Thursday, January 27, 2011

Twisted Fork Bistro, right now!

A very short post (and no photos, sadly - food didn't last long enough!) on where you can and should go if you're out of luck with reservations at any of the Dine Out Vancouver 2011 restaurants (earlier blurb on that here).

The Twisted Fork bistro (Granville street downtown, between Helmcken and Davie) is awesome for brunch (if you don't mind waiting - big lines and no reservations), and just as amazing for dinner and less chaotic.

And right now, they have a set menu ("Blue Fence Special" - under 'menus') for $25 including a salad (3 choices - we went for the roasted beet, pear, and arugula salad with goat cheese, and the warm wild mushroom salad with sourdough), a main (3 choices and I can't remember the other, but I went with the ling cod (which was arguably the best I've had and included homemade preserves like pickled/gingered squash which was awesome) and my partner had the braised lamb which was, of course, done to perfection) which came with cute little rolls fresh out of the oven (tastier than your typical with-dinner roll!), and then your choice of any of the desserts on their menu! I had the date and apple strudel with fresh raspberries and sour cream ice cream (not a fan, but fun to try), and monseiur ordered the creme brulee.

We went early, which turned out to be a good thing. Although the Blue Fence Special doesn't actually start until 6pm (ending at 7pm), we were offered it all the same. It's available Monday - Thursday; make sure you take advantage! That's $3 less than the $28 mid-range option at Dine Out, and the food is remarkable! Treat yourself to a nice night out mid-week - dress code is casual at The Twisted Fork.

(If you go on the first Sunday of every month, you can have a comfort-food 3 course meal for $25. I'll bet you $25 that it's totally worth it, too!).


Don't forget also that The Fish House in Stanley Park has their 20th Anniversary specials (Wednesdays only for the wintertime) for $20 a plate (earlier post here). It's a great time of year to treat yourself to some fine dining!

West Coast Seeds Order 2011

I just received my 2011 top-up of West Coast Seeds in the mail, and of course I'm so excited I have to share!

New things to try in a balcony setting! I'm not holding out big hopes for the eggplant...

Not only did they arrive within 5 days (and I ordered on a Sunday!), they also came with a bonus pack of seeds!

I wanted to buy the Bee Blend to help our local pollinators. I wasn't sure if the blend would suit my street garden, so I decided that maybe I shouldn't hoard these seeds myself when other people could make better use of them. That, and being functionally broke, I didn't want to spend extra money on seeds that won't produce food.

In my shipment of seeds (Champion collards, Fairytale eggplant, Blushing Beauty sweet peppers, Bright Lights swiss chard, Sweet Million cherry tomato, Winterkeeper Lutz beets, and Bandit leeks . . . the Romano pole beans must be backordered or something because I wasn't charged), a Pollinator Blend of "thank you" seeds came along with my order.

Ah yeah! Untreated, non-GMO seeds to help our bees and pollinators! For free!

And I suddenly have the perfect place(s) to put these. Funny how that works!

West Coast Seeds didn't advertise the special 'bonus' of a wildflower blend, but maybe if you place your order today or tomorrow, you'll also receive a bonus seed pack!

Pretty excited about this order! It will be the first time I try growing collards, eggplant, pepper, swiss chard and leeks in my balcony garden. This is especially fortuitous timing since someone (ahem) forgot to cover her winter crop seedlings in that cold spell before Christmas and lost pretty much everything. Now that the daffodils are budding in the courtyard at work, and the bluebell bulbs sprouted in cold storage on the deck, I get the feeling that nature has decided spring will be coming early this year.

The Lee Valley spade was a birthday gift from my lovely, lovely, lovely man!

So long as I'm planting cold-hardy plants, I think it's safe to say that seed starting is going to start as soon as I have a spare evening! Which may not be 'til after the wedding this summer . . .

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Helpful Things: Cookie Cutter Storage & Ketchup on Copper

Martha calls them "Good Things", and I call them "Helpful Things", mostly because I don't wish to have a word with her patent lawyers.

Cookie Cutter Storage:

I have a small, crappy old apartment. I like it, f in spite of its shortcomings and certainly not because of them. The bathtub is chipped (which is also a good thing, because it means less and less 'dusty rose' everytime it happens) and the drain is clogged. I have two broken windows (they were like that when I moved in) and the sliding door works only on occasion. The kitchen sink's seals are gone and water pours into the counter below. I have broken, stained and cracked faux-bedrock lineoleum tiles in my very small kitchen, and definitely a lack of useful storage. Where do the cookie cutters go?

