Health Yikes

This blog is very off-topic considering what I usually blog about and even weirder since I haven’t blogged in awhile.  Been working on a big secret (that I will tell to anybody willing to listen).  Hope to unveil soon.

But okay, here’s the off-topic subject:  I’ve been looking up online whether certain foods and supplements are healthy.  Of course, the results have been very confusing.  I didn’t know what to believe or who to trust after a while.  Bacon is good for you???  Mango — the fruit that is REAALLY sweet and full of carbs doesn’t harm blood sugar levels???  However, I did come across this one article that I wanted to share because I’ve been taking this multi-vitamin for YEARS.  There seems to be a lot of talk backing the writer’s claims and it’s just something to think about if you take this vitamin as well.

Check it out: The Truth Behind Centrum: Supplement Or Chemical Cocktail? 

I would also like to share that I spoke to a lovely store clerk at a shop that specializes in dried herbs and vitamins today.  She said something that made so much sense it was like she rang a huge gong in front of me.  She told me I shouldn’t be taking anything without a very specific reason — for example: I NEED something for blood sugar levels or I NEED something for my bones or hypertension. ‘NEED’ meaning I received a diagnosis from a professional (doctor, nutritionist, etc.), or did some good research in a library (not Google) and aren’t just haphazardly self-diagnosing or self-prescribing with very little research involved.  Essentially, she revealed the truth that I take supplements for the emotional assurance that I am doing something good towards my overall health without knowing what is in that pill or how it works.  When you put it like that, I guess it does sound kinda stupid.  She didn’t call me stupid.  I did. 

Even a daily multi-vitamin should not be self-prescribed without doing thorough research.  You may be eating enough daily nutrition OR you may be ABLE to eat enough nutrition to not need a multi-vitamin OR the multi-vitamin you chose is suspect. 

Clearly, when looking to buy supplements, it also helps to look into who you are buying these products from for their trustworthiness as well as expertise.

an Open Letter

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[Recently, I remembered a passage from a poem entitled, ‘Open Letter to the South,’ by Langston Hughes, which I honour as an example of what I think is great about the American spirit.

Inspired by this recollection, I decided to write my own open letter to the United States of America to continue Mr. Hughes’ dialogue on hope, unity and openness.  It is clear to me, throughout Hughes’ work, that he never gave up hope even though he felt often tested.  This hope probably gave him his sharpest pain and yet he held on to that hope, showing so much courage and fortitude. Even in his bleakest poems, you can feel that hope keeping him writing. This passion riding on top of his craftsmanship?  Of course, he’s my favourite poet.  This creative letter ends with that noted passage from the poem:]

November 9th, 2016

Dear America,

Both you and my own city have done some things in the past few years that I don’t quite understand.  Regardless of the difference in sizes, I feel as though both our societies have been seeking new answers to more than just economics and politics.  This growing feeling of uncertainty has recently led me to reflect more on the things that I am certain about when it comes to you — and me.

Please allow me this moment to share with you, as you venture forward into this new chapter of your history, what this Canadian writer loves most about America.  This Canadian writer loves:

  1. The history of American art and culture.
  2. The history of American sub-culture and the American teenager.
  3. The legacy of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  4. The American fight to define freedom and individual value.

From where I live, considering how much my life has been influenced by American art and culture, I know I would not be me without you.  Before I knew anything about identity or language, I was surrounded by American culture.  I survived my adolescent years under your willful banner and I estimate that at least 30% of my academic and literary studies were steeped in Americano.

Let’s face it: the first teenager must have been American.  Some kind of rebellious spirit has always sung out of everything grim and great moment of your last century and helped to develop an incredible range in music, art, story and sport.  You have always had an unyielding need to express individuality, despite societal demands for money and guns and other such short-term and limited methods of gain and communication.  A subculture isn’t necessarily a good thing but I think their existence indicates a society that is strong enough to question and validate its authority and status quo; and thus in a better position to evolve; though in an often defiant way.

