Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spicy tofu soup!

One of my more recent vegan discoveries: spicy tofu soup!  (with mushrooms and cucumber!)  I usually just take a photo, but in this cold weather it's really wonderful to receive a hot stone bowl with spicy soup, so a short vid was more appropriate:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ethiopian coffee... and popcorn!

For a taste of simple happiness, spices and injeera followed by coffee, incense and popcorn (quite like in Ethiopia), Lalibela proved a wonderful surprise in a richly multicultural walk along Bloor from Spadina to Dufferin.  Both Lalibela and the walk are a great reminder of this city's enjoyable diversity.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013


With windchills of up to -11ºC, on-and-off snow showers, and the ubiquitious snow still on the ground, this is one cold, unspringtimely beginning of spring.  Here I leave you with some "Toronto spring" photos (including Cynthia Short's "Remembered Sustenance" sculpture), a new look for the blog (wishfully thinking that it will magically bring spring here?) and, since at least some people do have cause to celebrate big nevertheless, a holiday greeting:  happy nowruz!  !هر روزتان نوروز و نوروزتان پیروز

Monday, March 18, 2013

Toronto goes green for Saint Patrick's

For the good the Irish have brought to our lives, and the good that they may bring, happy Saint Patrick's Day from Toronto! Beanachataí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Friday, March 15, 2013

winter in Ísland X - Northern Lights, the last call

"Recipe for Northern Lights (aka Aurora Borealis):  Clear skies (preferably 70% or more). Solar activity (from medium and up is fine, though low can sometimes work too).  To look to the sky at the right time (they can happen anytime, around 8pm, midnight, 2am, 4am...).  Luck."

As you have read in my other posts, most of our trip our we had either cloudy or just partially clear skies.  Then, solar activity was at either a minimum or plain null.  And needless to say we didn't spend every nocturnal hour with our eyes facing upward.  The one only single night with rather clear skies happened when we were in Reykjavík, December 30th.  I decided we had to try and, tired as we were, we hopped on a tour with a bus-full of hopefuls!  

I was a strange mixture of excitement (this HAD to be THE night!  right???), pragmatism (why would we see them? with solar activity so low...) and even negativity ("They'll probably take us to the parking lot of some mall near the city and have us freeze to death there while we wait for nothing).   

Well, my beloved Iceland didn't fail me.  At least not completely!   After a while, I heard the bus driver say, in his thick Icelandic accent, that they were taking us to Thingvellir (Þingvellir)!  Wow!  That's one powerful, magic place!   It's the place where the North American and Eurasian plates separate!  One of the world's fractures is right there, and that's as primal as you can get.  Raw, violent, shaking.   It's the place where the Icelanders held their first Parliament in 930 (yes, NINE, THREE, ZERO), a moment they hold as the foundation of Iceland.   And it's the place of the country's largest natural lake, crystal clear water surrounded by myth and the moving earth's crust, Thingvallavatn (Þingvallavatn).  That, my dear friends, made my day (or night!)

And there we were.  All of us.  Expecting.  With a full moon.  A beautiful moon lighting up what clouds there were, illuminating Thingvallavatn, delineating our own silhouettes against the horizon.   It was colder than I had never felt in Iceland.  It was remote.   It was awe inspiring.   It was unexpected.

No, we did not see the Northern Lights.   And the chances of seeing them before we left Iceland were, for all practical purposes, nil.   But I saw Thingvellir again.  I saw Thingvellir at night.  Under a full moon.  With a silvery lake below, nestled between the fault separating North America from Eurasia, at the birthplace of the Icelandic nation.  I left there happy.

OK guys, one last post next Friday, about receiving 2013 in Reykjavík, and that's it! No more posts about this amazing trip!  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sun, warmth, art, and the city

Long, cold winters can have a strange effect on you.  Yesterday, it was the first time this winter that it was both sunny and around 10º C.  It. Felt. SO. Good.   No, seriously, it was like getting high, but on sunshine*.  The simple pleasure of walking outside, without a jacket, feeling warm sunshine on your skin... Ah...   