I went to, which I quite enjoy, but I couldn't find a useful tip. I did, however, discover that some people have some sort of cookie cutter kleptomania which compells them to fill several large Tupperware containers full of them. Frightening! Some people build display cases... perhaps not my recommendation.

Surely Martha wouldn't let me down! But no - no hints on where to store cookie cutters when you're short on storage space!

Screw it, I'm coming up with my own idea! Here it is - buy a pack of clear thumbtacks and hang the cutters in the back of one of your least-stuffed cupboards (mine was the drinking glasses and mugs cupboard). They look kind of cool, you can see your inventory at a glance, and they can even help to detract from the many cosmetic (and perhaps even structural) blemishes haunting the cabinets of 1960's apartment buildings everywhere.

Cleaning Copper with Ketchup (Catsup for you Americans!):

Now this really is exciting news for me, with my absurd collection of copper jelly moulds! (Incidentally, if you enjoy reading my blog and have a spare copper or copper-toned jelly mould you'd like to part with, please leave a comment below and I'll send you my mailing address...!).

My lovely youngest brother gave me a few copper antiques for Christmas this year, as well as an awesome mould for my birthday. The large copper kettle wouldn't make it into "My Favourite Things" from the Sound of Music - it was anything but 'bright'. The old coffee percolater was a little closer to still having that 'copper' colour to it, but was also in need of help. And the awesome jelly mould? It wasn't quite meshing with the others....

Before & After photos . . . didn't realise getting the lighting right would be so hard!

Being environmentally conscious (and also broke - this also factors in), I didn't really want to buy a tin of Brass-o or Tarn-X or whatever that awful, pungent chemical formulation is. I figured there must be some clever redox reaction I could employ that would negate the use of such harsh chemicals. So I did a Google search - ketchup came up. So did half a lemon dipped in salt. Ketchup?! Okay, so it's slightly acidic (vinegar and all that) but it's also full of red food dye and obscene amounts of sugar (not a diet food, FYI) - is this a conspiracy from the Heinz people, or does smearing your copper pots with a film of hot dog condiment actually work?

All you need is copper and ketchup, but salt and vinegar adds more power!

It works! Instructions here, but you basically just let it sit for about 20 minutes and wipe it off under running warm water and dry thoroughly. It's cheap, a little messy (but so would the toxic polishes be), safe (non-toxic!), and probably much less harmful to the ecosystem, all things taken together. It is also a convenient way to use up another quarter of the giant squeeze bottle (or two) that are lurking in the back of your fridge from your camping trips last summer. I'm sure they don't go off quickly, but one does like to use up old condiments.

For the tougher jobs (like the brown kettle), it has been suggested to add a little vinegar and some salt (for scouring). I did this on the 2nd round. The jelly mould wasn't nearly as tarnished, and straight ketchup worked fine.

Lid wiped clean; ketchup, salt and vinegar scrub still on kettle

One thing to mention - use a rag. I used a perfectly good washing-up cloth, and it's now this bizarre red and green mottled colour on top of the existing blue plaid. Whoops.

I was pretty sure the lid didn't match the kettle - now I know for sure! Handle wasn't cleaned with ketchup...

Apologies to the Tarn-X company for repeating this information to potential new converts to the copper-ketchup-craze. I'll make up for it when I buy your Power Plumber (equivalent to the 'One Second Plumber' compressed gas canister available in Canada) - that bathtub drain won't unclog itself, and it doesn't appear that our landlord will be bothered in this decade.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sari Bari - amazing blog, amazing merchandise

Sari Bari is a small company operating in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. It was the result of inspired, saintly women from the Western world living within the abject poverty of the streets of Kolkata, looking for a way to help the sex-trade workers in their adoptive neighbourhood.

Sari Bari's vision statement:
Sari Bari seeks the sustainable restoration of red light communities and the prevention of the exploitation of women and children in the commercial sex trade.
I don't have much to add, as I think their blog says it all. Follow this link to their blog - the last entry alone was enough to grab my interest.

Here's some more from their 'history' section:
Sari Bari opened in 2006, after four years of steady presence in the red light areas of Kolkata, India. 
Kolkata hosts more than 22 red light areas and more than 60,000 women work in its commercial sex industry. Sari Bari operates in two of these red light districts: Sonagacchi and Kalighat. Most of the women and girls working there come from the villages of West Bengal, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. They never chose the sex trade for themselves; poverty, trafficking and trickery chose them.
Sari Bari began with a series of friendships that transformed our worldview and in fact, our lives. The first relationship came to us by chance; our friend Josh went to the barber and was offered sexual services when his haircut was finished. Rather than accept, Josh started a conversation. That simple conversation led our community to begin visiting the brothels. 

