Monthly Archives: May 2012

May cause serious drooling

WARNING!!! May cause serious drooling! If you can gain weight by visual aids, stop reading now. WARNING!!!

It’s the Jamaican part of me that screams for full fat cream and whole milk rather than sweet. Hence my favourite desserts from my last trip to Europe all involve cream of some sort. The first, on one of our first nights in Florence was the Tiramisu at a highly rated restaurant (Al Tramvai). It’s a pretty standard Italian dessert so it was a good gauge of the restaurant. I nearly licked the plate clean. It had just the right balance of cream to chocolate to whatever they soaked the lady fingers in…

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My friend had the Panna Cotta. I’ve never successfully made this dessert, but just reading the recipe makes my mouth water. This one lived up to it’s name. It shone in its simplicity. Please excuse the slight blurriness of the photo – I had just taken a bit of my tiramisu.

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However, the surprise was the gelato in Munich. Below was my “light” choice of a crepe with amaretto biscuits, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. The crepe was warm, the ice cream cold, the biscuits just slightly warm and soft enough to not crunch. Oh and whipping (chantilly) cream

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And to show what I meant by “light” dessert – see what everyone else had!

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Parting thought from Florence – with window displays like these – why wouldn’t you go??

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Speical thanks to mango.shenanigans for reminding of the pleasures of food photography!


Pretty Petals – Basic black and white

Well, I got quite a few visits to my Pretty Petals page that I thought you might want to see the black and whites! Note that all of these images were done with film. This was pre-my-getting-a-digital-slr camera era.  I love the graininess of the B&W and the way the black and white interpreted the differences in hues or colour saturations. You could imagine these flowers to be any colour you like! Enjoy!

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Pretty Petals

Quick post today! Let’s face it, it’s the photos that get all the looks and not the words! I love flowers and wanted to do a study on one of my faves – tulips! I especially am fascinated in using photography to capture texture – trying to show visually what the petals feel like.  How did I do?

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Book: Freedomland by Richard Price

Can you write a review about a book you didn’t finish? I guess that fact that I disliked it so much that I put it down is a review in itself, but let’s go through this exercise anyway. The book and the movie (didn’t see it either and am not inclined to at this point) have a great premise, plot and twist. The problems I had was that I couldn’t believe that the main character’s dialogue was real and that the actions and beliefs of the supporting characters was at all believable.

The two main characters are the police detective, Lorenzo, and the white woman, Brenda, whose car has been hijacked and whose son was supposed to be in the back seat. Everytime Brenda opens her mouth, it reads like a script. I never got pulled into it and caught up with it. I never felt a mother’s desperation or even her frantic-ness. I just kept wondering “really?”.

And the supporting characters were a bit too predictable – almost as if they were roles, not characters: “the opportunistic evangelists” or “the angry brother with issues”. I could imagine them as roles that were turned on or off.

In the end, I stopped reading because the book wasn’t human enough for the story. Maybe that was more the fault of whoever wrote the excellent summary on the back cover than anything else.


Travel: Ghana after Work

So, I’m definitely not an “all work no play” person when I travel. I mean it’s true that in some places I never leave the airport, but if I have a spare evening or day even, I’m not going to sit in my hotel. So, when there was a chance to visit the local village, drive to the slave castles, tour one a hydro plant in Western Africa – I’m sooo there. These experiences were courtesy of my work assignment to Ghana, West Africa (see work travel post here.)

One night, our host, who was also a chaplain, invited us to some local events. We were warmly welcomed at the the weekly service at the local village where the oldest person in the congregation made her seating preferences known! Travel tip #21 ALWAYS put on bug spray if you go out at night in wooden buildings. And we also got a tour of a local rice co-op. I didn’t even know Ghana had rice paddies! (Can you see the dragonfly hovering over the rice in the photo on the right?) Sadly, we were in the wrong part of the country for cocoa.

Even better, from my engineer’s point of view, was the opportunity to visit the Akosombo dam on the largest man made lake. Whatever your view of dams, this one is impressive. We were able to get a tour including going down into the turbines (generators made in Canada!).

But the historical highlight was when they arranged for us to travel with a local up the coast to the slave castles. On the way we also able to visit Kakum national park where they have a treetop or canopy walk (photo of suspension between trees on left). There are many of these around the world now and I’ve never really been afraid of them, but I do take a good look at the engineering! (FYI: This one looked really solid with reinforced welded supports). Unfortunately, it was too early in the day for many animals to be about, but I would have loved to try the NIGHTIME WALK! (photo of view from suspension walk below). Just a word about the food – if you’ve ever been to Jamaica or had a lot of Jamaican food, you’ll feel right at home (I did!). I loved surprising the locals who saw “Asian female” and very courteously asked me if I needed help with the food by telling them it was home cooking for me! Historically, black Jamaicans were shipped over as slaves from West Africa, Ghana in particular and brought their food with them. I was in heaven with plantain, hardo bread (wish I had gotten a photo of the women with the loaves balanced on their head) and yams and so on. Speaking of the slaves…next stop, the castles.

