February 2007

I’m going to try something new:  a series!  I’ve put a reminder in my calendar and every month I want to post a recipe for something our family loves, made from all healthy ingredients.  (I’ve got several recipes I want to share–so maybe it’ll be more than one a month!)  Helen is really the expert here, so I’ll typically be getting the ideas and recipes from her, but I don’t think she’d take the time to actually sit down and type them in on a regular basis, so I’ll do the typing.

img_6930.JPGTo start the series off, something you wouldn’t expect:  chocolate cake.

I made this cake for Helen’s birthday just this week.  It was moist, deliciously chocolate, and vegan!  And it contains no wheat or sugar, two ingredients we avoid in our home.  I got the basic recipe here, but used all unbleached spelt flour instead of wheat flour.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease and flour a 9″ springform cake pan.

Sift together:
1 – 3/4 cup spelt flour
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

In a saucepan on medium-low heat, bring to a simmer:
1 cup soy milk

Whisk in to the soy milk:
3/4 cup cocoa powder

Whisk cocoa and soy milk well until cocoa is dissolved, then remove from heat.

In another bowl combine and whisk well:
1/2 cup canola oil
1 – 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 t apple cider vinegar
2 t vanilla

Add the cocoa mixture to the other wet ingredients and combine, then add the wet ingredients to the dry.

Pour batter into prepared pan, bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool 10 minutes on a cooling rack, slide a knife around the outside, remove the side of the springform pan, turn the whole thing upside down, remove the bottom of the pan, and set the cake rightside up again on the cooling rack.  Let cool completely and frost or dust with powdered sugar.

Tip 1:  To avoid having your cake collapse in the middle, avoid jiggling it until it’s completely done.  That definitely means avoid even opening the oven door to check on it until the full 25 minutes are up.  In our house I also put the kids in the bathtub while it’s baking, partly to clean off the chocolate they got in their hair while “helping”, but also so that they’re not running around the kitchen sending tremors through the oven!

Tip 2:  For our Calgarian readers and others at high altitudes, add 25 degrees F to the oven temperature, so in this case I baked the cake at 375 F.  I forget where I read that, but you’re supposed to add 25 degrees for every km above sea level, and Calgary is at 1048 metres according to wikipedia.


The Qinghai-Tibet Railway boasts more than 450 bridges as it crosses three major mountain chains and five rivers. The railway reaches a maximum elevation of 5,072 meters above sea level. Photograph is by Zhenming Wang.China made history on July 1, 2006, when the Qinghai-Tibet Railway opened for passenger service. The railway is the highest-elevation passenger train in the world and the first to connect central China with Tibet, providing a controversial but arguably economically significant link between Tibet and the rest of China. Stretching about 1,142 kilometers, the railway runs from Golmud in China’s Qinghai province to Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. Most of its length is above 4,000 meters in elevation, and 50 kilometers is above 5,000 meters.

Passengers are given oxygen masks to use at some of the higher elevations! 

See: http://www.geotimes.org/current/feature_railroad.html for the complete article.

I am (or rather, someone else at my office is) looking into whether our software was used for this project, but with 100 permafrost engineers and 200 geotech engineers involved, I’d be amazed if they weren’t using SLOPE/W, TEMP/W, SIGMA/W and possibly even QUAKE/W on a regular basis.

(Meanwhile back in the West, technology isn’t quite so advanced–I can’t seem to leave a blank line between my paragraphs today!)


img_6895.JPGThis weekend I took the Complete Overhaul class at Bow Cycle.  In ten hours over two days I completely disassembled my bike and put it back together under the watchful eye of their master mechanic, Clint.  And unlike when I’ve done this at home, this time I had no parts left over at the end!

There were five of us in the class, and I was surprised at the mix.  I thought there’d be a couple of commuters like me and a couple of hard-core off-road cyclists.  Actually I was the only commuter, and most of the others used their bikes for a sport I’d never even heard of: downhill cycling.  They go to COP (or other ski hills when there’s no snow), take the lift up and ride down.  So they need really super suspension but no low gears. 

 Two were kids with money to burn.  They were probably around 14-15, and one of them had the most expensive bike in the room, over $4000, and during the overhaul he decided to replace his perfectly good top-of-the-line front fork & suspension with another over-the-top-of-the-line model, just because he could.

Then there was Ryan, the hutterite teacher with a $3000 bike.  You didnt know hutterites bought this level of bike, did you?!  Well actually this guy wasn’t a hutterite himself, just taught school (K-9) at a hutterite colony outside of Lethbridge.  I don’t know if hutterites buy nice bikes or not.  Ryan also had money to burn, I think because there just isn’t much to spend it on where he lives (and he gets all his eggs and milk for free).  While we were in class his wife was upstairs buying a nicer bike than the one he was working on.

Clint was a great teacher, obviously enjoyed what he did and had been doing it for years so he gave us all the insider tricks and cheats.  We took apart, cleaned, lubed, adjusted and put back together the headset, brakes (my caliper brakes and everyone else’s disk brakes), chain, pedals, bottom bracket, derailleurs, rear cassette, freewheel, front and rear hubs, and trued our wheels.  And we learned what all those words mean.

The course cost $150, which is the same price we’d pay them to do the overhaul themselves, but besides learning the skills ourselves we also got a book, 15% off all parts and tools for the rest of the year, free additional tune-up work by Clint Sunday morning (so we wouldn’t fall behind!), and most importantly, permission to call Clint anytime!  Definitely well worth the money.

Bow Cycle likely felt it was well worth the money too, at least in my case, because I spent another $350 on clipless pedals, biking shoes, a pump, and other supplies. 

And the weather’s looking good this week, so I’m ready to ride!

Tech support two thousand years ago…  (The original link I had got removed from YouTube, replaced with this one with better subtitles but much darker lighting.  You can see the better lighting here but with Swedish subtitles.  And here is a piece from a Swedish TV station about the skit.)

(Thanks Debby for forwarding this!)