the dog barks, the cat meows.

I am wary of people who do not have pets. All white houses with tidy opaque walls, minus a furry friend ambling around sends a signal, “this person can’t be trusted.”

It’s not difficult to fall in love with most, especially babies. Their wonderful energy and clumsy activity screams — “I need to be loved.” I cuddle and coo showering them with attentive pats, and yet with a full heart I turn and say a reluctant good-bye.

Sadly, we lost our family dog, Lulu last year. While her furry companion, Dakota is still with us, the loss of her is dramatically noticeable. We’ve had a lot of loss this year. I’ve been thinking about another addition to our home. We have space and love in our hearts to do so, but it is such a huge commitment.

Recently, I worked from the local South Paw Cat Café at 749 Bayridge Drive, Kingston. A chance to enjoy a quiet coffee, a sweet somethin’ and a work space surrounded by beautiful felines. Perhaps, even fill my fix for a new pet, or convince me I should bring one home.

The café opened a little more than a year ago, and has helped re-home over 40 cats through their partnership with Kingston Animal Rescue. Every time a cat is adopted a new orphan takes its place, typically eight cats are in residence at one time. As an animal lover, I was bewitched by the idea of a cat café, but also didn’t know what to expect. It was a pleasant surprise. The café is set up like most—you are greeted by a window display filled with delicious food, great staff and drink choices. However, the difference is that the tables are all located within a glass room. You are encouraged to make a purchase, and then slip inside to meet the feline stars of the show.

The tables are generally packed with cat lovers of all ages. In fact, sometimes you have to wait for a table. I learned it is not a place you go to finish work. Visitors at each table want to talk to the cats just as much as you. It’s the place where cat lovers seek out companionship and affection. I saw teens on dates, families, and met a friendly senior admiring the activity around us. I found myself being swept up by the energy in the room, adorable cats sleepily wrapped around each other, bathing or jumping from one hammock or scratching post to the next. It was such fun. I wanted to take them all home.

However, I do not have patience for people who take in pets when they can’t afford the time or money to care for them responsibly.

As a kid, I had very short-lived pet ‘experiences.’ My family got rid of pets as often as the seasons changed.  It was very traumatic. I would fall in love with a stray, be permitted to re-home and give it a name and then it would be gone. From memory we did seem to have a cat, but then they would have kittens. If we got a dog, and it didn’t respond the way it should we’d get rid of it. I blame my parents lack of care – no vets, no pet training, just old-school thinking.  If our pet was sick, Dad took care of it. Yes, it sends chills just thinking about it. Mom grew up on a farm, Dad was the man of the house, so I suspected felt it was his job. But, it was terrible. The pets would be shipped off to someone else. I’m certain it was traumatic for him too, but we never talked about it. We were simply told, ‘they ran away.” I feel terrible reflecting back on it. But, I also find that a lot of pet lovers purchase a new pet and still do the same. Either get fed up with them or love them so much, but can’t afford vet bills. This is not proper pet ownership to me.

This obviously affected me, therefore as an adult, any pet that is mine, is mine until they die. I’m notoriously responsible about vet visits, dog walks, cuddles, and doing your bit to keep your pet healthy. A pet fills a void and provides unconditional love, they trust in you to protect them, keep them safe. It’s your responsibility to act responsibly. Don’t get swept up in the gift giving season, or the sweetness of pet ownership, it’s a lot of work. Something I’m certain is the reason that many furry friends find themselves at Kingston Animal Rescue.

But, if you’re serious nothing beats cat and dog people. So, what makes them so attractive?

Firstly, it proves that you can give love to something other than yourself. Plants are great, (and you should be able to keep them alive too), however, a pet — is a living breathing activity that requires patience, beyond attention, and suggests you are capable.

Dog vs. Cat lover? I have dog friends that think cat people are weird, and cat people who think the same of dog owners. So, what if you enjoy both? I often say I fall in love with cats who think they are dogs. Then again, I’ve loved dogs who curl up and behave like a cat too.

Owning a dog tends to be more of a social endeavour, frequently more work with training, walking and socializing. They force you out of the comfort of your own home. Science claims dog owners are more extroverted.

Cats seem to be the stars of Instagram and Facebook. Also, cat people seem to score higher on intelligence. While they are more introverted, they tend to be more sensitive and open-minded. Although, at the South Paw Cat Café, cat lovers typically have a lot to say to other visitors.

