Archive for November 2011

Hot Apple Chai

Traditional Chai spices infused in organic unfiltered apple juice creates a warming holiday drink. My favorite apple juice is Santa Cruz and comes in a gallon jug.

Mmmm, Hot Apple “Chai” on a cold winter’s day. Photo courtesy Mystee Maisonnet.

4 one-inch slices of fresh ginger

2 two-inch cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

1 tsp. freshly ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

dash of ground nutmeg

1 tsp. whole fennel

6 whole star anise

1 black tea bag

4 cups of organic unfiltered apple juice

Combine apple juice and spices in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for an additional 10 minutes before adding the tea bag. Simmer a few minutes more before serving.


Measuring The Element of Risk

In his last post, our resident adrenaline junkie, Kurtis Kristianson, gave us his thoughts on “The Gut Feeling.” Since then, a scary incident shook him up enough to get him thinking about fear and how we decide whether the risks involved in a life of adventure are worth it. – Highline

Recently I had the good fortune (if you want to call it that) of walking away from an ultra-light plane crash. Although I have had enough time to recover I still hear the same question over and over again about my “adventurous” lifestyle: ““Don’’t you think that what you do is far too risky?”” Or even better: “”You must have a Death Wish.””

For the last few months I have become fascinated with the concept of fear. But, when I read a recent article, When Mountaineering Gets You Thinking, that fascination shifted to the idea of risk. Risk is an interesting idea and after a day of looking at what is involved and thinking of how I go about determining risk, I came up with a simple set of factors and questions in order to visualize my own evaluation of personal risk.

In today’’s western culture, everyone thinks they are an authority on risk for everyone else and there is always someone determining what is an acceptable level of risk whether it is for safety or for entertainment. In fact, we are even making playgrounds so safe with railings and soft surfaces that children are losing the ability to develop their own ideas of consequences of risk (I don’’t need to get started on that debate). The reality as I see it is that true evaluation of risk is based on one’’s own personal perception.

My personal perception of risk is simple, and if you were to see what it looks like on paper you would see a graph with two axes (see below). The first axis is the vertical with FEAR at the top and COMFORT at the bottom. The second, horizontal axis has KNOWLEDGE (experience) at the left and CHANCE (unknown) at the right. Evaluation is simple and I don’’t need units to determine the level of risk I am getting involved in. All I need to think about is this: do the odds or unknowns about the situation I am moving into far outweigh my knowledge or experience? Is that marker on the continuum way too far out into the territory where I am just rolling the dice and no longer using my experience to play the game?

Our personal perception of risk. Graph courtesy Kurtis Kristianson.

While this balance between experience (knowledge) and the unknown (chance) is going on, the comfort level is starting to rise into the upper axis of fear. I personally think that raising and developing a healthy respect for fear at a steady rate is what we all are looking for when we push the envelope – a nice straight gradual line on the graph going up at an even pace. But, when the shit hits the fan and conditions change rapidly beyond our experience, the line turns to a curve with a sharp exponential arc shooting straight up. The opposite of this, however, is the more time we spend in these parts of the graph, the more we become authorities on evaluating our own personal levels of risk. The knowledge begins to level out the chance.

In most cases you cannot foresee the future or realistically know you will get into the sharp steep curve on this risk graph. But, experience and understanding of risk will keep you calm when the situation does escalate, not only minimizing the carnage but potentially keeping you alive.

What you CAN do is be prepared and use good judgement and your past experience to minimize the chance of something going wrong out there.

Do It Up, Butternut!

Does fresh snow and cold weather have you craving something warm and cozy? This recipe’s a winner! Just to be safe, better make an extra big pot of this soup to last you all week…more powder in the forecast! -Highline

Butternut squash is one of my all time fall faves!!! This delightful butternut squash and red lentil soup is all I need on a cool fall or winter evening to nourish my body and soothe my soul. This recipe has always been a winner at dinner parties too, which is usually the true test of how good my sometimes unconventional recipes are!

Butternut Squash. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons: Colin Smith.

If you are feeling under the weather, nearly all of the ingredients in this recipe will also help to fight off any seasonal bugs that may be flying around at this time of year. Especially the large amount of garlic, which contributes to the high ranking this recipe received above all other butternut squash soups I’’ve tried in the past. (Yeah, we rank recipes at my house…does anyone else do this? Or are we as nerdy as I think we are?).