Not surprisingly, the immense need in Kolkata can be overwhelming. In the interview I saw, Sarah (one of the founders) said that they don't look beyond the brothel in front of them, and simply continue to reach out to these hopelessly marginalized women one at a time.
New life at Sari Bari starts with a simple invitation. We have a team of staff who visits the red light areas, keeping connections open and making opportunities for new friendship a priority. The team offers presence to the women’s current circumstances and invitations to work at Sari Bari or partnering businesses.
Another thing that makes this organization different (and cool) is that each woman's name (not her street name, her real name) is sewn into each blanket, bag or scarf she makes, in a way redeeming her true identity from the polluted and grim streets of the city.
Everyone’s first day at Sari Bari is celebrated with a birthday cake. The staff gathers around on these special days to celebrate and encourage the new women as they take their first step toward freedom and a new life. Their mukti (freedom) birthday is marked and we continue to celebrate it yearly with cake and a community celebration. As Sari Bari has grown, we celebrate a mukti birthday almost every month!
I just bought my first Sari Bari item this morning online - shipping was a little high (from the USA to Canada - why online retailers always have to use USPS's expensive priority option to Canada is beyond me, but there you have it! $21 for shipping!). But if you live in the USA, you're in luck! Take advantage!

It's mine! All mine! Muwhahaha! But you can get one, too! :)

$35.99 for a purse/bag is a pretty good deal (especially with the Canadian dollar at or above par with the American), and what a fantastic industry to support.

BEST DEAL: Cheery red-inset large jute market bag for $6.99 - that's a great bargain!

It's green (recycled fabric!), it's ethical, and it's affordable! One-of-a-kind and still affordable - now that's a good deal.

I'll post my own photos of my Jiya bag when it arrives, and let you know what I think. The only real downside I can see to Sari Bari's website is the limited availability (for obvious reasons - it's not like they operate huge sweatshops and turn out 1000's of cheaply made items). Perhaps, then, we can purchase what is available, or simply donate what money we can spare today (maybe even $10?), to support future production and get more women celebrating their 'freedom birthdays' with the Sari Bari folks in Kolkata.

I found other places that sell Sari Bari products! If you can't find it on, try here:
Better Way Imports and Global See-Saw

Sunday, January 16, 2011

You’re too good for coffee line-ups and bad café music

Making my own coffee at home has proven to be one of the best money-saving ventures yet! Not only that, I routinely enjoy better coffee, and much better moods now that I don't have to put up with the truly awful music and irritating patrons.

Forgive me the following quick rant:
Dear Physicians, Nurses and other lab coat and scrub-donning health care workers at St Paul's and at VGH,
Given what you know of fomites and nosocomial diseases, do you actually believe it prudent to bring your lab coat, scrubs and stethoscope into a restaurant or cafe? Or are you just too arrogant to care? What of the Hippocratic oath, eh? "I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure." Does not dissemination of the community-acquired MRSA or the tiny aerosols from old man Jenkin's tuberculotic sputum adorning your ever-so-important looking lab coat into the local Starbucks constitute a direct violation of your 'do no harm' mantra? I have a lab coat - I would never, ever risk exposing anyone but me what those cotton-poly fibres have probably picked up, and I'm not even touching patients! Perception, my dear professionals, perception. How competent can you be if you're wearing your surgical gown in line for a croissant and latte? Not very, one might argue.... Please leave the lab coats at the clinic the next time you're in dire need of a caffeine jolt!
Sincerely, me with the average immune system
Right, back to my happy realization that a coffee maker at the apartment really can improve your morning! Coffee isn't cheap, so expect to spend some money up front. But I can promise you that if you do the math, it's possible that you can pay off the initial investments within a month (depending on how much coffee you typically drink).

Consider the following (ooh, Bill Nye flashback!): you check your credit card reward points and discover that you can get a drip-coffee maker or a Bodum/French-press for free. You can even buy a cool reusable coffee filter (made in BC!) to use in place of disposable filters (or your machine came with one). You do a little comparison shopping online between London Drugs, Canadian Tire and Home Hardware, and you find a rudimentary one-speed bean grinder for $12 (this is not the top of the line choice, FYI! Read the linked article if you're that person who needs the best of the best always, or if coffee is a lifestyle to you and not just a morning perk-up!).

