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Monday, November 20, 2017

The Rebirth, Regrowth and Regeneration of Cafe Kiffin: Flavors Forged by Fire

 fresh baked scones


Natasha and i stood in silence outside Kiffins entryway that fateful morning of May 1st. Her lower lip showed the tiniest hint of a quiver before a single shiny precious tear drop managed to sneak its way out and went streaking down her cheek at the speed of light.

My first visit to Kiffin was a few days after the grand opening. Their vegan mac and cheese wooed me with its eclectic mix of flavors and I found myself already planning my return even before I walked out the door on my first visit.  Serendipitously, the day i chose to return was the morning everything went up in smoke. Natasha had just been informed and arrived at the cafe the exact moment i did and our worlds collided.

Looking back, i wonder if my presence being there was meant as a good sign for her. Like a little angel sent to the scene as if to say "this isn't the collapse of your dream, it is the beginning of it." My name is Angelina and the word "angel" happens to be in my name so i guess that every so often the higher powers that be arrange for me to be an angel of sorts.

***Here is a summary of Kiffins story. Founder Natasha Alani had a dream of making healthy affordable meals more widely available to the public. "Good food is a right" is the philosophy Kiffin was founded on in 2013. Hailing from San Fran, she realized that due to high cost of living, her vision was simply not feasible there. In 2015 she put roots down in Montreal and established Kiffin firstly as a catering business that would eventually extend to a cafe where people could eat nurturing, nourishing meals for as low as $10***

Standing there staring deep into Natashas devastated eyes, i wish that that i could have had the power of psychic vision to tell her that in 6 mths we'd be toasting to the relaunch of Kiffin in our pjs. Then again i really don't like making it a general habit to come across as a nut job to someone I've never met before in my life. But 6 mths later, there we were on Nov. 18th at a fundraiser entitled "We didn't start the fire pyjama brunch."  In that very space that went up in flames, every bite i took sent my tastebuds up in foodgasmic flames

I'll end with some food for thought on fire. When a forest fire rages uncontrollably, it destroys all life devastating everything in its path. However, after the destruction of the forest, new species of trees were seen emerging from the ruins. It was discovered that there were certain species of cones filled with seeds that would only explode and release their seeds under the heat of the fire. Rebirth. Regrowth. Regeneration.

Something deep inside me can't help but feel that Kiffins new flavors are somehow forged by fire.

tarte au philo aux légumes-racine

Monday, March 27, 2017

My Cities......My Lovers: Dating Buenos Aires and Discovering True Love in Montreal

Japanese themed Le Falco cafe

There has been an interesting thought swirling around my head recently. I've never been in a long term relationship with a human, but i have been in a relationship with a city. And I've been thinking that if cities were lovers, how would i describe our affair?

In the case of Buenos Aires, i didn't choose the city, it chose me. I had only planned for a "one night stand" of 6 mths but the city seduced me into a 3 and half yr affair that was characterized by love-making and tears. It was the kind of romance where when you had a "high" it was truly high and you felt this magic and chemistry that leaves you convinced this is something you'll never have anywhere else.

 But the lows were equal to being in Dantes 7th circle of hell. Yesterday may have been a magical nights of tango but what the next day held was your cellphone getting stolen, a transportation strike, inflation so that your budget is screwed cuz everything is 5 pesos more than yesterday as well as some cronies trying to rip you off because you are a foreigner.

But every single time i thought about breaking up with Buenos Aires, the city would burst forth to life in song, dance, passion and parades. Much like a lover who comes thru the door with your favorite things after a toxic fight. The city knew that our relationship was on borrowed time and wanted to keep me in a tango dance for just a little bit longer.

Relationships in ones 20s is all about CHEMISTRY. However come your mid 30s the dating game changes drastically.  In ones mid thirties you begin to realize that you don't have to be a slave to just "chemistry" in a relationship, but you know who you are and what you want and what works for you and what doesn't. So you get a say in dictating the terms of what would be a fit for you. 

