Diwali in the West End

On November 14th, Gordon Neighbourhood House celebrated Diwali with West End neighbours. Diwali takes place over five days and is known as the festival of lights. It is the biggest holiday of the year in India, and many homes and businesses are decorated with lanterns, diyas, and lights.

Gordon Neighbourhood House exterior on Broughton Street decorated for Diwali.

Gordon Neighbourhood House staff decorated the exterior of our building with a brightly coloured, fifty foot-long ‘Toran’ banner inspired by designs found in Southern India with traditional colours inspired by marigolds and mangos.

Local artist Geetanjal Joshi also created a rangoli-inspired emblem for our balcony with artwork featuring Lord Ganesh, one of the best-known and most-worshipped Hindu deities. 

Children in our Out of School Care program also learned about the celebration, and made paper lanterns which were displayed in our front windows, and a blog post encouraged families to make lanterns at home. 

Diwali lanterns made by kids aged 5-10 years old in GNH’s Out of School Care program.

Our Community Chef Amanda Bacaleinick, Food Programmer Stephanie Woo, and Front Desk Manager Jessy Scaria also prepared fifty Diwali-inspired meals with aloo gobi, palak paneer, and vegetable pulao which were delivered by bicycle to seniors with heightened risk during the pandemic.

We look forward to hopefully celebrating Diwali in-person next year.



Ode To An Orange

The etymology of "orange": which came first, the color or the fruit?

Eating an orange is a delicious source of vitamin C that also benefits your skin and immune system, plus this fruit makes some tasty juices and desserts.

The BC Food History Blog writes about how the mandarin orange became a Canadian winter holiday staple thanks to the influence of Japanese immigrants.

As well as being a great stocking filler, oranges can be crafted into a variety of wildlife friendly and biodegradable seasonal decorations.

3 easy bird feeders kids can make at home! | Day Out With The Kids

You can modify the instructions in this Birdseed Ornament blog post by leaving the mixture to set inside an orange rind instead of a cookie cutter. (Check out these tips from BCSPCA on feeding backyard birds, and birding in BC for what seeds to feed birds in this region).

You can DIY a festive holiday aroma in your home simply by studding an orange with cloves to create a natural and long lasting scent. These are called ‘pomander balls’ and were used by medieval European herbalists.

How To Use Fruit For Making Christmas Decorations | Hayes Garden World

You can create colourful garlands using slices of oranges that are dried out slowly in the oven. At the end of the season these orange garlands can be stored away and used again next year.

Check out the instruction and illustrations below from community member www.matiameyer.ca who gives great tips on using spices and mulled wine leftovers to colour your garlands naturally!

This year we are inviting neighbours to join us in decorating the parklet in front of Gordon House with their crafted wildlife friendly decorations. Feel free to drop by anytime and add your creations to the trees in front of the building! All we ask is that you please respect others by wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance.

This resource on wildlife friendly winter decorations has been done in partnership with the Park People. Please check out their website and Facebook for more information on all of the cool things that they do.


Everything Will Be Pine

Pine trees are synonymous with Christmas, and there are a bunch of simple and eco-friendly way’s that pine cones can be crafted into winter decorations. Please take the time to reflect on Honorable Harvest Teachings before collecting pine cones for your crafts.

Get Crafty: 4 Easy Bird Feeding Crafts for the Family

In the colder months it becomes difficult for birds to source food. The BCSPCA has advice here on best practice in backyard bird feeding, and Birding in British Columbia has information on what seeds to feed birds in this region. You can use a pine cone to create a simple biodegradable bird feeder by first rolling the pine cone in some unsalted peanut butter, then sticking on some unsalted seeds. Leave the pine cone to dry before hanging it in your back garden with some twine. (ribbon and fishing line can cause harm to birds).

DIY Snow Covered Pine Cones {VIDEO} - A Pumpkin And A Princess

You can make some festive snowy pine cones using a natural method shared on Instagram by The Zero Waste Collective. The method can be found here and uses just twine, scissors, flour, salt, and water to create the effect.

How to Make Snow Covered Pine Cones – An Ultimate Guide - Bren Did

Dipping a pine cone in some glitter easily creates a sparkly ornament. As standard glitter is made from little pieces of plastic you might want to consider using a biodegradable glitter brand. Local community member ‘The Glitter Dealer’ sells some on Instagram or on Etsy.

This year we are inviting neighbours to join us in decorating the parklet in front of Gordon House with their crafted wildlife friendly decorations. Feel free to drop by anytime and add your creations to the trees in front of the building! All we ask is that you please respect others by wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance.

