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Visited my daughter in Montreal this weekend. Saturday was a lovely day (21-22 Celsius) and we walked around the botanical gardens. It’s such a beautiful place! So, too, is this city.

 

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005crI came across and started reading a few style blogs back in the springtime and over the following months discovered many more. These blogs are intended for women over 40 and 50. The first one I came across was 40+ Style and my other favourites, for a variety of different reasons, are Not Dead Yet Style, Bag and a Beret, The Rich Life On a Budget, Style Crone, Une Femme d’un Certain Age, A Colourful Canvas, and two recently discovered ones – You Look Fab and The Vivienne Files.

Much of my clothing over the past five years has been found in thrift shops but I’ve been trying to define my personal style a bit more as I’ve been picking up the occasional new retail piece and I’m trying to avoid spending money on too many thrifted items for the sake of adding to my mostly casual wardrobe. Finding these blogs coincided with this and I’m enjoying them and the sense of community they seem to inspire.

Anyways, today I decided I’d try an outfit of the day post and I’m linking up with Patti’s Visible Monday series at the already mentioned Not Dead Yet Style blog.

Early fall OOTD

Early fall OOTD

Top: Soya Concept (El Pipil); Skirt: Diane von Furstenberg (thrifted); Leggings: The Loft; Shoes: Pikolinos (end of season clearance)

Do you read style blogs? What are some of your favourites?

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Fresh local backyard rhubarb is in season. The tart stalks have been on my mind for the past week or so and yesterday I celebrated this cusp of summer  “fruit” by making a relatively simple crunch. It’s the first time I’ve made this and I like the result but will probably experiment with less sugar next time. It’s delicious warm or cold and a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream would make an ideal companion.

Rhubarb & Strawberry Crunch

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

¾ cup rolled oats

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

½ cup butter, melted (or margarine)

4 cups sliced/diced rhubarb

2 cups frozen/fresh strawberries (optional, can substitute other berries, apples or pears)

 Glaze

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp cornstarch

1 cup water

1 tsp vanilla

Method:

Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter and stir/blend well. Gently pat half the crumb mixture into a 9” square buttered pan. Top with rhubarb and strawberries.

In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch and slowly add water. Stir constantly over low heat until thick. Add vanilla. Pour mixture over rhubarb and strawberries. Sprinkle with the remaining crumbs. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly.

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Blood on the Moon

Written and performed by Pierre Brault

Directed by John Koensgen

Great Canadian Theatre Company

January 17-February 5, 2012

At approximately 2:30 a.m. on April 7, 1868 Thomas D’Arcy McGee was shot in the back of the neck at close range at the door of the Sparks Street boarding house where he resided while in Ottawa. One of the founding Fathers of Confederation, the politician, journalist and poet died within seconds. James Patrick Whelan, a young tailor, was charged, tried, convicted and executed for McGee’s assassination. Was justice served?

This is the question that playwright and performer Pierre Brault asks as he takes us on a fascinating journey back in time to explore justice through the perspective of the man charged with the crime, and with a contemporary lens. Brault humanizes Whelan by giving him a voice. The one-man play has multiple characters and Brault easily and convincingly transitions from one character to another. The 75 minute production is a captivating story that works on both an intellectual and an emotional level. The stark scene lighting and simple set decor – a chair, and the sound of weather and an Irish ballad contribute to the emotional impact of the play.

Did James Patrick Whelan kill Thomas D’Arcy McGee? We don’t really know and the play leaves us with questionable doubt. Whelan was tried and convicted on circumstantial evidence. Much of the evidence against him, including the sole eye-witness testimony, was discredited. He was suspected of being a sympathizer of the Fenian Brotherhood – a militant group that opposed British rule in Ireland and planned to hold Canada hostage – but this was never proven. Whelan’s trial lasted 8 days. The case was heard by Chief Justice William Buell Richards. He was defended by John Hillyard Cameron and prosecuted by James O’Reilly. Prime Minister John A Macdonald, a friend of the late Thomas D’Arcy McGee, sat next to the judge. Whelan was found guilty and sentenced to hang. The case was appealed and the same judge, who now sat in the higher court, cast the deciding vote in favour of his earlier judgment.

James Patrick Whelan was publicly hanged on February 11, 1869. According to Brault, it took 7 minutes for him to die. Despite a morning snowstorm, more than 5,000 people showed up for the execution. He was the last person to be publicly executed in Canada.

Blood on the Moon was originally produced in 1999 for the Ottawa Fringe Festival and expanded in 2000 for a production at the National Arts Centre. It’s toured in Canada and Ireland. It was remounted on short notice for this production at the GCTC. It’s a fascinating exploration and I encourage you to go see the play.