America, you are a society where a voice will find the strength to rise and prevail, despite whatever odds, and actually win, many times.  Lots of people fight for freedom and rights; few have been as successful as you.  You pave roads literally and figuratively for physical, mental and artistic transportation in a way that no other country has.

Sometimes, you have been accused of arrogance and aggression; of being both culprit and champion for freedom and individual rights. Ironically, and rather poetically, some of your fiercest battlegrounds appear to have been against yourself, being party to the kind of oppression that inspires you to take a stand.

A few months ago, I saw a great documentary series on the Roosevelts which reminded me of two great leaders whose like this world has not seen in a very long time. Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt were two humans who accomplished many great things for more than themselves.  They were not perfect and made mistakes yet their legacy reminds me that I don’t have to fear failure in pursuit of my greatest goals because I can do just as much damage and suffer just as much disappointment by settling for something easier, safer and more common. Both of these leaders had reason and opportunity to settle for more common and smaller lives.  If FDR had let his disability daunt him or if Ms. Roosevelt had accepted the limitations set upon her gender, my life, I’m sure, would have suffered, if not theirs.

America, like the Roosevelts, has not been perfect yet you are a country where perfection has more freedom to seek itself.  You are a country of new beginnings for new immigrants sprung from traditions that have travelled from and to almost every part of this world. Your dominant language, English, is an amalgamation of those new and old ideas and ideals.  In fact, might I suggest that your cultivation technique for ideas, finding a way to bloom regardless of your circumstances, is perhaps your greatest resource and strength.

Dear America, please continue to be united as the states of America and under your banner continue to kindle the defining process for freedom and courage for all, although, personally, I would prefer your methods be through love and art rather than guns and politics.  Remembering who you were when I was young, what will you be today and tomorrow?

I end this open letter with a quote from one of your greatest poets:

We did not know that we were brothers.
Now we know!
out of that brotherhood
Let power grow!
We did not know
That we were strong.
Now we see
In union lies our strength.
Let unions be
The force that breaks the time-clock,
Smashes misery,

excerpt from ‘Open Letter to the South’ – by Langston Hughes




A Reoccurring Knock at my Door

Image: Hungry-for-Change-Cover.jpgI want to take a break from this blog’s current poetry campaign to share a compelling and resounding note that has randomly repeated itself several times over the past few years and did so twice over this past weekend: the debate about how our individual bodies and the body of this planet need us to adopt a more plant-based diet.

This note has reoccurred in documentary films that I or my partner have randomly picked to pass an evening.  It has been suggested from various different angles: one documentary followed one man’s journey to be healthier and thinner, another documentary followed various modern day farmers and their daily struggles, to another man’s journey to live up Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

In terms of poetry, it does seem awfully poetic that the planet’s environmental and ecological problems can be paralleled to the health and fitness of one average human diet.

Of course there are other sides to the arguments and these documentaries tend to present heavily on the side of the more plant-based diet and food industry.  I have provided Wikipedia web-links that summarize these documentaries as well as provide counter-argument links.

However, after watching Forks over Knives last Sunday, and having watched Cowspiracy the night before that, I am convinced enough to try the more plant-based diet.

undefinedI can’t just give up all meat and junk completely!  I love food.  I love dessert!  Food is something I experience with all of my senses and therefore I compare it to a passion for life.  It is considerable for me to venture towards a life with less butter and fewer warm, comforting stews — even letting go of my childhood affection for Chef Boyardee is a loss to me.  However, with my own body and energy levels lagging so much in the past few years, I don’t want my passion for food to affect my ability to enjoy my other passions for life – or anybody else’s — or that of any future generation.  If the food that is my passion is no longer being produced sustainably and is damaging to my body and planet than it sounds more
like a vice.  I cannot see myself becoming completely vegetarian or anti-junk food — yet.  I File:Forks Over Knives movie poster.pngwill never stop hoping that chocolate cake and chips become healthy and nutritious one day but, until then, I think beautifully grown fruits and vegetables can be sexy too.

