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October 2016

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Dear Halloween: stop being so sexist

Dear Halloween,

I think you are a lot of fun. When I was a young girl, I relished the opportunity to dress up in a scary costume and go out with my friends at night. The candy — a big plus!

As I grew older, I started to go to parties. My friends and I would watch scary movies, gorge on candy and chocolate, and hit as many haunted houses as possible. Even now, at 26, I enjoy dressing up and going to Halloween-themed parties. It’s just an excuse to be a child again, right?! And there is nothing wrong with that!

But, I have to say: the older I get, the more disappointed I become. You’ve become very sexist, my dearest Halloween, and it’s becoming really hard to love you.

I was having a hard time coming up with a costume idea this year, and decided to go to a party store for inspiration. I wandered up and down the aisles, looking at all of the outfits labelled for women. It was disgraceful. Everything was “sexy”: sexy cat, sexy devil, sexy milkmaid, and sexy foods (you think I’m joking, but I’m not). Anything not labelled “sexy” was revealing in nature. All the dresses were really short and the tops were a little more boobilicious than I would like.

Of course, the male costumes are all weather-appropriate for the month of October in Canada.

Then, I made the mistake of googling “halloween costumes – ideas for women”. Oh dear, Halloween, what have you transformed into?!

You used to be a day of innocence. The day was about the scary stories, the history, and of course, the candy. People honoured the dead in your name! There would be street festivals, family dinners, and cemetery rituals. Now, even the candy is too expensive for people to care. It’s all about what people wear and who takes notice of those legs.

My biggest concern is that kids are growing up thinking this is the norm. Teenage girls are putting on plaid skirts and letting their bras show through their blouses. Girls are plastering their face with glitter and lipstick, going to parties in bikinis, dressed as pop stars or scantily-clad video game characters. The number of people I see on the subway dressed up in outfits that cover very little of their body is startling. And, it increases every year.

To be clear, if a woman wants to dress up like a sexy kitten, that is her prerogative. A woman should feel safe during this holiday to be whoever she wants to be! I’m just arguing for options!

Halloween, I know you don’t have a lot of control over people’s decision-making, but please tell me this is not what you had in mind! Please tell me you didn’t want people to objectify themselves or parade around in skimpy lingerie. Please tell me that this is all a big mistake!

Of course, you can’t tell me anything. You’ve become too commercialized, too selfish, too self-involved to care what you are doing to today’s youth.  I never thought the day would come when I would be disappointed in you, Halloween. I never thought you would give up on your roots.

At the end of the day, I stayed true to myself. I decided against buying one of those horrendous and sexist costumes, and instead purchased some makeup and went as a scary, sewn-together monster.

Because, Halloween, I will never give up on you. Even when you are at your worst.

Sincerely,

Katherine DeClerq

People with mental health continue to suffer in Toronto

Imagine yourself sitting in the house alone day after day, jumping at every noise and wincing at bright lights.  You finally get up the courage to step out the house and go to the hospital to ask for help. Getting there is painful. You have to deal with the crowds of people on the subway and the constant fear of being watched walking down the street. Finally, you get to the hospital and wait for several hours before seeing a physician. You are given a list of phone numbers and then asked to leave. Clutching the piece of paper, you retreat back to your home and close the door.

In Toronto, people are turned away every day at hospitals and health centres and sent home with a list of contacts to call, only to be forced to sort through the maze of mental health on their own, oftentimes ending up on long waitlists with no aid. The issue in part has to do with the history of mental health in Canada. In the 1980s, mental health reforms across the world deinstitutionalized people from mental hospitals and many countries failed to provide a strong alternative. Many sick people fell into chronic homelessness, and a lack of replacement funding was offered.

In Canada, this is certainly the case. Other countries worldwide did implement strong healthcare systems that work to this day. Trieste in Italy created a network of 24-hour mental health facilities with inpatient beds and group home facilities for people with mental health in need of housing support. Because of constant access to mental health care, Trieste is known worldwide as the example to follow in managing the mental health needs of a population adequately.

It is no longer acceptable to place mental health as a secondary concern in health care. In Canada, mental health is a leading disability and affects one in five Canadians annually. According to the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), by the time the average Canadian reaches 40, one in two having been diagnosed with a mental illness. Finally, mental illness burdens individuals 1.5 times higher than all cancers, and more then seven times of infectious diseases. This is due to the number of years living with mental illness and a higher rate of early death.

