Tag Archives: whole foods

U.S. Envy

It’s Top Chef night tonight! I’m all caught up on my viewing. And so far, so good: my two picks are still in the game.

#1 Rob

#2 Dale

One of them even won the Elimination Challenge last week (I won’t say more in case you’re still catching up!). And one by one, the weakest links are being voted off the island…I’m eagerly awaiting Episode #6, “The French Feast” – I’ll aim to watch it Tuesday eve!

While Top Chef Canada is quite entertaining, the family fans (The Brother, SIL Ana, the parental units) all agree that the American versions of TC are stronger, in general. The competitors are of a higher calibre, the dishes created are more complex, and the judges/celebrity guest chefs are more renowned. (Dan Ackroyd *celebrity!!* in Episode #3? Please! Although the inclusion of Susur Lee in Episode #4 was très cool).

Our evaluation of Top Chef Canada reminded me of other areas in which the U.S. beats out Canada, hands down.

For example:

Marathon Hosting: Hoopla, throngs of spectators, corals of runners, national pride…American marathons are celebratory, high-profile-in-the-community events.

(source)

Canadian marathons leave a lot to be desired, sorry to say. Even the “big ones” (Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto Waterfront) lack spectator support, completely-car free courses, and top-notch sponsorship.

(source)

[where’s the crowd support??]

Snafus such as route confusion, parking logjams, super-small expos are quite the norm. My biggest beef is with the lack of community support from city residents, and missing financial support from city government. Americans get behind their hosting duties with rah-rah gusto. Canadian race organizers need lessons from their American counterparts.

Grocery Store Product Selections: My U.S. grocery store love is well documented on the Kiki blog! Seriously, let me loose in a Publix (my go-to in Florida), Piggly Wiggly (South Carolina discovery), Safeway (a Colorado staple) or…Whole Foods (you knew that was coming) and I am entertained to the nth degree. And likely to walk out the door with a wallet that’s $200 lighter. And 17 boxes of new-to-me cereals tucked under my arm.

States with Vacation-esque Climates: You know those essay contests, “If I Were Prime Minister for a Day…?” Well, my first order of business would be “Buy a warm state and make it a Canadian province.” I tell you, if Canada owned Florida, Arizona, California, or New Mexico, I would be transferring/moving/picking up stakes faster than you can say “pass me the sunscreen.”

Oprah. ♥ ♥ ♥

(source)

So as not to be entirely unpatriotic, I’ll toot the Canadian horn, too. Canada rocks when it comes to…

Health Care: We are fortunate to have access to free medical care in Canada. Many of us take this blessing for granted – we complain about doctor shortages and wait times to see specialists or get MRIs, but really, we are very lucky to not have to pay out-of-pocket for any of these services.

Worldwide Reputation: Canadians enjoy a favourable stereotype in countries around the globe. We are known to be polite, non-confrontational, reserved…boring, yes, but it’s a benefit to be Canadian when travelling abroad where reputation preceeds your arrival.

Money: what is more fun than our coloured paper bills? Only our loonies and toonies!

all i had in my wallet, at the moment! (loonies are the gold ones, toonies the silver/gold coins, for the uninitiated))

American money is confusing: the bills are all black and white. When you don’t know your Abe Lincoln from your George Washington, you really have to mind your p’s and q’s when settling your bill!

ATMs: cheque writing is going the way of the dodo bird. Almost everyone now uses debit cards, with credit cards coming in a close second for non-cash forms of payment. A lot of places will not even accept cheques any more. Since day one, Canadians have embraced electronic payment methods enthusiastically.

What’s something you appreciate about both the U.S. and Canada? I love my American friends, met in Aruba. I appreciate their friendliness, exuberance for life, and the gift of the gab that so many of my acquaintances possess. I love how BIG Canada is in terms of land space!

Anything you find funny about either country? Canadians looovvvve to talk about the weather. I never get tired of hearing a native New Yorker’s accent!

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Whole Foods It Ain’t

Look what I found in my knapsack pocket!

$40 loaded on this gift card

I have this tendency to totally forget about Gift Cards. This one has been in my possession since last May. I also found Gift Cards in the same pocket for Chapters and Costa Blanca. What am I doing holding on to free money??!!

Finding the Central Gift Card was perfect timing in regards to the Great Grocery Challenge for May. It’s like someone said, “Here’s $40! Happy spending!”

