Finding a Voice

Monday, May 19, 2008

Seemed like an eternity

In the summer of 2001 I led a team of college students to teach English at Tanghu Middle School in Chengdu, China for 5 weeks. What a surreal feeling to hear about the devastating earthquake there last week and wonder if the people I met in 2001 are doing okay. The internet gives me some small assurance:

Seemed like an eternity
My name is Ed Foy from Canada and I am an English teacher at Tanghu high school here in Chengdu, China. Yesterday when the earthquake struck, I was teaching a class, when the entire building I was in shook violently for what seemed like an eternity. All of the students and teachers at our school (3000 students in all ) rushed from the school buildings and to the front of the school. No one was injured in the rush to safety. Last night the school had everyone sleep on the school sports field as a precautionary measure as aftershocks continueed throughout the late afternoon yesterday and overnight last night. School has been suspended here in Chengdu until further notice.

Since the quake our cell phone cannot phone out to speak with anyone which has heightened fears among the parents of the students. Shortly after the quake struck here in Chengdu, many parents showed up at the school in fear that their child or children were injured or killed from the quake. I saw many of them as they arrived and they were visibly upset and feared the worst. Fortunately all of the children and staff are safe albeit very frightened from what took pace during and after the massive earthquake yesterday!
—Ed Foy, Chengdu

When I was there we played many, many games on that sports field, including a wild and colourful water balloon fight. Strange to think of people sleeping there. At least they’re safe …

posted by Colleen McCubbin at 1:38 PM 0 comments

Friday, May 16, 2008


Today I was preparing

salad for supper

for my brother

and I, suddenly remembering

salads with you, drifting

back, and smiling.

posted by Colleen McCubbin at 9:06 PM 0 comments

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Strawberry Bread

A few weeks ago we had lots of strawberries in our fridge, with many starting to go bad, so Jeffrey asked, “Can you do something with those?”


Do something? I thought. Maybe. So I went to, a wonderful website introduced to me by my friend Kim. Sure enough, there were several recipes with strawberries, including one for Strawberry Bread, which looked reasonable.  I used whole-wheat flour instead of all-purpose and natural can sugar instead of white.


Not only was it reasonable, it was scrumptious! Jeffrey said it was some of the best baking he’s had.


Last week when friends came for the afternoon and evening, we had one of them bring us more strawberries, expressly for more of the yummy bread. Unfortunately, we had run out of vegetable oil (canola), so I substituted olive oil. Still tasty, but not quite as good as before. Immediately the next day I bought more canola oil to have on hand. Note to self: try not to run out of regular cooking oil.


Even though the olive oil batch wasn’t quite as good as the first round, Jeffrey was still proud enough to enthusiastically offer some to a guest. J

posted by Colleen McCubbin at 8:44 AM 2 comments

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Monster Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Photo by Hannah Driscoll.

Buttery-rich and crisp. Oats and wheat germ add extra flavor and nutrition.

1-3/4 cups rolled oats

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use whole wheat)

1 cup wheat germ

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup butter or margarine

1 cup lightly packed brown sugar*

2 eggs

1-1/2 cups chocolate chips or raisins (I use just one cup)

½ cup chopped nuts (optional of course!)

- Stir together oats, flour, wheat germ, baking soda and salt. In large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and eggs thoroughly; blend in dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, mixing well.**

- Using 1/3 cup for each cookie, spoon dough about 6 inches apart onto greased baking sheets;*** flatten into 5-inch circles. Bake in 350 degrees (180 degrees C) oven for about 12 minutes or until golden. Let cool on pans for 5 minutes; transfer to racks to cool completely. Makes about 15.****

*I use natural cane sugar, which you can purchase directly from Level Ground or from me!

**You’ll probably want to knead the dough.

***I prefer to use my hands to shape the cookies, rather than a spoon.

****Smaller works, too. These are such hearty cookies, that you really don’t need them to be monstrous. Especially if you eat a lot of batter while baking!

Source: Muffins and Cookies in The Canadian Living Cooking Collection from The Madison Book Group, Inc., 1991, page 37.

posted by Colleen McCubbin at 11:49 PM 0 comments

Friday, May 09, 2008

a day at the farm

Last week I interviewed a local farmer for a profile in the newspaper. Here are a few pictures from the tour.

Belle is a 7 year old lab who can't sit still and wants to play endlessly!

The piglets followed Belle like a Pied Piper! They're incredibly curious little creatures who will investigate anything in a little troupe.

Tired mama!

Another tired mama -- the only sow to survive a big fire last year.

Wild turkeys. "Some people have house cats. I have turkeys," the farmer said to me.

Pollen-laden bee on top of the hive.

posted by Colleen McCubbin at 11:02 AM 0 comments

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Honey House

I visited a farm today where bees are the newest enterprise. Inspired, I revisited something I wrote for my dad for Christmas in 2005.


The one thing my dad has said he misses about farming is the beekeeping. He used to do it with his father, who died when my dad was 29 and I was not quite 2. Dad bought the apiary from Grandpa’s estate and carried on in the Taylor Apiaries tradition —giving his children valuable work experience in the process.

