Tea and the old wives’ tale

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Ah …. never one to cast aspersions on anyone, let alone old wives, Her Ladyship (that would be me!) must take exception and debunk an old wives tale.

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Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Does anyone remember teapots lined with tannic – that brown coating inside the teapot? And the rule never to wash out the teapot because the tannin liner made good tea?

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Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

The fact the layer of tannin rendered tea bitter doesn’t seem to have mattered.

This is one old wives’ tales that can be flushed.

If your teapot accumulates a light coating of tannin, fill the teapot with hot water, add up to four teaspoons of baking soda, stir to dissolve and let sit for a couple of hours. Rinse thoroughly. Avoid using soap or detergent on the side of your teapot as much as possible, as any lingering taste could spoil the tea.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Photo: A. Mirabelli

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: A. Mirabelli

Where every mind matters!

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On Tuesday November 18, in Toronto, every mind will be celebrated!

Our blog today is an invitation to our readers who live in the Greater Toronto Area to attend this celebratory breakfast.

Her Excellency Sharon Johnston will discuss the impact mental health has on our society. Her keynote address, titled Pathways to Resiliency, will draw on personal experience, the importance of speaking out and fighting the stigma associated with mental illness.

Official Portrait HRX Sharon Johnston

Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, C.C. Photo credit: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall © Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada represented by the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General (2014)

This celebration of every mind is a breakfast to support the Psychology Foundation of Canada’s programs to help children become confident and productive adults.

Why is Her Ladyship (that would be me!) promoting this event? Because …

In Canada, one out of every five children shows signs of an emotional or behavioural problem. One in four children enter adult life with significant emotional, behavioural, academic or social problems. Bullying from the school yard to the boardroom is an increasingly worrisome occurrence. And after accidents, suicide is the most frequent cause of death among young people in Canada. This is not as it should be.

To reserve your place:

10th Annual Breakfast in support of the Psychology Foundation of Canada
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Arcadian Court, 401 Bay Street

Info
Psychology Foundation of Canada
2 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 800
Toronto ON M4T 2T5
phone: 416.644.4944
info@psychologyfoundation.org

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Red Chili Chocolate Cupcakes

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Red Chili Chocolate Cupcakes.

Oh my! What a taste adventure. Here is a not-to-be missed recipe for anyone with a palate craving heat and sweetness in one mouthful. The recipe comes   from the new cookbook, Flex APPEAL authored by to of our favourite culinarists – Nettie Cronish and Pat Crocker.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

These cupcakes are very, very good. So good they are officially part of our afternoon tea menus. Her Ladyship  (that would be me!) recommends an orange pekoe or a Darjeeling tea paired with these cupcakes.

So without further ado, the recipe.

Red Chili Chocolate Cupcakes

  • Servings: 12-15
  • Time: 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

150 gr milk chocolate bar
2 tablespoon finely diced red chilies (stem, seeds and membrane removed)
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cacoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

In a medium bowl, coarsely grate the chocolate. Add the finely diced chilies and cherries. Stir together and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift flour, cacao, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add chocolate-chillii mixture. Stir together.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs with oil with a whisk until well blended. Gradually add milk and vanilla. Whisk until foamy.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combind.

Spoon the mixture into muffin cups, lighly oiled, filling each cup two-thirds full.

Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool. Enjoy! 

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

 

Afternoon tea with Judith John, serial optimist

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Dear readers and tea lovers everywhere,

Welcome to a regular feature of our blog,

‘Afternoon tea with …. 
people of note’

Today, we’re taking afternoon tea with Judith John, a serial optimist and a passionate patient care advocate. Despite curve balls here and there, Judith is always smiling. Always looking for the best in people. Always finding goodness. And that is why Her Ladyship (that would be me!) is delighted to introduce this amazing lady.

Organizations like the United Way of Toronto and major hospitals like Mount Sinai and the internationally renowned Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) and cultural organizations like Harbourfront and the Art Gallery of Ontario have benefitted from her passion and professionalism. Today, these two traits are in the service of the University Health Network and Sick Kids where Judith consults on patient care – from the patient’s perspective.

As a senior executive in the health care sector and, for the past 14 years, a serious consumer of health care, Judith has seen life from both sides. Diagnosed with a benign, but growing, inoperable brain tumour, Judith embarked on a new journey and plotted the map for looking ‘at life from both sides now’, (with appreciation to Joni Mitchell).

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Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: A. Mirabelli

Judith’s favourite tea is English Breakfast with a little milk. Her Ladyship is happy to oblige and soon two cups of tea are poured (digitally!) and our conversation begins.

But first, here’s Judith!

How did you discover you had a brain tumour?
Well, it was a very incidental finding. 14 years ago I was treated for a basal cell cancer and at the end of the treatment my doctor ordered a CT scan to ensure we had eradicated it. We had! But what a shock to discover a tumour in my brain. The tumour was on the pituitary gland; it was benign but it was growing and impacting many sensitive areas. As you saw on the video, I am still on the journey to curb the tumour.

You are very careful to characterize this exercise as a journey.
Yes! It is journey I travel every day, one day at a time. And along the way, I remain very grateful for the excellent health care I continue to receive and for a health system that doesn’t bankrupt you!

What made you become such a passionate advocate for patient care?
I’ve seen health care from both sides – I was a hospital executive at the table working on key metrics to determine successful care and then I put on the blue gown. Those metrics narrow as a patient! The video shares the trigger points and my passion comes from ensuring hospital staff treat the patient as a person, not as a hospital number. I try to help hospitals establish humane pathways to care and recovery because it’s so easy for a patient to get lost in the system.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Are you pleased with the results of your efforts?
Faculties of Medicine in Ontario are going to use the video in the curriculum and 12 Ontario hospitals have made the video mandatory viewing for residents. So yes, I am gratified with the results but there is more to do. All hospitals wrestle with this issue, and I’m pleased with the active commitment demonstrated by the University Health Network (Toronto General, Toronto Western, Princess Margaret and Toronto Rehab) on the issue of patients as partners.