I really do enjoy grocery shopping at new locales (a favourite past-time when in the States, for sure!). Of course, my top destination, bar none, would have to be Whole Foods. How sad that I can count on one hand the number of forays I have made to this grocery paradise (and one of them ended up an aborted attempt):

Yesterday, then, I headed over to Central Fresh Market. This place is a local institution. It’s as much renowned for its history as it is for bargains. Last time I was there was a few years ago, and I have vague memories from childhood of a dungy, dark hole-in-the-wall.

first impression! wow! clean and neat appearance, renovated since i last remember

I arrived at Central with no set agenda in terms of purchases to make. I did know that produce was not high on my list; I’m still pretty stocked from last week!

First impression once inside…what happened to that scuzzy, 1960s era industrial facility??! This fruit & veg section looks half-decent!

spotless: i peered into corners and into displays...everything was tidy and clean

I decided to play a Price Is Right-style Grocery Game: how close could I come to spending $40, exactly? And how many specials could I snap up?

i'll take one of these...(excellent price)

Another positive found in the Bakery section:

i remember "great canadian bagels" from their sponsorship at running events; and check out those unique flavours!

More neatly stacked goods:

this is the "weekly specials" aisle

Score one for Central over Valumart AND Vincenzo’s:

now i know where the best selection of kefir is in town!

a treat for him, on sale...

...and a super price on apples, for her!

I guesstimated my total expenditure, and hit the check out:

yes, the cashier gave me a weird look when i snapped a photo of the tally; i explained it was for my blog. she was cool with that.

Off by $10! At least I was under! Back through the store went I…

different cashier. she was younger and entirely unfazed by "it's for my blog!"

$5.61 over! Could have put back the Palmolive, but I’ll need dish soap at some point, anyway.

Here’s what $40 will get you at Central:

first time through the check-out...

second time through the check out!

Not bad at all.

So, not only were the prices reasonable, the store was organized and clean, and the selection included items I don’t see at my usual store. The store is really quite small, so their variety in stock is really quite impressive. It’s nothing to drool over (ahem, what happens upon entering Whole Foods) but it wasn’t the make-your-skin-crawl experience I anticipated.

While I’m still hoping and praying that Whole Foods finds its way to Waterloo (we’re the home of the Blackberry! isn’t that a drawing card?!), it was fun to explore a new-to-me store. And even more fun to get free groceries!

How are you at using up Gift Cards? I need to use mine asap or they sit around forever!

Oprah Goes Vegan

I’m trying something new today with this post – let’s call it blogging in real time.  

I rarely watch Oprah, but today’s episode caught my interest: “Oprah and 378 Staffers Go Vegan: The One-Week Challenge.” I’m jotting notes during the show, then will do a quick edit at the end and add in links…then up she’ll go onto the website!

3:58 p.m. – TV on!

The challenge, as described by Oprah, is to consume nothing that comes from an animal for seven full days. Oprah invited the staff of Harpo Productions to participate, and 378 staffers volunteered. Day one – her staff receives gift bags from Whole Foods and Kashi – I’d be motivated to take on the challenge, too, after being bribed with gifties from these two healthy food Super Powers!

What I’m hoping to see in today’s show: how Oprah and her staff found the seven days’ experience most interests me. Did most people find it tough? easy? any cravings?

4:05 p.m. – first guest: Michael Pollan, Journalist and Food Expert

– he still eats meat 1-2 times a week, just is picky about where he gets it from

– the concern is with how much preventable disease Americans have, how much processed food is eaten

4:13 p.m. – tour of a meat processing plant. Lisa Ling reports from the Cargill slaughterhouse. The bolt to the head (to kill the cattle) is not shown, but the carcasses hanging from the ceiling, is. [I found this report to be respectful and fair journalism; rep from Cargill plant stresses that they never forget the dignity of the animal].

4:26 Oprah tries a variety of vegan snacks [they all look great!]

– Oprah can’t taste the broccoli in the smoothie! Oprah loves Kashi [can’t you see it? Ka-ching for Kashi sales!!]

4:27 p.m. guest Kathy Freston, author of “Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World

– where do you get your protein?? asks Oprah. Beans, legumes, tofu, seitan, tempeh, says Kathy. There are lots of options/sources.

