Refuse to be Passive

Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

Graffiti, tagging, and art

In Life in General on May 31, 2011 at 9:54 am

Some people argue graffiti is an art form. Others say it’s vandalism. I say it’s both.

Graffiti can be extremely well done, true works of art that took hours of patience and precision. I’ve seen it on the side of trains, as murals on the sides of buildings, and on the walls of underpasses. Most of the places this art is posted is illegal. I’m not here to debate that. Some cities have tagging walls– places where graffiti artists can paint legally, no worries about getting caught. Other murals I’ve seen have clearly been done by a youth with talent on the wall of a business that hired them to do so, or at least gave them permission. Train cars, well that’s a different story. All I’m saying is that an incredible amount to time, talent, and effort go into some of the graffiti pieces out there. I remember walking through the industrial section of Halifax along the Trans Canada Trail last year and being really impressed by some of the work that had been done there. Although I can’t post any of them right now, I’ll try to do so in the next couple of days.

What I don’t see as art, and find downright annoying, are gang tags. These don’t even pretend to be art. It’s like a dog marking it’s territory. I’ve noticed more and more tags going up around my neighbourhood recently, on the back of signs posting the speed limit, below the people on the sign marking a crosswalk, on electrical bins, fences, and light posts. It’s beginning to irk me to the point that I’ve decided to start up a graffiti removal effort in my neighbourhood. Part of the way we keep our neighbourhoods clean and safe are by keeping trash like this out. If the neighbourhood won’t stand for it, it will be wiped out. Don’t believe me? In New York a few years back–okay, most likely a decade or more by now, crime was on the rise to the point that people didn’t want to ride the subway. What did they do to tackle it? They started by clearing the subway of graffiti every night. Eventually the grafitti stopped, as it wasn’t being tolerated. There’s no point in tagging if no one is going to see it. New York started with the little things, and you know what happened? The crime rate dropped, and the city began to clean itself up. It’s like people stood up and said, “No, I’m worth more than this. Not in my backyard you don’t.”

Thankfully, my city has a Wipe Out Graffiti Campaign, and not-for-profit groups can raise money by helping remove the graffiti. General members of the community can also take pictures of the graffiti and apply to the city to have a graffiti removal kit so that they can clean up their neighbourhoods. This week is pretty much shot for me, but I’m thinking that if I can, I’ll do some removal Saturday afternoon, assuming I can get a kit by then. If not, well, there’s always next week. If grafitti in your area is getting bad, check with your city to see if they have a graffiti removal program. If not, canvas for one to be created. See if you can find local businesses who might sponsor and effort. Talk with individuals. Make it known in your neighbourhood that graffiti won’t be tolerated unless it’s an approved art piece. Take pride in your neighbourhood. Nix the graffiti.

 

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The Long Weekend

In Life in General on May 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Another long weekend has come and gone. Now we wait until July for another excuse for an extra day off work.

My May long was uneventful, but for the most part, delightful. I spent the warm Saturday and Sunday wandering my neighbourhood, taking in the farmer’s market, discovering a local coffee shop owned by an artist (great little place), admiring the blossoming trees, and snapping numerous pictures. I baked and cooked, including triple chocolate brownies with caramel that will make it into my regular repertoire. There is nothing redeeming about them, aside from the fact that they’re delicious. I managed to finish one novel and almost get through the second one. I did word puzzles and watched movies. It truly was a relaxing weekend.

Monday proved to be a bit of a challenge for me though. The warm sunny weather was replaced by a cold drizzle, and I was forced to stay inside. I don’t know what it is about rainy days, but they always seem to start out well, and end poorly. At first I bask in knowing I’m keeping cozy in my house. But part way through the day, I start to get bored. I’ll look for things to do, but cease to find them. I’ll discover I’m sick of reading, don’t want to do my laundry or clean, and there are only so many word puzzles one can do. It’s then that loneliness sets in.

