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Urban Solutions For Greener Surroundings

May 29 is an important date for all MileEnders looking for a little gardening fun. At 9:00 am this morning, the borough was handing out petunias, impatients, marigolds, perennials and compost, free of charge to residents with proof of address. This is all part of the borough's beautification campaign. Unfortunately, I arrived at 9:20 and found myself at the end of the long line that snaked around the entire periphery of Parc Lahaie.

While I waited with other residents, I overheard some delicious news. In front of the Saint-Enfant-Jesus Church, Saint-Dominique is going to become a pedestrian street with access only to service vehicles, effective June 7. The pedestrian street will become home to a produce market every Thursday from 3:30 to 8:30pm starting on June 17.

Does anyone know...Will this market have organic produce?

The borough has also spearheaded a vine initiative to discourage taggers from defacing public and private property. Residents and business owners who register with the borough will be given vines to grow as wall covering in order to dissuade "aspiring artists." This makes for more greenery and less gribouillage, or scribbling, from the should-know-betters. Yes, I'm a fan of graffiti, and there are plenty of talented artists who make our neighbourhoods more beautiful, but the tagging, like what we find along Fairmount East is hideous and an eyesore (Sorry, sounding old).

Lastly, the City has given up on recycling bins and now wants us to use transparent or opaque biodegradable bags, and recyclables in regular orange, green and black garbage bags will NOT be picked up. All I can say is "Enfin!" Common sense did not prevail in this neck of the woods. Too many people were unable to grasp the seemingly simplistic concept that when newspapers were put on top of bottles, they blew away....

Oh yes, and the flowers. Patiently waiting for my impatients, I only stood in line for a few minutes before I realized that there were not going to be enough flowers to go around. Looking every bit the gardening enthusiast, Plateau Mont-Royal Mayor Luc Fernandez came over to break the bad news--we were S.O.L. this year. There weren't enough plants to go around. (Notice the "no more" hand signals he's making). I'll have to wait until next year.

Other Hood-Related Posts:
Curios With an Eastern European Twist
Mile End Summer Flavour--Hibiscus
A Summer Ride For Summer Weather (Take my poll)
Our City Back-to-the-Land-Organic Farmer
For the Vegan in You

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Book Review: A Book Every Woman Should Have

I'd like to point out that a great many of my readers are men, and from what I gather they understand that women do in fact face barriers in education, employment, health care and myriad other areas of our lives. Many of these men have daughters, little spitfires, and there is nothing that these men would like more than to see their daughters live happy fulfilled lives. So Dads, partners, brothers, grandfathers and friends, here's a book for your spitfire. As you will see the author of this book, Selena Rezvani, is a spitfire herself.

Cross-posted at Feminist Review

The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead but Won’t Learn in Business School
Selena Rezvani

Has the glass ceiling been shattered? There is a widely accepted perception that it has. However, as author Selena Rezvani points out in chapter 1 of The Next Generation of Women Leaders, although women make up 46.5% of the U.S. workforce, they constitute only 15.7% of corporate officers. What you won’t learn in business school, which Rezvani discovered from interviewing top women executives, is that social, economic, psychological and even generational barriers still prevent women from reaching the top. But don’t despair. This book is chock full of highly useful tips and information to help women of all ages creatively circumnavigate these roadblocks and negotiate their way to the top.

A John Hopkins University MBA graduate and successful consultant, Rezvani conducted 30 interviews with top women executives in the corporate, non-profit and government sectors. She then analyzed her data for trends. The overarching themes of her analysis are covered in chapters 2 to 9, and address everything from career orientation to maneuvering office politics, networking and negotiating. Although this may sound like any other book on how to succeed in business, it contains plenty of information that might otherwise take you your entire career to learn. In fact, the Next Generation of Women Leaders reads more like a handbook that you will go back to at different stages in your career.

There is an emphasis in this book on networking, which many of us are tired of hearing. However, Rezvani’s presentation is empowering. She describes networking as a lifetime activity that helps women forge lasting relationships, learn more about their areas of business, discover other career paths and develop outside interests and skills. She also emphasizes the importance of women’s networks and having women as role models. The author includes some helpful tips on networking etiquette and where to focus your energy.

