Monthly Archives: February 2007

Eco-tourism delivers

With some regret we ended the eco-tourism simulation game on Thursday. It was certainly not going badly, quite the opposite. The children were taking hold of it and calling each other during the week to share ideas and make preparations. We could probably have done with one more week.

When we met this week the eco-tourism specialists explained to the village members that the positions advertised had not all been filled, so there would be quite a bit of building and developing going on, but there would also be a little bit of profit left to be shared. Just about the whole village was involved in some way in the day to day running of the tourism project this round. Only two people were farming full time and one part time. One of these farmers had chosen to continue to farm in hope of high prices for her crops, which would then get her out of debt. She was not disappointed.

One of the main topics of discussion at the village meeting was cottage industry. Many people wished to supplement their income by making things and selling them. Lemonade, pottery, rainforest trail mix and woven placemats were all suggested and the potter expressed interest in running the project. Had we continued, everyone may have left farming and worked with the eco-tourism project in some way.

We discussed our initial goals of meeting the village members financial and social needs and halting the clearing of primary rainforest. Everyone could see that, although in four rounds the rainforest had not become too depleted, if people had continued to farm in the same way they would have needed to clear more land. Sharing the wealth was also a topic we touched on, if the project had continued to grow and prosper, what would everyone have done with their new found wealth?

It would have been interesting to see the children develop more ideas for the project but I am very pleased with what we did achieve. Covering economics, ecology, geography, communications, math, and group problem solving with eleven enthusiastic children has been very encouraging for a first unit. The main reason we have stopped is that most of the group went to Romeo and Juliet on Friday, so next week we begin a Shakespeare unit.

Birthday report#2

My younger brother called to wish me a happy birthday at 7:45am. It was very nice to talk to him and especially nice that he managed to get the time difference right, a couple of times he has called at 2am in the morning! (and he is not the only one). We chatted and he gave me some feedback on the blog, which is good, because I really don’t know who is reading it. One of the motivations for starting it was the fact that all our extended family and many friends live in Australia and they don’t get letters from me, other than the Christmas epistle. So I was pleased that one of the people who doesn’t get mail from me was reading my news and views. His feedback made me laugh: less recipes, more sport! Sorry, there will be more recipes but I will also throw in some more sport if you like, especially when our softball season starts, you will be subjected to weekly reports.

I was then showered with gifts from my dear family. B6 had drawn some beautiful pictures for me. L12 and A10 had schemed together to make up a basket of goodies, some to eat, some to drink and something to listen to. My sweet husband had listened to my hints and I unwrapped “The Cosby Show” season 1, Norah Jones new cd and some more treats. Gifts from Australia had also arrived during the week, I feel very loved. I also enjoyed a birthday call from my mother-in-law and a few messages on the machine. During the morning friends dropped in with something very pretty from one of my favourite stores and again I felt blessed.

As we didn’t have to go anywhere in the morning, I set up the sewing machine and worked on a something I started in the Christmas break. It is my hope and plan to attend to the sorry state of window coverings in this house during 2007 and to do so at minimum cost. The first project is Roman blinds for my room. I am using some green cotton/linen curtains that I bought at a thrift store. Two blinds are finished except for the wooden rods and I was working on the larger, middle one this morning.

The afternoon was spent with the girls at a rehearsal while the boys went from store to store looking for Xcountry ski boots. We have just finished some delicious Chinese take out and are going to pile onto my bed to watch an episode from the Cosby Show. So thank you to my children and husband for your thoughtfulness and love for me today and everyday. Thank you to my family and friends near and far who thought of me today or any other day. Thank you, Lord for your faithfulness which is new every morning of every single day.

More Perfect than the Moon

moreperfectthan.gifRecently I realized that my son has not heard many of the novels I read to the two girls when they were his age and a little older. So we are revisiting them. One which we enjoyed years ago was Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. There are now four books about Sarah and her family: Sarah, Plain and Tall, Skylark, Caleb’s Story and More Perfect Than the Moon.

The library has them all on cd, read by Glenn Close, who plays Sarah in the movie versions of Sarah, Plain and Tall and Skylark. Each book tells the story of the family Sarah marries into, but from the perspective of a different family member. When Sarah joins the Witting family she becomes the stepmother to Anna and Caleb. Anna writes about all the family’s experiences in her journal and before moving to town urges Caleb to do the same.

