Friday, October 29, 2010

Yoga deal -$20 for 20 classes

Since Doom's iPhone incident we have yet to return to formal yoga classes. However I couldn't pass up this deal -$20 for 20 classes- and signed us both up. With the weather turning bitterly cold, I hope that will be a huge incentive to get us sweating and moving at Hot Yoga Lounge in Calgary. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jane Goodall made me cry

I came face to face with one of my heroes this weekend. When I was little, I wanted to work with wild animals particularly the endearing chimpanzees. Then I wanted to save the rainforests. Now, I'm in Calgary just trying to save useful waste from the garbage and making worm compost out of it instead. However there is a woman who fulfilled her childhood ambitions and beyond.  Dr. Jane Goodall is someone I have long admired and I went to see her give a serious, sometimes humorous account of her life's work in front of a sell-out crowd at the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary. This sprightly but soft spoken woman pursued her dream to go into the jungles of Africa to study chimpanzees. She did this at the start of the new decade of the 60's when she was only twenty-six, and way back when single woman didn't do that sort of thing. A mix of her own determination, the belief of others in her, and the hand of fate gave her the opportunity to study our closest cousins without the usual requisite fancy university degrees.
Jane Goodall
She went on to observe that chimpanzees like us, display emotion; both good and bad, have the ability to fashion tools and pass their group's culture on from one generation to the next. In fact chimpanzees biologically, have more in common with humans than they do gorillas. Unfortunately, the one thing we have mastered that the other great apes don't share with us, is destroying theirs and our own habitat -yet we are supposed to be the most intelligent.

The venerable Dr. Jane Goodall is not a household name in some parts, but she should be. She is now seventy six years old and it would take way too long to list her achievements and talk about her tireless commitment to conservation issues. But do check out her Roots and Shoots program.

Jane Goodall talks to Jon Stewart on The Daily Show

Jane Goodall seems amazingly gracious and patient with her time. Nearly everyone in that auditorium bought something to be signed by her. When they ran out of books, people "fought" over tote bags and t-shirts. When they ran out of those, people willingly donated $5 towards the Jane Goodall Institute for a handout to have her signature. However, I wasn't one of them; I looked at the massive queue snaking out the main doors and resigned myself to leaving without ever meeting her.
Just as I was about to walk away, someone at the now empty stall announced they had discovered one more book -"In the shadow of man." I was momentarily stunned by this bit of luck then snapped it up. I went to the very back of the queue and shuffled along reading passages of her first journey to Gombe to study chimpanzees.

Jane Goodall had to have been signing various articles of paraphernalia and smiling for the camera for at least an hour and half by the time I rolled up to stand beside her. She has to be one of the most beautiful people I've ever encountered. Not only physically, but in spirit as well. It might have been with relief in her eyes when she looked at me, glad she was nearing the end of the line up, yet joking aside, she looked right at me, right into me and touched something that turned the emotional tap on. I'm welling up now thinking about her smile and her indescribable non-verbal communication. I know many people left that night feeling they had encountered someone very special; I want to say a saint, because for her amazing work alone and then the graciousness and kindness she showed that night she, in my mind,  had the aura of a saint.  And miraculously her writing was still legible after her innumerable nth signing.........

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The great worm escape

Tragedy has struck in the basement! I found (and counted) fourteen worms in various states of dessication curled-up on the concrete floor.  Some definitely were fresh escapees from the worm compost bin with their dead bodies still semi-soft. While others, that had managed to wiggle quite far away, could have been there for days, perhaps weeks and resembled hollow bits of twigs more than their former worm selves. I guess you gotta be prepared when you switch on all the lights - you never know what you might find in the basement.

