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Written by marni

Nestle Indoor Family Picnic

(Nestle Carnation Ontario Family Fun Guide)
by Marni Andrews

Indoor family Picnic

Start a new family tradition with indoor picnicking.

Spread out a washable blanket or quilt and surround it with pillows.

To set the mood, try to find a CD of outdoor sounds such as insects, water running, birds, etc. Not so long ago a picnic wasn’t a picnic unless you had cold fried chicken and potato salad. If you want to start a new trend and involve the kids with preparation, why not cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters?

Make juice in a big plastic jug and add plastic cups and plastic cutlery.

Finger food is the necessity here, so think cupcakes, dill pickles and bite-sized sandwiches to complete your indoor picnic.

Sunday Hot Chocolate Sundae Bar

How do you turn yet another dreary, cold afternoon into something warm and wonderful for you and your family?

Make a movie event extra special with a hot chocolate sundae bar.

Fill big mugs or deep bowls half full with steaming Carnation® hot chocolate, add a scoop of ice cream and let the kids go at it with a selection of fun sundae toppings i.e., bananas, Smarties®, Kit Kat® and Rolo® pieces and some coloured sprinkles, and we’re pretty sure you’ve got a winner on your hands!

Quick Tip:

For an extra-rich, creamy mug of Carnation Hot Chocolate try making it with milk instead of water.

Hot chocolate made with a ½ cup of milk will provide extra calcium, an important nutrient for strong bones and teeth!

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Sterling Silver Flatware

(Homemakers magazine)
by Marni Andrews

One of the best auction bargains is sterling- silver flatware. In Canada, classic
Birks patterns such as Georgian Plain and Saxon are popular because they are not ornate and thus fit in with most decor. The Old English and Fiddle patterns are also sought after. Pieces from the Georgian period to the early 20th
century are top finds. The Victorian period is more affordable and more abundant because much of it is ornate. While these 1877 Sheffield fish
servers (shown above),  brought $900 at auction, you can pick up a set of Victorian silver teaspoons from $20 to $25 per piece.

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Julius Vesz, Pipesmith

(Patron magazine)
By Marni Andrews

In downtown Toronto, just off the main lobby of the venerable Royal York Hotel, lies a traditional pipe shop. Its proprietor is Julius Vesz, 66, whom many claim makes the best pipes in the world. Mr. Vesz was born in a small town in Hungary, southwest of Budapest. His grandfather was pipesmith to many aristocrats of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Before emigrating to Canada in 1957, he spent some time in the Soviet military, tracking U.S. spy planes. As a reward for voicing his opinion with the Communists, he was once thrown into jail. He arrived in Canada with empty pockets, unable to speak English, and has built an internationally renowned business, which is one of the last of its kind. He has received numerous awards, including “Best Pipemaker in the World.”

We spoke in his workshop, a dark and cozy cloister fortified arm to arm with high-backed wooden chairs, plush velvet draperies and paintings. We were interrupted by three gentlemen from Holland, who stopped by to pay their respects. One was buying his sixth pipe from Mr. Vesz.

How did you get started as a pipesmith?

Three years after I came to Canada, I was a draftsman making $125 a week, very good money then. There were a lot of pipe smokers with British pipes, and they were sent to England for repairs. I set up a little bench in my furnace room and bought some equipment and started copying what I had seen my grandfather do. (My grandfather made pipes, but he died when I was nine.) The first ones were not very good! But I fixed them so that they were smokable. In a few hours of work, I was making more money than I was as a draftsman. That gave me the incentive to stay with it. My big break was when I met Alfred Dunhill in Simpson’s, where they had a humidor. He used to come once a year to meet customers. I introduced myself in what little English I had and told him I was doing pipe repairs. I went to see the manager for the distributor in Canada. He gave me some pipes to try me out, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

You use only dead-root briar for your pipes. Why?