A trip to Ghana would not be complete without a visit to the slave castles on the coast. We visited Elmina Castle and took the tour as well (highly recommend). The tour guide is knowledgeable and the information is presented with just the right amount of gravity without being overwhelming; however, the subject is not for the faint of heart. The photo below shows the slit in the wall where the slaves would walk through and board the ships. This room was their last chance to find any family members that had been taken. This was their last contact with Africa. (Future post just on the slave castles TBD.)

My last thoughts on this trip was that Ghana was both a familiar friend and a beautiful surprise. It was a glimpse into my cultural heritage and home to beautiful moments such as the evening light on the lily pads below.


Travel: Ghana On the Job

I’ve lost track of whether this was my first, second or third trip to Africa. I do remember having to get umpteen vaccinations before I went for the first time. I hate needles, but I hate typhoid, yellow fever, tetanus, and hepatitis more, which is a pretty good way to put it into context. (Travel tip #15: even if you’re just going for a few days, aching arms are better than dubious medications prescribed in a language you don’t understand.) I enjoyed working in Africa, but we didn’t get everything right the first time. Here’s a summary of the things we did well and the things we could have done better. (For total tourist stuff, see my other blog on Ghana.)

Travel tip #33: Enjoy (African) time. (Note, I could have easily said Jamaican time here!) We landed in the capital, Accra, a large African city where the traffic was horrendous and the city was crowded and dusty. We just wanted to cross the city and continue up the coast. I think it took us 3 hours just to do this (including a stop). But it was a great way to see the city.

We went with a local so I’m pretty sure we didn’t visit the tourist areas. Business has a spirit of entrepreneurship that gives the city part of its character. People were selling services and goods everywhere – like the guy selling pipes where the store is a bare, dusty room with a counter and a chair and the supplies are piled high outside on the strip of land between the road and the narrow walkway in front of the store. All the stores looked the same and lacked the bright neon lights and window displays. You had to know where you were going and what you wanted. Instead of parking spaces, there were spaces where noone walked or no supplies were lying – so you put the car there. There is no sidewalk – there is space where the cars can’t go – you walked there. And if cars were everywhere, you walked in the road. Business always finds a way!

Travel tip #1: ALWAYS carry a roll of toilet paper with you. There were poor areas of course and sanitation is always an issue. I didn’t know women could a) pee standing up and b) do it without hiking up their dress off. It is well worth the space in your suitcase. Also, even at the company, indoor plumbing doesn’t always mean soap and water. Travel tip #1a: Also carry hand sanitizer and, corollary, try not to dwell on it too much because you just know that not everyone else carries it.

Travel tip #34: Adjust clothing for climate because that Canadian wool suit is just NOT suitable everywhere. It was hot. And humid. Because it was for work, I brought business clothes, but my suit was lightweight silk and my shoes were dress sandals (not dress-y). Oh, and I didn’t move around much. And because I knew developing countries, I shook out my shoes every morning for assorted bugs and lizards. The little baby ones were kinda cute and I hated stepping on them because they squished soooo easily.  The adults in my pillows were not so cute. (And WHY were the blankets heavy and furry?)

Travel tip #17: Be prepared with a gracious refusal. And, of course, local customs and foods are always great conversation topics (another topic is wildlife: “Is that what a tse-tse fly looks like?” as long as you can do it in a casual tone of voice) and it’s always good to approach things with an open mind. However, even though you think you’re ready to try the local delicacy of giant tree snails, be prepared when faced with large pieces of mollusk cooked in a green broth that you eat with your hands to have a backup plan. I think it was the green colour and the large size of the pieces that made me clutch in the end. And, no, I didn’t have my backup plan ready.

I hope these tips will make your travel for business or for pleasure go smoothly! For pure tourist stuff, see my other post about the slave castles, tree walks and frozen yogurt. Ghana after Work.


My Adventures in Climate Change: 1

The climate change industry is one of the only industries that is based on paying people for nothing. I’m referring to the actual carbon markets, not the science of climate change or the policy making or adaptation or mitigation or any of those activities. I was involved with the reduction of greenhouse gases and the selling of them. This career took me all over the world (see my travel blogs), but nothing was more bizarre than trying to wrap my head around explaining to my mom and dad that the industry was based on nothing – literally the absence of something.

