#HappyBirthdayToronto

Mar 6, 2014 by

 

Happy 180th Birthday, Toronto. Thanks for your beaches, your harbour front, the ROM, your summertime patios, your Queen West shopping, your Starving Artist gluten free waffles. For Kensington Market, Saturday’s spent at the St. Lawrence market, for you abundance of brunch spots, and for all your gluten-friendly restaurants. Thanks for your Christmas-time window displays, your drive-in movies, all of your coffee shops, Casa Loma, the Blue Jays, and your not one, but two new country bars. Thanks for your alleyway art and graffiti, your summer street festivals and year-round parades. Your boroughs and ‘hoods, your lake-side boardwalks, your Islands and the ferry that gets us there. ILU!

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Copycat Tim Horton’s Chocolate Glazed Doughnuts

Jan 27, 2014 by

My mom got me a doughnut tray for Christmas this year.

Needless to say, doughnuts were fresh in my mind (hehe) for my first baked item of 2014.

Since discovering I’m gluten intolerant a few years ago, doughnuts have been the thing I missed the most. I LOVED doughnuts – especially my all-time favourite, the Tim Horton’s Chocolate Glazed doughnut.

Cakes, cookies, bread, brownies – all these things are readily available in gluten-free form – but gluten free doughnuts are few and far between. I’ve been known to drive 30 minutes out to the East Beaches just to visit Tori’s Bakeshop for a doughnut fix.

 No more. Thanks to my mom, and this Tim’s Chocolate Glazed Doughnut Copycat Recipe, I’ll never be too far away from a warm, fresh, doughnut.

Tim's Chocolate Glazed Doughnuts
Serves 5

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Prep Time
15 min

Cook Time
12 min

Total Time
27 min

Prep Time
15 min

Cook Time
12 min

Total Time
27 min

282 calories
51 g
9 g
6 g
7 g
2 g
229 g
411 g
29 g
0 g
4 g

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
229g

Servings
5

Amount Per Serving
Calories 282
Calories from Fat 54

% Daily Value *

Total Fat 6g
9%

Saturated Fat 2g
12%

Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 9mg
3%

Sodium 411mg
17%

Total Carbohydrates 51g
17%

Dietary Fiber 2g
7%

Sugars 29g
Protein 7g
Vitamin A
4%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
18%
Iron
4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Doughnuts
1/3 tbsp vegetable shortening
1/4 cup sugar
8 tsp unsweetened applesauce
1/3 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup skim milk (I use lactose-free)
1/3 tsp instant coffee
1/2 cup all-purpose gluten free flour
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
8 tsp cocoa powder
2/3 tsp baking powder
2/3 tsp salt

Dissolve your instant coffee into your milk, and set it aside for now.
In a medium sized bowl, mix your gluten-free flour, xanthan gum, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set this aside for now as well.
In a small bowl (I use my one cup measuring cup!), beat your shortening and sugar (you can do it by hand since it's a small amount).
Add your applesauce, vanilla, and milk/coffee mixture and stir to combine it all.
Pour this into your dry ingredients, and mix until the batter is just combined (don't over mix it!) .
Scoop some into each doughnut cup, and tap the bottom of the pan on your counter to help spread it out. Continue until each cup is roughly 3/4 full.
Bake your doughnuts for 10 - 12 minutes at 325°. A good way to tell is by poking the top carefully with your finger, if the doughnut springs back up you're good. Let them cool in the pan for a few minutes, then flip the pan out and onto wax paper.
While they're baking and cooling, you can make the glaze.

Glaze
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp hot water
1/3 tsp vanilla extract

Put the icing sugar into a bowl, and then add the vanilla and hot water, Keep stirring, and scraping the sides, until it's mixed.
Once your doughnuts are cool enough to touch (but still warm), dip both sides into the glaze. You might want to roll the edges in it a bit, too. Place them onto the wax paper and let them harden.
Eat and enjoy!