Studies have also shown a direct comparison with which animal you prefer and how it reflects your politics. Liberal vs. Conservative. I don’t believe that the pet you identify with reflects your entire world view, but not being a pet owner affects my view of you.

There is plenty of room in this world for dog and cat people whether they should share the same space or not is a different story.

Check out South Paw Cate Café online at www.southpawcatcafe.com or follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Their Insta-stories are adorable and help you get to know each cat available for adoption. As for me, I’m considering fostering, perhaps a cat, or a dog to make sure it’s the right next step for me. I’m looking forward to this next adventure.

Spoke & Fork: Delivery Service

May 7, 2015

Get-on-yer-bike! Eli Scheiman owner of Spoke & Fork is already a legend at spinning his wheels to ensure your take-out food is delivered warm and in tact.

Photo credit: Alex22

Photo credit: Alex22

This unique Kingston-based bicycle food delivery service uses bicycles as their sole mode of transportation. Despite minus 30 temperatures over winter, Eli and his team battled snow; wind and rain to bring you fresh food from a variety of locally owned downtown restaurants.

“I figure we are hardened up after the winter that spring and summer feels like a breeze,” quipped Eli. “We aim to provide customers access to high quality food, 7-days a week from business’ with similar values to us.”

The bicycle delivery model is inherently environmentally sustainable, incurring none of the environmental-degrading effects so common in deliveries done by car.

The good-for-the-environment service is easy. Arrange pick up from foodie finds such as; Woodenheads, Le Chien Noir, Diane’s, Harpers, Olivea, Pan Chancho, Curry Original, Jina Sushi, Mission St. North and Farm Girl food trucks, fresh produce and meat from Tara Natural Foods and farmers markets, shop from Green Door Vitamins, Verde Environmental Store, Kingston Olive Oil Company and more. It’s as simple as one, two, three…

  1. Browse through their full list of partners at spokeandfork.ca (amazing good food and more!)
  2. Place an order by phone 613-985-0602
  3. Sit back and the team will do the rest, like place order, call to inform you it’s on its way, confirm price or if there is a change in the menu etc.—pick up, pay and deliver right to your door.

Only one small thing…

“Don’t call us to deliver Kentucky Fried Chicken,” says Eli. “Don’t be surprised when we recommend an alternative such as chicken bites from Red House. This incident occurred the other day and the customer was extremely happy with the discovery of this local option.”

Some businesses offer a free delivery service, which is no charge to you for this swift sustainable way in which you receive your food. The base rate for Spoke & Fork is $4, which many housebound seniors, students, and busy professionals use to ensure they still enjoy good healthy food and groceries. Spoke & Fork cyclists service four zones from across the bridge in the east to St. Lawrence College/Portsmouth Rd regions. Depending which zone you are in the base may climb to no more than $6.50, add $1.50 for orders over $50, and $2.00 over $100 dollars.

They are open 11 a.m. thru 9:30 p.m. seven days a week for delicious food and even good drink too. In the hot summer months ahead, Mackinnon Brothers beer or any other cold beverage from The Beer Store, LCBO or Wine Rack can be paired with dinner too.

While business is booming, it would take a lot to rattle Eli Scheinman. In addition to his new business, Eli is a certified CHEK holistic life coach. Founded by Paul Chek, a world-renowned holistic health and physical coach. It incorporates a spiritual practice that aids individuals in living a happy and fulfilling life.

“The teachings are what I incorporate into my life everyday,” says Eli. “I am generally a grounded person. The CHEK practice looks after the whole being including evaluating your breathing, eating, sleeping, how you move, and overall thinking—each has its effects on your happiness which is directly related to performance and achieving your goals.

A lot of times people are working out but not necessarily working within. Stress can come in all its form. There are so many reasons and diet is generally one of them.

Spoke & Fork is true reflection of Eli’s interests in food, physical and mental health, environmental sustainability and cultural vibrancy.

To place an order call 613-985-0692 or to see a full list of business partners Spoke & Fork delivers from visit their website www.spokeandfork.ca.

I’m a geek not a snob, thankyouverymuch.

