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Kaeleigh Phillips

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Check out this amazing Hydrogen fuel cell train

From the first train to carry goods across Canada to the creation of a railroad system that allows people to travel across the city quickly, the train has done it yet again — they have embraced the modern green energy movement.

Alstom, a French manufacturer, has introduced the hydrogen powered passenger rail train known as the Coradia iLint. The train will launch in December 2017 in Germany and run a 60 km link from Buxtehude, located just outside of Hamburg, to Cuxhaven.  The project is intended to provide a green alternative to remote areas where electrified trains would be difficult to put in.

How does this work? Hydrogen is stored at the top of the train and is combined with oxygen to produce electricity. That energy is then converted using fuel cells, which charges batteries stored below the train. This creates electricity to run the train. Additionally, extra unused energy is stored in lithium batteries and allows the train to be more efficient because it doesn’t have any waste energy. The train will carry up to 300 passengers and can run at 140 miles per hour for an 800 km stretch.

The train was created by French, German, and Canadian technologies. The Canadian company, Hydrogenics, provided the fuel cell that would run the train. Hydrogenics is invested in creating hydrogen fuel cells that could help run clean energy through a variety of transportation options including electric vehicles. The company is also invested in fuel cell installations for freestanding electrical power plants.

The new hydro train is an alternative to electrified trains, another popular green energy option in transit where electrification is hard to reach. The train is considered carbon neutral because it takes hydrogen already in the environment and re-uses it. Though electrification doesn’t have any carbon output, hydrogen fuel cells are able to provide more flexibility in hard-to-reach places because they don’t require a lot of infrastructure to build, a common issue on train routes. The hydro train is a welcome example of a type of transportation that can be adopted in Canada to cut costs from new carbon tax measures that will be implemented under the liberal government next year.

Hydrogen fuel cells are the way of the future and provide a more productive use of the energy potential of the chemical. Hydro trains are ground-breaking and provide alternatives to diesel run trains, which are still the main form of transport for CN Rail in Canada. Transportation can be green and the Coradia iLint is the way of the future for trains.

Woman of the Week: Jazz Kamal

Jazz Kamal’s boxing name is Jazz the Inferno, and as a musician she is known is Nari, meaning fire in Arabic. Both names define this fiery Egyptian, a woman who has the ability to create, destroy, and rise from the ashes renewed.

Kamal destroys the boundaries of what it means to be a repressed woman, and instead lives a life of truth and integrity. Her story is reminiscent of the fiery phoenix renewed, rising from the ashes stronger and ready to help others find their own light in a time of darkness. Kamal is a boxing coach and helps create a space for women to embrace their power and strength at Newsgirls, a women-only boxing studio in Toronto. She is also a profound lyricist and musician, creating political word-spins worthy of the hip hop greats.

I first encountered Kamal as a boxing coach at Newsgirls, a women’s boxing studio that runs classes and a program called Shape your Life to help women who have experienced violence. It turns out that Kamal found her passion at the boxing club two years ago. “I started boxing at Toronto Newsgirls and I hadn’t boxed anywhere else. I’ve always been a fighter but for the last two years I had gloves on,” Kamal says. “Newsgirls is a place where you don’t understand what you are there for until you still step through the doors.”

Kamal fell in love with boxing right away and wanted to make it a permanent part of her career. She began coaching and now helps run the ‘Shape your Life’ program. Before she committed to Newsgirls full-time, she was a technician for a theatre company, a job she really disliked. “My soul was drained and I didn’t see a way out,” Kamal says. “Savoy, the owner of Newsgirls, showed me all the steps to become a boxing coach. I specifically enjoy her coaching style and I told her I wanted to quit my job. It was at the point where I was crying everyday coming home from work. I didn’t want to turn 30 and still be at my job.” In May of that year, Kamal took a leap, quit her job and moved to Newsgirls full-time.

Kamal is also a musician and is a lead emcee/rapper of the group, Phatback, a soul and hip hop group that discusses important political issues. “The idea of the band was born just before I started boxing,” Kamal says. “I’m the lead MC and the lead singer is also a queer woman of colour. We are dedicated to making music that uplifts and our stuff is pretty political.” Phatback is starting a monthly residency in February 2017 every last thursday of the month at The Burdock (1184 Bloor St. W.).