How is turning people away from receiving help for mental health issues a proper response to a severe medical concern? If someone can’t leave their house due to aggressive anxiety, or is so depressed they are contemplating suicide, how is it remotely appropriate to put people on a waitlist?

CAMH alone has an eight-to-ten-week processing time once a doctor referral is submitted.  If someone has a debilitating mental illness, it is left up to them alone to make a mental health plan. It often falls to families and friends to help strategize what to do, and finding resources and filling out forms for long waitlists is exhausting.How many people simply fall off the grid and never receive the help they need? If the person who needs mental health aid does not have anyone to support them, they have to shoulder to burden themselves with no help in sight.

The federal government has promised to make mental health a priority, but has come under criticism as of late for cutting the Canada Health Transfer annual increase from six per cent to three per cent. Health Minister Jane Philpott has said she is committed to supporting mental health help, but the federal government has yet to provide any specific amount of funding.

Mental health needs to be a primary concern in Canada. It is no longer a conversation to have in hushed tones in the corner, but a public discourse that needs to be dealt with in the immediate future. There is nothing shameful about living with a mental illness. Can you imagine a society where each person living in Toronto had access to free counselling in every neighbourhood? It could be the change our society needs, to put people’s mental health first and foremost in a world that definitely needs it.

How to find a winter coat as a vegan in Toronto

Finding a winter coat appropriate for vegans is similar to spotting a koala in downtown Toronto. There are very few options to choose from, especially considering most winter jackets are filled with down or made of wool. Many popular coats have fur collars and use water repellent sprays that are high in chemical usage. As a vegan, I find it frustrating looking for clothing that will keep me warm in the winter, especially coats. They are one of the most obvious examples of animal cruelty in the frivolous fashion industry. But, they are necessary in this wondrous Canadian winter.

Here are five vegan options I found during my search:

Better Sweater Fleece Jacket by Patagonia, $89.
Better Sweater Fleece Jacket by Patagonia, $89.

Patagonia Women’s Better Sweater Coat

Patagonia’s sweater coat was by far the best pick when considering style, cost, being cruelty-free, and environmental sustainable. The coat is made of polyester fleece instead of wool, and does not have a down stuffing interior. It has a soft fleece inner lining, which increases warmth of the coat. It comes in black, white, or burgundy and is dyed with a low-impact process that is environmentally sustainable. The coat is a fair trade sewing product and contains no animal product whatsoever. To boot, it is on sale for $89. Patagonia has several eco-friendly and cruelty-free jacket options and the prices are the most affordable out of any of the environmental conscious coats available in Toronto.

Hoodlam Hemp Ladies Parka Jacket, $484.95.
Hoodlam Hemp Ladies Parka Jacket, $484.95.

Hemp Hoodlamb Ladies Parka jacket

This parka jacket is can be found at the Hemp Store on Yonge St. in Toronto. This jacket is available in black and has a vegan faux fur collar. It is made from hemp and organic cotton, and costs $484.95. It is fair-trade and is well-made, which means it this jacket should last years. There are several more options available online if the parka jacket isn’t the right fit, and all the available jackets are eco-friendly and vegan-approved.

Doe Parka Jacket from Wully Outerwear, $699.
Doe Parka Jacket from Wully Outerwear, $699.

Mammoth Outerwear Doe Parka

The Doe Parka is made from a poly-cotton water resistant shell and has Primaloft insulation. Primaloft is a vegan replacement for down and is made from recycled fibres. It is one of the best down replacements in the eco-fashion market and is sought after by sustainable jacket companies. Wully Outerwear (formerly Mammoth Outerwear) is a Toronto-based, animal-free jacket company. Wully Outerwear donates $10 of each purchase to the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals. The Doe Parka is $699, but is the top quality animal-friendly jacket that is made and sold locally.

Belden Future Vaute Couture Coat, $371.
Belden Future Vaute Couture Coat, $371.

The Belden Future Vaute Couture Coat

The Belden Future coat by Vaute Couture is a trendy dress jacket that will make heads turn on Yonge St. The jacket is available online and ships to Canada with no extra fees. Vaute Couture is one of the largest vegan jacket producers and is based out of New York. The company uses primaloft lining and organic moleskin on the exterior. This is a cruelty-free product and is water resistant. Vaute Couture are trend-setters in eco-fashion and no other dress coat comes close. The Belden Future is on sale for $371.50.

