Sunday, May 03, 2015

Initiative: Heart Health for the Caribbean Community

As my role of Honorary Consul, I was invited to an inaugural meeting of a group doctors from the St. Boniface Hospital and some members of the Caribbean community to start an initiative to promote heart health in the Caribbean community both in Manitoba and the Caribbean.  

The meeting was chaired by the world-famous Dr. Naranjan Dhalla who has made significant impact in heart research - right here in Winnipeg. He has so many awards, that one would need a book to list more than 170. That's right. More than ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY!! I was honoured just to be sitting at the same table as he. Dr. Bram Ramjaiwan (Guyanese) did a short presentation about heart health and some of the important research that was and is being done at the Cardiac Research Centre. Dr. Pram Tappia took some detailed minutes and graciously captured what each of us had to say. 

L to R: Sorace Mulchand, Derek Dabee, Dr. Dhalla, Sandra, Somnauth Kenneth,
Ula Matheson, Dorothy Barrett, Wendy Fernandez, Dr, Ramjaiwan

All of the people who attended were Guyanese but we want to involve as much of the Caribbean community as possible so we'll be having other planning meetings to decide how to move forward. It would be really exciting to think that the Caribbean community could come together for such a worthy endeavour as taking care of your heart. Looking forward to the next meeting. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Prelude to my cookbook

I've been talking about my forthcoming cookbook which is now at the editing stage. I think I have decided on a publisher who specializes in cookbooks but I still have some decisions to make. In the meantime, here are some of the treats that will be in the book. 

Challah Bread

Dobos Torte

Almond cake


Chocolate-Orange Biscotti

Lemon-almond Biscotti

Shortbread with sprinkles

Guyanese Bake

Guyanese Dhall Puri

Currant Scone

Guyanese Curried Chicken

Hot Cross Buns

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Manitoba: Spirit Sands Desert

I've walked through some very impressive deserts in my time including the Kalahari in Botswana, the Sahara in Egypt, and the Thar in India. They are incredibly hot (roughly +45C when I was in the Thar). The Serengeti, although not a desert, was extremely hot when I was there as well. 

Manitoba by contrast, is the other extreme with temperatures reaching lows of -45C (last winter and the winter before at -50C). No one would ever consider that there are places in Manitoba that could reach desert-like temperatures, let alone have a desert where the temperature can reach +50C. Well, as if by serendipity (but not really), I finally "discovered" Spirit Sands and Devil's Punchbowl only 180km from Winnipeg. 

I heard there was a desert in Manitoba, one of the very few in Canada but never visited it. We attempted many, many years ago when my kids were young but we didn't make more than a few feet past the trailhead. It was an incredible hot summer day and we were not prepared for walking in a desert. 

Thanks to Prairie Pathfinders, a hiking club in Winnipeg, I got to enjoy a 3.5 hour hike through the sand dunes of Manitoba. It was a perfect day for a hike - sunny with an expected high of +18C. We packed a lunch and headed out at 11am only to arrive at the trail head to light drizzle. With no raincoat, we improvised - me in Robin's jacket and he in a "trail" raincoat. Hey, it kept him dry! 

We started at at 1:30 sharp (Wendy the leader is pretty punctual) and headed up a steep incline and about 50 stairs. Soon after that the rain stopped and it was cool but comfortable. 

By the time we were 10 minutes into to hike, I shedded my bit of plastic I had on my back and soon after another set of stairs, the jacket went. It's amazing how quickly you can heat up when you are climbing up a somewhat steep hill. 

Most people think that Manitoba is a vast flat land of prairie as far as the eye can see - and so it is - but we also have beautiful rivers, streams, forests, hills, mountains (Riding Mountain in the Minnedosa area), obviously deserts complete with sand dunes and a plethora of terrain and landscapes to enjoy. Here is what I mean: we get to the top of the hill and there below us was a picture-perfect river valley with a light fog. 

Some more walking brought us to the famous Spirit Sands Sand Dunes. Thank goodness it was heavily overcast and cool or we would be burning up trudging in the ankle deep sand. I am going to feel it tomorrow for sure! 

Then more steps and even more... 