Please consider watching / listening to one or two of these films, that are cited below, and being part of this conversation.

All of these films are now currently available on Netflix.

Here is the growing list.

1. Hungry for Change – Hungry for Change exposes shocking secrets the diet, weight loss and food industry don’t want you to know about: deceptive strategies designed to keep you coming back for more. [ ]

2. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ is the easiest of this list of films to get into because it’s personal and funny though there are some strong and good arguments against exclusive juice dieting or long-term ‘cleansing’.

“Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead – a 2010 American documentary film which follows the 60-day journey of Australian Joe Cross across the United States as he follows a juice fast to regain his health under the care of Dr. Joel Fuhrman.”[,_Sick_and_Nearly_Dead]

3. Farmland – though this film seems to have been done to support animal farming traditions and modernized efforts, I finished the film with a stronger preference towards the two organic vegetable farmers featured in this film.  []

4. Cowspiracy – The film explores the devastating impact of animal agriculture on the environment, and investigates the policies of environmental organizations on this issue. Environmental organizations investigated in the film include Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Rainforest Action Network, and many more. []

5. Forks Over Knives (2011) is an American advocacy film that advocates a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet as a way to avoid or reverse several chronic diseases.[]

undefined6. The film ‘Vanishing of the Bees‘ indirectly advocates this message. The story is centered on the sudden disappearance of honey bees from beehives around the world. []


written by lyw




Image Information:

Hungry for Change

“Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (film)” by Via Wikipedia –,_Sick_and_Nearly_Dead_(film).jpg#/media/File:Fat,_Sick_and_Nearly_Dead_(film).jpg

“Cowspiracy poster” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

Forks over Knives:

“Vanishing-of-the-bees” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

Caribana is never too old to be free

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The spirit of the Caribana Parade, now known and sponsored by the Scotiabank, is very free in every sense of the word and has not changed in the 40+ years of its life though the fences get higher and the carpet-baggers try harder.

I hadn’t been to the parade in years.  It is difficult to find a friend to go with me since I passed my mid-twenties.  I wonder if I, and my circle of friends, are getting too old and stodgy for that hot crowd, winding and rolling, jumping and bumping all down the Lake Shore Blvd.  In fact many of the people I mingle with these days have never been to the Parade though they’ve lived in the city for years.

And when I did find a new parade partner – one of those newbies – I decided that this time I should go by the paid entrance at the Exhibition Place.  Back when I was a teenager, the paid entrance was for chumps who didn’t know better.  Back then, it was understood that we pay the parade and the parade pays us with rhythm and energy – a fair exchange.  This year though, after having been away so long, I thought, I should go by the paid entrance; old ladies need a designated seat and more service.  I was intimidated by the idea of that massive crowd.

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What service though?  Certainly not on the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival website which has the design, functionality and typos of an amateur community website.  They advertised a start-time that was way too early for anybody to be there happily – especially when the parade always starts late – and did not provide much information about how to attend the parade for free.

I went to the website instead for information on the when and where as well as my pre-parade psyche.

We took the ‘Express’ route to the Exhibition Place and was then required to walk a few blocks to the ticket booths by the Princes’ Gates entrance.  There wasn’t any obvious signage.  Fortunately, uniformed and friendly police officers were available to direct us – though official parade volunteers would have been more appropriate.  What was most maddening was the route from the bus stop to the gates led away from the sounds of the parade.  When we got to the ticket booths, the line-ups for the $20 entrance fee were long and ugly while the music continued to call us.

That was enough for me to ditch my conservative idea and lead my newbie reveler by the hand towards the lakeshore, joining the mass of free people – free to not line-up and pay money.  Free to join the music and get closer to the energy WAY sooner than those poor people who weren’t informed better.