Lady Lane Fur Collar Jacket, $298.
Lady Lane Fur Collar Jacket, $298.

Free People Faux-fur coat

Free People produce some of the most trendy fashion items at affordable prices. The company also has a line of faux fur and vegan jackets that are funky and environmentally conscious. These jackets deviate from the norm, and don’t follow the traditional look of a winter coat. They are fashion-forward and are reminiscent of coats from the 60’s and 70’s. There are several jacket options ranging from $300 to $600. The Lady Lane Fur Collar Jacket is $298, making it one of the more affordable Free People jackets and eco-friendly.

Do you wear vegan-friendly winter wear? If so, let us know where you got it from in the comments below!

Women in Iceland walk off the job, demand equal pay

Can you imagine if every woman stood up at her desk and left work mid-afternoon to unite against gender discrimination in the workplace?

Women in Iceland are doing just that — and Women’s Post loves them for it.

Thousands of women left work at 2:38 p.m on Oct. 24 because, when comparing their salary to men, after that time their work would be unpaid. Women make 72 per cent of what men are paid to do similar jobs. At the same time, Iceland is the lead ranking country in gender balance worldwide according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), so the fact that they are leading the fight for gender equality is impressive and inspirational.

Canadian women also make 72 per cent of what are male counterparts earn, and yet there are no protests or demonstrations being organized to show that we don’t accept sexism in the workplace. Canada falls in 19th place for gender balance according to the WEF, scoring low points in politics and in economic participation and opportunity. Despite Canada’s attempts to be inclusive, we are significantly behind countries like Iceland that make gender equality a priority.

This is not the first time Iceland has protested the wage gap. Forty years earlier on Oct. 24, 1975, women joined together to march out of the office and make it clear they won’t work for free.  On this commemorated day, 90 per cent of women left their jobs and homes to protest inequality and this left the men to take care of children and work. Ninety per cent! That is an unheard number of participation in any demonstration.

Since then, women have protested twice more about the wage gap in an attempt to get equal pay faster. On October 24, 2005, women left at 2:08 p.m and in 2010, they left at 2:23 p.m. This year, women in Iceland left work at 2:38 p.m, which shows that the wage gap is slowly closing, but not fast enough. If the wage gap trend continues at this rate, women will achieve equal pay in 50 years. Imagine waiting 50 years until a you get paid the same as your male co-workers? This fact is absolutely unacceptable.

Women’s Post would like to commend Iceland for their persistence. In fact, women in Canada should take note of this persistence and do some of their own protesting. What do you think will happen if we all stood up and walked away from our desks at 2:38 p.m.? Would our employers take notice?

The fact that people have to say “Women deserve equal pay” in 2016 is starting and disgusting. If Iceland, a country that is ranked as one of the best in gender equality in the world, is putting in this much effort to close the wage gap, then Canada should be working twice as hard.

Tell us what you think women should do to encourage the government (and large corporations) to put an end to wage discrimination. Leave us a comment below.

Is regulating Airbnb the answer to housing crisis?

Without a doubt, rental housing in Toronto is a problem, but are short-term rentals the cause?

The City of Toronto is investigating short-term rentals such as Airbnb, Flip Key and Roomorama to see whether these temporary stays are taking available homes away from people who live in Toronto. In Wednesday’s Executive Committee meeting, the council voted to report back with recommended regulations in Spring 2017.

What is in the city report?

The Executive Committee wants to create a database that provides a breakdown of every service provider and unit type, including a list of landlords running short-term rentals. The city also wants to look into cases of sexual violence in short-term stays, safety standards, and working conditions for employees. The city will look into regulating and possibly restricting temporary rentals through zoning bylaws and licensing. Another solution presented in the study is to tax companies such as Airbnb and similar businesses as hotels.

Currently, Airbnb has 9,460 units or rooms in Toronto that were rented in 2015. These rooms were run by 7,320 hosts. Sixty-eight per cent of the rentals are held in apartments and the rest consist of a single room rental. This shows that not all rentals are taking up entire residences, but also include single rooms in people’s primary homes. Research also determined that 68 per cent of rentals were hosted by people who owned a single home and 37 per cent of short-term rentals were owned by people with more than one house. The high average of people who are renting from their primary residence also shows that not many people in Toronto are trying to make a business from Airbnb, but instead use it as a way to make extra money if they are not staying in the home.