Normally I am thrilled with being single. I love the independence, the power, the fact that I can make my own decisions and don’t have to ask anyone else for permission. Earlier in the weekend I’d been grinning like a fool over the freedom I have. But then the sunny weather turned cold, and so did my mental state. I began to wish that there were other people around. I was feeling socially isolated. It’s at time like that, when I wish for a companion, a family– my own husband and kids. I know they can drive you nuts, and I know that you can feel lonely with them around. But at least the boredom would be quelled, and maybe, even the loneliness. These bouts are rare for me, but do make me realize once again that humans are made to be social creatures. They’re made to live in families– be they linked by blood or no. They’re made to live in community.

It’s Monday and I’m back to work. My social needs have stabalized, and I’m back to normal again. But there’s still a nagging in the back of my head. How long until it hits again? Will I ever have a family and kids? Will I ever find someone who wants the same things out of life that I do?

In a couple of months I move to Toronto to go to culinary school. After that, I plan to get my Red Seal and then travel. In a couple of months I go down a road that I believe will leave me single for a very long time. I’m a little intimidated by that.

As Far As It Depends On You– Part 2

In Life in General on May 20, 2011 at 9:31 am

Taking on the green revolution can be intimidating to some. There is so much that needs to be changed, that sometimes it seems much easier to pretend you don’t see. My favourite response from people is, “I’m not convinced any of the insert name of problem (global warming, gmo foods, etc) research is true.” That’s just a convenient way to justify inaction in my opinion. But for those of you looking to make a change that goes beyond throwing your pop can in the recycling, there are good places to start.

Yesterday I encouraged you to try a week with reduced meat consumption. The average North American’s meat consumption has more than doubled since the 1960s, at which point they were eating appropriate portions of meat. That means we’re getting alot of extra protein and fat in our diets where we don’t necessarily need it. But I digress.

Today’s topic is transportation. I used to be one to rely on my car on a daily basis, like many North Americans. I drove to work, the movies, the supermarket, the mall, church. I drove everywhere. I had done stints without a car before, and never minded public transit or walking, but let’s face it, having a car is convenient.

About half a year ago my sister and I started carpooling to work, stopping at the pool for a swim in the mornings. Initially she picked me up when the weather was crabby, but the pool was only six blocks from my house, so eventually I started walking. That lead to me walking more often to the library, which is in the same vicinity, and often to the grocery store. Then, a couple of months ago I realized that the pool was basically 1 km from my house, which was 1/3 of the way to work. If I could do 1 km, I could do 3. So I started walking to work after my swim. This was particularly convenient as my sister had ceased to come swimming with me. So then I was walking back and forth to work.

A few days ago the check engine light in my car came on. I took it to the mechanics, got it diagnosed and a misfiring piston looked at, only to find out there was nothing wrong. That set me back $180. Stupid. And then I needed a front wheel bearing replaced and that was estimated at $517 including parts and labour. That just seemed plain stupid considering I was now walking to church, work, the grocery store, the swimming pool, and the library. Really, I need my car about once or twice a week. And then, in two and a half months I planned to park it for a year, as I’ll be moving out to Toronto.

Since I’ll be going back to school, I really don’t have the extra cash to spend on what is rapidly becoming a luxery in my life, especially not if I only get to use it for 2 more months. So, I’m choosing to sell it. My bike tires are pumped up, my legs work well, and I live fairly centrally, so I can get to my standard shopping centers by bus within 20 minutes. So, with that, I’m back to cutting my carbon footprint by necessity. Thank goodness it’s summer and this is an option! With the ever rising gas prices, it’s another good reason to look at alternate forms of transit.

Now, I’m not asking you to rid yourself of your car, but do take a look at what is around you. If it’s within 1km, consider walking. If you’re going for groceries or something of the sort, invest in a rolling cart that you can drag along with you so you won’t be lugging around armfuls of groceries. Also, make sure you have comfortable, supportive shoes for walking. Like any form of exercise, you’ll never like it if you don’t have the proper equipment.

This is a small lifestyle change, and doesn’t require a large monetary output on your part, just some forethought. You may discover that you need to get groceries more often, as you can’t take as many home with you at once. That’s great! Your produce is always fresh. Just remember to give yourself the time you’ll need for the trip. Walking isn’t as quick as driving, but once you hear the birds chirping and the shining sun, you’ll be glad you got outside.