Once there the vibe was just as I remembered as a wee lass.  Toronto’s lakeshore is transformed once a year into a fantasy.  The costumes and floats animate fairy tales and science fiction.  Kinda like the Santa Claus Parade but this parade is Never and Wonder land mixed with Caribbean rhythm and soul that pumps the air with brightness and movement.  Among the hard-core revellers were many children, seniors and strollers.  It is as much a family affair as it is a wild party.  The crowd isn’t that overwhelming as long as one takes time and leaves impatience behind.  Some of the sound systems could use a little less bass.  Is that me being old or just appreciating quality sound?

Some traditional Caribana survival guide rules still apply:

  1. bring a towel or something to sit on.  Once one has enjoyed some dancing and music, one can rest near the water where it’s quieter.
  2. bring own bottle of water; prices are crazy
  3. Don’t buy food from the first vendor one sees.  Shop around.
  4. Try not to need the washrooms.  They are horrible.
  5. But don’t de-hydrate.

A new caveat I noticed this year is the ice-cream in the ice-cream trucks which taste borderline toxic, though that’s no reflection on Caribana.   Did this ice-cream taste okay to me when I was younger or has something gone really wrong with the recipe?

Since I was a teenager, the parade organizers have tried to put up barricades to separate the crowd from the parade for safety and orderly conduct and the crowd, including me, are compelled to break through because we have to dance with the floats and the costumed people.  Today, I must admit the fences are a good idea in some ways.  The parade flows and looks better.  Once the crowd gets in, the parade slows and gets disconnected.  Floats might become a half-hour apart creating gaps of silence where there should always be music.  Garbage quickly fills the parade route.  All those beautiful costumed people clash with all us regular-looking folk.  Let’s face it, we just cramp their style.

Still those few moments of being part of the parade is an incredible feeling.  As well, there is no other way to get close-up pictures with those beautiful people.

Caribana 2013 taught me that it is never worth paying to be free.  And certainly, I am not too old to feel young again.

tigers, humans and creative hunting

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There is more than animal preservation to today’s Globe and Mail’s article, ‘In South Africa, Chinese tigers claw their way back to life.’  I was initially drawn to this article by the tigers but I carried away a more lasting curiosity about the founders of this tiger effort.

Fashion and investments seem very remote businesses from the survival of tigers – as much as we might like to make predatory metaphors for both industries.  Yet this article explains that fashion executive, Li Quan and U.S banker, Stuart Bray founded an experimental project to increase the survival efforts of one of the most endangered tiger species.  The project introduced the South China tigers to a larger and wilder reservation in South Africa which was met with criticism from conservation experts.

What makes these two people pursue this project so outside their industries, and with controversy?  More typical would be to see executives attending gala events or celebrities having concerts where all the money goes to the experts to do things like end poverty forever.

The cost and the work to establish this project have been huge and 13 years later is still under criticism, despite a dramatic increase in this reserves’ breeding and survival rate.  What is their motivation?

And why do they work so hard to preserve something that would eat us if they had a chance?  Why don’t we stick to pandas?  Is there a common denominator that drew me to this article and these founders to this project?

The ability to step away from the workday and put our minds to the conservation of that which is natural and powerful, reminds us that we still have a little of this in ourselves.  It is what keeps us from being swept up in our daily lives and being led more than leading.  It keeps us creative in our hunting and hunters for new game.  Through this charitable organization, these two people have allowed themselves to have a story a little less ordinary.

For a further read into this article as well as other facts towards this conservation effort, please click on the following links:


food writers: a literary dine-out

gluten-free-restaurantsThe work of food writers should not be exclusively enjoyed by food lovers.  I spent last Friday afternoon giggling over reviews of the Stock restaurant in Toronto.  Good food writers take you on an unique palatable experience full of sense and satire, and the timing of a stand-up comic.  I think it comes from eating a lot of good and bad food.  Eating is a personal and sensuous experience.  Regular bad dining would make a hostile satirist out of anybody.  A good dining experience would have to be exceptional for those who must eat themselves out a lot.