Now i see what i couldn't have seen so many yrs ago, that as passionate, fiery, mystical and magical Buenos Aires was, it was a lover complete incapable of a healthy functional long term relationship. Earlier i wrote a heartfelt post about my break-up with Buenos Aires. Here is the link to it below:

Montreal however is neither a fresh fiery romance nor a boring loveless marriage. Instead it lends itself to being an amazing partner by everyday magic as opposed to high "highs" and low "lows" that summed up my complicated dating relationship with Buenos Aires. Our break up was the worst thing and the best thing that could have happened to me. 

If i could go back in time and appear to my heart-broken younger self sitting on a bus to Chile about to leave Buenos Aires, i would have told her "4 yrs from now Montreal is gonna call your name and when it does, it will be the beginning of your discovery to the meaning of true love ....."

Buenos Aires may have been the birthplace of tango but Montreal gets to have the last dance :)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Living Loving and Learning the Meaning of "Honour"

Every yr i choose a word that i want to mark that particular yr with. Last yr my word was "fortification" and i made a focus to fortify myself in every aspect of life e.g. relationships, spiritually, mentally, emotionally

So after prayerful consideration, the word for to mark this yr is "honour". And i want to make the goal of this year to not only honour everyone and everything that has been placed in my world but to learn what it means to honour.

According to the merriam webster dictionary, the definition of honour is this:

  1. 1a :  to regard or treat (someone) with admiration and respect :  to regard or treat with honorb :  to give special recognition to :  to confer honor on
  2. 2a :  to live up to or fulfill the terms of <honor a commitment>

We can bring honour into every area of our lives. For the purposes of this blog I'm gonna focus on bringing honour to relationships and what that looks like from a practical standpoint. It became my hearts quest to bring this very definition of honour into my dearest relationships. To regard and treat my loved ones with admiration, respect and give special recognition. Also to become a person who lives up to and fulfills my words and commitment to them.

The idea seems to be embraced by a majority of cultures in the world except the western culture where it is all about my rights and my mood and what i feel. In the middle east both ancient and modern times now they honour a guest by taking the fattened calf and using it for their meal. This would have been the calf they have been putting all their time, money and resources into. So in a sense by giving it to the guest as a meal they are in many ways giving this person a good chunk of their income.  The same concept plays itself out in many cultures where one is expected to give the best of yourself.

So how does honour play out in my relationships in a modern day culture? I obviously don't own livestock that I've been fattening up to make for dinner when my friend comes over. The good news is that one doesn't need a fattened calf to show honour.....PHEW.

Making Love to Montreals Tango Scene

Montreal seduced me....she had me eating out of the palm of her hand the moment i touched down in Trudeau international airport. Not only did she seduce into the kitchen of Robin des Bois peeling potatoes as a volunteer, she seduced, me onto her beautiful wooden dance floors. It was on those floors that i began making love to Montreals tango scene.

Deep down in my heart i knew that a return to Canada would also mean a return to tango. It also made me abit nervous because breaking into a tango community can be extremely difficult. Locals who have been dancing with each other for yrs may prefer to dance with their buddies that they are comfortable and familiar with. It can result in a new comer sitting on the sidelines all night watching everyone else on the dance floor.

But nevertheless i decided to be brave and see where things would take me so i found a reputable tango school nearby and showed up at a practica on a snowy Sunday afternoon. I had no idea if anyone would talk to me or dance with me. What wound up happening no one could have predicted.

After sitting around for abit and watching others dance, i decided to chat with the people that run the studio. They welcomed me warmly and gave me info on their classes and events. They even told me about a promotional deal that was running on Tuango where i could get a card for 10 lessons for the price of 24 dollars. 84% discount off the price of normal classes.

At that moment i was thinking how wonderful it was that even if nobody dances with me at least i got a nice chat and info about a deal on lessons. Little did i know that by the end of the practica i would not only get asked to be danced with but i would also end up leading as well. My level of tango is just enough that I'm getting to the point of being the leader and not just the follower.

Chinese new yr good fortune must have smiled on me because shortly after someone looked at me and asked to get on the dance floor. I enthusiastically accepted and we ended up dancing very well together. Not long after that a girl who was new to tango chatted me up and i ended up being a lead for her on the dance floor and giving her practice in tango basics.

