Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Island Sunset

Last month, both The Boy and I got a new camera. Naturally, they need to be exercised fully and this was when I looked at my list of adventures. Because yes, I do have a list of exciting longer range excursions for The Boy and I to do before winter hits. I'm organized that way. Mostly, it makes him whimper.

Prominent on the list was heading to the Toronto Islands to take pictures of the sunset over the city. We did some research — because we're both that kind of person — and a nifty app told is where the sun would set and when. Ideal viewing location was Ward's Island. My Mandatory Rest Period got cut short, dinner was a slapdash affair, and then we hurried to catch the ferry. The sun was low, doing all sorts of wonderful things to the clouds and the water.

We had plenty of time to scout the area and enjoyed looking at all the Island cottages on our way. It's a completely different lifestyle and I wanted to live in most of them.

We found the perfect spot just as the Golden Hour started.

It's one thing to plan your adventure so you can be there during the Golden Hour. It's quite another to see exactly why it has that name

As the sun moved lower, everything turned orange, including The Boy and I. Part of the plan was to ask my beloved to photograph my hands with a camera for the Show Us Your Hands! September Picture Project (the theme is work), but I was alarmingly orange in the photo that I resembled one of the cast members on Dancing with the Stars gone amok, so... Well, nevermind.

It was beautiful.

And then, at 7:41 PM, the sun dipped below the top of the skyscrapers. That didn't mean it was the end of the show, though.

We watched the sky slowly darkening and the city gradually turning on the lights

And then, it was full dark. We kept playing with different settings on the cameras, getting different looks. I'm still not quite sure what I did, but somehow I managed to get two completely different views of the city. I'm looking forward to be able to do this on purpose!

I've started talking to The Boy about a winter adventure of seeing the sunrise. He'll need some convincing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Eating out with Food Allergies: Do’s and Don’ts for Restaurant Staff

Eating out when you have food allergies is an adventure akin to playing Russian roulette. 

Funnelcake at the fair. Thankfully, no nuts in the booth.

It's not Russian roulette because restaurants don’t try to accommodate you — they do – but because the staff in restaurants have a varying understanding of what food allergies mean. Just for fun, I’ve gathered three examples from recent experiences at restaurants to illustrate my point. If you are a restaurant owner, chef, or server, feel free to use these as educational materials for your colleagues.

Know the Ingredients of the Food
I don’t eat out often, but when I do, I tend to go to one of a few restaurants in my neighbourhood where I’ve found a dish or two that I can eat. One of these dishes is a very yummy calamari that is normally served with a small container of hot sauce and a similar container of garlic mayonnaise.

When I order food, I always tell the server that I’m allergic to eggs and nuts and they let the kitchen know. Despite this, 95% of the time, my order of calamari comes plated with both hot sauce and mayonnaise.

You’d think people working in the food industry would know that mayonnaise contains eggs…

Be Aware of the Nature of Food Allergies
Last month, I had a meeting held in a fairly fancy location. How fancy? It has a dress code of business casual. It is perhaps a sign that I have worked from home for a very long time that I didn’t really know what that meant and had a hard time finding an outfit that qualified.

The meeting included a dinner from a neighbouring equally fancy restaurant. As is usually the case with events that include food, I ate from home. It’s a lot easier and less risky. Upon hearing of my food allergies, the very nice hosts of the meeting talked to the restaurant staff about accommodating me. A lovely woman came to talk to me and we got into a detailed discussion of my allergies to make sure they could accommodate them. There were no nuts listed on the menu, so that was a good sign. I asked about peanuts, as well — I’m not sure I’m allergic to them, but better safe than sorry.

“There are no peanuts in the kitchen,” the lovely woman said, which was greatly encouraging.

“What about the satay sauce?” I asked, having checked on my phone and learned that it is a peanut sauce.

“Oh,” she said, “it’s on the side.”