Adapted from Allergy Mom
beta
calories
282

fat
6g

protein
7g

carbs
51g

more

Adapted from Allergy Mom
See Lauren Write http://seelaurenwrite.ca/

You can triple the recipe to get the full amount (15-18 doughnuts), but I only have one doughnut pan – plus, 5 doughnuts is MORE than enough for two people.

If it seems like a lot of salt, don’t worry – according to the original author, that’s what makes the Tim Horton’s chocolate glazed doughnuts so unique, and I agree!

While these doughnuts aren’t perfect (they are, after all, baked and not deep fried), they’re pretty freaking close.

Oh, and PS – they go GREAT with Earl Grey tea… especially when you dunk them in it. 

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Welcome to Chernobyl

Jan 25, 2014 by

I’ve always been fascinated with Chernobyl: what is now considered to be the worst radioactive accident in history. Earlier this year, I got the chance to visit Chernobyl and Pripyat on a private tour – just myself, my best friend, her husband and our guide.

On April 26, 1986, a major nuclear accident occurred at Unit 4 of the nuclear power plant in the Ukraine (under the former USSR). The operating crew was testing the turbines in the event of a power loss, and deliberately turned off the safety systems. The test did not go as planned, and an unexpected power surge caused a violent – and radioactive – explosion.

The reactor burned for nine days, spreading radioactive dust and pollution into the air, and causing a nuclear fallout that stretched across much of Eastern Europe.

It was an almost two hour drive from Kiev, where we had spent the night in a large Ukrainian apartment in the heart of the city, to the border of the 30 km exclusion zone at Chernobyl.

I sat in the front of our guide Igor’s four door car – an advantage, he tells us, as we can visit more places the larger tour groups can’t, as we are in an inconspicuous civilian car as opposed to a bus.

As we near the zone, he pulls out a Geiger counter, designed to measure ambient radiation in the are. “See this?” he asks, tapping the screen. “0.1 uSv per hour. That’s safe level – you’re from Toronto, yes? You have…” he pauses for effect, “…the same amount inside your apartment!”

We pull up to the border of the 30 km exclusion zone, where we’re greeted by very official looking guards – guns and everything. We’re told we can walk around, but are not allowed to cross the barrier or take photographs of the checkpoint or guards themselves.

A few minutes later, we are on our way into the zone.

This infamous sign – the original from the 70s – is found greeting visitors to the abandoned ghost town of Chernobyl Village.


Welcome to Chernobyl by Lauren Souch on 500px.com

We moved on within the area, driving through Chernobyl Village itself, which is now home to the workers dealing with the clean up. We’d be eating lunch in their canteen – all the food is brought in from Kiev – later on in the day.

We arrived at our first real destination within the zone – the kindergarden – and the only building you’re “officially” allowed to enter, though sometimes private tours – ours included – are taken into a variety of off-limits areas. 


Braveheart the Lion by Lauren Souch on 500px.com

This stuffed lion, delicately perched on a window next to an attendance list (likely for dramatic effect) was found within the kindergarten just outside of Kopachi Village.

Kopachi is the “buried village” of the zone – literally. The government knocked down most of the buildings in Kopachi following the accident and hastily buried them into the ground, before coming to the realization that burying nuclear fallout might not be the best idea.

This kindergarten hit me the hardest while we were visiting. The artwork hung on the walls – scrawls of childish letters and scraggly stick figure drawings – the stuffed toys, dolls, and empty beds left behind tugged at my hear strings.

It was so eerie to think of these people heading out for a typical day, and then one second changes everything forever. They just had to up and leave, thinking they would be allowed back soon, only never to return home again.

This was taken a mere 270 metres away from Reactor #4. It’s considered a safe distance to view the reactor from most days (levels of radiation can vary day to day, location to location, due to a number of factors).

“Safe” levels of radiation are considered under 3 uSv/hr (0.2 is common in major cities). The day we visited, our levels outside Reactor 4 came in around 4.12 uSv per hour: higher than what’s considered safe, but still low enough to make the risks of exposure during a short visit negligible.

