Green earth organics

If there is one thing I believe in, it is that you are what you eat. Diet and health are intimately connected and many of our ailments can be linked to poor eating habits. I read a lot about nutrition and food in general, and have slowly moved away over the year from industrialized processed foods to making many things at home and favouring fresh, local products. Heck, I even make my own granola. So, needless to say, I devoured Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and have to say that much of what he said came as no surprise to me. I don’t like shopping in huge supermarkets like Loblaws or Costco and get most of my food from small local shops – I get fruits & veggies from a local Italian market on my street or an organic shop at Kensington, meats at Cumbrae’s, cheese and the cheese shop, and bread at the bakery (where else?). But while I like to cook and value my diet, I’m often so busy that I often forget to go shopping and end up not having enough food at home and giving in to the lure of local restaurants. Alan and I end up eating out too often for our own good (physical and monetary).

In order to force me to eat at home and ensure I eat a variety of good foods, I have decided to sign up for an organic fruits & vegetable delivery program. I chose Green Earth Organics. There are several to choose from in Toronto and the concept is quite simple – you pick the size of the box and they deliver it to you once a week. Some companies allow you to substitute some of the ingredients in the box (mine allows four substitutions), others are less flexible. The produce varies according to the seasons and what’s available at the moment. The box I chose is all organic with an emphasis on local produce. Tomorrow is the first delivery and I’ll let you know what it looks like. This is what they promised for this week:

April 28-May 2

  • ON Chives
  • .5lb ON Baby Bok Choy
  • 1lb BC Russet Potatoes
  • ON Baby Bella Mushrooms
  • Zucchini
  • Arugula
  • .25lb ON Spinach
  • BC Tomato
  • 3 BC Fuji Apples
  • 3 Valencia Oranges
  • Mango
  • 1.5lb Fair Trade Bananas
  • Can’t wait! I’ll definitely have to try the salad recipe on their website:

    Mango & Arugula salad with creamy chive dressing

    Makes 6 servings.
    1 large Mango (you also can sub tomato)
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
    6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 1/2 tablespoons whipping cream [I’ll substitute plain yogurt]
    1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives
    12 cups (loosely packed) arugula (about 6 ounces)
    Peel and thinly slice Mango. Place mango slices in large bowl. Add 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice; toss. Whisk 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and olive oil in small bowl. Whisk in cream, then chives. Season with salt and pepper. Add arugula to bowl with mango. Add dressing and toss. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired, and serve.


    Six things I love

    Mirella tagged me on this meme. Or maybe I tagged myself after reading her entry. Either way, I’m supposed to list six things I love – ok, here it goes:

    1. Alan. Life would be very dull without him even if he does have way too much energy in the morning.
    2. Food. My earliest memories revolve around food. My strongest memories of every school I ever studied at has to do with what was best at its cafeteria. Ditto for every place in which I ever lived.
    3. Change. Not the kind you keep in your pockets, but in the sense of variety, of being exposed to something different. That’s why I love to travel and I’m embarking in a career in Academia; I love being exposed to different things and I could not do the same thing every day.
    4. Talking. Sitting around a table, with good food, and just talking away about anything to friends and acquaintances. That’s probably the reason why I have gone to nightclubs only a handful of times in my life. You can’t hold a proper conversation in a nightclub. I’m also a very good listener.
    5. Blogs. Or the Internet in general. I still remember the first time I logged on to a chat room on the Internet in January 1996. It blew my mind away. The way it can connect people across cultures, distances, languages, is just amazing. I’m married to someone I met on the Internet and I have many good friends that I made online. I specially love the level of interaction that blogs allow.
    6. Languages. Being able to communicate with someone from a culture other than my own in his or her own language is very precious to me. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning new languages. Right now I’m working on Hebrew. Next on the line is German. After that, if the Hebrew gets good enough, I’ll move on to Arabic.

    What about you?



    Picture taken during a rally in San Francisco against the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

    I have one answer:

    Opening of 1936 olympics

    People need to study their history a little better… How about this exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum?

    I have been hearing a lot of people grumbling that the Olympics shouldn’t be about politics. That may be, but as my friend Heather Dichter would say, the games have been about politics ever since the Baron de Coubertain decided to revive the ancient Olympic games. Not much has changed.

    Torontoist news

    One of the things I love about the Torontoist blog, is its recap of the day’s (or week’s) news. It gives links to some of the headlines with often very funny, matter-of-fact sarcastic commentary. This is today’s news:

    Don’t panic, but food prices are rising. Turns out that oil becoming an inelastic commodity, collapsing fish stocks, climate change affecting crop growth, and increased demand for food in China and India as they grow richer makes food more expensive! Who could have foreseen this happening? Oh, right, lots of people.