In a nutshell, great sums of money were given to people to do lots of things that would produce nothing or specifically not produce greenhouse gas. And when they proved that they produced nothing (although I believe it was my 10th grade science class that taught me that you couldn’t prove a negative), they got the payoff. Even greater sums of money in the investment community was bet on the production of lots of nothings!

Ok, let me back up. I don’t mean to be flippant about this (well, maybe a little). It was just that we were all caught up in the entire carbon world and we spoke our own language and had our own in-jokes when really, we were able to get thousands of people to change their behaviour around the absence of something. The only other industry I could think of  like this is the weight loss industry.

Additionally, in order to prove the nothing-ness, there is a ton of documentation that has to be constructed, saved and verified. Unlike a barrel of oil or a building where you can point to it and say “yup, there it is”, you have to point to equipment and then show records and logs and calculations of when it was working and that it worked properly. This is amazingly great work for consultants (who are people too). Remember though, it is the absence of greenhouse gasses that we want.

Ten or twenty years from now, how is the world going to look back at the carbon markets? There will be some derision, for sure, a great load of cynicism, but I hope in all of that, people will realise that the mobilisation across nations, creeds, industries and governments was a defining moment. The last time that the globe got together in this magnitude was for, I daresay, a war. And, there was a lot of pain and tears in the aftermath of that, but eventually, something new and promising came out of all the collective work.


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

Have I told you how much I love you, Mom? I’m sure I must have. Maybe not in so many words, although I’m sure I’ve said those 3 words to you many times. But I know I made you a ton of cards when I was younger with coloured paper and glue and macaroni pieces. Thankfully, you were spared the clay ashtrays from art class. As I got older, I graduated to store-bought cards, but rest assured that I read every single card in the store before I bought that one for you knowing you would read each word…out loud…before hugging me.

And then there were all those times we went shopping together once I got my driver’s license. I was amazed you trusted me to drive. I guess that was one of the ways you told me that you loved me. But it was great fun to go to the mall and then get a hot dog as our treat.

I remember too how you finally(!) let me pick out a winter coat for you. I knew you liked roomy comfiness, but really, there was a limit to that fashion. And just because you were short doesn’t mean that your sleeves had to reach your finger tips. I wore that winter coat this year – it was so much better than the one I picked out for myself. You were always great at that – picking out something nice for me to wear. Dad, bless his heart, just doesn’t consider that part of his job.

Everyday was mother’s day for us. Every hug was an I love you. Every meal shared was special. So this weekend, I strung some coloured dragonfly lights around your grave (don’t worry, Dad will fix them) and Andrew put fresh flowers in the vase because you loved pretty flowers and you loved the light. And then we all went out for a family dinner.

I love you, mom and I always will.


Paris a couple hints

As I write this, I realise that I didn’t take as many photos around the city as I “should” have. Well, I’ll just have to go back, then! In the meantime, here are a couple more. The first is of a lovely park (keep in mind that it was winter) near a museum that may not be on your tourist map. The Musee de Marmottan has the largest Monet collection in the world and was not on my map!!! If you like Impressionism (and even if you don’t) it is worth a visit even though it is nowhere near the city centre. It has work from almost all stages of Monet’s career, not just the famous water lilies. I loved The Rose Bush and until I visited this museum, I never even knew Monet painted anything but water lilies!! Unfortunately, they did not allow photos inside the museum.

This second photo (pardon the quality) was from the Musee de l’Orangerie who did allow photos. Again, another location for Monet’s masterpieces. It is worth the entrance fee just to see the two oval rooms of gigantic canvasses. And this museum is in the centre of Paris…try not to breathe too hard on the paintings.


Paris one of many posts to come

I was going to number these posts, like “Paris-1”, but to be honest, keeping track of them is going to be a pain, so I’ll have to think of wittier titles going forward. I was visiting Paris mainly because I had a friend living there so I didn’t have to pay for a hotel and because I really wanted to go to Fauchon.  More on that in a different post. What I found when I got there was that my friend loved to walk. He walked everywhere in the city. EV-VER-RY-WHERE. Which meant I had super sore feet, but managed to get these two shots which I loved:

This first one is just as we walking over one of the bridges and I glimpsed the Eifel tower lit up in the distance.

 

This one was from earlier in the evening and I thought the water moving over the stone was lovely and smooth

 

And my friend had saved this for when I got there – his apartment was a short walk away from this view! I got it in the mist, but frankly, what’s Paris without a little atmosphere?