Patients as partners – this is key on your pathway to care and recovery.
Absolutely! Patients must become partners in their healthcare. They must be prepared to have a dialogue with their healthcare providers. They must ask questions and be prepared to question the answers sometimes. Don’t be passive. Health care providers don’t always come forward – whether because of pressure, time, competing demands, or even to avert burnout – but they all go into healthcare because they want to help people, so you should feel comfortable asking for that help. Patients have the right to be heard, to understand what they’re hearing and the right to be involved in their choices.

You have much to be proud of – are you enjoying your role as a patient advocate?
The only way I can make sense of this disappointing detour in my life is to believe that my experience can help others. Along with many life lessons through all this, I do like being a patient advocate.

Another cup of tea, Judith?
Oh yes please, that would be lovely!

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: photo Bake and Be Merry

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: photo Bake and Be Merry

How do define downtime?
Reading, watching a classic movie, petting the dogs, walks, time with family.

What is you favourite moment of the day?
I love mornings! It must be the optimist in me.

What is your go to method to cheer yourself up?
Dogs always cheer me up. And fresh flowers.

What skill would you like to learn?
I would like to become more tech savvy – I’m a notorious techno nerd; and I also want to learn to play the piano.

What never fails to make you laugh?
Laughing itself. I adore a good laugh, especially if it’s the result of sharing joke with my daughters. Also Tina Fey always makes me laugh.

How do you make your life less stressful?
I take a deep breath; take pleasure in the moment; and walk, walk, walk. I am annoyingly grateful for the small stuff!

If you can choose any person from history to teach you any topic you want, who would it be a, and what do s/he teach you?
Eleanor Roosevelt because she based her life on a genuine moral foundation and her lesson to me would be how to set goals based on your value system, and not be distracted.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: Wikipedia photo credit

Wikipedia photo credit

How do you celebrate big moments?
By taking note of the celebration, being with family and friends.

Toronto Symphony or Tegan and Sara?
Toronto Symphony, but truth be told, I prefer Tafelmusik.

Who is your favourite author?
TS Elliot.

What is your favourite work of art?
The Dance by Matisse.

Wikipedia photo credit

Wikipedia photo credit

How would you love to spend a summer day?
On a lake with people I love.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Easy: gelato, as often as possible.

What would you like to have invented?
The rolling suitcase. Or the post it note. I guess I should say something lofty like penicillin.

What is most awe-inspiring country you’ve ever visited?
Italy.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
To pay attention. And stand by what you stood for.

What is your favourite season?
Spring.

What is your workout philosophy?
All things in moderation and keep moving.

What is your workout routine?
Walking, aquafit, Pilates, yoga.

imagesWhat is the best surprise you’ve ever had?
My family came north (Judith is from the US) for my birthday – but the bigger surprise was that my daughters planned the surprise.

 

What is your favourite article of clothing?
A pashmina or a cardigan.

Which contemporary celebrity do you admire?
George Clooney – but, alas, he didn’t wait to meet me before getting married!

What are the principal aspects of your personality?
Optimism for sure, a good sense of humour and perspective, insatiable curiosity and open-mindedness, a passionate, commitment to issues and important causes, and an extrovert’s need for wonderful people in my life.

What you appreciate the most in your friends?
Loyalty, open-mindedness, curiosity and humour. And never, ever, apathy!

What would you consider to be your main fault?
I don’t know how to say no; I care too much about certain things, take them very personally, and am often on a soapbox trying to convince others that what I believe matters, matters!

What is your favourite food?
I’m known as the salad queen! Tomatoes and strawberries at the top of the list.

What are three little know facts about you?
I make the world’s best cheesecake. I was a cheerleader in school and that’s been my profession, too. I am a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society (oldest honour society in the US for academic achievement).

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

What do you bring on a long light to make yourself comfortable?
Enough reading material and a soft pashmina.

When on vacation, do you focus on luxury, adventure or relaxation?
Never luxury! I like to pack a lot into a vacation – I want to see everything, walk through towns and villages, visit museums and stately homes. Not really a lounge on the beach person: I don’t want to miss anything.

What is the most amazing thing you have ever done?
Having two beautiful daughters.

What is your current hobby?
Getting through all this without a whine. Writing.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Keep things in perspective, pay attention to the moments, and don’t be so hard on yourself.

How do you indulge your inner kid?
Very simple – I spend time with non judgmental dogs and make friends with younger people.

Her Ladyship has poured (digitally!) the final cups of tea and she raises her cup in a toast to this very caring, wonderfully courageous and outrageously fun lady.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas:  A. Mirabelli

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: A. Mirabelli

 

Afternoon tea without servants

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Dowtnon Abbey has spoiled us forever. We are clearly addicted. The clothes, the afternoon teas, the hired help. Need we say more?

We are grateful to mythical Lord and Lady Grantham for sharing their daily lives with us. Tradition! Progress! A bygone gentility!

This gave Her Ladyship (that would be me!) pause for thought. What’s a lady without servants to do? This thought triggered a little research and here is a gem gleaned from the 1932 American Cookery, courtesy of  the website Food Timeline.