A fatal dose is FAR higher than that amount. The average radiation worker received 3-25 uSv/hour at the time. But immediatly after the explosion, the radiation levels inside Reactor #4 reached 300 Sv/hr (that’s a fatal dose within 1-2 minutes). Currently, levels are roughly 35 Sv/hour inside (or fatal dose of radiation in 10-20 minutes

We got very lucky during our visit.


Reactor No. 4 by Lauren Souch on 500px.com

That crane to the left? It’s dismantling the ventilation shaft to prepare for the placement of the partially constructed New Safe Confinement. The first layer was taken off on October 31, the day after our visit. It was completely gone within a few days, forever changing the landscape of the ill-fated reactor.

The original sarcophagus covering Reactor #4 was never meant to be a long term solution, and is slowly crumbling – including a roof cave-in due to snow in early 2013. This new cover is being built to the side of the reactor, and, once completed, will be slid across tracks into place over Reactor #4, forever sealing it – and the radioactive isotopes – inside.

The remnants of Reactor #4 will be radioactive for a long time – the gamma radiation present has a half-life of 30 years, which means it would take 300 years (with no further decontamination work) to return to normal.

However, the radiation has sank into the soil, vegetation, and surfaces within the zone, meaning they’ll likely be contaminated for much, much longer.

After leaving the reactor, we headed to Pripyat, the town that housed nearly 50,000 nuclear workers and their families. The town had over 20 schools, a hospital, three cultural centres – including a movie theatre – sports venters, swimming pools, parks, and more.

This is the original sign from the 1970′s.


Entering Pripyat by Lauren Souch on 500px.com

Can you see the radioactive warning in the background? These small, ominous symbols were sporadically spread throughout the bush – a small, lingering reminder to the disaster that took place.

When in the exclusion zone, we gained access to many places not all tours visit – thanks to our decision to book a private tour for three.

Igor drove us up to a 17-floor apartment building and pulled up out front. He said if we wanted “some exercise”, we were welcome to climb the 17 floors, through a narrow passageway, and up a ladder onto the (somewhat decaying) roof to view the lost city from the sky.

Of course we said yes.

“Be sure not to stay up there for more than 5, 10 minutes at most,” he cautioned, “You’re not allowed up there and they can see you from a distance.”

He then tuned, lit a cigarette, and laughed, waving us on. “Go on, I’m not coming – I don’t want to climb 17 floors.”

And so on we went – into an apartment building, up 17 flights of peeling paint, discarded bottles, broken glass, and debris, getting dizzier with each turn; before clambering up a metal ladder – getting dust all over our hands and sleeves in the process.

Mildly out of breath, we ducked out onto the roof top and gasped.

The views were worth the climb, though, to be able to look out on the city from the sky.

The Reactor loomed in the distance.


The Abandoned City by Lauren Souch on 500px.com

Next, we approached the Pripyat Amusement Park, home to arguably one of the most iconic ferris wheel’s in the world.

The bumper cars, ferris wheel, and other assorted rides were being set up for the citizens of Pripyat to celebrate May Day, which was fast approaching.

No one could have foreseen the catastrophic nuclear accident coming – it happened April 26 – just days before the fair was set to open.


Can you hear the laughter? by Lauren Souch on 500px.com

Perhaps one of the most unfortunate and upsetting things about the accident is that people continued living in the town for up to TWO DAYS after it happened, unaware at how dire the situation really was.

When they were told to evacuate, they were told it would only be for a few days.

Igor claims that part of the reason people are able to visit the zone now is because of the power washing that occurred in the days following the accident. Assuming things would get under control, and people would move back in, clean up in the city was begun, and continued for days before officials realized the people of Pripyat were never coming home.


Silence by Lauren Souch on 500px.com

We visited a number of buildings during our tour – three schools, a swimming pool, community centre, and recreation centre. We were lucky in that we were allowed inside – thought it was easy to see why the government doesn’t officially allow it anymore.

