Monday, April 27, 2009

Update: My letter to is Now Online and I got Email Responses from the Mayor and Councillor

Hi All,

If any of you had trouble reading my little picture of my letter to the Mayor and Councillor about the underused airport route, it is now on-line. If you are interested, click here if you would like to view the letter online on or click here if you would like to view the full print version.

Also, I got emailed responses from the Mayor and Councillor.

Here's the email I got from Councillor Godwin Chan:

"Ms. Seto,

On Sunday, April 26, 2009 issue of The Liberal, your email of April 19 to the Mayor and I was published as a letter to the Editor. Your point about the need for promotion is well taken.

Further to the Mayor's response, please note that GO Transit runs a good-size advertisement about the airport express service in The Liberal on Thursday, April 23, 2009.

Thanks for writing to us regarding the GO Transit service.

Godwin Chan

Councillor (Ward 6)
Town of Richmond Hill"

Here's the email I got from Mayor Dave Barrow on Apr 19 that Godwin Chan referenced:

"Ms. Seto; The service that you have mentioned is a GO Transit service from RH Centre.
They had advertised rthis when it first started last year but I will pass your message on to GO Transit asking that it be better advertised.
YRT and VIVA websites have lnks to GO but usually do not advertise routes etc. of each others systems.

Dave Barrow, Mayor
Richmond Hill is a Character Community
This month's character attribute is PERSEVERANCE"

Here's an email I got from Mayor Dave Barrow yesterday:

"Please see the attached response from Go Transit on your inquiry.
[1 Attachment]

Dave Barrow, Mayor
Town of Richmond Hill"

Unfortunately, there was no attachment. Mayor Barrow was having trouble with his Blackberry and couldn't attach. Anyway, he said he would send me the attachment from his office today. We'll see...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Birthday Black-out!!!

So last month,I celebrated my birthday on a day when we had no running water and though we survived it, it was definitely an experience I'd rather not go through again. As luck would have it, we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday this past Saturday with another misadventure.

The day started nicely enough, warm and sunny, but then BAM!, strong wind and heavy rain struck just before dinnertime and we lost power. Thankfully, dinner was mostly prepared, with the Roast Beef done to perfection because my carnivorous family prefers our roast to be done rare anyways. Since we have a gas stove, we finished off the rest of the meal easily on the stove-top while there was still some daylight left.

For the rest of the evening, we ate by candlelight and enjoyed each others' company the good ole fashion way, by chit-chatting the night away. With no electricity, we felt lost at first, but Dick still had power left on his IPOD. So we passed the evening yakking, while listening to favourite tunes from the 60's, 70's and the 80's on his IPOD.

The kids also had a fun evening as they played a game of Scrabble by candlelight. It was like Earth Hour all over again. I sure hope we don't experience Blackout conditions or lack of running water too often, but I'm afraid with extreme climate change being a reality, we will likely have more days like this come up again. A few hours or even a day or two without power or running water, I think I can handle. But can we handle these conditions if it goes on for days, weeks or even months? Very scary thought indeed!

Oh well, Happy Birthday to Dick's Mom! It was certainly an evening to remember. I'm sure that we will reminisce about this evening fondly in years to come!!!

Here's the Orange Cake with Chocolate decorations Derek and I made for Dick's Mom.

My camera-shy boys hanging out with their cousin.

They played Scrabble by candlelight and flaslight

It's always nice catching up with my sister-in-law.

Dick's mom making a birthday wish as she blows out the candles, putting us back into total darkness again.

One Big Happy Family!

I got published in the Liberal Newspaper!

Last Sunday, I emailed both Mayor Barrow and councilor Godwin Chan in Richmond Hill to voice my concern over the under publicized, but very useful service of providing riders a cheap and easy way to get from the Richmond Hill Centre to Toronto Pearson International Airport. I also emailed my concern to the local Liberal newspaper. As promised, the Liberal Newspaper published my letter in this Sunday's edition.

As it turns out, I was not alone in my concern, since two other readers also wrote in with their say. My letter was a little long-winded compared to the other 2 letters, so I'm gonna have to learn to be more concise and to the point in future. I must admit, I do tend to be a rambler. Anyways, it is nice to know that it is so easy to be heard these days with today's information technology.

