Saturday, 28 February 2015

Best Montreal Markets

No city is complete without a good market.  They are places for people to gather, socialize, and enjoy local products at more reasonable prices than many retailers.  Montreal has several long-standing public markets that feature a wide selection of seasonal produce and artisanal wares, as well as hosting craft fairs and events.  Here is a list of some of the best ones, in no particular order.

Bonsecours Market, 325 Commune St East
Opening hours 10 AM to 6 PM daily
This is the centrepiece of the Old Montreal district and is within walking distance of many points of interest.  he silver-domed edifice was inaugurated in 1847 and is recognized as one of Canada's ten finest heritage buildings.  It houses fifteen boutiques that carry top quality made-in-Quebec items from accessories to furniture.  In the summer months its terraces open to serve local fare.

Atwater Market, 138 Atwater Ave
Opening hours 7 AM to 6 PM daily, 5 PM Sunday
The art-deco style building situated on the Lachine Canal was established in 1933 and named after the 19th century Canadian businessman and politician Edwin Atwater.  Primarily known for the many butchers and delicatessens, it also features a diverse range of merchants and specialty boutiques that have helped build the market's international reputation.

Jean-Talon Market, 7070 Henri Julien Ave
Opening hours 7 AM to 6 PM daily, 5 PM Sunday
Originally opened in 1933, this outdoor market in the heart of Montreal's Little Italy district was once called "Marché du Nord" (North-end Market) before being renamed in honour of the first Intendant of New France.  Its multicultural merchants and flavours have earned it the local title of "Mecca of all things delicious".

Maisonneuve Market, 4445 Ontario St East
Opening hours 7 AM to 6 PM daily, 5 PM Sunday
This market in Montreal's east end is a proud example of how a neighbourhood can rally around its fixtures. After being in operation for 50 years it was closed by the municipality, only to be reopened 15 years later to take on new life thanks to the public.  Although small, its merchants serve the area with a wealth of products and experience.

Marché de l’Ouest, 11600 Salaberry Blvd, Dollard-des-Ormeaux
Opening hours 9 AM to 6 PM daily
Serving the western communities of Montreal Island, the facility has branded itself as a “gourmet stop” with specialty food stores, bakeries, and a May-to-October farmer’s market.  It also has its own cast of local characters who interact with shoppers to make their visit more enjoyable. (Site is currently under construction.)

Finnegan's Market, 775 Principale Rd, Hudson
Opening hours Saturdays 9 AM to 4 PM; May until October
Located not in Montreal proper but in the off-island town of Hudson, this market deserves special mention.  It was started by the Aird family on their farm in honour of their beloved dog Finnegan, and has grown over the last 42 years into a convivial place to peruse merchandise from antiques to locally-raised plants.  Furniture restoration is available year-round by appointment.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Assigning Blame

My good friend Elfie who lost her son last month has no patience for people who think they can advise parents on how to "get over it".  Because if suicide isn't bad enough, apparently blame must be assigned.  Items to be claimed are:

Parents. ... Meds. ... Doctors. ... Psychologists. ... Public School System. ... Bullies. ... Sugar. ... Video Games. ... Goth Subculture. ... Dubstep. ... Winter. ... Allergies. ... GMOs.

If anyone thinks discussing where the blame lies with a grieving parent is in any way helpful to said grieving parent, please pick up the "If Only" forms at the front desk and fill them out with a ballpoint pen. Press hard to be sure you've transferred your information to all 10 carbon copies.

The white copy may be filed with the grieving parent.  The yellow copy is for the cashier at the grocery store checkout.  Cyan for the guy at the coffee shop.  Lime may be submitted to any fast food outlet.  Puce should be submitted only to those parents who wear reflective vests at recess in the school yard.  Magenta is for the parents who hang around the kindergarten enclosures.  Lavender for the guy who dropped out of med school after the first year, but who holds onto his authority by saying he went to med school.  Goldenrod goes to someone who knows someone else whose kid had a problem with bullies, but he pulled through OK.  Robin's-egg blue should be submitted only to a school principal.  Retain the pink for your own records, and future ranting.

Fill out a separate "You Shoulda" form each time the local daily paper publishes another article on raising resilient children.

It's logical to want to find reasons for a tragic event.  However, placing blame is counter-productive.  A big part of the issue is that since the advent of the Internet, lots of people suffer from "know-it-all-itis".  This has a tendency to make them ignoramuses if they think it's okay to discuss blame with the very people who need support at a time when the last thing they want to hear is who or what was at fault.