Herewith:
The hostess will choose a firm, steady table, not more than 28 inches high, for convenience in pouring, and her seat will be high enough to dominate this table.  Cups, Saucers, Plates, Spoons, Cream jug, (Oh no! Surely not! Her Ladyship is aghast – cream is too heavy for tea – always milk), Sugar and covered Slop Bowls  in such a way that the hostess can conveniently reach them. Saucers and plate may be stacked, the plates with napkins between them. Cups should never be stacked. Spoons may lie in a row, or be fitted ‘spoonwise’ into one another. Samovar or teapot towards front.

small ladyship set up

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: Elisa Rouleau

The victuals would consist of:
Bread, Sandwiches, and Cake may be placed on the farther side of the table, for guests to help themselves. The Tea Wagon, or Cart, or even a small table, may go at the left of the hostess, for extra china. This is better than overloading the table. The Curate, or three-tiered basket or stand, is often used for bread (on its top shelf), sandwiches (on its middle), cake (on its lower compartment), and in this way it may be informally carried round the room and its contents offered to guests. All this preparation should be completed before the guests arrive. (We should hope so!).

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: Elisa Rouleau

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: Elisa Rouleau

And the Bill of Fare comprised of:
There are sometimes hot, buttered rolls, but the thin-slcied English bread-and-butter is preferred, provided there is a skilled cuttter. Assorted Sandwiches. These may be open or closed, toasted or plain, and the shapes and fillings as novel as possible. Examples are: Pimiento Butter and Brie Cheese, Lemon Butter and Fig Paste, Horse-radish and Tongue, Sifted Nectarines, (Her Ladyship must do additional research – sifted nectarines are a sandwich filling? Hmmm); Chicken Livers and Tomato, Maple Cream and Chopped Nuts. Cakes: The most convenient are cookies or very small cakes, richly frosted and in paper cases. Beverages, etc. Tea alone is served at such a simple and homey affair, and choice of weak or strong, with or without cream, etc., provides sufficient variety. Nuts and bonbons may or may not be provided.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas; Elisa Rouleau

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: Elisa Rouleau

And the protocol for guests dictated:
Guests at such an infomral affair enter unannounced and with their outdoor things on. (Her Ladyship  wonders how guests are to dispense of their ‘outdoor things’? A maid perhaps lurks by or were guests meant to take tea with their ‘outdoor things’ on?). If the hostess is seated at the tea table (as she usually is), they will advance at once to be greeted by her, and she will at once inquire their preferences as to sugar, lemon, etc. (the spiced syrup is novel and delicious and goes well with lemon), and fill their cups. Guests help themselves to breads and cakes, and sit while enjoying them. There is no limit to the refilling of cups at tea, and a guest may take her ‘empty’ to the source of supplies six or more times. Before each refill the hostess will empty the dregs into the covered slop bowl.

And so it was back in the mists of time. Today hip hostesses call on Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas to prepare and serve a proper English afternoon tea.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas, Elisa Rouleau

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas: Elisa Rouleau

 

The LIST, October 2014

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At the start of every month, we offer you a short list of pleasant activities to consider, some focused on afternoon tea, some not.

Herewith five suggestions for month of October 2014

October is the month when we come face to face with the changing season: Summer into winter; winter into summer. We begin to seriously alter our routines, our diet, our exercise patterns. To celebrate and embrace the changing season, Her Ladyship (that would be me!) is recommending time off by taking tea in some of the world’s nicest tearooms.

Credit: Westin Moana Surfrider Resort

 

We begin in Hawaii at the Moana Surfrider with a relaxing and refined experience – afternoon tea on the Victorian veranda right on Waikiki. The Moana Surfrider Tea Time Tradition includes sweet pastries, finger sandwiches, traditional scones with Devonshire clotted cream and lemon curd to accompany a selection of fine teas, steeped or served iced cold.

 

Next, we stop by Shanghai to take tea at Song Fang Maison du Thé. Song Fang (née Florence Samson in Paris) specializes in the finest quality Chinese and French teas for

Song Fangsale and to savour on the premises. Florence graduated from HEC Paris and Harvard Business School and worked for Dior cosmetics in Russia and China before becoming General Manager of Veuve Clicquot in China. She left the LVMH group to start the Song Fang tea company, as she wanted to share her passion for premium teas and the Chinese culture. She has succeeded admirably.

 

cha chaOur next port of call is Taipei City, where another leader transformed herself into a high priestess of the tea room. Chen Tsai-Hsia, designer and founder of Taiwan fashion house Shiatzy Chen and who only yesterday (September 30) rolled out her spring – summer 2015 collection at the Grand Palais in Paris, spent years of reflection to create Cha Cha Thé with the express goal of championing Chinese esthetics in the art of taking tea. Her five outlets in Taipei and one outside the city proves she has a winning concept.

 

GoringAfternoonTeaAward2013_210x126Next, we stop by the Mother Country before returning to North America, to partake in London’s finest afternoon tea experience. It’s a given that taking afternoon tea is the ultimate way of catching up with friends, or simply chilling out. A century ago, The Goring Hotel, London’s ultimate boutique luxury hotel and venue of the Middleton family sleepover on the eve of Kate’s nuptials, embarked on a journey to master the perfect Afternoon Tea. They did. The result is truly divine, an afternoon tea prepared and presented with unrivalled passion and dedication from each and every Goring staff. The Goring holds the British Tea Guild Council 2013 Top London Afternoon Tea Award and The Award of Excellence. 

And finally we cross the Pond to land in Manhattan for tea at one of Her Ladyship’s favourite venues: Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon. And we’ve already taken tea at Mrs Mendle’s in New York. Our peregrinations in search of excellent tearooms did lead us to the Inn at Irving Place in the historic Gramercy Park area, home to Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon.