As Far As It Depends On You… Part 1

In Food, Life in General on May 19, 2011 at 10:15 am

There are many people out there wary of hopping on the environmental sustainability bandwagon. To them, all they can see is that doing it all will shoot their budget, and it’s simply something they cannot afford. Buying local and organic, as well as more natural, less processed can put your food budget through the roof. Greenpower can be expensive, and not everyone can afford to put solar pannels on their roof or go for geo-thermal heating. All the hype about environmentalism has some people dubious about it’s validity, and they’re not convinced that it’s not just a passing trend. Then there are the other people who take in all on, whole hog. Go big or go home. Ironically, going big often means simplifying life, but that’s another post in itself.

In the grand scheme of going green, it can be a challenge to know where to start. Most of us already recycle what we can, many compost, and a large number have switched over to energy saving lightbulbs. Great. But isn’t there more we can do? We’re not exactly reducing our environmental footprint by that much just doing those things. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a great start, but isn’t there more to be done? Obviously, as a single person on a budget, I can’t do everything. I can’t opt to buy only organic, unrefined, local ingredients. I’d be living on a loaf of bread with some honey and a container of yogurt a week. But one conclusion I have come to is, “as far is it depends on you,” or “in as much as you are able.”

I may not be able t afford to buy organic chickens, but I can cut down on my meat consumption. It reduces overall grocery costs, as well as reducing the resources needed to produce food. Animals are one more step removed from natural forms of protein like legumes. It takes exponentially more grain energy to raise and animal than the caloric benefit we get out of it, versus just eating the plants themselves. Plus, things such as cattle and their methane emissions are making a greater impact on global warming and energy use than your car is. (I’ll deal with the car later). So, my “as far as it depends on you” for meat is, eat 2 meals per day with protein, but no meat. It didn’t take me long to build up to it, you just need to find some new recipes and be creative in your thinking.

Meat-free breakfast options:

Eggs, Oatmeal, Dried/Fresh Fruit, Cottage Cheese, Yogurt, Cereal with milk or soy milk, Toast with berries and natural peanut butter, blueberry flax muffins– your options are endless! And notice, most of these are good protein options.

Lunches:

Taco salad with black beans instead of chicken or beef, vegetarian chilli, peanut-lime coleslaw, vegetarian pilaf, fresh multi-grain bread with goat cheese and veggie sticks, once again– the sky is the limit!

Dinner:

Homemade Tomato Soup, Asian grilled tofu stir-fry, tomato and brie paninni with honey mustard,  black bean burritos, smashed potato salad,  tomato basil cream pasta– you get the idea

Meat is not the be-all and end-all of food. For the next week, challenge yourself to go meat-free two meals out of three. Let me know how it goes!

Mosquitoes are back

In Life in General on May 17, 2011 at 9:02 am

The mosquitoes are back with a vengeance. Every year I am amazed at how it only takes 24hrs to go from having a lovely, bug-free, spring day, to having an insect filled Spring day. It’s sad really. We only get a couple of Spring days minus the insects, and it seems that they’ve come and gone for another year.

I was walking home last night and started walking through swarms of small, black, flying insects. I had thought they were just like those swarms you get other summers, you know, those ones that swarm but don’t bite or anything. They just seem to be a general nuisance and give you the jitters? All of a sudden I felt something on my arm, and a mosquito was there, sucking up a few drops of blood. I slapped it, and felt I’d done my good deed for the day. One less mosquito in the world. I did any number of good deeds on my walk home from work yesterday. I guess it’s time to pull out the bug spray. I’m not a big fan of that stuff, not the smell or the potential side effects on health, but I’m also not a fan of being stuck by mosquitos and then being itchy for weeks on end. So, it’s the lesser of two evils.  It’s kind of funny how for most of the winter I dream of Spring days, and the long days of summer. I remember the heat as being not so bad, but always forget about the bugs. Darn it all. The bugs are back.

Note: Yes, I know that insects and bugs are not the same thing, but I got sick of writing the same word over and over again.