4:33 p.m. Harpo Productions cafe is going to do Meatless Monday from now on. Kathy and Michael think this is a great way to ease into the lifestyle.

– Michael worries about the effect of veganism on farmers; also, he’s concerned that people will flip over to refined carbohydrates on a vegan diet, which in itself, is not healthy

– Kathy says it’s not her business to tell anyone how to eat

– Oprah’s not ready to commit to the whole thing; maybe she’ll be “vegan-ish!”

Humourous Moment I: Oprah asks director, Joe, how his bowel movements have been – “great!” says Joe [gee, thanks! TMI, much?!]

4:37 p.m. Real Life Moment: Staffer Monica gives a b!tchy opinion of her meatless burger; Kathy soothingly calms her, stating nothing is going to taste good if you’re addicted to fast food. It’s like trying to take alcohol away from an alcoholic.

4:41 p.m. Kathy’s easy alternatives for your family’s meals: Staffer Jill and her daughter go to Whole Foods for vegan options to thie supper staples: pizza and spaghetti with meat sauce. Kathy promotes the idea of leading in to a vegan lifestyle. Products Kathy suggests:

Daiya cheese [I’ve bought it! it IS delicious]

Gardein brand meat substitutes [the sodium would be my concern…]

Tofurkey sausages pulsed in food processor to make “meat sauce” for spaghetti

– soy, almond, rice milks [I love almond milk, although the nutrient stats cannot match organic cow’s milk, IMO]

Vegenaise [tried a sister product – tastes like mayo]

Earth Balance [tried it! does taste just like butter!]

[Very happy to see that the products mentioned on the show are readily available in my neighbourhood, despite the fact that I’m not in the U.S., and I do not have easy access to Whole Foods].

Humourous Moment II: Staffer Jill’s Family Feedback on the “meatless sauce:” husband: “it was awful.” son’s response to ‘did you like it?’ “NO!” (stated emphatically).

My opinion of this show: very balanced, fair look at both the benefits and downfalls of vegan and omnivore diets.

4:50 p.m. Feedback from the Staffers [this is what I was hoping for!…]: Kathy cheated on pizza; Lesia very excited to eat an egg tomorrow; Rich lost 11 pounds in one week – ate horribly before the challenge, now he doesn’t – migraines gone; Tommy lost 5 lbs, going to continue in to February [I want to hear Oprah’s opinion! She never does end up sharing how she fared…]

Staff stats: 444 lbs lost, 84 gained, record amount of tp used!!!

4:54 p.m. Michael speaks up, and is going to “cast a shadow on this ‘dietary revival meeting’ ” – there is nothing evil with meat, having it in your diet; Kathy agrees but eating meat “does not sit right with her soul.”

Humourous Moment III, from Michael: “Animals lead very happy lives, and have one bad day.”

Michael continues…How much meat to eat is different for everyone – it’s overwhelming the American diet, the system is brutal – need to reform the system.

4:58 p.m. Final shout-out to Kashi by Oprah [I really dislike blatant product placement]…

Oprah’s Final Thoughts: Be more conscious about where your food comes from. Decide what’s right for you and your family.

To close, Oprah mentions the latest books by Michael (Food Rules) and Kathy (The Veganist) – [These will now be on top of the Amazon/Chapters Best-Selling Lists by tomorrow morning, mark my words!]

My Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed watching this episode! Although not a regular viewer, I am an Oprah fan, and appreciate that when she publicizes a topic, people pay attention. I liked the balanced viewpoints (experts Michael vs Kathy), the respectful tone. It’s always hard to condense a rather broad topic – in this case, veganism – into a < 60 minute TV show, but I thought the end result was interesting and informative.

So…the million dollar question: Would I try a 7 day Vegan Challenge? Yes! Would I try to convince B to join with me? Double yes!

Hmmm, now that the wheels are turning…this could be a great New Experience, couldn’t it?? Watch out, B! 

Would YOU try a 7 Day Vegan Diet??

So Much For That

How precise are your Wheel of Fortune skills?! If you pieced together the clue in yesterday’s post that W __ __ __ __    F __ __ __ __ stood for Whole Foods – you win! (a kiss is all I can afford after my trip, sorry!)

