Friday, December 29, 2023

Centennial Park Conservatory Photos

Here in Toronto, we've had days and days of damp, drizzly weather.  It's been unseasonably mild and there has been no sunshine and definitely no white Christmas.  That's why on Boxing Day, December 26th, I visited the Centennial Park Conservatory in Etobicoke, in the west end of the city.  It was filled with Christmas pants and flowers.  It brightened my day and there was a beautiful red cardinal in the greenhouse, which you see in the photo after the one below.  I hope you enjoy the photos.

- Joanen

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas 2023: Reflections on a world gone mad

Go, tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born 

- Attributed to John Wesley Work, Jr. (1871-1925),  American musicologist, singer and songwriter

No one is completely certain of who actually wrote the words to the Christmas hymn "Go Tell It On the Mountain."  The verses that we sing today may have been written by John W. Work, Jr. to replace the original ones that got lost.  

Work, Jr., his wife Agnes, and his brother Frederick, collected slave songs and spirituals.  Work published them as New Jubilee Songs by the Fisk Jubilee Singers (1901) and New Jubilee Songs and Folk Songs of the American Negro (1907), which contained the first publication of "Go Tell It On the Mountain." which he may have played a part in composing.  Some, however, attribute the test to his bother, Frederick J. Work.

Joan Wesley Work, Jr.

With war in Ukraine and in the Middle East, "Peace on  Earth" may seem far away this Christmas. As we approach the end of 2023, the world seems to be plunging into madness.  Peace may seem a distant prospect, but it doesn't have to be, not if we find peace in our hearts.  This will not be easy.  Given all the discord around us, the quest for inner peace will be challenging.  However, it will be well worth the effort, especially when considering the alternative.

We live in a time of great polarization and enormous human suffering.  Finding inner peace will require a great deal of self-reflection and self-discipline.  It begins with you and me, and it's a matter of finding strength, courage and hope in a world gone mad.  

I try to remember that life is not all black and white.  There are shades of grey.  Therefore, I try not to regard those who think differently than I as "the enemy". No one has all the answers.  It's beneficial to look at matters from other points of view, even if you can never agree.  It is said that there are two sides to every story.  Sometimes there can be more sides and angle than you expect.  People of faith share much in common.  I believe in ecumenicalism.  It makes no sense for Jews and Muslims and Christians to hate each other, or for anyone who lives by the Golden Rule.

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will not find it under a tree."

- Roy L. Smith (1887-1963), American clergyman

May you find peace in your heart this Christmas.  I'm working on it myself, so I understand the struggle.


There is some good news this Christmas about Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral.  The renovation of the fire-damaged cathedral has entered its final stage. After the devastating fire on April 15, 2019, the spire has been reconstructed in similar fashion, despite some debate about whether to modernize it.

A large crane lifted a new copper rooster back to the top of its spire on Satiurday,December .  This new weather vane rooster was blessed by the Parish archbishop Laurent Ulrich.  The rooster symbolizes the cathedral's resurgence.  It is a French emblem of vigilance and Christ's resurrection, similar to a phoenix.  

Raising the copper rooster

The old rooster had crashed through the roof along with the wooden spire.  I was found slightly damaged but nearly intact in the debris l fire.  It will be displayed a new Notre Dame museum.  Last week, after viewing the rebuilt spire, French President Emmanuel Macron promised that the reconstruction of the cathedral would be completed as scheduled and that it would reopen within a year.  

Notre-Dome is de Paris is set to reopen for religious services and to the public on December 8, 2024, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  President Macron would like Pope Francis to attend.  By next Christmas, the grand cathedral should be standing in all its glory.

- Joanne

Friday, December 22, 2023

Christmas Foods and Delicacies Quiz

Christmas Foods and Delicacies Quiz

Number 16 presents a multiple choice quiz on Christmas food from around the world.  There are ten questions to test your knowledge of Christmas cuisine.  Good luck!