How is Airbnb reacting?

Airbnb has released a report to refute the claims that the City of Toronto needs to regulate their short-term rental stays. Airbnb report says there are 8,200 active participants using the short-term rental program, which accounts for o.7 per cent of Toronto’s housing market. The company also relayed that 46 per cent of the rentals were less than 30 days annually. This shows that people most likely use Airbnb to rent out their homes while they work abroad or are on vacation. Airbnb proves that it differs from a hotel service because most hosts are only using the service occasionally rather than as a principal business. Airbnb also pointed out that the typical home listing earned $6.650 in the last year, which would divide into $550 per month. A long-term rental would make a landlord substantially more money, which further shows that hosts are not using the Airbnb service in place of renting out their home to a possible tenant.

How are other cities approaching Airbnb?

Other cities have adopted regulation approaches, with the most extreme being New York having outright banned short-term rentals. Chicago, Seattle and Philadelphia have introduced regulations that ensure short-term rental hosts pay hotel and sales taxes for using the service. Chicago, London and San Francisco have put a cap on the number of nights per year that a property can be rented short-term. Vancouver is also in the process of introducing regulations to license short-term rentals that will allow an unlimited number of stays as long as it is the principal residence of a host.

Toronto is set to regulate temporary rentals in Spring 2017, although the details are still unknown. Licensing the various business ventures could have its merits, but restricting short-term rentals to avert the housing crisis will not work. By mandating that a host only use their principal residence, and limit the number of nights for short-term stay, it ensures that a host is not using their own home as a hotel, but is instead trying to make an extra buck when they are away from work. On the other hand, strict measures such as banning or taxing short-term rentals prevents people living in an expensive city like Toronto from profiting from their already pricey homes. Either way, the housing crisis remains and focusing on controlling short-term rentals seems to be merely a distraction from the lack of affordable housing that plagues Toronto’s future.

Woman of the Week: Chantal Kreviazuk

Singer and song-writer Chantal Kreviazuk is a Canadian icon who never fails to bring her listeners home. She is someone who loves the euphoria of performing, which is why after a seven year hiatus, she will be back to touring, promoting her new album Hard Sail. “To get to that moment [on stage], it is what we call enlightenment. It is so outer-worldly for me. It is like Christmas every day when touring. It’s scary as hell and exciting,” Kreviazuk says.

Kreviazuk began her career in 1997 with the launch of her debut album  Under these Rocks and Stones. This album was critically acclaimed and led to Kreviazuk’s first Juno Award nomination as Best New Artist. In the following year, Kreviazuk’s cover of “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, originally written by John Denver, was featured in the hit movie Armageddon. This song was arguably the turning point of her career and put her on the international stage.

Kreviazuk went on to create six albums, winning two Junos in 2000 for best pop album and best female artist. She also received an Order of Canada, one of the most prestigious awards a Canadian can be given, for her non-profit work and contributions to Canadian society. Kreviazuk is the honourary founder of War Child Canada and has traveled to Iraq, Ethiopia and Dafur to provide humanitarian assistance. She has contributed to several albums for the charity and also created the song “Na Miso” for the Enough project, another initiative to end genocide and war worldwide. Kreviazuk has also been a champion supporter for Sick Kids Hospital and Children’s Hospital Foundation in Winnipeg.

“I see myself as a human being and a global citizen,” Kreviazuk says. “I think the most important thing is to respond to that call to action. We all have that in us.” Kreviazuk intends to teach her children the importance of charity work as well. Prior to beginning her tour in November, Kreviazuk will be taking her oldest son to Peru with the Starkey Foundation to help doctors install hearing aids for low-income children.

One of the tracks on Hard Sail that has gained attention is ‘Vicious’. The main chorus of the song is “Please forgive me, I’m trying to survive/The wolves are vicious over here on my side/And I’m sorry, I’m sorry/There’s nothing else anybody can do/This is the life some say we all choose/And I’m sorry, I’m sorry”, reflecting the desperation of living in a war-torn world.

