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Kaeleigh Phillips

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Festival life reminder of beautiful womanhood

Barefoot in the dirt, dancing around a bonfire with my soul sisters, music, wildflowers, and lichen everywhere. This was FrogFest, the celebration of music and nature, and a true healer of the heart after a long hard year of trucking away in the grind of city life.

Festival life in the summer has become as important as seeing cherry blossoms in May and eating fresh apples in late August. It is an essential part of the Canadian music lover’s life and is a process of revival in the midst of hot and hazy summer days. So, what does it really mean to be a woman immersed in nature and music with her best friends? Why venture out into the forest to not shower for three days and commit yourself to the frenzy of festival life?

Quite simply — to free yourself.

If only for a moment, bills cease to matter and the monotony of the nine-to-five life disappears. Life becomes about the next song, the heartbeat of the vast powerful forest, and picking wildflowers because that is the most important thing you could think to do in that moment.

Millennials are living in a time of low employment opportunities, rising living costs, and an increasingly frightening world. In the wake of the impacts of climate change and a growing sense of disunity on the international stage, young people today are left to face growing challenges. But instead of giving up all hope and turning away from the world, festivals like FrogFest inspire me to believe there is a collective of individuals who want to change the world for the better.

Alongside music, sexy people, and the lush forest landscape, there were many conversations around the importance of barter, trade, and changing society from the capitalist confines that have ravaged our planet. I personally witnessed a young seven-year-old lad trade a drawing for a patch that my friend had sewn. When a young woman tripped and fell during a show, ten people were there to pick her up instead of none. The entire experience was a series of gift giving, from physical objects to spiritual offerings. Festival spaces aren’t only about getting trashed and listening to tunes. It’s about experiencing the freedom to be inspired.

It is also a place to really honour the space and power of womanhood. I was lucky enough to camp with some of my oldest and wisest women friends. To see the ladies who have loved and supported me so happy and complete reflected how much opportunity being outdoors gives us to be our full selves. It was empowering to feel attractive in my natural body, and I saw many people, myself included, who frog-hopped into meeting a special someone who made them feel even more lovely in the brief and beautiful dream world of festival life.

If you haven’t been to an outdoor weekend festival before, it is well worth it. Gather a group of your best girlfriends, bring your most colourful and beautiful possessions to share, and get ready to feel more free than any amount of therapy can offer.

Oh, and don’t forget to find a magical frog in the woods. Ribbit! Welcome home.

Here are some photos from FrogFest

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”8″ gal_title=”FrogFest”]

Women CEOs leading the way in the trades

There are more women than ever starting businesses, especially those involved in trades, which is surprising considering those professions have historically been some of the most male-dominated businesses in the country.

CEO of Freshco, Mandy Rennehan, a very successful retail construction company based out of Oakville, Ont., believes that women leaders are essential to trades businesses. “A woman’s added value really shines through because we are passionate,” Rennehan says. “Women are detail-oriented and fastidious where many men aren’t.”

Millennial women are also catching on to the trend and starting their own trade businesses. CEO of Ash Street Design, Brittany Truppe, is one of those millennials. She started her business of designing and building interior speciality doors last year.  “It is a custom sliding door business. We essentially fabricate high-end interior-based wood doors in all shapes and sizes and I’ve expanded into contemporary styles and all different types of finishes,” Truppe says. “I really like the whole concept of the artisan market style. I don’t want to do cookie cutter stuff. I want it to be unique.”

These two women had to prove their worth in their respective areas time and time again. “Being a woman and being young, there were times where I definitely had to go above and beyond,” Truppe says. “Coming from finishing, there was a lot of time spent doing the tasks to prove my worth. You would get men throwing out terminology and the names of types of equipment to see if I knew what I was talking about. I felt I was being quizzed often.”