A lovely weekend

In Life in General on May 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm

While the sun was shining this weekend, the wind was also blowing, so I spent most of my time in doors. It was a refreshing weekend, actually. I even took a nap on Sunday, which if you know me, is most definitely out of the norm. My kitchen is currently a mess, and there are piles of laundry on the floor, but I’m still smiling. It was a good weekend. Whenever I spilled or slopped in the kitchen, it made me chuckle, rather than making me frustrated. My stress level must be getting back to normal, which is lovely. I was planning to make chocolates this weekend, but wanted to make cranberry lemon loaf and mango coconut muffins, so that’s what I did. Granted, I did try to make truffles, but did so without a recipe and mucked them up. They turned into fudgy chocolate mango cake and it was delicious! Sadly, I couldn’t replicate that flop turned success if I tried. Those tend to be the best recipes, the one-timers that you’ll never be able to make again. Ah well, I’m just thankful it was edible. The fact that it was excellent was just a perk.

I spent part of my Saturday morning doing a crossword puzzle and sipping on a cup of tea. I love doing crosswords, even though I’m so bad at them that I can only do the easy ones. I searched high and low for a pencil before getting started, because I needed to be able to erase my incorrect answers. I’d tried the previous day with a pen and the puzzle was a mess. And then, I get the pencil, and I don’t make any mistakes. Go figure.

Sunday afternoon I intended to go to a drop-in yoga class, as I’ve intended for months, and never made it there. Once I get home from church on Sundays, I tend to be tired enough that I have no desire to leave my house again. This Sunday was no different, except that I was more tired than usual due to organizing a lunch at my church for a visiting group of high school students from Winnipeg. It all went smoothly, and there was enough food without too many leftovers. I had some great kitchen help– which reminds me, write thank you cards– and while there was work to be done, I felt good about it, no stressed. Lovely.

Beyond that, I’ve been doing a bit of reading, although I have much more to do. Friends keep giving me movies and books to look at, and I’m having a hard time keeping up! That being said, they all look fantastic, so I’m sure I’ll make it through. Twist my rubber arm.

The Concept of Self

In Uncategorized on May 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm

It’s been over a week since I last posted. Between Pampered Chef parties, individual orders, and being on the underside of the weather, I haven’t much felt like blogging. Even most of my baking and cooking I’ve forgotten to take pictures of. Shame on me. That being said, I have one recipe I can’t wait to test-drive this weekend– chocolate mango truffles. Should be divine!

As for non-food aspects of life, I found myself pondering today what makes up a person? Now I believe that there are many aspects to a person, their physical, mental, and spiritual self. Yes, I believe everyone has a soul, although some are more tarnished than others.

But truly, what makes a person? Is it their outside? It’s true that initially we tend to judge people by how they look. Once we get to know them, however, we judge by personality and their looks take a back seat. I have a friend who is truly obese, and I often don’t notice it because the charisma in her personality is what makes her lovable. She’s one of those people you can’t help but like. I’ve heard it rumored that she has an arch-nemesis, but I find that hard to believe. So it’s clearly not the body that makes the person, and yet we live in a society that is obsessed with physical appearance. That being said, clearly it’s not only about physical appearance. People don’t treat me differently now that I’ve lost weight. Those who talked to me before still do, and those who didn’t I still view as snobs.

So then there is personality. That pizazz that makes a person who they are. Some people are loveable, some spunky, some snobby, and some seem devoid of all of it. Is that who they are? It can’t be. The snobby person can be insecure, the spunky dealing with depression, and those devoid of personality may simply be deep thinkers, oblivious to much of what’s going on around them.

And then there is the spiritual aspect that our society tries to tuck away into a corner. You can live out your beliefs in your home, but don’t try to take them on the road with you. Who are they kidding? Anyone who holds any form of belief, particularly a religious code, won’t be able to help taking it out of their homes with them because of the ethical and moral implications their beliefs have on their lifestyle.