    Speaking of oil becoming an inelastic commodity, gas prices are going to skyrocket this summer and continue climbing for the foreseeable future. When asked how this could happen, economist Jeff Rubin pointed to a big sign saying OIL IS A FINITE RESOURCE, YOU JACKASSES, then sat down and cried.

    Luckily, high gas prices won’t affect us, because Toronto lags significantly behind other Canadian cities in terms of bike lanes and spending upon them. No, wait, that’s bad.

    Memo to self: if my house ever catches fire, just let the motherfucker burn, because the City of Toronto is charging Duke’s Cycle sixty-four grand for cleanup after the Queen Street fire. Apparently “taxes” no longer pay for firemen and stuff.

    And in non-apocalyptic news, the Raptors beat the crap out of the Magic last night.

    I particularly liked this one from yesterday:

    Premier Dalton McGuinty says that bullet trains are the future of transportation. Except in other countries, where they’re the present.

    On other news, Toronto was considered not so bike-friendly.

    Carry-on travel

    I was asked on the post below to share how I manage to travel without checking any bags. I thought it might be useful to share what I have done to date and what are some of the things I’ll be doing differently in the future. So I boiled it down to a few points:

    1. Make a list of the clothes and shoes you want to bring. When I don’t make a list, I tend to bring more. I think the list makes you a bit more aware of the sheer quantity of things (will you really need four different bathing suits or three pairs of jeans?)

    2. Make sure every piece of clothing go with every other piece. That’s a basic rule for traveling light. It allows you to maximize the number of outfit combinations you can make.

    3. Don’t bring things you might use. We are not talking about trips to the middle of the jungle here. If you think there might be a chance that perhaps an extra party dress could possibly come in handy, maybe, then don’t bring it. Chances are you won’t need it and if you really do, you have an excuse to buy something new.

    4. Think in terms of volume. I often don’t bring a particular piece of clothing or a pair of shoes if it is too bulky and would take too much space. If you really must bring your hiking boots, then wear it on your way down. And consider yourself lucky that you have that option because when Alan and I travel, we have to wear business casual clothes and shoes that we know will be useless where we are going, and have to stuff our hiking shoes, which take a lot of room, into our suitcases. The joys of traveling as an employee.

    5. Choose a good carry on set of luggage. We did zero research on this. We simply bought a set of Air Canada carry-on suitcase with the matching bag that goes on top. Something like this:


    6. Pack it systematically. My basic system is simple: since the bottom of the suitcase is sort of uneven because of the pull out handle, I stuff socks, underwear, bathing suits, anything that fits between the ridges. I then put any pants with their ends (the waist part) lined up against the top of the suitcase and the legs hanging out the other end. I put the next pair of pants on the opposite direction. Once that is done, I roll each tshirt or top in very tight rolls, which I line up on top of the pants. I usually have one or two layers of these (which is a LOT of tops – I can often have way more than 10 tops in my suitcase). People who swear that rolling method keeps their clothes wrinkle-free say you should rolls more than one piece together; I don’t really do that. I basically do it so I can fit more clothes; it works well. But I tend to roll only lighter clothes. Once I have my layer of rolled clothes, I fold the legs of the pants on top of them and I add any other bottom or thicker clothes on top (like a pair of shorts, a sweater, etc) and then I fastened the straps inside the suitcase and pull them tight. I can usually fit one or two pairs of shoes on the space at the corners. I then use the other bag to bring gifts, any shoes that didn’t fit on the first bag, toiletries, hair drier, etc.

    I think the longest trip I took with this system was about three and a half weeks but could easily have spent a couple of months since I didn’t wear half of what I brought with me. Honestly, I do think I carry a LOT of stuff on those two bags. You would be surprised.

    So, as I mentioned below, my goal is to trim down from that system to one in which I can only use one bag. I’m hopeful that it will be possible after I found out that hard suitcases with wheels have half the volume and twice the weight of soft bags like the one I ordered below. So it might be possible to trim down without giving up on too much. We’ll see. But here’s how a family was able to go around the world on 7 kg of carry-on luggage each. Courtesy of One Bag One World blog.

    Aeronaut on its way…

    AeronautRemember what I said about one-bag travel? Well, I’m determined to use only one carry on bag on my trip to Europe next month, and to make that possible, I’ve taken the first step: I’ve ordered a soft bag to replace my roller. After months of research, I’ve settled on the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. From everything I read, the bag looks well designed, made of the best material, and is light and well balanced. I’ve also picked up a few packing cubes and the much-praised Absolute Strap. For those of you who have had your luggage misplaced by an airline way too many times, I shall be documenting my packing techniques and how one-bag traveling worked for me. Trust me, once you go carry on, you can never go back to checked luggage.


    I got my Aeronaut today! It’s Friday, April 25th and I’m really impressed with how fast the Tom Bihn folks ship things. The store is in Seattle and depending on when I place my order, I have it on the next day or the day after. Pretty impressive. I really liked the bag. It looks very well made, the parts are really high quality. I’ll place some pictures up when I start packing it.

    Earth Day

    Cablegirl at 42 has reminded me that today is Earth Day, a good opportunity for you to think about ways in which you help preserving the environment in which you live. I posted about some of the things I do in the past, but will re-post them here today to mark the occasion:

    We can each do our part in ensuring a future for our children and for ourselves:

    1. Recycle & re-use items – don’t throw in the garbage something that can be recycled. Re-use what you can. Why spend money on toxic plastic containers to store food when you can use nice glass jars and containers from your jams, mayonese, salsa, olives and other products. I used to love the fact that you had the option to get juice & milk on glass bottles in Spain.

    2. Try to generate less garbage – It seems that the cleaning products industry has gone on the “disposable” bandwagon recently. From your duster, to wood-polishing oils, passing through multi-purpose cleaners, everything comes in disposable wipes format. The trend has also started to impact the cosmetic industry where I have been seeing disposable facial washing cloth. Has anybody stopped to think the amount of extra garbage that generates? What’s wrong with wiping the kitchen counters with a cloth that can be washed afterwards?

    3. Try to leave your car at home more often – I know this is hard for people living in North American suburbs that have been designed for cars and where a public transit system is almost non-existent. But do you really need to drive to the corner store, less than 10-minute walk away? Luckily for me, my dad was a bit cheap when it came to driving my brothers and I around. He complained gas was expensive and would only drive us to places we couldn’t possibly walk to or take a bus. Even when I had to go grocery shopping, since the store was about a kilometre away, he would tell me “you can walk”. Of course it used to drive me nuts, but today I appreciate it since my first instinct when I have to go anywhere is to walk, and if I can’t walk, to look for public transit.

    4. Buy local whenever possible – That’s one of the things I’ve started being more aware of lately. Personally, I think this one affects not only the environment but also your health. Whenever I go shopping, I make sure I check the tags of what I buy. I’d rather buy strawberries from Ontario than from California, regardless of the price.

    and an extra one, particularly relevant in the summer:

    5. Watch your water consumption – Both Brazil and Canada have a lot of water and it was only after living in Spain, a country where lack of water is a continuous problem, that the problem became all that much clearer to me. Whether you live in a place where water is abundant or not, I think it serves no purpose to waste it.

    Other blogs participating on Earth Day (each with informative posts)




    Always por um Triz

    In Other Worlds

    Sindrome de Estocolmo

    Will add more blogs as I come across them…

    A sign of summer…


    KensingtonWith temperatures reaching 24 C today, we couldn’t help but enjoy the nice weather. I must warn my friends from other parts of the world: the inability to stay home when the weather is nice is a sure sign that you have been assimilated. Or maybe it’s just a sign that you have survived the winter. Anyway, today marked our first cycling tour of the year. We left the house at 9:30 AM and went for our traditional coffee at Kensington Market (blue line on the map). There we met our friend J. and chatted for a while with some nice women visiting the market for the first time. After making sure they had a good impression of the place and its people, we went to the bike shop to get a few choice items (Alan needed a new seat and J. a panier) before proceeding to Mitzi’s a brunch spot I had heard about near Roncesvalles Village (red line).

    After an amazing brunch, we made our way to High Park, where we faced some serious hills before finding a nice spot in the shade, by the pond. We settled there for a while enjoying the sound of the birds, children playing nearby, and the simple joy of perfect weather.

    We then left (purple line) and stopped for a coffee at Coffee & All that Jazz, a quaint little place near Roncesvalles. Alan and I had been there last week with our friend Jackie, who was visiting from Calgary, and really enjoyed the atmosphere. Plus, they serve Dufflet pastries! We hung out there for a while, reading the papers and just sort of relaxing before coming home.

    It was a perfect day. I’m physically exhausted and feeling slightly sunburned (this is the first bike ride of the year!) but sooo happy and relaxed. There is something about physical tiredness that is quite relaxing… I don’t know if you know what I mean. Plus the energy in the city is really amazing. Everybody is happy because of the summer-like weather. All the patios are crowded and the good mood is really contagious. That’s one of my favourite things about the seasons here in Canada – winter is so long that when the weather changes, the difference in people’s moods is palpable. It’s worth 6 months of winter to experience it!

    Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery by the time we got to the park, so all I got were a couple of pictures from Kensington (notice all the people in summer clothes) and one from Mitzi’s.




    Wow, I feel very honoured. This blog made it into the travel section of Blogged, an online directory of “quality blogs”. It looks like blogs can be submitted to the site; I don’t know if anybody submitted this blog or if it got there by chance but I would like to thank whoever might have sent this link to the Blogged site. It’s always nice to see that some people care about these idiosyncratic, unstructured and unfocused ramblings of someone who likes to build and cross bridges…

    Canada: Nation or Notion?

    On March 30th, Maclean’s brought together Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik, two very successful Canadian journalists currently living in NY, to debate the very difficult topic of Canadian identity. The debate was aired on the CBC in its Ideas program and can be heard here. Maclean’s itself published excerpts of the debate on this week’s issue and while I haven’t heard the broadcast itself – and I will – the bits that I read were compelling and interesting enough for me to pass it on.

    I particularly identified with Adam Gopnik’s position against a flag-and-fears nationalism and in favour of Canada’s hope-and-holiday nationalism, “rooted in shared hopes that are open to everyone and in a set of secular rituals – holidays in the broadest possible sense – that affirm an open-ended collective identity”.

    Earlier on the debate, Gopnik addressed the issue of the individual and his rights:

    “The individual and his or her rights is an abstraction. We belong, in reality, to homes, communities, traditions, places, and without them, in a certain sense, we don’t exist as individuals. This is an idea no one has articulated better than the great Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor: the collective is not merely tribal or vestigial. Without a common identity we cannot have an adequate idea of ourselves as individuals. We cannot help but belong to a family, a town, a city, and – in some abstract but real way – to a country. That country may be simply a countryside, a season, a sport, an accent, a habit of absurd good humour and politeness, the choice of speaking two languages, but it is a country and a kind of horizontal connection to others in a room who know those codes as well.”

    and he goes on to say:

    “Canada, from its very beginning, has been a country that can only turn to a nationalism of hopes and holidays to have any hope at all of making sense of its history and future. From the very first significant handshake between Lafontaine and Baldwin, the idea that what would bind us together was some common, fixed identity, has obviously been impossible. It’s not something you can persuade two very different founding peoples to believe in, to share. So instead you have in Canada, from that beginning in 1842, an idea that the only way we can construct a country is through some kind of shared, civic, humane ideal that doesn’t draw on some imagined commonality, but draws on common values and what are in many respects very abstract ideas of citizenhood. That, I think, is where and only where Canada begins.”

    And it is particularly, this sense of a an identity based on shared human values rather than a fixed identity that has allowed many immigrants to quickly identify with Canada and call themselves Canadian:

    “In a Canadian Muslim group, nine out of 10 of whom were born out of Canada, 94 per cent describe themselves as proud or very proud to be Canadian. What do they complain about? The weather. What do they admire? Our traditions of tolerance and civility and the enormous Canadian landscape.”


    “The glory of Canada is that empirically, pragmatically, without a single binding ideology, but again and again in over 200 years, it has provided a model for the world – not of identity triumphant, but exactly the idea that home-and-hope nationalism encompasses the only values on which we can build a future: common sense, toleration, co-existence. Canada is a glorious notion, a necessary notion, and one that ironically, as the old, doomed idea of a nation comes to an end in our time, is becoming more – not less – of a model for what the nation can be in the future.”

    Many immigrants, when they first come to Canada, feel a little lost in their effort to integrate. They want to know how should they dress, act, speak. They want to learn about typical Canadian dishes. They are puzzled when well-intentioned Canadians tell them “just be yourself”. Some newcomers criticize Canada’s tolerance for differences; they feel immigrants should be made to accommodate more. It should be more melting-pot and less mosaic. I’m always surprised and mildly shocked when I hear that. But I hope that they will soon realize that what makes us Canadians is not a particular eating habit, an accent, or dress code, but rather a common set of values based on fairness, social justice, human rights, civility, common sense and multiculturalism.

    Of course, no place is perfect, but I do believe the Canadian model is worth emulating. I’m just not sure whether to have a model like that, a country needs to have gone through the kinds of experiences Canada has gone through. At any rate, it is a notion (and nation) that I quickly identified with and in which I feel at home. Although I wasn’t born Canadian, I am certainly Canadian today.