Rennehan agrees that women are tested more often to see if they are credible in their job position. “The biggest hardship is the confidence of the woman going into it. They need to make sure they know more than anybody in that space. Credibility is everything for a woman in trades. Make sure you have the passion and you are armed with the knowledge,” Rennehan says. “Many women have an irrepressible sense of accountability and if things happen, they will fix them. Women have a lot of advantages in this space, they just need to believe it.”

As a young female business owner, Truppe is taking a progressive approach to her artisan boutique and wants to keep her business relatively small, instead of aspiring to build a large corporation. She also focuses on the use of local woods and keeps costs low and affordable to give more people the opportunity to purchase one of her unique products. Though she is still in the midst of constructing her business, she also wants to dedicate part of her time towards helping women learn to build. “The biggest thing I want to focus on is having a program geared towards women to make them more comfortable working with tools, because a lot of women don’t. I envision doing it in my own shop,” Truppe says. “You would drop in for an hour or two and the women would build and I would charge for materials. I’ve networked with local artisan shops and furniture shops and they are pretty pro-women. I’ve found I have a lot of support from new-age men as well.”

Rennehan is also an avid philanthropist, highlighting the importance of women CEOs giving back to others after becoming successful in the trades sphere. She started a non-profit program through her other business, a design firm named Rennduprat, that will teach kids between the ages of 10 to 16 how to use millwright machines. The non-profit will then make Christmas ornaments through the project and ship them around the world. Rennehan also founded the Chris Rennehan Scholarship Fund, named after her brother who sadly passed away from a heart attack at age 38. The scholarship fund helps a tradesperson who is in dire financial straits by giving them the funds to go to trade school or obtain work through Freshco.

Women business owners are essential to the future of trades in Canada. Truppe and Rennehan both bring credibility, generosity, and a progressive community approach to their businesses. Though there are challenges to being a woman in the male-dominated trades’ professions, there are more and more women that are coming out as strong leaders in this type of employment.

Six North Atlantic right whales found dead in St. Lawrence

Over the course of June, six North Atlantic right whales were found dead and floating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a substantial loss for a species that is already on the endangered species list.

There are only 500 North Atlantic right whales in the wild, and with six dead so suddenly without apparent cause, it accounts for one per cent of the species wiped out in less than a month. If this was compared to humans, it would mean that over 75 million people would be wiped out. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Marine Animal Response Society, the Canadian Coast Guard, and other groups are working together to figure out how to get the whales ashore to find out what is happening to the species.

The whales were found in the area between New Brunswick’s Miscou Island, Quebec’s Magdalen Islands and Northern P.E.I. They are currently floating a considerable way from shore and the weather has been too severe to try to get the whales onto land to begin a necropsy, a forensic examination that would discover what happened. There is only a limited time to complete the assessment and the whales are already decomposing. It is paramount that marine biologists decipher what is going on with the species to develop a plan and prevent more of the endangered whales from dying unexpectedly.

There are many threats to whales that habituate close to port such as being struck by ships, contracting toxic infections, water contaminants, high levels of noise, and global warming. The North Atlantic right whales also feed on zooplankton, which are lowering in population due to the effects of climate change.  There are many reasons that the whales could be dying off so suddenly, and it is integral to the survival of the species to find out why. Hopefully, there is a chance of survival for this rare and beautiful species, one of many marine animals living under threat in the ocean today.

Giant red ball in Calgary a giant red blimp

Calgary is joining Canada’s 150th celebrations by welcoming a gigantic red ball into the city.

The Red Ball Project is a travelling art installation created by Kurt Perschke that has traveled to 25 cities across the world. The big red ball was spotted on Monday, June 26 on the Peace Bridge, which is a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Calgary. The gigantic red ball was shoved into the bridge and prevented cyclists and pedestrians from passing through, forcing people to contend with the enormous red play toy.

The big red ball has been rolling into different cities around the world for 15 years. The artist created the over-sized ball sculpture so that people could interact with an object that reminded them of their childhood. It is supposed to bring out joy and artistic interaction in key places around the city, and will make its final appearance at Olympic Plaza on July 1.

