Category Archives: Building community

It’s a sausage party! A sausage-making collaboration

I love a good collaboration with like-minded folks, especially when it combines comraderie, creativity and sustainability. But throw in some unabashedly poor taste jokes and boom, it’s a party. Yup, a Sausage Party!

My talented friend, Belinda, who hand-crafts the most beautifully artful all-natural soaps as her side gig (@loveyoursuds) and I were looking for a way to collaborate our like-minded interests. We had recently reconnected (having worked together many years ago), discovered we lived very near each other, and met up to make a great “trade” – some of her soap plus a formerly loved green hoody for some of our deer sausages and 5 lbs of concord grapes from my yard! Belinda’s boyfriend loved the sausages, and we were looking for an opportunity for our partners to meet socially, so we lined up a date for, you guessed it, a sausage party!

Because my husband is a hunter, we have to credit him for the main ingredient, the meat! I pre-thawed 7lbs of ground deer, 2 lbs of beef (from our Langley family farm source, Capko Farms) and 1lb of elk, and I purchased 5lbs of pork fat and the sausage casings from our local meat shop (Beefway Meats). Belinda had made sausage before, so she suggested a recipe, and managed to borrow a sausage stuffer from a friend, while we hauled out our hand-me-down 1970’s meat grinder that Stewart had been dying to use since ensconcing it from his parents’ garage last year. A few spices and some onion, and we were ready to go!

Sausage ingredients










Because it was a social gathering too, it was important that we enjoy some fun drinks and eats, so I put together a charcuterie plate and red wine, and Belinda and Ken brought homemade pizza and craft beer from the new Luppolo brewery– yum!


We sanitized the island counter so we could all get in on the mixing right on the counter, and decided to make separate batches for the deer, elk and beef, with slight variations to the recipe for each (add sun dried tomatoes, add red pepper flakes, etc.). Some of us mixed while others washed and got the grinder and attachments ready.

Meat grinder








This grinder is a relic and a bit special in its own right, as Stewart’s father, who passed away last fall, used it to make his own sausages (and grind all his meat) at least thirty years ago. Its fire engine red exterior complemented the bright yellow apron (advertising French mustard) that was still in the box. Hence, we all had to don aprons to get in on the fun. Mine was a particularly cheesy Christmas bear apron (It’s February).

Sausage making party

From left: Ken, Belinda, me, Stewart

Next, we ground the fat and mixed it into the seasoned meat mixture (note: wild meat has very little fat so requires some extra for taste and juiciness). I almost didn’t post this photo, as it looks a little gross, but I figure if you’re still reading, you can’t be too put off at this point. I won’t however post the video we took of grinding the fat, as that was even a little much for the hunter among us. Eek.











We did fry up a bit of the mixture for a taste test, and all agreed it was tasty!
Then, once the sausage stuffing attachment was fitted on the grinder, Belinda gave a demonstration how to use it, and that’s when most of the inappropriate jokes began, in front of our teenage daughter, who suddenly became interested in helping us, and hey, what better way to also spend some time with your kid on her own accord.

Sausage stuffing











The stuffing ensued, and all hands were on deck to try to get the sausages a consistent length and thickness (roughly 6″) without overwhelming Belinda, who was feeding the casings. This we just had to get on video.

Sausage making video

Once we had a few pounds prepared, I started packaging them, simply, with freezer paper, a scale to get the packages an even weight (1lb each) and some masking tape.








Deer Sausage

We ended up with 7lbs per couple, plus one for the friend.
All in all a great, fun experience which we plan to do again with new and more daring recipes, as soon as our own sausage stuffer from Amazon shows up!


If you’d like more details or have questions, leave us a comment below. Thanks!

The Nostalgia of Food: An art exhibit review

  Studio 126 event

I quite enjoy art exhibits. And when a talented friend and colleague is exhibiting her work, I LOVE art exhibits! I’m like a new mom, so proud of and excited for the potential this may bring a deserving person. And when the theme is food….well!!!!

This was the case when I attended “The Nostalgia of Food” last week, an exhibit hosted by Studio 126 in Chinatown (the installation of which continues all month).

In addition to being in an amazing, inspiring but completely unassuming space, the exhibit promised to showcase what “the nostalgia of food” means to the fifteen different artists on display, from painters to photographers and more.