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Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon is one of the loveliest Tea Salons we have ever encountered. The ambiance is  very proper and you will enjoy a most excellent five-course tea, consisting of classic finger sandwiches, fresh baked scones with clotted cream and jams, and a large selection of fine teas.

 

220px-ElsiedewolfeThis is Lady Mendl in her prime.

We are looking for modern day Lady Mendls – ladies who make it their passion to discover tea rooms all over the world. Her Ladyship (that would be me!) would be delighted to receive comments about taking tea anywhere in the world. Please drop us a note with the name of your tea room, the city it’s located in, its URL and finally your name – although this bit is optional. Please provide the info about your fave tea rooms through Comments. Thank you!

 

Of teapots and teacups – the (very) short history

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Porcelain teapots came to Europe from China in the 17th Century. We thank the Portuguese and Dutch sea captains for their wisdom.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

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Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

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Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

China cups followed, in waves. The first teacups were small bowls – they too came from the Orient; handles – the ‘ear’ – were added to the bowls a century later and by the 19th Century when tea became more affordable, the cups became bigger. And because the cups were larger, matching saucers were added to pick up any sloshing tea.

Buck Lake Collection

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

E. Rouleau

E. Rouleau

E. Rouleau

E. Rouleau

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Early British teapots were made of silver and were the norm, but what with one thing or another, drinking tea became the national craze in the 19th Century. This national craze for drinking tea coincided with Queen Victoria’s glorious reign. images-1The Queen’s glorious reign and the national appeptite for tea gave rise to a subset of a bourgeoning manufacturing industry in England: The English Potteries, which produced, inter alia, tea sets to satisfy the national craze.

In Her Ladyship’s opinion, (that would me!), only a fine bone china teapot will do, so when you are shopping for your teapot here is what you should look for:

First, we believe the teapot should be beautiful – of structure and design. And as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you are the only one to be the judge.

Secondly, the teapot must be easy to lift and your knuckles should not touch the side of the teapot.

Thirdly, the teapot must have a hole in the lid to allow air to enter the pot the tea is being poured. This will stop the spout from dripping and splashing when tea is poured.

And finally, your teapot should have a protrusion on the lid to keep in place while the pot is being tilted.

Enjoy your simply splendid afternoon tea!

 

 

Anne Day and the Company of Women

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Dear readers and tea lovers everywhere,

Welcome to a regular feature of our blog,
‘Afternoon tea with …. 
people of note’

Today, we’re taking afternoon tea with Anne Day, founder of Company of Women, a community of like-minded entrepreneurial women who gain support, confidence and connections to grow professionally, personally, and as Anne likes to note, profoundly.

“Our lives are a tapestry with different threads woven into the fabric of who we are, and who we can become. Through Company of Women, we weave wisdom, warmth and wellness into everyday life.  We want to inspire women to achieve their full potential and to realize their dreams,” says Anne

Anne Day, Founder of Company of Women

Anne Day, Founder of Company of Women

Throughout her career, Anne’s focus has always been on helping women and children. She’s held leadership roles in the non-profit sector, has worked in government on women’s issues and was editor of a national parenting magazine. And then established her own successful consultancy. But working at home is isolating. “I sensed other women likely felt the same way too. So in 2003 I started Company of Women as a way to meet up and connect with other women entrepreneurs,’ says Anne. Company of Women took off and became an influential organization. In 2005 Anne shuttered the consulting business and focused on growing Company of Women.

Company of Women mug

Today Company of Women has six chapters in Toronto and its environs and over 300 members who attend more than 80 events a year to grow professionally, personally and profoundly. It has also garnered a slew of recognition for enabling women. Success seems almost guaranteed when your mantra is: Be bold, be brave, belong.

Born and raised in Scotland, Anne immigrated to Canada with her husband over 35 years ago.  They have two lovely daughters and a puppy named Brodie. Anne has written three books: Courage to Succeed: Inspiring Stories by Enterprising Women, Faces of Opportunity, a book which is a fundraiser for Opportunity International and Day by Day: Tales of Business, Life, and Everything in Between. Both books and the mug are available from the Company of Women website.

daybyday_smallcover

Our interview took place on a hot and sultry day in August, so Her Ladyship (that would be me!) offered Anne some Lighthouse Lemonade made by Jill Fisher. Fanning ourselves, and cool glass at hand, we sat down to sip lemonade (digitally) and to chat.

There are so many definitions of ‘passion’; how do you define passion?
I feel so lucky – I love what I do; I get to meet amazing women who inspire me with their courage and determination to succeed. That is one way of looking at passion.  Passion is also giving back and that’s very important to me. Over the years I have been an active volunteer, serving on boards, both nationally and internationally.  Through Company of Women, we support several charities that improve the lives of girls and women. I suppose you could say this is one way I define passion.

Besides guiding Company of Women, what else grabs your time?
I write – perhaps this is another of my passions!  I am a regular business columnist for Huffington Post and blog for several online publications.  I am currently working on co-authoring a fourth book that looks at why women feel they’re not good enough.

Where did your entrepreneurial attitude come from?
At home. My father was laid off at the age of 52 from the company he had work for all his life. He used his severance package to buy a newsagent and at one point had 18 paperboys working for him! What was amazing is that my mother served them a hot breakfast everyday. My father was very big on giving back; growing up we were given a sense of balance – a sort of ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’ philosophy. Also, I love to start things.

Success is like passion – we have many definitions for both; what’s your definition of success?
Making a difference! When I introduce two women business owners and they connect, forge ahead, and go further because of their relationship with one another, now isn’t this the definition of success? But I see success also when a woman comes out of her shell, blossoms and flourishes to become a successful person and entrepreneur; when a Company of Women program has positively impacted the women in attendance and they leave changed by the experience – that is also success – big time.