Sometimes we have to accept that things can happen for no reason.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


It was a little over a month ago when I made a snap decision to attend the funeral of a long-time friend's 14-year-old son, who had committed suicide after battling depression for years.  That young man's picture remains on my desk as a reminder to be aware of what one's child might be going through.  It's especially difficult when our ADHD daughter drives me crazy and I wish I could somehow channel my late mother to get things under control.

This past weekend was the anniversary of my mother's death from cancer.  It has been five years and it still hurts like it was yesterday.  My parents' home remains unsold while my father now lives elsewhere; he once told me he can't bear to stay in the house any more because it haunts him.  He comes to the house only to check on it every week, and when I visit.  I'd happily move into the house myself but it's in an area where having a vehicle is essential - and neither my husband nor I drive.

The last time I visited the house I looked through some of Mom's scrapbooks filled with family photos and anecdotes, and came across a collection of poems that she clearly had intended to publish but never got the chance.  So I published it myself as an E-book in her honour.  It doesn't matter to me if it doesn't sell; what matters is that it's published, and it's out there for people to see.  That's what Mom would have wanted.

For the curious, here's the link:

Monday, 23 February 2015

Christianity is Broken

Today's post is credited to a long-time friend of mine Mike Freel who has seen this issue from many perspectives.

Christianity is broken.  Pick your jaw up off the floor and let me explain. Christianity as it is commonly practiced today is broken, or rather, it is incomplete.  It is incomplete because it is the completion of what came before it.  And don't take this the wrong way.  I am by no means saying that a relationship with Christ is broken.  In fact it's the only thing that fixes what is broken about our world. Being saved is the least broken thing there can be.

One thing that a lot of people criticize about Christianity is that it has little to no femininity. And as far as its modern practice is concerned, this is true.  
Modern Protestantism has even excised Mary Mother of God from their practice, calling the Catholics idolaters for revering her.  And even the Catholics have turned her into a bland one-dimensional shadow of what she really was and is.  A little statue with as much feminine power and expression as Kristen Stewart.

Back when Christ walked the earth in corporeal form, the divine Feminine was a natural and common part of religion and spirituality.  It was understood that male and female polarity are natural and necessary parts of pretty much everything.  
If you study the Kabbalah you will see that this is true.  And it was understood that everyone knew this.  It was also understood that knowledge and book learning were masculine aspects while wisdom and feeling were feminine aspects. So when the books got written down they were written from a male perspective.

This is why Solomon asking for Wisdom from God was such a big deal.  It was understood that he was asking for something that other kings until then had been missing. He saw the need for a masculine and feminine balance to be the best king he could be.

Jesus himself carried a very balanced energy.  His soft loving comforting side was an expression of the divine feminine.  His rage at the temple money changers was pure masculine. Part of the lesson he was teaching was the expression of both the divine masculine and the divine feminine as complimentary to each other rather than opposing. Neither smothering the other.

Christianity is the completion of Judaism which included the Kabbalah and it came at a time when Judaism had lost too much of the divine feminine.  But Christianity focuses almost exclusively on the completion. Yes we are saved by grace. Yes our sins are forgiven. Yes Jesus paid the price. Yes we will enter the kingdom of heaven when we are done here. But what about until then?

I've lived in the neo-pagan religion.  Most pagans have felt this lack of divine feminine in other religions and have attempted to compensate; most have overcompensated and focused only on the Goddess or almost completely on the Goddess. In making the Goddess everything they have robbed her of her femininity. They have forced her to take on every role like a single mother and thus taken away her polarity. This has resulted in a lot of masculine women and feminine men.

Modern Christianity, having just the opposite problem of trying to force every aspect onto their spirituality, has produced a kind of gender neutral un-polarized people. They all seem to shop at the Gap and both the men and women wear the same khaki pants and polo shirts, neither masculine nor feminine.
True spiritual growth (even though we are saved we are still called on to grow and learn) come from both the divine masculine and the divine feminine. A masculine person (be he male or be she female) needs feminine energy to complement his polarity and vice versa.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Men are From Jupiter

One would think we already have enough to worry about with religious extremists kidnapping and violating women, aboriginal women going missing, girls being forced into marrying much older men, and drugs that make it easier for immature frat boys to have their way with unsuspecting girls.

