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So, I've written about the Royal Ontario Museum (the ROM) before. No big. No need to go into it in detail again. What I haven't written about is how to visit it for less.

The thing is, the ROM is really expensive. Really, really expensive. And it sort of makes me mad. I've been to Europe, okay? I know how this museum thing is supposed to work.

But I like the ROM and when Craig and Leah wanted to see the Terracotta Warriors, I thought... "why not?" Until, that is, I realized that it was going to cost Nathan and I $62 to do so. That's $31 each. The $24 for general admission and the extra $7 for admission to the Warriors exhibit.

I know that $62 isn't a big deal for a lot of people, but it irked me. It's just too much. Luckily, my sister told me about a deal to save the say: the Sun Life Financial Museum and Arts Pass from the Toronto Public Library .

Basically, if you stand in line first thing on Saturday morning at a participating branch of the TPL, you may be able to get your hands on a free pass for you and your family (2 adults & up to 4 children) to visit places like the ROM or the Zoo for free.

That's right, free.

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All you need is a valid adult Toronto Public Library card, a list of partipating branches, and the strength to get your butt out of bed early on a Saturday morning. Quantities are limited, of course.

So. Nathan got up at the crack of dawn last Saturday and went over the Dufferin & Eglinton branch to hook us up. There was a line, but he managed to get a pass, and we managed to visit the ROM for a grand total of $14 (because special exhibits like the Terracotta Warriors aren't covered by the pass).

The Warriors kind of sucked, frankly. I was pretty disappointed by the exhibit. And had I had to pay $62 to see it, I would have been enraged. Luckily, thanks to the Library pass, I was merely irritated.

I was also depressed. Because passes like this shouldn't even be necessary. The freakin' museum should be free!

Whatever.

The rest of the museum was great, as always.

Here are some highlights:

Retrospective on the contemporary art of Ghanaian artist El Anatsui. Exhibit: When I last wrote to you about Africa. This massive "cloth" panel is made of metal. Like bottle caps and stuff. It's really beautiful.

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Some Julius Caesar style crowns that I thought were sort of pretty.
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And of course, the thing that the ROM is most famous for: the dinos.
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Also worth seeing: the extensive living world and biodiversity displays. Really educational, really good. And the refurbished Bat Cave. Kids will love it.

Just don't pay full price.
 
 
When I was a little girl, my dad used to take us walking in Moore Park Ravine. We called it "going to the forest." For an urban kid, it was pretty exciting.

I had that excitement in mind when Nate and I decided to head out on a walk this past Saturday morning. We headed to Moore Park Ravine and ended up rambling down to Brickworks in the Don Valley, where we bought some hot drinks and pickled beets at the organic market before heading home.

It was such a pretty walk; I absolutely recommend trying it.
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Here's my advice: start at the east end of Heath St., where there is an entrance to the ravine. (You can't get in from just anywhere. You can either drive and park (for free) at the east end of Heath street, or, if you are using the TTC, make your way to Mount Pleasant and St. Clair Ave. and walk about one block north and two blocks east to find the entrance.

Remember to wear decent footwear. The path can be mucky, especially in the spring and fall.

Upon entering off Heath, you'll find yourself on a footbridge that spans the ravine. At the east end of the footbridge, veer left and follow the path that leads you down, below the footbridge, and onto the main path. On the main path, you'll see directional signs.

Walking south along the path will take you to Brick Works and the Evergreen organic market - if it's open. Either way, Brick Works is a nice place to turn around and head back, especially if you're not looking to ramble all day.

The southbound stroll will take you only about 25 or 30 minutes (going very slowly). And it's really beautiful. You won't be sorry.

* Creative Commons image of a stream in Moore Park ravine by Smaku from Flickr.
 
 
There are a lot of things I don't understand. Like string theory. I don't understand string theory. And homophobia. What's up with that?

Cheerleaders and personal trainers? Confounding.

Other things that make no sense? The title of this post, sure. But more importantly, the fact that, before last night, ceviche wasn't even on my radar.

Cheviche, my friends, is fricken AMAZING.