Apparently she didn’t know about cross contamination and that some people are so allergic they can’t be near certain allergens without risking an anaphylactic reaction.

Controlling Liability? Think outside the Box
I recently attended a conference that included meals. The staff at the location bent over backwards to accommodate me so I could enjoy the food and be safe. Partly because they were very good at customer service and partly because the location had rules prohibiting outside food to control issues of liability.

We discussed bread and pastries and they specified that although they would be very, very careful, they couldn’t guarantee that the bread was safe. No worries, said I, I’ll just bring a couple of slices of bread that I know is safe. This was when I was acquainted with the abovementioned rules.

This was also when I suggested that the risks (and therefore liability) inherent in me eating the bread they made, the safety of which they couldn’t guarantee, was perhaps higher than me bringing in a slice of bread that I knew was safe.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Our Hands Can! Community Stories — August 2014: Food

We are experiencing some technical difficulties with the Show Us Your Hands! website and emails. Please bear with us. You can reach Show Us Your Hands! through our Facebook page and on Twitter in the meantime. You can also reach us at suyh14ATgmailDOTcom.

What can your hands do with food? That was the Show Us Your Hands! Picture Project theme for August and it really hit a chord in the community. We received a lot of terrific submissions on our Facebook page. Our Advisory Council reviewed them all and selected their favorite to win the prize for August, a copy of Kim P. Miller’s terrific book Living with Juvenile Arthritis: A Parent’s Guide. See who won later in this post.

Here is a small selection of the August submissions:

Kelly gave us a two-for-one submission of her and her husband’s hands holding coffee cups. She said “Coffee is surely part of the food pyramid in my life! This is a picture of my husband and I, who both live with autoimmune arthritis, sharing a walk on our anniversary!” We agree completely, Kelly. Coffee is essential.

When Martine posted her submission, she also gave us a good tip. When writing the story to go along with her photo, she explained “I just finished preparing my yearly garlic paste - I grow my own organic garlic, and preoare a paste with olive oil. I freeze it in little quantities and voilĂ ! Ready for all culinary experiences, all year-round.” Great idea, Martine!

Kim posted a terrific shot of her hands peeling shrimp for special occasion. This was a very important step in making shrimp Alfredo, the dish her son had requested for his birthday dinner. Happy birthday to your son, Kim!

This month, we also wanted to show you the face (and hands) of one of our Advisory Council. Andrea Sarullo posted this creative collage of heard eating sushi, one of her favorite foods.

And the winner of the prize for August is AnnLouise! She said “This is my croquembouche - the first time I've been able to bake since being hit hard and diagnosed earlier this summer, just a week after my 20th birthday.” That’s is seriously impressive creation, AnnLouise! Congratulations on being this month’s winner! Send us an email at suyh14ATgmailDOTcom to get your prize.

Do you want to go participate in the Picture Project? The theme for September is “work.” This isn’t just about paid work, but also anything you do as a volunteer or in your home (yardwork and housework counts!). Here’s what you do:

Take a photo of your hands at work, doing anything productive. Post it on the Show Us Your Hands! Facebook page and tag your post with #showusyourhands.

And that’s all! Submit as many photos as you’d like. At the end of the month, our Advisory Council will choose their favorite. The September prize is a signed copy of Danea Horn’s wonderful book Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Women Coping with the Stress of Illness. Thank you for donating your book to the Picture Project, Danea!

We also should let you know that by submitting a photo, you give Show Us Your Hands! permission to use the photo and your name in our community programs, such as the monthly Our Hands Can! Community Stories.

To see the other entries in our Picture Project, hop on over to the Show Us Your Hands! Facebook page. While you’re there, why not submit a photo yourself?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Heaven: A Visit to the Toronto Islands

Heaven. We all have different definitions of what's complete bliss, but for me it includes the sound of waves, the smell of sunwarmed sand and salt water, a vast expanse of moving water with no land as far as the eyes can see, and very few other people.