It’s proven that small businesses started and managed by women have greater survival rates then similar enterprises started by men. What’s your take on this?
I think the issues facing men and women entrepreneurs are the same, BUT women have a different attitude from the get-go about getting things done. We bring different things to the table and I think makes all the difference in the world.

What surprises you the most?
It’s Company of Women. I was running this company as a sideline and never expected it would take off like it did.

What is your go to method to cheer yourself up?
Reminding myself tomorrow is another day.

What skill would you like to learn?
Hearty laugh ….

What never fails to make you laugh?
British humour.

Brodie1You’re a hugely busy lady; how do you make your life less stressful?
We just got a puppy and we’ve named him Brodie. I think this may have added to my stress! But I love walking with him and I think this is very relaxing and very de-stressing.

How do you indulge your inner kid?
I love to dance and I dance with Brodie, our new puppy.

What is you favourite work of art?
It’s a field of flowers. The painting is in our home and besides being beautiful, it has a story – so perhaps that’s also why it’s my favourite. Some years ago, we were in Paris and we came across this painting in a shop window; we certainly couldn’t afford the painting, but we bought it!

Toronto Symphony or Tegan and Sara?
Tegan and Sara.

How do you celebrate big moments?
Meeting up with my girlfriends.

How do you like to spend a summer day?
Anywhere near water.

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be?
I read murder mysteries; I wouldn’t want to meet any of them!

Who is your favourite author?
The British writer Peter Robinson, author of the Inspector Banks murder mysteries.

What is your guilty pleasure?
A glass of wine.

What is the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever visited?
Sorrento.

What is your favourite season?
Autumn.

What is your workout philosophy?
It needs work!

What is must see TV for you?
Downton Abbey.

What is your favourite Canadian city?
Quebec City.

Which contemporary celebrity do you admire?
Oprah Winfrey.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Somebody feisty.

What is your favourite virtue?
Generosity.

What are three aspects of your personality?
Strong sense of humour – I think humour has gotten me far; authentic and I would say I’m pretty well grounded.

What you appreciate the most in your friends?
A positive attitude

What is your idea of happiness?
Being by the sea with family and friends, for sure.

Who is your real life hero?
Oprah Winfrey

What is your favourite food?
Curry.

What are three little known facts about you?
Aha … I don’t know if I should answer this …. I can’t swim, I can’t ride a bike, and I have a phobia about birds.

What do you bring on a long light to make yourself comfortable?
A shawl.

When you take a vacation, do you focus on luxury, adventure or relaxation?
Luxurious relaxation!

What is your current pre-occupation?
I love to write and I’m co-wrting my fourth book and blogging.

What is the best advice you would give your younger self?
Take more risks.

What would you like to be doing10 years from now?
Travelling.

What words do you live by?
T
o thine own self be true and all that we send into the life of others, comes back into our own.

To milk, or not to milk

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The controversy is alive and well. How to drink tea – with milk, or without?

imagesThat depends on how you like your tea.

If you add a little milk to your black tea, the tannins in the tea immediately bind to the milk. This has the effect of ‘toning’ down the taste of tea, making it less astringent on the palate.

Don’t event think of adding milk, or lemon for that matter, to green tea or to oolongs – it’s a sacrilege!

When to add the milk to your cup of tea is also subject of much controversy. If you add milk before pouring the tea, this allows the milk to blend more rapidly with the tea. If you add your milk after pouring your tea, well then, you have perfect control over the amount of milk in you tea, truly customizing the tea to your taste.

If you put milk first, then pour the tea, your habit dates back to the late 17th century. This was about the time the famous trading company, The East India Company, introduced fine porcelain teacups to England. Prior to this time, people drank their hot tea from pewter mugs. So not knowing the terrific heat-proof properties of porcelain, people were afraid to crack the porcelain with the tea, hence they poured milk first.

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Credit: A. Mirabelli

A slice of lemon (no milk) with your tea is a Russian tradition and was introduced by Queen Victoria’s granddaughter who dated and married the local emperor.

How do you drink your tea?

Credit: A. Mirabelli

Credit: A. Mirabelli

 

The List for September 2014

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At the start of every month, we offer you a short list of pleasant activities to consider, some focused on afternoon tea, some not.

Herewith five suggestions for month of September 2014

 Ah, September! The month of enterprise and planning.

A bewitching month. The last long weekend of the summer. Now Labour Day is done and dealt with; the white gloves and white shoes are put away; the cottage and the carefree lifestyle are lingering memories and our daily pre-occupations take on a decidedly more serious demeanor. School. College. Fall foliage – admiring and raking. Getting the house ready for winter. Getting the car ready for winter driving conditions. Buying new ski boots. The list can go on. It does.

Is there a better way to make this transition than to pause and make a pot of tea?

We think not!

Steep, sip, enjoy.

So along with your lovely pot of tea, and perhaps a scone or two, here are our suggestions for five eclectic activities to see you through the month of September.

Alex Colville at the Art Gallery of Ontario; Toronto to January 2015
E-00733-Seven-Crows660We start with a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario to view more than 100 works by the great Canadian realist painter, Alex Colville. This is the largest exhibition of the late artist’s work and honours his painstakingly precise images which depict high realism and an elusive tension. alex_colville_1954_horse_and_train

 

We met Alex Colvile when we took tea with Jill Fisher, lemonade purveyor to royalty. Her favourite artwork is Colville’s Horse and Train.