What the heck is it, you ask?

It's raw white fish "cooked" (or pickled, sort of) in the acidic juices of lemons or limes. I made this recipe from Nigella Lawson last night and it's damn good. I stand behind it 100%. Though I don't star my reviews, if I did, I would give this recipe four stars.

Ceviche is, in my opinion, like heroin. (Except healthy.)  I'm addiced to it now. I want to make it again immediately. That's how good it is.
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SUPER EASY CEVICHE (basically by Nigella Lawson, with minor variations)

Ingredients:
2 (or more) fillets of white fish (red snapper, black cod, white snapper, whatever)
Lemon juice (bottled is fine)
Limes (2)
Cilantro (1 fresh bunch -  use 1/2)
Green onions (1 fresh bunch - use 1/2)
Oregano (1 tbsp dried)
1 medium jalapeno pepper

Preparation:
Dice the fish and lay the pieces out in a shallow dish.
Douse the fish in lemon juice and the juice of the two limes (until barely covered).
Stir in the orgegano, salt and pepper.
Leave standing for approximately 10 minutes. You will see the pinky fish-flesh turn white. It's cooking! (Once the fish looks reasonably white, take it out of the milky lemon mixture and set the fish aside. You can discard the lemon juice mixture or use a little of it to make a dressing if you want.)
Chop onions and cilantro. No need to be perfect about it, but make relatively small pieces.
Seed and chop the jalapeno.
Add all the green stuff to the fish mixture and mix it around. Add salt to taste if you must.
You're done.

You can eat the chopped ceviche on chips, sort of like a fish salsa. That's what Nigella did. We did it too. It was pretty good, but having tried it, I think it would actually be better (and healthier) in a salad. Maybe mixed into a baby spinach salad.

So yummy. So fast. So easy.

Go ceviche, go!

Caveats: Okay, okay. So I know raw fish isn't for everybody. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, obviously, this isn't going to work for you. And if you hate lemon juice... no go. And if you can't get fresh fish, it's probably not the best idea. And it's better in summer than winter because it's god a really fresh, bright taste. But besides all that, it's good. I swear it is.


* Raw Snapper image taken from Maureen Makes It.
 
 
People often ask me if I miss Vancouver's "natural beauty." You know. The mountains. The ocean. The blah blah blah.

You know what I say to that? No.

No, I say!

I say no because despite the sprawl, the reputation, and the West Coast Haters, Toronto has plenty of natural beauty of its own.

Case in point: Scarborough Bluffs. I spent Saturday morning hiking (okay, walking) the bluffs with some girlfriends and even though I'd been there before, I'd forgotten how beautiful it is. It's like being on the ocean. Really.
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* Giant red oak leaf found by Emily McNamee, who snapped this image on the ride home.

From below, the bluffs are pretty impressive. Their sheer faces look like hard rock, but they're super soft, and eroding fast. Walking beneath them, we felt a bit worried, actually. Like a chunk could fall off and brain/bury us at any time.
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* Creative Commons image by Alex_Mc from Flickr
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* Creative Commons image by jennyrotten from Flickr
Thanks to the erosion, there are lots of interesting shapes to be seen. I noticed a bit of rock that looked suspiciously like the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus... but maybe that's just my Catholic upbringing talking. :D

From above (you'll have to drive to a different point to get up there) there are pretty paths that overlook Lake Ontario, some beautiful fall foliage, and plenty of nice spots to picnic. Looking out over the lake reminded me of trips to Mexico. That's how huge the Lake can seem.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning. But before you head out, some directional advice.
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Alas, walks at the bluffs aren't exactly well marked or easy to find. If you want to explore the beach, my advice is to head to the bottom of Brimley Rd. (see the left-most X on my map). Park in one of the main lots there. There are public washrooms, and at this time of year, parking is free. In the summer, you'll have to pay.

If you'd like to see the lake from above, try parking on Underhill Dr. It's a little tricky to get find. (It's marked by the right-most X on the map.)

What else can I say? Ontario. It's beautiful. Keep it beautiful. Like the license plates. Remember those?