Day 99: Make Chaga Tea.

Chaga tea deconstructed.

If you are what you eat, does that include what you drink?  Because if so, I’m probably one salty concoction of mushrooms, wine, cheese and tea.  Within those four primary food groups, there are a myriad of varieties, and I have made it somewhat of a mission in life to sample as many of them as I can.  That includes throwing in the occasional anti-oxidants for good measure, because life’s all about balance.

Today’s new thing actually originated from a fundraising pampering session held way back in March, where I learned how to make Chaga tea from a naturopath friend of mine who spends her free time foraging for mushrooms.  In between ear candling, paraffin hand wax, and neck massage treatments, I was served a delicious bowl of the stuff that was prepared by the good doctor herself.  It was divine!  She recommended ingesting two cups a day to truly benefit from its legendary health properties.  I said that would be lovely, and asked her what time she would be coming by every day to prepare it for me.  She was not amused.

Chaga tea chugging along.

As luck would have it, I received a luxurious, all-natural, handmade face cream, and a few chunks of the Chaga mushroom, along with some directions on how to brew the tea, as a parting gift.  Like most forms of instruction that use more words than pictures, rather than engaging in the taxing art of reading, I merely filed it away in the tea cupboard.  Tonight, I decided it was time to rescue the package, and brewed a pot using a process loosely based on what I could recollect from my conversation with her so many moons ago, because that was still easier than reading.  I mean, how hard could it be?  It was tea, for chrissake!

Yummy mushroom tagliatelli at Enoteca Ascari.

I rummaged through the spice rack, and pulled out some cloves and cinnamon, because that seemed to ring a faint bell, and really, you can never go wrong with cinnamon.  The kettle boiled, the ingredients were added to the tea infuser, and things were happily steeping away.  It was at this point that I thought I might as well take a peak at the instructions.  Hmm…  They were, well, different.  Boil on low heat for a couple of hours?  What?!??  Who has that kind of time?!!  I needed help asap to digest my earlier first ever pasta dinner at Enoteca Ascari, a relatively new haunt in Leslieville that proved to be simultaneously hip and tasty.  I almost thought I was way down across the great divide on the other end of Queen Street for a minute – true story!

As if I were a professional winemaker sampling for just the right colour, taste and aroma, I decided that the tea was finally dark enough to drink, and it was almost as delicious as the lovely beverage that had been prepared for me that magical night just a few short months ago.  With all the red wine already in my system from dinner, I was fairly confident that the fine balance of anti-oxidants had swung in my favour, and I had to have entered into some elite magical state of super powers by this point.  Needless to say, I slept very well that night, dreaming of my next new tea brew to chase away all of my upcoming wine, cheese and mushroom fiestas.  Life is very good, indeed!


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Day 98: InspiraTO Festival.

Ticket to ride.

Question:  Where would you be if you took one hour of your precious time, divvied it up into ten-minute intervals, and proceeded to enjoy six delightfully different plays, all without having to leave the comfort of your seat?  Answer:  at the InspiraTO Festival, of course!  Personally, I had never heard of Canada’s largest ten-minute play festival, but when I read that I could see six plays in a single hour, I have to admit, my shiny object syndrome was simply a-tingle with excitement!  This must be what having spidey senses feels like.

The idea of not having to commit to a single play for an hour or more that might start off badly and go horribly wrong from there was very appealing.  And I was not disappointed.

Inside is where all the magic happens.

In fact, I would have enjoyed watching at least half of the plays in The BlueEye Show being twice as long!  Especially given the low, low price of just $12 admission.  What fantastic value for the theatre-goer, but also a tremendous way to showcase local upcoming screenwriter talents.  I was hooked!