Given my own particular situation as a mother and professional, I was interested in the chapter on work-life integration. The author tackles the “You can have it all” message and addresses the underlying societal pressures on women to be the successful executive, the cookie-baking mother, the physically fit and attractive partner, the friend, the crafter, the daughter, etc. Rather than attempting to balance or juggle work-life demands, we are instead to integrate a select few work-life priorities that give us the most satisfaction. In a nutshell, the “you can have it all” message does little more than hold us all back.

The author originally wrote this book because of the dearth of business books targeting Gen X and Y women, but there’s something in this book for women of all ages, especially those trying to rejoin the labor force or attract talent to their companies. I usually give away the books I review, but this one is a keeper.

Psssst You can pick up the book using my Amazon button. It will automatically switch to whatever country you live in. Heather

Other Reviews:
Book Review: The Spare Room by Helen Garner
Aya: The Secrets Come Out
Film Review: Mary and Max
Doc Review: Finding Dawn by Christine Welsh
Book Review: Violent Partners by Linda G Mills
Review: Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
A Review of Montreal's Bixi Rental Bike

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A Summer Ride for Some Summer Weather

This beautiful blue vintage 60s car in mint condition was parked next to the bike path and across the street from the Illy Café this weekend. I once took a Toronto friend of mine, Anna Maria, to the Illy. She told me that this was a genuine Italian café, in sharp contrast to the Club Social on St-Viateur, where we had been trapped about an hour before at the height of a summer thunderstorm. We'd just ducked in there to step out of the rain, as had many other people. In fact, we couldn't move, and we were closer to most people than we cared to be.

Amidst the oohs and ahs of the rain dancing six inches off car roofs, we watched a guy shove his way to the front of the café and out the door. He dashed in zero visibility to a shiny red Ferrari parked across the street. The crowd was suddenly on its feet, shouting, laughing and finger-pointing at the dude trying to maintain his cool while closing his car windows. Problem was that he couldn't drive away because he couldn't see where he was going, so he had to swallow his pride and come back to the café, soaked to the skin.

As he walked in door, the crowd was alive. There was plenty of jeering and laughing. A lot was expressed in Italian, at which point, Anna Maria, with her palm on her forehead to obscure her face, turned to me and said, "Sometimes, it's so embarrassing to be Italian."

The Illy Café on the other hand made her feel proud to be Italian with its selection of Italian soft drinks, rockin' espresso, delicious pannini and with a strong emphasis on bikes. Although a lot pricier with fewer patrons, the Illy had a really nice ambiance and was decidedly more upmarket. Invariably, there are a few vespas parked in front during the summer months.

Back to my vintage blue car, which I think belongs to someone at the Illy Café. When I see cars like this, I often remember taking drives with my father around the small town where I grew up, listening to AM radio. I hate driving, but I would like to drive something from the sixties just once. My husband was not tempted at all by it. He said that it probably wouldn't handle very well--the snob. Someone needs German engineering. I'd like to know reader would you like to drive this, with a few friends, and with a little bit of music? Bear in mind that this car rumbles and barrels, so whatever you choose, it will have to be loud.

Answer my poll and tell me what kind of loud music would be the most à propos in the comments.
Personally, I think I would like to listen to a little Motown.

I just listened to François's choice for a song, and it won me over. Here's the YouTube video.

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Our City Back-To-The-Land Organic Farmer

Last month, I received a flyer for summer fruit and vegetable baskets from an organic farmer. My husband and I went for a walk on Friday afternoon, and we discussed whether we would fork out the $390 for a single vegetable basket this summer. Please bear in mind that we just bought a house, and as Simply Red put it, "money's too tight to mention." I told my husband that we should "fork over" the money. I can give all kinds of environmental reasons for my decision, such as limiting my children's exposure to pesticides and fertilizers, supporting local farmers, etc., but what I enjoyed most was people-watching at the Thursday basket drop-off.