Little did i know that my beloved tango skills would crossover and be a great asset when i dove headfirst into the world of salsa for the first time. My 10 class pass i bought also applied to drop in classes of salsa run by the same school. I found that from dancing tango i have a natural ability to read a dance partner and be able to anticipate and flow with whatever move is coming next.

When Montreal is making love to me tango style it is reflective and about intimacy and connectivity. When the city makes love to me salsa style it is rhythmic and high energy. But either way my love making with the city never ends.....


***out of respect and gratitude to all the places I've danced at in Vancouver, Victoria, and Montreal....I've put their links below FYI  (vancouver) (Montréal) (victoria)

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Weaving Hope and Prosperity One Basket at a Time in the Artesanal Market of Chino

Of all the many excursions available to visitors of Tahuayo lodge, there is one that has a deeper more meaningful history behind it......the Artesanal Market.  Here you can buy handmade crafts from the women of Chino village. During my stay at Tahuayo there was a journalist there who went to the village with Dolly Beaver interviewing these women and getting their stories.

In order to launch the artesan market these women had to learn how to make crafts and take lessons.  They would return late to their homes after taking these classes and their husbands thought they must be prostituting themselves and would beat their wives, not believing that she was simply taking a class.  Many of these women would show up at classes with bruises and strikes on their bodies.

It is also important to understand that in this culture women did not have alot of opportunity career wise. I found out that it wasn't uncommon in previous generations for girls to become pregnant at 13 yrs old simply because there was no other life for her other than to have babies. My heart breathed a sigh of relief when i looked into the faces of my students and none of them had signs of pregnancy.

So for these women, selling their crafts was the first kind of financial freedom they have ever had. Pretty soon as they began making money from their crafts their husbands would ask for money to drink to which they said NO.  Finally they were able to take control of things and draw a line in the sand with just a little bit of economic prosperity.

Perhaps the most enduring symbol of womens empowerment is the Artesan Centre that stands in Chino village. On my first trip at my visit to the market it was housed in an old run down house made of wooden planks. However when i returned as a volunteer the Artesan Centre had been launched. They now had a beautiful housing just for the market for tourist to come buy handicrafts.

From what i was told Angels of the Amazon donated some money and each of the women contributed abit from their earnings and now the women have a place of their own where they can sell their handicrafts with pride. Basket by basket they began weaving hope and prosperity for their families.

Each one of these women were born to a generation where women were only good for making babies.  They endured beatings, bruising, and jeering from their husbands to break a cultural stronghold and belief that women had no power. And in the end they became the breadwinners and set an example to the next generation of what being a woman meant. These are the thoughts that echo through my mind as everytime i gently caress the image of a toucan that has been handcrafted with love onto a gourd bought from one of these amazing women of Chino village.....

Monday, February 27, 2017

Noshes of Philatrophy and Nibbles of Charity at Robin des Bois

RIDDLE: How do you learn french for free while making a difference at the same time in an atmosphere surrounded by delicious food?

ANSWER: by volunteering at non-profit farm to table restaurant Robin des Bois

My descent into this magical world where food and philatrophy began when i was in a little cafe doing research on where to find my next foodgasm. I happened to do a particular search for "farm to table" restaurants and Robin des Bois came up top of the list. Further research would reveal that there was something even tastier than just the food itself.

Robin des Bois combines food and philatrophy in a mouthwatering manner. Founded in 2006 it was the first of its kind in the world. The majority of the staff in both back room and front of the house are volunteers. 100% of all profits go to 4 different charities in the Montreal area helping with a range of things from providing free nutritious meals to needy, womens shelter, young homeless men etc.  I knew in a heartbeat that i was meant to sign up. They have a lovely system where you can go online and sign up for whatever available shifts on the calendar. 

***interestingly enough "Robin des Bois" means "Robin Hood" in english. This non profit restaurant was named after a heroic fictional figure that robbed the rich to feed the poor.

At my first shift in the back of the house of the restaurant, the staff couldn't have been more welcoming to someone who spoke little french and had never worked in a kitchen before. Whether i was slicing potatoes, peeling carrots, or weighing gorgeous chunks of poutine cheese  (I'll admit some of those chunks ended up in my mouth), they always took time to make sure i felt comfortable in whatever task i was doing. 