Still I haven't attended to the worms in three days when I lifted the lid off the worm bin and found some were on the verge of making a trip out into the wider and scarier world of the basement. Unfortunately the lid does not fit snugly on the worm compost bin. There is a gap where the worms can either intentionally or not fall over the lip of the bin and out onto the cold hard floor. This tells me the worms are not happy and would rather be somewhere else than in the pile of compost-in-progress. I stuck my hand right into the bottom of the wet mushy heap. And wet it was. Too wet for the worms liking I think, so I've just spent a good half hour tearing up dry newspaper and cardboard to put into the bin, hoping this will take care of the problem. I gave the compost a good-turning over and found plenty of other fat very-much alive worms. As the worms play a big part in the cycle of nature I don't think they'll mind that I added their dead brothers and sisters back into the compost bin.....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Don Cherry goes into the Dragons' Den Lair

Doom has some great friends and one in particular is Clark Robertson aka Don Cherry. Yep, that Don Cherry. (Actually, I try to avoid Canada's hockey mania and really no idea who the Don Cherry is).
Clark is a very successful comedian, Don Cherry impersonator and a lovely guy. He dropped everything and helped us move from our tiny noisy apartment to the quiet corner of the neighborhood back in August. If it wasn't for his outlandish Don Cherry van I'm not sure how we would have managed. And he is a wonderful ambassador for worm compost bins - he always talks about them to other people when I'm in their company. 
"Don Cherry"
Clark and his wife Darlene held a celebration on Wednesday when the episode of them bravely going before the wrath of CBC'c Dragons Den finally aired. Clark was sworn to secrecy about the outcome so Doom has been on tenterhooks for a long time. But wouldn't you know it, he had a comedy show up in Grand Prairie that night. Still I went to attend the packed premiere of the airing at the Deerfoot Inn. What a fun night! It was the first time I've seen Clark as Don Cherry and yes, he mentioned to others the gorgeous benefits of compost worms at our table. I'm not sure if the real Don Cherry knows anything about composting worms but kudos to Dragons' Den's Brett Wilson for stumping up the cash for Clark and Darlene. Never mind what Kevin O'Leary might think you made a great decision! 

Comedians as Movers?
Careful with my plants!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nenshi attends Calgary Business Hall of Fame Gala Dinner (Doom does too)

Calgary's New Mayor -Naheed Nenshi

Doom was lucky enough to rub shoulders last night with Calgary’s new Mayor. This was Naheed Nenshi's first public outing as Mayor-elect. (Actually it was more like Doom got to rub eyeballs with Nenshi as people swamped the guy). They were attending the 7th Annual Calgary Business Hall of Fame Gala Dinner. (Who knew they had such things?). However unlike Nenshi, Doom didn't get to enjoy the the Roast beef tenderloin because he was there to help behind the scenes. (Comedy doesn't always pay the bills and what if some of these business people are vegetarians?).
By all accounts there was a lot of money floating around and it sounded like this young man without a mustache wouldn't have been the attendee's first choice for Mayor. However CBC’s Peter Mansbridge was emceeing the event and reportedly used many superlatives to introduce Nenshi. He also made mention of the extraordinary turnout for the election, which has made headlines across Canada.
Serendipitously, the timing of the Business Gala Dinner presented an opportunity for Mansbridge to interview Nenshi for his One on One program. I'll be keen to watch that interview this weekend....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Well done Naheed !

Was anyone else gripped by the Calgary election news on Monday night? As I don't have cable TV, I kept track of the changing numbers on the Internet as the purple revolution swept through Calgary for Naheed Nenshi to become our new Mayor. I felt there was a touch of Obama-mania '08 happening; a young progressive non-white male using social media to get the vote in a town not known for its liberal ways. Can I say he got my vote? Actually he didn't, as I haven't resided in Calgary for six months so wasn't entitled to vote. Bummer -but there are other ways to participate and here I am.
I did accompany Doom to the polling station and tried to have a conversation with the keen young man outside that was directing people to the right booth. Happily, we were constantly interrupted as a steady stream of voters came in to have their say. And well done Calgary; 53% of eligible voters turned out, astounding for a municipal election.
Now lets keep our fingers crossed and our ears and eyes peeled that Nenshi can move Calgary forward.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chicks in the city? Hot button issue for the Calgary Mayoral Election?

