Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Experience the world through the eyes of a child

Once in a while we get to rule the streets - family and friends relax on the tracks between sessions at the Beaches Jazz festival on Queen Street East.

My teen home was filled with Catholic guilt and conditional love. We were kept in line with angry words, long spans of silence and enjoyment withheld, including Christmas presents and time out on weekends with friends.

When my second son was born, tired and cranky, my self-awareness became heightened.

It was time to become a better parent if I wanted a home filled with harmony, cooperation and love.

    It was heartbreaking listening to Patrick O'Sulivan's interview on The Current, wonder why no one ever stepped in when his Dad was beating him in the parking lot after hockey practice.

    In junior school, my entire class received a caning one day. Someone had done something wrong and No one had owned up to some wrong doing so we were all lined up outside and with outstretched arms, each received two lashes each. It stung like hot coals - swollen, broken skin, shamed in front of the school.

    Names like Bones, Chicken legs, Breastless  came at me as a preteen and I learnt that words could sting as much as that cane.

    Petar was excited to start school at 5 years old in Croatia. He quickly learnt that a bad grade in English would mean a beating at home.

    When he ran away from home for three days, nearing starvation, he reluctantly returned.
    The beatings never stopped until he was old enough to stop the hand himself.

    Patricia grew up on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent with her single Mom who would brandish her with an iron comb and take a hammer to her head in rage.

    Andy's parents used corporal punishment as a motivational tool to increase grades, while at school he faced racial slurs and death threats as a minority Chinese Canadian in his neighbourhood.

    Norman became a good runner as a kid. As a fun loving geek growing up in Mississauga, he'd run or ride his bike to school every day.
    Those skills were useful in making a quick getaway from bullies on the football team at the end of school.

    Deng was a young man in Dafur when he was captured and kept in a deep, dusty hole in the ground for days on end with little food, water - no bathroom facilities.

    When Steve was five, it felt natural to use his left hand but whenever he picked up a pencil, he got rapped on the knuckles hard. Over and over this happened. He was told that it was the hand of the devil working.

    Do you have a childhood pain that cuts deep? Scars that fade but never go away.

    In the early spring the Willow trees attracts aphids but a few weeks later, become an elegant shelter for family gatherings at the Lake.

    Beaches Jazz Festival is fun for the whole family - Moka  brings it's blend of calypso, folk, reggae and parang to the streets summer 2015

    Learning the hula hoop with the family, Saturdays at the Evergreen Brickworks

    Inherited from the Pan Am Games, the colour-changing Toronto sign at City Hall is a perfect selfie backdrop
    Union Summer brought Front Street Eats on the street - a few picnic tables and umbrella for shade makes a difference with the Union Station construction

    In the backyard this  summer, the Nasturtiums went wild - easy-to-grow annual with edible leaves and flowers. 

    Bluffer's Park at the Lake.

    Kayaks and Canoes ready to go for a day sail

    There's nothing like being near the water on a hot day - Bluffers Beach.

    Lavendar is a flowering plant in the mint family that smells heavenly, is edible, has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Bring some indoors in the wintertime.

    Davisville Junior Public School is about to be transformed into a community mid-town hub. Learn more at

    From the exploring kids to the recycling entrepreneur, everyone's belongs at the intersection of Queen and Yonge. 

    Sometimes the best of friends can cut deep with words. What are the North Toronto kids are wearing these days? - the Herschel Supply Company Backpack is a must-have.

    Parenting classes gave me the tools not only to communicate with my kids but to reflect on my own behaviour as a parent, to be in the moment, every day.

    Here what I learnt from Beverly at the Parenting Network:

    • Equal rights, not equal in abilities
    • Keep "No" "Don't" to a minimum. Praise good behaviour. Ignore bad behaviour
    • Use "I" Messages; describe the behaviour, say how it makes you feel, describe the consequences of that behaviour
    • Always offer choices. example: "Time to get cleaned up, do you want a bath or a shower?"
    • Show children your trust, not your anxiety.
    49 Phrases to calm an anxious child

    There's only one rule to live by: Be Kind

    Manifesto of Kindness

    1. Be kind to loved ones: Treat those in your care as you wish to be treated
    2. Be kind to others: Put yourself in their shoes
    3. Be kind to the planet: Plant one tree in your lifetime
    4. Be kind to all living things: Remember reduce, reuse, recycle?
    5. Be kind to Yourself: Put it on your skin if you can put it in your mouth.