People would drive for miles to buy our honey, prepackaged in our containers or poured into their own tins or jars or, more usually, margarine tubs and ice cream pails. We sold by weight, placing the container on the scale to check the empty weight, then opening the spout to release the slick liquid to the desired weight. The golden sparkle could have been mesmerizing if we weren't watching the ounces, snapping the spout shut at just the right moment, sometimes opening it a crack to top up the volume. Sticky as honey is on fingers, dishes, clothes, floors, its viscosity lubricated the spout like heavy, rich oil. The lever on the tap was so tight that we could stop the flow without a drop leftover.

We had two types of scales. One was rather tall, white, enamel, spring-operated, and easy to use: just watch the numbers on the dial. The other, an old balance scale, required more care to load little weights to the desired amount and then carefully watch the arm rise until it the arrow pointed to exactly the right spot indicating a balance between the weights and the honey-filled pail.

The apiary seemed like more of a hobby than a livelihood for dad, but it was a source of income and, I realized many years later, my first summer job. In serving customers, I learned about providing service, accurate measurement, attention to detail, packing and shipping, writing and calculating receipts, making change. My siblings and I often accompanied dad in the truck to do the rounds checking the hives. In processing the honey, I would scrape the combs, hang the frames on the de-capper machine which would carry the frame between 2 hot knives to slice off the caps, releasing the golden sweetness. My siblings and I loved to chew the chunks of honeycomb that dropped down, like homemade gum.

From the de-capper, the frames went into the extractor where they would spinspinspin, centrifugal force pulling the honey out to splatter on the sides of the tank, slip and drip down, and drain out. Next it was pumped upstairs where impurities would be strained out and the pure honey would run from a temporary holding tank to its last stop before going into pails and barrels for sale. One holding tank was gleaming stainless steel — formerly a milk tank from a dairy. These tanks were built into the wall, so on one side the honey went in and on the other side the honey was served through spouts.

The smell of the place was both inviting and comforting: rich sweetness intermingled with hot wax, label ink, packing glue. Often in the summer, mom would bring over freshly baked buns with real butter, onto which we would drizzle the golden liquid to savour on our tongues.

In the days before air conditioning, the honey house was one of my favorite places, especially the room where we served customers. The shelving in the sales room was not sophisticated – more practical than aesthetic, yet it was made interesting by Dad's collection of antique bottles and honey containers. (He had a collectors guide about antique bottles, which I would sometimes study, especially fascinated with old-style baby bottles.) The sales room was a lovely place to spend the afternoon after working in the garden or climbing trees or catching kittens in the barn. It always felt peaceful. Sometimes I would lie in half-light on the glossy, grey floor, soaking in the cool, smooth serenity.

It may have been my first summer job, but somehow it didn't feel like work.


posted by Colleen McCubbin at 10:36 PM 1 comments

history of women at Briercrest: archiving

An exciting opportunity has opened up.

A few weeks ago I received invitation from the Chester Ronning Centre to become a junior research associate to establish an archive for the history of women at Briercrest. This would extend the work begun with my thesis: Oral Histories of Women from the Early Days of Briercrest.

Last week I had planned a trip to Caronport, and suddenly realized that it might be good to chat with some key people about a potential partnership between Briercrest and the Ronning Centre. So after some back and forth discussion, a meeting was set for Friday morning at 9:00 with several professors (especially history), two librarians, and the president.

The meeting went well. We discussed the importance of this historical archive for Briercrest, how they can assist me in making it available to scholars at Briercrest College & Seminary, and what partnership with the Ronning Centre should look like.

It was a most collegial and fruitful conversation, yet I had a mix of feelings: the comfort of being in a room full of friends, yet self-consciousness about going to this next level of scholarship (who me?).

But they were all so supportive. Two years ago I had the vision for this project, and I even pitched it to the president and the academic dean -- not asking for money, but for space (even just a study carrel) and institutional resources and some kind of status like researcher-in-residence. They basically said Briercrest wasn't ready for a formal relationship, though they would be encouraging and supportive as I finished my thesis.

Looking back I see that they were right: Briercrest wasn't ready -- and neither was I. Unfortunately, I fear I was slightly belligerent about it back then. But NOW seems to be God's timing for it.

So I'm leaving here with a key to a seminary carrel in the library (office space) and all the encouragement and promise of resources to champion Briercrest's archives, to define my project, to pursue funding, to bring in Dr. David Goa at some point for a workshop or conference on the archives in general, to train students for field research, etc., etc., etc. The sky is the limit. Neither Briercrest nor the Ronning Centre have money at this point, but they both have the means to seek funding. It's amazing to think of the possibilities.

In the short time since Friday morning, many conversations have confirmed that this is a door the Lord is opening. At the same time, I feel very called to stay in Duval with my brother Jeffrey, and in Strasbourg where I work at the newspaper and am part of the Alliance church. So the question will be how to balance and fulfill my commitments to my brother (pottery, arts), to the newspaper, and to the church. I work 2-3 days a week for the newspaper, so I can imagine going to Caronport for 2-4 days every few weeks to do research for the summer and set up my own office space in the current archives so I can give up the study carrel for a seminary student in autumn.

I came home blissfully exhausted … and facing responsibilities ...
So, if you would keep praying and providing feedback, that would be fantastic!

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posted by Colleen McCubbin at 5:42 PM 1 comments