Working in the back kitchen also impacted me personally. I have always been empathetic to people in the service industry because i know they work hard. However the experience of being in the backroom doing prep watching the cook as well as doing the prep work myself deepened my level of empathy towards service industry people. As a result of this experience, the next time i go out to any place I'll want to tip more.

One morning as i was preparing to do a waitressing shift at the restaurant, i happened to check my phone and it had opened up notes of a sermon i had jotted down from my time in hillsong LA. Those words ran a sword thru the very core of my heart....

Do more than you are paid to do

Do more than you want to

Consume less than you desire to

Help more than you need to

Waste less time 

God time more than you are used to

-Brian Houston (global senior pastor of hillsong)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Honing and Harvesting Raw Honesty (pt. 2)

La Fontaine Parc

Last week i began writing on the theme of cultivating raw honesty in a relationship. My last post touched on how to create a platform and foundation for your loved ones to have a safe space. This week part 2 will be about how to create the kind of relationship where you look out for each other and call out each other on things that might pose risks to well-being.

This is a topic that passionately burns inside of me because i have been burned countless times by people who emotionally abused me under the name of looking out for me. I've had some of the most demeaning comments made to me and then get told that it's good for me and that the "truth" is simply hard for me to hear. Funny how that is exactly what women who are victims of domestic violence get told by their spouses.

Believe me when i say that when someone is looking out for you, their behavior is a far cry from emotional abuse under the guise of love. The two are like night and day and there is literally no comparison. One of the first red flags i get is when someone says they are telling me a hard truth that is really in fact abusive, it's funny how that same person will never give me positive reinforcement in my daily life when i am doing things right. I never get praise, support and encouragement on virtually anything but they are quick to rush in and point out faults in the name of "looking out for you".

Me on the other hand am always praising my loved ones with positive reinforcement. On regular basis I'm always saying "im so proud of you" "you've grown so much!" I've even written emails telling them every single positive trait about them and what i love about them.

The Bible says that salt and fresh water cannot come from the same source. So if I've been clearly demonstrating that I've got someones best interests at heart, then even if one day i have to have a hard conversation with them they know that it is coming from a place of having their best interest at heart. However if you have a toxic relationship where there is no positive reinforcement on a regular basis, then when that person comes to you saying they are doing this out of  "love" for you, i find that really questionable.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Honing and Harvesting Raw Honesty (pt. 1)

Caramel maple syrup ice-cream in Jean-Talon Market

The season for harvesting maple syrup here in Quebec is once a yr during late winter to early spring. Locals will tap trees and watch as liquid gold oozes out of the trees into their buckets. Likewise i see our dearest relationships as lovely trees that can ooze goodness. If honed correctly we can enjoy a bountiful harvest.

There is a deep conviction inside of me that rich relationships aren't invented, they are cultivated. I cannot tell you the countless amt of relationships that I've had that began with a BANG of great chemistry and today those people are no longer in my world. Much like the leaning tower of Pisa, those relationships were not built with the proper foundation and ultimately sank just like one day we know the leaning tower of Pisa will.

For me chemistry is simply not enough,  I want longevity. One of the things that i had a desire to harvest is raw honesty. My heart was to create a platform and space where we do more than brunch and coffee dates. But for it to become the kind of relationship where we look out for one another and even have the kind of trust that we can call each other out on things that may pose a potential threat to someones well-being. 

One of the first things I've learned is that when i want change in a relationship i have to demonstrate the behavior that i wish to see from the other person. Whatever words or actions i do or say are things that will either build or erode the foundation of relationships. If i take on a passive aggressive tone, it will be dealt back to me. If i demonstrate an ability to show raw honesty, then I'm opening a door for that behavior to be a regular part or our relationship.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Bitter Bagel Battles

Doorway of Drawn and Quarterly. Famous hipster bookstore in Mile End specializing in comics and graphic novels 

Upon landing in Montreal, unbeknownst to me there was a civil war of sorts going on in the city. Enemy lines were drawn and loyalties divided in a bitter bagel battle between Fairmount and St. Viateur. If i wanted to be a true local i could only have one lover and forsake all other mistresses.