The 4:00 to 6:00 pm weekly farmer's drop-off  takes place in a narrow driveway just off the bike path, next to a bank parking lot separated by a tall chain link fence. The farmer's white truck takes up most of the driveway, and the farmer and his wife have a table set up next to the fence to sell any left over produce, jams and jellies to passersby. Now there's a whole lot of sweaty, panting people showing up on their bikes at the same time with no place to go, as we are prohibited from parking our bikes in the otherwise empty bank parking lot. Invariably, at least one newbie tries to lock his bike in the unlawful area, which annoys the farmer, leading to a few choice curse words, usually beginning with hostie,* and a loud admonishment. Then there is the usual speeding cyclist who cannot slow down in time, as he careens from bike path into the lot, using one foot as a brake. People scream and quickly crowd over table-side, as the cyclist hurtles into the garbage bags on the other side of the truck with a thump.

Although he often looks like he doesn't know what he got himself into, our organic farmer is a former city slicker who chose the "back to the land" option. At the beginning of the season, he's the picture of the proud organic farmer with his long thick black hair, standing at the back of his truck emptying baskets of fruit and vegetables into peoples' grocery bags. One woman was particularly taken by the farmer and his long locks, and insisted on giving him des bises* when he knelt down to give her her veg. She was clearly taking advantage of the situation, as des bises are commonplace, but not at the time of a veggie transaction.

Two years ago, we had a particularly wet summer, and it put our farmer's customer service skills to the test. We had ordered a fruit and a vegetable basket that summer, and when he handed me over three giant oranges with California stickers, I politely asked him if there was, um, any more. His eyes flashed and his index finger came up,

"That is $10.00 of organic fruit. There has been too much rain this summer," he said.
"Okay, okay, " I said, shrinking away with my grocery bag.

When I got home, I told my husband the story, as he went through our vegetable bag. He pulled out a very hard misshapen greenish-coloured vegetable.
"What's this?" he asked, tapping it against the counter, making a knocking sound.
"I'm not sure," I said, "and I was afraid to ask. It doesn't look like they're having a great harvest this year."
"Do you think these guys know what they're doing?" he asked, holding the mystery veg in the air. "I mean, this looks like something you find on the sidewalk in apple season."

Unfortunately, the summer only got worse, and a few weeks later, I meekly asked our pallid looking farmer with his now stringy long hair whether it would soon be green pepper season.
"No," he said, his voice cracking, "They're falling off rotten in our hands."
I nodded and quickly shuffled away.

I told my husband the story when I got home.
"What? No peppers!" he said incredulously. "And that jam they gave us last week tasted like poison," he said.
"Honey, it's been cold, rainy summer, and so they don't make jam as good as our mothers. Big deal!" I said.
"Heather, there are bad doctors and bad lawyers, and now, we know there are bad farmers too."
"That's harsh," I said, "Let's give them another chance."

Luckily, the summer improved slightly, as did our farmer's mood. He started smiling and looking good again and chatted more with his customers. And at the last pick-up of the season, the farmer and his wife were absolutely beaming. There were hugs all around, and the farmer had ladies lining up for some bises to tide them over until next summer.

Although it wasn't a great summer for produce, it was a fun experience, and I really enjoyed the cast of characters I met from my neighbourhood. I missed not going last year. And good or bad, we enjoy looking up recipes for produce we have never heard of or seen before.

*hostie: Quebec French equivalent of "fuck."
*des bises: customary kisses on both cheeks, usually exchanged when greeting a friend or saying good-bye.

Related Organic Posts:

For the Vegan in You
Produce Police: Is that Orange Really Organic?
Strawberries: Organic vs. Local
Organic Produce Too Expensive or Unavailable: Meet the Clean 15
The Environmental Working Group Updates its Dirty Dozen
3 Simple Q & As about Children and Pesticides
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Rowan Coleman's Friday Flash Fiction

UK author Rowan Coleman holds a status short story Friday on her Facebook page and invites all her fans to post  a short, short story of 420 characters, the Facebook status update limit.This type of writing is often referred to as flash fiction. There are even prizes for the weekly winners, which Coleman decides over the course of the weekend. This is worth a look, as some of them the stories posted on her wall are good.

