Healing, Helping and Heating

Our thoughts are in Haiti.  Cynthia, a friend of DECA, is coordinating a collection of gently used summer clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, sheets and towels to send to Haiti via the consulate, which is sending containers to Haiti in 2-3 weeks.  Apparently, sleeping bags would be extremely helpful as there are so many people without a bed to sleep in. If you can donate something or want to know more, contact Cynthia at cynthias@rogers.com.  As an aside, I happened to notice when I was on the Red Cross Canada website that you if you enter Amazon.ca via the Red Cross website, a portion of the funds will go to the Red Cross.

Meditation. Here’s a bit of personal information about me.  I’m most certainly not the kind of person who is into meditating…let alone someone who would go out to do it with other people even if you do get to sit on a pretty silk cushion.  However, I did go to a yoga/meditation class called Mama, Get A Grip, (run by a DECA member) because the title seemed to be talking directly to me.  And I gotta say, it was a wonderful way to spend 90 minutes.  I walked out of there feeling like a different person…a better different person. It was quite down to earth.

All of this is to tell you that the same group is offering weekly meditation sessions at the Pape/Danforth library every Sunday from 3:30-4:30 starting this Sunday.  Each class will include instruction on a variety of meditation techniques.  It is suitable for “absolute beginners” or experienced meditators.  Bring your favourite cushion or blanket to sit on.  Or chairs are available in the room. $15  For more info contact Rhondda at smileymadsen@yahoo.ca

Home Heating and Home Hardware.  I notice the new, permanent sign is up at the Home Hardware, just east of Woodbine.  Soon there will be another sign there urging you to take a few simple steps to cut down on your home energy use and your energy bills.  Thanks to Mary Margaret for this bit of winter info.

Get Foamy!  Get a can or two of low-expansion foam, put on a pair of rubber gloves and old clothes, read the directions and seal up those holes. Use a smoking incense stick to check for holes around any pipe, wire or hole that enters or leaves the house, especially in the basement, including plumbing vents, well intake and outdoor pipes, gaps where electrical wiring enters the house, openings around exhaust fans, and gaps at the top of exterior walls.

Caulking and Weather-stripping are Your New Best Friends! Caulk the attic hatch – in some cases, you can reduce your heat loss by five per cent.  Keeps hot, moist air from collecting in the attic and contributing to ice damming too. Imagine leaky doors and windows as holes in your walls.  Caulk and weather-strip them.

Window Dressing – Put heat-sensitive plastic film on drafty windows. Extend the border to outside the window frame to block draft from under the frame.

Down Boy Down – Turn down your thermostat and put on a sweater.  Install a programmable thermostat.  Set it to drop by four degrees C when you’re out or asleep. Such a drop could reduce your bill by 15 per cent.  That will easily pay the cost of the new thermostat.  If you’re on a furnace, especially oil, and haven’t had it cleaned in a few years, make an appointment right away. Again, depending on individual situations, a dirty burner can be costing you an extra 10 per cent.

It’s that Time of the Month – Change your furnace filter every month.  Dirty filters reduce the efficiency of your furnace costing you more money and wasting energy.

Lights, Compact Fluorescents, Action – Invest in compact fluorescent bulbs for your home.  Consider this: replace one 60-watt incandescent bulb with a 15-watt compact fluorescent and save about 570 kilowatt-hours of electricity over the life of the bulb – at Hydro One rural rates of 5.5 cents/kilowatt-hour, that’s approximately $31.35. Invest in LED light bulbs for high-use areas.

Use motion sensors and timers to limit energy use.  Beware of phantom power (when your appliance is plugged in and turned off but still drawing power).  Unplug appliances not in use (microwaves, music boxes, chargers) and put your computers, TVs, modems, tool/game chargers on power bars with timers so they go off when you’re not using them.

Winter In The Park

Wow.  My family and I went to East Lynn Park on Sunday afternoon.  I counted roughly one hundred people sledding and another 20 or so on the skating rink along with several other folks walking dogs and playing in the park.  Let me reiterate the big thank you to Beth Binnington and the other neighbours who created and maintain that rink.  Actually, I’d rather word didn’t get out how great it is, so keep it under your hat, o.k?

Also, check out this post from the Danforth Mosaic Business Improvement Association about the Esso/Timmies development at Danforth and Greenwood

Make Your Own

You loved the canning workshops!  Now, it’s time to learn some more old school skills.  Mark your calendars for these ‘reskilling’ workshops.  All workshops are at the Danforth Mennonite Church at 2174 Danforth (north side, just east of Woodbine) and cost $10-$15.  RSVP to Mary-Margaret McMahon at 416-693-9276 or spargy@rogers.com

January 25th 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – Medicinal Herbs

– with Linda Rose of Black River Gate House (available at the St. Lawrence Market North Building every Saturday)

February 25th 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – Soap Making Part 1

with DECA member Amanda Montgomery of Simply By Amanda (available at Better Bulk and Grassroots)

March 11th 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – Soap Making Part 2

– with DECA member Amanda Montgomery of Simply By Amanda (available at Better Bulk and Grassroots)

These workshops are proudly presented by DECA in partnership with the East Toronto Climate Action Group and Live Green Toronto.