    Learn in your own way: essential parenting classes in Toronto, audio downloads and this book:

    Raising Great Parents: How to be the parent your child needs you to be.

    photos: Summer 2015 Toronto
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    Thursday, 7 June 2018

    Still fighting for our rights

    They tried to bury us. They didn't know we were seeds

    In my reality, it's 1967,  Pata Pata is Number One, Miriam Makeba and Stokely Carmichael are crazy in love. The The Black Power Revolution (Trinidad February 1970) exposes the fact that people around me are being treated differently based solely on what they look like, the colour of their skin. 

    In my Nelson's West Indian Reader the Atlantic Slave Trade that brought us across the Atlantic Ocean from the 15th through 19th century seem so far away.

    This happened and everyone knows. Finally an apology from the Colonial powers would bring reconciliation.

    But it wasn't all over and forgotten.

    It's 1996 and Tracy Chapman is still talking about the revolution and flash forward to 2016 and the Trump vs Clinton US election exposes what we knew had not been reconciled.

    The underbelly of Hate exposes the truth we have been ignoring – the truth that we all discriminate and we use these tactics to separate, to dominate, to take selfish advantage.

    As the visible minority know, this is what you live with everyday. When someone tells you, you're being too sensitive or you're imagining those indiscretions, we can all agree that being ignored, belittled or disrespected did not start with Trump.

    We are fortunate to live in a place where the Ontario Human Rights Code gives us a set of rules to live by.
    Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.

    Women's March Toronto January 2017

    The Women's March Toronto January 21st 2017 protest, prompted by Trump's victory, we stood up for women’s rights everywhere.

    Women's Rights are Human Rights

    I can't believe we are still fighting for Women's rights, Gay rights, Religious rights, ethnic rights

    Stop racism. Stop misogyny

    MSIT NO 'KMAQ means recognizing and acknowledging the living spirit within all things, encompassing the entire animal kingdom, the spirit within plants, rocks and waters of our world

    I share this haiku, written by Teresa Fisico so eloquently expresses our Canadian dream:

    "Sea to Sea to Sea.
    Diversity defines us.
    The Land unites us."

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    Tuesday, 5 June 2018

    The Creative Brief: 10 questions I ask before starting a project

    It's Game on for Youth Soccer fans at The North Toronto Soccer Club starting every Spring.

    Writing a Creative Brief helps to summarize all the factors that can impact your communications strategy and the development of a website or product.

    10 things you need to know:

    1. Company Background
    • Corporate and industry descriptions. What's your business? 
    • Description of the competition. What are you offering that's different?
    • Contact information:
      - who are the decision makers, who´s responsible for what
      - are their any other outside contractors working on the project or materials produced to date that we should be aware of
      - how much time can you commit to this?

    2. Project Overview
    • Mission statement. SWOT:  Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
    • Branding. Is there existing direction or existing assets?
    • What are the important factors for success
      for example
      - integrated web strategy & corporate strategy
      - a web strategy to fit your marketing plans
      - Renovation. repurposing of existing content or information
      - creating a community for dedicated visitors
      - a quality multimedia experience (well executed graphics, writing, navigation)
      - Speed. I'm in a rush to market
      - ease of maintenance
      - doing better than our competition on the web
      - staying within the budget
      - people bookmark the site because they get so much out of it regularly
      - sending the message that we know the web and use it appropriately
    • Are there any plans to measure success

    3. Project Goals or Objectives
    • What are the basic goals of this project:
      for example
      - branding and identity reinforcement
      - improving access to information. collect and distribute information
      - online sales, direct sales
      - corporate communication. interacting with customers.