Along with being a lead emcee of a band, Kamal is also a spoken word artist and independent musician going by the name Nari. Her early music reflects a lot about her journey coming out in the LGBTQ community. “I was a late bloomer when I accepted myself as a queer person. Coming from a country where it is very rough for gays in Egypt, I am definitely in danger if the wrong people find out. People go to jail for that,” Kamal says. “Not that North America is the beacon for LGBTQ, I am still allowed to live with my wife in a house we own here.”

Kamal’s journey to accepting herself has not been easy and she has overcome great struggle in order to reach a happier place in her life. “I was going to commit suicide, and I tried twice. My sister walked in and I didn’t want her to see. That ignited something in me that said how are external factors in my brain telling me I have to commit suicide? The answer isn’t to just end it. I had a difficult 10 years ahead of me, but I am able to deal with them differently,” Kamal says. “It doesn’t feel like the end of the world anymore. I have more ammunition, and more energy. I’ve gone to a lot of schools and talked about it.  Without fail, a kid will reach out to me and say it is good to see a queer Egyptian woman being loud and proud about who she is.”

Kamal strongly believes in helping others and nurturing people through their own personal journeys. Her courage and confidence is incredibly moving. She also shared her story in the 2011 PFLAG campaign and speaks to kids at schools advocating for the LGBTQ community. Furthermore, Kamal speaks up about domestic abuse in same-sex partnerships and violence against women.  “Some people didn’t believe I could be in an abusive relationship with another woman. It was psychological warfare and it took me a year and seven months for me to say no,” Kamal says. “I have learned to separate aggression from violence. Aggression is being able to push forward when someone is trying to push you back. Violence can happen without someone even touching you, they can break you down psychologically. You always have a choice, get mad.”

Kamal brings so much passion to her boxing classes and helps many women lift themselves out of the damaging and debilitating world of abuse. Kamal teaches women how to get angry and embrace their strength as a form of empowerment. “My advice to any woman is if you are mad, get angry. Anger is temporary,” Kamal says. “It is much easier than to repress it for years and years. Otherwise, it will turn into violence against yourself.”

Kamal changes lives everyday with her confidence, her comedic skills in the middle of boxing session, and her absolute selflessness when it comes to helping others. Above all else though, I would say the most inspiring lesson that Kamal represents is how far you can go as woman and a passionate person if you refuse to back down. Through her journey in accepting herself as queer person, Kamal faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles and fought hard to live honestly by who she is inside. She didn’t stay in an abusive relationship, and she didn’t stay in a crappy job. She found her passion, and strived towards becoming a person who helps others. Furthermore, she finds peace and power in teaching others to do the same. Whether in the ring or out on the street, Jazz has taught me to have your arms ready and never back down, and to the fight for what you love in this crazy and beautiful life.

How to find the perfect New Year’s Eve outfit

There’s a lot of pressure to pick the perfect fashionable outfit for New Yera’s Eve. It’s time for glitter and sparkle, and no outfit is too dramatic. The colour combinations for the New Year provide beautiful options to pick from, with metallic silvers and golds, and deep reds.

Love a little sparkle, but don’t feel comfortable wearing it to work? Well, now’s your excuse. A little sparkle and glitter is what every New Year’s Eve outfit needs. Many women will opt for a glamorous full fledge sparkle dress. If you decide to wear a dress made of gold and silver sparkles, then be sure to match it with a black heel and simple jewelry to avoid looking gaudy. If you decide to go for a mini sparkled dress, make sure you are not spending a lot of time outside. If you are, be sure to purchase panty-hose or leggings. There is nothing worse than seeing a girl with bare legs in -30 degree weather!

Sparkled mini dress

Another alternative if you still want to sparkle, but don’t want to over-do it in a glitter dress, is to choose sequinned pants instead. Leggings that have sparkles will look dazzling and are more subtle than the sparkled dress. Shiny leggings pair well with a sheer loose black top that can be tucked in and gold or silver jewelry for an extra pop. In this outfit, it is acceptable to wear a chunky necklace, but make sure to pair with black heels rather than a sparkled shoe. You don’t want your pumps to clash with your pants!

Full-length jumpsuit

If you want to be more casual and avoid sparkles all together, a popular outfit this year is a full-length jumpsuit. There are many options available ranging from plain black or burgundy to a printed suit. Jumpsuits look amazing and create an A-line shape. They are also a spectacular choice for a professional new year’s event because they look powerful and sensual at the same time. If you choose a simple jumpsuit, a bright shoe will look fantastic and pulls the outfit together. A jumpsuit will also pair nicely with a chunky necklace, especially if it ties in nicely with your shoe. Be sure to avoid delicate shoes with the snowy weather. Choosing a thicker heel allows for functionality and you will still look beautiful.

Winter night circle skirt. By Elegant Musings.

Lastly, if you don’t want to wear a dress or pants, compromise in the middle with a midi skirt and a silk blouse. In 2016, midi skirts have been all the rage and they are easy to find in mid- and high-fashion stores. Look for a black, red, or green silk blouse and pair with a bold print skirt. Silk bodysuits are a fabulous option as well because they won’t slip out of the midi skirt and have sexy plunging necklines if you feel like being a little bit outrageous.

Whether it be a casual look or wearing an evening gown, be sure to strut your stuff and celebrate the year with a bit of style. Bring out your jewelry and heels, and throw yourself into being a sexy, confident and empowered woman. Looking beautiful and feeling good is the best way to have a fabulous New Year’s Eve, and is the best way to start 2017!

“The Two of Us” and the importance of an unfinished ending

The connection between two people can be confirmed in a variety of relationships; mother and daughter, lovers, or a boss and employee. The dialogues and stories that result from the bonds people experience are individualistic and universal at the same time. The Two of Us by Kathy Page is a compilation of short stories that made the longlist for the Giller Prize. This set of stories reflects the commonality of all face-to-face relations between two people, and yet how astoundingly different the partnerships are depending on the role each individual plays in the given scenario.

Initially, it is difficult to find a common association between each of the stories and it appears they are inextricably disconnected.  After meditating on the various stories that Page writes, there is a theme that arises between the tales. Each of the stories is written in intense and vivid detail that hooks the reader in and then concludes before the climax of the story is revealed. “Pigs” is about a husband and wife and ends with the woman thinking about killing her husband, but we never find out what happens next. The setting of the story is carefully laid out and the characters are so well described they feel real, and yet the reader never finds out the concluding element in each of the relationships in the set of short stories.

The lack of a conclusion in the stories is initially maddening, but as they continue it becomes apparent how much these awkward in-between moments reflect reality. Oftentimes in the set-up of a story, it has a distinct beginning, middle and end — it is clear-cut. Life does not work like this, and abandoning the traditional set up of a story gives it more authenticity. My discomfort as a reader reflects my desire for the perfect ending. Instead, abandoning my longing for perfection to embrace the rhythm of Page’s set of stories deepens my acceptance of the never-finished stories in real life.

“The right thing to say” follows a couple who live in Canmore, AB, that are trying to have a baby. The mom-to-be is pregnant and they are having testing done to find out if the child has a genetic defect that would affect the health of the baby. This story hits close to home, and the descriptions of the setting are incredibly vivid. It almost feels as if the reader is sitting next to the worried couple in the hospital. This story reflects the various settings that Page uses, switching between England and Canada. It is interesting because Page is a British author who has resided on Vancouver Island for several years. The stories reflect her intimate familiarity with the two settings and helps the reader to really have confidence in in what is being described.

There is a futuristic element to a few of the stories as well. In “It is July Now”, the tale focuses on a character named Piret who is from Sweden and lives in a socialist society where almost nothing is owned privately. A middle-aged American woman comes to intern at the school and attempts to befriend Piret several times, though it is mostly unsuccessful. There is a stark contrast between the strict and stringent lifestyle of Piret and the American woman who is happier and more free with her money. The story between the two characters ends off without a distinct conclusion and it leaves the reader wondering whether the two women become better friends.

The concluding story of the anthology brings the set of stories together in a fascinating way. “Open Water” features a swim coach named Mitch and one of his swimmers, Tara who lives in Vancouver.  Mitch works with Tara for years on her swimming and when she has the opportunity to go to the Olympics, what happens next will leave the reader shocked.

