A Year of Living Breadfully – #2 – Pizza

Pizza dough was the second item I decided to tackle for my “Year of Living Breadfully”. Now I have to admit I am not a huge pizza fan, and the choice to make pizza came mostly from the fact that we had a lot of cheese left over from the holiday season. A LOT of cheese (as in, we must have been expecting a world cheese shortage or something!).

For this dough I decided to do a quick internet search and go with the first recipe I had the ingredients for. It has been super cold here, so I had no interest in having to run out to the store. Luckily pizza is a pretty simple recipe, so it took no time to find a recipe that matched my pantry ingredients.

The recipe pizza recipe I used was found on http://www.ricardocuisine.com , and the recipe can be found by clicking HERE .

Below is a pictoral account of our pizza making.

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blog-dough-2017_1656-aFresh dough from the mixer.

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The finished cheese pizza.


The recipe was simple, the crust tasted very nice, and we had a ton of leftovers for lunch the next day (bonus!). Another successful cooking session.

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Photography by Debra Hunter

http://www.htheblog.wordpress.com

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A Year of Living Breadfully – #1 – whole wheat bread

This year I decided to embark on a new kind of project, not a resolution, but rather an exploration. I have decided for 2017 to experience a year of living breadfully. By now you are probably wondering what I am talking about, and it is, quite simply, a year where I explore making different breads.

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The goal is to explore baking bread at least once a week, trying new flours, new recipes, or new ways to incorporate bread into our everyday eating. Bread has such a history, it has sustained civilizations for thousands of years, and it was actually through watching historical documentaries that the idea came to me to spend the year exploring this humble food.

Ironically, focusing on bread seems so contrary to modern society, a society that maligns “carbs” and puts “gluten-free” upon a pedestal. However anyone who has followed this blog knows very well that I don’t mind being contrary, so celebrating a food that sometimes receives negative attention seems apt.

I am looking forward to a year of the smell of freshly baked bread filling my home, a year of eating warm bread out of the oven, and having the chance to photograph some amazing loafs too.

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#1 Whole Wheat Bread

The first bread of the year is whole wheat bread. I tweaked a recipe that I have used for years, and it will probably be the basis for many of the loaves I make over the coming months. I used a combination of stone ground hard whole wheat flour and all purpose flour for this bread. We enjoyed the bread sliced for dinner along with butter, cured meats and cheese….and it was amazing.

For those who are interested, here is a list of the ingredients to make two loaves:

warm water – 2 cups
sugar – 2 tablespoons
yeast – 1 tablespoon

butter (melted) – 2 tablespoons
salt  – 2 teaspoons

whole wheat flour (hard stone ground from Bulk Barn) – 3 cups
all purpose flour – 2 cups

(***bread was baked at 400F for 40 minutes)

Now I will be the first to admit I am not new to making bread, the first loaf I made was actually 26 years ago, with bread made at least once a month….so that is a lot of bread. What I have found is that bread making is actually much simpler than many people make it out to be. Making bread also is not that time consuming, but rather more about time management. So instead of detailed information about how to scientifically bake bread I will give a quick run down as to how I do it.