I actually first learnt of my published letter because my councilor responded to my email saying he agreed with my concern and thanked me for my letter. The Mayor also responded after my letter was published in the paper. Now I realize the power of Published Work!

Anyways, this did prompt GO Transit to place another Ad in the Liberal Paper in the Thursday April 23 2009 edition. But I have to say their Ad was rather dull and did not stand out much. I don't even recall seeing that AD when I first flipped through the Thursday paper earlier in the week and only noticed it after councilor Godwin Chan pointed it out to me this Sunday. So maybe, GO Transit needs to hire a better AD agency to provide more Eye-Catching Ads?

Here's my long rambling letter, along with 2 others that pointed out the need for more publicity on the Airport Express Bus available to Richmond Hill residents and nearby residents of other municipalities.

Here's GO Transit's rather dull AD. Would you have noticed it? I remember seeing the more visual AD for composting and the little guy on the lower part of the paper promoting some Car Insurance. I had to go back for a second look to see the GO Transit Ad which I did not notice at all in my first browse through, much less the teeny tiny one-line advertisement of Richmond Hill's Airport Express Bus Route.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

From Richmond Hill Centre to Toronto Pearson Airport

I was just reading the local paper today and discovered that Richmond Hill has a very useful service providing riders a way to get to the Toronto Pearson International Airport from the Richmond Centre located at Highway 7 and Yonge Street at a very low cost of $5.10 per ride. This is way cheaper than the $50.00 to $60.00 (including tip) to use an Airport Limousine to get from Southern Richmond Hill to the Airport. Return trips are available as well on an hourly basis. The reader who wrote in said it only took 20 minutes for a one-way trip.

The Richmond Centre is now a transportation hub with among many other bus routes, VIVA bus connections going as far north as Newmarket, east to Unionville & Markham, west to Martin Grove and south to Finch and Downsview Subway Stations, as well as York University Campus. With so many buses going in and out of this Hub, this Airport Express Route would be invaluable not only to Richmond Hill residents, but also residents of neighbouring municipalities.

I was vaguely aware of it when the VIVA buses I use in my daily commute started announcing an Airport Express Route which I thought only became available in recent months. But, after several diligent internet searches, I found to my surprise that this Airport Express connection had in fact, been available since May 2008. Yet, nearly a year later, a recent user of the Airport Express route found this route averages only 2 riders a day. Meanwhile there are 22 bus runs daily going each way for a total of 44 daily runs. What a shameful waste of taxpayers' money!

I am no political activist, but after this discovery, I felt compelled to write a letter to both the mayor and a councilor in Richmond Hill to ask why the town and various transit websites such as the YRT (York Region Transit, VIVA Transit and GO Transit) aren't actively promoting this Fantastic service. This kind of service is something I'm sure the city of Toronto would readily boast about, but sadly there is very little promotion of this service by the Town of Richmond Hill, This, I imagine is why ridership is so low.

I also wrote a letter to the Richmond Hill Liberal to spread the word. It is my hope that after voicing my concerns that the town of Richmond Hill and the various Transit commissions would get their act together to promote this wonderful service.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Organic Gardening with Mark Cullen and the Tea Emporium

This week, I had the pleasure of attending two FCP Events. The first one was a Wednesday Organic Gardening seminar hosted by Mark Cullen and the second one was a Thursday Tea seminar hosted by Shabnam Weber, owner of the Tea Emporium. Yes, I managed to weasel out of a Thursday Meeting to attend the Tea seminar, but I wasn't lucky enough to get out of attending a pre-meeting though. Oh well, at least I only had to sit through a half-hour pre-meeting instead of attending a full one-and-a hour meeting. Yay! That made my day!

I really enjoyed Mark Cullen's presentation of Organic Gardening. He definitely has a great sense of humour and was very funny throughout the presentation which was dotted with many humorous anecdotes.

One anecdote which resonated with me in particular was when he mentioned his wife's desire to raise chickens for eggs on a farm they moved to just north of Unionville three years ago. I too would like to raise chickens one day. Apparently, interest in urban farming , including the raising of chickens is on the rise. It is not illegal to raise hens in some GTA regions like Brampton and the Niagara area and Toronto is currently revisiting the possibility of lifting the ban on raising chickens in city backyards. It makes a lot of sense for people these days to pursue these D.I.Y. projects in order to live sustainably and have more control over procuring their own food supply. You can read about it here.