The giant red ball was brought to Calgary through the city’s public art program and investment from Canadian Heritage. The city has a history of implementing art projects that have zero value or impact (with large price tags), and the red ball seems to be bouncing in that general direction. The blue ring fiasco of 2013, for example, made Calgary the laughing stock of the country when the gigantic-blue-circle-turned-into-streetlights was debuted as the city’s newest piece of art. To put it plainly, the piece of art was widely claimed to lack any sort of artistic interest and caused a panicked city council to revamp Calgary’s art program — or so people thought.

The giant red ball is another example of moving art that is just a little bit goofy and is more of a nuisance than anything. Calgary needs to learn to invest in worthy pieces of art that really celebrate the 150th anniversary of this great nation as more than a playful squishy ball. There is a rich aboriginal history in the city that could be a worthy example of art — or really just choose anything that won’t cause cyclists to crash or pedestrians to turn away in fear of what appears to be a gigantic pimple on the Peace Bridge.

Another artistic win for Calgary ladies and gentlemen, but at least it isn’t worse than Toronto’s imitation rubber duck, another hilarious example of how this country is choosing to celebrate 150 years.

Would you take your picture with a giant red rubber ball? Let us know in the comments below!

Time to tell male friends they are guilty of ‘Mansplaining’

Have you ever had a man interrupt you to explain something you know more about? Or how about being told how you feel from a guy instead of being asked? Or just felt this uneasy feeling of inferiority when talking to a man who appears to be leering at you and not actually listening at all?

If you have answered yes to any of the above, you have been ‘mansplained’ to, which is an annoying experience to say the least.

‘Mansplaining’ is described as an experience when a man with an undeserved air of authority condescendingly explains something to a woman who generally knows more about the topic at hand. Interestingly, I can recount several occurrences of having experienced ‘mansplaining’ and was too naïve to understand it wasn’t respectful. There have been dozens of times when male friends, partners, and family members have explained what my job as a journalist is and how it impacts me as a person in the suffering media industry. Instead of asking me for my opinion on my career as a journalist, I was informed of how I should feel about it. Thanks guys, much appreciated.

In all honesty, I wish I could go back to my younger self and say “Excuse me? Why don’t you ask instead of tell? How did you get to be such a pompous ass?”, but I quite honestly didn’t have the knowledge that I was being talked down to at the time. I have little doubt that I grew up in a city dominated by men. Hailing from Calgary, known as Canada’s oil tycoon capital, I watched big men in suits in various power positions throughout my entire life, and I never quite realized that many of the women by their side seemed to be standing in the background — never acknowledged, or appreciated, somehow smaller or less important.

It makes me wonder, as an adult woman today equipped with words such as ‘mansplaining’ and ‘bropropriating’ and a strong community of feminists around me, how did these women feel being in the back of that room? How did my own mother feel being ‘mansplained’ to without being able to tell these men to screw off without fear of impunity? Even though there are still miles to travel in terms of true gender equality, every young lady today owes a thank you to their mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and older women colleagues. They have experienced unadulterated ‘mansplaining’ a hell of a lot longer than I know I have.

Sadly, it still happens today. Toronto is chalk full of entitled young men who want to dominate over women in conversation. The sense of authority these men carry seems to be a character trait that hasn’t ‘left the building’ and most aren’t even aware. If you have a male who has an authoritative ‘holier than thou’ attitude and feels the need to tell you how to feel, but you know they are genuinely a good person and just haven’t been taught better — do them a favour and let them know. Be honest, and straightforward because many men aren’t even aware that they are doing it. It is a learned behaviour and women to nip this bad habit in the bud. Be respectful when doing so, as it’s likely your friend will be embarrassed or offended. But your gentle criticisms will permeate and may even convince said male counterpart to ditch the entitled behaviour all together.

The world is slowly moving towards gender equality, and highlighting the ridiculousness of ‘mansplaining’ will help men understand that what they are doing is wrong, relieving hundreds of thousands of women who are just down with being told things they already know.