The Joy of Coffee

I started this blog as a coffee lover’s way of paying homage to the beautiful beverage that has kick started my day for the last 20+ plus years.  Yes, I had my favourite brands and ways to prepare my coffee but honestly, the fact that it was caffeinated was what I cared about most.  You could serve me bad coffee but, jeezus, don’t offer me decaf.

coffee geekBut now after going to work in a café and then almost falling into a coffee roasting role that will most certainly change my life, my interest in the mighty bean has deepened and my thirst for coffee knowledge has increased tenfold. I want to know everything about the entire process from bean to cup.  I’m starting to sample a wider range of coffees and instead of automatically adding enough milk to reach the right shade of caramel before taking my first sip, I’m…

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Food That Warms the Heart and Soul

Braised Pork
Baby its cold outside! Confession; I wear socks to bed in this weather. I hate being cold. I’ve been known to sit for long periods of time in my car before getting out to duck into a store. The mere thought sends chills up my spine.

I stepped out the other day and froze my nose and a few other important body parts that were exposed. I like snow -just not the kind that includes ice and deep dives in temperature. I feel like I’ve been waddling around like a penguin for months. The only escape (other than a trip south) is cooking, and preparing cold weather food so delicious it warms the cockles of your heart.

I can’t be the only one who loves this time of the year (despite the cold); it means eating hearty, rich soups; deepdish casseroles; home baked cookies oozing with chocolate and roast Sunday dinners. In fact, in weather like this, a roast is a welcome treat any day of the week.

Busy weeknights? You can prepare a roast dinner well in advance and leave it simmering for the day. Nothing beats the aroma wafting through the house when you return. It’s unquestionably the most heart-warming sensation. It has the ability to lure not only the neighbor’s cats and dogs but their family too.

Don’t forget your winter vegetables. A balanced meal helps fight off colds and speeds up recovery. After a summer of beans, tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant, winter squash seems a little boring. But, this amazing vegetable is considered a superstore of vitamins and it’s even low in calories. After a chilly dash from the car to your warm house, a bowl of acorn squash soup is a yummy way to regenerate.

Try your hand at this savory pork recipe. Squash and a medley of roasted vegetables are wonderful accompaniments to this wintery meal. The roast is first browned to sear in all of the juices. Prepare in a crock-pot for the day on low and let time do all the work.

Braised Pork with Roasted Vegetables

Serves 6

Ingredients:

One 3 ½ to 4 pound boneless pork loin

Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons of grape seed, olive or safflower oil (whichever you prefer to cook with)

2 onions, coarsely chopped

2 whole carrots, peeled and chopped

4 potatoes, washed, peeled and cubed

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved

2 sprigs of fresh savory

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

½ cup of dry white wine

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pat the meat dry and season generously on all sides with salt and pepper.

In a large soup pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the meat and brown, turning on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.

Put the onions and garlic in the pot and cook until softened, scarping up any browned bits, about 7 minutes. Add the rosemary and thyme and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a simmer.

Add the meat to the crock-pot and vegetables, cover, and put in the oven. Cook all day the in the slow cooker or in the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, basting the roast every 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 160 degrees F. Remove the meat to a cutting board and let sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the liquid in the pot to a low boil. Add the mustard and whisk until thickened. Add the parsley and whisk again.

Slice the roast into ½ inch slices and arrange on a platter with the roasted vegetables. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve at once.

If you have a restaurant or foodie biz that you’d like me to check out please email me at Ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow my blog LadyDinesAlot.com or on Facebook.

A New Dish In Town

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What could be better than a pub-crawl for adults? Dishcrawl a new foodie social activity has arrived in Kingston.

Beginning in restaurants and bistros in much larger cities such as San Francisco, San Diego and a few years ago in Ottawa and Toronto. Dishcrawl is now in over 125 North American cities with ambassadors in each.

The role of the ambassador is to as act a local foodie expert. They coordinate and engage local restaurants to get involved. Purchase a ticket to join in on the walking tour of select participating restaurants.  Guests are guided through a variety of locations tasting and sampling food from that business. The meal portions are substantial in most instances and all tastings are included in the price of the ticket. The average ticket price is $60-$75 (inclusive of tax and tip) drinks are excluded.

Meet new people who enjoy food or gather a few friends to join in on the experience.

Kingston Dishcrawl Ambassador, Christine McCullough is excited to bring this creative foodie crawl to our community.

Christine is a local event organizer. She studied culinary management and event planning and is thrilled to have found this role, which combines both her passions.

The events launched in September with twenty-seven keen crawlers dining on local fare with visits to Tir Nan Nog, St. Johns Public House, Chez Piggy and a finishing sweet stop at Sipps. A new event is held the third week of every month.

“We’ve had huge support from Downtown Kingston, Tourism Kingston and the local restaurants,” said Christine. “This city has so much to offer with approximately a hundred restaurants in a nine block radius. What more could you want?”

