Category Archives: green living

A first for Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project



Three European credit agencies have backed out of Turkey’s massive Ilisu dam project. Turkey claims it will back the 1200 megawatt dam with its own money despite local and international protest over its inability to meet World Bank Standards on human rights, cultural heritage and the environment.

From right: translator Metin Baran, and Hasankeyf residents Halil Güzel and Abduhlah Erididil,

From right: translator Metin Baran, and Hasankeyf residents Halil Güzel and Abduhlah Erididil

Last year I travelled to Hasankeyf -a 10,000 year old village set to be flooded – to talk to the villagers and see what would be lost if the dam were to be built. It was tough to get the piece published as editors claimed they were “awash in dam stories,” but with the recent news of the pull out, the New York Times Green Inc. blog took the story.

Check it out:

Ataturk dam

The Ataturk dam - the first dam in the Southeastern Anatolia project


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Best winter purchase ever.

winter biking, university of toronto

It’s minus 13 in Toronto and I left my house before light, cycling about 15 minutes to the radio show where I volunteer.  The face-slapping chill provided a caffeine-free wake-up call but the rest of me was warm and toasty.  Mostly thanks to the best winter buy ever — my new Sorels.


Cheesily dubbed Joan of the Arctic by its manufacturer, wearing these puppies is like having space heaters on your feet. Totally waterproof and arguably stylish thanks to the fur trim and higher boot than the traditional Sorels. And if I had bought these prior to 2000, I could have boasted about purchasing a made-in-Canada product, invented by Kitchener boot baron, A.R. Kaufman in 1959.  Now, they’re made by Columbia, likely in one of its “third party” overseas factories, for which it has a code of ethics. And this of course means they’ve got something to hide — although a quick Google search yielded just one article on Columbia’s untoward behaviour from way back in 1996.  Ah well, guilty pleasures and all that.


Another key to winter cycling?  The hat-helmet combo.  It’s a look not everyone can rock, but clearly one some of us can pull off.  I even caught a hot guy staring at me, although that could be because I nearly wiped out when “off roading” it through the Bellwoods…

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Filed under ethical living, green living, thrifty, Toronto, urban cycling

stealing my bike

bet your parents aren't this cool.

for the love of tandem

The black plastic-y key for my $14.99 bike lock kept bending slightly until it was nearly T-shaped.  This summer, it finally snapped in two when it was inside the lock, leaving me to fish out the bit inside with a safety pin.  Luckily I found a second key stashed in one of my many boxes of God-knows-what. 

But it too went the way of it’s brother yesterday.  I was forced to take a taxi back to work, leaving it locked up to a wrought iron gate next to the Bata Shoe Museum. 

Today I returned with a borrowed hacksaw (thanks Deb) to steal my own bike.  In case of campus cop brew ha ha, I decided it was best to thieve after my scheduled interview with museum curator Elizabeth Semmelhack (the woman knows high heels) (and p.s. the foot-size-to-penis-size ratio really is just folklore) (I learned that from Semmelhack, not from field research).

As Toronto’s first snow flurries of the winter start coming down I start to saw.  The hacksaw quickly works it way through plastic and makes a loud grating noise when it hits three of the six cables surrounding the lock’s metal core.  But it’s working.  

It’s 1:30 p.m. and streams of students pass by with nary a glance.  A responsible cyclist is the only one who stops me: “Excuse me, but can I ask what you’re doing?”  I explain and he looks skeptical but leaves after I show him the broken key inside the lock, “Good luck,” he waves cycling away.  Yeah, thanks.  A professor (and I concluded this because who else would sport a black vest with felt skeletons all over it three days before Hallowe’en) walks over.  “Bummer, maybe the maintenance guy has something you can use that would make it faster,” he said and went into the University Women’s Club to check.  Five minutes later he appears sipping a fresh cup of coffee, “Sorry,” he shrugs, strolling back inside.

Hot flashes are shooting up my wrist but I’m three quarters in, musn’t stop now.  An innocuous blue car pulls up and a student in a baseball cap shouts, “Hey, need some help?” 

“Yes!  Do you have wire cutters?”

“No, but my buddy’s really good with a saw.”

And with that, they pull over and he and his buddy step out of his car.  Buddy smiles at me, takes the saw and gives ‘er.  Sparks almost fly he’s sawing so fast.  As he leans over, I admire the white do-rag peeking out from under his ball cap.  He bends and twists the cable and it breaks — the job is done.  “Thanks so much!” I say, wanting to hug the kid.