I've been off my day job for the month of August, but a miscellany of events conspired to keep me working for the first couple of weeks. I didn't really kick into mental vacation mode until a week ago, but when I did, it was with a vengeance. It was a beautiful day, sunny and hot (we haven't had a lot of those this summer) and I decided to exercise my newfound range and go to the Islands with my camera. This time, I was not headed for Ward's Island, with its quirky cottages. This time, I wanted to see a lot of water and so I returned to Centre Island. I haven't been there for a long time — there's a small amusement park and carefully manicured park area and when I go, I want unkempt and natural. But the north side of the island provides the best access to the view I wanted, so that's where I went. And was I ever glad I did.

Going into the ferry, I saw a couple of unexpected extra passengers, a charming moment that started the day off just right

Although I prefer the natural and unkempt look, I have to admit that Toronto Recreation and Parks has done a stellar job with Centre Island. There are vast lawns with signs like this

Both old and new trees, wonderful flowerbeds and all of it is surrounded by waterways crisscrossing through all of the islands. It's incredibly beautiful and wonderfully peaceful. I wandered around for a while, enjoying it all. And then I headed for the other side of the island.

Once there, I gazed for a bit at the beach — crashing waves! Actual sand! —  but quickly moved on to something special. There was a pier jutting out into the lake! I'm pretty sure that it's new  — I don't remember this being there the last time I visited (granted, this was 15 years ago or so). It's a wonderful addition, taking you unexpectedly far out onto the blue water. The end divides into two, which is another wonderful design element. It means there are less people on each "wing" and you're much more likely to hear nothing but the sound of wind and the cries of seagulls. A less brilliant design element is that the railings are composed of two wide wooden planks, positioned just so that someone in a wheelchair can't see above the top. I did sneak this photo in the gap between the planks

I also spent some time communing with a young seagull, who fervently hoped that I would share some food with it. Since I hadn't brought anything but a box of raisins, its hopes were dashed, but it took a while for it to realize this. In the meantime, I engaged in some avian portrait photography. Seagulls are taken for granted and not like very much liked. Getting up close and personal made me realize anew just how beautiful they are. The colouring of the young ones is a particular favourite of mine and thanks to my young friend, I got an up close view of the intricacy of the patterns that protect newly hatched chicks from predators. Thanks to the wind, I also got a better idea of just how soft these feathers are

It eventually got tired of trying to telepathically intrigue me to cough up food. So tired, in fact, that it yawned. Yes, yawned!. I had no idea that birds yawn! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera ready, but take my word for it. Then it flew off and after consulting the map on my trusty smart phone (best investment ever), I decided to do the same (sort of) and take a walk along the coast, headed west. I'd never been in that area before, but I thought I might be able to see more beach and significantly more water than I could at the pier. Moving off the pier, I got another beautiful view of this area. As in so many other places on the islands, you can see the CN Tower peeking up over the trees, a reminder that the city is right there.

And then I moseyed off along the path. There was a lot of vegetation between me and the beach, but every now and again, there was a really good view. There was also a path leading into a protected sand dune, the last of its kind on Islands and I followed the dock as far as I could, but stopped before I reached the sand. I have recent experience with the incompatibility between wheelchair tires and sand. Nonetheless, sitting in the middle of this dock, hidden from the path, was so peaceful.

I continued moving west, peeking out at the sand in the water, enjoying the silence, only occasionally interrupted by someone else enjoying the area on a bike.


Mostly, it was just me, the sound of waves, the smell of sunwarmed stand, and blue water as far as the eye could see.


Okay, so I was missing the smell of saltwater, but this close to the lake, there was still that undefinable scent of a large body of water, which is so close I'm not going to quibble.

Much too soon, I was time to return to the docks for the ferry back. And on the way, there was another moment worthy of inclusion in my version of heaven. Because what's heaven without something that makes you laugh? In this case, a veritable herd of purple first years celebrating f!rosh. I love engineering students…