Only three days to go before people in their tens of thousands line up to vote for the next Aldermen and Mayor of Calgary.  I do hope there is a huge turn out because although the democratic process isn't perfect at least we have one and it tends to work better when it's reciprocal. (People run; lots and lots of people have their say). 
The fact that this is a local election should be an impetus to vote even more than in a general election; who sits around the table at the city council directly shapes what kind of place we live in by all the little by-laws they come up with. (Aldermen have as much say as the mayor but without all the hype and prestige so don’t forget to vote for them too).

Take for example the by-law on the ban of back yard chickens here in Calgary. I personally would love to have a couple of hens running around on all that grass in my yard that is doing nothing other than being sprayed every so often by my landlord to get rid of the weeds. The chickens would take care of the weeds and yes, the grass as well but at least I would have some fresh eggs to show for all that scratching around. From personal experience of living with urban hens (aka chooks) in New Zealand and Victoria, their happy clucking is not that intrusive. (Note hens not roosters). I’ve had neighbours with noisier kids and nobody has instituted a by-law to ban them. Yet.....
If it wasn’t for my worms the hens would also be great way to cut down on the garbage we produce as they love to gobble up food scraps and their poo, once composted, is fantastic fertiliser.
Now why bring this up as an issue when surely there are more important things to consider when voting for our city representatives? Well perhaps there are however, there is something very basic but fundamental that all we humans need to survive and that is food. I don’t need to go on about obesity, diabetes, pollution from industrial farms to say there is a real disconnect between what goes into our mouths and the effect on our health and environment in the vast majority of the population. Backyard chickens would be a very obvious step to bridge this gap. Hey, they do it in Vancouver ! (Actually they also do it in London UK; my friend has got her first backyard chickens: Daisy, Maisy and Sparky).

And this was the issue that got me interested in who was running for mayor back in June. I had not long been in Calgary and was probably unpacking in our tiny flat or something like that when I was half listening to Q on CBC radio hosted by by that delectable voice of Jian Ghomeshi when the words Chickens and Calgary were mentioned in the same sentence. 

My ears perked up and I tuned in. It turned out to be a debate between Paul Hughes (for) and Ric McIver (against) allowing back-yard chickens in Calgary. It got my blood boiling and I googled these candidates.  I found out that as an Alderman, McIver had voted against a by-law that would phase in a ban on cosmetic pesticide use. So I gather he thinks it’s okay to spray toxic chemicals willy-nilly but he’s against people eating their own nutritious eggs. Hmmm.
As for Paul Hughes, he was way too progressive for a town like Calgary and wasn’t willing to “waste” tons of money in promotion and never got rated in the polls. So he dropped out.
So who now will stand up for the backyard chicken? Ric’s out. What about Barb? I really don’t know. As for Naheed, I turned to that well of useful information about people, Facebook and  was surprised to discover on his discussion page there are quite a few people asking this very question. He has yet to respond.

C’mon Naheed. We need to know by Monday.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


10/10/10 Today's date is meant to be very auspicious and falls on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Doom is preparing a cranberry walnut salad to take as our contribution to a friend's Thanksgiving meal. It's been almost a week since I was hit by a car while riding my bike towards home. As I look down at the bruises on my legs that are turning from purple to a greenish yellow and the flesh wound on my shin  heals, I'm thankful that the accident wasn't a lot worse. I'm thankful the young lad driving the car wasn't going very fast. I'm thankful he was driving a regular sized car and not a behemoth SUV or a diesel Ram truck. Who knows what mess that would have made. Apart from a stiff neck, I'm okay. My bike was a lot more banged up but the driver took care to get it repaired. He was more shaken from the experience than I was and I know he's very thankful that he didn't put anyone in hospital. Everyday there's something to be thankful for, but some days just a little bit more so.

Cranberry Walnut Salad recipe

Friday, October 8, 2010

Worms in restaurants?

Ever thought about what goes on behind the scenes in a restaurant? Ever wonder if the establishment that cooks up your spicy chicken wings has installed energy efficient light-bulbs? Probably not, however, students enrolled in the Hospitality Management course at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) in Calgary did have to think about these things and recently presented ways to green up the ol' restaurant business.