1.  Plum pudding 

A.   A Christmas bread with raisins and plums

B.    A plum wine served at Christmas in Britain

C.    An Irish fruit pudding with peaches and plums

D.   A dessert of plums and ice cream served in Britain

E.   A sweet, dried-fruit pudding traditionally served at Christmas in Britain.

2.  Panettone

A.  A pasta

B.  An Italian soup served at Christmas

C.  An Italian type of sweet bread

D.  An Italian ice cream

E.   An Italian Christmas wine

3.  Pozole

A.  A classic Mexican soup

B.  A South American Christmas dessert

C.  A fruit served served at Christmastime in Spain

D.  A Christmas beef dinner in Peru

E.  A chicken Christmas specialty in Chile

4.  Ceviche

A.  A Christmas bread popular in Spain

B.  A Christmas soup served in Portugal

C.  A spicy Christmas Caribbean dish 

D.  A popular seafood Christmas dish in Peru

E.  A South American dessert

5.  Golubtsi

A.  A Dutch cheese served at Christmas

B.  Stuffed cabbage rolls, popular in Russia at Christmas

C.   A Turkish Christmas bread

D.  A popular Christmas dessert in Hungary

E.   A Polish Christmas appetizer

6.  Mopane worms

A.  A kind of Christmas soup in the West Indies

B.  A popular Christmas treat in Southern Africa

C.   A Christmas dessert in Mexico

D.  A Christmas appetizer in South America

E.   A Greek Christmas liqueur

7.  Rooster Doro Wat

A.  A renowned Ethiopian Christmas dish

B.   An African Christmas soup

C.   A Christmas appetizer, popular in Uganda

D.   A Christmas punch, a popular drink in Cuba

E.    A Christmas dessert, often served in Jamaica

8.  Fatah

A.  An ancient Christmas oatmeal dish

B.   A Mideastern soup served at Christmas

C.  A Christmas dish with origins in Egypt

D.  A Christmas desert in Madagascar

E.   A  Christmas biscuit in Nigeria

9.  Nyama Choma

A.  A Christmas dessert in the Philippines

B.  A Christmas soup in the Phiippines

C.  A Christmas vegetable dish in Kenya

D.   A Christmas seafood dish in the Philippines

E,  A classic Christmas meat dish in Kenya

10.  Cepelinai

A.  A popular Christmas candy in Latvia

B.   A Christmas soup in Croatia

C.  A Lithuanian Christmas dish

D.  Estonian biscuits served at Christmas

E.   A Romanian Christmas dessert


1.  E

Plum pudding, also known as Christmas pudding.
  A sweet, dried-fruit pudding traditionally served at Christmas in Britain.  The classic plum pudding recipe calls for the pudding (or fruitcake) to be steamed.  It is soaked with brandy or sherry sauce.  Despite its name, plum pudding does not contain any plums. It calls for fruits such as raisins, sultanas, currants, diced apple, prunes and dried apricots.  The name "plum pudding" is thought to have originated from the pre-Victorian use of the work "plum" as a term for raisins or other dried fruits.

2.  C  

Panettone: An Italian type of sweet bread, speckled with raisins, citrus, almonds with a buttery texture..  It is commonly served at Christmas and during the winter.  It originated in Milan.

3. A

Pozole: A classic Mexican soup, popular at Christmas.  The soup has rich, cultural significance.  Preparing pozole on Christmas Eve is a way of sharing with family and friends.  Pazole contains Hominy corn.  Either pig or chicken are cooked in a spicy broth.  Its red and green colours contribute to the joyful atmosphere of Christmas.

4.  D

Ceviche: A popular seafood Christmas dish in Peru.  Christmas falls during the summer in Peru.  The spicy flavour of ceviche is ideal for the warm weather.  It consists of fresh seafood marinated in lime or bitter orange juice, topped with onions,  jalapeño peppers, and cilantro.

5.  D

Golubtsi:   Stuffed cabbage rolls, served in Russia at Christmas.  They are a popular Christmas Eve lunch in Russia.  The cabbage leaves are stuffed with ground pork and rice and then cooked in a tomato sauce.

6.  B

Mopane Worm:   A popular Christmas treat in Southern Africa, especially in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.  The insects are full of protein and are caught and sun-dried before being rehydrated and cooked in different ways, often with onions, tomatoes and spices.

7.  A

Rooster Doro Wat:  An Ethiopian Christmas dish.  Doro Wat is a fiery chicken stew and is frequently served with a rooster, signifying the birth of Christ.

8.  C

Fatah: A Christmas dish with ancient Egyptian origins, part of Coptic Christian tradition.  Fatah consists of layers of rice, pita bread and lamb, topped with garlic-tomato sauce and finished with yogurt, crispy fried bread, and almonds.

9.  E

Nyama Choma:  A classic Christmas dish in Kenya.  It is made by grilling or roasting meat, usually goat, beef or chicken, and seasoned with local spices.

10.  C

Cepelinai: A Lithuanian dish, consisting of large potato dumplings, filled with meat, cheese or mushrooms.  It is a popular Christmas custom in Lithuania and highlights the importance of potatoes in Lithuanian cuisine.  