Did you know the Manitoba flower is the crocus? I knew that but had often wondered why "they"would pick a crocus because I had never seen one anywhere (well except for a pot in a greenhouse).  There were dozens and I was glad someone pointed them out because I would have missed them. I would have noticed the light mauve coloured flower with a bright yellow centre but I would not have known it was our very own official flower. Judging from the yellow stigmas at the centre of the flower, I can see why saffron (which is the red stigma of the saffron crocus) would be the most expensive spice in the world - as high as $5,000 per pound. Apparently it takes about 75,000 flowers to get one pound. I prefer to see my crocus in the wild - take a picture and leave the flower for someone else to appreciate.   

After the dunes, we headed to the Devil's Punch Bowl. I wondered how much longer it would be after the dunes but the walk was totally worth it. We rounded a bend in the path and there below was the Punch Bowl. We had to walk down a long path and a lot of stairs again but it was worth the extra effort.  

Crossing the bridge across the Punch Bowl and some more stairs and there was a gentle stream running in another valley just below us. I wanted to stay and enjoy the scenery but we still had another 3 kms to go back to the trailhead. The rest of the group was going to a community supper in Treherne and since we didn't know the path, we followed the group back. 

All in all, it was a great hike - almost 13 kms which translated to about 20,000 steps including over 1500 stairs (or uphill walking).

Sunday, April 19, 2015

5th Annual MB Senior's dinner

Tonight we attended the 5th anniversary of the Manitoba Hindu Seniors. There were probably about 60 people - some as young as 10. Not exactly a senior but it was nice to see young and old mingling. The food was all vegetarian and quite delicious. 

The Manitoba Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors, Deanne Crothers, attended the event and brought good wishes from the government. She loved the food as she is vegetarian and noted that it was nice to attend an event and not have to worry about if there would be something for her to eat. 
Minister Crothers bringing greetings
 I was sitting with my colleague Beatrice who is the editor of a quarterly magazine for Caribbean news called Global Eyes. The December 2014 issue has a picture of me on the back page. The Congress of Black Women of Manitoba hosted a Kwanza festival in December and I took Sahana and Sabreena to the event. Beatrice was one of the organizers and she was busy taking pictures of attendees. She is always dressed so fashionably as she was for this event too. Beatrice is also a vegetarian so she enjoyed the food too. We had a great chat in between the evening's entertainment of dancing and singing.  

Beatrice and Sandra
Looking forward to more of these events. Good to see people from the West and East Indian communities sharing a meal and fellowship.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Winnipeg: Prairie Ink Restaurant

My friends and I went out for breakfast today at the Prairie Ink Restaurant at McNally Robinson Bookstore in Grant Park Plaza. This is the same bookstore which supported my launch of my book last year. The bookstore is a Winnipeg favourite as is the restaurant. Natalie had the caramel apple pancake and it was so huge, it could easily have fed two people comfortably. She took half of it home. 

Anna had the Eggs Benedict with a twist - the twist being smoked salmon. When I looked at it, I wished I had ordered it because it looked so scrumptious.   

Carmen had the plain eggs benedict as if there is anything plain about it. 

We had a great time. Carmen brought me a watch I won last weekend at an event I attended for International Women's Day. Only thing was, the watch was a man's watch! It was a Michael Kors watch, gifted from the entertainer of the evening to be raffled off. I was the winner although I was not there to collect it because I left before he started singing. Good thing for good friends who will collect my winnings and bring it to me! 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mexico: Another beautiful Jaltemba Bay sunset

Our last sunset of a fabulous vacation. I could not have asked for a more perfect place to be for 16 days. I'll let the pictures speak a thousand words.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mexico: Morning has broken

Early morning walks are great especially when it starts at a beach with the images below.

Fishermen are out early trying to get their catch of the day. They sell their catch on the beach and then wait around for tourists to pay to go fishing for a few hours. We didn't go but I did see a number of people going off in the fishing boats.  

The beach in front of our condo is usually quiet first thing in the morning. Actually, it is quiet most of the day really as the action happens at the other end of the beach where there are a few hotels where mostly Mexican families stay. 