This resource on wildlife friendly winter decorations has been done in partnership with the Park People. Please check out their website and Facebook for more information on all of the cool things that they do.


Woven Willow Star

This week Young Ideas and Parks People teamed up to host a virtual crafts workshop – Wildlife Friendly Winter Decorating. One craft that was demonstrated was weaving a star out of a willow branch and tying it with hemp string (instructions below). You can purchase this biodegradable string at the Dollar Tree, and if you are harvesting your own willow then please be mindful of Honourable Harvest Teachings.

Unwrap your willow from the thin end to the thicker end, and stretch it out as straight as possible, being careful to avoid breaking it. Look at the twig and choose the start and end points of your star -- leave off very thin or bent ends, cutting them away after making the star. We'll be dividing the long section you chose into approximate fifths to make a five pointed star. Start from the thicker end of the twig.
For the length of your first side, estimate 1/5 of your twig by folding the twig gently in half, and choosing a length shorter than about 1/4. Once you've picked that first side length, bend your twig sharply at that point. The twig may bend or partially snap -- Don't worry, either way will work!
Make your second side length by bending the twig again, trying to make the sides equal length. Then repeat, making a third bend.
Now begin weaving, as seen above. make sure you use the long end to go over-under-over each side. Weaving is easiest when you work by pulling the thin end gently through, allowing the twig to bend. 
Make one more bend, again aiming for equal length between bends, and weave it back, under-over, towards the starting point.
Hold the two ends together and adjust the weaving into a star shape by shifting the points and sides. Tie the ends together, and and then trim with sturdy kitchen shears. Don't worry if it's a bit wonky, perfection is boring! As well, you can adust the shape continually even after it is tied, and equal length sides will help you create that even star shape.

This year we are inviting neighbours to join us in decorating the parklet in front of Gordon House with their crafted wildlife friendly decorations. Feel free to drop by anytime and add your creations to the trees in front of the building! All we ask is that you please respect others by wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance.

This resource on wildlife friendly winter decorations has been done in partnership with the Park People. Please check out their website and Facebook for more information on all of the cool things that they do.


Honorable Harvest Teachings

Before you begin to gather plants for your wildlife friendly crafts, take the time to consider these honorable harvest teachings.

Spanish translation here.

Thoughts on harvesting and gratitude:

· Understand the ecosystem you’re in and what it needs to thrive – we want regeneration, not sustainability (just getting by) this is important now more than ever

· Understand the system in which we have stopped listening to nature and seek to control / extract from it.

· Don’t over-harvest.

· Offer to Elders first, don’t think about yourself first.

· Everything has a spirit. Plants, trees, animals, rocks, and mountains are our relatives.

· Introduce yourself first, give thanks and make an offering before taking.

· Build relationship and reciprocity. This way you will get the most out of the medicine.

· Think more about giving back than taking: plant a beneficial garden, plant native food plants and encourage communal access & education, rewild urban spaces, make seed bombs (that fit the ecosystem) to grow plants in sparse areas, remove invasive species (Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, scotch broom, Morning Glory), harvest mindfully to allow more growth.

· See the world as abundant and gift-giving. What you receive/harvest is a gift.

· Harvesting from a clean place means the medicine can be used for our healing and use. Harvesting from a busy place next to traffic, people/pets etc. means the medicines should be reserved for healing the land.

· Always ask permission from the plant and offer something when removing from ground.

Plants give us the information we need to know what type of medicines they provide:

· Look at their color, texture, shape

· Yellow draws out toxins

· Red is good for blood

· Purple is anti-oxidant

· Ex Oregon grape’s fruit is bitter and purple, good for stomach. Yellow roots and flower is good for toxins (treats TB).

Sage:

· Some are medicinal, traditional, culinary uses

Sources:

Senaqwila Wyss, Squamish Nation

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Potawatomi Nation, author of Braiding Sweetgrass (check out this video)

Ojibiikaan (Toronto based organization, website here and check out their videos on Instagram here)


Birdseed Ornaments

In winter, snow and ice can bury foods just when birds need the calories to keep warm through the cold. Your neighbourhood tweeters and chirpers will love these birdseed ornaments and your outdoor trees will look all dressed up for the holidays. This wildlife and eco-friendly recipe is adapted from The Spruce.

Spanish translation here.