My boss asked me to look into the Stock for a business lunch and I was intrigued by the ‘chocolate-lab’ that the poorly designed restaurant website showcased.  So I spent part of the afternoon falling into some brilliantly unimpressed reviews of this restaurant.

menus-business-cards-restaurant-28166569One of my long-time favourite food writers is Corey Mintz who writes a weekly column called FED for the Toronto Star food section.  Food is paramount to his writing and this appears to have armed him with the most essential elements of a great storyteller: passion for his subject, tons of experience with his subject, and thus, the ability to fully experience a moment, at least in a kitchen or restaurant.

Better than flash fiction; though the experiences are real, they hold the creative flavour of great story.  Check out a local food column or blog for a literary sweet.

  1. More than chopped liver – by Corey Mintz
  2. Turkey again – by Corey Mintz:
  3. Stock Restaurant review: Trump Tower’s lunch is overvalued – by Amy Pataki:
  4. MB900448711The Trump Tower’s Stock: A veal chop for $48? That’s rich – by Joanne Kates
  5. Chowhound – a web-board for passionate foodies

the Search for Feng Shui

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Feng shui is a style of design that can be applied to the furniture of your business, house and mind.  It’s fun to think that the art of design can be applied that widely.  Leaves one with the feeling of being well-covered.

When I got my first apartment in my twenties, I did a little feng shui research and applied what suited me to the space.  I didn’t go overboard despite promises of immeasurable fortune or misfortune if I put or didn’t put this or that in my place because from all those rules there seemed to be a general gist that was the main wise to get: feng shui is the cultivation of flow, harmony and balance in any space I choose to occupy, though usually referring to a physical space, feng shui is also applicable to virtual, mental and artistic spaces.

And, I thought to myself, if that’s the case, I should be able to rely — at least a little bit – on my own heart and mind to tell me what gives me a sense of harmony and balance.  If not, how can anybody else?

A random Internet search on this subject leads to a lot of dubious websites and consultants that imply my life and luck is dependent on what sofa I have and how I place it.  Feng shui is very old.  Along the way it shouldn’t be surprising that some people have profited by stimulating this practice with our deepest fears and insecurities.

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However, there is a lot of good wisdom to be found in feng shui.  It sticks out like a nice piece of solid oak.

For example:

Don’t place things in your way: Good idea.  Yet, who has not seen or been guilty of blocking a doorway or staircase with stuff?  How many written reports have taken several paragraphs to get to the real story?  How many websites are weighed down by graphics, blings or text that don’t help direct traffic or information to the purpose of the site?

Don’t have pointy or sharp edges facing your body: (ie table corners).  Some call this superstition; others would say it’s just good safety.

Balance your elements:  Dark/light; soft/hard; water/fire (go easy on the fire elements); earth/air.

Cut clutter: What we bring into a space, changes the energy of that space.  Be conscious of the things that you let into your space and really consider their necessity and purpose.  Clutter has a way of finding itself in our path and requires regular maintenance.

I don’t think I would ever pay somebody to apply feng shui to my lifestyle.  The information online, feng shui or not, is full of dark omens and good fortune.   I trust my own heart to know what wise is or isn’t.   What does it say about a consultant if their information on how to create flow and harmony, leaves the client feeling trapped, rigid and afraid to make choices on his/her own?

The process of exploring feng shui can also be a practice in self-discovery.  I become my own consultant and personal designer to my sense of peace and harmony.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the idea of letting somebody else design that kind of space becomes the truly foreign concept?

Some links on feng shui:

Missed Happiness Day

I just learned that March 20th was the United Nations’ declared first International Day of Happiness.  At first I thought, oh crap, was I happy?  I don’t remember. Then I thought, who got the memo?  I certainly didn’t. 

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Anyway, the quote off the UN page is nice as are the pictures of children, reinforcing a theme that has been reinforced a lot lately for me; that happiness requires happy children whether it be by surrounding oneself with happy children, remembering happiness from childhood, or keeping entertained the happy child in yourself:

On a P.S. note, I discovered this news when I went searching for details on Poetry Month being celebrated at the Toronto Reference Library.  Somebody did a blog about International Happiness Day, offering several published angles on the happiness thing from Stephen Covey to Buddhist theory.