When I checked late Friday afternoon, 35 people had already posted their stories. The hardest part is to figure out if you're getting close to the 420-character limit. Unlike Twitter, Facebook doesn't let you know how many characters you have left until you're at the limit. Unfortunately, I chose to write my stories in Word so that I had a character count option and could cut and paste them in. A mistake! Like Blogger, Facebook doesn't like Word formatting. Anyway, here was last Friday's effort:

The lurching bus and my nerves had done nothing for my hunger pangs, and the car exhausts were making me feel light-headed. As the light changed, I stepped off the curb. I heard a familiar sound approaching, but there was reason for alarm. I glanced to the left to see a car hurtling towards me. Panic surged from my stomach to the upward reaches of my chest. I sprang back to the curb. The car screeched to a halt.
I learned a few tricks from the previous week's winner. Number one: Keep the sentences very short, even use fragments if they help. Choose a situation that is familiar to most people. Make sure that there's tension, and of course, humour helps. Here's my second week's story:
I didn't want to go now. They would be there--the happy couple who couldn't keep their hands off each other. An excuse! I heard a car and stepped out of its way. I was ill! A flock of pigeons flew up. A death! The car sailed past. Hemorrhoids! I heard a small thud. I Iooked down and there at my feet lay a red gash amongst iridescent feathers. I just wasn't up to it!
If you can think of any other tips leave a comment. And if you'd like to try your hand at this type of flash fiction, just join me Friday afternoons on Rowan Coleman's Facebook page.
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10 Confessions of a Blogger

There are so many topics, anecdotes and thoughts that I have wanted to write about but have been unable to find an approach that would be interesting to my readers. These 10 confessions are as much about my blogging process as about what compels me to blog.

1. Although I have never dared, I would like to write a complete stream of consciousness post.

2. I get giddy when I see that someone has left a comment or when a single post gets more than 100 hits.

3. I cringe when I notice that I have omitted an apostrophe. The most unforgivable is "its" when it should be "it's." I found two such errors last week.

4. I like finding out tiny details about my neighbourhood by striking up conversations with complete strangers. Last week, I met a woman with a beautiful Maritime accent who told me that this was no ordinary cherry tree I was taking a picture of, but the largest and most beautiful in the Mile End. We stood talking with cherry blossom leaves scattered all over the ground around us, while a slightly retarded man proudly yelled, "That's my TREE! That's my TREE!" from across the street. The scent of the blossoms was heavenly. I love scenes like this and want to tell them to the world.

5. I often think that what I have written is absolute drivel. Thank you husband, father and friends for reading.

6. Some days, I stop and talk to homeless people because I want to know how they see the world and because I want them to know that I see them. They are not invisible.

7. I feel injustice in the pit of my stomach when I see an intelligent, competent woman passed over for a promotion. It reminds me that sexism runs deep in our subconscious, and although we all know it's there, we can't put our finger on the forces at play. Systemic sexism and racism have to be outed.

8. I compulsively edit (the form not the content of) my posts even after they have been published.

9. I feel compelled to write about feminism so that my bright, beautiful seven-year-old daughter will one day be paid a salary that is commensurate with her skills and experience.

10. I'm not sure why corporations think that I should care about their bottom line. They can run a business, make a reasonable profit and still not kill us all in the process. I feel compelled to push the message that their shareholders are not my f*$;^ing problem.

Have you got a confession that you would like to share? Maybe something you've never told anyone before but have been dying to say.

Other list posts:
6 Things Children Never Say 
8 Symptoms of Internet Addiction
The Flavours of Social Media

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Helena Guergis A Victim?

It's been hard not to hear about the Helena Guergis affair. Just a few weeks ago, this Member of Parliament was a member of Cabinet and the Minister of State for the Status of Women. Recently, Guergis was forced to resign from Cabinet pending an investigation into her conduct by the RCMP and the Ethics Commissioner. The allegations against Ms. Guergis have never been disclosed to her. She has also been dropped by the Conservative party as a future nominee in her own riding.