A good-looking coffee maker on an ugly, ugly kitchen counter
Now all you need are beans, and here's where decisions really matter! 49th Parallel on Fourth sells freshly-roasted beans that are far superior to any others I've tried so far. They're not super cheap (about $15 per 454 gram bag), but the same 49th Parallel beans are sold elsewhere (Cho Pain bakery on Davie, The Gourmet Warehouse, etc.) and occasionally go on sale to $13. Or there's Salt Spring Coffee beans which you can buy at Costco in a much larger bag (908 grams) for about $18 (West Coast Blend, despite being a blend which suggests inferiority, is far smoother than any Kicking Horse or any Starbucks beans, the latter of which I do not recommend). Intelligentsia coffee (available at Wicked Cafes and other fine coffee shops) is also yummy. Give Starbucks and most grocery store labels a miss (Nabob, Maxwell House and Starbucks if you buy it at the grocery store are all owned or distributed by Kraft Canada - see price hike article at end of this post).

We like Epic Espresso from 49th Parallel
In this scenario (where you got the coffee maker itself for free), you'll be saving money almost instantly. Even if you have to fork out for the coffee machine, with some smart shopping (don't rule out second-hand necessarily! And check in with XS Cargo, too) you'll be in good shape. Getting the hang of French-press/Bodum coffee makers is a little tricky (i.e. you might have to spend more than $12 to get a grinder that will give the desired size of particle), but the system is a mechanically simple one and they tend to be much cheaper than a simple drip coffee maker.

Honestly, making your own coffee at home leads to simpler, pleasantly fragrant mornings (and fresher, better coffee). Fill up your travel mug with the second cup and head out the door. I'll bet you'll even lose a little excess weight this way - unless of course you have a display case chock full of danishes and cake slices at home.

A few articles to read over your less expensive homemade brew tomorrow morning:

 "Vancouver Considers By-Law on Paper Cups" -, Sept 16, 2008
 "Getting Coffee Prices Right" - The Straight, Aug 22, 2008
"Starbucks boosting some prices" - The Globe & Mail, Jan 12, 2010
"Countries Coffee Consumption per Capita" (2008 data) - Wikipedia
 "Kraft Canada Boosting Coffee Price" - The Star, Dec 15, 2010
"Coffee Prices in Canada Rise Next Month" - CBC, Sept 10, 2010

And a little online shopping (I just discovered this store today):

Friday, January 14, 2011

I'm swamped, so here's a hodge-podge post!

Today's random assortment of my thoughts includes:
  • An awesome Etsy artist who has inspired me to rip off her ideas (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all, right?!)
  • An upcoming Heart & Stroke Fundraiser I'm involved in that you may or may not be interested in attending
  • Dine Out Vancouver is COMING! January 24th 'til February 6th!
  • A quick preview on what will hopefully be an upcoming post by a guest author
  • Hayley Wickenheiser is in town, and you can see her tonight and Saturday for $2!
  • and some Green propaganda from my childhood, fondly remembered!
GiddySpinster - Etsy's latest Featured Seller
What a name! I read this lady's bio, saw her art and thought, yep, I'm going to add her to my mental list of contemporary 'heroes'!
Etsy is great in so many ways (and I don't really have the time or patience to expand on those ways here!), and one of my favourite aspects is their Storque blog where they interview some of the more intriguing artists of the masses who run their own 'Etsy stores'.
Read the interview with Rachel on Etsy, and check out those reclaimed stillettos with cacti! Brilliant, says I! Not just an ingenious (and attractive, I think) use of a reclaimed item, but I think it does suggest subtle undertones of feminist thought, too. Very poignant.

The 4th Annual Hoedown for Hearts - February 11th at a to-be-determined location!
Yes, if you've heard of our infamous Heart & Stroke Fundraiser that occurs 'round about Valentine's Day each year, you might be surprised to see that it won't be at The Boone County Country Cabaret this time! No, sadly our old wooden Boone has vanished into the past and has been (and is being) replaced by a new version which is not country, not wooden and honky tonk, not featuring local bluegrass bands but some mainstream DJ's playing mainstream Top-40 to a mainstream 20-something SFU undergrad crowd, not that there's anything wrong with that of course. No, it just simply does not possess enough of that old-West atmosphere that had us trekking all the way out to Coquitlam for a bar night!
So this year we're frantically trying to secure a new location (keep your fingers crossed for us!) to host our Hoedown!
For the record, I loathe most country music, most particularly the pop-stuff. But once a year, I will revel in the cowpoke spirit, put on my pair of boots (I bought them for a past Hoedown, and they only get out of the closet once a year!), and head on out for an awesome night of dancin', drinkin', raffles (a Jackson Grills BBQ, Canucks tickets, gift baskets, etc.), 50/50 draws, toonie tosses to win a bottle o' mind rot (typically Jack Daniels), and this year you can even vote in our guy's moustache competition (shudder - not my idea!).
This is the dullest time of year in Vancouver, so why not come out and make a ridiculous night of it with your friends, all to support a fantastic cause!

