Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Faculty of Community Services Blog team at Ryerson, to you and yours!

During this holiday season, we hope that the ones you love surround you and you are enjoying some much needed relaxation. We hope that you are indulging in comfort foods of all sorts (i.e hot chocolate, freshly baked cookies, mashed potatoes, etc), taking the time to do activities you love, getting cozy in your bed, and taking advantage of some guilt-free Netflix binge watching session. Most of all, we hope that your holiday season is filled with joy, happiness, peace, and love.

Every year seems like it starts off by leading up to this time of the year – the Holiday season. It seems to be the most anticipated time of the year for a lot of people and the big questions is: WHY?

Some people celebrate this time of the year for religious or spiritual reasons. They take this time of the year to reflect on their religious and spiritual beliefs, and take this opportunity to celebrate and share their religious practices and beliefs with others around them. For these people, it’s a time of religious and spiritual celebration and reflection.

Some people celebrate this time of the year as simply a time of relaxation – a break (something a lot of students see the Holiday season as). The holiday season offers the opportunity to take some time off and not have to worry about work or school. It’s a stress-free time of the year that is intended simply to be a break from the chaos and busyness of every day life.

Some people celebrate this time of the year as a time of giving back. During this time of the year, various charities and non-profit organizations receive an abundance of donations from communities, to ensure that everyone is able to spend the holiday season with the thought in mind that there are others out there who care for them. It also reinforces others to think about those less fortunate than they are, and to be grateful and selfless with what they may have.

Some people celebrate this time of year to participate in the commercial aspects of this season. This means that some people simply like to take part in gift giving, Christmas and/or holiday parties, holiday decorating, etc. It’s a time of the year to enjoy the typical festivities that the holiday season has to offer.

You may fall into one of these categories – or perhaps you can relate to more than one of these categories. Regardless of whatever your reason for celebrating the holidays is, I hope that you’re safe and you’re surrounded by peace, love, joy, and happiness. I hope that this holiday season brings you cheer and gives you an opportunity to relax, reflect on this past year, and look forward to the new year ahead.

Once again – Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from us to you.


Good bye, Fall 2015 Semester – Hello, Relaxation!

Today is the big day – the final day of exams and the official last day of the Fall 2015 semester! Congratulations to all students – and staff – who have made it this far and put in their hard work and effort throughout the semester. Hopefully all of the stress was worth it and you’re able to rest easy knowing you gave this semester your best shot. With all of the struggles we all went through this semester, I’d say that we’re more than ready for a well-deserved break. Lucky for us, this day marks the first day of this well-deserved break and we can finally put the stresses of this past semester behind us. This Holiday season is a time of rest and relaxation for a lot of students – and maybe even a little bit of fun! If you’re in the Toronto area this term break, here are a few things you and some family and friends can do to make your Holiday break a little bit more festive!

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Where: The Distillery Historic District; Mill Street

When: Tuesdays – Sundays; November 20th, 2015 –December 20th, 2015

What: Christmas street festival and market with Christmas related entertainment, shopping and food vendors, activities, etc.

Why: With activities from music, dance, a Caroling challenge, meeting Santa, special Christmas cocktails and food, there’s sure to be something for someone who loves Christmas or just simply enjoys having a good time! Also, the Christmas Market is free of Admission from Tuesdays to Fridays! Otherwise, admission is only $5 (including tax!) on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Nathan Phillips Square = 100 Queen St W; Near the historic Old City Hall!
Harbourfront Centre = 235 Queens Quay W; near the beautiful Lake Ontario with a gorgeous view of the Lake and the city skyline!
Ryerson “Lake Devo” = 350 Victoria St; near the heart of the city – Yonge & Dundas Square!

When: All open 7 days a week, 10am – 10pm! (With the exception of Ryerson’s Lake Devo, which is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day!)

What: The city’s best outdoor skating spots in the most iconic parts of the city!

Why: Outdoor skating has been a typical Christmas tradition and there’s nothing better than doing it in the most iconic parts of Toronto!