Glass covered the floor, gaping holes existed in the wooden floor boards – our guide put his foot through a rotting chunk at one point – and wet sludge dripped from the dark ceilings.

At one point, we walked by a completely tilted wall on the second floor of a school.

“See this?” he asks, gesturing to the unstable cement wall. “Totally unsafe. About to fall over. It could kill someone”.

Igor turns, stepping over a chunk of glass. “Come on,” he says, “we have to move on”


The Schoolhouse by Lauren Souch on 500px.com

The buildings were dark, crumbling, and covered in a thick dust – filled with bits and pieces of lives left behind. Remnants of the USSR lingered – gas masks on the floor from a time when a nuclear war was a scary possibility; a school child’s page on “America and Americans”, featuring an American flag wrapped in barbed wire; soviet propaganda at every turn.

Igor read us some of the passages and descriptions from the work books and walls. The interesting thing was seeing the USSR from the inside: it wasn’t all that bad. The things we, as a Westernized world, hear about the Soviet Union, the way we talked about them during the cold war, were essentially the same things they were saying about us. We’re not so different, it seems.

Nature is everywhere in Pripyat. This photo, taken in the second floor dentist office in one of the schools, had a tree growing through the floorboard (a common sight), as well as tiny trees planted on walls, nooks, and crannies.

The “most famous moss in the world” grows everywhere – it’s highly radioactive – the patch we tested measured in between 12 to 18 uSv per hour.


Nature Takes Over by Lauren Souch on 500px.com

There’s some items – bottles and pan – that may have been left behind. Of course, some items within Pripyat have been brought in by outsiders, dropped or forgotten, or in some cases, placed by visitors to create the “perfect” photograph.

We moved on, wandering the streets outside, now overgrown with trees and bush. At one point, we approached an apple tree – having already seen the highly contaminated soil, when Igor grabbed an apple from the nearby tree my friend assumed he was going to show us the level of radiation found inside. Just as I looked over, we saw him take a large bite out of the apple, eating it.

I guess when you spend every day inside the exclusion zone you stop worrying so much.

One of the things that fascinates me the most about the exclusion zone is the unlikely wildlife sanctuary it’s become. In a place where no human would dare to live, catfish, birds, boars, and horses have made a home. The world’s largest captive breeding program for Przewalski’s horse is in the Ukraine, and sometime after the accident, several dozen horses were released — and they thrived.

There’s 200-some-odd horses living within the exclusion zone today – it’s quite common to see them grazing on the contaminated grass, enjoying the quiet and eerie serenity of a town frozen in time.


An Unlikely Sanctuary by Lauren Souch on 500px.com

We ended out tour by heading out to Duga 3, also known as the Russian Woodpecker, a cold-war era soviet defensive tactic. Another stroke of luck for us, as this area was only opened to tourists on October 15th. In fact, our guide had never visited before either.

When I asked why it was just opened now, he echoed my reason for visiting Chernobyl in the first place: “to say goodbye. They will begin tearing it down soon, just like the rest of it. This won’t be here forever.” 

If you’d like to see more, you can visit my Chernobyl photo gallery on 500px, or for a more up-close-and personal look, you can ‘wander’ the streets of Chernobyl thanks to this interactive Russian street view site. 

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Merry Christmas!

Dec 24, 2013 by

Like most families, my family has a few Christmas traditions.

It’s just not Christmas for me unless my Star Trek the Next Generation ornament is hung on the tree. My dad bought it in 1993 when I was 8 (and insistent I was growing up and marrying Captain Picard), and every year he would pick a tree with a gaping hole in the side so the Enterprise had “black space” to fly through. He’d position the tree so said hole was front and centre (much to the horror of my mother, who would prefer the hole – and the Enterprise – stayed hidden towards the back).

When I moved out, I searched high and low on the darkest corners of the internet for my own STNG ornament (it had to be the exact same one, obviously) and finally found one on eBay. It now hangs proudly on my (fake) tree in my apartment — and my dad still hangs his on the family tree yearly.