Before I go any further, I should point out that I have never voted Conservative. In fact, I would rather stick pins in my eyes. However, in the Guergis affair there is a much bigger issue that is getting little air time--the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party's treatment of women, and not just any woman, the Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Last February, in a rush to catch her flight at the Charlottetown airport, MP Guergis lost her temper, was less than polite with airport staff and made some disparaging remarks about the city of Charlottetown. She later apologized publicly for her outburst. First of all, I have never been to an airport without seeing a passenger throw a temper tantrum. Does this excuse the behaviour of a member of Cabinet ? No. But if it had been a male member of  Cabinet, it would have been a non-event, and if he had been forced to make a public apology--another non-event. Let's face it: men can still lose their temper in public, women cannot.

Guergis is a young MP who has made some mistakes, as people new to politics are wont to do. She is also married to former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, who was picked up by police last fall for drinking and driving, and possession of cocaine. He later paid a $500 fine and was charged with dangerous driving. There have also been reports that Jaffer used his wife's office, car, e-mail address and blackberry to conduct business, not great foresight on the part of Jaffer, a seasoned MP who knew the rules. But I'm sure that he is not the only spouse on Parliament Hill to use a government car or e-mail account for business. Jaffer also reportedly frequents strip clubs and has boasted that he has an "in" at the Prime Minister's office. Is it really out of the ordinary for businessmen to brag or frequent strip clubs? I don't think so.

Let's flash back to the late 1970s. The Prime Minister's wife partied in her hotel room with the Rolling Stones, one of whom, just a few days later, was arrested for heroin possession. Was the Prime Minister's reputation tarnished by his wife's behaviour? No. In fact, most people felt sorry for him, so much so that he was re-elected.

Now more than 30 years later, women who have been successful enough to reach public office are still defined by what their husbands do. Not only are women under greater scrutiny in the public eye, but they also are guilty by association. Guergis should not have let her husband use her office and communications devices, but this did not warrant her ouster from Cabinet, Caucus or the Conservative Party. Furthermore, employers are required to give reasons and warnings before a dismissal. Guergis received neither. She was clearly blamed and punished unjustly for her husband's behaviour.

I realize that many of you will object to my comparing Helena Guergis, a junior cabinet minister, with former Prime Minister Trudeau. Like comparing apples and oranges, some will say. But that's because I was hard pressed to find an equivalent comparison. Let's face it: if a similar series of events had happened to a junior minister who was a man, it wouldn't have made the front page. Double standards are still alive and well.

Ladies, if this is how the Conservative Prime Minister treats the Minister of State for the Status of Women, imagine how he will treat women if he wins a majority of seats in the next election. Just peel off your socks and head back to the kitchen.

Related Posts:
In a Hypothetical Society
Films For Girls: Bedchel-Inspired Girl Positive Test
Long-gun Registry: What's Going on?
Glass Ceiling: Cracked or Smashed

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Curios With An Eastern European Twist

On a rainy Saturday, my daughter and I paid a visit to a curio dealer located at 207 Fairmount West. I noticed the store earlier this year, but this was my first chance to have a look around. I rarely venture into curio stores because whenever I find something I like it's usually woefully overpriced. As is the case with most stores, the curios reflect the owner's taste, and this store had some unique objects at very low prices. For instance, my daughter bought a bag of vintage marbles with alleys, black beauties, cats eyes and pearls for two bucks, while I got a silver bracelet for the same price.

We were not the only customers in the store, and from what I saw no one left empty-handed. There were dining room tables and chairs, buffet tables, some very strange ornate lamps, jewelery boxes, hand painted plates, china, prints, paintings, books, maps, a skeleton, antique dolls and much more.

The owner was not in, but his father, Vilmos Senior, was watching the store. He addressed me in Hungarian, and although his English was limited, he was the type of person who could get his message across in any language. I learned that he was Roma from Budapest, that he had only been in Canada for four months and that his son had opened the store in January 2010. He was also highly skilled at bargaining and making deals, with very little English or French.