Helena McMurdo Photography

Photo: Helena McMurdo Photography

Presumably the theme “the nostalgia of food” would be about the memories and connections associated with food and its traditions from our families or our experiences. Let’s walk through one of the artists, Helena’s, take on it.

Helena McMurdo Photography

Helena McMurdo – “Weight and balance” – giclee

“This is the scale that used to sit in my grandparent’s bar in Spain. It stirs up very personal memories for me as I remember when their bar was a lively place with neighbours and customers coming and going to have a drink and to buy food. I think of the stories it could tell, and of the conversations between my grandmother and her customers, how the weight might have been ‘just over’ the requested amount. Contrast that with how we shop for food today, mostly alone, helping ourselves and with less interaction with the shopkeeper. The social and communicative nature of the trading of the past is changing. Now with her shop long gone, the scale sits as a sort of fruit bowl, not fulfilling its true potential, but as a beautiful reminder of a time and a way of consuming food.” 

Helena McMurdo Photography

Helena McMurdo – “Pickling”

It seems like pickles are essentially a nostalgic item. Mention pickles and everyone remembers their grandma’s pickles. Or do they? I never made pickles as kid and nor did anyone in my family but this is how I imagined it would be if I had. I’m interested by the cultural iconography of nostalgia as it relates to food. Does a home-made pickle made by a grandmother taste better than one made by a professional in a state-of-the art facility? Are we responding to the taste of the pickle or the experience or memory? How is that we can imagine these cues from experiences that may or may not have occurred. Are we being true to the real experience?  Or do we all attribute meaning to our memories that may not be there?

Helena McMurdo Photography

Helena McMurdo – “Rashers and eggs”

The simplicity of these ingredients recalls a simpler time, when these items were the product of the farmhouse, not the factory. How many of us have actual memories of eating this way? Or are we responding to a collective imagined experience?

I hadn’t thought much about the exhibit before getting there – heck, I barely got out of the house after a full day of work, picking up kids, throwing dinner at the family and slapping on a coat of lipstick! So I let the above and other artists’ impressions and inspirations guide me, and soon I was conjuring up my own images of what this theme means to me.

For example, I didn’t realize until I was an adult how much nostalgia I generated from my parents having a garden when I was a kid and how the values locked deeply in that eventually propelled me to start a garden once I had my own family.

Think about Christmas dinner! That’s fodder for another post, there’s so much nostalgia tied up in certain Christmas traditions carried on mostly by my hubby’s side of the family.

And even on a much less obvious note, food nostalgia in our family could be contained in a notion as simple as the fact that we always take tuna sandwiches “in the pack” for our lunch on the ski hill. In fact, my sister was heard saying the other day that, “Skiing wouldn’t be the same without tuna fish sandwiches”! I’m not sure anyone besides my dad even likes them, but it’s a constant in an event that we hold dear and have greatly enjoyed together since childhood.

What sparks food nostalgia in your life? 

ps, In addition to her food photography work, Helena is the author of the blog, My Endless Picnic, and co-author of the South Granville Inhabiter blog. You can also find her on the usual social media spots: Facebook: Helena McMurdo Photography, Twitter (@missilenth) & Instagram (@missilenth). Because the “H” in her name in silent. 🙂

Studio 126 is located at 126 E Pender Street in Vancouver BC.

Crafty! Part Two: Countdown to Craft Fair Day

Wow! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind! Never mind the regular hustle – work, school, activities, commitments, and the start of the holiday season – we’ve had a craft fair to prepare for!

I admit to a mild amount of panic before this week, but the girl and I have persevered and managed to produce enough products to fake our way onto an 8 foot table! Thank goodness my sister from Phoenix Knitwear is joining us to help fill our table – besides, it’ll be a great mother-daughter-auntie-niece bonding experience to support and hang out with each other for the day.

By coincidence, and to my delight, my sister and I were recently introduced to the Square reader (for mobile credit card payments), and it arrived in time so we can play with the big kids and accept credit card payments!

At the same time, I didn’t realize a simple trip to the bank for a cash float would be such a great old skool learning experience for my daughter, who has taken full ownership over it and plans to record our inventory and sales (with pen and paper). So technology has not ruined us yet.