 

 

 

American Cool at the Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute; Washington DC, to September 7
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‘Cool’ is a supreme compliment. ‘Cool’ evokes people who exude rebellious self-expression, charisma, character with a capital C., edginess, mystery and a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. This exhibit of cool people at the Smithsonian explores the original American sensibility that became a global obsession. The roots of cool lie in early 1940s jazz and the American Cool exhibit refers to those who contributed an original artistic vision to American culture symbolic of a given historical moment.

 

‘Influencing Hemingway’ A reading by author Nancy Sindelar, Sepember 24; Oak Park; Chicago
Ernest Hemingway changed the style of writing prose in English in the 20th century.

English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket ph...

(Wikipedia)

Nobel Prize.

Pulitzer Prize.

A giant of American literature.

Nancy W. Sindelar, author of Influencing Hemingway, will read from her book at the Hemingway Birthplace Home and present new insights into Hemmingway’s influences from birth to high school graduation.
Lively discussion and refreshments guaranteed!

 

 

HOPERA, beer and opera, September 17 and 18, Toronto
Mirella in front of glasses of beer
Craft beer and opera! Beerologist Mirella Amato hosts operatic arias, duos and trios. Each song will be accompanied by a sample of local craft beer. Pairings will be presented with details on the musical selection and the beer style as well as why they were chosen. HOPERA promises to be a lovely and  intimate affair. Reserve your seat. Her Ladyship (that would be me!) has her tickets.

 

2014 Fall Flavours Festival, September 5-28; Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island. Canada’s smallest province.
Official Potato capital of Canada.
Unofficial oyster capital of Canada.
Legal birthplace of Canada.
Home of Anne of Green Gables.

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And home to The Fall Flavours Festival, a month-long culinary celebration highlighting authentic Island tastes and traditions communities across Prince Edward Island. You can join local hosts and pick potatoes, catch lobsters, harvest oysters or head off to Culinary Boot Camp. Each food experience or event offers an educational component with a local host, as well as a tasting and/or cooking opportunity.

 

Life’s interesting twists and turns

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Life has an interesting way of twisting and turning. And introducing you to new friends and new concepts.

I follow an Ottawa-based food blog titled Bake and Be Merry. It’s an eclectic site and every now and again I get an inspiration from visiting this blog – a new chef to follow, a foodie event in the Ottawa valley to visit, an interesting recipe – you get the picture.

A few weeks ago a posting on Bake and Be Merry introduced me to a new concept: A foodie pen pal programme. Her Ladyship (that would be me) was intrigued; she researched the programme and signed up!

Lindsay Livingstone of The Lean Green Bean blog runs the foodie pen pals programme.

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FPP-post

Lindsay is a registered dietician living in Columbus, Ohio. Her blog’s main focus is nutrition tips, workouts and healthy living, delivered in an engaging manner. Lindsay says, “I believe that life is all about being balanced, simple and real….and I strive to show how I live this message in my everyday life via my blog and social media posts.”

She delivers.

Her Ladyship was teamed with Katie, of Toronto, and received the following very thoughtful gifts:

DSCF0415Organic cinnamon – this will certainly come in handy with Christmas baking.
Pink peppercorns – to be enjoyed in winter salads!

Tiki masala spice – Our fave Indian spice.
Wasabi peas –  perfect accompaniment for happy hour!

Quinoa cluster – perfect and wholesome  snack on a long hike.

Buckwheat Raw Honey – totally awesome on top of Devon Clotted Cream on top of a Classic English scone.

Katie’s homemade pineapple jalepeno jelly – Delish! Her Ladyship has already obtained Katie’s recipe.

The foodie pen pal programme has a $15.00 limit, so thoughtfulness, rather than extravagance, is in order.

Thank you Katie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afternoon tea with Mirella Amato, beer evangelist extraordinaire

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Dear readers and tea lovers everywhere,
Welcome to a regular feature of our blog,
 ‘Afternoon tea
with …. 
people of note’

Today, we’re taking afternoon tea with Mirella Amato, founder of Beerology™ and an extraordinary beer connoisseur.

Mirella in front of glasses of beerMirella is the pre-eminent authority on everything related to beer in Canada and one of the very few beer specialists in the world. That’s because she’s a Master Cicerone, a beer sommelier. Mirella is Canada’s only Master Cicerone, having qualified after rigorous written, oral and tasting exams. She is also the recipient of the 2012 Ontario Craft Brewers Centre of Excellence Industry Choice Award in Food & Beer Matching Development.

Mirella  established her company Beerology™ as a channel for facilitated beer tastings and workshops, which she gives across the country, as well as a training channel for pub and restaurant servers. She also offers beer tastings to corporations as team building exercises or for employee recognition. And she consults with restaurants to create beer and food pairings and with breweries to develop new products. She founded the Toronto Chapter of the women-only international beer-appreciation society, Barleys Angels.

Beerology book coverBeerology is also the name of Miralla’s hot-off-the-press book, which provides a written and visual exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of beer. Here you will find suggestions for a beer for every mood, food and occasion. She demystifies the choices, brewing styles and traditions associated with the universal pleasure of a pint. Beerology is published by Random House and is available from major bookstores as well as online from Amazon.

Today, Mirella favours of a pot of Earl Grey tea. Her Ladyship (that would be me!) is more than pleased to brew a pot of tea and take several cups with Mirella. Her Ladyship pours two cups (digitally!) of steaming, fragrant tea; Mirella’s preference today is for tea without milk and Her Ladyship always drinks her tea clear. We settle back and begin our conversation.

Where did you go to school?
I went to McGill University in Montreal and studied music – I was in the opera programme. I am fascinated by everything to do with music but I think I am most intrigued by the history of music and how music evolved over time.