Dine Out Vancouver is BACK! January 24th to February 6th!
Yes, I'm excited! The 9th annual, involving 215 restaurants with fixed-price menus ($18, $28 and $38) in and around Vancouver!
By experience, it's worth going to the middle and upper price-range restaurants - give the cheap ones a miss, because this is your opportunity to try out the best of Vancouver's culinary scene for a very good price!
These prix fixe menus aren't limiting, either, as many restaurants offer choices in these special menus.
I've been to Chambar, Wild Rice, and Lumiere (Feenie's restaurant, gone now) in past events and really enjoyed the first two of those three.... sorry, Feenie. Nothing personal.
"Dine Out" is a great way to try new places, and to eat out at the finer places on a puny budget!
I highly recommend The Fish House in Stanley Park as well (Karen Barnaby is the executive chef, and she's very gifted) - and for another money saving tip, if you go to The Fish House on a Wednesday this winter, you can order from their 20th anniversary specials for just $20 a plate, which is an excellent idea! I recommend the cedar planked arctic char and sockeye. Parking is free after 6pm in their lot, too! Consider it!
My personal recommendations for Dine Out 2011:
Provence Marinaside and the one on 10th Ave are pretty tasty, too!
Too bad Burgoo, Vij's, and Twisted Fork and aren't included (go here another time!). Try Twisted Fork for brunch, but go early to avoid irritatingly long line-ups! The cat is out of the bag, it seems.

"Gendercide" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
My wonderful friend Jasmine has written a truly chilling but important essay on the violence and horrors in the South Kivu area of the DRC. This one will probably need a disclaimer - not for those sensitive to gender-based extreme violence, though you really shouldn't turn a blind eye to this.
Read up on the issue ahead of time here on the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative website:

Hayley Wickenheiser skating, Danielle Goyette coaching, and it only costs $2 and happens twice this weekend at UBC!
Cell phone image, sorry..
Danielle Goyette (left) and #22
Playing for the Dinos (coached by Danielle Goyette - my OTHER all-time favourite female hockey player!), Hayley Wickenheiser's team will be playing the UBC Thunderbirds Friday, Jan 14th and Saturday Jan 15th at the Doug Mitchell arena. With your UBC student card, it's only $2 admission!
Yep, that's my plans for the weekend! Two completely awesome athletes (Hayley: 3 Olympic golds, 1 silver; Danielle: 2 golds, 1 silver and the only goal in the gold medal game in 1998!) and I can watch them for pocket change! Seriously the best hockey deal I've ever been in on!

And finally, 'Stop the Smoggies', 'Captain Planet and the Planeteers', and of course, 'The Lorax'
I succumbed to peer pressure and changed my Facebook profile photo to a 90s cartoon I used to enjoy watching, and that was the cheaply done and rather campy "Stop the Smoggies". I think I mostly liked it because it was weird, but the anti-pollution revolution message was not lost on me! Video here! Listen to those lyrics for the intro sequence, eh?
Captain Planet was even dorkier, but yes, I watched it. I liked Linka from the USSR who had the power of wind. I think I identify with her, though my super powers of 'wind' only promote the greenhouse gas effect, so maybe not. Hmm. Intro video here!
The beloved Lorax by Dr Seuss is still one of my favourite childhood stories, and I cannot plead with you enough to read this to your kids, your neighbour's kids, your friend's kids, and any kid that will sit still long enough to listen. Hey, I just found someone reading it on YouTube!
For a more recent example of some fantastic green propaganda involving food production in the garden and pesticide-free agriculture (or maybe it's just me reading into that!), check out my earlier post on Dirt Girl!

