up, just keep buying. 

Everything will be fine. Well, the economy will be fine, at least, and what is more important than that?

That is the system as it exists, and I'm not buying it. Our planetary community needs something better, and soon.

October 4, 2019

Stupefied By Nature

I am frequently astounded by the beauty found in my own backyard.

"Attention, if sudden and close, graduates into surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement."

- Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals

I never cease to be surprised, astonished and amazed by the natural beauty I find right in my own backyard. I have moments of being stupefied by what I witness.

At these moments, I am rendered speechless, and am beyond thought and logic. All one can do in this state of being overwhelmed with amazement is feel, absorb, and soak up the moment. 

It is beyond reason. 

I don't ask, "Why is mushroom?", I just let it all go and enjoy being in the Here and Now with the fungi. We are one.

It is not complicated. All one must do is place ones self in Nature, and it will do the rest.

Pay attention, and be stupefied with amazement at the beauty that reveals itself. It is everywhere all the time, but we often fail to recognize it. When we do, it is a life changing experience because once seen, it can't be unseen.

When you recover, think about the fact that we ARE Nature. That connection should help us guide all of our decisions and behaviours, because what we do to Nature, we do to ourselves.

October 1, 2019

The Economy Needs You To Increase Your Consumption... Forever

The economy needs you to increase your consumption. Forever. That is the only way our economy can function, or rather, lurch and fumble from one crisis to another.

Eventually, because the Earth does not have infinite resources to harvest, we will hit Peak Consumption. Perhaps we have hit it already. 

In my own life, my personal peak consumption was years ago, and my consumption graph has been falling ever since. So how is it that I have never been happier? 

A developed economy is dependent on the practice of infinite consumption and infinite growth. No growth means everything breaks down. Even if Gross Domestic Happiness does not grow, the economy must go on.

If the consumer does not increase their purchases year after year after year, the economy is immediately headed for trouble. Consumer confidence is The Thing since a modern economy depends to a large degree on The Consumer.

Think you don't have power? In the USA and Canada up to 70% of the economy is based on what you buy. Want to change things? Start altering your purchasing habits, and the system will notice right now.

Or just do you patriotic duty and keep on buying stuff until we experience total collapse.

Don't have money? Not to worry - the system will lend you some at a 25% interest rate.

Don't need anything? Nonsense. There is always something to desire and buy. The infinite growth consumer model makes sure of that.