It only seems fitting, then, that I wish you all a Merry Christmas with the best damn Christmas Carol I’ve ever seen. 

 
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See you at HoHoTO!

Dec 15, 2013 by

 
Have you heard about HoHoTO?If you haven’t, you should probably know three things:
  1. It’s the best holiday party in Toronto
  2. It’s a fundraiser for the Daily Bread Food Bank
  3. It’s raised over $285,000 for said food bank since it’s inception in 2008
Dubbed “the party that Twitter built”, HoHoTO is now in its 6th year and being organized by a new team made up of past volunteers, attendees, and supporters (with the blessing and support of the founders, of course!), including yours truly who is neck deep in all things sponsorship right now. As I mentioned above, HoHoTO is a community fundraiser for a good cause – raising sorely needed funds for Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank – and a kick ass holiday party on top of that.
Since its inception in November 2008, HoHoTO has not only raised over $285,000 for the Daily Bread, but also collected over 4 tonnes of food to help feed hungry Torontonians. 
 
This year, HoHoTO is taking place on December 19th at the Mod Club – doors open at 7, and the party goes until late.  
 
I’m super stoked we’re bringing VIP tickets into the mix this year (including apps & drinks from 7-9!), as well as some fun new elements to the party. HoHoTO 2013 will feature an amazing raffle (lots of tech prizes!), massages by donation, a cash bar, pizza delivery for all attendees courtesy of Panago, awesome DJs, and a bigger and better photo booth with tons of cool props sponsored by Just-Eat.ca. All proceeds are going directly to the Daily Bread Food Bank, so HoHoTO really is a party with a purpose.
 
The bottom line is that HoHoTO is not an entity – we’re just a bunch of people. We’re a community with a shared interest, not a foundation. We’re also throwing the best holiday party you may never have been to (yet!), and it’s also plain and simple a GREAT way to help feed a lot of hungry people while getting your drink on.
 
Hope to see you there! I’ll be in the white dress with nylons making one leg red, and one leg green. :)
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Banana Egg “Pancakes”

Nov 18, 2013 by

I’m all about easy recipes. 

The easier, the better – especially when breakfast is involved. There’s nothing worse than waking up late, and rushing around half asleep with bleary eyes trying to fumble together something edible – this would be why I tend to skip breakfast, or go the oatmeal or granola bar route… but that gets old, and fast. Plus, I always function a lot better when I have lots of protein first thing in the morning – which is why smoothies (with protein powder, obvs) and my protein pancakes are also staples in my breakfast rotation.

This has become a new favourite – mainly because it’s SO. FRIGGIN. EASY. Like, almost as easy as opening an oatmeal packet and adding water.

My mom and sister turned me onto this recipe, and now I’m bringing it to you.

 

That’s a Banana Egg “Pancake” topped with fresh fruit & agave, and it’s totally tasty.

I’ve used all sorts of fruit on my pancakes – though the watermelon/kiwi combo you see here is a fav. Blueberries, pineapples, raspberries, and grapes are also awesome tasting… though I really don’t think you could go wrong with any fruit. 

Recently, I’ve been using DavidsTea Maple Agave on top of mine and it’s freaking delicious.

Banana Egg "Pancakes"
Serves 1

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Prep Time
5 min

Cook Time
8 min

Total Time
13 min

Prep Time
5 min

Cook Time
8 min

Total Time
13 min

453 calories
77 g
372 g
10 g
15 g
3 g
519 g
185 g
23 g
0 g
6 g

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
519g

Servings
1

Amount Per Serving
Calories 453
Calories from Fat 93

% Daily Value *

Total Fat 10g
16%

Saturated Fat 3g
16%

Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 372mg
124%

Sodium 185mg
8%

Total Carbohydrates 77g
26%

Dietary Fiber 23g
92%

Sugars 23g
Protein 15g
Vitamin A
15%
Vitamin C
37%
Calcium
132%
Iron
42%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Ingredients
2 large eggs
1 browned banana
coconut oil
fresh fruit
agave or syrup