P.S.S., on the TRL’s happiness brainstorm, I remember a little film I saw at the Toronto Film Festival several years ago that implied that happiness is transient and must be allowed to have its moment and die.  We must trust that more happiness is on its way.  Anybody who tries to hold onto a moment of happiness is prone to madness.  Well, that was my take on White Night Wedding loosely based on a Chekhov play.

from snow and stuff vs matters of consequence

Children do not mind cold weather.  They don’t mind climbing into snow suits and having ridiculous mittens dangling from their sleeves.  It is with excitement that the first cold breeze enlivens their sensitive noses and cheeks and creates anticipation for hot cocoa after a good day’s work in the snow.

Note: this would not be the case for an unfortunate child who does not know he/she can play in the snow because he/she is too busy playing video games.

After the first major snowfall this year, and a significant one compared to the past few winters, I looked at my partner and realized that I did not own a sled and the plastic shopping bag that sufficed as a child was too large a step back into the perfect zen of childhood.

None of the local retailers had been prepared for snow, though.  There weren’t any sleds available.  My partner had never gone sledding.  Weather being as erratic as it has been, who knew when we would have such ideal snowfall conditions?  We are both tall people, with mingled levels of pride, and we have not been children for some time now.  The recyclable bags from the Metro grocery store, with the plastic finish, became possible.

The snow was falling in slow motion all day long.  Powder was white and fluffy all over the surface of my residential downtown Toronto neighbourhood.  This is the kind of snow that muffles sound and creates a peaceful hush around anybody meandering outside.

This poetic solitude was broken as we came to the steep hills of Riverdale Park.  The hills were covered with children, parents and us ‘other’ adult-children.  The air was lifted by all types screaming and yelling as they hurled down the hills in plastic and fancy sledding devices, some stranger than ours.

IMG_0514My dear got over his pride faster than me and was soon hurtling down the hills with everybody else.  I took too long to prepare myself and a little boy decided to help crying, “Ok, set, go!” and pushed me off the top of the hill.  If I had been worried those bags would not work, concern was immediately removed.  Too much of a coward though, I had to break and slow myself down with my poor mitts midway down the hill.

A man with his children offered to let my partner try his fancier sled, and off sweetie went again.  I think his enthusiasm for sledding was so much that another couple offered to give him their spare plastic sled.  Oddly, he preferred the recyclable bag.  Those suckers are faster than some sleds and the bag handles make for good steering.  He began to instruct me on how to best use the handles for maximum speed not realizing I did not want maximum speed.

To adults still not convinced that they can look this ridiculous, running up and down those slippery hills is a great cardiovascular workout.

The event reminded me of how children and childlike adults, when properly motivated, have work ethics and communication that would be the envy of any corporate department.  We negotiated, enjoyed our space and played shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers.  This, all without any prior team management or business communication seminars or workshops.

Why?  Because our children were witnessing us? Because it was so cold and the air so full of adrenaline?  Or because that’s just what happens when you agree to be very serious about play, shoulder-to-shoulder with your neighbours.

A Real Body Shop: Home-made Vanilla Perfume Oil recipes

I recently wrote a customer comment to the Body Shop regarding the discontinuation of some of their perfume oils, mainly my favourite: the Vanilla Perfume Oil.  I wrote that I was disappointed by this and one Google search on ‘body shop discontinued vanilla perfume oil‘ showed that I was not the only one.

I also suggested that due to this disappointment a re-launch of these products might make a profitable marketing campaign as consumers of non-essential products would come out for nostalgia alone.

I received a cold and generic form letter and I did not want to settle for that response.

Is vanilla perfume oil so hard to make?   One additional Google search on, ‘vanilla perfume oil recipe’, showed me simple to complex recipes, conversations and ideas all about home-made perfume oils.  I felt like Alice in a whole new Wonderland!

