3 Game-changing ways to make this the Best Mothers Day Ever!

I’ve been cajoled into doing some fundraising for my son’s Japanese exchange program. So this email went out to some work colleagues at noon today.

I went for the cheesy Make Money Online website look. Close?

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Hi and Happy Monday!

I’m sending this email to a small and select group of colleagues — people who share a passion for good times, friendships, good health and great food. People who I’ve really grown to love and respect over the years. But you are also friends who struggle at this time of year, and I can help.

You “get it” — you’re willing to go the extra mile for that special flavour.

You “get it” — you’ll take the time to grow your own fruits and vegetables, or plant a tree for the shade, or plant some flowers for the simple beauty of the bloom

And fellas, if you’re married, you “get it” too — you know that on Mother’s Day the last thing she wants is to get corralled into the buffet line for an over priced “Thank You Mom” lunch buffet, with the full complement of screaming babies, whining toddlers and the mother-in-law. Noooo…thank you honey!

I know you get it because, in this way, I’m just like you. I love food. Hell, I don’t carry a purple daypack with “lunch” every day for 15 years by being indifferent to the stuff. And I don’t take Cindy to brunch for Mothers Day either (anymore.) I’ve found the secret to getting through the Hallmark Holiday season. I figured it out, and now I want to share my knowledge with you.

I’ve got three ways to make next weekend a Weekend to Remember!

#1: On Saturday May 10, on the eve of Mother’s Day, there is an excellent steak night being held at Bonzzini’s Brew Pub. For a mere $15 per ticket, you can enjoy a steak, potato, salad and a beer. Yes, you heard me right. A BEER! Steak and Beer for $15!! I didn’t think it was possible anymore but the rising Canadian dollar has its advantages.

Fellas — she wants to go. Your wife wants to go to this more than you know. She’s complaining about the brunch thing to her girlfriends. She’s moaning about your darling mother right now. She wants meat, potatoes and a beer. Really she does. She’ll eat your salad, so don’t worry about that part.

Ladies — Guys are dim. He’s not hearing your little hints. He’s not comprehending ‘the look.’ You need to buy the tickets, put them in his pocket and say “I want this for Mother’s Day.” Make it really simple for him and get what you want!

Single Folk — why are you still reading this? It’s Steak and Beer. It’s Saturday. ’nuff said!

But Mark! She’s a vegetarian with a barley allergy!

No problem. I’m here for you. Besides, while the Steak Night will guarantee you a weekend to remember, it’s a quick hit. Maybe your looking for something that lasts longer. A lot longer! I’ve got special access to gift certificates from some of the best greenhouses, florists and garden centres in the Greater Regina Area to get you some slow-release love and affection.

#2 is from WP Gardens on Grant Road (by Tumblers) They’ve got a wide selection of bedding plants and vegetables that will keep your yard and garden colourful and flavourful all summer long. The word on the street is WP has a cult following in SW Regina that is quite protective of their plants. The existing customers don’t want to dilute the plant pool, but too bad! With these gift certificates you’ve got the inside track to healthy eating, but for a short time (they have to be used by the end of June 2008) The gift certificates come in multiples of $20, and you get full face value of the certificate.

#3 is from Unique Garden Centre / Unique Florists. The best selection of herbs, vegetables and bedding plants in the city. The best selection of trees and shrubs. Garden ornaments. Seeds. If you have Black Thumb instead of Green Thumb, you can get cut flowers from Unique Florists instead. And the GC’s last till October. They’ve got all your bases covered. Again, multiples of $20 and you get full face value!

Face it — cash is a lousy way to say “I Love You, Mom!” It’s kinda cheesy, really. Now a gift certificate from a garden centre, maybe with an offer to, oh, drive her to the garden centre and now you’re talking!

But Mark! Is there a catch?

No! No Catch!

Well, maybe. Yes. You see, Mothers Day is fast approaching. The time to act is now! Tickets are limited. The steak won’t keep. The beer will evenutally get warm. It’s time to start planting.

So here’s the catch. You need to commit to purchase by Monday, May 5. It gives me time to get the right number of tickets / certificates and gives you the time to design the perfect moment to give the gift. So call me or email me [heck, or comment on this blog] but take action!

