Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Have you ever suffered from a balance problem? By that I'm not thinking of our ability to juggle the various aspects of our lives without dropping something, I know a lot of us have trouble with that.

No, I'm referring to our ability to stay upright. The experts all warn us that our balance decreases as we age. That's unfortunate but inevitable. Many people experience motion sickness, a temporary and nasty short-term balance problem.

However, if you are dizzy or the world seems to be whirling around you, and you feel extremely nauseous, you probably have some sort of balance problem that needs immediate medical attention. There are several possible causes of a lack of balance, some quite serious.

I follow Dana Meise on FacebookThe Great Hike

He's a middle-aged avid Canadian hiker who has spent chunks of time over several years walking the TransCanada Trail from the Atlantic to the Pacific and ultimately to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories on the Mackenzie River Delta, approximately 100 km from the Arctic Ocean. His trek was named Expedition of the Year by the Canadian Geographic Journal. At the moment, he's in Dawson City, Yukon sideswiped by - you guessed it - a balance problem, with accompanying dizziness, vertigo and nausea. Unfortunately, he has passed the 2015 weather/available daylight window of accessibility to the far north, so he will have to take some time to recover and try again next year. We wish him well.

Adrienne Brodeur has written an excellent article in The New York Times about balance. Not only is it well-written, but it contains some vital information as well and a reminder that it isn't necessarily a bad thing to slow down. I'd love to just copy and paste it into this blog post, but since that's a no-no, here's the link and I hope you have time to read it.

Literal Balance, Life Balance

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Soaring Shirts

Do you love that IKEA ad where the woman is checking out of the store with all her bargains and yells toward her waiting-in-the-car husband, "Start the car! Start the car!" I never get tired of watching it and it makes ms smile every time.

You've maybe seen this new IKEA ad on TV. I just saw it on Facebook and had to share. So creative!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Murder of Harriet Krohn

The Murder of Harriet Krohn

The Murder of Harriet Krohn, Karin Fossum

Karin Fossum is a prize-winning Norwegian author whose many books have been translated into multiple languages. She's an awesome writer - I've enjoyed every one of her previous novels.

In The Murder of Harriet Krohn, Fossum tells the story from the point of view of a murderer. She really gets into the twisted mind of this older man whose gambling addiction leads him to depraved thinking and behaviour. In fact, she's so successful that I found myself too uncomfortable to read any further. So I put the book aside after getting maybe a third of the way in.

It's just scary how some people think.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Inconvenient Indian, Bev Sellars and The Canadian Prairie Garden Puree Company

Recently I read Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian, A Curious Account of Native People in North America in preparation for my September Book Club meeting.

The Inconvenient Indian

A non-fictional account, through a combination of historical facts and relevant stories, of our North American Native Peoples, it was a bit of an eye-opener for me. I knew of the unfair treatment of native people, but didn't understand its scope or that of the accompanying racism that continues to this day.

Afterwards I read a book recommended and loaned to me by a friend, They Called Me Number One, Secrets and Survival At An Indian Residential School, by Bev Sellars. 

They Called Me Number One

The author, a member of and the first female chief at the Williams Lake, BC Xat'sull First Nation, tells us of her grandmother's, her mother's and her own experiences at residential school. Even before reading this book I was aware of some of the issues of the residential school system in Canada. Now I'm horrified. No wonder such a high percentage of aboriginal kids and young adults who emerged from those schools, were broken individuals, not only damaged by the abuses that occurred there, but burdened with low self-esteem and estranged from their own communities, language and culture.

At the same time, I have full admiration for Sellars who has written so eloquently about the institution's lasting effects and her own road to healing and wholeness. 

Make no mistake. One does not read these books for enjoyment. While easy reading, they are disturbing and, for that reason, difficult to get through. Read them to educate yourself and consider supporting native people where you can.

One thing we can do is support native business ventures. I'm not thinking here about cigarettes and waste management, both damaging in their own ways and not positive models for the community. Let's encourage and support sustainable, eco-friendly and wholesome entrepreneurial-ship.

Here's one we could get behind: Canadian Prairie Garden Purees, a business founded by Kelly Beaulieu, a member of Sandy Bay First Nations in Manitoba. Based in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, the company uses breakthrough technology to prepare vegetable and fruit purees. The process involves direct steam injection and a continuous flow process to thoroughly and quickly cook and sterilize purees which are then packaged aseptically in pouches of varying sizes.

