Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Subway Tips

It has been years since I've had to use public transit on a regular basis. But it's like riding a bicycle - you just never forget what it's like.

Here's a video about public transit courtesy - kind of amusing.

If you have to use buses and subways regularly, you have my full sympathy!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Where The Moon Isn't

Where the Moon Isn't: A Novel

Where the Moon Isn't is a stunning novel that left me completely bowled over. Told in the voice of Matthew Homes, who is writing down what has happened, the story unfolds over Matt's life between ages 10 and 19. 

As a young boy, Matt had a older-by-2-years brother, Simon, who happened to have Down's Syndrome. One of the features of DS kids is that they have moon faces - roundish features and often a happy grin. Through misadventure, Simon dies and Matt who feels responsible descends into despair. His moon is missing. Note the excellent portrayal on the cover. 

As he moves into his teen years, like so many other young adults, Matt encounters mental illness, eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. He is fully cognizant of his illness but is helpless in its throes. One of the obsessions he lives with is Simon and how to bring him back. At age 19 he starts to write it all down,and that narrative is what we are reading.

First-time author, Nathan Filer, is a British former mental health nurse and familiar with the ways that mental illness can take over a person's life. Filer is inspired in opening the novel with Matt as a normal child and then having us, the readers, accompany him into the descent of his illness, with heart-breaking effect on his relationships with family and friends. 

In the same way that Mark Haddon's  A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-time gave us a window into what it's like to have high-functioning autism, we are immersed into the experience of being schizophrenic. It feels authentic. At the same time, we love Matthew Homes. He is sweet and fun and has a quirky sense of humour. We laugh, we cry, we empathize. 

As they say in the UK, this book is brilliant!

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Afterword Reading Society - Part 1


About two weeks ago I signed up for The Afterword Reading Society, a group of National Post book-lovers. Now I get a weekly email offering me the chance to be one of the next group of readers who will receive by mail, free-of-charge, the next book selected. If chosen, the reader must agree read the book and answer a questionnaire by a deadline.

I've been busy, so the first time I opted to enter the draw for the next book was the second week of December and guess what! I found out on the 18th that I had been chosen and would soon receive a copy of If I Fall, I Die, by Michael Christie. I have until January 13 to read the book and submit the answers to the questionnaire.

Anybody read it?

Will keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas Story

Hilda sent this to me and I thought it looked like the kids had a lot of fun putting this together. Love the Kiwi accents. They are all from St. Paul's Church, Auckland.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Did you have a chance to catch Libera on PBS the other night? Libera is an English all-boy vocal group which tours the world and was in the US last April to record the program for PBS as part of their fund-raising efforts. The choir was well-received by the enthusiastic American audience.

They are truly outstanding: ordinary boys transformed through practice and discipline into a renowned choir that is a delight to watch and listen to.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas!

boxer christmas

Mom said there would be presents under the tree

If you have time over the holidays, you might enjoy this video:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How We Got the "Do" in Do-Re-Mi

Tom Allen (Exit Music) from CBC has put out a new video explaining how we got the "do" in do-re-mi, the verbal scale we are so familiar with.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sargy Mann

Have you heard of British artist Sargy Mann? He has been blind or nearly so for the last 25 years, but he's still painting and still has exhibitions. Amazing art. 

Here's a short BBC video about him and a little about how he manages.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

One More Thing

Last night I found some bells that I used a couple years ago for a cork wreath and added one to the top of the little ribbon tree ornament.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Crafts

Every December I come down with a craft bug. I have very little skill or creativity in that area, but I always enjoy making stuff.

The other day, on my way out of the library, I saw a display of Christmas books, including one on home-made crafts, so I brought it home and had fun leafing through it. Two ideas caught on.

These snowflakes are made out of ordinary printer paper, cut and glued - so easy. I should have taken a photo before I put them in the window. Actually, I think that real snowflakes have only 6 points, so these are a bit of a lie, but still pretty.

They show up better against the night outside.

This heart wreath is made with cranberries threaded onto two wires and bound with raffia. The little mason jar has a battery-powered tea-light inside.

Making it reminded me of all those years I used to thread popcorn and cranberries into a garland for the Christmas tree.

Here it is at night.