The Tea seminar was also very enlightening. All attendees were each given a fabulous cup of Rooibus Tea to enjoy while we listened to Shabnam Weber, Tea Lover and Tea Expert Extraordinaire Emporium rave about Tea. I certainly learned a lot about Tea and have come to appreciate it more.

For instance, did you know that all teas come from the same Tea Plant, whether it is white tea, green tea, oolong tea or black tea? It all depends on when the tea leaves were picked and how the tea leaves were processed. Also, tea does contain caffeine, but it differs from the caffeine found in coffee in that the caffeine in tea is a slow release stimulant which will have a gentler, but more long lasting effect, whereas the caffeine in coffee will give you an immediate jolt but you'll come crashing down after about an hour or 2 and you'll want to have another cup to give you that wide awake feeling again.

Rooibus Tea, the lovely tea that we got to sample, is considered an herbal tea as it is not made from the Tea Plant. Rooibus Tea is made from the leaves of the red bush tree (Rooibos) from South Africa and has a very smooth aromatic flavour. For people who are concerned about caffeine, this great tasting tea is perfect because it is naturally caffeine-free.

Other Herbal Teas include brews or infusions made by steeping flowers, herbs and spices in Boiling Water. Some of the more common Herbal Teas include Camomille, Hibiscus Flowers, Peppermint, Spearmint, Ginger and Cloves. All of these make for very soothing and relaxing beverages.

Thank goodness for these lunch hour seminars presented by FCP. They really are great stress-busters from the crazy hectic busy days at the office.

Here's Mark Cullens' "The Canadian Garden Primer" containing many beautiful photographs and great tips on both edible and non-edible organic gardening.

Here's the signed version.

Here's Mark's Earth Friendly promotional material which you can place directly into your front or backyard for planting. It's made of recycled paper embedded with assorted native Canadian wildflower seeds.

This was the Tea Card we received for attending the Tea Seminar. Looks like I'll be making a trip to the Tea Emporium soon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

LCBO Origami Gift Boxes & Easter Egg Cookies

I have to hand it to the LCBO for their excellent production of the LCBO Magazines which come with beautiful photographs featuring their various liquid products. They come complete with recipes and ideas on how to pair different liquors with different dishes, often portrayed in very artistic & gourmet styles.

It's too bad I'm not a drinker (or maybe that's a good thing). So after skimming through this beautiful magazine, I end up tossing it in the Blue Box for recycling. But, I thought to myself, such beautiful artwork shouldn't end up in the recycling bin. It just didn't seem right. So I fished it back out and decided to make origami boxes with them. These pages are perfect for making origami boxes. They contain beautiful images, they are made of high quality glossy sturdy paper and best of all, they are already in a perfect square.

Although other magazines don't have the same high quality features as the LCBO magazines, be sure to skim through them first and pick out pages with potential before tossing them into the Blue Bin. You never know what beautiful boxes can be crafted out of these pages.

Depending on the sizes, each box can be used for collecting knick knacks like pushpins, coins, paper clips, beads, buttons, etc.... Or they can even be used as gift boxes for small fun gift items like brooches, bracelets, earrings, and even edible treats like homemade cookies.

So what are origami boxes? Origami is the art of paper folding to create artful objects using a single piece of paper only. If you have to use scissors, glue, tape or any other adhesives to create your piece of art, that is considered cheating. Of course you would need scissors to cut the paper into a square and size that you want to begin with first,but you can't use scissors thereafter. You'd be amazed at some of the beautiful artwork that can be created out of a single piece of paper, but I digress. Today we are going to concentrate on box making only. I love making Origami Boxes because they are both beautiful and functional. If you want to get fancy, there are books that will teach you how to make gorgeous boxes that will really wow the recipients.

You can check out this video to find out how you can make a basic origami box using an old Christmas Card.

How To Make An Origami Gift Box - The funniest bloopers are right here

Here are 2 boxes lids I made from 2 uncut LCBO pages.

Even the inside of the box looks beautiful.

Here are some other boxes I made using more LCBO pages and pages from some other magazines. Once you make one, you can't stop. Warning: This activity can become addictive. If this gets out of hand, I may have to join Origami Anonymous one day. Here are some more boxes of various sizes. The smaller ones are suitable for encasing fun jewelry gifts, or maybe even love notes.