  • measure out two cups of warm water, stir in your sugar, sprinkle your yeast over the water and let it sit 5-10 minutes….whatever it takes to get all bubbly. While this is happening I usually go and do something else and come back to check on it.
  • once the water and yeast are all bubbly I add it to the bowl of my stand mixer (best purchase ever!), add in the melted butter, the salt, and two cups of the whole wheat flour. Turn on the mixer (bread hook attached) and let it work for a couple of minutes. This is a good time to check your email, or Instagram accounts.
  • after a few minutes add in 1 cup of whole wheat flour and let the mixer work for another minute or two. Then add in the first cup of all purpose flour and again let the mixer work it in.
  • with the final cup of flour add it in a bit at a time. Part of making bread comes down to the feel of the dough, you don’t want it to be too wet (sticky) or too dry (crumbly), so adding in the last cup of flour a bit at a time will allow you to monitor the dough to be the right squishy dough consistency. Sometimes you need less flour, sometimes you need more, just go off the feel of the dough.
  • once all the flour is added, and the dough seems right, I let the mixer work away for at least another 5 minutes. Another great opportunity to do something else while the mixer works.
  • now that the dough is ready, I remove the bowl from the mixer, take the dough out, spray the mixer bowl with oil or cooking spray, and put the dough back in. You can also rotate the dough in the bowl once so that the top of the dough is oiled.
  • I then cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let the dough sit. (Rotating the dough in the bowl so the top of the dough was oiled means the plastic wrap won’t stick to your dough once it has risen, making things much easier.)
  • usually I let the dough rise for 30 minutes to an hour. I usually line this time span up with going for a walk , doing errands or picking the kids up from school. I don’t need to be around for bread to rise….making bread is all about time management.
  • one thing to note is if your house is a little on the cool side, you can let the dough rise in your oven with just the light on. Sometimes that added warmth gets the yeast working and the bread rising.
  • once your dough has doubled in size (30 minutes to 1 hour later), I punch down the dough and shape the bread into loaves. For the loaves above I divided the dough in half, shaped each piece into a ball, placed the ball of dough on an oiled baking sheet, and flattened the ball
  • I then put the loaves on the baking sheets into the oven to rise a second time. This can again range 30 minutes to an hour. I usually pop it in, go do something, and then just check back later.
  • once the loaves have risen, I take them out of the oven, then turn the oven on, and bring it to temperature.
  • the loaves then go in to bake for about 25-40 minutes. This particular recipe was 40 minutes at 400F.
  • a ready loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom
  • when I bake bread I always rotate the position the bread is in the oven part way through, swapping bread on the higher rack for the bread on the lower one. Also, I never bake on the bottom rack….no one likes burnt bottoms on their loaf.

As I said, this is a rough idea as to how I personally bake bread. It is actually a stress free form of baking with lots of waiting times. Usually bread is baked to go with our supper, so I start around lunch time to have hot loaves to go with our evening meal. It is all about time management.


I think my project of “A Year of Living Breadfully” will be an interesting one, with so many types of bread to explore……and eat.

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Path Side Wonders – Wapta Falls, BC, Canada

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This spring we have spent our fair share of time exploring the mountain parks of Alberta and British Columbia. Our family is finally at the stage where everyone is able to hike, and excited about it too. Last weekend we explored the area around Golden, BC, and on the return trip stopped for an enjoyable hike to Wapta Falls.

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As there had been quite a bit of rain, the sides of the path were lush with flowers and mushrooms. Admittedly, the constant stopping left my family standing and waiting (perhaps arms crossed and toes tapping by our oldest two!), while I crawled around for mushroom pictures.

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The younger three got in the spirit of looking at the wildflowers. This did however lead to a discussion where my eight year old just would not accept that the beautiful flower she had discovered was a dandelion. She was certain it was a rare wildflower (her siblings also chimed in that what she had found was a dandelion which certainly didn’t help matters!).

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Now there is an amusing story from the day we did this hike. My husband and I were certain we had both walked to Wapta Falls a few years ago, we were sure of it. We were so sure of it we described the walk to tourists parked next to us; we had also read the distance, time and elevation gain the night before so we passed on that information. I remembered it being a grey drizzly day. As we walked along the path I thought something was “different”, but I wasn’t about to say anything. We get to the first lookout and at that point my husband and I are saying the hike and falls are different than we remember. By the time we hit the base of the falls we both looked at each other and said “We’ve never been here before!”. And then we twigged. We were thinking Sunwapta Falls……..in Jasper National Park…..we were only a couple of national parks out. Then, we had to come clean with the kids.

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The view from the bottom of the falls was quite lovely. The forest wildflowers gave way to Indian Paintbrush, one of my favorites. We stopped and admired the falls for a while, made a quick sketch, and then returned down the path we had just walked.

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Photography by Debra Hunter

http://www.debra-hunter.com

http://www.htheblog.wordpress.com

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The End Of An Era

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It’s gone. There isn’t much more to say. The cabin we loved for just shy of a decade is gone. It was lovely. It was where we spent our best time as a family. Babies learned to walk. The kids caught frogs. We saw fireflies, owls, and pelicans. But it couldn’t be saved.

An insurance fight of epic proportions. Being led on that it could be repaired. All to end with a bulldozer.