The funniest thing is that it seems my husband has finally been "winterized"!   He, who always needs far more protection against cold than me, shed his jacket too!   I was shocked!  LOL   He's not a walker, either.  But it was just so nice outside that he and me took one very relaxed four hour long walk from Little Portugal, to Queen Street West, to the Entertainment District...  Long, cold winters can have a strange effect on you... ;-)

We got to see bits of old, metal, heavy, rusting reminders of a different time, with anti-police graffiti, big rivets, solitary figures...

We came across a flea market which, quite frankly, didn't excite us much.   But at least with the price of admission you got a heart stamp (a heart? for a flea market entry???).  Fortunately, we were in such a fantastic mood thanks to the weather that a silly photo of our matching hearts was inevitable!

And what's a long promenade without a bit of art too?  Though the exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) wasn't much to our liking either, the mural in the courtyard ("Dead End", by Mark Dudiak) was quite in keeping with my mood!

And somewhat further down the street, some cute and weird ceramics by an artist called Grace Eunmi Lim.  This one was pretty cool.  The photo is terrible (there was no space to get the angle right), though!  It was  a brush that had left behind a trail of white paint, which was itself composed of numerous tiny ceramic beings which got bigger and more detailed as you got farther from the brush.  It's called "A stroke of...".  Such a shame this is such a crappy photo!  But anyhow, it was just one more good thing in a good day.  :-)

Lastly, when you walk on Queen Street West, you're bound to see lots of interesting things or weird things or images.   People are one of those things and, frankly, I'm bad at photographing them.  But a half dog?  Irresistible, and easy!

Long, cold winters can have a strange effect on you.  But good-strange, not bad-strange.  I say.

*Wow, this sounds oddly corny+clichéd... I'm keeping it, though: it's accurate[ish]!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Diverse Toronto, on skates

The sun and the relatively warm 6º C drew Toronto's 200+ ethnic groups and sexually diverse population to one common purpose: ice-skating!

Friday, March 08, 2013

winter in Ísland IX - I HEART U Reykjavík

This was probably one of my more difficult posts.  It's taken me the longest to just sit down and write!   After all, what can you write about a place that excites you? that moves you? that feels like your home away from home?  that for you is simply totally incredibly AWESOME???  But, after making a fool of myself  (like any lover must) with this intro, here it goes.  My five days in Reykjavík were amazing because...

...because of the little things.  The most banal and simple of things made me really happy.  Darn, yep, I do sound like someone in love, hey?   Finding a cozy café in the cold, with old lamps, knick knacks, just below the street level, with a tip jar that said "naughty" and another one that said "nice", serving fine coffee and decadent chocolate cake with the perfect whipped cream (not too sweet, not too bland; not too dry, not too wet; and not too white).  Those things made my day.

...because of art, and sculptures.  Seeing them and realising that even an exhibition called "The fire within" portrayed not anguish or violence, but a stern and paradoxically even peaceful tension.  Apparently, coffee had become a very important part of my experience (man was the coffee good!), and sipping some from tiny simple cups after wandering out in the snow, after seeing statues of tenderness and expectation, of almost resolved tension... that made my day.

...because I could let my inner child get all excited with the visit of the Yule Lads (Jólasveinarnir), the Yule Cat (Jólakötturinn) and other Icelandic folktale beings to Reykjavík!  Hidden here and there you could find a number of them, as projections on different buildings and houses!   They were part of some quest-game that had taken part around Christmas, but I didn't care, just walking down some street and all of a sudden realizing there was an elf hanging from a window above was delightful enough for me.  What, should I be ashamed to admit it?  Ha!  No!

Thank you, Reyjavík.  Thank you for the late mornings, your colourful skies, your striking bay...   After so many days of beautiful sights but little sunshine, I was completely mesmerized by orange, pink, gold and purple hues.    I was enthralled by a bay that had seemed nice in summer, but came alive with contrasts of white snow, blue-black water, blue skies, gold sunshine...  This was another world, a winter parallel reality, a subtler, more intriguing Iceland...