Of course, there's no end of ideas on Pinterest. I thought this little tree would be easy to put together. I think it was a suggested craft for a toddler learning to tie shoes. I used an old cinnamon stick I found in my spice drawer, but it would be cute with a twig too. I ran out of Christmas-y ribbon, otherwise I might have made a few more. I'll check out Michaels for a supply of ribbon for next year. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Random Shots

from the Maritimes.

In Inverness, Cape Breton Island we stopped early one morning at a coffee shop and spotted these houses across the street - one on the right, one on the left and in between, a tiny house.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Whole Wheat

Remember Rosie Schwartz? She's a Canadian nutritionist and author of The Enlightened Eater, a book we purchased 30 years or so ago and which has had a prominent place on my cookbook shelf ever since. We were so taken with Rosie's information and common sense that we attended an author presentation when she came to the school just around the corner from where we were living at the time.

Rosie Schwartz Enlightened Eater

It looks like the book has probably been updated and reissued a few times since it was first published.

Now, many years later, Rosie has a blog, RosieSchwartz.com and is still informing us about nutritional issues. The blog offers up tips and tricks, nutrition news and book reviews. There are recipes to try and questions answered.

One of the recent questions that came via Rosie's Facebook Page concerned the difference between whole grain and whole wheat. I have always thought that if I was using whole wheat flour in a recipe that I was also getting whole grain, but that is incorrect. Only certain brands of whole wheat flour are also whole grain.

Here's what Rosie says:

 In Canada, outdated legislation allows for up to 70 per cent of the germ to be removed and the product can still be called whole wheat.

A whole grain contains the entire kernel of the grain which includes three parts – the outer bran, the endosperm and the inner germ. So if you thought that whole wheat should mean the entire kernel of a wheat grain, you would be wrong if you’re Canadian.

Health Canada thinks that if you’re looking for whole grain wheat, you should look for “whole grain whole wheat”.  It seems redundant to me. Would you agree?

As a result, if you purchase whole wheat flour – if it’s a Canadian brand, with a few exceptions,  it’s likely not whole grain. It’s still offering you more in the way of nutritional value than all-purpose but whole grain is the best.

Rosie offers a list of Canadian whole wheat flours with a note as to whether they are whole grain or not. As you can imagine, the brands we usually buy, e.g. Robin Hood, are not whole grain. The only brand I recognized that is whole grain is Bob's Red Mill, a US brand.

Organic Whole Wheat Flour

Here's a link to her blog post about Whole Grain . While you're visiting there, have a look around. I think you'll find her blog very informative. And if you have a nutritional question that's been nagging you for awhile, visit her Facebook page.

Rosie isn't much impressed by the arguments for being gluten-free (Wheat Belly and Grain Brain are two books she mentions) but she does point out that our generation is eating much more gluten than previous generations, thanks to the prevalent use of wheat (largely hidden, but check the ingredient list) in processed foods, which are so popular and quick. I think that limiting our intake of processed foods and of baking in general, whether gluten-free or not, just makes sense. And if we are going to eat something made of wheat, we should make sure it's the most nutritious baked good we can find, not just whole wheat, but whole grain to maximize its goodness.We are what we eat!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Strainer Art

This interesting artform by Isaac Cordal caught my eye the other day.

The idea is that light shining through the strainer leaves an image on the surface below. 

  • Strainer Shadow Art by Isaac Cordal: Isaac-Cordal-sculpture7.jpg

The Spanish-born (1974) artist is better known for his creation and placement of tiny cement figures in public places around the world, part of an on-going project called "Cement Eclipses". 

The following installation was part of Casus Pacis in St. Petersburg, Russia in August, 2014 and was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and to the on-going revolution in Ukraine.


Cordal also had an installation in Berlin recently called "Waiting for Climate Change" which I encourage you to have a look at

See more of his work here .

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Comme Une Francaise

Salut! I just discovered this charming young French woman who uses YouTube videos to help us improve our French. Well, actually, it's intended for expats trying to get along in France. But we can all pretend, right? Besides, who doesn't want to be better at speaking French.

As well as being an engaging teacher with a wonderful smile, Géraldine Lepère zeroes in on the problems we all experience in the French language. Her videos are too numerous to mention so here are just a couple to whet your appetite. After that visit  Géraldine's blog, Comme Une Francaise for more and to access online guides. By the way, the comments sections are often full of information.