The definition of dead-root briar is that nature has to cure the wood. The plant dies and it sits in the ground for over a hundred years. It’s almost petrified. There is no more briar. It’s all gone. Twenty years ago [the price] was going up 20% a year and they were running out of it. Whenever I saved a couple of thousand dollars, I bought wood. All of the wood today is green. It might look the same, but it’s not the same density, so the pipe doesn’t smoke sweet; it smokes wet. If you take a root out of the ground today and leave it in your garage for two hundred years, it’s still green briar. Nature has to do the job.

What is an average price for one of your pipes?

A standard one turned on a lathe is $80 and up. For a hand-cut (freehand) pipe, $300 and up. And they’ll smoke better than an $800 green briar pipe.

Who are your customers?

It’s word of mouth. I get a lot of publicity. For the last few years, I’ve been making my living from Americans. When I ship 20 or 30 hand-cut pipes overnight to the U.S., they’re often sold within two days.

Do you smoke?

I have smoked a pipe since I was seventeen. My father allowed me to smoke on the weekends. Now, I may smoke 10 a day, but if I’m really busy I don’t smoke at all because it breaks my concentration.

What do you think about anti-smoking legislation?

The government has legislated and priced tobacco to the point where I am working for them. They’re using me as a tax collector. I have to charge $140 for a pound of tobacco, and the same tobacco in Buffalo is $18.95. I lived under the Nazis and Communists in Hungary and some of the politicians here frighten me. They just do it in a more civilized way. I see smokers standing outside buildings in their shirtsleeves like a bunch of outcasts. It comes to a point where you say, “Why don’t you just ban this?” I passionately love this country but my business has dwindled to almost nothing in the last few years since all this legislation has come in. I’d give it up but a lot of people rely on me. Europeans take the regulations about smoking as an insult to their intelligence. Here they have smokers on the run because nobody’s fighting back.

You’ve made pipes for some very famous people.

Zero Mostel, Jack Lemmon, Danny Kaye, Mickey Rooney, Anwar Sadat, Ralph Richardson, President Ford, Prime Minister Wilson, Bing Crosby. Bing called me two weeks before he died. He liked the long pipes to keep the smoke away from his face. I gave Mickey Rooney his first pipe in 1964. He couldn’t afford to pay me because he was paying so much alimony! Zero Mostel became a good friend. He called me “the Rembrandt of Pipemaking.” When he was in Toronto, he was in here every day drinking cognac at 4 pm. Most movie stars project a totally different image on stage, but many of them have their noses up high. They expect you to give them something because of who they are.

How many pipes do you make in a year?

I don’t know. Maybe a few hundred, but I’m doing more and more individual work. I’m limited physically; I can only make so many. It’s a very slow process with more than 100 hand operations in each pipe. When I make a pipe, I do things that the customer will never notice; I make it like it’s for myself.

Tell me about your life philosophy?

I’m a perfectionist. I’m still perfecting. We all need to keep learning. The man who thinks he is too smart is no good. I’m happy and content with my life. Some people have said to me, “You’re not a human being if you don’t go on holiday five or six times a year,” but this is my world in here. It’s my home away from home. I never ever thought I’d have such a good life as this.

What motivates you?

I’m a fighter. When you’ve gone through tough times, your current problems don’t seem as tough as the problems you’ve gone through. During the war, my mother couldn’t give me a piece of bread, and I would see tears coming out of her eyes because of that. It lives vividly in your mind. But that gives you the encouragement to try to go on and build a better life. Those born here have unbelievable opportunities, today more than ever, but they don’t want to do it. You have to work. You can’t give up. Once you believe in what you’re doing, you have to stay with it until you succeed, even if it takes a lifetime.

When will you retire?

I’ve been married for 43 years, but I don’t know how it would be if I was with my wife every day all day. I’d really miss the human contact of the shop, but people would hunt me down and beg me to make pipes, and I would do it. People are begging me not to close my store. I’ve worked in windowless foxholes all my life, so once I get out of here, I’ll buy a house in the Caledon Hills, see the sun rise and set, and make pipes for the U.S. market.