More Perfect than the Moon is told by Cassie the youngest child and her approach is a little different to Anna’s and Caleb’s. She has been told to write about what she sees and about what is going on. In order to do that she lurks and spies and listens in on other people’s conversations. Her behaviour does not go unnoticed however and her family members reprimand her.

Cassie decides that it is just as valid to create her own stories of what is going on. The characters are her family, but the plot is definitely her own. Her stories are very amusing and had all of us laughing and repeating lines to each other. Her desire to create fantastic tales about her family is borne out of fears that Sarah’s pregnancy will end in tragedy. Her journal entries contain promises of happiness and gifts “more perfect than the moon”.
The story is somewhat predictable but this did not spoil it for us. Cassie does find something “more perfect than the moon” but it was not what she had expected. We did feel that Patricia MacLachlan might not be finished telling the tale of Sarah and the Witting family, so we will be looking out for a new journal keeper’s story.

Birthday report#1

skiWe all lay in our beds and called out “Happy Birthday,” to Andrew on Saturday morning as he left to go skiing in Gatineau Park. He left around 7:30am so there was no gift giving or celebrating before he left. By the time he returned we were all at violin group classes for the day. He dropped in to pick up B6(not a violinist) so they could go to the church and make a car for the upcoming Awana car races. Each participant starts with a block of wood, an axel and some wheels and they design and decorate their cars for racing. Last year both B6 and A10 brought home trophies for speed, so B6 is pretty keen to retain his title.

After group class we met back at home for supper with friends. The cake had to be iced, but I couldn’t make chocolate icing as B6 had requested (even though it wasn’t his birthday) because it appears that cocoa is a bit of an exotic food item. I searched the baking shelves but could not find any, only chocolate cake mix, chocolate muffin mix, chocolate pudding mix and premade chocolate icing, no cocoa for those of us who want to make it from scratch. So, we had coffee icing instead, which no-one seemed to mind, as our children seem to be very fond of coffee even though they are not allowed to drink it. As it turns out I should have been buying icing sugar as there was only enough at home to make icing to put between the layers not on top.

Before we ate there was a little gift giving, Andrew opened one gift, then we all listened to the next gift. L12 and A10 had composed a piece of music for two violins and then recorded it. The birthday boy was very pleased and we were all most impressed with the piece. Also on the recording was an instrumental version of the Happy Birthday song and two vocal versions: one sensible, one silly!

We enjoyed our Pork Vindaloo and then Andrew and I raced off before the birthday cake as we were going out to see one of our  friends appear in “Little Shop of Horrors The show was excellent, as was our talented friend who played Chiffon, one of the Ronnettes.

Investment and risk in Ecuador

The game seems to be getting more complicated the more money the participants make. When most people were finding it hard to make ends meet they had to decide whether they could afford to educate their children. A few are still dealing with that but most are wondering whether to hire an extra labourer to grow more crops, or how much to invest in eco-tourism. The more money there is the more choices there seem to be. When it was suggested to a few farmers that they might not need to plant two hectares as they already had enough money to cover their needs, they were surprised and said they hadn’t thought of that.

The eco-tourism project has proved to be equally or more profitable than farming for those employed by it. The village members met with the eco-tourism specialists to decide how the profits should be divided. The eco-tourism team had come up with three proposals, inspired partly by the photos they saw last week of the real eco-tourism resort. There was not unanimous support for the development of the eco-tourism project this time and the reasons were varied. Someone suggested that too many tourist would result in too much “civilisation” coming to the village. Others, the struggling farmers, wanted to see some of the profit divided among the village members not all re-invested in making the project bigger and better. They saw the proposal to pour all the profit plus some further investment as too risky and voted accordingly. The vote was carried, however, and now the eco-tourism specialists are soliciting applications for boat drivers, tourist cabin builders and a boardwalk builder.

One of the struggling farmers commented to me that if most of the village were no longer farming, but employed by the eco-tourism project, the price of coffee, maize and cacao might rise. She is not applying for any of the jobs.

Sweet

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A10 has created some sweet treats and cards for her friends. Last night she made the peppermint creams with a little help from her sister. I think I made these as a child too.