We put off going up to see the lot as long as we could. We could never have been prepared for the sadness. Seeing parts of our life broken in the dirt. Little toy cars, a mug handle, some spoons.

Our kids tried to play as if they were “at the cabin”, but it was gone. It was strange, we still owned the lot but it was dead. People have said to us “this is an opportunity”, it isn’t, we have lost a huge part of our life and a huge part of our family.

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What people don’t realize is you can’t rebuild memories. The cabin wasn’t a building it was a memory maker. None of us have the heart to try to rebuild on the lot. It will never be the same.

We knew our neighbour was interested in the lot, but no official offer had been made. On Friday we went to see what to do with the property. Do we sell, rebuild, camp? We tidied it up as best we could, weeded the flowerbed, trimmed back some saplings, but it was like dressing the dead for a burial.

We pretended it was normal. Took pictures of the trees. It was all wrong.

We did one last picture of the family, like we had done every year since buying the cabin. The kids are bigger, everyone smiled, but the cabin was gone. A family standing in front of nothing.

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What an ending. We remember what we had and it is so sad to see it gone.

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Our little cabin was lovely. It was home. It was family. It felt right. Nothing else will ever be the same.

Pretending all was normal, pretending all was fine, we took one last look at the lake.

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On Saturday we received the formal offer. The lot is being sold. It is a very sad end to an era.

Are Canadian Women Allowed An Opinion Outside Of Their Own Home?

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Are Canadian women allowed to truly have an opinion beyond the walls of their home? This is a thought that has been on my mind over recent days.

The last month has left me contemplating  how equal women truly are in Canadian society, not how it reads in theory on paper, but how equal we are in real life. Back in mid September I wrote an open letter expressing my feelings on how the discussion of eliminating two policies affected me. The elimination of policies was  discussed by  a couple of  party leaders running in Canada’s 2015 federal election, and the attitudes of these two political parties surrounding the elimination of these policies  made me feel worthless. These were policies that for the most part gave a sense of recognition to parents at any level of income across Canada. It was an inclusive policy. Policies that included every single family in the country. Somehow the letter was shared on social media and it has now had over 85,000 views. It is great to have an opinion piece read, it was meant to give insight as to how an everyday person felt about issues involved in our upcoming federal election.

However this is where it becomes interesting, the piece reflected my feelings and my opinion, yet other Canadians, primarily male Canadians, took issue to tell me I was wrong. I was told my opinion and my feelings were wrong. How can this be? How can a male Canadian know how a female Canadian feels? How can they know how a mother feels? Honestly how can anyone know how another person truly feels, yet vicious attacks were made regarding how I personally felt and my personal experience. I had no right to an opinion.

Now Facebook banter is one thing, it is an insignificant lowbrow mudsling, but when an individual tracks you down and sends a hateful, lie filled email to you personally, because you dared to share your opinion, we have a problem. We have a further problem because one has to decide how to deal with the correspondence. Clearly this person is unstable, as who sends a toxic email to someone who has written an open letter about their personal feelings. This person also posted their hateful email filled with lies about me on their blog. However, if I had taken the email to our local R.C.M.P. my feeling is that I would have been seen as an overreacting female. So the situation is interesting. We have an unstable person trespassing into my life by writing a toxic email and posting libelous statements about me on his blog, the authorities are not going to take me seriously, and I do not know what this male is going to do next. What do I do? I protect myself the only way I can, I post his email online.

Now in my blog I posted that I would let this gentleman have his say. In reality the email address was put out there to point to who this person was if he chose to escalate things further. If my children were threatened, if my house was set on fire, if our tires were flattened, his email was out there to point to the possible motive. Clearly this person was not stable, what normal person reacts in such a toxic manner to a complete stranger having a personal opinion over political policies and programs? We have to protect ourselves, and that is what I did.