Really, I suppose it’s all three things and that on occasion, one stands out more than the rest. It’s the combination of the above that makes someone who they are. Who we are though, is also more than the sum of our parts. We cannot simply opt to have more charisma or a different personality. We cannot deny that we all hold to a belief system– whether it’s belief in nothing or belief in everything. We cannot fail to recognize that our physical beings reflect more than just the physical– they can represent anything from respect, to sloth, to control, to obsessiveness. It’s kind of crazy, really.

I doubt I’ll ever truly understand the concept of self, but it doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying.

Dealing with Bin Laden’s death

In Life in General on May 3, 2011 at 4:24 pm

The newspaper headline screamed, “Rot in Hell!” with a picture of Osama Bin Laden beside it. Almost ten years after the September 11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the U.S. military has claimed the life of Osama Bin Laden. Am I sad that he’s gone? No. Am I going to yell, “Rot in Hell”? No. First of all, that seems calloused and uncouth. What editor approved a headline of “Rot in Hell”? Well the world may be better off without Bin Laden, al-Qaeda is still at large. By trumpeting “Rot in Hell” don’t you think we’re fueling a fire that’s already burning? To quote the song I Am by Hanson, “to fight fire with fire to live eye for eye, we’ll all wind up blind and burning.” Our response to the death of Bin Laden need not be mournful, but at the same time, we don’t need to use undue force or gratuitous slogans trumpeting his death. It’s unthoughtful phrases like this that will get the world into even more trouble than it’s already in. I hope that editor of that paper gets an ear full. While justice has to be done, much is said about a society in how it reacts to violence and death. Is this how we want to be known?

Miss Independent

In Life in General on May 2, 2011 at 3:17 pm

A few weeks ago I went for coffee with a friend in Little Italy. We chatted about new recipes to try over lovely cups of coffee, and both opted out of the vanilla slices that were calling our names. We gabbed about life, family, and all such types of things– plans for summer, upcoming events, etc. She made a comment at the end of our time together that I come across as someone “who has it all together.” Funny how things are rarely as they seem. Unfortunately, success in our Western culture can be defined as who can trick others into thinking they have it all together the best. Apparently I’m doing alright on that front.

Fast forward to yesterday. Once again I get a comment about “having it all together” and got chatting with an acquaintance about independence. I was raised to be independent. When I left for university, neither of my parents cried, they just hugged me and told me to have fun. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered my mom promptly went in the house and started crying as soon as I left. When I was in primary and secondary school, my parents had a strict hands-off policy with teachers. They were not going to be the ones going to bat for their kids over every tiny little thing. Their approach was to learn to take both bad and good, and when possible, turn the former into the latter.  As such, independence is built into my very being. I don’t understand needy and dependent people. Often they drive me a bit nuts. My approach is, “if you don’t like it, change it.” But lately, I’ve been wondering if my independent streak doesn’t also come with disadvantages– I mean besides being aggravated by people who won’t help themselves.

I was chatting with some of my friends the other evening (yes, chatting happens often in my life), and we got onto the topic of dating and independence. It’s no secret that I haven’t had a boyfriend in five years and that I can count on one hand the number of dates I’ve gone on in that same five years. I’m to the point where I wonder if men just think I’m so independent that I don’t need anyone else. Do I come across as someone who eats men for breakfast? Do I come across as so independent they see no place left for them in my life? It’s a possibility. But the truth is that independence doesn’t negate the desire to have someone come and live life alongside you. Yes, I can take my own car to the mechanic, and I can even change a tire, although I prefer not to. But some of my independence is built not only on nature, but necessity. I am a single woman. I am living on earth, as a human. Things need to get done in my life. If I am the only one who will take care of those things, then I’m going to learn darn quick how to do them. Just because a woman is independent, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t value having someone come along side to support or help. I don’t ever want to lose my independence, but don’t think for a second that all independent women are that way only on nature.

I just found out an acquaintance is pregnant after a one night stand. She’s single, the father is out of the picture. I admire her for choosing to follow through on the pregnancy, and while she’s an independent person, there’s no way she wants to do this alone. Don’t get me wrong, she’ll do it if she has to. She’ll do what necessity dictates. But having someone there to hold you up on life’s journey, to have someone there that you too can support when they need it most? We all need that– independent or no.