Peppermint Creams

To make about 25 peppermint creams, you will need:
250g icing sugar
half the white of an egg
1 teaspoon peppermint essence
2 teaspoons lemon juice
food colouring

1. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl
2. Mix egg white, peppermint essence and lemon juice in a small bowl. Pour the mixture into the sugar
3. Use a blunt knife to stir the mixture. Then squeeze it between your fingers until it is smooth, like a dough.
4. Divide the mixture if you want to make different colours. Add a drop of colour to each bowl. Use your fingers to mix in the dye.
5. Sprinkle a little icing sugar onto a clean work surface. Sprinkle some onto a rolling pin and roll out the mixture until it is about 1/4″ thick. Use cutters to cut out shapes.
6. Place shapes onto a baking sheet covered in plastic wrap. Leave for an hour to harden.

About books

I own several books about books. I had one, Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, and thought that I probably wouldn’t buy any others. After all it would take a long time to read all the books recommended in that one book , wouldn’t it? Then I bought Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson because it was recommended in For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay which has always been a favourite book. The Book Tree was next by Elizabeth McCallum and I think it might be my favourite although they are all very useful.

When I was buying books for this year’s school work I bought a new one, All Through the Ages, History Through Literature Guide by Christine Miller. Christine Miller has searched for “living books” in catalogs, other book about books, and history curriculum. Her lists are organized by historical period and then in grade levels and types of book. It is an amazing resource. When I was planning our history study for this year I sat with the book in front of me and the library catalogue on the computer screen and I reserved book after book, for the six year old, the ten year old, the twelve year old and for me.

I may not buy any more books about books (but that is not a promise) because now I have discovered blogs about books. I have probably not even scratched the surface in this area but I have seen enough to give me keep me supplied with suggestions for a long time. Semicolon not only reviews books and features author profiles but also hosts the Saturday Review of Books every week. Mental Multivitamin, Dominion Family, Simply Simon and The Common Room are others that I glean from. Inspired by Semicolon and always on the hunt for worthwhile books for my children to read I am going to continue borrowing books from the Newberry Medal and Honor Books list. There are over 300 on the list and I have read 42 of them so only 258 left!

First hand experience in Ecuador

When the group of four met on this week we were treated to a slide show from some real eco-tourists. The aunt and uncle of one of our families brought slides and photos from their trip to Ecuador. They spent a week staying in an ecotourism resort on the Napo River and were able to describe many details of their stay for us. We saw slides of the accomodation and furniture at the resort, all made from locally available materials. There were many pictures showing us the size of the trees and other plantlife. We saw some of the local animals and birds, but apparently you needed to get up for the 3am breakfast before heading out to do some serious bird watching. It was very interesting and helpful to see pictures and hear about first hand experiences.

After viewing the slide show we began round two. The ecotourism team had some new ideas to discuss before making proposals to the villagers. Most of the farmers were pleased to have made a little more money from their crops and an educational rebate. There are a few farmers who are still struggling to meet their financial commitments. Everyone seems to be keen on the tourism project but for different reasons. There is a definitely a “monopoly” mentality appearing in some of the participants, they are looking for the best way to make the most money. The village members had a meeting before our session closed and voted to pour most of the first round’s ecotourism profits back into the project for the construction of bird watching platforms on a huge tree, something they saw in the slide show. The remainder of the profits will be divided between all the village members.

When we meet next week we are thinking it might be good to involve everyone in the process of allocating income. Last time a few farmers avoided growing coffee, the crop with the highest return, as they thought everyone would grow it. This meant that there was not a surplus and those who had grew it benefitted. The children are talking together and making joint decisions about eco-tourism but do not seem to have thought about approaching farming in the same way.

Winter

We are enjoying real winter weather now. I know some of you are thinking, “doesn’t winter for you involve shoveling, freezing rain, -30 degrees with a windchill factor making it seem like -40?” Yes it does at times, but there is more to it than that. It also means feathery ice patterns on the windows, icicles growing on the corners of the shed, sometimes a metre long. It means snow laden branches on the trees before the wind blows it all off. It means red noses and cheeks after a skate on the rink in the park at the end of our street. It means forts and snow men, hot chocolate and hot apple cider, candles and open fires. One of the most beautiful winter sights for us is the hoarfrost on grass, bushes and trees, sparkling in the morning sun.

It is very cold outside. This is a good thing for Ottawa as “Winterlude” occurs in February each year. We took our skates down to the canal on Saturday night and skated, two of us did a short skate and the other three more capable skaters went further and spent longer on the ice. While B6 and I were waiting for the advanced ones we wandered around the ice sculptures in the park beside the canal. Many of them were close to being finished as there was only a few hours left in the competition. They were very impressive and we enjoyed seeing the sculptors using chainsaws, chisels, scrapers and heatguns to bring their ice creatures to life.