The line up for the first series of the evening went something like this:

  • The Common Ground.  The first play involved the light-hearted reunion in a park of two blind men who were reminiscing about creating art together, back in the day, while unknowingly helping each other gain some perspective.  I couldn’t help but think of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.
  • Camping Out.  The next one was a little more amusing and sweet, about the budding sexuality of a group of prepubescent Girl Guides on a camping trip, complete with grandiose, sweeping statements about how their future sex lives would turn out to be.
  • Positive I.D.  Third up was an intense look at how racism is still very much a part of our everyday lives, but how it has subtly shifted, and maybe not everyone is aware of its evolution.  This was construed by the interactions of a female detective, as she interrogated first a white female victim of assault, and second, the black male suspect.  It was edgy, thought provoking, and relevant, like how you can become immediately engrossed in a movie, and be surprised to find that only ten minutes had elapsed.
  • Beyond Where the Horizon Lies.  The next one made me wonder if the screenwriter had a few too many things on the go in his life, and perhaps ran out of time writing a script for what seemed like a promising idea.  Basically, there were two actors on the stage who were staring out at the crowd, looking for something, wondering what else might be out there.  As we knew, there was…  Us.
  • All Your Bosses Belong to Chinese.  The penultimate (how I love that word!) play took place in Balzac’s coffee shop.  As a regular customer was shyly checking out the barista, along came a seemingly homeless Chinese man purportedly from the future with some interesting things to say about racial dominance.  At one point, the unstable interloper threatened to blow them all up with a grenade unless the guy pledged his love for the motherland.  Exciting stuff!
  • Standing at the Edge of the Universe of Disunity.  Finally, the last play was shaping up to be a cutesy love story, involving an aging stranger dialoguing with a young man on his way to propose to his girlfriend at a Portuguese restaurant across the street.  By delaying his ‘stepping off the edge’, the old man managed to elicit a rather important discrepancy between the two lovebirds when the soon-to-be-betrothed arrived on the scene.  It made you wonder about chance encounters.

When the hour was up, audience members had to cast a ballot for their top two favourite plays, which was a slightly more agonizing decision than you might think.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, and will definitely be back to see more plays next time, all held in this intimate venue of the Alumnae Theatre on Berkeley at Adelaide.  Bravo!

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Day 97: Transit of Venus.

This is not Swiss cheese.

How many scientists does it take to… Oh, sorry.  Did you nod off there, or was that just me?  How can a planet as sexy as Venus, with her tempestuous atmosphere be made to sound so predictable and dull as it was in the not-so-sensational media today?  If the Venus de Milo had arms, she would have gnawed them off herself to get away from whatever was chaining her to the room full of astronomers taking turns giving play-by-plays of what they were beholding through the telescope.  Hmm… Maybe that was the last time Venus was in transit in front of the sun, back when the Venus de Milo was being sculpted?  Another mystery solved!

Maybe it’s a bird in a plane?

In any event, today was a terrific Tuesday, chock-a-block with several mini-firsts, all of which were infinitely better than a day in the office.  It started with a walk across town to meet LeLa to return a book I had borrowed – yes, that is now considered a remarkable event in my day.  Ah, retirement, my newfound lover, I am not sure if I ever want our fling to end!  On my way over there, I decided to randomly meander and took a new-to-me route through the recently built CityPlace condos on Navy Wharf Court behind the SkyDome (I still refuse to call it the Rogers Centre, because some changes, like Donkey in Shrek said, are bad).  It’s really lovely in there – who knew?!?

Later on that afternoon, I stopped by the inaugural Good Food Market in ‘South Riverdale’ (aka West Leslieville), whose mandate as part of FoodShare is to improve access to fresh, affordable healthy produce from field to table.  A lovely woman there proudly sold me a piece of her pretty pottery that she had made as part of a woman’s initiative.  The positive vibe perfectly reflected the afternoon glow of the sun on everyone.  I then swung by the River Rock Café, which also emanated amazing energy, as exemplified by the proprietor when I asked her what their usual hours were, and she replied that it depended on who came in towards closing time, and if they wanted her to prepare some evening meals to go.  Talk about service!