Stick up for yourselves ladies! It is never too late and you may be surprised by the response you receive. There are a lot of men out there who are ardent feminists and will ditch the bad attitude to embrace a world where women aren’t interrupted anymore.

What do you think about mansplaining? Let us know in the comments below!

‘Everything’ white bean dip

Everything flavoured bagels are delicious, but eating them every day is not healthy. Instead, opt for the healthy and tasty alternative by creating a bean dip. By blending white beans with a variety of delectable spices, it makes a great dip that tastes exactly like an everything bagel.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups white beans
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 head of garlic (roasted)
  • 2 tbsp dried onion
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried garlic
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine dried onion, poppy seeds, garlic, sea salt and pepper. Mix together.
  2. Add beans and roasted garlic in a blender and process until pureed. Add olive oil and sesame oil and salt to taste.
  3. Drizzle with extra olive oil and serve with crackers, vegetables, or pita.

Dips are a yummy and filling snack option.  Instead of going for the breads full of carbohydrates, a healthy bean dip is full of protein and will be scooped up in mere minutes. Eat them with vegetables, pitas, or crackers and is a great dip for guests. Enjoy this irresistible treat as a cool summer dish!

Affordable housing for musicians announced in Toronto

Struggling musicians have a tough time surviving in expensive cities like Toronto. Not only is the price of transportation, food, and general expenses quite heavy on those who may not be making a full salary, but they have to live in the urban centre in order to make money. This is increasingly difficult in Toronto’s inflated housing market.

That’s why it’s so great the non-profit Toronto Music is designing a pilot project focusing on affordable housing specifically for musicians. They are using a vacant property at the eastern edge of Regent Park, at the corner of Dundas St. E and Sumach St. The development would include 100 units as well as a performance area, a recording and rehearsal space, and desk space for music professionals. There would also be opportunities for the musicians to host and take part in educational events that would focus on music business management practices.

A report created by the Toronto Music Advisory Council for the City of Toronto in February 2016 includes a focus on affordable housing for musicians in the city’s core. The city wants to help musicians find homes to alleviate the difficulty these artists face regarding gentrification, rising housing costs, and redevelopment of inner-city neighbourhoods. The city is working on partnerships with organizations like Artscape, a local non-profit that creates affordable housing for artists, to promotes local art initiatives. This should help Toronto become a ‘Music City’, something city staff and the mayor, John Tory, sorely want. The city is also considering zoning bylaws that would allow performers to have workspaces at home so that they can rehearse music and promote their careers further.

Toronto is following the footsteps of Nashville and New York. The Ryman Lofts in Nashville successfully launched 60 units dedicated for local musicians while New York recently announced 1500 affordable apartments for musicians with low incomes. Only musicians would qualify for the housing in New York, and it would include 500 work spaces within the affordable housing building. The rising trend of housing for musicians is positive because it encourages more creative and innovative communities, and a culture immersed in the arts.

Affordable housing for musicians is a intrinsic development to the building of a healthy inner-city environment. If there was free performance space for musicians to offer their music to the public, it would promote a beautiful urban culture in Toronto.

What do you think of a musician-only affordable housing unit? Let us know in the comments below!

Ontario tries to empower women, but ends up with stale report

Engaging empowered women in Ontario is getting more political airtime, with more focus on the “status of women” in legislature. But will it have the desired impact of actually helping women in Ontario?

The province released an engagement paper on June 9 that describes the ways in which the government wants to increase women empowerment and close the wage gap. The paper includes a survey with questions about youth, economic opportunities, social attitudes, and leadership. These are significant issues for women and addressing them is important — as long as it is for and about the women in Ontario, instead of an election issue to win votes with no real purpose.