    4. Target Audiences
    • Primary web audiences 
    • Secondary web audiences
    • Who is the audience. Who do we want to attract
    • What are the different groups within the audience(s)
    • What jobs/functions/activities do they perform
    • Are they in one or more locations (depts, countries, companies, facilities)
    • Do we have a multilingual audience
    Requirements for using/accessing information
    • Will the web site be used for:
      - providing or acquiring product information
      - purchasing products/services
      - answer questions for themselves and others
      - locate related resources
      - gain new knowledge and skills
      - perform procedures
      - conduct research
    Knowledge of content
    • What is the primary web audience's knowledge of the content:
      - is it new to them
      - are they familiar with the content
    • What is the secondary web audience's knowledge of the content:
      - is it new to them
      - are they familiar with the content
    Experience with technology
    • What is the comfort level with the web and the browser
    • What kind of browsers are they likely to use
    • Are there bandwidth or download issues to consider
    • Is the audience comfortable using a search function and other interactive features
    • Will the audience need to print what they see on the web.

    5. Information Summary
    What information needs to be included
    • Where will the information come from
    • does the information already exist
    • in what format does it exist.
      How will it be supplied:
      - brochures, current web site, define electronic format and delivery
    • Do we need to:
      - create new content. Writer required.
      - edit existing content. Editor required. 
    • Does video, audio, graphics or animation need to be created to support the topics.
      - Does any already exist. How much and in what form?
    Ownership of information
    • Did the information come from inside the company
    • Do we have permission to use it
    • Are there sensitivities regarding the approval process within different business units or partner arrangements
    Updates/revisions needed
    • Is any information provided not appropriate for the web
    • How many sets of revisions are anticipated before the information is ready for development
    • Is the information static or dynamic or a combination
    • How often are updates and revisions required
    • Who will be responsible for updates
    • Is the information currently accurate.

    6. Branding: Desired Image Attributes
    This provides guidance for the tone and manner of the organization's communications and function as criteria for the development and evaluation of the site.
    • Define the image attributes. What it is, what it isn't.
    • Provide illustrative tips for visually (assist in look and feel) and verbally (assist in copy development) defining your desired image attributes.
    • What qualities do you want to emulate on your web site.
    • What sites or companies.

    Here are some examples of image attributes

    A world-class corporation whose operating companies have recognized reputations and proven track records of performance, experience and expertise in energy transportation, distribution and related services.
    • high quality production and paper stocks
    • use of imagery
    • full colour
    • copy should be, forward-focused, while referencing past successes
    • reference entire organization to convey breadth, depth and expertise
    Leading IS:
    • Well-regarded. Evolving. Experienced. Skilled. Visionary. Wise
    Leading IS NOT:
    • Complacent. Rigid. Arrogant. Bureaucratic. Risk-averse
    A company with the momentum, insight and motivation to continually meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the evolving energy industry.
    • expansive layouts
    • ample "white space"
    • graphic representations of growth (e.g. charts, maps)
    • speak of initiatives throughout the organization
    • use benchmark measurements to illustrate improvements and set context for growth
    Growing IS: 
    • Energetic. Agile. Strategic. International. Proactive. Opportunistic
    Growing IS NOT:
    • Unfocused. Reactive. Staid. Short-sighted. Impulsive
    A market-oriented company that delivers results and satisfaction by anticipating and meeting customers' needs , requirements and expectations.
    • active people-based illustration and photography
    • developed friendly graphics, clear lines and simple layouts
    • use clear, professional language that communicates expertise and demonstrates understanding
    • benefit-driven copy and headlines
    Customer-focused IS:
    • Responsive. Flexible. Understanding. Accessible. Cooperative. Knowledgeable
    Customer-focused IS NOT:
    • Inwardly-focused. Condescending. Presumptuous. Complicated. Remote. Uncompromising
    A consistently dependable and trusted company that is focused, financially sound, socially responsible and ethically credible.
    • bold use of colour, shapes and graphics
    • use a crisp, confident tone without appearing arrogant
    • use bulleted text to emphasize key points
    • avoid flowery, overly-descriptive prose
    Strong IS:
    • Established. Trustworthy. Responsible. Stable. Honest. Consistent
    Strong IS NOT:
    • Overbearing. Insincere. Flighty. Over extended. Invincible
    A forward thinking, technologically astute company that finds creative, progressive ways to better serve its customers, improve operations and deliver value.
    • unusual cropping of imagery
    • unexpected combinations creating visual interest
    • develop refreshing uses of well known concepts
    • provide status reports and updates
    • solicit input and utilize interactive and electronic formats (e.g. Q & A, intranet)
    Innovative IS:
    • Progressive. Leading-edge. Continually improving. Incremental. Creative. Inquisitive
    Innovative IS NOT:
    • Traditional. Confined. Historic. Satisfied. Finished