Since I always like to include some nutritional info in my recipes, here is my two cents on turmeric. Turmeric is an incredibly powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer spice. Its consumption (1/4 to ½ tsp/day) is attributed to much lower cancer incidence in India. However, it can be poorly absorbed by the digestive system unless combined with black pepper, which multiplies the body’’s absorption by 2000 times. The moral of the story – use lots of turmeric in soups, sauces, curries, dressings, etc., and always combine with a little bit of pepper, as is done in the recipe below. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash & Red Lentil Soup

4-6 cups         peeled and cubed butternut squash

4 cloves         garlic, peeled and chopped

2-3 tbsp          coconut oil, or ghee

1 medium      onion

½ cup             red lentils

2 tsp                mustard seeds

1 tsp                ground cumin seeds

2 tsp                ground coriander seeds

1 tsp                turmeric

¼ – ½ tsp        hot chili peppers

1 tsp                sea salt & pepper

2-3 cups         water (or chicken stock)

½ – 1 cup       coconut milk (optional)

  • Heat coconut oil or ghee and mustard seeds. Sauté until they start to pop.
  • Add onions and spices and sauté for about one minute.
  • Add the stock, or water, and butternut squash. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 15-20 min.
  • Add washed lentils and simmer for 10-15 min until lentils are tender but not overcooked.
  • Add salt and optional coconut milk (the coconut milk is a fabulous addition, in my opinion!). Mash with hand held blender or potato masher.
  • Serve with chopped cilantro or pumpkin seeds.
  • This soup also works well with carrots, sweet potatoes with or without the butternut squash.

Two Biologists and A Boy: Running the Elk

Dylan and his cousin, Drew, watch from the front step as Geoff grabs the “elk stick”  – a hockey stick with multi-coloured plastic strips taped to the blade – and confidently moves toward the ornery bull elk. A member of Parks Canada’s wildlife conflict team, Geoff has a lot of experience with this sort of thing. It’’s the fall rut, and he has been moving testosterone-filled bulls away from the townsite before they decide to put their antlers through a vehicle or, worse, a person. Today he is off duty, and just trying to clear a safe path to our car. He roars and hisses at the elk while slamming the end of the stick on the ground like a gladiator in board-shorts. The swishing plastic intimidates the bull, but there will be no fight here,– only an attempt to divert the bull to a safer place to hang out with the cows he so desperately wants to mount.

Wildlife management in action. Photo by Niki Wilson.

Drew, a city-dweller, is beaming, having seen a wild animal and witnessed Uncle Geoff in action. Dylan seems pleased to be sharing this with his cousin, but makes it clear he has seen it all before. Whether it’s bulls in the fall, or cows protecting their young in the spring, he knows hormonal wildlife can be dangerous. Add the fact that elk use our front lawn as a wolf-free buffet year round, and you understand why Dylan is constantly vigilant about something as simple as walking from the bike rack to the house.

We have been trying to temper Dylan’’s ‘wildlife management’ view of the deer family with an appreciation for their beauty and instinct to survive. I realized the need for this a couple of years ago when Dylan and I came across a pretty illustration in a children’s book. In it, a deer fed on vibrant green grass underneath an apple tree ripe with perfectly round, red fruit. For most children, this scene would impart some kind of fairytale-like serenity, but Dylan simply said: “someone should chase that deer.””

Since then, we’’ve upped our wildlife viewing to include places where we can watch elk living free of the elk-stick – from a distance.


Mighty Neighbourly

Know Your Neighbour Night, Round Deux was a blast! Check out the photo gallery here.

Dance off! All photos by Chloe Vance.

Films “The Freedom Chair” and “All.I.Can.” blew everyone away and inspired some interesting conversations, and The Eerie Green and Her and Us kept the party flowin’ all night long.

Kudos to Sabrina Harper and Stefan Grecu for the impromptu Flash Mob!

Thanks a million to all our sponsors, volunteers, and everyone who came out to watch the films and party: A heartfelt thanks to the Live It, Love It” FoundationConnected in MotionThe “What Now?” Program, the Rocky Mountain Sherpas, and the Canadian Avalance Foundation for putting the wheels in motion for this neighbourly hoe-down.

And of course, we owe a debt of gratitude to Know Your Neighbour Night’s faithful sponsors: Pam Warburton and the Cornerstone Theatre (host), The Banff Ave Brewing Co. (beer, beer and more beer!), The Grizzly Paw (soft drinks), The Pro Image (poster printing), Harvest Moon Acoustics (sound systems and prizes), Redstone Custom Window Fashions (screen), Hugh Simson (projector loan), and raffle prizes from Rossignol (skis and a snowboard…holy cow!), Patagonia, Arc’teryx, Sherpas Cinemas, The Canadian Avalanche Foundation, The Banff Tea Co., and Buff Canada.

Mighty neighbourly!

Super Recovery Smoothie

We love to push our bodies hard, but are we taking the right steps in recovering after exercise? Nutritionist Samantha Peris takes us through the steps to making sure we’re adequately recovering (and offers a great recipe, too!).  She introduces some funky ingredients, but explains each of their benefits. It might be worth a trip to the health food store to stock up on items you might not already have. – Highline

Post-exercise nutrition is especially important for a speedy recovery. As Brendan Brazier, formulator of VEGA products and vegan triathlete, says, this is “the most important factor for building athletic performance once general health is achieved is recovery.” However, this concept is not only important for athletes, but even the moderately active. While exercise breaks down muscle tissue, post exercise recovery food helps cellular reconstruction.