I awoke to beeeauuutiful sunshine this morning, and decided YES! I am going to head down to Oakville for the day. I had three stops in mind: walk around downtown Oakville and the waterfront; enjoy lunch at Whole Foods, and leave with a bunch of goodies; check out Oakville Place mall. And, of course, come home and tell you all about it.

Well. The traffic gods thought otherwise:

10 minutes from home, not even at the 401, i met up with this scene...

...which only led to this long-range forecast...

...which only made me feel like this...

I finally got to the 401 and saw this gnarly sight:

so not only was my exit backed up, but the 401 was, too...

 I tried to deduce what was causing the problem: accident? (no flashing lights in sight); construction? (I had already passed the zone); Elvis sighting? (at this point, anything was possible). Then, a clue:

how banal

 Finally, the mystery is solved:

yup - ONE lane closed and look at the havoc created...

 At this point, I had been in the car almost an hour, and had gone what usually takes 12 minutes (literally). I decided I just didn’t feel like continuing on with another hour’s drive when I really didn’t have to. So I got off at the first exit and came home. Too bad – I had really done my homework and prepped my directions:

this system served me well in florida! google-maps translated to kikispeak!

But I wasn’t about to let THIS slight setback deter me from having a GREAT day! No sirr-ee, Bob!

you can't get grumpy on a day like this!

I quickly formulated an alternate plot:

~exploration of downtown Oakville? Easily replaced by tour around my nearby Old Westmount neighbourhood.

~Whole Foods lunch? Zip-pow! I’d pull together my own knock-out meal!

~shopping? Hello! I LIVE in a delightful shopping zone!

So with the sun in the sky and a spring in my step, I set out on my walking tour.

“Old Westmount is a wonderful area in Kitchener featuring beautiful older homes, gas lamp street lights, mature landscaping and the exclusive Westmount golf course. Old Westmount is within minutes from the quaint Belmont Village stores offering shoppers a variety of unique shops.” (source)

I started off through a section that is compromised of modest homes, but where pride of ownership is evident on most properties:

a gracious setting

 The insurance company grounds are always immaculately cared for!

i'd eat lunch by the fountain if i worked here!

Some homes have been torn down and replaced over the last few years:

BFF debbie and i have gushed over this remake for a few years, now

…and the infill projects continue! I saw at least 5-6 completely gutted sites today. One example:

what will the final design be?!

In one way, it’s unfortunate to lose the original home; however, I would rather see a new home built on an existing lot than in a new suburb out in the boonies (that’s a rant/tangent for another day!).

Passed by some old favourites:

the "white house" of westmount??!

…and the Westmount Golf & Country Club:

"membership has its priviledges"

I headed onto the posh-est street in the entire ‘hood…

these owners always put up a several-stories-tall xmas tree in this window; debbie and i make a point of viewing it (from the outside!) every year

their view out the front door? the aforementioned golf course - not bad, eh.

when built, this modern home must have made an extreme statement; full windows on the other side face the golf course

IMMEDIATELY after I snapped this photo, I had the answer as to why I didn’t make it to Oakville today…

A young  gentleman, working with a lawn care service adjacent to the home, above, approached me. “Excuse me, but you look really familiar,” he said. He did, too, but I had no idea from where… Just as he was about to say his name, *SNAP!* I recognized him as a former student. I think we both said “Josh!” simultaneously.

Well. We chatted a full 20 minutes. The real kicker? In my three years of teaching, I would have to say that Josh was one of the most challenging students I ever taught – top three, for sure. Diagnosed with ADHD, son to a single mom, not interested in school in the least…he presented me with behavioural issues pretty much every day. But today? It was genuinely heart-warming to catch up with him. Now 29, he has a 7 year old daughter, and has worked for the lawn care service for 10 years. He left high school after Grade 9 (the year I taught him), and Josh told me he got into drugs (sadly, no surprise) but the birth of his daughter was the kick-in-the-butt he needed to turn his life around. He shared a lot of his life since high school with me today, actually. One comment: “the only class I did well in was Grade 9 French.” (um, that would be my class…) That’s how he remembers it???! Well. I hope the shock I was feeling did not register in my face! This chance encounter also made me recall my short teaching career – looking back, I really feel for kids for whom desklearning is just not their style; I also feel for the newbie teacher/me who was trying desperately to impart French verb conjugations to active learners. So nice that both the former student and teacher have matured and moved on!

