“A nest of meaning”

Just a small gem from the concluding words of Alexander McCall Smith’s “The Dog Who Came In From the Cold:”

We create, he said to himself, in the places where we live,
A nest of meaning. And how big or small it is,
Is neither here nor there; a banker
May live in a mansion, a tramp in a cardboard box,
Each is as much a human home, each equally valuable
To its owner.

Lamb Morocco

This is one of my go-to recipes and we’ll be serving it tonight to some friends who want to learn more about our co-housing idea. It comes from a collection of slow cooker recipes we bought years ago (and may have to buy again soon since it’s been so well used).

It’s kind of a lucky accident that the book turned out to be so good because I confess I bought it mostly for the title: How to Make Love and Dinner at the Same Time. The author is Toronto journalist Rebecca Field Jager, by whose kind permission this recipe is shared.

The Lamb Morocco recipe is very easy to make: throw all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or high for 4 to 5 hours.

1 1/2 pounds lamb stew meat
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (19-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons tomato paste*
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon pepper

*Now here’s the really important thing I’ve learned from years of making this recipe. The rest of that little can of tomato paste? Throw it away immediately. Do not put it in the fridge, hoping you’ll think of something else to do with it. Just get rid of it before it turns all black and yucky. The stew will turn out fine either way, but you’ll be happier if you throw out the tomato paste right away. Trust me on this.

UPDATE: This bit of genius just in from Rebecca:

Your idea for throwing out the rest of the can of tomato paste made me smile. I actually freeze the remaining paste in individual ice-cube containers and then bag them in a small freezer bag so I can pull out a tablespoon (cube) as needed. The trick works well but one girlfriend who happened to witness me doing it said, “OMG that’s the most domestic thing I’ve ever seen!” Indeed it is a lot of work for a cheap can of paste but one does then always have it on hand!

I’m going to seriously consider this… and then I’m prolly gonna throw out the can.

And then there was cohouseholding

In an earlier post we explored the many overlapping terms related to the concept of co-housing.

A couple of years ago a guy named Oz Ragland set up something called the Cohouseholding Project.

Ragland appears to have invented the term “cohouseholding,” by which he means shared housing that is also co-owned and co-designed, governed co-operatively and co-evolving.

Frankly, this may be the most descriptive term of all for what we’re about.

Sadly, for whatever reason, Ragland’s vision seems to have petered out. During 2013 and 2014 he assembled an impressive board of advisors and outlined an ambitious plan of research and publishing, but none of it has materialized.

In recent email correspondence, Ragland referred us to another individual who, he said, “might” be taking leadership of the Cohouseholding Project. We await developments with interest. Meanwhile, since cohouseholding is so little used (and such a mouthful), we’ll continue to use co-housing.


Warm Quinoa Salad

Looking forward to trying this one, a warm quinoa salad topped with a green sauce  made with basil, dill and chives.

I came across it on the Oh She Glows website while looking for a recipe for the “soul-soothing african peanut stew” that Hillary whomped up as a first course before our last theatre outing. Peanut butter and sweet potatoes, some spinach, bit of chilli powder, bit of cayenne. Oh my.

But it turns out that recipe is only in the book, not on on the website. My advice is, either come to dinner with us or buy the book.

Accessible, adaptable, flexible

Under the general heading of Aging in Place, CMHC has compiled a number of resources on Accessible Housing and Adaptable Housing. Resources collected on the adaptable housing page include a detailed Flexible Housing guide and Flexible Housing Checklist.

“CMHC’s FlexHousing (TM),” it says here, “is an approach to home design, renovation and construction that is able to adapt and convert affordably as a household’s lifestyle and needs change.”

Aging in place website

There’s a website devoted to aging in place called… yeah, aginginplace.com. Much of it seems inordinately devoted to selling products and I find it somewhat annoying. I’m not convinced that new appliances are the answer to all my life goals.

In fairness, though, it does have some useful content, like its “Top 10 Aging in Place Bathroom Fixes,” but annoyingly (again!) I can’t give you a direct link to that article, just a link to the “bathrooms” page on which it’s found.

The top 10 bathroom fixes are well thought out and include some features I haven’t already seen everywhere else. For instance:

  • anti-scald controls
  • a handheld shower head (noting specifically that the cord should be long enough to reach your feet while you’re seated on a bench)
  • a wall-mounted sink because, if needed, a wheelchair can fit under it.

There may be a lot more good stuff there but it’s hard to survey because, annoyingly (have I mentioned it’s annoying?) there is no search box. If you feel like taking some time to browse, knock yourself out.


All the world’s a (st)age

In honour of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth last month, a Next Avenue blogger compiled his best quotes on aging.

There’s something to be said for Gratiano’s bring-it-on spirit in the first scene of Merchant of Venice, when he says “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” But IMHO they should have continued the quote to include the following lines:

And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
But for sheer joie de vivre, you can’t beat Adam in As You Like It: “Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty.”


A CMHC pamphlet called Accessible Housing by Design—Lifts and Residential Elevators takes an astonishing 12 pages to lay out some pretty basic information, but it does contain this useful tip:

To make your dollars go further, consider buying from a company that sells refurbished equipment. Residential lift and elevator equipment is frequently recycled, providing a reliable, cost-effective and environment-friendly solution.


Universal design

Of course the phrase “universal design” sounds to me as if it should come equipped with a universal translator. But no, it’s a growing school of design conventions intended to making buildings as functional as possible from a wide variety of perspectives.

Universal design embodies seven principles, including:

1. Equitable use
This principle focuses on providing equitable access for everyone in an integrated and dignified manner. It implies that the design is appealing to everyone and provide an equal level of safety for all users.

2. Flexibility in use
This principle implies that the design of the house or product has been developed considering a wide range of individual preferences and abilities throughout the life cycle of the occupants.

The seven principles are included in an appendix to a CMHC pamphlet on Accessible Housing by Design.

Some of the ways universal design principles play out in practice include:

  • ensure at least one entrance to the home is step-free and under cover
  • use lever style door handles and faucets, which are easier to use
  • design doorways 36 inches wide, hallways at least 42 inches wide, to ensure ease of movement.


Co-housing here and there

A rolling list of news items related to co-housing across the country.

NOTE: This type of item is no longer reported here. For occasional news about co-housing developments, visit our Facebook page.

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