Instructions
Mash your banana, and add the eggs. Mix well.
On medium low heat, add some coconut oil into your frying pan and let melt.
Dump in your banana egg mixture (as one, big, round pile) and let it cook for a few minutes.
While it's cooking, start washing/chopping/prepping your fruit.
After a few minutes, divide your pancake into 4 sections (this makes it easier to flip) and flip it over. If it's too runny, leave it cooking a little longer.
After you flip it, cook for another few minutes.
Top with fruit and agave (or syrup) and enjoy!

beta
calories
453

fat
10g

protein
15g

carbs
77g

more

See Lauren Write http://seelaurenwrite.ca/

 

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Poems About my Car

Sep 24, 2013 by

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a total princess when it comes to getting around the city. I hate public transit. I have a full-out loathing for the streetcars and buses. The subway I can handle, but going pretty much anywhere else in the city via transit? Nope. Nope nope nope. 

I’m a total yuppie when it comes to getting around, and will choose a car over transit any day, and even a cab over transit most other days.

My boyfriend is the opposite – he recently got rid of his car, and has a newfound love for taking the TTC.

“It’s so liberating not having a car!” he tells me, “you really should try it!”

Three days later, my car decides it’s SO liberating she wants to break and leave me car-less – a million times, I might add – during the past month.

It started with a gas leak in October. That was a simple fix – it was just the filter – but the cost of labour at Crappy Tire was 10x the cost of the filter itself.

Then, it started leaking power steering fluid. I added more, it leaked out, I added more, it leaked out. I tried some Stop Leak – three bottles of it – to no avail, so in she went to have the hose replaced.

An Ode to my Car

There once was a Sunfire I named Ol’ Red,
She’s pretty sweet when she is not dead.
But she breaks a lot,
Now my bank is shot,
And it’s taking the TTC I dread!

Next, it wouldn’t start while we were camping in Algonquin – no turnover, no click click click, just the radio and lights worked. Mike and I were stranded outside a Kawartha Dairy ice cream shop (there are worst places to get stuck, for sure). We called CAA, inhaled a couple bowls of ice cream, and got a ride back to our campsite. It was near-dark on a Sunday on the long weekend, and there was no way to tow it 250 kilometers to my mechanic without packing up first. The next morning, it magically started so we cautiously drove it straight to the shop. It had to go in and out three times before we nailed the problem – some corroded wires were replaced, then it died again and got towed to Crappy Tire for a diagnostic, then towed from CT to my mechanic to be fixed. The starter needed to be replaced, I live and work in Toronto, and my car goes to Whitby, so I was out a car for almost a week.

Feelings about my car

My car often makes me really mad,
And she breaks a lot which makes me sad.

When she does work I’m happy,
But when she doesn’t I feel crappy. 

I wish she’d just stop breaking, 
My bank account is aching,

But taking transit is way worse,
So I guess I’ll open my purse! 

Now, it’s decided to spew rad coolant all over the ground, draining constantly: and let me tell you, rad fluid is obnoxious to replace. You can’t just dump it in like you can with oil or your other fluids, no, you have to mix 70% fluid with 30% water. It’s at the point my tank is empty in like, days, so in she’s going again tonight to get fixed.

my car, a haiku.

piece of crap sunfire
rad fluid leaking on the ground
why do you break, car?

I’m so frustrated with Ol’ Red I could shove her off a cliff, but well, then I’d be stuck taking transit for life and there’s no way in heck that’s happening. On the bright side, although Sunfires are notorious for electrical problems (check), random lights illuminating (check), and breaking all the time (check), most of the issues are minor and not overly expensive – so there’s my silver lining, at least.

lessons in car loathing, a diamante

Sunfire
Rusty, old
Loves to break
I really hate you
Car

Sunfire
My baby
I hate to love you
Love to hate you
Car.

Sunfire, Ol’ Red, baby– if you’re listening, PLEASE STOP BREAKING. At least for awhile, okay?

You’re asking to get traded in for a truck.

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