- Joanne

Monday, December 18, 2023

Dear America, what's wrong with you?

Republicans confronted after Donald Trump accused of  'parroting Hitler' with migrants speech

Dear America,

What is wrong with so many of you?  Don't you remember Hitler and Mussolini, or have you forgotten the lessons of history?  In 1940, John F. Kennedy, then a college student, wrote a book entitled Why England Slept. about the tragic events of the 1930s that led to Hitler's rise to power.  Kennedy's book also deals with the difficulties of democracies in confronting the threat of totalitarianism.  Why England Slept was reprinted in 1961, when JFK became president.  It should be recommended reading today because if Donald Trump returns to the White House, a sequel, entitled Why America Slept, will need to be written some day.

It's absolutely shocking that millions of people in the United States, which prides itself on its democracy, are willing to vote for a despot such as Donald Trump.  Many of them have had parents and grandparents who sacrificed their lives to rid the world of Naziism.  It's disconcerting that so many Americans are willing to overlook the fact that on January 6, 2021, Trump supported the attempted overthrow of a duly elected a violent mob of his far-right supporters.  It's truly sad that some Americans actually believe that the mob was just a peaceful group touring the Capitol building.  

Trump's behaviour and his criminal activity, should have prevented him from running for president in 2024.  The thought of him in the Oval Office again sends chills down my spine.  It's a very scary prospect.  This is a man who said that "immigrants are poisoning the lifeblood of this country."

The Republican Party is controlled by Trump.  Almost 100 members of Congress have endorsed him, including the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, far-right extremist Mike Johnson. Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, said that Trump is fit to be president.

I hesitate to call the Republican Party the GOP (Grand Old Party).  It's no longer grand.  It's no longer the party of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  Republicans are a spineless herd, except for a few brave dissidents who have criticized mob boss Trump.  If democracy survives in America, it will be due to the courage of Republicans such Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney and Chris Christie. 

With regard to Trump's comment on immigrants, Christie stated, "He's disgusting.  And what he's doing is dog whistling to Americans who feel absolutely under stress and strain from the economy and from the conflicts around the world, and he's dog whistling to blame it on people from areas that don't look like us."

I disagree with the politics of Cheney, Romney and Christie, but they have stood up for the rule of law.  They have dared to speak out about Trump's threat to democracy, risking their own safety and political careers. Unfortunately, they are few and far-between. The egregious "Freedom Caucus " controlled by Trump, rules the show with such far-right zealots as Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan and Lauren Boebert.

This is not fear-mongering or exaggeration.  Trump's words and actions speak for themselves.  He has referred to the media as the "enemy of the people."  He has called his detractors "vermin."  He has declared that he would only be a dictator on Day One of his presidency.  Trump is not joking.  Americans must take his words seriously.  Hitler did not hide his intentions.  He made them very clear in his book Mein Kampf.

America, you need to awaken from your slumber before it's too late.  Stop sleepwalking through this crisis.  Why isn't there more concern about Trump's clear and real threat to democracy.  There aren't enough alarm bells sounding.  I can guarantee if Trump gets his hands on the reins of power again, American democracy will be lost.  Trump has not concealed his plans to turn the United States into an authoritarian regime.

Here's how German historian Volker Ulrich characterizes Hitler in his book Hitler: Ascent (1889-1939). Trump's personality and his behaviour are chillingly similar. to that of the Nazi dictator.      

* Hitler was an egomaniac who “only loved himself,” a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and a “characteristic fondness for superlatives” who had a “keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people.”

* Hitler had a “bottomless mendacity” that took advantage of the latest technology to spread his message and “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth.”

* Hitler was an effective orator and adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences, concealing his anti-Semitism beneath a “mask of moderation” when trying to win the support of middle-class liberals.

* Hitler specialized in big, theatrical rallies staged with spectacular elements and adapted the contents of his speeches “to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and anti-Semitic listeners.”

* Hitler peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers and fomented chaos by playing to crowds’ fears and resentments in “offering himself as a visionary leader who could restore law and order.”

* Hitler presented himself in messianic terms, promising “to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,” although he typically was vague about his actual plans while painting “the present day in hues that were all the darker.”

* Hitler virtually wrote the book on modern demagoguery by using repeated emotion-based “mantralike phrases” consisting largely “of accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.”

* Hitler’s ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of adversaries who failed to understand his ruthlessness and tenacity, as well as partners who believed “he was not serious or that they could exert a moderating influence on him.”