Where: 40 Bay St

When: Check game schedules for Raptors ( and Leafs (

What: Toronto’s two beloved home teams in Canada’s most loved sports face off other competitors in exciting court and ice action! Catch these widely-loved sports by Canadians across the country with family and/or friends!

Why: Hockey and basketball are Canadian-invented sports – with the Raptors and Leafs having the best fans in the world, seeing these games live is sure to not only add excitement to your Holiday season, but ignite your Canadian spirit as well!

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Where: 401 Bay St

When: Monday – Saturday, 9:00am to 9:30pm; Sundays, 10:00am to 7:00pm

What: Each year, The Hudson’s Bay in downtown Toronto (connected to CF Eaton Centre) arranges its window displays during the Holiday season to display magnificent scenes that depict a Christmas-related theme!

Why: These beautiful window displays make for stunning pictures and can even spark some Christmas decoration inspiration! These inspirational and elaborate displays make for Instagram-worthy posts!

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HOLIDAY SHOPPING (and for us students, Retail Therapy) AT CF EATON CENTRE

Where: 220 Yonge St

When: Monday – Saturday, 9:00am to 9:30pm; Sundays, 10:00am to 7:00pm

What: CF Toronto Eaton Centre is Toronto’s largest shopping centre that is located at the heart of the city!

Why: The Holiday season calls for Holiday shopping and the best place to get your entire Christmas list checked off is at Toronto’s most popular shopping centre! It’s three floors of great stores, great deals, and even better finds!

If you spend a little time in Toronto this Holiday break, feel free to go through this list and see how many you can go through. Holiday season in Toronto is sure to be a fun, festive, and lively one!

I wish all Ryerson staff and students a very Happy Holiday! Rest, relax, and enjoy yourselves – we all certainly deserve it!

Marvellous Montreal

Biodome on the Former Expo '67 Site

Biodome on the Former Expo ’67 Site

My mother left Montreal just after the Expo celebrations in 1967. The reason she gives for her departure is sometimes that although first language was French, she had an English surname which was hassle in the time of heightened Quebec nationalism. Sometimes she says she left because her best friend decided one day on a whim to pack up and move to California and my mother decided to go along with her. My mom was a bit of a rebel you see and thought nothing of chucking a chemistry scholarship to McGill to run off on a whim with her friend. When she got to the American border and they told her they were not accepting settlers in California, she threw her figurative dart at a map and hit another state beginning with a “C” (Colorado).  Whatever her reasons, we ended up in Colorado, a place I was born in but never really felt a part of. This is apparently an intergenerational existential crisis. I remember reading a newspaper article about my father (whose  main occupation was a lawyer but who also happened to be an accomplished thespian) that said he was more at home in an English accent than the Midwestern drawl he was born into.

We used to return every year to visit my grandparents in Montreal and I do have some early memories of the city, although at the time they lived in Dorval. One of the clearest memories was a visit to the Olympic Stadium just after the Olympics had finished there. I was really young but I have a photograph of myself in a white dress and white sandals and I can actually remember the shot being taken. Life in Colorado was complicated for us for many reasons. My father died when I was six and things went downhill from there, despite my mother’s best efforts. Coming “home” to Canada was always a tremendous relief. My grandparents were calm, sane people, despite the fact that my grandfather used to ride a bicycle in the closet. As you may have guessed, I have no love affair with the place of my birth. With apologies to any Coloradans in the crowd, the day my mother finally returned to her senses and her family in Canada (by now they had migrated to Toronto) was the beginning of a brighter future for me.  Cue the Hallelujah chorus or at least How Soon is Now by The Smiths.

My mother, in her younger years, seemed to feel the same about Montreal as I did about Colorado. She never seemed to have any great desire to go back to visit until very recently. I went many times as a student in Ottawa and hung around near where my friends in Longeuil lived or down in the bars near McGill. This summer, I decided to take my daughter to Montreal. We rented an apartment in the Vieux Port for two days and I had a whole new impression of Montreal. The architecture of the old city is simply stunning. My daughter loved the caleche or horse drawn carriages and French cafes. It was as close to Paris (which is a complete obsession for her) as our budget is likely to stretch. We also went out to the Biodome (on the old Olympic site) and I took a photograph of her in exactly the same pose I remember from all those years ago then visited the Botanical Gardens which are truly lovely. On our last day, we took a trip out to the former Expo site to see the geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller for Expo ’67, which now houses the Biosphere or environment museum.  They have some really excellent exhibits on water and air pollution as well as a study of what would happen if the earth’s temperature raised by 1 degree. As we walked along, I could feel my mother’s younger footsteps following us (she would have been twenty four at the time) and just as I was thinking of that, my daughter suggested we should take Grandma to Montreal in the fall for her seventieth birthday.

Montreal makes a truly enjoyable and affordable getaway. We got both of us for under $100 and rented an apartment on Air BNB which was very reasonable in a gorgeous building in the old city. When I was in university, there was also a rideshare program from university campuses in Ottawa and Toronto. I’m not sure if these programs still exist or if in this age of heightened security if they are even advisable but I do remember you could get each way for $20. However you get there, I would highly recommend Montreal as a summer destination.

Holiday Dinner Idea: Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Turkey Breast

I hope people who tried my roasted turkey recipe enjoyed it. With the holidays coming up, shopping to do, and more food to eat, I thought I would share my turkey recipe with a twist! This recipe involves removing the turkey breasts and doing something wonderful to it: stuffing it and wrapping it with bacon! My family and friends absolutely love this recipe and it halves the cooking time compared to roasting an entire turkey as is. There is a little more preparation involved but worth it because as I like to say, “Bacon makes everything better.”


  • 1 turkey, approx 12 lbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 to 2 packages of bacon
  • Stuffing (any stuffing of choice)
  • Dried rosemary and thyme
  • approx ½ cup Becel margarine
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots

Other things you need

  • String to tie up the turkey
  • Roasting pan and rack
  • Baking sheet
  • Meat thermometer


1 Bring the turkey to room temperature before cooking. If it has been in the fridge, leave it out on a roasting pan for 2 hours. If you get a frozen turkey, defrost it in the refrigerator for a few days first. It should take approximately 5 hours of defrosting for every pound. A 12 lb turkey would take about 60 hours to defrost, which would be 2 and a half days.

Remove the neck and giblets. I only save the neck for making turkey soup but some people like to use the giblets for stuffing or gravy.

2 Wash out the turkey with water. Pull out any remaining feather stubs in the turkey skin. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Cut out the turkey breasts and set aside. Prepare and roast turkey as previously posted taking into account the weight without the breasts.

3 As the turkey is roasting, prepare the turkey breasts. Start by removing the skin and cartilage. Butterfly the turkey breast by cutting along the length of the breast, but not all the way through. Unfold so the turkey opens like a book. Cover each piece with plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until the turkey is of uniform thickness to about 1/2 inch. Season with salt and pepper.

4 Spread stuffing evenly to about 3/4 inch thick over each turkey breast leaving a 1-inch border. Starting with one short end, roll into a log and completely enclose the stuffing. Wrap log with strips of bacon so that none of the breast is exposed. This will help to keep the moisture in. For those who do not eat pork or who do not like bacon nearly as much as I do, you can wrap the log with the skin previous removed.

5 Complete log by tying string around the log in evenly spaced intervals. Place stuffed turkey breasts on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 40 to 60 minutes. Internal temperature should be 155°F or breast should appear cooked upon test slice. Try to time it so the logs finish cooking shortly after the roast.

6 Let rest for 10 minutes. The internal temperature should rise to 165°F. Remove string and serve with the rest of the roasted turkey and trimmings. Enjoy!


Rethinking gift giving: Creative and meaningful gift ideas

As December approaches, many people start to plan out a list of gifts that they will buy for their family and friends. Before you start, I encourage you to rethink the gift giving tradition! There are many other ways to show that you care other than purchasing a gift from a store. Read on to see if there is a new tradition that you might adopt this holiday season.

Rethink gift giving this holiday season.
Image source:

Start a book exchange

A few years ago, my friends and I decided that we would forego buying each other gifts. Instead, we decided to do a book exchange. We give each other books that we have read and enjoyed. Not only is it a nice way to share a life experience, it makes you feel connected since you’ve both read the same book! You can even write a warm note in the inside cover so that you will always remember when you got that book. A book exchange is now one of my favourite traditions.

Spend some time (not money) together

I think that what people love most is creating memories. Instead of buying gifts, go ice skating, watch a movie, go out to lunch, see the fireworks at Nathan Philips Square or buy a hot chocolate and enjoy the holiday city lights.

Give to charity on behalf of your loved ones

Another cherished tradition that we have in our family is giving to charity. My charity of choice is World Vision. World Vision allows you to purchase things like goats, olive trees, school supplies, medical supplies and more to help people around the world who are in need. Once you have purchased your gifts, you get beautiful cards that you can give to your family and friends to show them what you have purchased on their behalf. It has been a great success in my family! I encourage you to bring it up with your family or friends.

Have a craft day

One of my favourite holiday memories is getting together with my sisters and cousins for a craft day! We make ornaments and cookies while listening to holiday music. It is such a warm day filled with happiness. Again, the memories of those days is more precious than any material gift.

Help out

One of the best ways to show your love during the holidays is to help out in your community. Food banks, homeless shelters and community centres need extra help in the winter. Get a group together and give back to the community.

Take home message

This holiday, don’t get caught up in consumerism craziness! Rethink gift giving. There are so many creative options out there. Pick one that’s right for you and speak to your family and friends about it. I think we’re all ready for a change this holiday season.

All Hallow’s Eve

Halloween is a favourite holiday of kids and adults alike but I find many people today don’t know much about the origins of the celebration. There is in fact some debate about its beginnings. Some believe it is a Christian precursor celebration to All Saints Day which honours people who have died that year and rituals are performed to hopefully ease their transition up to heaven. Others think it has its origins in the Celtic holiday Samhain, the celebration of the harvest and end of the Celtic year. Symbolism and custom from both of these traditions are intermingled in representations of Halloween still today such as ghosts for the souls rising or bones of slaughtered animals which were thrown into a bonfire as a sacrifice to Celtic deities.

Although Samhain (pronounded Sow-wain) was more of a harvest festival aimed at taking stock of the herds and the crops to ensure survival for the winter ahead, it was also a gathering ritual where people would don costumes and walk around a central bonfire in the town square to purify themselves and release the souls of lost relatives which they believed were trapped in the bodies of animals. Some say people would wear the costumes out of fear, hoping to not be recognized by the spritely departees they were freeing by sacrificing the bones of animals to the bonfire. Others believe it was merely a cleansing ritual to end the year and that the main purpose of the fire was to reaffirm village unity, as each person would take a burning stick from the central fire back to their home to light a new home fire to keep them warm as they closed themselves in for the long winter.

Today’s Halloween celebrations bear little resemblance to sacrifice, ritualistic or otherwise, but the “gore” and “horror” sentiments have carried forward. Some families view Halloween as a fun little outing for the kids and maybe they stick a bloody hand on their front lawn for effect but others take it pretty seriously. On my little street in Parkdale, Halloween is a lot of fun because our houses are very close together, mostly everyone decorates or participates and there are tonnes of children around. I remember one year the family across the street jacked up and underlit their car to look like an accident, complete with a dummy under the wheel which frankly still gives me the shivers. I’m not sure if they were following the tradition in which you act out your greatest fear in hope that once exorcised, it will not come to pass. In much the same vein, Clay and Paper Theatre Company hosted a parade through Dufferin Grove Park last year which encouraged people to come dressed as their worst fear. I am not brave enough to out my demons in such a fashion so we tend to stick to dry ice, bats and tombstones chalked with Edward Gorey phrases of which my favourite is “Here lies Prue run through with an awl”. One year, my husband and I cut out several hundred black canvas bats and put them all across the front of our house. Now our daughter insists that we do it every year. This is a lesson in being careful about what you say around children for they will hold you to it. This year, I taught her how to make Kleenex ghosts and she ran through a whole box of Kleenex in an hour.

For us, Halloween is a mixture of modern and old times. It’s a great opportunity to see kids and parents fully dedicated to the pursuit of fun. The tiniest children and those with the craziest home-made costumes are my favourite visitors to the door but I also love handing out candy to an older child who is experiencing Halloween for the first time. We have many newcomer families in Parkdale and though Halloween must be quite a mysterious occasion at first, it doesn’t take long to convince a kid that taking your pillowcase out door to door to be filled with candy is a pretty alright thing to do. Last year, my one year old son decided to strip down and hand out candy in his diaper and though it is not entirely unusual to answer the door in Parkdale in your underwear, lots of people wanted to take his picture. He spent the subsequent days walking up to all the neighbours’ houses looking for people in costumes with treats.

At home, we also try to tell some of the old Celtic stories, such as those of the Tuatha De Danan who are Irish fairies. As a result, this year we are making yet another fairy costume, reusing the wireframe wings we made three years ago but we have not yet decided on exactly what type of fairy she will be. She has been a garden fairy and a midnight fairy but so far this year, nothing has been firmly established except for the fact that she gets to have five chocolates this year since she is five.

How to Make the Best Turkey

I am not sure how it happened but I got stuck making Thanksgiving dinner again this year. Every October my family celebrates Thanksgiving Day, a.k.a. Turkey Day, and every October we figure out if my brother, my sister, or I have to host the dinner. Somehow I have been stuck with this task for the fourth year in a row ever since the first turkey I made came out very juicy and delicious.  So this week I am putting my pager on the shelf to make another delicious turkey.

First off, grocery shopping. The things you need are the following:


  • 1 turkey, approx 12 lbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried rosemary and thyme
  • approx ½ cup Becel margarine
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots

Other things you need

  • String to tie up the turkey
  • Roasting pan and rack
  • Meat thermometer

You should buy a turkey appropriate for the number of people you are hosting.

12-15 lb turkey for 10-12 people
15-18 lb turkey for 14-16 people
18-22 lb turkey for 20-22 people


1 Bring the turkey to room temperature before cooking. If it has been in the fridge, leave it out on a roasting pan for 2 hours. If you get a frozen turkey, defrost it in the refrigerator for a few days first. It should take approximately 5 hours of defrosting for every pound. A 12 lb turkey would take about 60 hours to defrost, which would be 2 and a half days.

Remove the neck and giblets. I only save the neck for making turkey soup but some people like to use the giblets for stuffing or gravy.

2 Preheat the oven to 400°F.

3 Wash out the turkey with water. Pull out any remaining feather stubs in the turkey skin. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Mix the ½ cup Becel with a small handful of salt, dried rosemary, and dried thyme. This next part might sound strange but separate the skin of the turkey from the cavity to the breast. Slather the Becel mixture over the breasts under the skin of the turkey, and outside the turkey. Put the left over Becel mixture in the cavity along with the juice of a lemon.  If there was very little Becel mixture left to go into the cavity, rub a little more salt into the cavity of the turkey. Place the onions and carrots into the cavity until filled. If you like celery or other herbs, feel free to season your turkey with them.

4  Close up the turkey cavity with either string suitable for an oven. My friend once used nylon and it did not turn out pretty so definitely avoid this. Make sure that the turkey’s legs are tied together, held close to the body, and tie a string around the turkey body to hold the wings in close.

5 Sprinkle salt generously all over the outside of the turkey. Some people soak the turkey in salt-water brine. If you are doing the brine then you do not need to sprinkle additional salt. I always forget about the brine and the turkey turns out wonderful regardless. Next, sprinkle pepper over the turkey.

6 This part is a bit different, place the turkey breast down on the rack with the roasting pan underneath. Cooking the turkey upside-down allows all the juices flow down to the breasts while roasting.

7 Put the turkey in the oven. Check the cooking directions on your turkey packaging. In general turkeys take about 15 minutes for every pound. Cook at 400°F for the first 30 mins. Reduce heat to 350°F for the next 1.5 hours. Then reduce to 225°F for the remaining time (about 1 to 2 hours).

Insert meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh or breast an hour before it should be done. You should take the turkey out of the oven when the thigh reads 170°F or the breast reads 160°F.

