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Gingerbread cookies from Acton

While you might know Acton as the town with the Old Hide House – it’s also a great little town to visit over the holidays. This recipe came from my grandmother – I still remember visiting her for Christmas and spending the afternoon in her kitchen helping cut out gingerbread men.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup molasses
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vinegar
5 cups flour

Instructions:
• Mix softened butter with brown sugar until fluffy. Add baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and molasses and mix well.
• Beat eggs into the mixture until creamy. Stir in the vinegar.
• Mix in the flour pat into two balls, cover with plastic wrap + refrigerate for 2 hours (you can freeze for up to 3 months)
• On a floured surface, roll chilled dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out shapes with cute cookie cutters.
• Bake at 375 degrees, on nonstick cookie sheets, for 6-8 minutes, or until browned around the edges.
• Allow to cool completely before decorating with icing and candies.

For the icing:

1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons butter softened
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon milk

Instructions for making icing
• mix powdered sugar with soft butter. Add in almond extract and milk Icing should be stiff enough to use as a candy adherent.

Yield: Makes 8-10 dozen cookies

Breaking news – another man waving pocket knife shot by police in L.A.

It’s hard not to think that violence has escalated beyond reason. With more and more reports of white police officers killing innocent black men – this latest in L.A. – just hours ago.

Witnesses say the man was waving a Swiss army knife and the police officer panicked, it’s a story we are hearing far too often — and it is due to a lack of proper police training.

North American police forces need to take a lesson from their Japanese counterparts who are trained in taiho-jutsu, which translates to “arrest technique.” Using a gun has incredible consequences for police officers in Japan and it should here too. Why shouldn’t each and every police officer be required to have extensive training in martial arts so that they know how to disarm and find calm in a hostile situation? What is stopping us?

or here: http://facebook.com/theperfectURL

While many in the media are defining this a “racial tension,” the issue has much more to do with a lack of training, with a lack of respect for human life, and with a culture that puts the police above those they have sworn to protect. There are serious changes needed in our system of policing and to blame the police for their lack of training, or the victims (many with severe psychotic issues) is the wrong approach. Let’s fix the problem before it gives rise to more riots and unrest. The same conditions that create civil unrest are growing and it’s time to address the fact that North America has a very poor record when it comes to policing.

In August of this year in Ferguson, Missouri, a white policeman killed an unarmed black teenager and a grand jury refused to indict the police officer.
On Wednesday a New York grand jury cleared a white police officer for his July choke-hold of 43 year old black father of six.

Tonight another man was shot by police in L.A. why am I numb?

When you need to say it — just spit it out!

Last night I was having drinks with friends at a secret hipster bar in Kensington, it was a strangely perfect way to spend a Wednesday evening; but as I sat there listening to friends, old and new, talk about whether or not this guy or that guy liked them I began to feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Boyfriend has always insisted on honesty and openness which means that when I want to say something, when I want to ask something or when I need something I just have to say it; it won’t always result in the desired outcome but it’s better than keeping quiet forever.

Over the course of the evening we dissected more than one relationship, little by little until it lay open and naked in front of us and in the end we were no more wiser than we were in the beginning; mostly because those people in the relationships insist on looking at every little detail as though it was the most important thing to ever happen. Before Boyfriend I probably would have done the same thing. He hasn’t called for a couple of days, I don’t want to seem crazy. What if he thinks I’m clingy? He’s perfect when we’re together. He’s really amazing. But why isn’t he calling me? The funny thing about people is that when they like you, they want to spend time with you. Work may be insane, he may have a busy social life, he may have two rescue dogs and a sick grandmother but if he likes you he’ll find time to have dinner with you. Really.

I may be wrong; he may literally have no time, not even a second to answer the phone or five minutes to text you back. Either way you are responsible for your own happiness and it’s your job to ask him what’s up, to tell him that you enjoy spending time with him and that you’d like to do it more often and with some sense of regularity. The worst possible outcome is that he says he’s not feeling it and then you can stop wasting your time with a guy who thinks that you’re good enough, for now.