The parallels between Hitler and Trump are frightening.  I write this with great concern about the future of America and the rest of the world.  I don't expect the brainwashed MAGA crowd to pay any attention to my concerns.  My hope is that I can reach Republicans or independents who are sitting on the fence.  

Donald Trump has shown nothing but admiration for brutal dictators.  He has praised Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un.  If he becomes president again, Trump will not hesitate to support his buddy Putin.  He will allow the Russian despot to completely overrun Ukraine, and Putin will not stop there. He will attempt to invade other countries.  This cold-hearted dictator has visions of grandeur.  He views himself as the Peter the Great of the 21st century.

Americans, stand up for democracy!  Let your voices be heard on election day, November 5, 2024.


Your concerned Canadian friend and neighbour,


Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Toronto Blue Jays are better off without Ohtani

Sorry, fellow Blue Jays fans, but I'm not upset that Shohei Ohtani has opted not join our team.  On the contrary, I'm rather pleased.  Don't get me wrong.  Ohtani is an international superstar.  The thought of him playing for the Jays was both exciting and enticing.  However, when I scratched below the surface, I couldn't help but notice some liabilities where Ohtani is concerned.  I was left with some strong reservations about him playing in Toronto.  They were reservations which I could not ignore.  Now that he has signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the ungodly sum of $700 million over ten years, I am relieved.  

I am not questioning Ohtani's talent.  There is no doubt that he is a unique athlete.  His claim to fame is that he is both a pitcher and a position player. - a designated hitter, and a good one.  He is one of baseball's more dominant sluggers, with 171 home runs, 437 RBI, 86 stolen basses and a career batting average of .274 over 2,871 plate appearances.  He's also been an outstanding pitcher.

Due to an injury, however, the Japanese phenomenon will be less effective this season.  In late August of 2023, he was shut down due to an elbow issue in his throwing arm.  Shohei Ohani was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and he underwent surgery on September 19, 2023.  In a press release, his agent, Nez Balelo, stated that the procedure was done in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttache.  Dt. ElAttache has performed surgery on such star athletes as, pitcher Chris Sale, as well as basketball's Kobe Bryant and football's Aaron Rodgers.

According to Ohtani's press agent, "the ultimate plan after deliberation with Shohei was to repair the issue at hand and to reinforce the healthy ligament in place while adding viable tissue for the longevity of the elbow.  I expect a full recovery and he'll be ready to hit without any restrictions come opening day of 2024 and do both (hit and pitch) come 2025."

The bottom line, however, is that Ohtani is not expected to return to the mound until spring training 2025.  The two-way star will be unavailable as a pitcher for the Dodgers in 2025.  As with any injury, there is no guarantee as to whether he will be able to pitch as effectively once he fully recovers.  

Ohtani has never played in a post season game in Major League Baseball since he signed with the Los Angeles Angels on December 8, 2017.  He ended his time with the  Angels without taking part in a single playoff game.  It must be pointed out to Blue Jays fans, that despite having arguably the two best  MLB players in Ohtani and Mike Trout, the Angels were unable to produce a winning team.  The Angels couldn't make the playoffs even with Ohtani both hitting and pitching.  

Ohtani desperately wants to player on a winning team.  He has more of a chance of doing so with the LA Dodgers.  The Blue Jays' disastrous playoff record in 2023 and 2022 did not help their attempt to acquire his services. Perhaps Ohtani never really intended to come to Canada.  Perhaps he and his agent used the Jays as a bargaining chip to gain more from the Dodgers.

Ohtani is not a particularly young player.  He is 29 years old and will turn 30 on July 5, 2024.  By the end of his ten-year contract with the Dodgers, he'll be pushing 40.  A 40-year-old can still be a designated hitter. Ohtani is very careful about his conditioning, so that shouldn't be a problem when he reaches his mid to late 30s.  

Rogers Communications, owner of the Blue Jays, Rogers Centre and Sportsnet, the network which broadcasts Jays games, pursued him relentlessly.  Their number one consideration was to boost sales of Rogers products.   His face on advertisements for Rogers would have increased the sales of their cell phones dramatically.  Building a good team and contending for a World Series was a factor, but not the determining factor for Edward Rogers and company.

The Blue Jays have a lot of holes to fill in their lineup.  Many of their players have become free agents.  Rather than spend all that money on Ohtani, the Jays have a golden opportunity to put a more balanced team on the field.  They have not placed their hopes in one player.  Yes, Shohei Ohtani is a generational superstar, and an extraordinarily talented ball player.  Yet I would rather have the Jays contend for a World Series.  It's a matter of looking beyond the hype.


- Joanne