Sweetening up your day, one cookie at a time

Baking enthusiast Milos Paprica is Toronto’s Instagram monthly cookie giveaway champion!

“I’m being a villain in a different way” is how Milos explained the derivation behind “madvillan,” his Instagram username. “I’m not doing it in a bad way, I’m doing it in a good way,” he added.

For almost three years now, Milos Paprica, 31, has been baking and giving away his cookies to several lucky people once per month. There’s no secret recipe to what he does.

It all started with the lack of gift giving during his Christmas holidays. Since his family never celebrated Christmas by exchanging gifts, he was always left with a tenacious urge to buy gifts for others. During Christmas of 2011, he decided to buy a few items and post them on his Facebook profile with the caption: “First to comment receives this gift.” At the time, these items included an iTunes gift card, headphones and a cookbook. The response exceeded his expectations—within minutes his Facebook contacts had commented on these posts. Loving the enthusiastic response, Milos wanted to extend this beyond just during the Christmas season. He had started taking up baking as a hobby, and thought of giving away his baked goodies.

“I had a horrible first attempt at baking,” he said. “When I put the dough in the oven, everything kind of melted—it was like one big blob.”

Determined to not be defeated, he made several more attempts until he felt satisfied enough to bring them to his work.

“My coworkers at the time were my guinea pigs; they ended up giving me the confidence I needed to actually give away my cookies, since they all seemed to love them!”

With suggestions from friends, he slowly tested other social media platforms to conduct these giveaways. Initially it started with Facebook, where only his friends were able to comment and receive; he later ventured towards Instagram where anyone could follow and comment, thereby reaching a much larger audience, and because of this he now only uses Instagram.

You would expect to find him behind the counter, kneading and rolling dough, right?

“I get asked that a lot,” he told me. “’Where is your bake shop?’ or ‘How long have you been in the pastry business?’”

In fact, Milos’s career has nothing to do with baking. For the past seven years, he’s been the night stocking manager at Lowes Home Improvement. He’s been working in the retail industry since 2003, and because of his work ethics and not wanting to disappoint people, he’s been put in positions of leadership.

“I believe I’ve gotten better at managing people over the years,” he said. “But it’s still something I never thought I’d be doing. I was always the quiet one growing up.”

“His cookies were nothing but deliciousness—and free, too!” said Vanessa Baudanza, co-founder of The Rolling Pin—a delightful bakery of gourmet donuts, pies and cakes located near the Yonge and Don Mills area. “Coming from a pastry chef, that’s a big deal!”

Vanessa was one of the first lucky winners to receive his cookies, and since meeting they’ve remained close friends. She tells me how supportive and generous Milos has been throughout her dream of opening the bakery, how he always believed in her and that one day her dream would become reality.

“He deserves nothing but sweet things,” she said, “because he only gives sweetness to the city of Toronto.”

It’s been well over two years and Milos shows no signs of slowing down. Aside from giving away his homemade cookies once a month (though he tells me he also does side giveaways at times for people who’ve missed receiving the cookies beforehand), he also personally hand delivers them and takes a picture of the lucky winner with his cookies. When I met Milos for this story, he surprised me by giving me a batch. They are delicious, and with roughly 25-30 cookies per giveaway, they are meant to share with family and friends. My personal favourites were the candy cane chocolate chip cookies—yum!

His sole intent is to sweeten up someone’s day. The positivity and kindness spread by lovely people like him are what make this city wonderful.

Action Items:

Follow Milos on Instagram @madvillan and make sure to comment on the photos for your chance to win free cookies!
If you want to be a sponsor for these cookie giveaways, check out Milos’ tumblr page for more info: http://sweeteninguppeoplesday.tumblr.com/
Be kind to everyone, even artichokes have a heart (quote taken from the ever delightful Amelie movie)

Doctor’s caring knows no borders

Dr. Ophira Ginsburg, a medical oncologist by profession, has made it her personal mission to challenge the cancerous belief that the world cannot be changed. Specifically, she has been a champion for access to healthcare and breast cancer awareness for women irrespective of class, caste or country.

“I always felt there was something I need to do to help other people,” Ginsburg remarked, recalling the commitment regarding social justice her family instilled in her.

With an interest in science, starting out as a genetic counsellor and eventually re-educating to become a medical oncologist, she found her penchant for social justice was yet unfulfilled. She noticed that most of the people she saw in her clinics were “white and affluent.”

Moreover, as an oncologist she wondered, “Why are we paying so much attention to these . . . high priced drugs . . . [that] help very few people at extremely high cost and will never be available to most of the women with breast cancer?”