OK, Mark. I’m ready to Take Action. But why are you helping me like this?

It’s easy really. I care. I really do. I want you to give the best darn Mothers Day gift ever. I want you to enjoy lovely flowers all summer long. I want you to eat the best fruits and vegetables. I want to be your friend for a very long time.

But there’s something in it for me too. Proceeds for the steak and garden centre GC’s go to the Regina Fujioka Student Exchange, which is hosting 25 Japanese students (age 11-12) this summer. My son Ben will be going to Japan in 2009 to complete the exchange.

I hope you enjoyed this email. If so, it’s a win.

But I hope you buy some tickets too. You get good food, Ben goes to Japan and I am still able to put food on my table. If so, it’s a win-win-win.

Your friend,

Mark

PS. Well, I hope I’ve done my job. I’ve given you the three ways to make this the Best Mothers Day ever. You can change the game in your relationship with your mother, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. you can take it to a Whole. Other. Level. But are you willing to stop there? I know you all have other friends that are facing the same issues. The same challenges. The same stress over the Hallmark Holidays.

If you are as caring and giving as I know you are, then forward this note with my blessing. Share the joy. Build on the passion. Peace.

My Mouth is Full of Marbles, When I Write

ARGH! I can’t write anymore. I don’t know why. It’s pissing me off.

I think it’s the return to corporate speak since baking school. Too many long, crappy, meaningless sentences which frustrate rather than educate.

When I’m riding or out for a long walk the ideas flow easy. I can frame out four blog posts and three presentations while walking along Wascana Creek. But when I sit down to write it turns out as “bargle, bargle, bargle, blah, blah, blah.”

But there’s hope, I think. Naomi and James are helping me out. Go read their stuff. It’s clear. It’s direct. It’s concise. And for someone with a blockage between brain and fingers, it’s damned inspiring.

Figuring Out Flour

June 30 (flour)

Originally uploaded by romanlily

Since I got back from SFBI I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my flour. Around the time I switched to organic unbleached flour back in November I’ve been struggling with pale loaves. We talked about this at school and I suspect that the organic flour might be the culprit. It all comes down to enzyme activity:

* enzymes (specifically, amalyse) breaks down the starch in flour into simple sugars.
* the simple sugars are needed for yeast food, but left over sugars are what causes nice browning. That is, browning is caramelized sugars

So, you need sufficient enzyme activity to create enough simple sugars to both feed the yeast and have enough left over for a brown crust. How do I know how much enzyme activity is in my flour?

* Millers use a measurement called the Falling Number to determine enzyme activity.
* Basically, they make a flour and water slurry, put it in a tube, put a weight on the slurry, and wait for the weight to fall. Enzyme activity breaks down the flour which allows the weight to fall.
* Bakers want a falling number between 250 and 300 seconds.
* Conventional (non-organic) bread flour typically meets this falling number requirement, but my organic flour has a higher falling number — closer to 350 seconds.

Still with me? So my organic flour has a falling number that’s too high, which means I don’t have enough enzyme activity to create simple sugars for yeast food and also for browning. Well, why not? And why does my Robin Hood flour not have this issue? It comes down to grain storage:

* Enzyme activity increases as the wheat berries get close to sprouting. ie. moisture is introduced.
* However, any grain farmer will tell you he wants dry grain in the bin so it doesn’t spoil.
* Millers are no different. They want nice dry, stable grain in the bin to grind flour from.
* Conventional flour millers add a product called fungal amalyse to their flour after they grind it in order to introduce additional enzyme activity to the flour, while preserving nice dry stable grain in the bin.
* Organic millers don’t have this option, so it’s up to the baker to do the correcting on his own. Usually this is accomplished by adding 0.5% – 1% malted barley flour to the white flour. Malted = sprouted = lots of enzymes.

So armed with this information, all I have to do is find me some malted barley flour and I can fix my pale loaf problem. BUT, do you think I can find malted barley flour locally? Not yet! I’m afraid I will have to go back to conventional flour (and incur the wrath of my local organic miller) until I can find some malted barley flour in the city. sigh…