This male sent me a second email citing “privacy issues” with my blog post. I knew this gentleman had no issues with “privacy”, his Whosis profile even lists his phone number. If he had “privacy issues” he wouldn’t have used his real name or real email address which included his name. He was just mad that I didn’t succumb to his cyber-bullying. That I didn’t issue a retraction for having an opinion. That is correct, this person thought I should issue a retraction for having an opinion. When males of our Canadian society think that women should have to issue retractions for having an opinion we have a very problematic situation happening in our supposedly equal society.

blog house graphicNow one could say I am basing this on one “looney leftie” , a term popularized out in social media, but the attitude was verified as the situation escalated. When this rather unstable male went to the Saskatoon police to complain about the “privacy issue” I was again treated with a less than equal attitude. It was curious. To begin with I called the officer back after receiving the message, was transferred through to her line, then she said immediately that she would have to call me back on another line. That was odd; I actually did a screen shot of the phone numbers and call times. I tried to go through the emails with her to see just what this gentleman had said. She wouldn’t go through them with me piece by piece. When I asked how many emails she had,  she said “lots” . The answer should have been four. When I asked for her to forward the situation to the R.C.M.P. in our home town in order to talk to someone in person so I could verify the situation was legitimate, the officer got all funny with me and said I could just call the switchboard back to verify. That wasn’t my request. ( It was starting to feel like one of those scam telemarketer calls by this stage of the discussion, something was off.)  Not once did she even cite any part of the privacy act or what had been violated, she just said that I needed to take down the email address (or at least implied it). To this day I still do not know if I actually violated any portion of the privacy act; never was any aspect of the act cited to me. The officer then said she was too busy and would call me back; days later there has yet to be a phone call.

Now one has to wonder how the police can do this? How can they just call you up and say to take something off your personal blog, an item put up to protect yourself, because they said so.  Remember earlier when I said there was no point in taking the original toxic email to the police, the handling by this police officer proved my gut feeling. Women are not treated equally or fairly or taken seriously. The police officer would not listen to what I had experienced, she would not go through the documentation, she would not even verify the number of emails, I was just to “take it down” because she said so.

The unstable gentleman who sent me the toxic email thought I should issue a retraction on my open letter because “he said so”.

The police officer thought I should take down information on my blog because “she said so”.

Could someone please tell me why women in Canada have no right to an opinion?

Could someone please tell me why women in Canada have no right to have their side of the story heard?

Could someone tell me why women in Canada are supposed to change their opinions and ways simply because someone else tries to oppress them?

Could someone please tell me why Canadian women are not allowed to protect themselves the only way they can, as social biases prevent us from being protected through proper channels?

A woman is supposedly equal in Canada, but we aren’t. Evidence is everywhere. Women are abused and murdered by spouses. Women are underpaid. A strong man is a leader in our country, while a strong woman is a bitch. Now society is also trying to strip us of having personal opinions. It is a strange version of equality, isn’t it?

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Reflections and Thoughts

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaIt seems like it has been ages since I have done a proper post on this blog. Life has been busy and a bit out of sync being the first year we have been without the cabin. Being in town all the time has been an adjustment, especially for myself as when you work for yourself it has meant this year has felt like I haven’t had a weekend. Getting away to the cabin was the only way to differentiate weekdays from weekends. We were unplugged there. It was down time. We were able to recharge ourselves. We have discovered when we are at “home” (and on the coast), mostly we just “work”.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaThere have been a few benefits to a year mostly spent in the city. Children have been able to attend birthday parties and spend time at the outdoor pool. The vintage garage is getting its overhaul and being transformed into a workshop. We also spent a bit of time rediscovering parts of the city that we usually visit mostly in the winter.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaWe’ve tried a few urban activities like attending the Saturday Market, however the places we return to are always ones of nature. It explains why we have missed the cabin so much.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaWe have spent many days and evenings out walking over the spring, summer and fall. Barrett Park, Coronation Park, Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary and Mackenzie Trails have all been favorites. We are lucky to live in a city with an expansive trail and natural area system. We can literally be in a tree canopied park next to a babbling creek 100 meters from our front door.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaSunday, the day these fall images were taken, was another day of local exploration. This time at MacKenzie Trails. We were treated to Canadian geese, fall leaves, bright red rosehips, raindrops, and mud. We walked, we took pictures, and the kids played catch. It might not be a weekend at the cabin, but we embraced the beauty that exists not far from our front door.

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Photography by Debra Hunter
Hunter Photographics

www.debra-hunter.com

For more reading of “H the Blog” please click HERE.