Did you have a career on stage?
I sang on many stages with different orchestras and I was about to sign a major contract when I decided to leave opera – it was purely a geographic decision: I want to live in Toronto and a career as an opera singer meant living in Europe or New York.

Mirella looking at a glass of beerWhat led you to become a beer expert?
I was changing careers and was exploring ways to combine my performance training with my passion for beer. I spoke with brewers to understand their needs and how to marry these needs with my skills. I found out very quickly the breweries needed a good and credible cheerleader for beer. That’s when I started to study everything I could about beer.

Who introduced you to beer?
At home, I was raised to enjoy a small sip from my mother or father’s glass at dinner, whether it was wine or beer. So I guess a few drops from dad’s beer glass did the trick! Later in life, I had the good fortune to have a great circle of friends who were into craft beers. I became smitten with freshly-brewed beers.

What are you involved with right now?
HOPERA – an evening of craft beer and opera that I’m hosting in Toronto on September 17 and 18. HOPERA presents opera singers in operatic arias, duos and trios. Each song will be accompanied by a sample of local craft beer. Pairings will be presented with details on the musical selection and the beer style as well as why they were chosen.

HOPERA promises to be a lovely and  intimate affair. Reserve your seat now to avoid disappointment.

What advice would you give to someone trying to carve out a livelihood without a template?
Here’s what comes to mind: Mine your strengths as much as possible; find out everything you can about the field your interested in; keep your ear to the ground, chat up people and figure out where the demand is, AND GO FILL THE GAP.

At a high level, can you guide us through a beer tasting.
For those with experience in wine tasting, the technique is somewhat similar – you examine appearance, sense of smell to appreciate full flavour, let the beer move around in the mouth to discern flavour, carbonation and then you swallow the beer. This should leave you craving another sip of beer.

Her Ladyship would like to add that there is an excellent guide in Beerology.

What is the best lesson you’ve taken from a mistake?
So many lessons! I really enjoy learning and growing.

What is your go-to method to cheer yourself up?
Music.

What skill would you like to learn?
I want to learn the trick of opening a beer bottle with anything at hand!

What never fails to make you laugh?
I am a huge fan of local stand-up comics and I follow quite a few in Toronto.

What would you say is your main weakness?
I tend to see obstacles as surmountable challenges. In some cases, this can be a strength – I don’t think I would be where I am career-wise it weren’t for this trait. Having said this, it can lead to periods of (otherwise avoidable) intense frustration.

How do you make your life less stressful?
As a freelancer, I have the luxury to take an hour for lunch and cook from scratch, sit down, eat and enjoy lunch.

What is your favourite food?
Pasta in its many guises.

Love_Lost

What is your favourite work of art?
It’s a contemporary piece by Damien Hirst, called Love Lost. It’s an awesome installation piece made of glass, painted steel, silicon, water, aquarium system, live fresh water fish, gravel, gynecologist’s chair, stainless steel table, computer keyboard and monitor, stool, mug, watch and pewter rings.

How do you celebrate big moments?
Sharing a drink with friends.

 

 

What is your fondest childhood memory?
I love swimming in lakes and when I think of my childhood, I try to recapture memories of swimming in the lake.

What is your best ever adventure?
I jumped out of a plane! I decided to celebrate my 30th birthday by sky diving. It was an incredible experience.

Who is your favourite author?
Michel Tremblay, the Quebec author and playwright.

What is your favourite season?
Late summer when it folds into early fall.

What is your workout philosophy?
I find working out boring, so I get a daily workout by cycling most places.

What is your favourite article of clothing?
I collect t- shirts so I would say my collection of locally-designed, artisanal t-shirts. A long time ago I decided I wasn’t going to wear logos on my clothes. I am very supportive of local artists and designers.

Which is your favourite Canadian city?
Toronto.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Meryl Streep.

Master-Cicerone-Mirella-Amato-5What is you favourite attribute?
Curiosity.

What are the principal aspects of your personality?
I am curious; I love to learn, I love to share and I’d say I’m a pretty smart cookie!

 

What do you appreciate most in your friends?
Their sense of sharing and their support.

What is your idea of happiness?
Sharing a delicious meal with people I care about and having great conversations. Also being close to a lake.

Who is your hero in real life?
I admire the late Bob Flanagan greatly. He was an American writer, poet, comedian, performance artist and musician who suffered from cystic fibrosis and found ways to turn his illness into art. I admire how his courage and creativity impacted so many people in a positive way. Bob Flanagan died in 1996 at the age of 43.

Where is your favourite place to unplug?
In the lake!

What do you bring on a long flight to make yourself comfortable?
Water, gum and I like keep my mind busy so I always have a book or podcast with me.

When you vacation, do you focus on luxury, adventure or relaxation?
Adventure.

Mirella at microphoneWhat gives you satisfaction?
I have a lot of satisfaction in my work – I love introducing people to beer. I have been doing this for seven years and I am always thrilled when I move someone to the pleasures of craft beers. The feedback I receive is awesome! I’m not changing lives but the satisfaction is amazing and incredibly personal.

 

What is your favourite daily ritual?
My morning café latte.

What would like to do ten years from now?
I would like to own a cottage so I can jump in the lake!

What words do you live by?
Be true to myself.

Beer and Chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Tradition and the Appeal of Donuts

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas:

Reblogging a post is a first for Her Ladyship (that would be me). I am sharing “British Tradition and the Appeal of Donuts” because it is spot on and very entertaining. The blog author is Dorreen Augustine, an American lady who has lived in England for the past 20 years. I hope you will enjoy her post as much as I did.

