Ben Mulroney Interview with Dr. Beyers on the Inexplicable Canadian Elephant Ivory Law and the Botswana Massacre

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Elephanatics is a small Vancouver-based not-for-profit that advocates on behalf of African and Asian elephants. We’re a small team with a host of amazing volunteers and advisors. In response to the recent massacre of elephants in Botswana, Elephanatics was asked to comment on CTV with journalist Ben Mulroney.  Dr. Rene Beyers, a zoologist at UBC and one of our amazing supporters and advisors, answered some tough questions on why the massacre happened, and why Canada still hasn’t done anything to close the legal trade of ivory.

A big thanks to Rene for being the voice of elephants in Canada on our behalf. You can watch this interview here. #ivoryfreecanada

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Books: Ru by Kim Thúy

As part of my summer reading spree I read Kim Thuy’s memoir-esque novel Ru. In 1979 Kim escaped Vietnam with her family in a boat, landed in a refugee camp in Malaysia and eventually she and her family made their way to Quebec where she still lives today.

One of the things Kim does so well in this slight but beautifully written volume is intertwine her family’s history and journey to the culture and traditions of Vietnam.

Each chapter is short and the language is poetic. It’s almost as though the book is a collection of linked poems that tell the story of the immensely difficult journey her family took leaving Saigon to try and forge a better life in a new ,strange and cold country.

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Her descriptions of life in Vietnam are teeming with that “other life”.  The life of Lotus blossoms, servants, aunties, chefs, tennis courts, jewels and parties.  But with a country recovering from civil war and with the takeover of Saigon by the north, the good life they had known was rapidly coming to an end. Soldiers moved into their home, their possessions were taken, their lives threatened.

I love the descriptions of the large, sprawling families who care for each other through good and also extraordinarily difficult times. The tale of her families opulent life is contrasted with the stories of war, a child shot to death, a mother losing her son, old and young women, through whatever means doing what they must to put food on the table, more often than not doing soul destroying and backbreaking work.

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It’s easy to forget the lives left behind. And when the family comes to Montreal they live in a world difficult to understand and navigate, its newness underscoring everything they had to let go to  start anew. It’s a good reminder of what is left behind and what it takes to integrate and adapt and how that informs who you become.

I liked the book a lot and it’s poetic style offered incredible moments of truth, pain and beauty but it’s ephemeral nature also made it more difficult to attach to the narrator or the characters in the book.

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Books: A Man Called Ove

I did something incredible this summer. For two weeks  of my three week holiday I turned my phone off. Completely off. No news alerts, no texts or email, no facebook or social media. Not only was it the most blissful two weeks of my life but I actually finished reading the book I’d spent months trying to finish (The Goldfinch which is a monstrously large book). I then went on to read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Ru by Kim Thuy, Victorian Parlour Games (unsure but perhaps something like Edmund Beaver, and Martin Amis’ The War Against Cliche.

In addition, I spent a great deal of time learning about birds in the Guide to West Coast Birds (owls don’t build nests, who knew?) and I read an entire Vanity Fair cover to cover. It was heaven. Imagine how clever I would be at dinner parties if I could keep up this torrid pace of reading.

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When I started reading A Man Called Ove I had just finished reading The Goldfinch and you really couldn’t have two more different books or writers. The style of writing in Ove feels stark, plain and a bit cold much like I imagine a blustery grey Swedish day might be. Of course, Ove, himself, is no picnic. He’s an old  guy (58 which isn’t old to me but anyways) who is one dour, grumpy unlikable guy.

Written in short, somewhat terse chapters you find out what has happened to Ove, and through a series of rollicking, comical misadventures with the young family who has moved in next door, you find out who Ove really is. It turns out underneath all the cranky bluster is a solid, kindhearted guy!

I really didn’t like this book but it was an easy read so I kept reading it (hey I had all the time in the world!) But in a dramatic turn of events, by the time I finished the book I was sobbing, uncontrollably while  waiting in the car for the ferry. Dave kept looking at me and asking “Are you okay? Are you okay? Did you look at your phone?”  No, I didn’t peek at my phone which tends to send my blood pressure through the roof but in the end A Man Called Ov was a  lighthearted gut wrencher  and I enjoyed it thoroughly for that reason alone.

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Poem of the Week: Oh, The Water by Dorianne Laux via Poetry Mistress Alison

You are the hero of this poem,
the one who leans into the night
and shoulders the stars, smoking
a cigarette you’ve sworn is your last
before reeling the children into bed.

Or you’re the last worker on the line,
lifting labeled crates onto the dock,
brown arms bare to the elbow,
your shirt smelling of seaweed and soap.

You’re the oldest daughter
of an exhausted mother, an inconsolable
father, sister to the stones thrown down
on your path. You’re the brother
who warms his own brother’s bottle,
whose arm falls asleep along the rail of his crib.

We’ve stood next to you in the checkout line,
watched you flip through tabloids or stare
at the TV Guide as if it were the moon,
your cart full of cereal, toothpaste, shampoo,
day-old bread, bags of gassed fruit,
frozen pizzas on sale for 2.99.

In the car you might slide in a tape, listen
to Van Morrison sing Oh, the water.
You stop at the light and hum along, alone.

When you slam the trunk in the driveway,
spilling the groceries, dropping your keys,
you’re someone’s love, their one brave hope;
and if they don’t run to greet you or help
with the load, they can hear you,
they know you’ve come home.

​For more information on Dorianne Laux, please ​check out her website.
All these poems come via Alison McGhee who lovingly curates them,

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Random Musing: Bike to Work (hell)

My bike to work week started a good month after the official start which is the end of May early June. I took my time this year because there are a lot of mental preparation that goes into even getting my bike out of the bike locker.