If you're looking for a gift for the person who has everything, you might want to drop in here.

(To see more pictures of the Roma on the Roma Rights' Network photostream, click  here.)
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Mom's Day: Why Did Your Mom Leave Her Parents' Home?

As many of you know, I lost my mother in August last year, and although I would like to dedicate this post to her, I'm still not up to it yet. Instead, I have decided to honour all mothers, starting with my mother-in-law, Imelda, the cherished grandmother of my two children.

Curious about Imelda's arrival in Montreal, I sent her some questions and asked for some pictures from that period of her life. She managed to get all this to me in time for Mother's Day, which she is spending at a watercolour exhibition where she is showing four of her paintings. (Pssst, she even sold one.)

(To help you better imagine Imelda's trip, click on the links for photos of each location.)

Imelda came to Montreal in September of 1958, shortly before her 18th birthday. She climbed into a car with her older sister Denyse, who was going to Montreal to work as a teacher. Also aboard was another young man who lived in the same parish.The second youngest of eight children, Imelda left Saint-Malachie at age 16 for Quebec City, where she found employment with the Bergerons' caring for their three small children, a family with whom she is still friends today.

It was the better wages of the big city that lured Imelda to Montreal. The trip from Quebec City was apparently a long one, as Highway 20 had not yet been built. The three had to travel through all the villages and towns along the way, and presumably the roads of the late fifties had more than a few potholes. However, this didn't slow them down. In fact, I learned that the speed limit was not the 100 km/h (60 mph) that it is today. The speed demons of yesteryear used to travel, in her words facilement or easily, at 160 km/h (100 mph), if not faster.

The three came into Montreal on the Jacques Cartier Bridge at night. Imelda said that she was taken aback by all the lights and buildings. For those of you unfamiliar with Montreal, this route gives perhaps the most spectacular view of the city, particularly at night. For this young country girl far from home, the experience of driving into the city's lights made her feel both overwhelmed and frightened. She immediately questioned her decision to leave Quebec City.

Imelda and Denyse stayed briefly with Denyse's future brother-in-law. Not wanting to impose, Imelda quickly found a job in the want ads, caring for the children of Jeanine Beaubien, an actor and director  of the Île Ste-Hélène theatre. Her employment, however, did not last long, as she found Ms. Beaubien nervous and difficult to work for. She eventually found employment with the Grattons', a very warm and loving family with five children. She even went to Wells, Maine, with them.On the left, you see our bathing beauty on the beach at Wells. Imelda was very fashion conscious and liked to look good when she was out in Montreal. At the time, women wore dresses that were fitted at the waist, long full skirts that fell below the knee and extremely uncomfortable pumps.

Imelda said that she eventually got used to taking the bus in the city, but always with some trepidation of getting lost on the way to visit her sister each week. My mother-in-law was apprehensive about the future, unsure of what life had in store for her. But then, women were not expected to have ambitions: they were expected to get married and have children, which she did a few years later, and man, am I glad that she did.

Why did your mother leave her parents' home? For a husband? A job? Or her sanity?

PS, Wells is also my favourite family vacation destination.

Happy Mother's Day to mothers everywhere!
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Upcycling Meets Guerrilla Gardening

Pssssst...my book giveaway for a copy of the Spare Room is still on, and you have a great chance to win. Just follow my blog or leave a comment.

Three years ago, I picked up a copy of the Troublemaker's Teaparty on urban activism and discovered covert ways to beautify our urban surroundings. I live close to some abandoned factories, and people love to come here to work on their cars, spray paint graffiti and sell drugs. In this book, I learned that by creating a presence, through keeping the area clean and planting flowers, you could keep undesirables out of your neighbourhood. I figured it was worth a try.

The next year, while on maternity leave, I did some guerrilla gardening, which involved gardening on private property. This was a lot more work than I had anticipated, and I had to contend with theft, vandalism and a coup organized by a nearby condo-dweller who subsequently took over my plot, as she wasn't thrilled with my choice of flowers.