Leery of getting trapped on “the academic medical treadmill,” in 2002 she set out on an odyssey to South East Asia, outfitted with a backpack and little else, to assess local attitudes and levels of cancer education. She found that physicians there were primarily focused on infectious diseases, yet she knew that there were people out there suffering from cancer, but, she had to ask, “Where were their voices?”

Following W.P. Kinsella’s mantra, “If you build it, they will come,” Ginsburg cofounded a free breast cancer clinic in Bangladesh.

To her disappointment, she said, “They only came in dribs and drabs . . . and it was up to us to determine why.”

This was one of many trials she experienced; however, she said, “If you don’t have a lot of failures along the way, you’re doing something wrong.”

She became a reluctant entrepreneur, partnering herself with a local phone company and MIT-educated philanthropists to develop a mobile application to help shepherd women in need into the clinic. In four months, a group of 30 women armed with mobile apps were able to interview 20,000 women. The application showed women video testimonials of other women who had been diagnosed with cancer and survived and others who were treated by early intervention. This helped dispel the notion that cancer was a death sentence, as was commonly believed in South Asia. Some other volunteers were trained to further coach women on secondary issues that might prevent them from seeking help, such as child care, transportation and/or fears of domestic violence. Ginsburg was able to empower women to swallow the bitter pill of a cancer diagnosis and get the treatment they desperately needed.

Thanks to Ginsburg’s stalwart dedication, women in poor countries are increasingly seeking treatment and recovering from breast cancer. Her advice for people starting out on their career path? “Find something you’re passionate about and see if you can make a living at it. If not, try to find something you’re competent at, or also passionate about, and work at that to make your living while continuing your dedication to your passion.”

When Ginsburg initially set out to offer cancer care in poor countries, she said she “often faced blank stares, including my own in the mirror.” She urges people to ignore detractors, reminding us, “When speaking about . . . something you feel is an injustice, if you find people are telling you you’re wrong and you should be silenced, you’re probably on the right track.”

Toronto Educators Go Digital And Win

To flourish in their digitized classroom, all students receive an iPad upon registration. This enables them to access interactive lessons, including, video, audio and apps. According to Saine Toma, a student from Japan, “These books are really amazing. They have lots of applications, and [teachers] always give us a lot of opportunity to share with friends.”

Rice says it is because of the students that they received their many awards. “We won the Best ESL School Award as voted by students in Toronto through a survey by a local education consulting company. This was a big accomplishment because it was the voice and passion of students that won us that award two years in a row. It is very satisfying to me personally because it’s the voice of the students who spoke. They continue to inspire me to do better and to help them more.”

Jamie Matechuk and James Rice receiving their 2015 Digital Book Award.
Jamie Matechuk and James Rice receiving their 2015 Digital Book Award.
Rice started the school in the days of flourishing paper textbooks, after he had completed university and travelled through Asia, teaching English in Japan. This was 13 years ago, at the beginning of the Iraq war, which inspired him to make it his life mission “to start a school that could bring the world together to understand each other.”

His mission is certainly unfolding in front of his eyes, with the school hosting 100 to 200 students per month from around the world. Moreover, with the digital books replacing and costing much less than paper textbooks, Connect can now reach even more people across the globe.

As the school continues to grow, Rice and Matechuk, as well as other Connect teachers, will continue to push the digital boundaries of teaching and learning. With this in mind, Rice makes the following request to all who read this article: “Take the leap. If you are a student reading this article, use the digital knowledge. And if you are a teacher, take the leap. Download the apps.”

Connect School for Languages, James Rice, Jamie Matechuk, multi-media technology

Tough Love

Sergeant Tony Austin, a former US Marine Corps drill instructor currently residing in Toronto, has over 22 years experience in the fitness industry, working with both civilian and military personnel. While military-style training might sound daunting for those new to the workout circuit, it is a refreshing and much-needed change for the participants of Project O, a volunteer athletic training program run in conjunction with Covenant House and Pro Action Cops and Kids Foundation. Bringing together diverse, high-risk individuals between the ages of 15-26, the program unites participants weekly under Sergeant Tony A’s leadership to work on fitness, health and discipline. Culminating in a graduation ceremony, the 16-week course allows each participant to achieve a sense of belonging, improved body image, acceptance, friendship and an understanding that they are not alone.

While 95 per cent of the participants have had a run-in with the law, Austin does not let this cloud his judgement when meeting the new “recruits.” “These are not bad kids,” Austin explains. “They have merely fallen into hard circumstances and need help to get out.”