Page does a very subtle and determined job at showing the reader that life is awkward and the unexpected happens, yet it becomes almost soothing in this series of stories. In one of the stories mentioned, the reader will find intimate commonality with their own life in The Two of Us, and walk away with a stronger understanding of the complexities of the unfinished ending in real life. The anthology comes highly recommended, and definitely a study of the most detailed and intimate way to describe a person and their life through the written word without giving everything away.

President Obama’s desperate race to the finish line

United States President Barack Obama is desperately racing to the finish line before President-Elect Donald Trump comes into power, passing last-minute laws and lowering sentences for criminals on non-violent drug related charges. The world waits with bated breath for Trump to take power in one of the most military-heavy countries in the world, and Obama is rushing to try and protect as many important regulations as possible before all is lost.

On Monday, Obama granted clemency to 231 individuals, the most he has ever done in one day. He also granted 153 commutations, with a majority involved in drug-related charges. The Democrats are under a lot of pressure to provide relief to non-violent drug offenders because it is doubtful that Trump and the Republicans will continue to continue to do so. The people serving these crimes are receiving a sentence four times more strenuous than they would receive today.

Obama is also trying to protect as much legislation relating to the environment since Trump has indicated he plans to pull out of the Paris Agreement and scrap Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Trump has softened on his stance concerning the Paris Agreement, but his cabinet election shows otherwise. He has elected Scott Pruitt, a climate skeptic, as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and with Rick Perry, another known climate skeptic, as a nominee for Secretary of Energy. It goes without saying that the environment is at great risk in the United States come January 2017. Though there is little that Obama can do about the Republicans scrapping his power plan, he is trying to find ways to do what he can in his limited time left in office.

Earlier this week, Obama announced that the Interior Department will indefinitely block oil and natural gas drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. There is no drilling taking place currently off the East Coast or in the Arctic north of Alaska, but it is a pre-emptive move to block future drilling. Obama invoked the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to stop potential drilling in both regions. This law was passed in 1953 and indicates that the president can withdraw certain un-leased lands from federal offshore waters. There is no legislation written that would allow a new president to undo the ban from a previous president, which means that Trump wouldn’t be able to change Obama’s action.

Other key actions by the EPA have included strong fuel-economy standards that moved much faster than originally planned, tighter restrictions on coal mining near streams and placing an indefinite pause of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. Obama also banned the sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska over the next five years.

Aside from environmental concerns, Obama is trying to create political transparency arising from concerns that the Russian government hacked the U.S. cyberspace in ways that could’ve affected the 2016 presidential election. Last week, the CIA determined that the Russians intervened to help Trump win. The report will contain findings about the level of hacking activity, but it is unclear how much of the information will be made public. Obama vows to retaliate against Russia for the hacks, and people are eagerly awaiting his next move.

It is clear that Obama is doing what he can to protect integral laws in the United States before he hands over leadership to Trump. Banning offshore drilling in the Atlantic and the Arctic is a good example of using an act to protect the environment from future climate skeptics that will be in power in the future. There are a few key items that Obama will not have time to change, most notably international relations with Israel and Palestine.

Though there is only so much that Obama can do before he leaves office, he should keep up the pace and keep making as many changes as possible to make it more difficult for the future administration to undo essential U.S. legislation. As is stands though, Obama will be remembered as a professional and fair president — and compared to Trump, he is on his way to being remembered as a hero.

How to stuff the perfect vegan stocking

Making a stocking for a vegan can be a new experience for family members who aren’t familiar with the most animal-friendly treats out there. Where do you get vegan chocolate? Are there some items that aren’t environmentally-friendly you should stay away from? Women’s Post is here to help. May I present: the dream stocking that is vegan, eco-friendly, and delicious to boot.

Most stocking stuffers can be found at a local grocery store with ample organics options. Loblaws is a great option and alternatively, any community food store like Whole Foods will work as well. The first thing to look for is your food and dessert alternatives. Vegan protein packs, such as the sample or sample size of Vega One will fit in the stocking and provides a delicious protein supplement. Chocolate is a must-have and vegan chocolate options are fairly easy to track down. Endangered Species has many dairy-free chocolates, including coconut-filled crèmes and sea salt. These dark chocolate bars also donate a portion of the proceeds to a wildlife conservation network, which makes this vegan dessert a double-hitter! Cleo’s peanut butter cups taste exactly like Reese’s and are available in several stores.