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Raccoon Stories

(Metro newspaper)
by Marni Andrews

When farmer Harvey Andrews of Huntsville, Ont. watched a raccoon chase his large dog into the lake on his property, he was worried but far enough away to be helpless. His dog was smart, but he also knew how crafty raccoons were. What came next surprised even the experienced farmer. The raccoon chased the dog into the water just deep enough so that it was over the dog’s head. Then the raccoon stood on the dog’s head and drowned him.

“I knew it was going to happen,” Andrews said.

His neighbour, Don Evans, was playing cards at the dining room table one night with a group of people. One of the women looked up to see a couple of raccoons looming large in the full-length window, intently watching the game. She screamed.

A woman in downtown Toronto called the Humane Society in a panic when she discovered a large raccoon in her kitchen eating cereal from the box. He’d entered through the cat door.

Such are the Raccoon Stories that people tell.

For those who’ve never seen a masked bandit, the first time can be startling. For one, they are much bigger than expected, as Evans’ card-playing guest can attest. Todd Spencer, owner of Wildlife Removal and Prevention Services in Toronto, says, “They can be as big as a dog.”

In the city, they have become completely at home. So much so in Toronto that it is called “the Raccoon Capital of the World,” according to Amy White, director of communications for the Toronto Humane Society. “There are a high number of them in Toronto,” she agreed, “but the City can sustain it.”

Why Toronto? The abundance of wooded ravines and parks in conjunction with proximity to all kinds of food is a winning combination for the masked creatures.

“It’s a similar problem everywhere in Southern Ontario in the urban centres,” says Jane Sirois, information officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Aurora, Ont. “They’re city inhabitants; they’ve taken up residence.” She adds, “In urban areas of Ontario, raccoons can number 8 to 20 per square kilometre. In the lush, treed ravines downtown near a good food source, there can be as many as 100 per square kilometre.”

InToronto, people with raccoon problems can contact the Toronto Animal Services Centre in their district. An officer will look at the site, provide advice on animal proofing the property, and determine whether trapping is the best solution. Commercial wildlife removal companies are more commonly called in when a raccoon must be removed from between walls or crawl spaces.

Spencer of Wildlife Removal and Prevention Services says that in spring and summer, half of his business is raccoons, from seven to 10 jobs a day on average. “Years ago we used to trap and remove. Now we use one-way doors and monitor the device for four to five days. We leave some peanut butter out to make sure the animal is out, then repair the hole.”

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, trapping and relocating mature raccoons is detrimental to their health and welfare and is not recommended. Using devices that are inappropriate or illegal to remove raccoons, such as leg hold traps, can result in a fine up to $5,000. Leaving poison out to kill animals can result in criminal charges.

White says that 6,000 raccoons were taken in last year by the Humane Society’s Wildlife Department. “Very frequently, people trap mothers and leave babies behind. Raccoons are very good mothers; they’ll tear your house apart trying to find their babies.”

In the prescient words of the Toronto Humane Society from their website, “Raccoons really are not smarter than we are; sometimes it just seems that way. Raccoons cannot cause problems unless people allow them to do so. Instead of blaming them, we should work together to find a solution satisfactory to both humans and raccoons.”

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Singin’ the Praises of Single Malts

(for Patron magazine)
by Marni Andrews

“The water of life” is what Scotland on Sunday terms malt whisky and who’s to argue? The good life is notable for quite a few things—not the least of which is time and the resources to indulge a taste for one of the fastest growing ultra-premium spirits: single malt scotch. As a category, single malts have been marketed for only the last 25 years and have exploded in popularity in the last 15 years. Read more →

Las Vegas: A Sure Bet for Food Gamblers

(Patron magazine)
by Marni Andrews

Not long ago, a ticket to Vegas was not a culinary ticket to ride. It may have been a ticket to Wayne Newton heaven, to slot machine nirvana, to 24/7 action, to transcendent golf, but it was not a place to go for a good meal. The Strip has changed, in many ways. Now Vegas is as often touted as a family destination (imagine that ten years ago!) as it is a foodie’s haven. Just mentioning this, because I’m sure you could find a business reason to visit Vegas some time soon and, while you’re writing it off, visit a few of the landmark restaurants that are revivifying this desert outpost. Read more →