Canada business greening help

Some students came up with great ideas such as heat exchanging, solar technology, water conservation etc. These would be fantastic to implement and with the growing awareness about food sourcing and the associated implications, some customers might also like to know their favourite restaurant has also put some thought into sustainability beyond the plate.  However these ideas often require some dough and advanced know-how to start up.  This is where Gary, a buddy of Doom's, impressed by our own at-home technology, presented the very simple solution to the incredible and quite frankly outrageous waste any food business produces : Composting Worm Bins.

Restaurant scraps don't have to go to waste in New Hampshire
They compost at Community Natural Foods here in Calgary
Search for Compost bins
Search for Green restaurant guides

From my own personal experience from waiting tables in restaurants and running a coffeehouse for a number of years, it's astounding how much waste there is after one day. Even with  the usual recycling of glass and plastic. It galled me to no end to scrape plates with perfectly good and untouched food straight into the garbage. Some people just have eyes bigger than their bellies. Then there's the whole slew of spoilage and unsellable items that reach their best-before dates which are thrown away without so much of a bat of an eyelid. Composting vegetable scraps, paper, non-greasy paper napkins, etc. makes simple and perfect sense in a restaurant. Yes, it would take some minimal work but I'd rather do that then spend an hour polishing silverware at the end of my shift.

So here's an excerpt from Gary's and fellow student's presentation on the subject. From my own experience with composting worms, I don't necessarily agree with all the points but nonetheless, I think it's the way to go. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An autumn barbeque; spicy black bean roasted pepper dip

The leaves have just about fallen off the trees and recent near arctic temperatures serve to remind us that winter is just around the corner; so what better time than to fire up the barbecue. The summer sailed by without once removing the tatty plastic cover that hides this outdoor cooking appliance.  The main reason we never bothered was because we were out of propane gas. Easy enough to replace but being confined to a small balcony at our old apartment, I envisioned losing a few items over the side and onto the busy street while inhaling the accompanying traffic fumes. Not really my idea of fun cooking in the great outdoors. Now though, we have a roomy-enough yard and with the impetus of having a fellow comedian over for dinner, Doom finally got a new tank.
One of my favorite barbecued items is corn on the cob, shucked and put straight onto the grill. It really brings out the sweetness without the usual boiling away of flavor. Having said that, I do prefer to smear mustard all over the corn instead of butter, which always brings forth a comment or two. I declined the ketchup; that I reserve for most other things. We had to reprimand Doom’s buddy about throwing his cob into the garbage. The cobs will make a great new treat for the worms and the husks I’ll use for mulch around the strawberries.

We loaded up at the Calgary farmer’s market with lots of sweet bell peppers with the intention of throwing them onto the barbecue as well. I ended up with a bargain bag so I decided to make a spicy black bean roasted pepper spread that’s great with crackers. 

Black bean tips
Easy Beans: Fast and Delicious Bean, Pea, and Lentil Recipes, Second Edition
366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans, and Grains 

Spicy black bean roasted pepper dip:

Skewer 3 cloves of garlic with the skin still on
                        4 bell peppers  (preferably not green) core and remove seeds
hot peppers  e.g. jalapeño or habanera peppers (depends on how much you like a "kick." I used two)           
                        1 red onion  remove skin and slice into thick rings

Coat these ingredients lightly in oil (I used olive) and put them on the barbecue until the skin of the peppers start to blacken and the onions and garlic go soft  (don’t forget to flip them over.) Remove the blackened skin from the peppers and garlic.  Remove the core and seeds from the hot peppers. Chop everything into finer pieces and put into a container in which the rest of the ingredients can be mashed or blended together.

Rinse and mash 1 can of black beans (easier than soaking and cooking dry beans but can still be done ahead of time, if you prefer).
                        Sprig of cilantro chopped
                        The juice from one lime
                        2 tbl of oil (in reality I put in just enough olive oil to make the mashing or blending easier and smoother) 
                        A little salt and pepper to taste

Add these ingredients to the vegetables and blend together, a hand blender or a masher will do the job too. And voila ! Use as a dip with raw bell peppers and other crudités or stick some on crackers.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The truth as spoken by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Check out the Dalai Lama's facebook page

I had to post this quote by the Dalai Lama that has made its rounds on Facebook. Such a poignant and profound message.