One cold crisp winters evening, i braved the icy streets to grab a bite of both and decide upon my alliances. The first bagel place i popped by and for a mere 90 cents i was holding in my hands one of Montreals foodie gems. When they handed it to me i could feel its warmth oozing out of the pouch seducing me.

As i made my way to the other bagel place, i couldn't take it any longer and took one naughty nibble. It was love at first bite and in that instant knew where my alliances would be forged. But i couldn't be 100% sure until i snuck into the enemies camp for a tasty morsel.

Before long i found myself in the door of the rival bagel place holding a divine food find. Taking a deep breathe, i opened my mouth and allowed my tastebuds to savor the moment. This bagel was a completely different experience. Firmer, less sweet and chewy than the first place i tried. A very worthy contender in the heavyweight battle of the bagels.

On this note it is time for the big reveal to which bagel joints SWEET seduction i came under. For those of you from Montreal the word "sweet" is already a huge hint to where my allegiance lies. But for those of you not from here without further adieu I'll unveil which bagel won my heart...... t'aime a la folie :)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Seduced by Sexy Sinful Spoonfuls of "Elle McPherson" at Cafe Melbourne

When images of Montreal come to mind I'm sure people think of poutine and smoked meat. However as i delve deeper into the food scene here I've been pleasantly surprised to find quirky food gems all around the city. I christened my first day in the city with a visit to cafe melbourne to honor my Australian heritage. It was quite timely as well because it did happen upon Australia day.

Walking into the cafe i wasted no time in getting my jaffles and flat white fix while chatting up one of the owners. My mouth nearly started to water when i saw a poster advertising their pop-up melbourne style brunches that happen every weekend. One sip of that flat white made all my caffeinated dreams come true.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Becoming a Girl on Fire: Fortifying, Forging and Fertilizing Relationships

Echo Park Lake

My eyes stared fixed at the screen of the scene of Katniss Everdeens arrow shooting straight towards the dome in what would result in a fiery explosion. Who of us haven't fantasized about being the girl on fire? Hitting bulls-eyes on a tracker jackers nest and bringing it down on unsuspecting enemies. Or showing off your skills as a dead sharp shooter and igniting a revolution with an arrow perfectly aimed at a chink in the dome of an arena.

 For those of you who want nothing more than to be a girl on fire, I'm about to drop a truth bomb on you. You do have a quiver fulls of arrows that can ignite a revolution in your most cherished relationships. What do I mean when I say that each of us have a quiver of arrows? Well there is something I need to explain first. When you know someone intimately, you start to know what their individual fears are whether it would be loss, separation etc. Each one of us have an Achilles heel, areas of sensitivity that if the wrong person gained intimate knowledge of them could literally annihilate us psychologically.

 I grew up in a home where there was high level manipulation and it wasn't safe for people to know intimate knowledge about my inner workings. Because there was no doubt that that information would be used later to attempt to annihilate me psychologically or used to fulfill someones agenda and purpose. Even after I got out of those twisted destructive relationships, one of my deepest fear is that I would take that manipulative behavior I learned growing up and use it to destroy someone.

 So I did a lot of work on myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually and therapeutically to makes sure that I was a safe person who would never take intimate knowledge of someone I loved and and use it for destruction. This is what I mean when I say we have a quiver of arrows. Every single tidbit of info we know about a loved ones insecurities is an arrow that can be shot at them. However, are two ways to shoot an arrow at someone. One way is the way I described above where you use your knowledge of them for their own mental destruction. Ultimately this  up with no winners and a massive therapy bill.

 The other way you can shoot an arrow at them that ignites and revolutionizes relationship is to take the very thing they fear and openly work hard to give them the very thing they need to feel safe. If someone in your life has a deep need to feel safe, manipulative destructive behavior will do everything it can to take away that sense of safety and leave that person forever a prisoner of fear. But instead one takes that info and says "OK, you have a a need to feel safe, lets come up with a system and model in our relationship that will make you more safe than you ever dreamed possible."

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas