Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Goodbye Limba

This morning I woke up to heartbreaking news. Limba the elephant was euthanized at the Bowmanville Zoo this morning.

This tragedy is sadly about much more than the death of a 49 year old elephant at a zoo. Limba was Canada's oldest elephant, because most elephants Limba's age get to retire and live close to the way they would have in the wild, in a warm climate, socializing with other elephants. Younger elephants Iringa, 44, Toka, 43, and Thika, 33, were recently moved from the Toronto Zoo to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in San Andreas, Calif.

The Bowmanville Zoo has stubbornly kept Limba as their sole elephant since her companion Sheba died in 2011, and forced her to perform in parades and circuses. In January of this year, California-based animal rights group In Defense of Animals (IDA) named the Bowmanville Zoo the second-worst zoo in North America for elephants, stating that the zoo was imposing a "cruel sentence" on Limba, giving her a "miserable, lonely life."  During performances the zoo frequently used a bull hook on Limba, which is a cruel training device that was recently banned by Los Angeles city council .

Two weeks ago, after finding a possibly cancerous, grapefruit sized lump on Limba, the zoo decided to make her march in the Bowmanville Santa Claus Parade. When protesters made it clear that they would be there, parade organizers asked the zoo to leave Limba at home, but then reversed that decision when they secured more police presence at the parade to deal with protesters (which proved unnecessary because the protest was peaceful and unobtrusive). Some residents made a Facebook page called "We want Limba in the Bowmanville Santa Claus Parade." To them, the joy of seeing Limba in the community far outweighed concern for Limba's well being.

Additionally, the Bowmanville Zoo was planning on including Limba in their Christmas circus performance, shamelessly named "The Animal's Gift."

Though I am greatly saddened that Limba did not get to live her final days in peaceful retirement, she is now at peace. She no longer has to suffer through harsh Canadian winters that she was not made for, and her lifelong servitude to masters that made her perform humiliating tricks through coercion with a bullhook is over. I sincerely hope we can learn from this, and widen our circle of compassion to include non-human animals.

After all the crazy Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, today is Giving Tuesday. In honour of Limba, I just donated to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee in the hopes that more zoo and circus elephants will be able to retire in peace, and the Wildlife Conservation Network and Save The Elephant's Elephant Crisis Fund, tackling the supply of, demand for and trafficking of ivory.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall food is the best food: pumpkin cupcakes and maple coconut whipped cream

I must admit that I'm pretty lazy with my cupcake making. I found two brands that make vegan/gluten free/nut free cake mixes, and they're so amazing that I'm afraid to bake from scratch. However, in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house, I wanted to go a little bit out of my baking comfort zone and combine pumpkin puree with chocolate cake mix. I googled "how to add pumpkin puree to cake mix" and I got a lot of results for substituting the eggs/butter/oil/milk for pumpkin puree, but that doesn't help for a "just add water" cake mix. So, I decided to wing it, and the result was super delicious so I want to share my "recipe."

The cake mixes I use are Wholesome Chow (they also make really good icing mix, which is what I used this time) and Kokimo Kitchen (I've also tried their awesome "just add water" pancake mix).

The Kokimo Kitchen chocolate cake mix calls for 2 cups of water, so first I tried 1 cup of water and 1 cup of pumpkin puree, but that was a bit too dry so I added another half cup of each, which was perfect. I also added 1 tsp of maple syrup, 1 tbsp of light agave nectar, and some cinnamon. I cooked the cupcakes at 375 degrees for 25 minutes (doing the fork check multiple times, which is why one cupcake in the picture has a large hole in it). The cupcakes turned out kind of brownie-like, so I think the next time I make this I'll just make brownies instead.

For the icing, I mixed 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 1/2 a cup of vegan margarine, 2 tsps of vanilla soy milk, 1/2 a tsp of maple syrop, 1/2 a tsp of vanilla extract, some cinnamon and the Wholesome Chow vanilla frosting mix.

I also found a recipe for vegan coconut whipped cream. You MUST click on that link and try the recipe, because it's incredibly easy and tasty. Maybe next year I'll figure out how to make vegan pumpkin pie, because this stuff would taste incredible on pie!

(This picture is deceiving because I took it just after the shaking part of the recipe, and the whipped cream is so thick that it coated the inside of the jar. I actually made about 1 cup.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Conservative Government wants to know what you think.... well, not really.

I just received an email from Dan Hilton, Executive Director of the Conservative Party of Canada, inviting me to take a survey about the Economic Action Plan. I thought, "Well, okay, they want to know what I think, I'm happy to oblige!" Naively, I clicked on the link to the survey, thinking that I may actually get to say what I think of the Conservative government's actions over the last 7 years, and was presented with the most biased piece of garbage I've ever seen. They don't want to know what we think, not what we really think, they want to know which of their "accomplishments" we like the best. This survey is the governmental equivalent of a children's art show. You can't say anything negative, and everyone gets a participation medal. I had hoped for thicker skin in our federal government. The only opportunity for independent thought comes at the end, where the respondent is invited to give "additional comments on Economic Action Plan 2013." Since I doubt anyone at Harper HQ will give them a second thought, here are my comments:

This survey is skewed in favour of the Economic Action Plan, and does not give respondents the opportunity to propose alternative priorities or ideas, or to disagree with what is being done.  
After listing many examples in other questions, the survey asks, "The Conservative government is also investing in world-class research and innovation. Do you support this?" Why are there no examples of how the Conservative government is investing in world-class research and innovation? I cannot say whether I support this or not, because I do not know what kind of research and innovation is being invested in, or how.     
For the "Supporting Families and Communities" question, there are specific dollar amounts for the Investment in Affordable Housing and Homelessness Partnering Strategy, but not for conservation efforts or Aboriginal community programs, which is troubling to me. If the Conservative Party is committed to these investments, where are the figures? 
The final question, "Which three Conservative accomplishments are most important to you?" solicits a completely biased answer because the respondent must choose 3 options in order to complete the survey. This assumes that the respondent believes both that the Conservative government has actually accomplished these things (putting "standing up for victims of crime and passing laws to keep our streets and communities safe" in the same list as "scrapping the long-gun registry" has to be an attempt at an ironic joke) and that these accomplishments are actually important for Canada.  
If my skewed answers have in any way given you the impression that I think the Conservative party is doing a good job, or is on the right track, you should know that I unequivocally do not. In the future, if you actually want to how Canadians feel about your job performance, please put out a less biased and self-congratulatory survey, and I would be more than happy to give you some constructive criticism. Thank you.

If you want to wade through the questions and add your own comments, check out the survey http://conservative.ca/EAP2013survey.

If you want more information about the Economic Action Plan, check out Shit Harper Did's more honest ads.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Homemade Vegan Baileys

Last weekend for St. Patrick's Day/Weekend, I had a craving for Baileys, so I decided to make my own vegan Irish Cream! I found a vegan and nut-free recipe on "oh she glows" and tweaked it a little based on what I already had in my kitchen.

  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 3/4 cup brewed coffee (I only have instant, but better coffee would likely make better Irish Cream.)
  • 1 cup Inishowen Irish Whiskey (any Irish Whiskey is fine, Jameson is the standard but the bf and I wanted to try something new for St. Patrick's Day.)
  • A pinch of salt

 1. I put the cans of coconut milk into a medium pot and whisked on medium heat. I then increased the heat to allow the liquid to boil, stirring frequently. Then I reduced the heat and let the pot simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the coconut milk became a little thicker.

2. Then I removed the pot from the hot element and stirred in the coffee, then a pinch of salt, and finally the Irish Whiskey.

4. I tried to store all of it in one mason jar but there was too much! So I found other containers to put the rest in.

I also bought vegan stout beer so I could have Irish Car-bombs for the first time, and they were DELICIOUS! 

Overall, this was a big hit with my friends and I will definitely make it again! I'll probably use better coffee, and I might try to find a recipe using something other than coconut milk, because although I like coconut, it overpowers the other flavours. Also, we noticed that the mixture separates after awhile, but it just needs a good stir. 
Happy belated St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Day 3: Care Canada's Walk In Her Shoes

On day 1 I ran into a problem; my step counter broke. I wore it on my apron at work, forgetting that I'm very clumsy, so naturally it got knocked onto the ground enough times to stop working. Not awesome. However, about 2 weeks ago I wore the step counter at work (attached much more safely to the pocket of my pants), and in 9 hours on a slow Monday I walked over 13000 steps.

 I figured it would be safe to assume that my steps would also be well over 8000 during my busier 8-9 hour Friday and Saturday night shifts, so I waited until today to buy a new step counter.

I didn't have to work today, so I walked around downtown for a few hours. I haven't reached 8000 steps yet, but I'm going to take the stairs to do laundry tonight (to the basement from the 12th floor, and vice versa) so hopefully that will be enough.

Why am I walking 8000 steps per day for 8 days? To raise money for Care Canada's work empowering girls, women and communities around the world to overcome poverty and adversity.Want to know what YOU can do to help? Click here to go to my personal page and make a donation, or sign up to do the walk too! Any amount helps, and donations over $10 are tax deductible!

Until next time, keep calm and step on.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Day 1: Care Canada's Walk In Her Shoes

Today is the first day of my pledge to walk 8000 steps a day for 8 days as part of Care Canada's Walk In Her Shoes. I've been awake for almost 6 hours today and I'm only at 89 steps. My day has consisted of sitting at my computer and on my couch doing homework, so it's not surprising that the number is so low. I'm hoping that my walk to work and 9 hour shift tonight will bring my steps up to 8000. I'm a server at a bar so I do a lot of walking. I will post an update tomorrow and let you know if work was enough or if I had to go up and down my building's stairs a few times afterwards to get to 8000.

Why am I walking 8000 steps per day for 8 days? To raise money for Care Canada's work empowering girls, women and communities around the world to overcome poverty and adversity. Here is one example of what Care Canada does:

Today is International Women's Day, what can YOU do today to positively impact the lives of women? Click here to go to my personal page and make a donation, or sign up to do the walk too! The event is flexible, you can choose any 8 days between now and the end of June. They will send you a pedometer, a lovely t-shirt, and give you lots of help and encouragement with fundraising.

Until next time, happy stepping!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Care Canada's Walk In Her Shoes

It's almost March 8th, International Women's Day, and the day I will begin my challenge to walk 8000 steps a day for 8 days to fund-raise for Care Canada's efforts to empower women, girls and communities around the world to overcome poverty and adversity. 

I will be posting updates from March 8th-15th so you can share this experience with me. Want to know what YOU can do to help? Click here to go to my personal page and make a donation, or sign up to do the walk too! Any amount helps, large or small, whatever you can manage would mean a lot to me, and even more to the women who live the reality of walking at least 8000 steps a day every day just to get the basic necessities for their families. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Manning Road/Adelaide Avenue Connection, Whitby and Oshawa

Dear Doug MacKay and The Region Municipality of Durham Works Department,

As a Whitby resident who lives very close to the proposed road connection, I completely oppose this project. I have enjoyed the trails in this area since I was a child and it would be heartbreaking to lose them. Connecting Manning and Adelaide is not worth destroying the pedestrian and cycling trails, breeding grounds for at least 26 bird species, at least 6 endangered Butternut trees, and the habitat for hundreds of animals. The amount of forest that will remain after this project is not adequate to provide habitat for the displaced animals. This area already has issues with coyotes, foxes, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks being hit by cars, as well as entering private properties, getting into garbage containers, ruining gardens, and on occasion killing pets. If these animals have even less habitat near by they will become even more of a presence in the neighbourhood, endangering themselves because of traffic and pest control.

I completely agree with a fellow resident's recommendation published on DurhamRegion.com, "Instead of building a road, make the area into a regional conservation area and trail system. This would encourage families to get outdoors and foster an interest in nature. If the forest was protected then garbage bins could be installed and restoration of habitat could occur. Protecting the woodland would also create the opportunity for environmental stewardship programs in schools." (Breanna Hall, Oshawa, May 22, 2012).

This road connection may have been considered a necessity in 1970 when it was first proposed, but conditions have changed and plans should change accordingly. Since Whitby is one of the fastest growing communities in Canada, and most available natural spaces have been used for housing or retail, it is important to protect the few wild spaces that are left. Watching my hometown develop without taking environmental sustainability and conservation into account has been very upsetting, and I hope Durham Region will do the right thing and reverse its classification of this option as the recommended solution, because it is the option that causes the second most harm.

Please keep me informed about this project and any public information sessions or discussion forums on the issue.

Thank you,
-Colleen Bain

For more information, click here.
To sign the petition against this road connection, click here.
To submit your own comment on this project, email Doug MacKay, doug.mackay@durham.ca.