For Easter, I couldn't resist making batches of Easter themed cookies. You-know-who (his name begins with the letter"D") thinks turtles should always be included in every cookie making session.

Here are the Easter Egg and Turtle Easter Egg cookies we made. The big cookie with all the colours mixed in there is the last cookie made with all the scraps and ends of the different colour cookie dough. That's always the most fun piece to make. We call the last cookie we make the crazy mixed up cookie.

Here are some of the cookies nicely wrapped up, ready to be packed away into the origami boxes.

They fit in perfectly. Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

First FCP Event of the year

I just attended my first FCP Event of the year. I love FCP Events. They are lunchtime events organized by the First Canadian Place and attending these are a great way to pass the lunch hour.

Unfortunately, all the Food Seminars were already filled up by the time I had learned of the new Spring Events line-up. Fortunately, there were still spaces available for all the Gardening Seminars and of course, I registered for all 4 of them, including a Thursday Event, even though Thursdays are usually reserved for those dreaded Thursday Office Meetings. Maybe with any luck, I can still swing it. Will my boss really miss me at those meetings anyways?

I love attending these events because they are always informative and it gives me the perfect excuse to get myself out of the busy office. What better way to say, "Sorry, I can't attend to this matter/emergency/meeting right now since I already registered to attend a lunch seminar". Heh, heh, heh.

So, today's seminar was "Grow Your Own Organic Veggies" sponsored by the Canadian Gardening Magazine and hosted by Erin McLaughlin and editor-at-large Stephen Wescott Gratton. I really enjoyed listening to Stephen, who is a walking encyclopedia on all things to do with gardening.

Coincidentally, I was mentioning to my co-worker, Cheryl, a fellow Gardening Fanatic, whom I easily managed to convince to come along with me, that I came close to winning a door prize once as I was only off by one number. Cheryl claims she is never that lucky and lo and behold, it turns out that Cheryl was the lucky winner today and I was again off by one number. Luckily for me, Cheryl was in a sharing mood (like all good greenies are), as she willingly split her prize with me.

Another worthwhile FCP Event!

They gave away the May Issue of the Canadian Gardening Magazine to everyone who attended.

Here are the seed packets that Cheryl won with her winning ticket of 3712982. My losing ticket was numbered 3712983. We get to split up the winnings with a Tomato seed variety pack and a Ratatouille seed pack containing the main ingredients for a ratatouille, like tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini and basil. Yay!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Li'l Sprouts

Yay! Spring is finally here! Around this time of the year, I'm always itching to get my vegetable garden started. So far, I've got some snow peas, sugar peas, grape tomatoes and thai basil sprouting.

Last year, we started the tomato plants a bit too late and we had to wait until around September before the tomatoes were ripe enough for picking. It was rather sad to see so many new green tomatoes popping out around the end of September but didn't get a chance to ripen when the cold October weather arrived. So this year, I decided to get an earlier start with the tomato seeds and hopefully we can start harvesting by late July or early August.

In my haste to get the garden started, I may have started the pea plants too soon because according to the seed pack instructions, they can be harvested within 58 to 63 days. Since they were started 2 weeks ago, that means they'd be ready for harvesting by the Victoria Day weekend! That being the case, I decided to transplant all the pea sprouts directly into containers to be grown indoors, and then start a new batch to plant directly outdoors when the danger of overnight frost would have past which is usually around the third week in May.

No, this is not prep work for dinner, but rather it's prep work for composting. To speed up the composting process, I will finely chop up any kitchen scraps like carrot tops, tough broccoli stalks, cucumber peels, etc., before burying it in my backyard.

Here's a pile ready for composting. This is a great way to enrich my vegetable garden soil.

Here are some Thai Basil sprouts poking out, a week after planting.

This is what the grape tomato plants look like, one week after planting. These were grown from the seeds of some organic grape tomatoes I bought from the Village Market 2 years ago.

These are some sugar snap peas I started from 2 weeks ago. These are growing quite fast. They may be ready for harvesting by the Victoria Day weekend.

The snow peas in the black pot have grown even faster. They were also started from seed 2 weeks ago. I'm tempted to pick these pea sprouts now for a quick stir-fry, but my family keeps pulling me away because they want to see the pea plants grow to maturity so we can collect the pea pods. Awwwww, I can't wait that long....