Now a friend once told me that I needed to understand the mind of the average consumer – who are apparently all like him.  He buys things not only for the product but convenience and has no interest in finding out where to buy jojoba oil, vanilla beans, or watching these things soak in perfectly good vodka.

I am thoroughly entertained by the idea that I might be able to produce this prized product and hope to make an adventure out of discovering what makes this a passionate subject for all those websites I found in my Google search.  Yes, the trial and error risks might make this more of a nightmare, however, it would be less interesting without them.

Vanilla Perfume Oil recipes:

Finally, for a scent closer to the product once sold by the Body Shop, one website has provided the following analysis:

What is the Real Body Shop?  It’s my own.  As a consumer in this Western hemisphere, I am the business of finding the right products and services for me.  And a good real body shop owner would take the time to make the most intelligent and suitable choices for his/her body, rather than trust whatever a brand or price suggests.

Now some things are harder to make or do than others, of course.  I’m not going to try any electrical engineering or amateur plumbing based on any Google searches.  Or I don’t know, maybe …

How do you love your coffee?

So how do you love your coffee?  Do you do a franchise?  Brew your own?  Mix it into a homemade body scrub?  Are you a coffee addict?  Or are you a coffee snob?  Has life forced you into the one-a-day – yet?

I’ve learned to be pretty exclusive to my own brew.  Life has forced me into that one-a-day. Quite honestly, most of my workday cups are just to avoid the nasty headache due to caffeine withdrawal — in which case I will drink the instant stuff if I have to.  That said, when I do have time to brew, I turn to my trusty Turkish coffee pot, which I think brings the best out of your good coffee and even makes average coffee taste better.  I don’t make Turkish coffee because I don’t have a fine grinder. I use regular fine grinds and a strainer and it still makes a great cup of coffee.

I apologize if my method offends any Turkish coffee fans.  I do enjoy Turkish coffee when I can get it.  Please read this web-page on how to make Turkish coffee.  You’ll get a good giggle from the writer’s famous old proverb on Turkish coffee:

Anyway, back to my story, I needed an extra jack this afternoon, so I went looking for a second cup of joe.  Day job gettin’ me a little down.  I work right in the heart of the downtown core, surrounded by franchises.  However, before this coffee freak does a franchise, I will actively look for a local independent.

I found Fresh Start Coffee on the corner of Bay and Elm Street.  The exterior is not too flashy but the interior is warm, friendly and – most importantly – filled with the rich scent of very good, freshly brewed, coffee.  As a heavenly bonus, in the corner of the service counter is a small selection of gelato.  After my cup, I was very grateful that I took the time to find this coffee house rather than run into the closest convenience.

I cannot afford to indulge in second cups everyday — makes me too wired — but if I do, my God, why would I settle for anything less? Now I’m not saying that the franchises don’t have nice coffee, however, this coffee was so worth the jitters later.  I felt like I was nursing off that cup.  You know, they had those raised lids, with the little slit on the top, so it was like an adult bottle of coffee.

As indulgent as it may sound, in Toronto, coffee lovers can make it their thing to seek out unique cafes and coffee houses and plant themselves quite easily for 4 to 6 hours at a stretch; a caffeine-jacked zen time to finish that book, continue conversations, work off a laptop, or watch the street life go by.  Conversation is so easy in these types of places.

These cafes and coffee houses are harder to see with all the franchises competing side-by-side each other, but I guarantee that there is at least one in every Toronto neighbourhood.

Again, the franchises aren’t bad.  They do amazing things with tea and I love their selections of dessert. If I have to do a franchise it would run in this order of preference: Aroma, Lettieri’s, Timothy’s, Second Cup.