It has been rumoured that the song was made about girls who were being sold as sex slaves by ISIS, but Kreviazuk was on hand to set the record straight. “The reason I wrote the song is because of the work I’ve done over the course of twenty years that directly correlates with the girls at risk,” she says. “It talks about the science of war mortality. We are all in this high alarm action process and we need to calm down. We need to calm down before we hit the button and drop the bomb.” She goes on to explain that the song is about the wars that we fight in our daily lives as well as the larger wars that plague humanity, and how they are interconnected.

Kreviazuk has also performed songs on many notable movie soundtracks, including a cover of Randy Newman’s ballad, ‘Feels Like Home’ that was used on Dawson’s Creek and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. She also recorded the song of “In My Life” for the TV show Providence. Lastly, she performed the song Time in the movie, Uptown Girls.  She has also done song writing for other artists including Pink and Kendrick Lamar. “I really enjoyed working with Pink, and Kendrick Lamar,” Kreviazuk says. “It is a really cool experience to work with someone who lives their craft. They really encapsulate being an artist. They are our ‘Dylans’ and ‘Jonis’”.

Kreviazuk is also an active supporter of young women musicians looking to break into the industry. When her husband, Our Lady Peace frontman, Raine Maida forwarded her a couple tracks from one of his friends in Alberta who was looking to launch her singing career, Kreviazuk saw the talent of the young singer and immediately took her under her wing.

“I got through one verse of one song, and I felt like she did something so different from me. I invited her to work with me in my studio in L.A.,” Kreviazuk says. “This is a young woman who is committed to music. It is such a risk and there is no guarantees. It is easy for me to say don’t do it, but she has fire. She will do it anyways, so how can I help her? What information can I give her that took me 30 years to learn? Some things you can’t teach, you have to go through it, but other things you can teach a young person.”

Kreviazuk likes to read on her own time and is currently reading Democracy of America by Alexis de Tocqueville. When on the road, she also always takes a candle and takes a break to do yoga when she has can.

Kreviazuk released a new album called Hard Sail recently in June 2016 and will be touring with her new album starting in November.

Fictional character to be UN ambassador for female empowerment

I’m very confused.

The United Nations has appointed Wonder Woman, a fictional character, as the honorary ambassador for the empowerment of girls and women. According to a press release, this means she “will be tasked with raising awareness about Goal 5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.”

I’ve always been a big fan of Wonder Woman. There’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing an Amazon warrior outperform all of the male superheroes in the Justice League. She is strong, fierce, and completely independent. While other heroes need sidekicks or weapon experts, Diana Price just needs her wits (and maybe her lasso of truth).

But, does that mean I think this fictional superhero, no matter how iconic, should be representing the struggles of women in an international agency — no, it does not.

There are a lot of people fighting for the rights of women and young girls. There are people building schools in under-developed nations, working on gender parity in boardrooms, and fighting for a woman’s right to choose. There are those trying to end sex slavery and the forced marriage of young children. And yet, despite all of that, the UN, with the combined wisdom of political leaders from across the world, has chosen an imaginary character as the representative for women. Someone who can’t answer questions and doesn’t have to be accountable — because it’s just easier when they don’t’ have to deal with a real woman. Am I right gentlemen?

What makes me truly angry is that this whole scenario is likely a marketing stunt. DC Comics will be releasing a Wonder Woman movie next year, which means they will benefit from having the character’s photo plastered all over the world. The president of DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products was at the ceremony to support the new partnership and did not seem concerned that the position of ambassador was not given to an actual living-and-breathing human being.

“We believe that in addition to the exemplary work that amazing real women are doing in the fight for gender equality, it is to be commended that the UN understands that stories – even comic book stories and their characters – can inspire, teach and reveal injustices.”

I’m all for the power of comic books and stories, but when there are girls who are being banned from attending school, who can’t get jobs, and who are being sold for their bodies, is this really the time to get commercial? The world needs results, not an imaginary woman in a glorified metal bathing suit to act as a symbol of empowerment.

I am absolutely disgusted in this decision. If the UN was having trouble coming up with a name for the position of ambassador, they should have asked Women’s Post. I have a lengthy list of women who would be better suited for the position than … well, no one.

While the decision to appoint Wonder Woman may have been intended as a symbol of power, all it’s done is show how far behind the United Nations is in terms of its goal of gender equality.