Ultimately, humanity is one, and this small planet is our only home. If we are to protect this home of ours, each of us needs to feel a vivid sense of universal altruism. It is only this feeling that can remove the self-centered motives that cause people to deceive and misuse one another. If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self-worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others.


I would also like to add there is no need to fear worms.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Take me out for a bike ride

I’ve returned from a fantastic trip to the mountain town of Canmore. We stayed with friends and enjoyed their cute little backyard with magnificent views of the Three Sisters. However they aren’t allowed to have an outdoor compost due to roving bears. Ah, ha, we said (Doom and I together), you gotta get worms. Unfortunately, even though Ally is a pretty tough cookie she’s a little squeamish about the idea of worms in her kitchen. We’ll have to work on her………

This beats giving financial advice
Anyway, after weeks of unseasonably cold and wet weather, Doom and I took the unfamiliar sun as a good omen to escape into the mountains for a few days. On the way out driving high up on the Sarcee trail, Calgary was laid out before us bathed in a sea of golden leaves with a dab of red and green here and there. Autumn is so amazingly beautiful and I looked forward to see how the mountains wore their cloak of fall. But when the peaks came into view, a heavy blanket of grey cloud hung over them and it wasn’t long before the disappointing drops of rain fell onto the windshield.

Actually I often find going downhill on single track is easier than uphill because gravity will take you over those rocks and tree roots. Going up though, you have to pace yourself and just have the right momentum and force to get yourself up and over these obstacles. So we let Doom go first.  There were a couple of times where I struggled and I unclipped out of my pedals before I fell over still attached to my bike but the going wasn’t too bad. The trail led into Ziggy’s that at last led down hill. I lowered my seat, clipped one foot in, took a deep breath and watched Doom take off. Then it was my turn. And it was great.
On the right side of the tracks
It’s been a while since I’ve biked in the forests, and I’d forgotten the exhalation of splattering through mud, weaving around the bends, and feeling one with the bike as tree roots and rocks skip away from under you. That was until we found ourselves on the flat swamp trail rated an easy green, piece of cake, no worries trail. A slippery tree root surrounded by a thick goopy puddle of mud whipped my tires from under me.
I managed to unclip my foot before I did something akin to the splits and felt the sharp teeth of my bike’s chain ring gouge my leg. I could see blood mixed in with the mud but it was my renewed confidence that took more of a batting. Doom remained unscathed up ahead.
But when we turned to ride uphill again, it was as if the power of the mountain air was infusing into my blood and I felt recharged and eager to tackle the next trail. I basked in the re-appearing sunshine and felt blessed to be surrounded by the magnificent Rockies.

Is there an application for downward dog?

The day was going so well when I arranged to meet Doom at Yoga Santosha, studio at noon. As usual I was a few minutes late and I could feel my heart thumping as I ran towards the building. Outwardly, though I hoped I portrayed an air of calm and grace as I walked in and removed my shoes. Doom was sitting in the reception area filling out a form. He seemed to have absorbed the tranquility of the room as he smiled serenely up at me. This was to be his first ever yoga practice in a studio amongst other people and like most things he seemed to take this in his stride. I don’t know about you, but it seems a lot of guys (and some ladies) are still very resistant to the idea of yoga. A few fellows I know guffaw and recoil just at the thought of reaching for their toes even if explained the numerous and diverse benefits of yoga. They seem to think you have to be in shape and have the ability to turn oneself into a pretzel. Then there’s all that Om-ing they’ve seen somewhere and that’s just a little too weird for them.
Happily this is not the case with Doom but the only other time he has knowingly practiced yoga is in the living room of our house, in front of the TV doing upward dog and downward dogs to a Gaiam DVD. (In our previous apartment, we were squeezed in-between the furniture and trying not to knock into anything in the living room and kitchen area).
  We were the last ones of course to enter the studio and we jumped right in to a series of Sun Salutations. There is something about the energy of others, the atmosphere of the room and a live instructor paying you some personal attention that seems to make the practice of yoga so much deeper and leaves you with a feeling of lightness and wholeness that isn’t so easily attained on the carpet at home.  The look on Doom’s face at the end of the class told me he felt the same way before we separated into the changing rooms.
Attached to his iPhone everywhere Doom goes
That was until I heard a crash on the hardwood floor followed by an anguished moan from Doom. Out in the reception area he was examining his iPhone. The screen was smashed and there was no display. It looked bad. Very bad. But I kinda thought serves him right.; he’s always on his iPhone doing something or another and could he not at least wait until we were out of the building before he had to fiddle with it again. He practically sleeps with the bloody thing. But then I felt bad about his prized possession as he told the yoga instructor it had fallen out of his fleece jacket pocket he was he putting on in the changing room. 