I share this rather long saga just to say that I am really touched that Josh made the effort to chat, has turned his life around, has set goals for the future, and spoke so warmly. It really made my day. I set off again with a lightness of heart!

Now back to the tour!…

My return trip took me past stately homes…

the architecture! the windows! the lawn!

…and quaint cottage-type abodes as I headed into Belmont Village:

so cute! like a life-sized dollhouse!

I feel like I really did stop and smell the flowers on my walk today.

one of many delightful displays I passed!

Next, I scooted around to pull together my Whole Foods Replacement Lunch. I stopped here:

as close to the whole foods concept as we can get, locally

…here:

organic health food store

here:

...offering vegetarian and vegan lunches and treats...

look at the choices! Dad!!! - - - tarts!!! 🙂

(If you’re local, I highly recommend you check out Seven Shores – support the independent!)

And finally I stopped here:

a daily occurence

I was super-excited when my lunch was ready!

yum!!

So while I missed out on the Whole Foods hot and cold buffets, I instead delighted in: salad greenery topped with pan-seared tofu, cherry tomatoes, Nutritional Yeast, Chia seeds, Flax seeds, and salad dressing; half a sweet and fresh honeydew melon; a vegan chocolate chip cookie. No. Disappointment. Whatsoever.

I next spent a delightful hour up on our rooftop patio:

the view

my spot

latest knitting project: this is a doozy of a lace challenge!

"life is good" 🙂

And here’s your daily chuckle:

it's, like 30 degrees out! and you're trying to tempt with hot beef?!! good luck with that!!!!

Now could I please have about 10 more hours in my day?! Options for tonight include: A) Chapters; B) play with the blog some more; C) knit and watch another Mad Men episode on PVR; D) download new iTunes…all are F.U.N.!!!

Hope you had a wonderful day, too! I saw a great decal on the window of a Tacoma pickup yesterday: “NO BAD DAYS” – what a motto to remember! And today certainly was a GOOD DAY.

Friday’s Photos…are actually from Thursday!

Yesterday was a much more exciting day than today. So that’s what we’ll look at instead!

As per usual for a Thursday, I spent the day in TO with the girls. Since it was March Break, we did a special Girls Outing Road Trip. E. was most pleased by our stop at the ROM – she very nicely showed Aunti how to Dig for Dinosaurs and toured me through the Bat Cave. C. happily pulled her sock off during both car rides and proceeded to munch away on it…and Aunti? Aunti was beside herself with joy because after the ROM…we….went to….Whole Foods!!!!

I have been dy-ing to visit Whole Foods because you can’t read a foodie blog without hearing raves about this divine fine foods shop. With two small ones in tow, our visit wasn’t long…but who cares. It felt a little like a game show: “You have 9 minutes and 17 seconds to grab whatever you can! Go now!!!” Just enough time to scurry around the store for these most excellent finds:

I chose the denim n cream colour combo: seemed very Californian and earthy to me

Yes, I know, B, that I already have 37 (more or less) reusable totes in my possession. I am hearby formally declaring that I am making a collection of recyclable bags. Now I don’t have to feel guilty when I can’t resist just one more. And a Whole Foods tote was #1 on my priority list of What I Must Purchase When I Finally Get To Whole Foods. (An aside: I didn’t look at the price until after I was paying my final bill…$14.99!!! Gulp. But it’s a Whole Foods Bag!…and made in the U.S.A.!!! so it’s genuine WF!)

almond and apricot (L) & fruits and nuts (R)

Two KIND granola bars. These look Scrumpdilicious!

"un shampooing" as they say in french...

After seeing 103 labels on everything from noodles to diapers, I deduced, being the smarty that I am that “365” is the house brand for Whole Foods. Product Placement of this shampoo was perfect: right by the checkout. And I fell for it, lock stock n barrell. For $3.99, can you blame me? One whiff and I was in love – smells just like as if you smeared minty gum in your hair. This will be a lot easier to rince out, haha! 🙂

pieces de resistance

And lastly, but bestly, three jars of Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butters. Lookit those flavours! Could not decide what to try…then reasond, that since I don’t know when a return trip to WF will be happening, I’ll just help myself to all three!

With temps hitting 19 degrees in TO yesterday, it was just a perfect outing with some of my very favourite people. Note to People Who Buy Me Christmas Gifts – all of the above are totally acceptable for Xmas 2010!