First up, 9 ways to order coffee in French...

Then, time to go? Here's how to say it elegantly. After all that's what it's all about right?

and remember, 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Naked Rambler Update

Remember the Naked Rambler in the UK? Refresh your memory here. His name is Stephen Gough and he believes that he (and anyone else who agrees with him) has the right to walk on the public footpaths in Britain without clothing. In fact, he thinks public nudity should be a human right.

Naked Rambler

He has probably spent as much time incarcerated as he has walking and now he has found out that British courts do not agree that he has the right to be naked in a public place. At the end of October the court ruled that his public nudity goes beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior and could be "alarming and morally and otherwise offensive" to others.

Gough, a former marine nicknamed the "Naked Rambler," has twice walked the length of Britain, with frequent interruptions for arrests, court appearances and jail time. He has served multiple sentences for appearing nude in places, including courts and an airplane.

Gough called the judgment a disappointment but added: "I have no choice but to continue."

Monday, November 10, 2014

In Remembrance

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The following video, a drone flying over Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, gives us a bird's eye view and a deeper appreciation of the extent of the Tower of London installation, especially moving when we consider that each of the 888,246 ceramic poppies represents a Commonwealth life lost during the First World War.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch is a heavy volume, almost at heavy as The Luminaries. And yes, it’s another long read, over 750 pages.

When I finished reading The Goldfinch, I realized I’d been reading about terrorism, drugs, depression, gambling, Russian mafia, violence and crime. If you’d told me that before I started, I probably wouldn't have picked the book up, but I’m so glad I did. What an amazing story! For me it was another total immersion experience where I surfaced only to make meals and sleep. I wouldn't have wanted to miss it.

Theo, a 13-year old boy, visiting an NYC art museum with his mom suddenly finds himself in the midst of a horrible bombing – dead bodies everywhere and his mom nowhere to be seen. By happenstance he is able to escape from the ruins of the building with a signet ring given to him by a dying man and a small but very valuable painting.

The Goldfinch, a well-known oil painting by 17th century artist, Carol Fabritius had already survived a 1654 explosion that killed the 32-year old artist in his own studio in the Dutch city of Delft. This painting of a tiny goldfinch chained to its perch was especially loved and extolled by Theo’s mother shortly before the devastating explosion that killed her and Theo has the sense that he is the painting’s rescuer.

This day of dust and destruction sets Theo off into a life unexpected, one in which he is burdened with post traumatic stress disorder, unacknowledged and untreated. The Goldfinch becomes a touchstone for Theo, connecting him to his old life and his mom, but eventually the painting turns into a liability – how to keep a valuable piece of art safe, how to return it to the museum without being charged with theft…

Twists and turns, engaging characters, symbolism related to the painting - all make this book a reading adventure. I highly recommend it, but beware the length of the novel and read it when only you have plenty of time, because, trust me, you won't want to tear yourself away.

Here is a list of awards for The Goldfinch and a video interview of the author:

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Remembrance Day in Canada is going to be especially emotional this year after two Canadian soldiers were targeted and killed in separate incidents just over a week ago. Many Canadians will  be buying and wearing poppies to remember the fallen heroes, past and present.

In the UK, to recognize the very special 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, a major art installation, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, is being put together in London at the Tower of London.

888,246 ceramic poppies, designed by artist Paul Cumming and made and installed by hundreds of volunteers have been filling up the Tower's moat over the summer. The final poppy is slated to be installed on Armistice Day, November 11. Each poppy represents the family of a British fatality (including Commonwealth - and there were more than 65,000 Canadians) during the First World War. 

The poppies have been offered for sale (£25.00) and after November 11 they will be packaged up and sent all over the world. Proceeds will go to help 6 different charities. I believe they have already sold out.

For more information go here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Maritime Churches and Lighthouses

Does it seem a little strange to pair churches and lighthouses in a blog post? Maybe we can suggest that they both cast light into the world? On the other hand, lighthouses warn us away, while churches would like to draw us in. One thing they have in common is that many are falling into disrepair and are expensive to maintain. People seem to love lighthouses and take great pains to preserve them, even though the technology is no longer needed, thanks to satellites and GPS. Churches, on the other hand, are a hard sell and I know that United Churches in particular are closing at an increasing rate.

We saw plenty of both churches and lighthouses on our Maritime trip and took photos of a few to share. 