Search for iphone covers and cases 

He was obviously full of conflicted emotion. As he himself described it, he was feeling very “Zen-ed out” up until the flying iPhone incident. His composure surprisingly still seemed somewhat zoned out but it was slowly being replaced by the realization that his favorite contraption was FUBAR. The yoga instructor pointed us in the direction of an Apple store but we hightailed it to a Rogers’ store to see if the phone was replaceable.
No such luck, even if they did replace them, which wasn’t entirely clear from the young girl that couldn’t look you in the eye as she constantly chewed her fingernails, there was not an iPhone to be had anywhere in Calgary, perhaps even in the entire country.
So Doom resorted to calling Rogers from his old run of the mill mobile. This turned out to be the ultimate test of patience and keeping your cool. He hadn’t gone bonkers when the phone broke, he was slightly irked by the nail chewing girl but the Rogers’ agents on the other end of the line really tested his composure.  Ultimately he was on the phone with them for two hours and forty minutes.
A summery of what occurred;

Agent 1: No sir, we can’t replace your iPhone unless you are prepared to pay $$$. But we are out of them anyway. I’ll put you on hold as I transfer you
Agent 2: Sir, to cancel your data plan will cost you $100 even if you have no need for it anymore. I’ll put you on hold as I transfer you.
Agent 3: Sir, we can send you a new Samsung Smart phone instead.
Doom: Great.
Agent 3: I’ll put you on hold as I transfer you.
Agent 4: Sir, I’ve placed an order for a new Samsung mobile phone and it will be shipped to you at 17th Avenue SW, Calgary.
Doom: But I don’t live on 17th Avenue anymore; let me give you my new address.
Agent 4: Sorry sir, but I don’t have the capability on my system to change addresses. I’ll put you on hold as I transfer you.
Agent 5: I can change your address sir, but the Samsung Smart phone has already been shipped out to 17th Avenue.
Doom: But that’s ridiculous, the order was placed just five minutes ago.
Agent 5: I’ll put you on hold as I transfer you.
Agent 6: Sir, it’s confirmed the order has already been sent out to 17th Avenue. We can cancel this order but to place another order, I’ll have to put you on hold as I transfer you.
Doom: No, no don’t do that. Can I get the tracking number for the package?
Agent 6: No sir, I don’t have that information. I’ll put you on hold as I transfer you.
Agent 7: Sir, we don’t have a tracking number, you’ll have to contact UPS in two days to get the number………
Me: Take a deep breath.

So I’m not sure what the moral of this tale might be. Perhaps it goes to show the benefit of practicing yoga on a carpet. Or perhaps it’s a test of being detached from material processions and emotional states. That takes a lot of practice, so I like to think that it demonstrates that if your prized possession is going to go kaput anyway, then practicing yoga will keep you calm in the face of difficulty rather than cursing and behaving like you’re in a bar-room brawl.

By the way; Doom finally got his Samsung smart phone but he still misses his iPhone. It’s a shame he’ll always associate his first yoga class with the demise of this bloody thing!