Monday, January 10, 2011

By Donation Yoga (YYoga), and Thoughts on Safe Water

Happy 2011 dear readers! Hope it's the best year for you yet!

from Sarah Jamieson's blog (links below)

The wonderful, warm-hearted Sarah Jamieson is spreading the word about by-donation yoga classes at YYoga, proceeds going to "Off the Mat, Into the World". This charity has an international service project each year (2011 will be Haiti) to support communities in crisis. An excerpt from their website:

Each year, OTM sponsors an international service project called the Global Seva Challenge. The Global Seva Challenge is a transformational journey that builds community, provokes critical consciousness about global issues of social justice and equity, and raises significant funds to support communities in crisis. In our first three years, the Global Seva Challenge has raised over $1.5 million dollars for NGO’s in Cambodia, Uganda and South Africa and has left a powerful legacy in the communities we have served. In 2011, our Seva Challenge will be focused on meeting critical needs and creating long term sustainable solutions in Haiti.
OTM empowers Seva Challenge participants to raise a total of $20,000 each and asks them to do so through collaborating with their local communities. Engaging directly in the Seva grassroots fundraising process builds leadership skills and cultivates dedication and passion to the core mission of the project. Upon reaching their fundraising goal, participants embark on the Bare Witness Tour, a journey abroad where they will spend two weeks working directly with the organizations their funds support.

The Results...
2008 | Cambodia Seva Challenge: $524,000
2009 | Uganda Seva Challenge: $577,000
2010 | South Africa Seva Challenge: $529,000
2011 | Haiti: You decide!
So the very good news for us is that we can try out yoga classes at YYoga, by donation, and support this worthy cause at the same time as working off some of the holiday calories stored up in our bodies! They ask for $10 as a minimum donation, and I can't think of a better way to ease your way into a New Year's workout than by trying a few by-donation classes that you can feel good about on many levels!

Locations and participating classes are posted on Sarah's blog under "By Donation Classes at YYoga".

On another note, I attended a fantastic sermon by Mike Yankoski (author of "Under the Overpass" and co-editor of a new book, "Zealous Love") yesterday that involved some content regarding access to clean water in the world outside of our privileged corner. It was uplifting and encouraging, and not many sermons on the subject of clean water and extreme poverty are.

Mike Yankoski had a great line in his sermon (will be uploaded to the Tenth Church website soon), which I have paraphrased from memory - "When you had a glass of water this morning, or frozen Minute Maid orange juice you made up from a can, did you wonder if it was lethal? Did you worry about serving it to your children?" (It was the 'Minute Maid' that did it for me. I think my parents must've made up a small lake's worth of that stuff in the 80's alone!).

The answer, I hope, is no. And yet I never really take time to be thankful that we do have clean water. I hate that it's a luxury among the human race. I hate the fact that parents bury their children from Typhoid Fever again and again. All of it is so preventable. The stats are literally astounding - I won't overwhelm you with them (I think Mike mentions them in the sermon if you are interested; link below to UN report does also).

Charity organizations bringing help where it is most needed deserve our support, and I'm happy to share the word about YYoga's by-donation classes. $10 for drop-in yoga isn't so bad, either!

It was the 28th of July, 2010 that the UN general assembly declared access to safe drinking water and sanitation a basic human right, and that they resolve to . . . well, I'm not sure what they have resolved to do, if anything, though have heard that there was a push to increase access to safe water drastically for the 884 million who don't (whoops - said I wouldn't overwhelm you with stats!).

I wonder where we as a global population are on that issue. I can't say I've done much myself in terms of digging trenches and helping fit pumps, but I can at least say that I've supported some wonderful NGO's that are working towards it.

  OxFam Unwrapped Canada - "Safe Water" gift - $22

 $15 000 to drill a well (World Vision). Yes, you could raise this money! Be creative - how can you raise funds?

Above three photos: All from World Vision Canada's "Water" gifts catalogue website page (Top - Emergency Water and Sanitation for a Family - $100; Middle - Water Filter for One Family - $75; Bottom - Clean Water for a Family - $100).

Rather humbling, isn't it? I go to the tap all the time without ever once thinking about how insanely fortunate I am to not have to worry if the water I need to drink is contaminated with human or animal feces. Think of this next time you wash your hands, do the dishes or simply go for a drink! It's almost hard to imagine - I'm going to take a bath right after I post this, maybe boil some water for some tea (I have a cold - I need lots of fluids. And a cold doesn't even compare to Cholera....!).

 UNICEF Canada'a Gifts of Magic - Gift of Water page

My hope for 2011 is that we (you and I and everyone we know) make a concerted effort to try to help the people of the world access safe drinking water. You only have to hear Mike's sermon on the mom and dad in Northern Uganda and the 10 little graves to realise why this cause needs huge support.

It's 2011. Everyone should have clean water.