St. James United in the tiny Nova Scotia community of Great Village, is a charming wooden church on the main corner of town. I learned after I was home that, sadly, it has just recently been put up for sale by the congregation which is declining in numbers but advancing in age, an unfortunate combination for maintaining a church. 

St. James, a historic landmark dating from 1883, needs a new purpose in the village and a meeting is to be held on November 25 to brainstorm ideas.

Walton Lighthouse is the last original lighthouse in Nova Scotia. Built in 1872 it used to guide ships into Walton Harbour on NS's Fundy coast. Decommissioned in the 1970's and sold, it is now maintained by a non-profit organization. Volunteers manage the lighthouse and operate the nearby gift shop. The friendly woman on duty the day we were here told us all about the historic harbour (at one time the busiest in Nova Scotia) and about the barite and gypsum industries.

Walton Lighthouse

Can't resist adding in this beautiful photo taken by somebody else on another day.

walton foggy sunrise nov 10 2013

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, on the eastern side of St. Margaret's Bay, is iconic. The original structure dates from 1868 and its replacement, built in 1914, is still operational today, though automated. It's really fun to jump around on the huge granite outcrops that the lighthouse sits on and to watch the waves crashing in. Apparently every year several tourists get swept off the rocks in spite of the warning signs.

Peggy's Cove

In Halifax Harbour - Georges Island, and its lighthouse, 1876 and replaced in 1917

Georges Island, viewed from Citadel Hill

The Woods Island Lighthouse in PEI welcomes the ferry from Caribou, Nova Scotia.

Woods Island, PEI, 1876

At the northeastern tip of PEI there is the East Point Lighthouse, still operational today, run by electricity. There is also a craft shop and a small coffee shop on the site. It's a charming place to visit.

East Point Lighthouse, PEI, 1867

Still in PEI, in the distance, perched on a hill in St. Peter's Bay, is a large Roman Catholic Church. This photo was taken from the Confederation Trail.

St. Peter's Bay Roman Catholic Church
This 1927 Catholic church is one of the first things you notice when you arrive in the St. Peter's Bay.

Here's a better picture (Not mine)
  • St. Peters Roman Catholic Church

St. Peter's Bay United Church is one half of a two-point charge and is still active.

St. Peter's Bay United Church,  PEI, 1886
The following lighthouse is on the south shore of PEI and we had lunch nearby before crossing the Confederation Bridge back to the mainland.

Victoria-by-the-Sea, 1879

There are so many pretty churches in PEI. I love how this steeple resembles a lighthouse.

The Cape Jourimain lighthouse is near the Confederation Bridge.

Dating from 1870 Cape Jourimain Lighthouse is no longer operational, having been decommissioned in 1997. It sits on property now owned by the Cape Jourimain Nature Centre, which is fundraising to restore and keep the lighthouse as a reminder of the area's marine heritage. You can see that it's desperately in need of fresh paint.

Visiting the Lighthouse

Sackville (NB) United Church (above) is on this corner, adjacent to this marvelous structure (below) which was closed. Apparently this 135-year old white building, all 6000 square feet of it, is for sale, but the current owners (developers, not the church) want the building renovated or moved. With the church offices now in the old town hall next door, Sunday services are being held at Mount Allison University Chapel nearby while plans are underway for construction of a new building.

I found some interior shots online (isn't that amazing??)

It was a long side-trip in from the highway to Cape Enrage, New Brunswick, but totally worth it, especially on such a beautiful day. The Cape sits on the point of an island (reached over a causeway) right where the Bay of Fundy tides surge in and out over a shallow reef, resulting in violent waters just off shore. It is also extremely windy. There has been a lighthouse here since 1847. It is now totally automated in a newer structure.

Cape Enrage, Lighthouse (1870) Fundy Coast of  New Brunswick

There's a path up to the lighthouse

Cape Enrage is now an adventure centre, with rock climbing, rappelling and a zip line (all closed when we were here). It was one of the destinations on this summer's Amazing Race Canada.

Cape Enrage

A small but important lighthouse, guarding a treacherous point.

There's a walk down to the beach, with the appropriate warning about the tides.

Finally, here's the wonderful map that was in our room at the Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, NB as well as one of the many spectacular sunsets we saw over the course of a couple weeks.