As the co-founder of Fit Factory Fitness, a military-style boot camp gym, Austin had the facility and drive to help organize Project O. He can identify with many of the participants and understands how it feels to be prejudicially labelled. As an African-American from the state of Florida, he has experienced racism and prejudice and knows how this can negatively affect one’s self-image and self-respect.

When asked why the participants, generally opposed to strong authority figures, respond so well to the training, he explains that he is someone the participants are “not used to” and that “they see they are all treated equally.”

“I don’t care what they did before they got here,” he says. “I know what they can achieve and they respond well because they know I believe in them.”

He admits that his style of training can be daunting, recalling two female participants who spent the first few weeks in tears because both had been abused by men and were intimidated by his military approach, which often involves yelling. Despite this unique challenge, Austin persevered and worked one-on-one with the women, who eventually became enthusiastic participants.

Your Scopes for the week of December 22, 2014 by Cerise Fairfax

Aries (March 21-April 19)
Do not forget about the people who were there for you when you where down. Even if they were not able to help you financially, at least their priceless prayers lifted your spirit.

Taurus (April 20-May 20)
Keep your eyes on the prize. It will be yours soon enough.

Gemini (May 21-June 20)
Never say that you are going to help someone if you know you will not commit to it. If you do you will only affect your own karma and quite possibly disappoint someone who could have really made a positive impact on your life.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Your intuition will be on point this week, and especially closer to the weekend. Listen to the small voice within. If your gut is wrenching with that butterfly feeling, there is a reason why. Pay attention. It does not mean something bad will happen. Chances are you are being warned so you can prevent unfavourable circumstances.

Leo (July 23-August 22)
Speak up, but also be humble. Puffing up your chest and behaving as if your view is the best view will only have others lose respect for you as opposed to wanting to follow your advice.

Virgo (August 23-September 22)
Do what comes naturally. Second guessing your instincts will only put you in first gear. If you want to move faster, you will have to appreciate your abilities and believe in yourself.

Libra (September 23-October 22)
Others may laugh at you, but that is okay; at least you know you will have the last laugh.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21)
Give yourself a break. Being hard on yourself is good. It means you trust in your ability to do better. However, know the fine line of diligence and self-deprecation.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21)
Mush! Move! Get going!!!! And do not stop. This is your time to rise; it may take a few days, weeks, months or even all year, but as long as you keep on keeping on without complaining, you will make it, and you will come through with shining colours.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19)
Your birthday time has arrived! Enjoy this time and do not over-celebrate. Pay attention to moderation.

Aquarius (January 20-February 18)
Blaming others for your mistakes will only make you seem petty. Take responsibility for your actions; if you must speak up to squeal on someone else, stick to the facts.

Pisces (Feb 19-March 20)
Do not take it personally when a family member says something offhand and completely insensitive. They will feel bad enough later when they realize what they had said in such a mindless manner.

Cerise Fairfax is a Personal Life Coach

Every Saturday Cerise offers a Strengthening Spirituality workshop from 3:30 until 4:30pm at 495 Sherbourne Street, located in the Wellesley Community Centre, second floor room C.
Cerise also recently published a book called 
Urban Proverbs: Daily quotes and advice on how to deal with challenging times. It’s available in audio, ebook and paperback.  

Made in Toronto Holiday Gift Guide

This holiday season, give gifts from closer to home. Our managing editor, Sophie Tolias, has selected 24 must-have gifts, all made in the city you love. There’s something for family, friends, children, pets and even those hard-to-shop-for people—like the beauty buff, the foodie and the art collector. So go ahead, shop your entire list local!

A humble hero making a huge difference

Yusuf Hirji, an 18-year old from Pickering, has survived more obstacles than most of us are given in a lifetime. And he’s done it all with a smile on his face.

Yusuf was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, in 2012. If some of you are wondering why osteosarcoma sounds so familiar, it’s because it is the same kind of cancer that affected another Canadian hero, Terry Fox.

While Terry took to the road to raise money for cancer research and awareness, Yusuf has taken to the stage as a youth ambassador for the Terry Fox Foundation, a role that allows him to speak to students across many schools and share his experience, insight and hope for the future of cancer research.

“I don’t know what necessarily inspired me to do this, it just kind of happened,” said Yusuf. “I mean, once I started doing it, I wanted to keep on doing it, and I love public speaking, so it was important to me.”

He began speaking shortly after he was diagnosed, travelling to local schools to talk about the Terry Fox Foundation and his personal experience.