Wouldn’t you rather spit it out and know what’s going on? It seems to me that you’re much more likely to get a real answer if you ask the object of your affection rather than your friends who have never met him, not ever. As much as I would love to be a psychic, I’m not, and I can’t tell you any more than I know from what you’re telling me and you’re probably not going to listen to me anyway. So why don’t you just ask him? Please just ask him. We can either celebrate or cry it out later.

Whether you’re in the early stages of a relationship or years into it the best thing you can do is ASK for what you want rather than playing guessing games. It’s also far less exhausting. I promise.

 

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Sarah Thomson promises free high speed internet if elected

Is free high-speed internet in the cards for the City of Toronto? If Sarah Thomson has her way she promises she would make it a reality.

Taking a page out of recent US developments like Google Fiber mayoral candidate Thomson promises free high-speed internet at 5Mbps for all Toronto residents and businesses by treating internet access as a utility.

The plan stresses that currently Toronto residents pay among the highest in the world for high-speed internet with the market cornered by a few large companies.

“The gap between rich and poor has widened due to the lack of political leadership at city hall,” says Thomson. “My Tunnel Toronto plan to put 6 priority transit lines underground will help stop the growth of gridlock and bring approximately 450,000 new jobs to Toronto. Aside from transportation, more is needed and that is why I believe Toronto should provide free Internet to its residents.”

Are you using the right wine glasses?

by Nicola Burrows

A true wine connoisseur appreciates a delicate glass of wine and values the difference between a bold red and a crisp white, or possibly an autumn blush with fragrances of berries and citrus, which are sweeter on the pallet. The choices are endless, but the wine glass that is used is as essential. Bringing the flavours of the wine to life can enhance your experience. The wine you choose is as important as the wine you serve, especially to maximize the flavour. A typical wine glass has three sectors: bowl, stem and foot. The shape of the glass generally influences the type of wine used. When serving the glass to your guests, hold the glass by its stem to avoid leaving fingerprints on the bowl.

Red wine glasses

Red wine needs to go through an oxidation process. This chemical process enhances both the flavour and aroma of the wine, making it more enjoyable. The bowl of a red wine glass is both rounder and wider to allow more air to come in contact with the wine. They usually stand taller than white wine glasses to allow for an easier swirl of the wine to further oxidize the flavour. Red wine glasses are also held by the bowl since it doesn’t normally make a difference if the temperature of the wine changes from the warmth of your hand. Red wine glasses are further divided into two common discrete shapes: the burgundy glass, which is broad and is suited to take the wine to the tip of the tongue; and the bordeaux glass, which is tall and not as broad as the burgundy glass.

For a bordeaux glass, you are going to be serving Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah as these are more full bodied wines. The bordeaux glass is shaped to allow the wine to reach the back of the throat when sipped. Burgundy glasses are made to further enjoy the aroma of the red wine. Wines such as Pinot Noir are best served to customers in burgundy glasses.

White wine glasses

Most white wine glasses have smaller mouths, which reduces the area of contact the wine has with the air, reducing the rate of oxidation. Their bowls are not as wide as red wine glasses while the entire glass appears thinner.

Champagne glasses are thinnest of all the wine glasses. Their shape is known as the flute, which has a longer stem and thin brim. Part of the novelty of champagne is its sparkling display of bubbles. The less oxidation it gets the longer the wine will sparkle.

White wine glasses are meant to be grasped by the stem to avoid both finger prints on the bowl as well as prevent the wine from being affected by that of your body temperature. The smaller mouth also allows the aroma to be directed more precisely towards the nose which a very important part of wine appreciation.

Serve Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio in the wider of the white wine glasses and use the Champagne Flutes for Champagne. You can pretty much follow this rule of thumb to be successful with the whites.

You will be able to maximize the flavour of wine and appreciate the wine to its fullest capacity.