    Provide your overall favourite sites and reasons for your choices
    - colours, look and feel, user interface, layout
    - size of site
    - publishing model
    - quality of graphics and content
    - functional elements.

    7. Functionality
    • What functional requirements do you believe are necessary
    • What do you want your visitors to be able to do at the site:
      - download areas (extranet)
      - database-driven
      - catalog, e-commerce
      - applications
      - submit forms
    • Who will update and maintain functionality
    • Are there any security issues or considerations
    • Have you budgeted for hosting and maintenance of the site
    • How will the site be served/hosted
    • What type of database systems are in place
    • What is your longterm plan for the site
    • online catalog of products and have full e-commerce capabilities
    • input on surveys
    • enter contest or promotions
    • member account services including the V.I.P.program.

    8. Target Audience Configuration Assumptions 

    Operating System and browser compatibility

    What platform or device will your audience be viewing your materials on. eg standard desktop browser, laptop, ipad, mobile device etc. Browsers include Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari etc.

    HTML Component examples
    • All HTML pages will minimally be developed using the W3C XTML standard. (displayed to end user as HTML 5)
    • Animated GIFs
    • CSS (cascading stylesheets) will be implemented to control the style of the Web documents without compromising its structure. By separating visual design elements (fonts, colors, margins, and so on) from the structural logic of a Web page, CSS gives visual control without sacrificing the integrity of the data - thus maintaining its usability in multiple environments. In addition, defining typographic design and page layout from within a single, distinct block of code - to minimize the use of image maps, <font> tags, tables, and spacer GIFs - allows for faster downloads, streamlined site maintenance, and instantaneous global control of design attributes across multiple pages.
    • JavaScript to extend the capabilities of HTML.
    • User interface rollovers, menu bars, page behaviour, and routines to create dynamic, user-centred design.
    • Layout & CSS scaling design, relative layout, conditional colours, and routines for scripting the design.

    9. Final Deliverables
    Expectations on project delivery:
    • Design prototype - HTML templates
    • Web Site design components (flattened or layered photoshop files, original jpegs, cut up and optimized graphics)
    • Other format considerations, (Print, TV/Video) branding across multiple media
    • Style Guide - document of development decisions
    • Site Inventory (print outs, style guide, site architecture, content inventory checklist)
    • Partnership considerations
    • Return of supplied materials.

    10. Additional requirements
    • Competitive Analysis. What's the competition up to?
    • Search Engine Optimization [SEO]
    • Social Media marketing strategy.

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    Monday, 4 June 2018

    My Toronto Includes

    My Toronto Album 

    "A happy city is a social city, living close to your natural environment and having good relationships with neighbours is what it's all about"

    Run to your local Toronto Public Library and renew your library card today. 

    Then get online and dig into a treasure trove of books, video, research materials, programs, classes, exhibits including hidden gems like a free subscription to over 6,000 courses in Business, Technology and Creative Skills taught by industry experts at

    What's On

    An explosion of colour and translucent light that was the exhibition at the ROM by, an American glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly #CHIHULYTO 

    Neighbourhood Finds

    " F
    ewer things, exquisitely executed, are better than many things ordinarily executed"

    Bill Mockler

    Around town, a no-logo canvas carry-all hauls groceries, bread and everyday necessities such as a clip-on LED bike light.  A membership to Mountain Equipment Co-op gets you the goods that gets you outside and on your bike for a few more days before winter finally hits and you have to give up the bike till early spring.