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Medium or large mixing bowl
  • 8 large or 12 medium cookie cutters or moulds – chunkier shapes work best
  • Nonstick saucepan
  • Skewer (any similar type of tool, so long as it is thick enough to create an effective hole. E.g. lollipop stick, ballpoint pen, plastic straw, screwdriver, awl, chopstick, or unsharpened pencil can work well)
  • Wire cooling rack
  • Wooden spoon or rubber scraper

Materials

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup flour (any type)
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup (regular or light)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (e.g. Knox)
  • 4 cups birdseed (choose seeds that most appeal to your backyard birds)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Wax paper or parchment paper

String, yarn, or twine, cut into 5- to 8-inch lengths (avoid fishing line, however, as it can be harmful to birds. After the ornaments are eaten, the leftover string can become nesting material for birds)

Instructions

  1. Grease your cookie cutter(s) to ensure the ornaments will release from the moulds easily.

2. Boil the Liquid Ingredients. Add the water and corn syrup to the nonstick saucepan and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the gelatin, stirring or whisking continually to dissolve the powder thoroughly. Once the gelatin has completely dissolved, remove the mixture from heat.

3. Add Flour. Transfer the syrup to your mixing bowl and add the flour. Stir the mixture until well blended; it will have a consistency similar to a brownie batter. There should be no large clumps. If it is too thick to stir easily, add additional hot water, one tablespoon at a time, until it is properly thinned. If the mixture is too thin, add flour one tablespoon at a time to reach the right consistency.

4. Add In Birdseed and thoroughly mix it with the flour batter. This will be a thick, stiff mixture, but it is important to blend it well otherwise the ornaments will not hold their shapes. You may want to grease a rubber spatula to help you mix.

5. Fill each cookie cutter to the brim with the birdseed mix. Press it into every corner of the mould as firmly as possible. The birdseed mixture can dry out quickly so you may want to cover the mixture in the bowl with plastic wrap while you fill each ornament and only fill only one cutter at a time. Grease your hands to prevent any sticking.

6. Use a skewer to create the holes for hanging each ornament. Push the skewer all the way through the mold. Your hole should be approximately 1 inch away from the ornament’s edge to ensure it won’t break. Wiggle the skewer slightly to be sure the hole is large enough for your string or twine and to compact the seed around the interior of the hole.

7. Let the Ornaments Dry overnight on a wire rack.

8. Remove the dry ornaments from the cookie cutters and thread the twine through the holes in each ornament and tie a tight knot, leaving a loop for hanging.

9. You’re Done!

This year we are inviting neighbours to join us in decorating the parklet in front of Gordon House with their crafted wildlife friendly decorations. Feel free to drop by anytime and add your creations to the trees in front of the building! All we ask is that you please respect others by wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance.

This resource on wildlife friendly winter decorations has been done in partnership with the Park People. Please check out their website and Facebook for more information on all of the cool things that they do.


Hanukkah 2020

Happy Hanukkah!

No matter how you spell it, Hanukkah or Chanukah, is an annual holiday known as the Festival of Lights which commemorates a miracle that occurred in Jerusalem.

In 165 BCE the Jewish people revolted against their oppressors, and rededicated a sacred temple to mark the occasion. According to the Talmud (the central text of Jewish theology), after the temple was cleaned, olive oil was needed to fuel the light of the menorah (candelabrum). Though there was only enough oil to burn for one day, the oil lasted eight full days. On Hanukkah, Jewish people celebrate what is considered to be a great miracle that occurred, and the religious freedom it represents.

When is Hanukkah?
On the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah is celebrated on the 25 of Kislev, and continues for eight days in honor of the oil that lasted in the Holy Temple. The name “Hanukkah” means “dedication” in Hebrew. This year Hanukkah takes place from Sunset on December 10th, 2020 until Nightfall on December 18th, 2020

How is Hanukkah celebrated?
Unlike some other Jewish holidays where work is forbidden, there are no restrictions on doing work during Hanukkah. On each day, Jews light candles on a chanukiah (a nine-branched candelabrum called a menorah), starting with one candle and adding one more each day. The candle used to light the other candles is known as the shamash. Blessings over the candles are chanted and festive songs are sung, commemorating the occasion. Children (and adults) also play a game called dreidel, and it is customary to give Hanukkah gelt (money or chocolate coins) as small gifts.

What kinds of foods are eaten on Hanukkah?
During Hanukkah many Jewish people eat food that is deep fried, another tasty reminder of the miracle of the oil. A classic Hanukkah dish is crispy potato pancakes called latkes in Yiddish and levivot in Hebrew, often served with applesauce and sour cream. Another delicious Hanukkah treat is sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts), usually topped with powdered sugar. Sephardic Hanukkah donuts are called bunuelos, and are traditionally dipped in honey.