Protein filled nibbles can also be put in stockings, like roasted chickpeas. They come in various flavours and spices. Maybe try some nut mixes, as long as there isn’t an allergy in the house. Pistachios are a delectable treat and are expensive to buy regularly, so they make a great gift during the holidays. Magic Vegan Bacon Grease is also a treat that cannot be purchased regularly, but is a necessary indulgence for vegans everywhere. The magic mix is a coconut oil sauce that has a natural smoky taste. It can be added to tofu scrambles, greens, and beans. Finally, a gift certificate to a Whole Foods market, a community market, or a popular vegan restaurant can go a long way.

For stocking stuffers not related to food, cruelty-free cosmetics and lotions are a great option. Rocky Mountain soaps has cruelty-free soaps, lip balms and lotions that are affordable. Lush is also a cruelty-free advocate and their bath balms fizz and smell heavenly. Many vegans will make their own cleaners and beauty supplies using Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, which can used to make hand soap, body wash, lotions, laundry detergent and cleaner — why not give them a head start by placing a tiny bit in their stocking? For something a bit different, try purchasing a reusable tote bag. They are cheap, and you can’t have too many of them.

Don’t forget to add vegan stickers, patches and pins because love for the animals and the environment is normally accompanied by a desire to publicly advocate on behalf of beings that can’t speak for themselves. Any small books and pamphlets that provide more information for environmental groups and any donations to non-profits that advocate for the environment, climate change and animal rights are a quick last-minute addition as well.

Whether it be desserts, snacks, cruelty-free cosmetics or vegan decorations, there are many sustainable stocking stuffers that don’t need to come from animals or wasteful products. Instead, go for the eco-alternatives and feel good about the stocking stuffers you purchase from local companies that are looking to make a difference. Hopefully this, vegan stocking stuffer guide gave you some great ideas for a different kind of gift, one that helps animals worldwide and keeps your vegan family member warm and full on Christmas day.

Holiday Baking: homemade grape leaves

Stuffed grape leaves are a delicious snack and can often be found in Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants. Homemade grape leave wraps, also known as Dolmades, provide a delicious vegan treat not only during the holidays, but year-round. They are surprisingly easy and affordable to make, and combine some of the best spices out there, including dill, mint and lemon with rice and pine nuts. Can you say yummy?

Begin by making the filling of the grape leaves with rice:

  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice
  • 1 small onion
  • ½ cup of fresh dill
  • ¼ cup fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp lemon
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Begin by roasting the pine nuts and onion in a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil. After a few minutes, add the rice, one cup vegetable broth and cook rice al dente. If you completely cook the rice, it will be mushy in the grape leaves so only half cook. Once the rice is complete, add dill, mint, lemon, salt and pepper and allow to cool.

Prepping the grape leaves: 

  • Grape Leaves
  • Salt

Take the grape leaves (either jarred or fresh) and put into a pot of boiling water with salt. Allow the leaves to soften until pliable, but do not over-soften or they will tear. Remove from water and pat dry.

Wrapping and cooking the grape leaves:

Once dry, spread the grape leaf out and put two scoops of filling in near the base of the leaf. Fold the two bottom sections of the leaf up and then the sides of the leaf before rolling tightly into a grape leaf roll. Repeat.

Once the grape leaves are wrapped, pack firmly into a pot in layers. Pour the remaining vegetable broth, lemon juice and ¼ cup of olive oil over the wraps. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, but do not boil or the leaves will fall apart. Lower heat once simmering and use a plate that can be heated to press down on the grape leaves and keep them in place. Let the leaves simmer for 30 minutes until tender. Drain excess water and enjoy once cool.

The grape leaves are relatively easy to make and will give you a healthy snack to munch on while waiting for that main holiday meal. They also keep well, so you can eat them throughout the week once your leftovers run out. Enjoy!