I think you're amazing, Reykjavík, because you can be quirky, too.   Very.   I have no idea what you, sculpture at the Harpa, were or what you were meant to represent, but you definitely didn't look like anything I had seen.  And you seemed oddly out of place in the shiny, symmetrical, polished opera house.  What was that on top of you! hair?!  WHAT were you?  But that's why I loved you: I couldn't define you.

And though I certainly didn't actually "love" Reykjavík's penis collection (with, brace yourself, not only whale and dolphin penises, but also a couple of human ones!), and though I am not afraid to say it even grossed me out a bit, still, how many of those can you find in your city?

And just as a last reminder, along with your "mutant" sculpture and your gigantic penises, you showed me your graffiti, your always colourful, and playful, and slightly edgy, graffiti, with its intense colours contrasting beautifully with the snow around.   What was I not to like?!

Last, but not least, my beloved Hallgrímskirkja.   This church was one of the very first things we saw when we visited Iceland for the first time, and it quickly became one of my favourite places.  With dark azure skies, with a moon, with the sunrise, from every angle.   It's not for everyone.  It might strike some as simple.  Others as ugly.  But what can I say, I like it.  I like you it rises from the ground to the sky.  I like its poise, its simple elegance...

Yes, I HEART U, Reykjavík.  :-Ð

But wait, We're not done yet!  There's still one final magical trip to see the Aurora...  and one crazy entry into the New Year, Reykjavík style!

You don't get GAYmarried. You don't GAYadopt. You're a family. Period.

A man. Married or partnered to another man. Raising a baby girl. This ad is ordinary enough and non-controversial enough for this city to appear smack in the middle of Toronto's financial district. Looking forward to more and more places looking at human beings and families as just that, human beings and families.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Gatekeepers

The Gatekeepers (שומרי הסף).  What a film to watch on a Monday...

"The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime will also prevail in the State of Israel..."

This is one intense, heavy documentary, with six former heads of the national security services of Israel (the Shin Bet) basically admitting that they've become a service of just tactics (killing) and no strategy (dealing with the problem of them as occupiers).  From plans from Jewish terrorists to blow the Dome of the Rock, to a former Shin Bet director comparing Israel to Germany in its occupation of France or Czechoslovakia ("not in the treatment of the Jews, of course, but in the sense of the occupation..."), this is a documentary that should set plenty of alarm bells ringing...

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Fetish? Fetish!

When you want to show off a bit in leather gear, latex or rubber fashion, sexy lace or simply "presque au naturel". When you want to let some of it (or them!) hang out, or up, or very very tight. When you're up for some spanking, voyeurism, tying up, or simply dancing, drinking and having a friendly chat. When you'd like to do all this surrounded by people who adhere to the simple rules of don't judge, don't impose, and always ask first for permission.  Whether you identify as a man, a woman, a transman, a transwoman, neither or all.  Whether you like people of the opposite gender, of the same gender, of no gender or of any and all.  Whether you're a novice or an expert.  You might want to try out this, one of Toronto's oldest longest running fetish events,  Northbound Leather's monthly Fetish Night.

Let your inner dominatrix or your inner slave out for a night, just so you know firsthand what happens at one of those "depraved", "perverted", "immoral" fetish parties... and be ready to realise any spring-break party far outdoes any fetish event in depravity, or even some family events in impropriety! ;-)

Sunday, March 03, 2013

a taste of Pakistan in Toronto

Happiness comes in the form of the right and fiery encounter of chillies, tomato, ginger and Hindustani spices with vegetables and rice cooked just right by a patient pair of old Moslem hands from Pakistan.

Or, if you need a translation, these people make some mean Pakistani Karahi (کڑاہی), and they even have a vegan version!

Saturday, March 02, 2013

steam at -14ºC

On our way back home, we couldn't help but notice the steam coming out from the sewers in the very cold night, strangely engulfing cars and passers by...