And when I mentioned that she might need to come home for a lunch break, that a five hour shift was probably the longest shift she’d ever worked, she reminded me that it’ll be the ONLY shift she’s ever worked.

So whether we sell anything or not, this experience has been worth it already. And without further ado, here’s a taste of what we’ve been working on.


Crafty! Making stuff and other off-season endeavors

CraftingWhen I started this blog, I worried I wouldn’t have anything to write about between, oh, October and June, ha! But once I started exploring different topics, I realized part of what got me so excited about growing my own food in the first place was my inert desire to create. To make something useful with my own hands.

My family has been making stuff for decades, so this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. My mom used to design and sew character costumes for our local skating pageant (I wish I could find photos of that 7′ tall Dino the Dinosaur!). Many of my and my sister’s clothes were sewn by her (back in the day when matching gingham petticoats were cool, yikes), and today she has outfitted my girls’ 18″ dolls with entire wardrobes sewn by hand. I could go on and on.

My dad could often be found in the yard doing what looked like “yard work” but was actually landscape design, and every bit of rock work that has ever been built in his different yards was created by him, by hand. Add on building doll beds and houses that still house my kids’ dolls 35 years later and well, you see the pattern. And this from two unionized professionals, a nurse and a pilot. But when you gotta create, you gotta create!

Fast forward to 2 months ago (I won’t bore you *now* with stories of all the successful and failed crafting I’ve done over the years), when my cousin convinced me to try making Kombucha (future post!). I was keen, but I realized I had given away all my large mason jars (in which to concoct it) to a friend a few years ago. At the risk of sounding impolite, I gingerly asked her if she was using them. She said no and promised to return them to me. I just needed a few. Well, said friend was cleaning out her garage before embarking on a big overseas trip and unloaded five boxes of mason jars in all sizes and states on my doorstep!

Slightly overwhelmed, I was five minutes away from putting them in the back alley when my daughter shouts “Noooo! We can MAKE something out of those!”. This is a common statement in our house, as many pieces of “garbage” get reclaimed from our recycling bin to later become “art” or “gifts”, and I have received the  most thoughtful and resourceful homemade gifts from my kids over the years. But this time she was more ambitious – she wanted to exhibit and SELL our creations at a craft fair!

I love how creative my daughter is, and because we’d be up-cycling reusable items, I was sold!

And so began the internet search for crafty things to make from mason jars, and where to exhibit them locally. I want to say our main motivation for settling on our neighbourhood community centre was to support the local community, but here are our more honest reasons:

1. It was cheap (although I’m still not sure we’ll sell enough to even cover our table cost).
2. It was still available (unlike many other higher profile fairs that had sold out to vendors months prior!)
3. I was having a huge anxiety attack about having to make items that were “sellable” (grandparents are a lot more forgiving than real customers). We’d been to this fair before and it seemed fairly “low key”, so I figured it would be a small loss (to our wallets and our self esteem) if we didn’t sell anything.

It’s now less than 4 weeks to the craft fair, and I have a huge new respect for people who actually exhibit their crafts publicly. A couple things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Don’t underestimate the amount of time and money it requires to try different techniques and make prototypes for your eventually sellable items. I’m no longer keeping track and am thinking of it as a learning and bonding experience for me and my creative daughter….this time.

2. An 8′ table holds a lot! We’ve had to augment the mason jar crafts with my daughter’s fabulous duct tape creations, which will really be the hero here. She’s had the chance to hone her skills and designs and learn some “stick with it” resiliency along the way so we actually have something to sell. NB, I’ve recruited my crafty talented sister to exhibit some of her gorgeous hand-knitted wearables as well!

3. Don’t underestimate the little old ladies selling dolly clothes (like I did last year as a spectator) at the table next to you. You need all the marketing, project management and accounting skills you use at your real job to really make a go at this!

So, as the countdown begins, and I’m ordering little baggies and tags from Ebay in hopes that they’ll arrive before “C” day, here’s a few of our pieces in the making.
CraftingI’ll post more as the volume increases, and maybe we’ll see you at the craft fair – Saturday, November 29th from 10am to 3pm at Renfrew Community Centre – 2929 E 22nd Ave, Vancouver.
I hear an 11 year old kid has inspired her mom and aunt to exhibit for the first time.