If the UN can’t think of a single woman who would be capable of empowering other women — then they have already failed.

 

wonderwoman

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How to make an eco-friendly home without breaking the bank

Trying to live an eco-friendly life when you are strapped to a strict budget can be difficult. Many green incentives require you to spend more money up front on expensive health food stores and energy saving products. Trying to save the world and not go bankrupt at the same time takes careful planning — but is possible.

Look for the Gaps

Heat escapes the home through various gaps, especially in aged homes. Blocking unnecessary gaps will help keep heat in the home in the winter and cold air in your living space during the summer. You can use caulking glue to seal open gaps that you find in open areas in the house and if you have an attic, pay extra attention to gaps on the top floor. Also seal gaps in the basement by looking carefully between the foundation and the wall closest to the floor. Also install weather-stripping around the doors and windows, which will keep drafts from coming into the house. You can find weather-stripping for under $10 and it will last more than 10 years, well worth the cost-savings you can get to keep heat or cool in the home.

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Be a smart shopper when it comes to fruit & vegetables

Buying completely organic is a tall order when you have a limited budget. Instead, try to prioritize the most important fruits and vegetables to buy organic, also known as the ‘dirty dozen’. The dirtiest vegetables and fruits have the highest levels of pesticides on them and buying organic will help you stay healthy. Examples of vegetables and fruits on the ‘dirty dozen’ are apples, grape, cucumbers, bell peppers, strawberries, and cherry tomatoes. On the other hand, the ‘clean fifteen’ list are the fruits and vegetables that are the safest to buy without going organic. Some of the cleanest produce includes onions, avocados, mangoes, and cabbage.

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Keep the heat down

Simply keeping the heat down and wearing sweaters and slippers around the house will help save money, especially with Ontario increasing recent hydroelectricity costs. Installing a manual thermostat allows you to set the temperature instead of letting it run automatically throughout the day and wasting unnecessary heat. When you are at work during the day, remember to lower the thermostat prior to leaving the house if no one will be home for the day. Using a heater in particular rooms that you often use instead of warming the entire house will also waste less energy.

Re-usable containers and mugs for lunches

Taking the plunge and buying a good quality coffee mug and reusable water bottle will save you money in the long-run and will also keep you feeling eco-friendly. Many coffee places will charge you less when you present your fun travel mug, and buying bottled water is a huge waste of money. Packing a lunch in re-usable containers instead of purchasing plastic baggies every month saves money and helps you to avoid contributing to ‘Plastic Island’.

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Choose Second-Hand

Instead of buying a spanking new sweater or buying the tool you need to fix the kitchen table from a big conglomerate, go to a second hand store or the tool library. Buying used items is one of the best ways to re-use and recycle, and also saves money. I have a list of thrift stores I visit regularly and love community trade groups like Bunz. Trading items online, Bunz is a great way to trade one un-needed item for something you do need without spending more money. More and more opportunities to borrow, trade or buy second hand are popping up because buying new is getting old. Embrace the trend, and get shopping! You will be shocked on the items you find.

What is your favourite eco-friendly habit on a budget? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

 

What happens on Halloween around the world?

Around the world Halloween is celebrated in various ways with one common thread; it is the day that honours the dead. These traditions either focus on protecting oneself from the spirits of the dead, respecting and remembering dead relatives, or trying to provide comfort to the spirits of the otherworld — a far cry from the trick-or-treating done throughout North America. Here is a compilation of some of the most interesting acts performed around Halloween.

Barmbrack in Ireland

In Ireland, Barmbrack is a Halloween tradition that consists of making a delicious fruitcake. Sounds normal enough, except for one thing. There are treats baked inside and wrapped in the fabric of the fruitcake to predict the future. If the cloth has a ring in it, it indicates romance. If the dessert lover find a coin, it means wealth, and a thimble means you won’t marry. Make sure not to bite down on the item. Ouch!

Leaving water and bread in Austria

In Austria, people welcome spirits back from the other world for an entire week! All Saint’s Week runs from October 30 to November 8. People will leave bread and water out for the spirits so they have something to eat when they visit. The tradition is a celebration, but the act of leaving food and water out prevents these angry spirits from retaliating.