Back home, I finally figured out how to cache content from Slacker Radio on my phone, which made it infinitely better for playing back stations continuously without buffering, not to be confused with Buffy-ing, although the battle I was having with my phone before that was indeed leaving me with thoughts of slaying it.  And so I giggled the afternoon away listening to its comedy station, as I waited patiently for the day’s main attraction to begin from the comfort of my own couch.

You see, I had intended to go to Varsity Stadium to see this once-in-a-lifetime Transit of Venus across the surface of the sun along with 5000 other nerdy types, but, unbelievably, the event, with its limited number of specially made protective viewing glasses, was completely sold out.  Personally, I blame the Big Bang Theory.  Serendipitously, a real-time webcast was available of the University of Toronto’s telescope, so I could be dazzled by this far-from-action-packed journey as I sipped a delicious beverage in air-conditioned comfort, all the while sparing my corneas from blinding damage.  It was a win-win from every possible angle!

Now, I wouldn’t exactly categorize myself as an astronomical enthusiast.  In fact, a telescope, in my opinion, is fantastic for seeing what the neighbours are getting up to, but, unless there was a meteor shower full of unicorns, I would rather be doing just about anything else.  So, after the first 5 minutes of excitement passed once the planet appeared on the scene, it was kind of like watching paint dry, only with fewer fumes.  I checked out the Hawaiian broadcast on the Nasa live website, and even they were struggling to find anything interesting to say, which had to be a first.


The pictures from Norway were pretty cool, but it still felt like a really slow-motion version of those old commercials when you would follow a bouncing dot to sing-along to the words, or, in this case, the dot was merely superimposed on the single letter O, being the sun.  Hmm… Maybe it was all just a big publicity stunt for Oprah’s magazine?  Let’s face it – if anybody could get a planet to orbit the sun on a given day, it would have to be her.  But I digress…  Survey says?  Catch the highlight reel, and be grateful that you spent this once in a lifetime event doing something else entirely with your life.

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Day 96: New Ice Cream Flavour.

If you asked a kid to try a new ice cream flavour, chances are good that the child might burst into tears.  “Why?  Is there no more chocolate?”  “Did something happen to the strawberry?”  “Is the Road no longer Rocky?”  Clearly, this would be a tragedy of the highest order.  Life can be so cruel!

But first, a brief confession:  I’m not a huge fan of ice cream.  There, I’ve said it.  Get over it already!  As a cousin of the cheese family, I do acknowledge its inherent dairy fabulousness; however, when push comes to shove, I would take a bag of potato chips over a bowl of ice cream in a heartbeat.  Mmmm… salty goodness!

I do enjoy gelato, though, and also frozen yogurt, especially to cleanse the palate.  This would ideally come in a tangy flavour, like lemon or cassis, for some added zip.  But plain old ice cream only needs to be offered in a maximum of three flavours, as far as I’m concerned:  Chocolate Chip; its grown-up cousin, Stracciatella (okay, technically, it’s a gelato, but let’s not split hairs); and my all-time favourite, Cinnamon, because, as you may recall, things can never be cinnamony enough.  True story!

So, when a friend stopped by recently for a little patio soiree, I received her hostess gift of a pint of Ed’s Real Scoop Burnt Marshmallow ice cream (and wine, of course) with mixed emotions.  Naturally, I was grateful for the gift, which is always appreciated; but there was a part of me that was slightly apprehensive: Burnt Marshmallow?  Really?  What kind of flavour is that?!??

The name alone invoked a certain amount of grief.  I mean, how many times have you watched a marshmallow that had been lovingly placed on the end of a stick, and hung over a campfire until it had gotten deliciously toasty brown, only to catch on fire and need to be blown out?  And then, watched in horror as it slid off of the stick and into the fire before you even had a chance to enjoy it?  This is the dark side of camping that your parents never warned you about.

So, it was with some trepidation today that I decided to branch out of my ice cream box and finally try this new flavour of ice cream.  I scooped a few balls into a bowl and tucked in.  Immediately, my tastebuds were transported back to a simpler time when the stars in the sky competed for attention with the kamikaze sparks that would occasionally launch themselves from the campfire.  The flavour was rich and creamy, with a deliciously caramel undertone that sent me back for seconds… and thirds, later on, when no one was looking.  Yum!

Exactly how long had this taste sensation been going on, I began to wonder?  And did this mean that I needed to start working my way across the board at Baskin-Robbins?  At what point do you leave well enough alone and stick to the tried and true?  Clearly, this kind of indecision could use a little support, in the form of another bowl… And, just like that, it happened.  The ice cream fairies came and gobbled up the rest of the pint when I wasn’t looking, before they flew away on their tiny, magical unicorns.  Coincidentally, it was also time for my hypoglycaemic coma.  What were the chances?!!

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Day 95: Sage Fair.

Many possible scenarios flew into my head when I first spied the words ‘Sage Fair‘ on the page.  Had there been a bumper crop this year that was worthy of an entire festival devoted to the lovely herb that we most commonly associate with Thanksgiving stuffing?  Or perhaps there was an inordinate number of wise men with flowing white beards who were getting together to auction themselves off to the highest bidder for their advice dispensing services?

And then, contrary to every single instinct in my core being, I kept reading the rest of the voucher’s details, only to discover that it was for a 2-for-1 entry to a healthy green living show ($10 for 2 tickets, $20 value) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC).  Since I could always use something new to do, I bought it.

Now, to be fair, the major artery into downtown was closed today for a charity bike ride, which may have explained some of the low attendance numbers, but this was easily the smallest audience at such an event that I have ever seen.  In fact, some of the vendors were packing up their booths when we arrived, even though the show was not supposed to be over for at least another few hours.  They had simply had enough, as apparently, the day before had been even worse.

Not being much of a fan of big crowds, I was actually enjoying the exclusive privilege of being able to go right up and talk to any vendor who piqued my interest.  We started by perusing the friendly Swapsity Eco-Swap, where I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or not to find a lot of my favourite CDs and books in there.  Apparently, some people had moved on.  I’m personally not yet ready to succumb to such peer pressure, green though it may be.

The next exhibitor who caught my attention was Andrea Ramirez from Frontier Health Naturopathic Clinic Dispensary in Burlington.  She was giving a very passionate presentation on everything from auricular therapy to organic produce.  Next to the workshop area, the always insightful Adria Vasil of NOW Magazine fame was on hand to sign copies of her latest book, Ecoholic Body.  A little further down the aisle, we were treated to free posture analyses from Tony Van Hoof of Mount Dennis Family Chiropractic.  So far, it was all good stuff.

The last stop on the circuit for me left the biggest impression, by far.  You know new technology has truly infiltrated every possible market when there’s now an app that takes pictures of your aura.  I kid you not.  For $10, I learned that, courtesy of not one, but two photos, taken with the iAura app on an iPhone, my aura was black in colour.  Now, this was sufficiently disconcerting news all on its own.  But to then have a short reading thrown in that informed me there would be a lot of tears shed over the upcoming year, and without even a comforting cocktail to offer in consolation?  Oh, the humanity!  I blame you, Steve Jobs.  This app business has clearly gone one step too far.

On the way home, the weather cleared up, so I decided to take a stroll through the Riverdale Art Walk happening in Jimmie Simpson Park to distract me from my nebulous vibes.  Between the sunshine and the cheery canvases, this show did not disappoint, and the cloud over my head was instantly lifted – at least, in my mind.

I always enjoy the exhibits on offer at this annual event, and I simply fell in love with the following nature-inspired original from Kate Taylor, who will be in the Solid Colour show this weekend if you happen to be looking for something to do.

The colours in it just make it so gosh darned pretty, at least, to the eye of this beholder.  Where’s Dumbledore when you need a sage second opinion?  Good help really is hard to find these days…  Sigh.

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