2009

This past year was a good one. Academically, I got an article published, got half way through my dissertation, taught my first course (and a course of my own design no less), finished my advanced teaching certificate at TATP, submitted another article for consideration, participated in some great conferences, and gave a workshop on using web 2.0 tools in the classroom. I’ve also became officially involved in a digital humanities project to create resource site for the premodern Mediterranean. Personally, the year was also good. Alan and I celebrated our 10th anniversary, we discovered TBN and got more involved with cycling, our diets improved significantly after we stopped shopping at the large grocery chains and began getting all our food at Kensington and local farmers’ markets. Shopping at farmers’ markets sparked the creative juices and led me to start a food blog and to read more about food and food politics. Alan and I also got back into photography, buying some TLR cameras and have finally got into a regular workout schedule by joining the YMCA, conveniently located practically across the street from our building. Spring and summer 2009 got us close to some dear friends who have since moved to the US but with whom we hope to keep in touch.

In 2010 the plans are to finish my thesis, get another article out, teach some new courses, get a job, make it back to Spain for a visit, read more about digital humanities, continue to read about the environment, human rights, and food politics. Athletically, I would like to cycle more in summer 2010 and run my first 5 or 10k race. I would also like to find some time to do a bit of volunteering work for Kiva doing translations, move this blog to its own domain, revamp my academic blog, and do more yoga.  As Alan always says, life is good.

What about you? What are your plans?

Brasília

I’m leaving tomorrow to visit family in Brazil – destination: Brasília, the capital. I lived there for a year and a half in 1994 and have visited twice since then. This time I want to see what Brasilia has to offer in terms of food. I haven’t had time to do much research about it but I’ll add here links of places I come across as a pre-trip planning guide. Let me know if you know of any place I should check out.

Restaurants:

Girassol – looks like a vegetarian restaurant with some good references.

Mangute

Markets:

Saturday mornings: 703/4 Sul

Organic Growers’ association: 112 Sul (wednesdays)
315/16 Norte e 709 Sul (saturdays)

CEASA – supermercado orgânico

List of health food stores

Portrait

Distillery district

I love pictures of people.

Although I have no problem in chatting with strangers, I’m much more self-conscious about asking them if I can take their picture. Most people actually don’t mind and are flattered when you ask but for some reason I often feel shy about asking. This saturday we went to the Distillery District and while sitting outside having a coffee, I couldn’t help noticing this older Chinese lady sitting beside us. She was colourful but what attracted me was the peaceful vibe she emanated. I finally broke down and before we left, I asked her if I could take her picture. She smiled shyly and mumbled something while pointing to the entrance of the restaurant. I guessed she was saying she didn’t speak English and her companion was inside buying the coffee. So I remembered the advice of a photographer when prompted how to ask to take someone’s picture when there’s a language barrier: I raised the camera to eye level and made a questioning look while smiling. She blushed slightly but sat up, very proud. I took the above picture and showed it to her. Her reaction warmed my heart: she gave a little excited shrill and gave me a big hug. Made my day.

Tour de Greenbelt

Ontario’s Greenbelt is an area of protected greenspace and farmland, where some of the best agricultural land in Canada is located.To promote the Greenbelt, volunteers and sponsors put together a bicycle ride each year called the Tour de Greenbelt. I saw an ad for it last year but we weren’t cycling as much then so postponed our participation till this year. There are four different rides to choose from and although I really wanted to do the one through the Niagara vineyards, we were busy that weekend. The second choice was the ride out of Newmarket, a small town north of Toronto. Why? Because it would start and end at a farmers’ market and I couldn’t pass that opportunity!

The weather forecast wasn’t good. After weeks of perfect weather, they were calling for rain on Saturday but we bought some rain gear and decided to go anyway. In the end, the weather held, the sun came out at certain points of the ride and the rain only came when we were back in Toronto. It was an amazing day! We’ll definitely do some of the other rides next year; maybe we’ll even volunteer! Click below for a slideshow:

Greenbelt_23.jpg

Following on Alan’s footsteps

Before I go on about my current love for getting in shape, let me make it clear: I was never an athletic child. I was active in the sense that I was outside all day doing stuff with my friends but I simply *hated* every single sport my parents put me into – from ballet and every other form of dance to gymnastics, swimming, tennis, and volleyball. Much of that have changed since I met Alan.

It is Alan’s personal belief that physical exercise is crucial to maintaining quality of life not only now but as one gets older. Living with him and knowing many of his older friends has made it impossible for me to think otherwise. For those of you who don’t know my husband, he is 60 years old (will be 61 soon) and has the energy levels and stamina of a 20 or 30 year old (and sometimes behave like a 2 year old, but that’s another story). At an age where most North Americans start showing symptoms of all sorts of chronic illnesses, despite having his check-up done every year Alan hasn’t needed to take a prescription drug in nearly 12 years. Genetics is not the only factor here since his family is not exactly disease-free. His brother has had cancer and his sister takes medication to control blood pressure.

Being a child in the 1950s and a teenager in the 1960s did not instil in Alan a healthy lifestyle early on. He started smoking at age 9 and as the typical young man of his generation, his mind was more drug, sex, and rock & roll in the early 1970s than in having an active lifestyle. He started his working life as a jet-engine mechanic in an environment he aptly describes as a “old-boys club” where the major hobbies were smoking and the building and driving of fast cars and motorcycles. But Alan has the uncanny ability to re-invent himself every now and then.

It all changed when he decided to quit smoking. He quit cold turkey and needed something to keep his mind (and body) occupied so joining the gym at the local aquatic club where his daughter swam and dove seemed like a good idea. The club was well-known for its swimming facilities and a friend suggested Alan joined the Masters Swim Team. Masters swimming is an adult program designed to encourage fitness through swimming and based on principles that encourages fun, fitness, participation, and friendship. Being a sociable guy, the idea appealed to him immensely. There was only one problem. He didn’t know how to swim. So his friend suggested he take adult swimming classes, which he did. As soon as he learned the four swimming strokes, he joined the masters team. It didn’t start easy. He says his first 100m in a 50m pool took him 17 mins – 1 min to swim to the other side and 15 mins to recover hanging for dear life at the side on the lane ropes. Most nights he would puke from all the water he would swallow during practice. I’m honestly amazed he stuck with it but I think that has a lot to do with the many friends he made in the team. He eventually got stronger, became a very fast and strong swimmer.

But the best change was in lifestyle. At the swim team he met people of every age group (from 18-95) who had one thing in common: they enjoyed an active lifestyle. So before long they would meet for a bit of cycling, roller blading, outdoors swimming, or running in the summer and skiing and skating in the winter. From that to competing in triathlons was just a short step. Coming from a culture that values exercising almost exclusively for its aesthetic purposes, I began to see the long term impact of an active lifestyle. Meeting Eugene and Roman was particularly inspirational. Both are in their 90s. Roman started exercising later in life, is now 95 years old and doesn’t look a day older than 65 and still does triathlons. Eugene is 96 or 97, looks old but is very proud of still being able to swim 2000m three times a week. An active lifestyle did not necessarily prevent disease – both had open-heart surgery in their 80s – but it guaranteed their body was able to fight anything thrown at them better. They were both back in the pool within a month of open-heart surgery.

When we lived in Montreal, I was really active in the local canoe club and really took to kayaking and dragon boating. Since moving to Toronto, however, I’ve struggled to find a workout regimen to which I could stick. Early on, it was clear that either I worked out first thing in the morning or I didn’t do it at all. So I tried going to the gym on campus but that meant carrying all my work stuff with me and planning to have breakfast on campus. For some reason, it was never all that convenient. Finally, two months ago, we joined the YMCA almost across the street from our place. It opens earlier than the gyms on campus, which allows me to workout without feeling I’m losing my morning, which is my most productive time of the day. So for the last two months I have consistently swam for an hour 2-3 times a week and have done weights 1-2 times as well as done the odd yoga and pilates class. I cycle everywhere and occasionaly go for a long bike ride with TBN. And you know what? I feel amazing! A diet based on wholesome meals helps too, of course, but the truth is that I haven’t felt this full of energy in a long time. The back and hip pain I had from sitting by the computer all day have disappeared. The main challenge now is to see whether we’ll be able to get out of bed at 5:15 during the winter…

Cycling through the core of Toronto

The Toronto Bicycling Network is a volunteer run cycling club that organizes hundreds of events throughout the year. Among their many activities are sociable, evening rides, in which people simply meet and a designated spot and head off for a 1-2 hour cycle eventually ending up at a patio or restaurant somewhere for dinner. We went for a Friday night ride a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it so much that we joined the club this past week. So yesterday we set out for another Friday night ride. This one took us through the core of Toronto – most of the path was through bike paths or quiet streets but there were enough of us (at least 20 cyclists) that we felt safe even on the busy streets. Here’s the map (I missed a bit by the lake, but you get the idea):

cycle

We started at Riverdale Park, passed through Cabbagetown, the Gay Village (which was in the midst of celebrating Pride weekend!), U of T, Harbord St, then up to the Junction, down through High Park, to the lake, then it was on the Martin Goodman Trail (lovely at dusk!) all the way to Jarvis and then up Church st to our place. We separated from the group at Jarvis (they continued on to the Danforth to have dinner) but thoroughly enjoyed the evening. We did about 32 km in perhaps one and a half hours and the night was simply magical – warm but with a nice breeze. Cycling through some really nice neighbourhoods made me once more aware of how nice this city really is.

Summer in Toronto

Summer in Toronto is very frustrating.

Last night we went to check out the opening of Luminato at Dundas Square but could only stay for an hour since we had to go to the other side of the city where Alan’s guitar teacher was playing his final gig with his bad. The evening was nice, we discovered an amazing band at the concert on Dundas Square but we also got the program for the Luminato festival. Turns out that the main theme of the festival this year is the guitar so within Luminato, there’s also a guitar festival, which immediately caught our attention. But it turns out that most of the events are happening today, when we have already committed to a potluck dinner at a park on the city’s east end.

The tendency is for things to get worse. Soon, there will be four festivals happening at the same time on any given weekend, making it impossible for us to check them all out. Particularly this summer when I’ll be teaching a course – and thus probably marking or preparing during weekends – and have Hebrew class on sundays… Sigh.