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El Dia Los Meurtos in Latin America

Day of the Dead is one of the most celebrated traditions in many countries around Latin America and is a three day celebration from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. It is known as El Dia los Muertos and celebrates deceased relatives. Candy, flowers, photos, and interestingly, the relative’s favourite foods are placed on an alter as an offering. Candles are also lit to show the spirits where to go. On the last day of the celebration, relatives will go to a cemetery for a picnic to reminisce about people they have lost.

Burning fruit in Hong Kong

Hong Kong celebrates a tradition called ‘Yue Lan’, also known as the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. It is held on October 31 and runs for 24 hours. People will burn money, fruit, and photos as offerings to the dead. It has two purposes: to bring comfort to the dead and to appease them from seeking revenge on the living. Fires are lit to burn the offers and kept alit to ward off ill-tempered ghosts.

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Devil’s Night

Devil’s night is a recent tradition that has become more popular in the United States and even in some places in Canada including Winnipeg and Montreal. It is celebrated the night before Halloween and consists of people committing small acts of vandalism and arson. Some of the “tricks” consist of harmless pranks such as throwing rotten fruit at houses. More serious crimes are also committed as exemplified by events in Detroit where volunteers, calling the event Angel’s Night, have started patrolling the streets to prevent violence. With all the clown sightings lately, Devil’s night definitely gives the creep-crawlies.

 

Whether people try to protect themselves from the spirits of the dead, honour and welcome them or a mix of both, Halloween gives people the opportunity to celebrate a darker and fascinating part of the human psyche; our attraction to the fearful known of our future.

What to do with a bushel of apples

Tis’ the season of apple-picking and if you are like me, you have purchased a massive bushel of the delicious fruit only to wonder: what on earth do I do with them now? With over 30 apples sitting in my fridge currently, it is a great opportunity to try out a variety of apple recipes. Here is what I came up with.

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Photo by Stacy Spensley.

Applesauce

Once you make your own applesauce, you won’t want to buy it from the store anymore. Peel and chop at least four apples and add them to a pot. Combine with ¾ cup water, ¼ cup sugar, and cinnamon to taste. Heat on medium for 15 minutes until the mix is mushy and remove from the heat. Mush with a fork or blend if preferred. Try adding some maple syrup, cinnamon, and ginger for an extra kick. You can also add blueberries or pears.

Cinnamon Apple Chips

Cinnamon apple chips are a sweet and crunchy alternative to regular chips. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F and thinly slice apples. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and place on cookie sheet. Bake for one hour until the edges are curled up. Apple slices are best when still warm and crunchy.

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Caramel Apples

If you are looking for more of a sweet treat, caramel apples are a delicious and challenging recipe. Wash thoroughly to remove wax coating from the apples and remove the stems. Replace the stem with a chopstick by inserting it into each apple. Melt 1 Tbsp. vegan margarine, 1 ½ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup corn syrup, 4 tbsp. water and ¼ tsp vanilla into a pot and heat until warm. Coat each apple into the mixture and refrigerate for one to two hours until solid. Roll the apple in nuts or other fun toppings if desired.

 

Apple Crisp

Apple crisp is a great dish for when company comes over. Crumble brown sugar with vegan margarine to coat the bottom of a small sized casserole dish.  Peel and chop eight apples and place into a plastic bag with a dash of lemon juice. Mix with 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 tbsp. cornstarch, ½ tsp cinnamon and a pinch of salt. In another bowl, mix 1/3 cup brown sugar, ¼ cup flour, ½ cup oats, ¼ tsp cinnamon and salt. Add 1/3 cup melted vegan margarine. Place apples into the casserole and sprinkle the sugar mixture on top. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees F.

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Homemade Apple Cider

Don’t you just love a nice hot cup of apple cider, especially as the summer warmth fades away and cooler temperatures set in to stay? You’ll need 12 apples, an orange, a lemon, 3-4 cinnamon sticks, ¾ tsp whole cloves, vanilla extract, and brown sugar to sweeten. Put the first five ingredients into a pot and simmer for four hours until all ingredients are soft. Mash up all ingredients and simmer for another hour. Strain mixture several times until all the pulp and skin are gone. Add vanilla and sugar, and enjoy this yummy brew. If you are feeling adventurous, add a bit of rum!

 

What is your favourite apple recipe, let Women’s Post know in the comments below.