City Feeds Farmers!

From DECA’s Feed The Farmers’ Coordinator, Catherine Porter…

We did it again. But this year, our team of community cooks didn’t just feed 20 farmers a week. They fed 32.  What am I talking about?

Well, if you arrived at the Farmers’ Market this year around 5:30 p.m., your nose would have told you. Each Thursday, someone from the neighbourhood arrived with a steaming dish of food, be it pasta or lentil curry to feed the farmers. More often than not two neighbourhood cooks arrived to dole out plates for the swelling number of farmers and their staff.

We started this tradition last year for a number of reasons.  The first was pure etiquette. Our market hours run smack into dinner. We didn’t want our farmers to leave for the long drive home with empty bellies.  The second was marketing.   Happy sellers make regular sellers.  And that brings back regular customers.  As odd as it sounds, luring farmers to a new market in the big, bad city is not an easy task. We wanted to give farmers every reason to choose us. Our strategy has already worked. A number of the new farmers this year said we were their favourite — mostly because of the community spirit.

Which brings us to the third and most important reason. Community. For us, starting a farmers’ market wasn’t about just eating healthy, local food. It was about building a stronger community in our area. We wanted people to come to the park, buy some strawberries, join in a square dance, watch their kids get transformed into a butterfly via face paint, and chat with their neighbours. The farmers were part of that. What better way to build community than over a plate of hot green curry?  Plus, it’s cool to feed the people who feed us. It just feels right.  This year, DECA paid a small honorarium to community members who cooked for our farmers. Most of the time, it didn’t cover their costs. They are generous souls. Many cooked more than once. A few cooked three times. We want to thank them all individually.  You all helped to make our market a huge success again this year.  We think you rock.

If you’d like to throw on an apron and join us in cooking a meal next year, please e-mail me at catherine_porter@rogers.com

Our beloved 2009 DECA cooks include:

Jessica Schmiedchen, Susan Spratley, Shelley Pogue, Mary Egan, Ellen Long, Lorraine Cheng, Laurie Smith, Tanya Geisler, Wayne Chee, Alisha Austin, Diana Gonzalez, Carolyn Rouse, Martha Wallace, Nicola St. John, Ruth Heathcote, Michael Polanyi, Mary Pickering, Alisa Haggert, Andrea Rourke, Robin Forbes, Sarah Eshelby, Sara Heinonen, Catherine Porter and our fabulous baker Mary-Margaret McMahon.

Danforth Gem – The Wool Mill

If you’re new to DECA Diaries, Danforth Gems are the great shops on our stretch of the Danforth that you may not have yet uncovered.  Thanks so much to Gillian Grace for this installment about the The Wool Mill, east of Woodbine on Danforth.

Forget the Leafs—if Toronto wants a pastime at which it can really shine, try knitting. The city is known for its way with wool, even earning a special shout-out from Vogue Knitting for T.O.’s “unusual number of excellent yarn stores.” Danforth East is lucky enough to have one of those shops within walking distance. The oldest wool store in Toronto, the Wool Mill has been on Danforth just east of Woodbine for the past 17 years (current owner Wendy Mortimer used to buy yarn there as a child).

The Wool Mill stocks everything from the classics—Canadian-processed merinos from Mission Falls—and summery cottons to bamboo mixes and super-soft balls made from a mix of possum yarn and wool. As with food, Mortimer says, people are becoming more conscious of how the wool they use is produced; organic yarns with low-impact dyes are increasingly popular, as is fair trade. Buy a skein of Mirasol yarn, and you’ll be helping fund the construction of a centre for the children of alpaca shepherds in the Peruvian Andes.

Mortimer, an expert knitter, can advise on everything from the history of the craft to the best knitting podcasts. Her needlework has appeared in more than 100 movies, including a recreation of Martha Stewart’s get-out-of-jail poncho for Cybill Shepherd; the coat, booties and hat for Nicole Kidman’s dog in To Die For; and Hilary Swank’s high-flying knitwear in Amelia. Her toughest project was a sweater for Simon Birch, which was supposed to look “really bad;” it kept getting returned with instructions to “make it look worse.”

Mortimer—who started knitting for a Brownies badge, and says she’s knit “pretty much everything you can possibly think of” and made “every mistake in the book”—is also a (very) patient teacher. She can quickly decipher patterns that look more like a WWII-era code than a template for a sweater and get even the most tangled, dropped-stitch-laden projects back on track. A beginner’s class, starting in January, will have newbies knitting and purling a hat or an outfit for a baby; other regular week-night classes cater to more experienced knitters.

Most popular, especially around the holidays, are small, quickly completed projects such as socks, mittens, hats and wristers. But it’s not just a way to make impressive gifts—there’s something incredibly soothing about the act of wrapping the yarn, pulling it through, and repeating. “Knitting,” says Mortimer, “is like a meditation. It allows the body to keep itself busy so the mind can become more still.”

The Wool Mill – 2170 Danforth Ave. 416-696-2670

Hours: Mon – Fri 10:30 – 6, Sat 10:30 – 5

Gillian Grace is a freelance writer and editor.