The survey asks Canadian citizens what they believe is the most important component to women’s empowerment via a series of detailed questions. The issue with the survey is that it offers several reasons why women don’t have complete equality in Ontario and doesn’t mandate the survey-taker to choose which issue is the most important on every question. This allows the people taking the survey to choose every issue and not specify what subject matters should be tackled first. It is fairly obvious that each of the four goals specified in the report is important, but asking if all of them are important is redundant. This is often seen in government surveys and makes a democratic and potentially helpful questionnaire essentially pointless.

Though Ontario is making strides with women, the efforts thus far is limited. For example, the province has committed to help 100,000 children obtain licensed child care over the next five years, but the subsidy waiting list in Toronto alone is 18 months long. There are also efforts to help 1700 low-income women gain financial literacy training, but there are thousands of women who still need help to gain education and training to move up in the world. Needless to say, more is needed and it shouldn’t be based on fulfilling commitments five years down the road, but should be fulfilled now.

The report is well-minded, but still lends itself to words such as “encouraging women to explore different careers”, and “supporting continued career progression”, but lacks specific goals with targeted language. Though it is important to “encourage” and “support”, women need action and specific goals with a ready-made budget instead of a tentative report and survey. Often, talking about women empowerment is seen as enough action when credible and supported goals need to be met to actually close the wage gap and promote women equality.

Women’s economic empowerment is a primary concern in Ontario and needs to be addressed with affirmative action as soon as possible. Between reports, surveys, and loosely mandated changes, there remains a gap on giving childcare to all women who need it so they can work. Pay wage gaps must also be addressed immediately, and board positions should be mandated to have 50/50 representation.  The engagement paper is yet another shining example of the government using ‘status of women’ to appease female voters — what will it take to get the real support and action women need?

Look out for the new Canada 150 glow-in-the-dark toonie

The toonie has always been an emblem of Canadian pride, from its odd nickname to the polar bear that is crested on the heavy coin.

To celebrate Canada’s 150 year festivities, the Royal Canadian Mint hosted a competition where Canadians across the country were invited to submit designs for the toonie that would celebrate the historic occasion. The winner shocked all.

A glow-in-the-dark toonie featuring the northern lights. That’s right, glow-in-the-dark. Keep your eyes peeled because the coin is already in circulation. 

Named “Dance of the Spirits”, the design was created by Dr. Timothy Hsia, a family doctor and his brother Stephen Hsia, a lawyer who are both from Richmond B.C. The two business professionals are both artists are the side and have been working on art projects together since they were children. Timothy came up with the northern lights design and Stephen helped translate it to the computer to make it a piece of digital art.

The Royal Canadian Mint will be releasing three million of these special edition coins and is excited to get to use new and never-used-before technology that will create the world’s first glow-in-the-dark coin. The coin uses a pad-printed process and ink that creates a luminescent coin. In the factory, each toonie is painted with glow-in-the-dark purple and blue paint to imitate the Aurora Borealis, one of Canada’s proudest natural wonders.

The two brothers received $2000 prize money, two tickets to Ottawa for the big reveal, and a special edition of the coins. The two artists are dedicating their win to their grandfather who was a coin collector and often gave them special edition coins as they were growing up. It is also giving the brothers further incentive to go see the Northern Lights, one of the majestic wonders of Canadian nature.

Whether you find out you have one of these deluxe coins in a bar when it suddenly glows-in-the-dark, or you seek out a special edition set, definitely hang on to this toonie to give to your own grandchildren one day — it’s bound to inspire a sense of nostalgic tradition and Canadian pride. 

Have you seen the toonie? Let us know in the comments below!

Lack of pet euthanization laws in Canada put animals in danger

Imagine if you had a neighbour or an acquaintance who had a beautiful healthy dog that was young, vibrant and excited to be alive. Then the next time you hear about the animal, it had been euthanized because the neighbour or acquaintance had moved and didn’t want their pet anymore. The dog was not sick and did not have low quality-of-life. Instead, it became inconvenient for the pet owner to continue caring for the dog and euthanization was the easiest option.