Premiers sign groundbreaking national climate change strategy

Ontario is proving to be a leader in climate change, and that continues with the signing the federal agreement pushing for a carbon tax, known as the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Under this agreement, every province must produce a carbon tax framework, and Ontario’s cap and trade agreement makes it one of the best prepared to begin cutting greenhouse emissions right away.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the other Premiers of Canada at the First Ministers’ Meeting in Ottawa last week and every province signed the agreement except Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Under the Paris Agreement, Canada committed to reducing emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The carbon tax framework will help provinces to meet this goal and unifies the country in trying to actually make efforts to stop climate change.

Ontario is prepared for the federal carbon tax mandate because of aggressive targets set by Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan. The cap and trade program will force high polluters to lower their emissions or pay large penalties on their carbon usage. The program has come under criticism though due to the uncertainty of how much profit cap and trade will make. It is difficult to estimate how much the credits will cost and if there will be a high need for them, but Ontario can learn from cap and trade partners in Quebec and California who have already implemented the program.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is opposed to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and is concerned as to what will happen to climate change agreements in the United States when President Donald Trump comes into power. Trudeau responded to these concerns by emphasizing that Canadian climate change policies exist outside of American interests. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister was also opposed to the agreement and switched focus to healthcare funding throughout the meeting.

The federal government is moving forward with setting climate change goals and is leading the provinces into taking responsibility for carbon emissions. Manitoba and Saskatchewan will be forced to follow the carbon tax guidelines despite not signing, and Wall has hinted to the media that he may try to take the issue to court.

This Pan-Canadian Framework is a historic decision on the part of Canada and demonstrates the country’s unified front against climate change. Despite certain opinions in the First Minister’s Meeting, the premiers are moving forward with implementing a carbon tax and Canada’s commitments to the Paris Conference goals will hopefully be met. It will be interesting to see how each province decides to legislate their carbon tax and the success rate of each strategy.

Stay tuned climate change fanatics — it is going to get a lot more exciting from here.

Celebrating Women: Chynna Howard

Chynna Howard is a defining example of what is possible when courage and selflessness are the primary qualities of a person’s make-up. This millennial woman is going to change lives with her accomplishments, and has already made an integral space for herself in Edmonton’s affordable housing community.

Howard, 27, is tackling the housing crisis head on through the founding of ‘Jill’s Place’, a rooming house located in Edmonton that she named after her mom. The rooming house will help homeless women that are in desperate need of housing in the city’s core, and is set to open in January 2017. While most people feel powerless to change the homeless crisis in Canada, Howard’s absolute selflessness is nothing short of mouth-dropping.

Howard started working in housing as a social worker at the Bissell Centre, a non-profit that provides a variety of services for the homeless, working for the outreach housing team in Edmonton. She began to notice a gap for women looking for housing in inner-city Edmonton and decided to tackle the issue herself. “The waitlists for housing are ridiculous. I was finding that these women didn’t have enough money and couldn’t find housing just for women,” Howard says. “They didn’t fit under the ‘domestic’ umbrella and didn’t want to be in a shelter. There was a lot of discrimination finding a roommate due to being aboriginal and homeless.”

Jill’s Place will provide a clean and safe home to women who are homeless in downtown Edmonton, and will help marginalized women with a place to live. Howard plans on using her skills as a social worker to help women in the home meet basic needs such as meal planning and groceries. She is also considering starting a crowdfunding campaign to help fund a welcome package for each woman that would include a towel, and other products. “I’m trying to benefit inner city women by providing safe and clean rooms. I know it is a really tough work, we need to provide clean and safe rooming homes,” Howard says. “I can fill out a rent report for them [the women who need help with rent living in the house] and take it to Alberta Works. For the most part, it will be a home. There will be a resource room with internet and a phone.”

Howard also decided to purchase the rooming house as a way to honour her dad’s memory, a high school teacher from Kelowna who passed away from cancer in 2014. “When he passed away, I was left money from his pension. I thought this would be the perfect way to use and honour that. It never felt like my money so I’m glad I found a way to honour it. I use everything he taught me to make this community better,” Howard says. “I wanted to make sure my dad’s legacy is carried on. People wonder how I’m able to financially do this. I’d give it back if I had him, but it isn’t that way so I will do this.”

In honour of her dad’s memory, Howard began the annual Clyde Howard Memorial Bursary intended for a female student in the Okanagan area entering post-secondary education.

Howard’s portrait of her father, Clyde.