Here’’s the deal:

After endurance or power workouts & sports…

  1. Within 15 minutes, eat a healthy carbohydrate like bananas, fresh fruit, raisins or other dried fruit. (This will help to replenish glycogen – our carb stores in our bodies).
  2. Wait half an hour, then have a meal. Have a 2:1 Carbs:Protein meal OR a protein shake (see recipe). If it is an ultra endurance sport, consume 3:1 Carbs:Protein.

The basic recipe below is a fantastic start to protein smoothies. Once you master the basics, start adding some of the additional superfoods – like spirulina – to boost nutrient content and make your cells smile.

Super Recovery Protein Smoothie

Photo courtesy

1 scoop (or 2 tbsp) Protein powder (whey or vegetarian – AOR Advanced Whey, hemp, VEGA Sport Protein)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or organic soy, brown rice milk)

1-2 tbsp chia seeds (start with less and gradually work up to 2 tbsp) or have a mixture of ground flax, chia and brown sesame seeds – an extremely high source of calcium!)

½ cup frozen berries (or any frozen fruits)

½ – 1 banana or avocado


1 handful spinach or kale – you wont even taste it, I promise.

1 tbsp lecithin granules (to help digest fats, excellent for brain & nervous system. Try Now Nutrition Non-GMO Lecithin)

1 tbsp blackstrap molasses (and a splash of fresh lemon juice or Vitamin C to add extra iron, calcium and potassium)

1 tsp buffered Vitamin C/calcium ascorbate (This is especially good if you are low in iron and are adding blackstrap molasses to your smoothie)

1 tsp –- 1 tbsp spirulina or broken cell wall chlorella (blue-green algae FULL of nutrients, great for athletes, vegetarians or… anyone!)

1 tsp – – 1 tbsp maca root powder  (for strength and endurance, hormones, libido)

1-2 tsp fish oil supplement (to ensure you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids for your brain and nervous system; try NutraSea +D)

Add cinnamon for extra flavour, to kill excess yeast & balance blood sugar.

Happy slurping!

Mmmm…Additives. My Favourite!

What the Monoisopropyl Citrate is Polyvinylpyrrolidone? And are you really going to eat something that you can’’t even pronounce?

The Challenge

Go into your pantry or refrigerator and pull out any boxed item, dessert item, or any other item that is flavoured (i.e. salad dressing, sauces, etc.) Now look at the label and see how many ingredients you either can’’t pronounce or don’’t recognize. You know, all those ones that look like they might hurt your tongue if you try to say them out loud.

Surprising, isn’’t it? Who knew that there was disodium ethylene diamine tetra-acetate (EDTA) in a can of chick peas? Or that guar gum was in a box of spaghetti? These are just two examples of food additives used to make food last longer, look more appealing and taste better.

So What’s the Big Deal?

If those additives are making the food better, who cares if you can’’t pronounce it, right? Well, the name is only the beginning. What makes up that name could be an entire laboratory of chemicals. For example, Health Canada allows 32 different food additives to be labeled only as “colour” on an ingredients list. And that is just for colour additives! There are also additives used to stabilize, emulsify, soften, sweeten, preserve, texturize: the list goes on. The bottom line is that the average person in North America ingests approximately 68 kilograms (150lbs) of food additives a year! Holy magnesium silicate, Batman!

But what can all these additives do? Well, that’s where everything gets a little hazy. Health Canada’’s Bureau of Chemical Safety determines what additives are put in our food and whether they’’re safe. But even just a little research (from reliable sources) will produce results that conflict with Health Canada’’s approval list.

One prime example is tartrazine, a yellow dye found in a wide variety of products, everything from cereals to coloured cheeses. Remember, cheddar cheese isn’’t bright orange when it comes from the cow! Countries like Norway have banned tartrazine after studies found immunosuppressive, carcinogenic and behavioural side-effects.

What Can You Do About It?

So if Health Canada’’s approval doesn’’t guarantee safety, what can you do to limit the amount of additives you ingest? It’’s not easy, to be sure. But as a start, you can try limiting the amount of boxed items that you buy. Frozen dinners, many cereals and instant soups contain additives you don’’t need.

Secondly, try to remember to read ingredient labels before you buy. If an ingredient appears that you can’’t pronounce or have never heard of, write it down and do some research when you get home.

These quick tips will not only reduce the amount of additives you ingest, but will limit your sodium and bad fat intake, both of which are common in boxed foods. Now get out to the grocery store and start filling that pantry back up! Only this time you’’ll know what you’re putting in there!