My old time favourite independent Toronto coffee house would have to be the Tango Palace in Leslieville — mainly because I partially grew up in that place — neighbourhood joint is right.  Jet Fuel in the Cabbagetown area is still a bike couriers oasis.   Unfortunately, the Village Idiot in the Forest Hill neighbourhood closed.  However, the Butler’s Pantry in the Roucesvalles Village continues to endure.  Kensington Market has some excellent cafes, such as The Moonbeam Coffee Company and Cafe Pamenar.

just a few places to witness
the way insomnia dreams


Weighing in on Pickets, Petitions and old-fashioned Protesting

I argued with a friend last week that old-fashioned picketing, petitioning and protesting was no longer an effective means to communicate to the world or the government.  Friend assured me enough had already been done and communicated which was why, decades after the 60’s had come and gone, he was ready to get behind the CLASSE movement.

I countered that the minute I see an excited large group of people my skepticism goes up and my ears seem to shrink.  I can’t completely trust any message being delivered by emotion.  Nor do I entirely trust information delivered without any emotion, as per the news.  Mass information and the local and global needs of this neighborhood, this city, this country, this planet, make it difficult for me to decide where I am going to take a stand – or firmer stand.

Several months ago, my local boxing gym rallied for petition support for head coach, Peter Wylie’s wife, Jackie.  She was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and needed a treatment that was not approved by the Ontario government, although it was in use in Nova Scotia and British Colombia.  I was advised that the Wylie family were also staging a protest in front of Queen’s Park.  I signed the petition but my skepticism doubted that our passion would move the Ontario government.

One day after I dared to argue with my friend, I visited Cabbagetown Boxing’s website and discovered they had won their petition.  I am glad they, at least, had the courage to keep fighting instead of just praying, like I did.  Though I ain’t knockin’ the weight of good prayer, however, the petitioning and protesting, in this case, was definitely more effective.

I am glad I was proven wrong though I think my reasoning is still sound.  Social media and the arts are the best way to communicate awareness for a cause.  Last week a lady from MSF asked me to join her webinar for a conversation – just a conversation – on the crisis in Sudan.  A few months ago, I read a comic-book by Guy Delisle called Pyongyang: a journey into North Korea and learned that people, like me, really do live in North Korea and it’s not just one large military camp.  Late last year I saw Lucy Walker’s The Waste Land documentary that translated the lives Rio de Janeiro’s garbage pickers through works of art.

This is a way of bringing what is foreign, daunting or frightening inside my home and inside my daily conversation — like a friend.  And we would all help a friend in trouble, wouldn’t we?

the power of a great noodle

Kenny’s Noodle. Yes, that’s what it’s called.

My father took me to a noodle-house, on this Civic Holiday, since he knows that I know the the value of a good wonton soup.  Damn fine noodles they were and made in-house.  The restaurant also has all the old-fashioned Cantonese dessert drinks that bring me back to when I was a wee lass.

It is a noodle-house franchise that came over to Toronto about 15 years ago.  According to my father, the franchise is very popular in Hong Kong and the Chinese name translates into ‘putting something together’ and ‘something like memories.’  At that, my father explained that this was hard for him to translate into English.  I suspect there’s a good story behind this franchise but don’t ask my father cuz he’s a man of few words.  However, he added that anybody looking for noodles or wontons should go to a noodle-house, like Kenny’s, rather than a non-specialized Chinese restaurant.

The franchise, in Richmond Hill, Ontario, goes by the name “Kenny’s Noodle” (there isn’t a typo there).  Also given the vast difference between the Chinese and English name, I wonder if there is really a Kenny.  Never mind that because the noodles are good, the soup base isn’t wacked-out in MSG,  the wait staff are quick and helpful, and the restaurant has a nice open concept.

Jaspers Deli, Toronto, ONP.S. I must add, on the subject of wontons, that the best I have ever eaten in Toronto are actually found in a little underground shop in the downtown financial district called Jasper’s Deli.  They serve a variety of Western lunches and breakfasts for the business folk, and they also serve a lovely, wonton soup (without noodles, unfortunately) that is pure comfort food.  It’s also great if you have a cold.

P.S.S. If you want to try it yourself:

P.S.S.S. The ultimate, very serious/funny, movie on noodles for your noodle:  Tampopo.