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An Open Letter to Trudeau and Mulcair- Why am I so worthless?

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(Edited to add that as of October 24th, 2015 this letter had received 93,951 views and multiple incidence of hate mail – LINK for further post.)

Dear Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair,

Why am I so worthless in your eyes? For weeks I have listened to election coverage and not only do your parties make me out to be worthless, not only do your parties offer me nothing, but you want to take away the mere meagre offerings the current government gives to our family.
Dear Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair, I am a stay-at-home mom and a work-at home mom. Our family has made sacrifices in order for our children to be actually raised and cared for by their parents rather than outsourced. We have put family first yet your parties see no value in this. When the Conservative government introduced the monthly Universal Child Care Benefit cheque, and included families like ours, we felt the government acknowledged the value stay-at-home parents provided to Canadian society. When the Conservative government introduced income splitting it was again proof that stay-at-home parents were a valuable asset. The Liberal and N.D.P. governments plan to strip these programs from us, the only programs that indicate stay-at-home parents are of any worth. We, the parents that have selflessly sacrificed everything for the well being of our families are worthless in your eyes.

Dear Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair, I am about to give you a tour of our life.

Our family is a family of seven, a mother, a father, and five children ranging in age from 5 to 17. We live in Red Deer, Alberta. We live in a 3 bedroom 1250 square foot house, it wasn’t always this size as it was originally 666 square feet in size. The house we bought for land value and spent years upon years renovating and adding onto the house; sweat equity. Sweat equity that has quadrupled the price of our house. We are hard workers. Our children share rooms. Our two oldest share an 8’x12′ room, while our youngest three share a 9×9.5′ room. We live modestly and compactly and within our means. We have stayed in a small home so that we could afford for one of the parents to stay home and raise and care for our own children. We believe if we choose to become parents we also choose to take on the responsibility to raise our own children and not outsource the responsibility.

I am also a work-at home mom. There are thousands upon thousands of work-at-home parents across Canada, we are a hidden and forgotten portion of the economy. Parents who work from home are making the best effort to bring in an income while raising children at the same time. The scope of stay-at-home parents is broad: dayhomes, music teachers, dance teachers, photographers, tutors, bookkeepers, hairdressers, crafters, growers, dog groomers…and the list goes on. We have no benefits, we often do not make anywhere near minimum wage, we work late into the night when children are sleeping, and we often receive little respect from society as they think we are working for “fun” or it’s a “hobby” or it is “good to keep your hand in your career”. The fact of the matter is we are working to support our families. We are often working for a pittance yet every five or ten dollars adds up. We are hard workers. Income splitting made this worthwhile. On our personal tax return we saw how financially worthless we were even though we were trying to do the impossible and run businesses and raise our own children at the same time, yet when income splitting was allowed we had some degree of value. The Liberals and N.D.P. parties want to strip us of this tiny value we can provide our family with at tax time.

I am now going to provide you with a couple of real numbers for what a work-at-home/stay-at-home parent makes. I run two home-based businesses, one is photography and one is naturally dyed hand-knits. Every so often you closely cost a job or two to see where the profit is and the viability of continuing with a product. A few years ago I did a costing on a large wedding package that I offered, and instead of just looking at the material costs I incurred compared to the price the customers paid, I also tracked every single hour involved in completing the job. The concept was to see what I was actually making if I were working for an employer rather than being self employed. Once all the calculations were completed, material costs, shooting, retouching, meetings, etc., I had made $3.00 an hour before tax on the job. But this wasn’t an isolated event. I recently did a tracking on a knit item that is popular in response to a 50% price increase overnight in material costs from my local supplier in Alberta , this happened shortly after the announcement of increased minimum wage from the Alberta N.D.P. government. The item I sell for $7.50 wholesale, the new material costs came in at $2.25, the item takes 1.5 hours to make and package, not including prep or dyeing time (impossible to calculate, too many variables). The outcome, I am making $3.50 per hour. (As an aside, my wool now comes from P.E.I., 25% the cost of Alberta wool including shipping, and beautiful quality.) My numbers are not out to lunch, I’ve actually run costings on Canadian Etsy sellers marvelling at how cheap they are selling their wares, they too are making a pittance. There are photographers in our area charging $5.00 sitting fees, again just trying to add to the family income. They are making a pittance trying to subsidize their family’s income while raising their children. Income splitting helped us, as did the Universal Child Care Benefit cheque. The Liberals and N.D.P want to strip us of this.