I like to sit and listen to the waves crashing and the boats lazily sailing by. Maybe if I lived here I might not appreciate the beauty of this place. Being here makes me also realize that I have not had much of a vacation in the last few months and with working long hours for the last seven months, the time here is like paradise. We leave in two days but the time spent here was idyllic. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mexico: Hiking the Sierra Madre in Los Ayala

Today was an unexpected bit of pleasure. We met Robin's friends in Guayabitos for lunch a few days ago and they told us that each Friday, a group of people go on a 10 km hike from Los Ayala, over the Sierra Madre mountains to a town called El Monteón. We decided to join the group. I didn't bring hiking boots but runners worked almost as well. There were about 15 people along for the hike and I wondered if it might be too strenuous after a winter of only indoor walking. 

We started out at about 7:30am and walked to the south end of the beach to wait for Tim and the rest of the group who drove from Guyabitos. They arrived and soon after the group of us headed into the hills which was an immediate incline. Five minutes into the hike, we stopped because the usual path was rained out. Someone (who's done this before) stretched open a barbed wire fence and the rest of us gingerly climbed through so as not to get snagged on the sharp barbs. I felt like I was a kid again, trying to steal some neighbour's low hanging juicy fruit if only I could stretch just a few inches past the barbed wire. 

It was a strenuous, steep, 15 minute, chest-exploding incline before the ground levelled out and we had a well-deserved 2 minute pause  and we continued along a cleared path in otherwise dense vegetation. 

Then the area opened up into a vast area of endless pineapple fields. 

We passed a gate and just as suddenly the pineapple fields ended and we came upon this scene - a fully groomed piece of land with palm trees and a perfect road. The only thing missing was a world class resort. I found out a few minutes later that a developer was supposed to build a hotel but ran out of money and could not complete it. I am surprised that someone is still up-keeping the place.   

Just past the perfect road, we can upon some orange trees but the fruits were too high to pick. If I had some more time (really what I mean is - if I wasn't walking with a group of people) I would have climbed the tree and picked some fruit.  

Then lo and behold, there was a giant tamarind tree right before my eyes! I had a flash back to childhood when I used to spend time playing under the tree with Bena and Karran and sometimes with Farida and Basheer. The tree was huge and had branches hanging to the ground so that it formed a natural fort that we could play under. It was to tall that I could easily stand and I was already close to 5 feet tall when I was about 10 years old. 

We walked a bit more around a few bends in the road and came upon the beaches of Playa Punta Raza. The waves are quite a bit rougher and the water higher. I'd be worried about swimming here because I am not a strong swimmer and I'd be worried about undercurrents. 

Playa Punta Raza

 We stopped and had a short rest before heading off on gradual but pretty long and steady incline of about one kilometre and reached the top of the mountain which overlooked the beautiful valley below that was El Monteón. After a few pictures, one of the women said that the town below was our final destination. It looked like a long way down but it was down so that was a good thing. 

Down, down, down to the edge of town which had a river (or maybe it was a creek) which was overflowing the bridge. We had two choices:  walk through the water and get our runners wet or carefully walk on the low posts on the left of the bridge (visible in the picture) and hope not to fall into the river while doing so. I made it across, although some of the stumps were a bit slippery from the water. I gave a huge sigh of relief that I didn't fall or get my feet wet. An older woman who was right behind me started walking across and by the time she was about 3 stumps in, she could not stretch her foot to reach the next stump. She stood there straddling the two and teetering in the posts and I was sure she was going to be in the river any second. I walked back into the water on the bridge (after just priding myself for crossing with dry feet), gave her my hand and crossed her to the other side. We both ended up with wet runners but the alternative was her in the river and one of us going in to rescue her. This seemed like a better option. 

If you are Guyanese or ever lived on a farm, the scene below would be familiar. A fowl pen with baby chicks, a rabbit, guinea fowls, and a couple of guinea pigs. A few hundred metres and a bend in the road and we were in the town proper. 

It was a cute little place with brightly coloured buildings and so Mexican that I instantly fell in love with it. Looking around, I felt like I was in a Western movie where anytime now, I could expect an hombre to walk out with his guns blazing. 

We stopped at a small restaurant for a late breakfast (late from 7am but still rather early at 10am). The huevos rancheros, tortillas and fresh carrot and orange juice cost a total of about CDN $5 and that included a tip! It cost almost as much to get a collectivo back to Los Ayala. 

A well-spent day. I wonder if I'll be sore tomorrow. Don't think so. I've been averaging about 15,000 steps each day and most of it in the sand so my legs should be feeling good tomorrow.