    O M G Shoes

    GetOutside offers the classics: Converse, Clarks, Doc Martins, Havajianas. Close by at 365 Queen Street West, CSquared, provides more lady-like options with European alternatives like FLY for edgy mary janes and flat, rubber-soled boots from Camper

    Paper, pencils, utility bags, exquisite purses
    On my usual visit to this Yorkville stationery shop, I'm picking up FABER CASTELL 2B grip, three-sided pencils.

    Pens, office accessories and organizers are packed in with italian and eco-friendly laptop bags that may cost as much as 3,990.00. Laywines is tucked in at 24 Bellair Street, opposite Uncle Otis and the newly renovated Sassrafraz Restaurant.

    Of course moleskin is there alongside other brands you won't find anywhere else in town.

    Built to last
    Uncomplicated, impeccable tailoring, unexpected colours in leather, contemporary and weather-aware fabrics. There are no risks here at M0851. Only buttery soft leather, sophisticated basics and the best utility bags to last a lifetime.

    Shop Local: Tea towels handcrafted in Canada by Jenna Rose and 100% Canadian organic beeswax candles from Gammy's

    The One Of A Kind Show is on twice a year in Toronto and this smaller spring show in April makes it easy to get up close to the 450 artisans showing handmade items including bodycare, ceramics, furniture, textiles and fashion.

    Glass by Toronto artist E. J. Davey

    Zit Designs from Montreal uses recycled rubber to create really useful items like this card holder. Buy one for each family member to keep items like health card, library card, doctor's appointment card all in one place.
    Lawrence Tucker of Ottawa scouts for special pieces of wood and turns them into magnificent, functional items like these pens.
    Another top pick this year are the Original Pheylonian Survival Candles of 100% pure capping beeswaxmostly virgin beeswax freshly produced by the bees each year when they are gathering nectar, that last for 80-100 hours. If you burn candles, make sure they're beeswax which produce negative ions, cleansing the air of dust, odours, toxins, pollen, mold, dust mite feces, chemtrail residues and viruses.

    Everyday Summer style. Left:  Boss by Hugo Boss suit at Harry Rosen, White Shirt by, shoes Blundstone at Australian Boot Company on Yonge. Right: Reversible Jacket with pewter skull buttons online at Betabrand, shorts Club Monaco, long sleeve tee Banana Republic Bloor West, sandals Birkenstock at Circle Shoes.

    Splendid Gifts

    A little salt does the body good and a real treat for Women only at Body Blitz Spa.

    Ana's Housekeeping Services Who doesn't need a little extra help once in a while? We'll take any day, anytime.

    Reflexology dates back 5,000 years and are few things more pleasurable than a soothing, energizing foot massage at Bakerwood Massage Clinic

    I'll take UBER, Beck or Royal Taxi over having to get behind the wheel in Toronto traffic. You can actually give the gift of UBER

    Wildbird. Birdseed and more! Canadian-made home and personal wellness products.

    A breakfast for Mother's Day - Peter prepares Oatmeal with cream, brown sugar and walnuts; Montreal-style all dressed bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onion slices and capers.

    Let's Eat

    Super summer salad
    Crunchy Spinach Salad at the Pickle Barrel Yonge and Eglinton is a bunch of baby spinach leaves topped mandarins, red onions, almonds, crunchy rice noodles and other stuff is a filling meal on a hot night just before a movie at SilverCity. 

    Rooftop Patio
    The patio at the Queen Mother CafĂ© on Queen Street West, not visible from the street, you must venture underground to get back up to the backyard patio, more like Aunt Marge's than the Queen but you can't beat the Pad Thai noodles after 20 years in the city.

    JulesBistro is a cozy, unpretentious restaurant that serves the ultimate Toronto lunch at the east side of Spadina between Queen and Richmond.

    Frank Restaurant at the AGO is a relaxed and delightful date for lunch and an afternoon gallery browse. Ten percent off meals is just one of the perks of an Art Gallery of Ontario membership. Named in honour of the gallery's restoration architect, Frank Gehry.