Originally posted on Mother Hen Diaries:

Tea for the British is not just a beverage: It is, indeed, the very lifeblood of the country, regardless of whether one resides in Windsor Castle or a council estate. The very word carries a number of slightly differing meanings, and if and when you decide to visit, it is important that you understand what these mean.

tea

There’s nothing quite like a lovely cuppa! Photo: britishfood.about.com

If a Brit invites you for coffee, for example, this could mean coffee, or it could mean tea or even hot chocolate. To be invited for coffee simply means you will be sharing a hot beverage together, no matter what time of day. It’s a little like an American asking if you want to get a Coke. It could be Pepsi, Kool-Aid, Iced Tea or anything.

If, however, you are invited for “Tea,” you must be sure to ascertain exactly what may be expected. Over…

View original 1,541 more words

August 2014: Let them eat poutine

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At the start of every month, we offer you a short list of pleasant activities to consider,
some focused on afternoon tea, some not.

Herewith five suggestions for month for the month of August 2014

The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014 Various locations across Canada, August 5-24 This edition of the beautiful game plays in Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton. Cheer these amazing young women; get your tickets today. Along with host Canada, the 16 participating nations are Ghana, Finland, North Korea, Germany, USA, China PR, Brazil, England, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, New Zealand, Paraguay, France and Costa Rica.

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Hot & Spicy Food Festival
Harbourfront Centre, Toronto August 15-17

Food crosses time and culture for sure. As does music. And dance. The 2014 Hot & Spicy Food Festival will introduce you to the nuances of layered flavours and the jumping jives of music and dance. Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas is honoured to be featured at this festival. Join us on Saturday August 16 at 1:00 p.m. at the Lakeside Terrace to see how we make our prized chocolate-cayenne shortbread.  samples after the demonstration.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

 

Festival de la Poutine (PooTEEN)
Drummondville, Quebec August 21–23

This festival has plenty of live acts featuring great Quebecois bands and singers – all the better to tap your toes and to enjoy your fires, gravy and cheese curds. Poutine is a typically Quebecois meal invented in the late 1950s. Drummondville is one of three communities in rural Quebec claiming to be the birthplace of poutine, hence the annual festival. Over time, the popularity of poutine spread across Quebec and later throughout Canada. Poutine is often served in small town restaurants, bars, as well as being quite popular in ski resorts. In recent times it has found notoriety as an ‘it’ snack at weddings and special events.

Poutine festival in Drummondville  Poutine

 

 

Corn and Apple Festival
Morden, Manitoba August 22-24

Travelling west from Quebec, we offer another typcial Canadian festival – the Morden Corn and Apple Festival. Since 1967, this small prairie town shares the love equally between apples and corn, both of which grow abundantly on the farms of Morden. This is also known as the free festival: Free admission, free corn on the cob, free cider, free entrtainment and free parking. What’s not to love?

 

Create your own event
Your home, any time

And finally, create your own event. Gather friends, go to a famers market and see what’s good that day to use as inspiration for afternoon tea.

Freshly-picked watercress Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Freshly-picked watercress
Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Teapot with Laurel Leaves. Photo: A;an Mirabelli

Teapot with Laurel Leaves. Photo: Alan Mirabelli

Afternoon Tea, Inukshuk Style

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It’s hot and humid in our neck of the woods, so we’re celebrating the Arctic to chill out.
We built a rough stone cairn – an Inukshuk – and we’re taking our tea beside it.

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Inukshuk are built by the peoples of Canada’s high Arctic regions and by the inhabitants of nations sitting atop the Arctic Circle. This pile of stones erected without benefit of adhesives is the mainstay of tundra travel. Tundras lack any discerning physical characteristic, so their singular feature are the Inukshuk – a navigation tool, a point of reference, a communication tool – FaceBook, Twitter and blog rolled into one platform of the high Arctic.

These architectural forms are perhaps the oldest objects humans have placed on the Arctic landscape. The form can be short or tall, skinny or fat, one stone or many stones – each form tells a distinct story. For example, a form with arms or legs lead to an open channel for navigation, or a valley for passage through the mountains. A form without arms is a marker for a cache of food.

Peter Imiq, Inuit cultural activist, explains the meaning of the Inukshuk. 

Some interesting Inukshuk factoids:

  • There are over 100 Inukshuk at Inuksuk Point, on Baffin Island. In1969, Canada declared the area a National Historic Site.
220px-Inuksugalait_Foxe-PI_2002-07-26

Inuksuk Point, Baffin Island; Wikipedia

  • Inukshuk are also a cultural symbol. For example, an Inuksuk (singular of Inukshuk) is on the flag and on the coat of arms of Nunavut Territory.
Flag of Nunavut, Canada; Government of Nunavut Territory

Flag of Nunavut, Canada; Government of Nunavut Territory

  • On July 13, 2005, Canadian military erected an Inuksuk on Hans Island to one up Denmark with whom Canada has a longstanding beef over the small Arctic island.
  • Inukshuk have been erected throughout Canada to commemorate special events:

Battery Park, on Toronto’s lake shore for World Youth Day in 2002.
Vancouver for Expo 86
Whistler Mountain north of Vancouver for 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Lamoureux Park, Cornwall, ON, to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Olympic torch passage through town

  • Officials in various wilderness parks throughout Canada routinely dismantle Inukshuk constructed by hikers and campers, for fear that they could misdirect park visitors from other markers that indicate hiking trails.
  • There are a couple of authentic Inukshuk gifted by the government of Canada around the world:

Canadian Embassy, DC, Government of Canada

India; Government of Canada

India; Government of Canada

 

Brisbane – Australia’s Bicentenary; Government of Canada

 

Monterrey, Mexico; Government of Canada

Oslo - Norway Centenary;  Government of Canada

Oslo – Norway Centenary; Government of Canada

 

 

 

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