“I want to educate the community on good food and what is on offer here in our city. Dishcrawl is a great way to do just that.”

Dishcrawl concept is simple. Your host meets the group at a predetermined restaurant where everyone gets to know each other has a introduction from the chef and then moves on to the next location. Generally four locations are chosen, with variety and selections depending on the style of the restaurant.

“Customers love to meet the owner and chef who creates the food. You are more likely to go back and revisit. Which is exactly what happened after the first event. Many of the guests, even long time residents of Kingston, hadn’t been to half of the locations we visited. Some even returned a couple of times within the month after this event.”

“We couldn’t do it without the enthusiasm of the restaurants,” said Christine. “We are really excited to continue welcoming new restaurants onboard,” said Christine. “ By the end of the year I hope to connect with all the local restaurants in the area.”

“In October, we hosted our second Dishcrawl event themed the haunted crawl.”

“We had a great time. Our haunted dishcrawl kicked off at Windmills with an introduction from the chef and a chance for everyone to get to know each other, followed by a visit to Geneva Crepes, Olivea and then capped off with Spanish desserts at the new Tango Nuevo.

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“I want to have different themes for each Dishcrawl,” said Christine. “Featuring an evening to support military families, individuals with dietary restrictions, or even a Match.com night out.”

The next Dishcrawl event is a Gluten Free Kingston on November 19th at 7 pm. Tickets are on sale now at www.dishcrawl.com/kingston or email Christine at christineer@dishcrawl.com. The locations are kept a secret but it promises to be a healthy and educational night out. Follow them on Facebook at Dishcrawl Kingston or on twitter @dishcrawlkin for hints before the event.

If you have a restaurant suggestion or a local food biz you’d like me to check out email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook or my blog at Ladydinesalot.com.

Addicted To The Drink

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Hello, my name is Kate and I’m an addict. A coffee addict that is. Nothing beats a good cup of coffee. The bold roasting smell is pure joy. I would even argue that one doesn’t even have to be a coffee drinker to love the aroma of this intoxicating brew.

I am not much of drip coffee fan, although my friend, Lesli hooks herself up intravenously to draw in the dark rich drug. A night shift worker, no matter the hour you will find Lesli with a cup of hot black goodness.

Coffee in all its forms is my drug of choice. At home, I have a Kleurig machine to help me savor the freshness of brewing a perfect cup every time.

Whether Tassimo or Kleurig, the trend has flourished for these easy-to-use machines. I can now choose from hundreds of varieties. I like to shop at Coffee Trends for their individual servings called K-Cups. It’s a retail store conveniently located at 772 Blackburn Mews, corner of Gardiners Rd and Taylor Kidd Blvd. You can choose up to twenty-four mixed single-servings or boxed coffee matches for approximately $13.95.

Upon arrival pick up the easy to use round paddle with holes to fit each choice. This helpful tool makes it easy to carry your coffee K-cups as you shop. Allow yourself time to wander through the aisle, exploring and choosing which coffee you’d like to try. Arranged according to roast, dark-medium etc., make your choices and take them to the counter to package them to go. While browsing, you enjoy a free coffee, so you can sample before you buy.

On my first visit I selected (almost) one of each. I went home taste-tested and judged each against the other. Yes, I am that pathetic. So sue me; I am picky about my coffee. I couldn’t imagine anything being better than an espresso until I discovered their dark roast 100% Brazilian Gold coffee. It’s delicious with the well-known kick-in-the-butt affect of an espresso. I only need to drink one a day to keep me primed.

The coffee grounds removed from their pouches post-use are biodegradable. However, I must dispel the myth that once the plastic cup is free from waste and cleaned it can be placed in your general recycling. The City of Kingston advises that the cups themselves are made from mixed material and get caught in their conveyor belts. This is an issue experienced widely. Therefore the K-cups themselves are not recyclable. Don’t get me wrong, the environment is an important issue for me. You see, I’m an addict so will it make me stop drinking my beloved coffee? No. This means I will challenge them to develop a recyclable product.

Recent studies show coffee’s associated health benefits include fighting short-term memory loss and increased cognitive abilities. In fact, coffee shows it has more healthy antioxidants than green tea and cocoa. As much as we all love coffee, we should be cautious that too much of a good thing has its risks. It can be know to cause irritability, nervousness and anxiety. So like most things in life, drink in moderation.

We writers drink coffee to help keep common disorders such as writers block at bay. Therefore, you will find me writing at a local café or home perched in my window, fist holding tightly to this magnetic brew.