    The breakfast of champions consists of multi-grain pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, two over-easy eggs, peameal bacon, cranberry juice. The takeout sandwich version may substitute a Montreal-style Bagel House bagel instead of pancakes.

    Fresh Produce just around the corner at Mt Pleasant and Davisville - Ken Cho Food Market supplies the Mt. Pleasant and Davisville neighbourhood and it's many restaurants on the block for over 20 years. Dress up your table with fine linens from Jacaranda Tree, pick up a fresh baguette at Jules Bakery and lunch is ready.

    Green Space

    The Kay Gardiner Beltline Trail runs from west of Allen Road and south just west of the Don Valley is a great city escape for cyclists and walkers.

    Evergreen community naturalization programs is a collective effort that includes people from all walks of life in the revitalization of their schools, community and in making cities our more livable. Spread the green.

    Take a video tour or just get there on Saturday for the Farmers' market. The Evergreen Foundation is our blazing star forging ahead to raise $55 million to transform this heritage site into a sustainable urban green space.

    As part of the Don River watershed and City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation, this urban oasis helps to protect wildlife and habitat.

    A splendid hike through The Central Ravines and Beltline is part of the urban forest pathway leading to the Evergreen Brickworks conservation area where Saturday morning is buzzing with a Farmers Market and family activities.

    Trees make our city livableOne of the most valuable resources in our city are our 10.2 million trees.

    Allen Gardens is set in one of Toronto’s oldest parks and transports you into a warm, humid horticultural feast of six themed greenhouses featuring a mature forest of Palms, Succulents, Bamboo, Orchids, Hibiscus and Bromeliads.

    Allen Garden is a botanical oasis offering welcome sanctuary among beautiful plants from around the world often finding some privacy from unwelcome stares under the centre piece historic, cast-iron and glass domed “Palm House”, built in 1910.

    Early morning at Rosehill Reservoir: a glorious park to enjoy at 75 Rosehill Ave. just two blocks south east of St. Clair Ave. and Yonge St.

    City Hall's  best kept secret: The Podium Green Garden is an expanse of underused public garden at the pod level at City Hall which may not be visible from the street but a sweet space to get away from the crowds at Queen St. and Bay.

    Just go for a walk!. My friends travel all over the world only to discover that Toronto is a natural wonder with 600 km of trails and more than 1,600 parks like this one, midtown in the Village of Yorkville.

    Garden West
    Going out of town in search of something Victorian then an afternoon at the Royal Botanical Gardens on the border of Burlington and Hamilton, is divine.  If you take the your bike on the go train, you get off at Aldershot and it's probably a less than 15 minute ride down to the lake at your at the Gardens. Visit the tea room in the gardens for lunch.

    A new bride joins her wedding party for a ferry ride to Ward's Island and Wedding Reception.

    photo: Cole kicks it @ NTSC North Toronto Soccer Club

    Wildflower Farms is a favourite website about native plants and you can buy stock too!.

    Star Gazing
    If you love looking up at the stars, the David Dunlap Observatory offers public viewing nights held most Saturday nights throughout the summer months and early fall. The DDO is an educational facility located in Richmond Hill, Ontario and is operated by The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

    Ontario Walks celebrates the joys of walking.

    GreenShift Supplies cups and other products made from sugarcane, corn or natural paper fibres with special certified, biodegradable coatings.

    Becoming a Toronto Environmental Volunteer. Twenty hours of training and a certificate, 40 hours of community work (or more), a diploma, a T-shirt and hat, ... ah, and free entrance to different shows such as the Green Living Show and Canada Blooms.

    Bluffers Park is 14 kilometres of waterfront, public, open, day-use park with long sandy beach, picnic areas, swimming, scenic trails, volleyball court, launching facilities for recreational boaters, as well as private yacht clubs with the backdrop of the majestic Cathedral Bluffs rising more than 90 metres above Lake Ontario.

    Getting Around

    On New Year's Eve you can ride the TTC for free. Party without getting behind the wheel of your car. Toronto Transit Commission.

    Toronto City Bicycling Map

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