In the N.D.P. and Liberal’s eyes we are just lazy and decadent because we don’t “go out to work”. We are not “hard working Canadians”; we deserve nothing. The reality is stay-at-home parents make sacrifices to make it work all in the effort to raise the best Canadians possible. Families like ours learn to cutback to live within their budgets, have savings, or work towards a better future.

A few years ago we decided that investment in a property was going to give us a better financial return than the interest rate of G.I.C.’s , R.R.S.P.’s or Savings Bonds. We crunched the numbers and decided to make it work we had to make changes. We got rid of our second vehicle, subscriptions like XM radio and extra TV channels, our landline, hockey tickets and activities. I hunted for cheaper website hosting and went with a less expensive yellow pages ad. We started going to the swimming pool that is $10.00 per family instead of $20.00, and stopped going to sit down restaurants. We cutback to be able to make an investment for our future. We are not unique. There are many families with stay-at-home parents that make sacrifices to be able to raise their own families and have a secure future. Income splitting and the Universal Child Care Benefit cheque both acknowledge that we, the stay-at-home parent and work-at-home parent have some value.

Dear Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair, have you ever thought about the other value the stay-at-home parent provides to society? Let me list a few:

1) We are the ones at the school when they need volunteers . We go on field trips, help with track meets, tie skates, help with swimming, and aid with school lunches.

2) We are the ones that will keep the children home from school when they are sick. Our kids are not infecting a whole class of children and this inevitably saves on healthcare dollars in the long run.

3) We have the time to feed our children well, we have time to cook from scratch, and some of us even grow our own food. We have the time to invest in the well being of our children and combat child obesity. Again we are lessening the strain on healthcare dollars.

4) Many of us choose to transport our children to school personally, we like the safety aspect and we have the time to do so. We are saving the school systems money allocated for busing children to and from school.

5) We do not have “latch-key” children roaming the streets and falling under bad influences . This will inevitably save on healthcare dollars plus dollars spent on the criminal system long term. I think you will find many stay-at-home parents were “latch key” kids themselves, they realize how damaging the lack of parental involvement and supervision was, how badly things could have gone, and they want better for their own children.

In closing, Dear Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair;

Could you please tell me why you think I am so worthless?

Could you please tell me why those who go out to work are the only ones that matter?

Why are you penalizing me for putting my family first?

Why are you penalizing me for making sacrifices so that I can take care of my family ?

Why is a mom who goes out to work to pay for a McMansion of more value than a mother that chooses to raise and care for her very own children?

Dear Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair, what could your parties possibly do for me other than strip me of the little I gain from any government program?

*** Edited on September 30th, 2015 to add: 

As a side note, readers may be interested to know for 7 years I worked outside the home and utilized childcare. I have seen the situation from both sides and realize just how important it is for parents to be there for their children. As a child I was a latch key kid, my mom was a teacher, at age 9 you were given the key to the house and you were on your own. It was a negative experience with lasting effects.

Our children deserve the best start to their lives, and that is spending a maximum amount of time with one of their parents. Parenting does not stop when a child enters school, if anything a child’s life becomes more complex as they age and experience outside influences. When we choose to have a child we should also be making a choice to parent our children, nurture our children and be accessible to our children. No government institution can replace the experience that a parent can give a child. If we as a society no longer value hands on parenting, we have simply turned the female population into breeders. I personally want to live in a society formed by parents, rather than one of breeders and state institutions raising our children.

*** Edited on October 1, 2015 to add a follow up link regarding a dark response to my letter: https://htheblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/comments-harassment-spamming-by-the-liberals-and-oppression-is-a-female-voter-allowed-an-opinion/

**** Edited on October 1, 2015 to add: you know you’ve arrived when a Mulcair-Trudeau fan boy rats you out to police. Link: https://htheblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/trudeau-mulcair-fanboy-rats-stay-at-home-mom-out-to-saskatoon-police-force/