I also discovered that a gardenless condo dweller could create "seedbombs," which are thrown into empty or abandoned lots. If all goes well, you will see a spray of flowers instead of the broken remnants from last night's party. I briefly toyed with the idea of creating seedbombs and selling them for $0.25 each, but I thought it would be dishonest to sell something that I hadn't actually tried and tested for results.

If you've made seedbombs that actually took root, please send us the recipe. Officially planting day in these parts is the third week in May.

To date, we have tried two seedbomb recipes. The first one simply involved combining wet clay and seeds. The second, the Liz Christy seedbomb was much more elaborate. Liz Christy was the original urban gardener. Her seedbomb involved filling balloons or Christmas ornaments (?!) with water, adding bits of paper towel, peat moss, soil and seeds. Anyway, last year, my kids and I tried her recipe.These bombs were a lot more fun to throw than those from the previous year, but were much messier to make.

Alas, neither recipe yielded any blooms, but the birds and squirrels will be forever grateful.

A pair from California has, however, cultivated the idea of commercializing seedbombs. Their Los Angeles company, Greenaid, has taken old gumball machines and used them as seedbomb dispensers. For $0.25, the buyers get two seedbombs and a small map showing them the best place to throw their ammo for optimal results. You can purchase the gumball dispensers from the company, and Greenaid will help you come up with a seed mix that will work in your area.

Maybe that's where we went wrong--the seed mix.

Other Seedbomb and Guerrilla Gardening Related Posts:

Delinelle Park and Garden: Adjectival Transgression
 The Fate of the Delinelle Community Garden and Park
More on Guerrilla-ing in NYC and St. Henri
Trespassers in St. Henri Win City Gardening Contest
Liz Christy Seed Bombs and Some Not So Covert Bombing
More on Guerrilla-ing in NYC and St. Henri
Attention Guerrilla Gardeners: the Liz Christy Seed Bomb (a how-to)
What Exactly is Guerrilla Gardening?
Guerrilla Gardening: Tips for the Novice

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The Tarot Card Reader and The King of Swords

As you may recall, a few weeks ago I wrote about a tarot card reader in the Mile End. Unfortunately, Duncan, the reader, was booked on that particular day and could not see me. A strange thing happened as I walked away from our brief meeting on the steps outside his business. I had gone to see Duncan on a whim two years ago for a reading. As I walked down St-Joseph Boulevard, I thought about that winter morning  and remembered seeing a Queen in my spread. Duncan had asked me if I was having problems with someone close to me, a woman. At the time, I was having a problem with my mother, but in hindsight, the difference of opinion we were having was insignificant. He told me that the problem with this person would go away. I said that we often disagreed, and this problem wasn't likely to go away. "No," he insisted, "based on what I see here, this problem should disappear."

At the time of my reading, my son was about 8 months old, and I was already thinking about my return to work and the upheaval of trying to drop off two kids in the morning instead of one. As I walked along the sidewalk on St-Joseph I thought about my son's birthday. He would be three years old in June, then I stopped. My mother had died unexpectedly less than 18 months after that reading. I thought about this coincidence for a few minutes and had an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Then I went to pick up my daughter.

Have you ever had your cards read? 

I met with Duncan on the following Saturday at the end of March for a reading. I had a few questions for him and was expecting a nice light discussion, much like my visit to the Cuban Santeria shop. I learned from this Ottawa native that there were apparently no occupational hazards working with the occult. I was hoping for some ghosts stories or strange occurrences, but no such luck. I was also curious about his clientele. I was told that 95% of his customers were women between the ages of 18 and 35. I kidded with him a little because he reminded me so much of someone I grew up with in Eastern Ontario. Duncan has the large imposing eyebrows of a Scotsman and an easy laugh. At times while we were talking, I felt a little insincere asking him questions about a topic that I wasn't sure I believed in, something that he had chosen as his profession and took quite seriously.