What is the proper greeting for Hanukkah?
To wish someone a Happy Hanukkah, say “Hanukkah Sameach!” (Happy Hanukkah) or simply “Chag Sameach!” (Happy Holiday), “Chag Urim Sameach!” (urim means “lights”).

West End Celebrations
This year Gordon Neighbourhood is celebrating Hanukkah virtually with West End Neighbours and the Jewish Seniors Alliance! Join us online for Chanukah music and candle lighting on Thursday, December 10th from 6:30pm to 7:30pm 

Registration is required to participate. Gordon Neighbourhood House has a limited quantity of gift bags with Chanukah candles and other holiday treats for those who register before December 7th. Email welcome@gordonhouse.org or call (604) 683-2554 to sign-up.

Gordon Neighbourhood House chef Amanda Bacaleinick has also prepared a special Hanukkah-inspired meal which is included in our weekly delivery to local seniors. 

Several West End restaurants and bakeries prepare traditional treats for Hanukkah. We have compiled a list of several businesses below. For more updates, contests, and promotions from local businesses, follow our friends at The West End Business Improvement Association (WEBIA) online. 

Breka Bakery, 821 Denman Street

Find an assortment of traditional Jewish treats at Breka Bakery, including loaves of challah (braided bread), kifeles or kuffles (crescent-shaped pastries wrapped around cream cheese fillings and dusted with cinnamon and sugar), and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts).

Ofra’s Kitchen, 1088 Denman Street

Ofra’s Kitchen is a vegetarian/vegan restaurant located in the West End. The restaurant specializes in authentic, healthy, middle eastern dishes with an Israeli flair. Their menu includes hummus plates, falafel, shakshuka. Ofra’s kitchen is inclusive and welcoming to all.


Diwali Lanterns

Diwali is the Festival of Lights that has been celebrated across India for hundreds of years. It takes place on November 14th and celebrations continue for five days. Lanterns, lights, and rangoli designs are used to decorate homes and businesses. Diwali is India’s biggest holiday of the year and symbolizes the spiritual inner light overcoming and protecting from darkness. These days Diwali is celebrated in many parts of the world.

The kids in our Out of School Care program had a lot of fun this week learning to craft these colourful lanterns and using them to decorate around the building at Gordon House.

We wanted to share with our community this YouTube video that provides an easy guide for creating your own Diwali lanterns at home using basic materials. This activity is perfect for anyone looking for a creative outlet while social distancing at home this weekend. Please send us pictures of the results!


Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program

At Gordon Neighbourhood House, we are currently wrapping up our Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program (FMNCP for the year. This is an initiative to provide local, fresh produce to community members and support local growers in BC. The BC Association of Farmers Markets (BCAFM) collaborates with community organizations and is supported by the Province of BC & the Provincial Health Services Authority. Those who receive coupons are able to use it at any BCAFM member farmers’ markets that take part in FMNCP to purchase fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, nuts, dairy, fish, and herbs.

This year, Gordon Neighbourhood House was able to help support 53 West End residents, families and seniors with approximately $10,000 in coupons! We adapted to COVID-19 by pivoting coupon distribution through mail or staggered pick-ups. We also made sure to check in on our participants and sent online resources and program information throughout the season. We love that we are able to give our community access to and the ability to connect with our local food system. Especially during this difficult time, focusing on supporting smaller local businesses and growers is what empowers consumers and producers with healthy, nutritious food.

We wanted to share the impact that this program had on our community members with the following pictures and quotes from participants. Overall, we got amazing feedback and people were extremely grateful for this supportive initiative during a difficult and challenging year. 

“We have enjoyed getting all the organic delicious fruit and vegetables as well as eggs and fish.  My husband and I cook all of our meals and having all the produce from the market definitely kicks it up. We look forward to going to the market each week thanks to the coupon program.”   

“I am beyond grateful to have access to the Farmers Market Coupon’s for 2020. With the crazy year that we are experiencing, everything seems to be so much more expensive! These coupons certainly do help, I enjoy being able to purchase fresh B.C. fruit and veggies.”

“Thanks again, we have really loved the market and made the most of this year despite the restrictions. And thanks also so much for the bonus grocery store gift cards. That was extremely helpful to our low-income household during this challenging time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts 😊💚

We would like to share a warm thank you to everyone for their resilience and support, including our community and the BC Farmers Market Association.