Beatocello: A doctor, cellist, and hero to Cambodian children

By Tania LaCaria
Image from Beat-Richner.ch

Surely no one is surprised to hear that corruption, poverty, bureaucracy and scepticism are abundantly present in the streets of Cambodia.  At times, it can be difficult to look beyond the faults of this pained country, and I personally caught myself believing that all hope was lost for this beautiful nation… until I met Beatocello.

Dr. Beat Richner, affectionately called Beatocello by locals and tourists alike, is a charismatic and delightfully witty doctor who was born in Zurich in 1947 and practiced paediatrics at the Zurich Children’s Hospital for several years. In 1975, the Red Cross sent Dr. Richner to Cambodia to work at the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital but he was soon forced to return to Zurich once the destructive Khmer Rouge invaded. Luckily for the children of Cambodia, Dr. Richner fondly reminisced about his time in Cambodia often; so when the Cambodian government asked him to return in 1991 to help rebuild the destroyed children’s hospital, he was eager to pack his bags.

HEROIC ACT #1:

Once he noticed the funding for the hospital construction and its doctors was limited, he began playing free cello concerts for tourists (hence the pet name, Beato-CELLO) in exchange for donations towards Kantha Bopha. The concert experience that I attended was extremely moving.

I sat in a small auditorium with nearly 60 other tourists of all ages and watched him play the large instrument effortlessly in between recounts of his experience working with Kantha Bopha. He had the entire audience fully entertained…but he never lost sight of the purpose behind his performance and speech. He asked the young, healthy audience members to donate blood, and asked the older, rich tourists to donate money and then he asked everyone in between to donate BOTH…all for the good of Cambodian children.

HEROIC ACT #2:

At first, I thought Beatocello was providing a wonderful service to tourists in exchange for some charity fundraising, but I quickly became aware of the scope of Beatocello’s dedication to Cambodian children that stretches far beyond just a few free concerts. Over the course of several years, he has spearheaded the construction and maintenance of five new children’s hospitals, including a special maternity ward for mothers with HIV.

HEROIC ACT #3:

All the hospital services and administered medications are completely and utterly free of charge. Over 550,000 children would not have survived without these hospitals and the care of Beatocello. He even provides free transportation to and from the hospitals for rural families with ill children. In some cases, the children must stay overnight at the hospital, and of course, Beatocello has ensured that the child and guardian are fed and nursed for free for the duration of the child’s recovery.

If it weren’t for Beatocello, these children wouldn’t stand a chance at recovery.

Before we all forget our New Year resolutions and get wrapped up in the hustle of daily routines all over again, I hope you will take a second to be thankful for the work Beatocello has done for Cambodia, and remember that Winston Churchill said it best: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Beatocello’s dedication to the people of Cambodia is beyond admirable – it just seems like the right thing to do for a country that is eager to repair itself and forget its catastrophic past.

I am adding “Do More Charity Work” to my list of resolutions this year and I hope Beatocello has inspired you to do the same.

For more information on how to make a donation to the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals, click here.

 

STYLE: Hang on to your little black dress — because basic black is always in

Melanie & Doreen – Style md – are Toronto-based wardrobe consultants and personal stylists. stylemd.ca

by Doreen Binder

On a recent balmy June evening, seven of us gathered at a downtown restaurant to celebrate a friend’s birthday. All of us, women, showed up wearing basic black. We had all personalized our colour choice in some way. Some in head-to-toe black with a great piece of jewellery. Others mixed it with white. One friend boldly paired her black twinset with splashy red pants. Another women added a punch of fuchsia with a flower nestled at her bosom. Someone else wore an ecru lace top trimmed with ruffles.

We laughed about our wardrobe selection. A few of us admitted to swapping white ensembles for black at the very last minute because they just did not feel right. I was one of those people. White can look very fresh, but it seemed to me to be too casual for an evening at a French bistro.

At our table it was unanimous, black was a go-to colour for when we wanted to feel elegant or chic ⎯ winter or summer. It was also the choice on an off day, when we were not feeling so great about our bodies, ourselves, and just needed to feel pulled together.