Bunny Bliss or Bunny Blitzkreig?

When it comes to a stance on the Canmore rabbit issue, there are plenty of lovers and haters but most just toe the line, unsure of a right course of action.

Yet the majority of people change camps regularly depending on the cuteness of the last baby bunny they saw, or how long it has been since they raked up three garbage bags full of rabbit crap out of their yards or cut down another dead, rabbit-eaten tree.

A solution to the infestation (these animals, after all, are NOT part of the natural local ecosystem and are having a noticable effect on it) is necessary, yet each time a potential answer is proposed and real action is imminent, animal activists and feral rabbit fans in the area drum up their fightin’ words and drown Town Council in tears over the sacred lives of these poor varmints.

No one, especially not me, wants to be the one to send the little guys up to the warren in the sky, but we’ve all seen and heard of the devastation to whole ecosystems when feral rabbits are allowed to reproduce at will (Australia, Kelowna, Victoria, Helsinki…the list goes on). Canmore is just one of many places to experience the effects of out-of-control rabbit populations.

So what do we do about it?

Because Canmore is sandwiched between a National and a Provincial Park, and is situated in the middle of a vital wildlife corridor, it falls on the townspeople and the local government to be responsible for protecting the wild animals and plants that share this space. Many feel that this includes the aforementioned rabbits. The problem is that, as we should all know by now, the Canmore bunnies are NOT wild animals. Today’s bunnies are the descendants of house pets that were released 30 years ago by short-sighted local residents who, for whatever reason, chose to no longer take care of them, and have only survived to this day by the grace of the rabbit gods.

The fact is they are an invasive species that are putting local native species at risk; some say their abundance creates potential for significantly increased human/wildlife conflict with the likes of coyotes, cougars and owls by enticing them into town for an easy meal. To a coyote’s nose, the smell of bunny is apparently a lot like the smell of those little donuts at the Stampede: totally irresistible. But it is yet to be seen whether this is true. At this writing, I’m unaware of any actual stats on predators being brought into town SPECIFICALLY because of the rabbits. (If you have stats, let us know!)

More Than Two Sides to the Story

Apparently rabbits are evolving into squirrels in Canmore. Photo by KD.

Advocates for removal of the rabbits are generally looking at the long-term effects of their behaviour, and believe the town should do damage-control today in order to prevent further damage to the environment and to the health of local residents in the future. Potential for disease, wildlife encounters within town, environmental degradation, and the health concerns related to an overabundance of rabbit feces are the main focus of this group’s concerns. Not to mention the potential for astronomic population explosion in this species, potentially creating a much bigger and more widespread problem in a very short time.

On the other end of the spectrum are firm believers that extermination is an inhumane and unacceptable solution to the problem. Those in this camp suggest some alternative solutions to eradication (such as neutering and relocation) that, although they may come at a significantly higher financial cost, will save the town a potentially tarnished reputation as “the town that killed the bunnies,” (a favorite slogan touted by many a visitor who “loves to look at the cute rabbits” when they come to town—twice a year for two days).

On another note, there is certainly a long list of better ways that we could spend the money than killing rabbits. Have better ideas? Let them be heard!

The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that the things are disgustingly cute. There are not many things in this world that rate higher on any cuteness scale than a troupe of baby bunnies popping the heads off dandelions and munching away, happily.

Creative Solutions

In short, some say let them be, while others say let them be history. Some of the more creative solutions inspire either laughter or a general sense of fear for one’s own well-being:

1. Have By-law enforce a MINIMUM speed limit of 100km/hr within town limits. 

2. Capture, neuter and release them into a rabbit sanctuary.

3. Capture, humanely exterminate, and then feed them to other hungry animals on local ranches and/or bird sanctuaries who have offered to take them.

4. Support eating locally, and add them to the menus of our fine local restaurants. 

5. Leave them alone and let “nature” take its course. (This solution will invariably result in locals continuing to trap and transport them to the outskirts of town, or into a neighbourhood near you. Maybe even to Banff?)

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creative solutions being thrown around at local watering holes. Other ideas involve shotguns, releasing neutered barn-cats, night-vision goggles, poison, sling-shots, and/or buried explosives. Makes euthanasia sound like a walk in the park, no?

Highline will surely keep you in the loop with all the drama and intense action that promises to go down. Stay connected to the latest news from the Town of Canmore, found here. To join the fight against eradication of the feral rabbit population, or to donate to the cause, check out “Save the Bunnies” here.


Would you expect a little in-bred pet shih-tsu to survive the Rocky Mountain winter without any food or shelter? Is it any more humane to allow the bunnies to die of starvation and freezing as they do? This is precisely what we are doing by standing by and watching this man-made, pet bunny species try to eke out a living in a harsh climate, with no winter food, and with such an abundance of predators and threats to its health.