No, now we have people like self-professed sex tourist "Roosh V" who wants to have rape made legal on private property so that women will learn how to protect themselves properly.  Right.  Put the onus on the women.  Because supposedly men can't control their own sexual impulses, or if deprived of their natural urges they will become violent.

How can women truly stand up for the right to control of their bodies if they are continually objectified?  Every sport magazine out there has regular "swimsuit" issues.  Ads for lingerie and swim wear that feature scantily-clad women are everywhere.  Even the comic-book superheroine Wonder Woman wore what amounted to a glorified swimsuit until 2010 when she finally got pants.

Scientists have speculated that humans are not "wired" for long-term monogamous relationships, enabling yet another excuse for men to indulge themselves.  That aside, it's becoming more apparent that an increasing number of men are from Jupiter, not Mars.  Mars was the god of war and embodied valor and destruction, traits that many men still possess.  Jupiter was a sky god, not to mention King of the Gods - but he was also notorious for having many lovers (gods, mortals, even monsters) and causing his wife much grief.

Many years ago I knew a man who practically ruined almost every vacation that he and his girlfriend went on, because instead of relaxing and enjoying the sights he wanted to have sex at almost every opportunity and twisted her protests around to suit himself.  One would hope this extreme is an exception but it isn't.

The objectification of women, slut-shaming, and victim-blaming has to stop.  Instead of women having to learn how to protect themselves, men need to be taught to control themselves.  Otherwise we'll never have true equality.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Religious Violence

A group of Muslim extremists operating in Libya kidnap and summarily execute almost two dozen Coptic Christians, supposedly in revenge for the alleged defection of several Muslim women five years ago.  In the Central African Republic, the resignation of the Muslim leader last March prompted the majority Christian population to begin a campaign of violence against the resident Muslims, resulting in destruction of villages and forcing tens of thousands to flee.

I could go on but the picture is clear enough.  Each side demonizes the other, defines them as sub-human and not worthy of existence, and goes on to kill them while justifying their actions as "God's will" using out-of-context passages from their holy texts.  For example:

"Muster against them all the men and cavalry at your disposal so that you can strike terror into the enemies of Allah and of the believers and others beside them who may be unknown to you, though Allah knows them. And remember whatever you spend for the cause of Allah shall be repaid to you. You shall not be wronged." - Qu'ran 8:60


"Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord only shall be utterly destroyed." - Exodus 22:20
"You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you." - Leviticus 26:7

With a highly bigoted atheist father, a mother who was excommunicated from her church because she divorced her abusive first husband, and having been brought up in a secular fashion, I've tried to understand the reasons behind the violence.  I've read the texts.  I've been to church services of many denominations, from Anglican to Unitarian.  I have spoken to people who are Catholic, Jewish, Pagan, Muslim, even atheist, and they all have their respective viewpoints.

It has become clear where all the hatred comes from.  Adherence to the letter of outdated texts, perpetuation of religious stereotypes, and general fear of the unknown.  Humans fear what they don't understand and lash out in a misguided effort to protect themselves.  A quote from one of my favourite TV shows sums it up well: "Wars have burned in this world for thousands of years with no end in sight, because people rely so ardently on their so-called beliefs."

People are entitled to believe what they wish.  However people no longer have the right to harm others for the sake of a book that was written many hundreds of years ago by scribes who were unreliable at best.  Perhaps we need to find some new beliefs.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Best Views in Montreal

The city of Montreal is unique in that it was built on the largest island of what is now known as the Hochelaga Archipelago, a group of islands at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa rivers.  At its heart is Mount Royal, one of the Monteregian Hills.  Both mountain and river afford spectacular views in and around the city.  Here are five of my favourites, in no particular order.

1. Kondiaronk Lookout.  This terrace is named for a First Nations chief who contributed to a peace treaty with French Canada in 1701.  It's located on the south face of the Mount Royal escarpment and accessible on foot or by road.  Visitors are treated to a stunning view of the city and the Saint Lawrence River. On a clear day one can see several of the other Monteregian Hills in the distance.  Photo courtesy

2. Jean-Drapeau Park.  The park is comprised of two islands in the Saint Lawrence River which were once the grounds for the Expo ‘67 World’s Fair.  Today it offers many year-round activities and has great views of the city and suburbs on either side of the river.  One favourite viewing spot is on the Concorde Bridge that connects the park to downtown.  At right is the silver-domed Bonsecours Market which is a focal point of Old Montreal, and Mount Royal rises in the background.