Does this mean that we never wear brights or pastels? Hardly. I personally love lots of colour. I love having the options of all the colours of the rainbow. But for me black is like a longtime friend, easy, comfortable and reliable and sometimes just what I need in a pinch.

RECIPE: Not Your Grandma’s Banana Bread

Recipe & photo by lumpiestburrito.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized very ripe bananas (enough to equal 1 cup)

  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice (if you don’t have any lemon juice that’s fine)

  • 1/4 cup buttered, softened (put in microwave for a few seconds)

  • 1/4 cup chunk-style peanut butter

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (don’t pack down the brown sugar. If you don’t have brown sugar, use 1/2 cup regular sugar)

  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/3 cup milk

  • 1 3/4 cup flour

  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

  • 1 cup M&Ms

  • 1/4 chopped peanuts or chopped walnuts

“Put bananas in a small bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Measure out 1 cup and place mashed banana in a large bowl. Add 1 Tbs. lemon juice, 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/4 cup chunk-style peanut butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar (NOT packed), 1 large egg, 1/3 cup milk, 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking POWDER, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.

Mix with electric mixer until ‘just combined’. Stir in 1 cup M&Ms and 1/4 cup chopped peanuts OR walnuts.”

LOVE & SEX: This guy made a documentary to find out if size really does matter

One thing is clear, Patrick Moote doesn’t have a lot of embarrassment left. After proposing to his girlfriend on a jumbotron at a sporting event and being turned down, being the subject of a documentary about small penises wouldn’t seem all that mortifying. The trailer for the film, Unhung Hero, follows protagonist Moote as he speaks to women, experts, and medical professionals about penis size.

His girlfriend turned him down apparently because he was lacking in the pants. While this is an awful reason to break up with someone, it has gotten under his skin to the point where he and film maker Brian Spitz traveled the world to find out the answer to the age old question: does size really matter?

 

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Deferred profit sharing plans

By Andre Domise

A Deferred Profit Sharing Plan (DPSP) is a nifty, group savings program that’s often overlooked and misunderstood. The DPSP, if you’re lucky enough to participate in one, is one of the most flexible and beneficial savings plans out there. Unlike the Defined Contribution Pension Plans (DCPP), you don’t actually put money towards the DPSP. All contributions towards a DPSP come from the employer.

Usually, the employer will pitch in a minimum amount of contributions, either based on your salary, or on the company’s annual profits. If they’re generous, they’ll give you a base amount of contributions, and then match the contributions you make into your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) with their own deposits to the DPSP. For example, with a 50% match, if you make a bi-weekly contribution of $100 to your company RRSP, you’ll see an additional $50 deposited to your DPSP.

Unlike a group RRSP, you don’t actually “own” the money in the DPSP. With an RRSP, you would be able to withdraw your savings as cash (with a tax penalty), or transfer the money to another institution. DPSP money, on the other hand, is held in trust for you by the plan sponsor (the investment company that sets up your plan).

You would usually need to participate in the plan for 2 years before the money becomes vested. If you leave the company or leave the plan before the vesting period, your employer keeps the DPSP money. Even after the vesting period, you would not be able to withdraw or transfer DPSP funds while you’re an active employee with that company. They don’t become available to you until you’ve left the company, retired, or left the plan.

There is a nice upside, though.

Unlike DCPP, the money in a DPSP is not considered “locked-in.” When you retire, you can actually transfer the DPSP balance over to your RRSP, creating a hefty nest-egg. You can also transfer the balance of the DPSP to your personal RRSP as cash. So, if you’ve made some wise investment decisions with your personal accounts, the DPSP can provide a nice boost to your retirement savings. No need to worry about how much money you can unlock while you’re retired. If you ran into unexpected financial difficulty, you would be able to draw from those funds as a last resort.

One thing to look out for: DPSP contributions trigger a pension adjustment (PA).The pension adjustment is a correction made to your annual RRSP contribution room, based on how much money has been deposited to your group retirement and pension plans. Before cutting a large cheque to your financial advisor for last-minute RRSP contributions, you’ll need to make sure the money deposited to your DPSP won’t put you over the limit.