Cooking the turkey upside-down means you get juicy turkey breasts but the skin over the breast does not brown. If you want the breast to be browned, you can turn the turkey over so that the breast is on top, and broil at 500°F for a few minutes. Watch the turkey carefully. Broil just until brown and beware not to overcook.

8 Once you remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Then carve and enjoy. Don’t forget all the trimmings!



1 Pour the juices from the pan into a glass cup or bowl. Separate the fat on top from the juices below and save it in a separate bowl.

2 Pour a few tablespoons of the fat into a skillet on medium/high. Once heated, mix in a few spoons of flour. Use enough flour that it becomes a very thick paste. It should be able to hold its shape. This will be your gravy base. It takes a couple minutes for the flour to cook and become a paste. Stir often to prevent from burning.

3 Slowly add the juices into your base a few spoonfuls at a time. Continue to stir and allow mixture to thicken.  Keep adding juices until gravy reaches your desired thickness. If you run out of juices, use chicken stock until it becomes the consistency you want. Pour into a ladle and enjoy with your turkey!

Note:  I prefer using flour in my gravy because I find corn starch gives gravy a gummy texture. If you do not have enough fat from your turkey to dissolve the flour, you can always use butter.

Resolute and Resolve

Home 2012

The first day of the year dawned a bright hopeful blue, warm, with no wind. Within an hour it had changed to overcast and drizzling. Usually not one to pin omens on weather, I must admit I sprung out of bed feeling hopeful, marvelling at the blue sky, full of energy and plans. Then the grey settled and I felt a bit gloomy and I’m sure it had nothing to do with Michael Ignatieff’s column which essentially said that the more we need to co-operate the less likely we are to do so. Then I pondered how we could possibly, as a nation, be so short-sighted as to let that one get away. I began to feel a bit cabin-feverish and said to myself “if only the weather would co-operate we could get outside, traipse through High Park and regain that feeling of new”. Eventually I reconciled myself to it being an indoor day and reflected on my new year’s resolution which is to be more thankful. In the end the first day of the year had its ups and downs, and is for that a microcosmic view of what most years are like and this is somehow comforting.

I’ve had this same resolution for two years running. In the past I had eschewed new year’s resolutions because I didn’t really see anyone I knew fulfilling theirs. It seemed like a sure way to set one’s self up for failure and I had already had enough of that in my angst-ridden twenties. I do remember one year taping a sign to my mirror that said “Gravity Always Wins” as a kind of anti-new year’s resolution. The line was stolen from Radiohead and now that I’m fifteen years older, the irony of taping a sign that proclaims gravity the victor to your mirror in your collagen years seems somehow much more ironic in a stupid kind of way. Then again, I used to think Iggy Pop’s “I’m Bored” was prophetic so what can I say.

Anyway, the resolution sounds pretty simple. Unlike quitting smoking or cutting out sweets, you probably won’t notice yourself cheating. I made the resolution last year after hearing the devastating news that a friend of mine had lost his little girl to cancer. We had been having a rocky time adjusting to two children, fighting off illness, weathering the economic storm and just generally trying to keep a handle on things. When I got that news, I felt sick and horrified and I reminded myself that I can endure pretty much anything but that and I should be bloody thankful for what I have. I have an awesome family, a happy home, my health, good friends, enough money to keep us fed and, as I always tell my daughter, my imagination to keep me company. The last bit sounds hokey but it is true: the idea of not finding inspiration anymore is quite depressing. So I tried to be thankful for the the big things (see above) and also for the small things: the first flower in my garden (almost always a crocus that pokes its head up briefly before the last frost then blackens it), five free minutes with a ginger and honey tea, hanging the last piece of washing, watching my daughter jump gamely off the side of the pool, a line of birds sitting on a wire outside my window, the oddly calming colour combination of dark grey and acid yellow, walking home on a snowy day with my son strapped inside my coat: my outside breath cold and his little puffs warming the inside my jacket.

Throughout the year, I tried to remind myself to step back and think about being thankful. It was kind of like critical reflection for my personal life and it was a nice little private space to have, even though I’m not sure whether I “fulfilled” the task or not. So this year again, I will remember to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth and just be….thankful.