3. Saint Joseph's Oratory.  Mark Twain once wrote of Montreal, "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window."  There are still many churches in the city but the best known is Saint Joseph's Oratory which rests on Mount Royal's western slope.  Not only it is Canada's largest basilica but its dome is Montreal's highest point.  Photo courtesy Evelyn Reid. 

4. Lac Saint Louis.  Folklore states that the joining place of the Ottawa and Saint Lawrence Rivers was named for a young explorer who drowned here in 1611.  Panoramic views of the lake and its islands are accessible from the shores of many of Montreal's western suburbs.  It is frequented by watercraft in the warmer months; boaters can see a unique phenomenon as the green waters of the Saint Lawrence meet the brown waters of the Ottawa River near the centre of the lake. Photo courtesy

5. McGill College Avenue.  This downtown avenue is Montreal in microcosm: a wide boulevard on which stands steel and glass skyscrapers that are flanked by older granite, limestone, and brick buildings.  The road ends after only four blocks at the gates to the scenic grounds of McGill University, but the view continues up Mount Royal to the cross that stands on the northeastern summit.  The original wooden cross was planted in 1643 by the city’s founder as thanks to the Virgin Mary for sparing the settlement from flooding.  The current cross was installed in 1924. Photo courtesy Denis Chabot.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Troubled Teens

Being a teenager is difficult.  We've all been there.  You're not a child any more, but you're not quite an adult either.  Gradually you're taking on more responsibilities that you're not sure that you want.  You have trouble relating to a world where wonder and security has been replaced with strife and danger and you don't know how to navigate it, much less understand it.  You're constantly pushed to do the "in" thing.

In these days of rapacious media where the smallest detail can be beamed around the world in moments, young people are endangered more than ever before.  They can be lured by online "friends" who are not who they say they are.  They can be mercilessly bullied from behind the anonymity of a computer screen.  Careless or private moments are photographed and later used for physical and emotional blackmail.

An increasing number of young people are buckling under the pressure.  A couple whom I've known for 25 years lost their 14 year old son to suicide in January.  Another friend's 13 year old daughter has been cutting herself, to the point where she has ended up in the hospital three times in the past month.  Countless teens across the continent have been bullied into killing themselves.  Some have become so disillusioned by the world's state of affairs that they've gone to the Middle East to fight for extremist groups in order to be "part of something".

As the caregivers and teachers of the next generation we need to be more engaged, and focus more on education and prevention.  Otherwise our young folks don't stand much of a chance.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Retail Collapse

The announcement just came down that the Montreal-based clothing retailer Parasuco has declared bankruptcy and has shut down all its stores.  This is another in a long line of Canadian retail failures in the last six months: Boutique Jacob, Smart Set, Sony, Mexx, and of course Target.

The reasons are varied.  Bigger players moving in on territory.  Competition from multi-national retailers. Competition from online retailers.  Income was not matching corporate projections.  Expansion was too rapid and not within budgets.  All well and good.  But I believe that one of the reasons that nobody talks about is that the middle class is continually being squeezed by the government and the economy, and people aren't willing or able to pay premium prices for brand names.

If people can't get steady work with a liveable salary, local businesses fail.  If huge malls are built on the edge of an urban area to attract a larger (and richer) clientele, local businesses fail.  If corrupt and/or short sighted governments promise the moon and then can't deliver, local businesses fail.  For example: in Cornwall Ontario, the lower section of Pitt Street, once part of the downtown area's major retail hub, has lost many of its small boutiques since the WalMart was built uptown.

It doesn't help that over the last three decades, many corporations have sent production overseas, thus eliminating jobs that could otherwise have been filled by Canadians.  Students go through university with the expectations of being able to get a job in their field when they finish their education, only to discover the jobs aren't there when they graduate, rendering their diploma useless.

And in the meantime, politicians, bankers, brokers, and CEOs all crow about the money they're making in a "let them eat cake" fashion.

Something has to give, and soon.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Meet the Builders

This morning I went to the Montreal Expo Habitation that is being held this weekend at the Olympic Stadium.  For anyone who's in the building industry, who owns a house, or plans to buy a house, this is the place to go to get ideas and professional advice.  The place is huge; it took me two hours to walk through it but I could easily have stayed all day.