My name is Kate. I am an addict.

For more information or to suggest a restaurant or foodie biz I should check out, email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com, follow my blog Ladydinesalot.com or on Facebook.

Thankful for Rich Relationships

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Are rich people happy? Or is it rich relationships that equal happiness?

Don’t get me wrong, having enough money is helpful. But, in reality most people report that the biggest indicators of happiness are good health and quality of personal relationships. So, why is it these are the two things we sacrifice the most in the pursuit of wealth?

Foster close relationships. Those with five or more close friends are more apt to describe themselves as happy than those that don’t.

My friends and I met for a ‘Wednesday Night Whine’ and took the time to discuss just that over several nibbles (of course). We work too much and daily life gets in the way of regular get-togethers. I’m blessed with good friendships that we work at fostering. But sometimes it’s not easy. Most days just getting through the day is a mission, let alone making time to see friends. But, a night reflecting and sharing can be such a great release.

Our focus was happiness and good health, plus lack of sleep. We all feel sleep deprived. For some, it’s been more than seventeen years since sleep was a consideration. With ailing parents and starved relationships, we managed to break down some truths about what the pursuit of wealth and happiness really meant for us.

We all juggle jobs, families and aging parents. It was good to know we are not alone in this. Easily frazzled, exhausted and bitter at the lack of time. Some make it through by simply existing. You can do this and not exhale. It works, but often only for a while.

What makes people happy is not how long we work or that our kids are benefiting from enrolment in every known sport, it’s about fulfilling relationships and gratitude for such things.

Be grateful for the things you have. When we begin to be thankful, we learn to appreciate more and take less for granted. Time with friends, family vacations, playing a board game are all worth more than an extra hour at work. It all goes by so quickly. If you are lucky, you find a vocation (a calling, not a job) that permits you to lead such a meaningful life.

Appreciate good health. With aging parents, we all recognize the difficulty of daily life when you are impacted by illness. Never take for granted those who you love. Just as quickly it could be you struggling with health issues. Being healthy is also directly related to rich relationships.

A Harvard University research project, called the Grant Study, is the longest longitudinal study of biosocial human development ever undertaken, and is still ongoing. The goal was to identify the key factors to a happy and healthy life. It follows a group of men through their entire lives, reviewing medical records, coupled with periodic interviews and questionnaires exploring their careers, relationships, and mental well-being. In 2009, researchers delved further to find direct correlations. What they’ve found is that a history of warm intimate relationships leads to the flourishing financial and personal richness of each of these men’s lives.

Not all forms of happiness are created equal. We believe living a life of simple acts of kindness is rewarding and aids in personal growth. These sporadic get-togethers allow us to reconnect over food and lively discussion.

Food connects people. Thanksgiving, what greater holiday is there for sharing with family and friends over a feast. It can be a perfect time to reflect and be more grateful. Sometimes, a room packed with your family members may seem like a daunting task. Take a minute and be thankful for one thing each of them has brought into your life, even it’s simply for bringing along the pie. You may be surprised a burst of joy may occur that fuels more depth to a struggling relationship.

Having money and relationships are not mutually exclusive. I believe you can have both, but true wealth is not just about money. It’s about good relationships, good health and continued self-improvement.

Plan to work on these increased relationships and being grateful. Happiness will follow.

If you’ve been asked to bring along a dish this Thanksgiving, here is a great harvest one, rustic and refined and full of flavor.

Squash with Cream and Sage
Serves 12

A great side dish – halves of these pepper squashes make individual servings when baked with a garlic-sage cream sauce.

Ingredients:

6 pepper squashes (about 3 ½ Ilbs), halved, seeded, stems removed and bottoms trimmed t sit flat.

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp chopped fresh sage

1 cup homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken stock

4 garlic cloves, halved

¼ cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Arrange squash halves, cut side up, in two 9-by-13 inch baking dishes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle sage over each. Pour ½ cup stock into each dish, and scatter garlic around squashes.
  3. Bake, covered, until squashes are tender when pierced with a fork, 45 t0 55 minutes. Heat broiler with rack about 8 inches from heat source.
  4. Transfer garlic to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Mash with a fork, and stir in cream and 2 tablespoons liquid from baking dishes. Spoon over squash halves, including edges. Broil squashes until bubbling and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

 *Serve on a large tray with sprigs of fresh sage or rosemary.

 If you have any recipes or restaurant suggestions please email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com, follow my blog at Ladydinesalot.com or on Facebook.