The reality is in Canada, there is very little animal welfare protection. There are no laws that prevent pet owners from euthanizing healthy animals due to silly and irresponsible reasons like not having time for the dog, divorce, moving, or behavioural issues. Many veterinarians try to avoid euthanizing animals when there are little ethical grounds, but it isn’t prohibited and there is no way to stop it if a vet is willing. Other vets could try to adopt out the animals or give them to rescues, but sometimes it isn’t possible and the pets are left in a terrible situation.

“We recently had a beautiful German shepherd surrendered to our shelter. He belonged to a husband and wife who were getting divorced, and neither felt they could care for the dog any longer. The wife asked the husband to euthanize, and he called us in a panic and asked us if we had space,” media director at Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary, Clare Forndran, says. “Of course we said yes, and since meeting him, we have fallen in love with him though the wife thinks the dog has been euthanized..It is difficult to understand how anyone could euthanize a vibrant dog who has so much life left to live. Our hearts break for the dogs that don’t get that opportunity.”

Many animals simply don’t get this opportunity and there is no legal protection to keep the pets from getting put down needlessly. According to the 2015 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, 1890 healthy animals were put down that year. This consisted of 759 cats, 39 dogs, and 1092 other animal species. These statistics are fairly limited because the survey is voluntary and no concrete evidence exists on the total amount of healthy animals were put down in Canada. In Ontario, there are few limitations on convenience killing and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) doesn’t advocate for ‘no kill’ shelters. “We need robust publically supported shelters and much more federal and provincial investment,” Executive Director of Animal Justice, a Canadian animal rights law charity, Camille Labchuk says. “There is nothing kind about convenience killing and it should be illegal.”

On June 20, 2017, the OSPCA is going to court for a case that involves putting down 21 pitbulls that were involved in a dog fighting ring in Chatam Ont. In 2015, the dogs were seized and subsequently the OSPCA applied to the courts to euthanize the dogs because they deemed them ‘unfit for society’. Three animal advocacy organizations, Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary, Animal Justice, and Bullies in Need applied to intervene in the case in February 2016 and were later denied in December 2016. The owners of the dogs, who are not being charged of several accounts of animal Cruelty and other criminal charges, have not granted the OSPCA the right to euthanize them and granted the rescues permission to take the dogs for rehabilitation, yet the date of the 21 pitbulls still lies in the hands of the OSPCA and their court application. “Our team is continuing to work around the clock in hopes of saving the lives of these dogs and providing them with a much-needed second chance,” Ferndran says. “Our hope is that a positive update will come out of the June 20th court date.”

Paris Hilton supporting the #savethe21 campaign. Photo provided by Dog Tales Rescue & Sanctuary.

In the meantime, Dog Tales has launched the #savethe21 campaign, which has ignited support worldwide. Celebrities like Paris Hilton and business magnate Richard Branson have showed support to save the dogs from euthanization. If Dog Tales is successful and the dogs are released, they have developed a rehabilitation plan that includes sending the canines down to Florida to the Dogs Playing for Life National Canine Centre for Advanced Behavioral Support. “The court is well aware of the public interest in the case and it has really a chord with people,” Labchuk says. “People need to remind the justice system that these dogs were rescued from a horrific dog fighting ring. It is not appropriate to kill them without giving them a fair chance at rehabilitation.” People can show support by writing to the CEO of OSPCA, the Ontario government, and posting a photo on twitter with the tag #savethe21 to show support.

It is clear that animals needs stronger legal protection against euthanization. Healthy animals deserve to live fulfilling and happy lives, instead of at the whim of irresponsible pet owners. Euthanizing an animal should only be used in the most dire of circumstances, including illness and low quality-of-life ie. from old age. There should also be more education available to teach potential pet owners of the responsibilities of owning and taking care of an animal to lower the amount of unnecessary euthanization happening in Canada currently. As a country, Canada needs to start promoting better animal welfare protection and become a leader in animal rights advocacy, instead of an international embarrassment when it comes to animal protection.