“Sure, we saw this girl with a saw, and we were like, what the…  so we stopped,” he said.

“Well, I really needed the help, thank you.”

“No problem, just do me one favour,” he said.  “Next time you see someone who needs help, stop.”

unrelated endnote: for my facebook “friends” who laugh and think, “what a loser, who posts long notes about stealing bikes on facebook?”  I would like to defend myself.  These “notes” are actually streamed from my blog – – and blogging is the very definition of cool. 

unrelated endnote II: It’s been five months since my last blog post.  This probably isn’t even a blog anymore, I will now refer to it as a AsIC (Another sporadic Internet Confession).

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Filed under cheap fun, green living, thrifty, Toronto

a dress a day #4

vintage black shift dress, lace sleeves, empire waist, jewel detailing, 1960s, England
This dress found me at the Custard Factory’s vintage flea market held every Saturday in Birmingham, England ($30).  Its fun details made it stand out.  I adore the silvery bejewelled, empire waist. 

empire waist, shift dress, vintage, jewelled waist, embroidered

It’s label-less and homemade — demanding a trained eye to size it up.  In fact, all vintage dresses do.  I normally wear a US size 8-10, but I own vintage dresses in sizes 4 to 14; obey labels at your peril.   Wiggling into armfuls of musty dresses is key to finding just the right one.

vintage dresses, rack

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Filed under Birmingham, clothes, ethical living, green living, thrifty, Uncategorized, vintage

A dress a day #3

chain print, red dress, fashion,

When rummaging through racks of used dresses it’s easy to get lost in the heady mix of stained musty goodness.  But keeping the “classics” in mind will help you get a lock on vintage dynamite.  I spied this red, button down, shirtdress, with it’s classic chain print, while rummaging through Birmingham’s aptly-named Vintage Clothing store in Digbeth.  The tag reads 100% Baumwolle*, by Nak Stoffe, a German textiler.

red chain print dress

A staple of every designer’s winter cruise line, the chain print can also be worn by the rest of us — it’s graced shirts, dresses, belts and scarves at nearly every major retailer from J Crew to Guess (retch) to Top Shop.  And it’s all over the stores this season according to one New Yorker’s non blog. My current favourite is  Pringle’s geometric chain print on a classic day dress:

pringle day dress, chain print

*baumwolle: tree (baum) wool — commonly known as cotton

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Filed under Birmingham, cheap fun, green living, thrifty, vintage

A dress a day #2

vintage dress, england,
There’s something special about being given a dress once owned and worn by a woman you admire.  Here’s a hand-me-down 80s vintage number.  Sans labels, it was bestowed on me by a hard-working, farmer’s wife from Tunstall, Kirby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England.  The centre of this tiny village’s life, she defines all that is great about the Women’s Institute.  Every Christmas hundreds of hanging cards sent from friends obscure the giant oak beams in her farmhouse.  A hard-working B&B owner, family is the centrepoint of her life and I learned much from her. 

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Filed under cheap fun, clothes, green living, thrifty, vintage

A dress a day, #1

pink, silver, polyester shift dress, vintage

Sheepish fashion columnists agree wardrobe staples are the white blouse, a good trench coat and a Birkin (yawn).  But real staying power lies in the mighty vintage dress.

Maxi, mini, gown, pinafore, tube, bubble, sun, cocktail, wrap, strapless, sleeveless, shirt, smock, tunic, trapeze, sheath, kaftan, shift, swing, flounce — I dare you not to find one you like.  Best of all the frock constitutes an entire outfit: simple.

Following some of the better advice in Brit fashion writer’s Tamsin Blanchard’s Green is the New Black, I rooted through my wardrobe to pull out all my lovely dresses in a bid to dissuade me from buying more, more, more.

So this week, in a nod to the lovely A Dress A Day blog, I’m putting my vintage frocks on show, beginning with my first purchase.  Pink polyester with silvery thread can feel a bit like sandpaper against skin.  If only it felt like how I imagine Michael Kors’s new — and not dissimilar — pebble brocade dress would.  But I digress, this is one hot number.  The jewel-encrusted collar is especially fun.  A surbanite, GTA teen, I found this shift dress on one of many frequent visits to Kensington Market, for peanuts.

If you’ve got info on this vintage fashion label, please share the love.

felix, portland, vintage fashion label, American


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Filed under clothes, green living, thrifty, Toronto, Uncategorized, vintage