Howard also happens to be a great artist and hopes to integrate an art studio into the rooming house for the women to use. “ I really like making art that has a message and makes you think,” Howard says. “I want to start making art that reflects this community. They also have an art walk in Edmonton and the women could show their work.”

Shadow Puppets and a Rogue Imagination. Artwork by Chynna Howard.

Howard is also an avid reader. She is currently reading “Starlight Tour” by Susanne Reber and Robert Renaud, the story of Neil Stonechild and the ‘Starlight Tours’ in Saskatoon. Howard claims it is a must-read for all Canadians. She enjoys listening to Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald in the midst of a busy life.

When I met Howard, I had this feeling that she was one of those beautiful people that seem to be put on the planet to make it a better place. I had once heard the term ‘indigo child’ used to explain people who have an almost ethereal power to rid our society temporarily of its ugliness, and leave it with just a little more beauty. That is most definitely Chynna Howard and the future success of ‘Jill’s Place’ will surely help many women in need.

Top holiday movies this Christmas season

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! At least, that’s what I said back in October when holiday movies started pouring out on every single television channel. These much-loved movies are a sure sign that Christmas is on its way. While some may find this irritating, for many families, these movies are an important tradition. When you have young kids, it is exciting to choose which of these movies to watch while enjoying a warm cup of hot cocoa and a few Christmas cookies. If you are looking to indulge in a holiday movie binge, here are the best flicks to watch on a frosty winter day.

It's_A_Wonderful_Life
From It’s a Wonderful Life.

Classics

My all-time favourite Christmas movie is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. It is an absolute classic (filmed in 1946) and encapsulates all the important themes of family, giving, and the importance of community. It has a darker twist to it as well, which I appreciate because it isn’t cheesy like so many Christmas movies. “The Holiday Inn” is another well-loved movie from 1942 and is a great choice for Christmas music lovers. It is replete with dancing and singing, and of course has a classic romantic tale of love and betrayal to boot. ‘The Christmas Carol’ (1951 version) is a blast from the past and is one of the greatest versions of the classic tale by Charles Dickens. Alastair Sim’s laugh at the end of the film will make you smile for at least the next 24 hours.

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From the Grinch who stole Christmas.

For the kids

There are so many amazing kids’ Christmas films to binge on and of course, it all begins with “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” (the original of course made in 1966). From the music score to the animation, this movie is one of the best holiday films ever made. The Grinch is such an ugly creature, but the cuteness of Cindy Lou Who overrides the Christmas grouch with a heart three sizes too small. “Polar Express” is a newer classic, but seeing Tom Hanks in animation is well worth it. It is a very creative film, with original music and a holiday message to never stop believing! And of course, there is “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”,  a mix between a classic and a must-have kid’s film. There is something instantly soothing about the voice of Rudolph and the sound his red nose makes when it lights up.

diesanta
From Die Hard.

A little more bad-ass

If you want to watch a more rebellious Christmas film with friends or your hubby, then “Die Hard” is the way to go. It is a classic action flick conveniently set at Christmas and provides a hilarious twist to the typical holiday themes of sharing and caring. It is a must-watch, kudos to the 80’s for cheesy movies. “Edward Scissorhands” is also a contender for a more avant-garde holiday movie because it is set in the winter season. One of my favourite movie scenes of all time is when Winona Rider spins in circles as Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) uses his hands to make a beautiful creation.

The-Holiday-Kate-Winslet-Jack-Black
From The Holiday.

Can’t forget the chick flicks!

Finally, the romantic comedies cannot be forgotten! “The Holiday” is a great Christmas film that defines love across borders and it is easy on the mind with a great cast. “Four Christmases” is another fun, newer movie for women everywhere. Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughan play a hilarious couple that are forced to go to their families’ Christmas get togethers. Finally, the best chick-flick for the holidays is definitely “Love Actually”. It is one of my all-time favourite Christmas comedies and it will have you laughing, crying, and contemplating life all in a couple of hours.

Whether it be a classic film, a funny chick-flick, a cute kid’s movie or an action movie, enjoy your Christmas holidays by being lazy and watching fun movies (it will be well-worth it). I for one cannot wait to relax, enjoy the holidays and spend time with my family and the movie channel.

What is your favourite holiday movie? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below!