First, I have to get down to the bike locker and then somehow I have to get myself to go in. Even though I pass the bike locker every single day, actually getting in there is a little like climbing Everest itself.

Once I wrap my mind around this I have to start considering the key to the bike lock. Where is it? Bike lock keys belong to the world of tiny keys that unlock mysteries in tiny places everywhere. And let’s face it, all keys look alike.

Then I have to remember where I put my panniers. By now I’m already feeling like I’m doing a gigantic 5 kilometer ride up a very steep hill and I haven’t even gotten on my bike yet.

When I finally have the bike, the lock, panniers, helmet which I didn’t have because I drove over it with my car last year, then I’m ready to consider next steps. What am I going to put in those panniers? How do I stuff my work clothes in there and look presentable? Well, that’s easy. I don’t. I’ve accepted that I look like a complete red-faced sweaty woman with wild hair who by some grace of good luck doesn’t stink. At least I’m assuming I don’t.

When I finally get to the biking part I conveniently forget the misery that was last year’s biking season, mainly the complete uphill relentless slog that is Willingdon, Patterson or anything that takes you to “Metrotown”.

Last year I cried. Real tears not fake ones. Why oh why oh why am I doing this I kept thinking to myself? So I’m not sure what made me think this year would be any different.

It’s true, last year’s biking got me ready and able to do the Juan de Fuca Trail fairly effortlessly. I lost my winter fat, I felt fit. Also, I like not driving my car because traffic is crazy and it fills me with rage and it feels good to pass people sitting in their cars when I’m flying down the big hill I have to come up in the mornings.

So having gone through the herculean effort of getting me and my bike ready for the ride, I finally did it this week – twice. The first time was evil. I foolishly believed that my winter (and spring) of doing nothing would prepare me but it didn’t. I also thought that maybe I was still fit from last year. That also turned out not to be true.

So it was hard. And today’s was even harder because I was still exhausted from two days before. But I’m proud to say there were no tears. Was there grimacing? Yes. Was there drool running down my chin? Yes. I’m hoping that the drooling will end by the end of next week when I’ll have three more rides under my belt. Wish me luck.

 

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Lemon Drop (martini, of course)

The Lemon Drop Martini is a thing of beauty. Perfect for breezy summer evenings, a drink on the dock, or backyard BBQ, it’s great anytime, anywhere as long as someone else makes it for you! That’s the key. It needs to be delivered on a tray in an icy, frosted glass.

In an attempt to cheer myself up this last weekend, I cooked like crazy and Dave made Lemon Drops, (several I might add and which turned to Lime Drops when we eventually ran out of lemons). It was nothing less than a perfect collaboration. And guess what? I climbed out of my downward spiral of OH MY GOD the world is going to hell and other self-inflicted sadnesses that seemed determined to take me down. unnamed.jpg

Here’s how to make these lovely little gems.

For one Single Lemon Drop
Ingredients:
11/2ounces vodka
1/2 ounce triple sec
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
3/4 ounce fresh lemon (or lime) juice
4 to 5 ice cubes
lemon twist

Chill martini glass in freezer for ten minutes. Pour vodka, triple sec, sugar and lemon into martini shaker with ice cubes. Use lemon to rim the glass and dunk in sugar. Shake martini shaker, pour, drink, enjoy and repeat!
Cheers!

While Dave made these I prepared an appetizer of avocado, prawns and aioli with a twist of lemon, followed by fresh tomato bisque soup finished with whipped cream, and then the final course, pasta with fresh pesto. The next night I made paella. I’m happy to say that all this food and drink celebration beat back the sads and I had a fantastic weekend enjoying something of a culinary and liquid renaissance!

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Italian Grandma Pesto

101 Cookbooks is my new favourite vegetarian cooking website. I love the context and details provided for each recipe. There  isn’t so much that it’s too much to read but there’s exactly enough to give you everything you need to understand the “why” of cooking something a certain way.

I’m not a lover of commercial pesto and rarely eat it but this pesto is simple and fabulous. The trick is to hand chop everything. You can get the full explanation of why it is so much better here but my own feeling is that the unevenness of hand-chopping makes each bite a little different.

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Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic
  • one small handful of raw pine nuts
  • roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and freshly grated
  • A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
INSTRUCTIONS
Chop Ingredients
The official chopping protocol from 101 Cookbooks is below. As I’m incapable of being able to follow any recipe to the letter, we simply chopped the large bunch of basil, the handful of nuts, and garlic and then slowly added in the parmesan and then made sure it was properly mixed. The 101 Cooks method leaves you with something of a pesto cake (yum!). We prepared some elbow pasta, mixed in the pesto added salt and pepper and presto Pesto!
It was delicious.
  1. Chop the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more basil, chop some more, add the rest of the basil, chop some more. At this point the basil and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the pine nuts, chop. Add the rest of the pine nuts, chop. Add half of the Parmesan, chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop. In the end you want a chop so fine that you can press all the ingredients into a basil “cake” – see the photo up above. Transfer the pesto “cake” to a small bowl (not much bigger than the cake).

Form a Paste
  1. Cover the pesto “cake” with a bit of olive oil. It doesn’t take much, just a few tablespoons. At this point, you can set the pesto aside, or place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Just before serving, give the pesto a quick stir to incorporate some of the oil into the basil. Francesca’s mom occasionally thins the pesto with a splash of pasta water for more coverage, but for our gnocchi this wasn’t necessary.

 

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