I certainly wasn't disappointed in the variety of exhibitors.  The names of some were familiar to me: Fenplast, CertainTeed, Bain Magique, BASF, and others.  I used to work for a manufacturing plant that built machinery used in the plastics industry and they had many clients.  It was nice to see their actual finished products as opposed to just seeing names on a shipping schedule.

This light display caught my eye.  The maker is a small local company called Lampes Lotus.   The shades are made from interlocking pieces of recycled plastic and they look very cool.  Their Facebook page:

I also talked with a gentleman from the furniture company Meubles Dancause, which specializes in creating cabinetry from reclaimed wood.  I have a fondness for this sort of thing because my late aunt lived for many years in a renovated wood farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere, and had a few pieces in her home that had been made from boards salvaged from old barns on her property.

On the floor of the stadium were several miniature model homes that featured many products that were being exhibited elsewhere in the building.  The public was invited to walk through.

Of course the real reason that I was there was to meet the Canadian master builder himself, Mike Holmes. I've been a fan of his shows for many years, and I made it one of my goals for 2015 to see him and have him autograph my copy of his Holmes Inspection book.  I couldn't help but be awestruck when I shook his hand, and to my embarrassment had to ask him to repeat his initial question to me: "Do you build stuff?"
(The stuff I build generally involves Lego.)

But I quickly recovered and I had a brief chat with him, after which he signed my book and stood with me for a picture.  He's a kind, down-to-earth man who puts his heart into everything.  I look forward to seeing his new project in which he's working with his son Mike Jr.

All in all, definitely worth the trip.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Testing Testing

Yesterday a friend on Facebook cross-posted an image that contained almost 70 brand names, from Acuvue to Woolite, claiming that their parent companies tested the products on animals. Sensationalism aside, supposedly this was an advert for an app with which you can scan products and find out if said product was tested on animals or was "green".

Personally I think this kind of thing goes too far. It's fear-mongering and might not even be accurate. Besides, protests against animal testing rarely get any results. The only way to get a corporation's attention is to hit them in the wallet by not buying their products. Would it even be worth it to the average consumer to stop using these products altogether? Many cleaning and hygiene products are so ingrained into our lifestyle now that the thought of giving them up and going "old-fashioned" is abhorrent. People want convenience, not more work.

I try to do my part. I wash dishes by hand, buy local when I can, and I don't drive a vehicle. But I have little choice but to use a soap made by one of those "evil" companies that do testing on animals, because it's the only one that my daughter's sensitive skin can tolerate. One has to compromise somewhere.

Sunday, 1 February 2015


February is here.  From Imbolc to Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras, there are times to celebrate to keep the winter blahs away.  However some people don't have much to be happy about, such as those who find themselves jobless or a those who've had family member has pass away.  All it takes to make someone's day better is to be thoughtful, and here's an excellent message from good friends of mine.

"So many people have stepped up to offer us, a family in crisis, tokens of kindness to ease our pain.  I truly appreciate these offers, and accept them as they fit the need.  There are dozens of people in my local life and in my online life who offer 'whatever' and 'anything', and to those who are not placed in such a way to help my family directly, I ask...

Do these things for someone near you, crisis or not.  Shovel a neighbour's driveway. Pick up a bag of milk (deal with it, Americans!) for someone because you're going to the grocery store anyway. Take the garbage bins up to the front step, especially if you see them buffeted down the street by the wind. Your neighbour's mail was misplaced in your slot at the community drop-off at the end of your street; take it to their door, don't just drop it back into the delivery slot.  Say hi to someone else's kids on the street, not just to the parent.  If the parent isn't in sight, tell the kid to pass along your regards, to make it less creepy, and so the kid eventually remembers your name, too. Join your smoker neighbour on their front porch, upwind if you must, to shoot the breeze and sip a caffeinated drink. Get aggressive with surplus homegrown zucchini and tomatoes.

Anonymously, you can:

Switch off your phone AND your ego when you get behind the wheel. Open up a gap between you and the car in front of you, so some guy can exit the parking lot with grace and courtesy.  Don't block a driveway or side street when you're lined up at the red light or the activated rail crossing.  It doesn't matter if anyone actually turns on or off - it will change how you think, how you feel, how you behave.  It will open you up to leaving enough room for others to move freely. It's not "take your turn," it's "WAIT your turn."  Don't creep up on the pedestrian's heels when you're turning.  Winter's cold and his boots are likely wet, and chances are good he's only halfway to where he needs to go.  You're sitting in a climate-controlled bubble.

You don't have to wait for the crisis to be thoughtful."