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Ottawa is participating in the day of global Occupy protests. It’s a low-key government town and I didn’t come across much information prior to the day. Nonetheless, I was curious and headed over to Confederation Park to catch a bit of the Occupy Ottawa demonstration. I stayed perhaps an hour and estimate there were about 300-400 people there. It was a rather polite and friendly rally.

From the tidbits I’ve come across in the news there seems to be a question of whether it is relevant in Canada. While we don’t have the kind of unregulated U.S. banking sector that enabled greed to plunge the world into recession in 2008 we are still part of a corporate-dominated global economy in which life is a precarious existence for the many. It is relevant here in Ottawa, in Canada, and elsewhere.

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Paul Watson’s life purpose was crystallized when he looked into the eye of a dying whale. Founder and leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and one of the original founders of Greenpeace, he is regarded as a radical environmentalist. Some even call him a terrorist. He is a doer, a man of action, and in the film, Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson, he compares his life and mission to Homer’s Odyssey. He certainly does seem to resemble the leaders in ancient mythologies, which explains his dismissal of Greenpeace’s “Avon lady” tactics. For Paul Watson the battle to protect whales from short-term profits requires direct action and interference. For him, it is about the whales; however, he does point out that without oceans and marine life there can be no human life.

Trish Dolman’s documentary is a remarkable story of the man and his quest. We learn much about Paul Watson and his crusade. The film is interspersed with older footage and photographs and interviews and comments with current and former colleagues, supporters and family members. Amid the blood and slaughter we also witness great beauty.

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Self-employment is something that I’ve always been attracted to and I thought I would look at some of the workshops and supports that are available for people who venture along this route.

Last month I attended a pre-self-employment workshop at Pinecrest-Queensway Employment Centre. The ever dynamic facilitator, Kari Drouin, started things off by asking participants to introduce themselves and make their pitch. Some of the people are close to launching a business, some are naturally drawn to it, and others are exploring the option. The presentation also covered the benefits and demands of self-employment, assessing whether you have what it takes, researching your idea and market viability, and resources for people who decide to go this route. As always, it was a useful, informative and stimulating workshop.

One of the local resources is the OCRI Entrepreneurship Centre. I had heard about the centre while at the Art of the Start presentations a few days earlier. “The Centre aims to promote Ottawa’s economy, through the development of products and services that encourage entrepreneurship and support business growth.” They provide workshops, seminars, consultations and a variety of information resources. Earlier this week I checked out two of their free seminars.

The first was on presenting yourself and the seven seconds you have to make a positive first impression. According to Julie Blas Comeau of Etiquette Julie the top five keys to making a good impression are your punctuality, posture, eye-contact, smile, and handshake. She also provided tips about greetings and remembering names. One of her slides noted Mehrabian’s rule of face-to-face communication – I’ve come across this before at Toastmasters and in books but wasn’t familiar with who’s rule it was – which is that 55% of communication is non-verbal, 38% is verbal, and 7% is vocal. In other words, people react mostly to your body language, then your tonal variety, and leastly to what you actually say.

The second seminar was on preparing proposals and was presented by Keith Parker of The Proposal Centre. The presentation was intended for small and mid-sized businesses who bid on work; however, in my job search I’ve come across the occasional ad which asks for an RFP so I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more about what a proposal is. According to Keith, it’s a blend of art and science in which you have to identify the right opportunities, know when to make or not make a bid, address the questions, make your proposal compelling, and deliver it on time.

The latent entrepreneur in me found the seminars quite interesting. The Centre is definitely an excellent resource. There are also a wide variety of social groups around that provide entrepreneurs with an opportuntiy to connect, network, share ideas, get advice and other supports to help along the self-employed path.

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I could see myself being a beekeeper, perhaps, although, aside from other constraints, my fascination is tempered by a fear of bees. I sat in on a workshop at the Local Food Fest last summer and it struck me that beekeeping is a natural extension of backyard or community gardening. Beekeepers and their bees can be found in many surprising places such as rooftops in New York City and London.

Bees are essential to the ecosystem, we have a deep connection to them, and they are under threat. That’s the message filmmakers Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz communicate in their wonderful documentary “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?” The film weaves a story around the disappearance of bees and their importance to humans, agriculture and the larger ecosystem through a cast of devoted beekeepers, scientists, and prominent food security writers/speakers.

Bees are pollinators and they’re responsible for approximately 40% of all agricultural food crops. The disappearance of honey bees, most notable in the U.S. but also observed in Europe, is a serious issue. Colony Collapse Disorder may be the result of a number of different stressors, which include migration (bees are trucked around the country to pollinate mono crops), pesticides, poor nutrition, weakened immune systems, and pests.

The film and its website list a number of things you can do to help save the bees such as planting bee-friendly flowers in your garden, putting a bowl of fresh water outside for the bees to drink, buying local raw honey, and learning to be a sustainable beekeeper.

I highly recommend the film. It’s an important story, told in a visually appealing, accessible and engaging way.

Alison Van Alten’s bee yard at Ignatius Jesuit Centre, Guelph ON

FYI: Here are a couple sites that discuss colony collapse disorder.

http://www.organicagcentre.ca/DOCs/Colony_collapse_bees.pdf

http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572

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I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.

I wanted a song to tie into this post and it may seem like the Rolling Stone’s career-jettisoning 1965 critique of commercial culture is a bit of a leap but I’m focusing on the aspect of it that is a search for authenticity.  Sometimes we find ourselves in jobs and environments that do not provide any fulfillment. We’re disengaged. Sometimes we find ourselves in a new phase of life and, perhaps, in need of a little direction. Maybe we desire authenticity and need to connect with our fire and passion. Sometimes we just find ourselves in that limbo land of unemployment. … Authenticity … Satisfaction.

We are all unique complex beings and self knowledge is important for job seekers and career changers. It can be enlightening, or at least useful, to explore who you are through a combination of personality and career assessments. It’s a process that helps you identify and synthesize your skills, traits, strengths, preferences and the types of work and environments that would most appeal to you.

Personality Dimensions uses a series of picture card sets. Once you’ve made your selections you add up the scores to see where you fall on the green, gold, blue and orange spectrum. Core needs are rooted in knowledge and competence for a green, belonging through a sense of duty and responsibility for a gold, relationships and self actualization for a blue, and freedom, activity and variety for an orange. Essentially, we are all plaid but our preferences will be distributed differently. One of the nice things about this assessment is that once you’ve identified your colour you break into colour groups, come up with responses to a few questions and then present the information to the other groups. The general characteristics of each colour group are quite different and it serves as a tool for not only understanding yourself but others, too.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is another personality assessment tool. The MBTI measures your preferences for introversion and extroversion; sensing and intuitiveness; feeling and thinking; and perceiving and judging. The result is a four-letter personality type code. There are 16 in total. Self-assessments aren’t foolproof so you do need to question whether the result is really a reflection of you. For a bit of MBTI humour checkout a slight variation of Elis N. Harsham’s type prayers.

Holland codes are another tool for helping you explore career options. You can do a quick party preference version or a longer skills and interests version. With this tool you come up with a three-letter preference code based on six categories – artistic, investigative, social, conventional, enterprising, and realistic.

And, one of the best job seeking/career changing resources around is still the infamous What Color is Your Parachute book by Richard Bolles. For it to be a useful resource, you need to do the exercises.

How well do you know yourself? Most, or all, of these aids are available free through various employment centres and programs.

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Small business, sustainable livelihoods, social enterprise, and community economic development are initiatives that appeal to me. Len Fardella’s Peter’s New Jobs listing comes with a calendar of weekly events – some quite intriguing. I decided to check one out Tuesday evening and attended Art of the Start, free trade show and event put on by the Ottawa Community Loan Fund (OCLF). I first read about small business microfinancing in the early 90s and how it could dramatically improve the lives of people, particularly women, in the Global South. I wasn`t aware of any similar initiatives in Ontario or Canada at the time though. However, the restructuring of the economy over the last 30 years seems to be opening doors to social investment here now.

The Art of the Start trade show included representatives from The Hub, a worldwide creative space for social enterprise that will be setting up in Ottawa, Causeway, an organization that has launched a few alternative businesses, and a few other projects, as well as Alterna Credit Union and BDC. The highlight of the evening were the presentations by four entrepreneurs.

Hendrick Jean-Louis of TireNew Recycling talked about his focus and determination and how the OCLF saved his business when his truck broke down. He started the business not quite two years ago and is now the fourth largest tire exporter in Ontario.

Amir Rahim of Grounded Kitchen & Coffeehouse has been an entrepreneur before. He spoke about learning from mistakes, picking a business that he knew about, what he was able to accomplish prior to having the money to open, and the importance of doing something that you love. He`s been open about a year and wants to open a second location.

Emma Inns of Adorit helped start a CED initiative while working in Nepal. Back in Canada she found herself on the other side of the lending equation. She`s recently moved her fair trade eco-fabric shop to a larger location and spoke of the importance of finding a mentor who has strengths in your weaknesses.

The special guest presenter was Tal Dehtiar of Oliberté – This Is Africa. His shoe manufacturing company is based in Ethiopia and has a pretty complex distribution web for what he said is still a small business. Tal spent part of his youth travelling, he`s still young, before getting an MBA and he emphasized the importance of business to lift people out of poverty and into the middle class. He is a determined entrepreneur with strong opinions and big dreams and goals. As he said, there’s money to be made and there are 4.5 billion people who would switch places with you in a heartbeat to be in this country.

It was an inspiring evening!

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