Innovation Unites Saskatoon Berries and Craft Beer

The natural flavours and bright colours of the raw ingredients are preserved thanks to the quick cooking. And, thanks to the innovative packaging, the pouches need no refrigeration (until opened) . 

There's everything from beets to sweet potatoes to chickpeas and navy beans to cauliflower, squash and Saskatoon berries, all the ingredients fresh, locally grown and non-GMO. The company is also currently developing local sources for organic fruits and vegetables.

The smallest amount that can be purchased is 10 kg. with prices ranging from $26 to $40 for the vegetable purees. Saskatoon berry puree is $90 for 10 kg. If 10 kg seems like rather a large amount, keep in mind that the pouch will last unrefrigerated for 24 months. Also, the original amount can be divided into smaller amounts, then frozen. 

    Baby Food and Adult nutrition
    Pasta sauces
    Dips and smoothies
    Jams and toppings

Products are shipped within Canada only. Canadian Prairie Garden Purees

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Steven Tyler in Russia

I saw this on morning TV the other day and thought it was pretty cool:

This video on the same day features a different kind of musician (smile)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Glenn Gould and the Gas Mask

Humanizing the great artist. Graphic artist is Heather Collett.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dragon Hedge

75-year-old John Brooker, who lives in Norfolk in the UK used to stand at his kitchen window staring at a rather large boring privet hedge. One day, 10 or so years ago, he decided to take his hedge trimmers and improve the look of it. Today, after a few refinements, there's a beautiful dragon that he can enjoy after he puts the trimmers away. Since the hedge is on a public footpath, many passersby also enjoy the dragon. 

As you may know, plants grow quickly in the UK's temperate sea air so, to keep the 20 ft. high dragon in shape, John has to spend as many as 3 days every 2 to 3 weeks using sharp tools, tall ladders and long reaches. 

John Brooker clipping the dragon-style topiary

Here's a short interview:

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Great One

After 100 years, North America’s tallest mountain is being renamed. For generations native Alaskans have called this peak Denali, meaning “the high one” or “the great one”.

President Obama’s announcement means this important place is honoured as it has been by the Koyukon Athabascans  for thousands of years.

20,322 ft. of greatness.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan                                                                                                                              Katherine Applegate

Who doesn’t love animals? Are you like me? Do you enjoy the occasional visit to the zoo? The reality though, is that we and our kids and grandkids are growing up with much more awareness of animal rights and of what constitutes being kind to animals. Kids of all ages will love The One and Only Ivan.

 Ivan is a silverback gorilla who has been living, in his own words, for 9855 days at one of those intersection malls off I-95 in the US. He’s part of a “show”. Mack, the owner, has good intentions but his bottom line is the almighty dollar, so unfortunately he cuts corners where his animals are concerned. Besides Ivan, there is Stella, an elderly elephant with a sore foot who is a born nurturer and helps to encourage the others and Bob, a stray dog who loves to sleep on Ivan’s generous tummy.

The story, based on a real-life mall gorilla, is told in Ivan’s voice. On every page there is a mix of humour and emotion.

Stella, unfortunately, dies of the infection in her damaged foot and leaves Ruby, a newly-arrived elephant calf, taken away too soon from her mother in a distant land.  Stella, though, has charged Ivan with looking after little Ruby and he takes the challenge seriously, even telling her the story of his life, not easy for him, since gorillas don’t have the same prodigious memory as elephants.

Luckily Ivan has help. Bob is always there for him and there is also Julia, young daughter of George, the caretaker.  Julia, a avid artist, encourages Ivan who also loves to draw. She is the one human who takes Ivan and the other animals seriously and ultimately it’s her intervention that saves them all.

I highly recommend The One and Only Ivan. Adults will find it a quick read – probably only one or two sittings – but entirely worth the time. Kids in Grade 2 and up will find the language very accessible and the story both chuckle-worthy and irresistible.  Boys, in particular, will giggle at the scatological references. With so few words on each page,  reading is quick and it’s almost impossible not to continue on to the next page. I know I’m a sucker for kid-lit, but honestly, I couldn’t put it down.

It’s easy to see why Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan was a Newbery Award winner in 2013. Get this book ASAP at your local library and read it quickly before handing it over to your favourite munchkin(s). Or read it together – there will be lots of conversations sparked.