Then, however, he surprised me. I asked him about why he had chosen to become a tarot card reader. He said that when he was 12 years old, there had been an explosion at his school and that he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a result, he was bedridden for a year. Initially, doctors said that he would never walk again, but then something unusual happened. A reporter from the now defunct Ottawa Journal came to interview Duncan and brought a British astrologer with her. Apparently the astrologer was very attractive, and unsurprisingly, she had the 12-year-old's rapt attention. She told him that she could see an accident in his astrological chart and that the second part of his life would be much better than the first. It's no small wonder that Duncan developed a special interest in astrology and the occult.

We eventually got to my tarot card reading. Before cutting the deck, I asked a very general question about the direction of my career. Once again, I was taking the whole session very lightly, too lightly in fact. As Duncan looked at my cards, he crossed his arms and arched an eyebrow. Then he told me some very unwelcome news. In my spread, a very authoritarian man (the King of Swords) was looking to cause me harm. In addition, he told me that someone was stealing from me (Seven of Swords). I immediately tried to think of who this authoritarian man could be, but drew a blank, and as far as I knew, I didn't have anything that someone could steal. Duncan advised me to be vigilant, and when he noted the concern on my face, he pointed to the last card and said that I would come out of whatever was to happen unscathed.

I walked away from this reading feeling unsettled. My husband poked fun at my concern and gave me his dime-store interpretation of my reading. However, dear reader, what Duncan predicted has recently come to pass, and I'm thankful that I was on my guard. The pain would have been unbearable further down the road. I have lost on a material level, but that isn't what pains me. The hurtful part is coming to terms with the betrayal of a complicit party and having to revise fond childhood memories. But strangely enough, this incident has allowed me to take off my blinders and see what I have been ignoring for years, and now that I see it, I have the peace that comes with closure.

Well, hmmm....I guess you're wondering if I believe in the occult now: I'm still not sure. Would I ever go and get my cards read again? For the time being, I'm happy to live in the present.

The doll postcard is an advertisement for raplapla.

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For the Vegan in You

Pssssst...my book giveaway for a copy of the Spare Room is still on, and you have a great chance to win. Just follow my blog or leave a comment.

Yesterday,  I Bixied around my hood and made two important vegan discoveries with an added green twist. As you may already know, vegans do not eat any animal or dairy products. The Panthère verte on St-Viateur is a small lunch counter that serves strictly vegan meals and uses organic and local products in all its dishes. I've read some rave reviews about the Pv's falafel, so I tried one yesterday and was not disappointed. It was delicious! And the restaurant itself is very relaxing with its painted green vines growing in unlikely places. I also liked the metal colander lampshades, which cast some beautiful light patterns on the ceiling.

However, what makes this place so special is that it offers bicycle delivery to the urban jungle from Monday to Saturday. And that's not all. Many of you will recall my five part series on Tim Hortons, and my call for a bigger customer discount for those of us who brought our own cups. Well, the Panthère verte is the only small business that I have ever seen offer a $0.25 reduction to its costumers for bringing their own cups. The coffee and donut slinging conglomerate only reduces its price by $0.10 because, otherwise, their compelling generosity would eat into their profit margins. Reader please help me. How do you spell green-wash? But I digress...

In addition, the Panthère verte gives you a $0.25 discount if you bring your own bag and an additional $0.50 discount if you bring your own food container. Therefore, you could receive a $1.00 discount on an $8.00 meal made with local and organic ingredients. Now that's what I call a bargain, and it's the incentive people need to adopt environmentally friendly habits! For the Pv's green policy click here.

The other vegan discovery I made yesterday was at the Arterie boutique and second-hand clothing store at 175 Bernard West. This store's tag line is Think Local, and this business carries several lines of clothing and jewelry made by local designers. I was also interested in the various lines of vegan footwear the store carries. So what makes a pair of boots or shoes vegan? No animal is used in the footwear's manufacture. Instead, the products used are hemp, cotton, polyurethane, microfibres (or a mixture thereof) or rubber, and I must admit, there was a pair of boots I was immediately smitten with, "the Chelseas." To see them, check out the boutique's vegan footwear 100 video.

So there you have it. You can have a perfectly vegan day in the Mile End. Sit down for a falafel at the Pv and then head to Arterie to buy some vegan boots.

Stylish Vegan Shoes - Funny bloopers R us

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