Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Importance of Eating Whole Grains

An important thing to remember is that whole wheat flour is not the same as whole grain wheat flour and is not nearly as nutritious as we would like to think. Unless the words "whole grain" appear on the ingredient list, the flour is just refined flour, whether white or whole wheat. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

How Do Orchestras Keep it Together?

I love Tom Allen's music videos. Here's another one about how orchestras work.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Liberty Street

Liberty Street

I’ve just made a huge discovery: a Canadian author I’ve never heard of, Dianne Warren. I’m a little ashamed of never having her on my radar, since she’s a GG-award winner for her novel, Cool Water in 2010

I just finished reading her 2015 novel, Liberty Street and I’ve been blown away (again) by how a writer can create an absolutely ordinary character, a person often in a downward spiral through fate or as a result of poor choices, in a part of the world most people are unfamiliar with, rural Saskatchewan, and lift her into literary unforgettableness.

The novel opens with the main character, Frances Moon, in the presence of her long-time partner, suddenly blurting out an admission about something that she has kept under wraps since it happened in her late teens. What ensues is Frances revisiting her life from her earliest memories. The partner is not heard from again and we learn about the life events leading up to the critical point that becomes an admission so many years later.

Warren tells this tale with compassion and gentle humour and she had me totally committed to finding out more about the life and times of Frances Moon. I’m looking forward to reading more of Warren’s work.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


The wet summer and warm late summer/fall have given birth to a bumper crop of fungi at the cottage.

Tiny ones 

and bigger ones

Interesting underbellies

and this beauty beside the driveway at home

all working together to create harmony. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Year in the Life of a Tree

That video in the last post was a camera travelling along a long-distance trail. In today's video the camera is stationary and it's time that's moving on: a tree in Italy through the seasons.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Pacific Coast Trail

I guess it's no secret that I really enjoy long-distance walking. Though I've never hiked any part of the Pacific Coast Trail, I loved Wild, Cheryl Strayed's book about walking it solo and I heard that the movie starring Reese Witherspoon was terrific. 

For me, though, the hard part would be carrying that huge heavy backpack full of tent, sleeping bag, and everything else you need. For sure, that would take some of the enjoyment of it away for me. So isn't it wonderful that others share their experience in books and videos? 

The following video was posted 3 years ago by Halfway Anywhere and uses 3-second clips to document the journey. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Word by Word

Word by Word

I hereby confess that I giggled my way through this book.

Word by Word is a serious non-fiction account of what it’s like to be a lexicographer, an employee of the dictionary company, Merriam-Webster, which is just what author, Kory Stamper is. Stamper’s writing style, while imparting accurate information about dictionary entries and how they come about is so engaging and so self-deprecating and downright humorous, that reading the entire book was a joy.

Non-fiction books, especially those providing information but even biographies can sometimes so overwhelm me with details that I often skip over paragraphs or pages in order to remain engaged. No problem with Word by Word. I don’t think I missed a single word – actually I read it word by word ;)

Author Kory Stamper begins the book telling us a little about her pre-work life and then about applying for a job at M-W and her training to become a proper lexicographer, who can take a word, find its origins, its pronunciation, its various spellings and meanings and so on, then craft a definition which includes all the various senses or meanings of that particular word and write them in the properly formatted version needed for the dictionary in a way which will not be conflicted, controversial or inflammatory but will still be understood and usable by the reader.

Lexicography is a scholarly pursuit, wherein words and meanings are always changing and new words are being coined at an accelerating rate. Hard to keep up! Before a dictionary is published it is already in need of revision. The work is never done.  

Stamper writes about some of the difficulties of word defining, finding short words, swear words and colour-related words (“nude” caused a lot of angst!) among the most challenging. Her chapters are full of amusing stories and examples. Footnotes are especially fun and elicited many snorts during my reading.

For example:
Stamper writes, “In the event you don’t know what the obelus is for,* we have a short usage paragraph…..etc. etc.

Footnote: * “And you are not alone, though here I ask you, again and graciously, to read the goddamned front matter.”

What is “front matter”, you ask? It's the written material at the beginning of every dictionary telling you what you need to know in order to understand what exists in the main body of the tome. Read it! 

Of course, these days, few people refer to dictionaries in hard copy. In fact, people are using dictionary pages for creative paper art or crafts which can then be sold and are probably collectively worth more than that old dusty gigantic book taking so much room on a shelf.

So yes, dictionaries are online which makes things both easier and more difficult for lexicographers. On the one hand, changes can be made at less cost and more rapidly than republishing new versions of complete dictionaries. On the other hand, people find it easier to complain (few people actually think to compliment the folks who do all this work – why is it human nature to always look for the mistake, the omission, the supposed disrespect instead of saying, “well done!”?)

And yes, lexicographers read and answer all the emails and letters they receive. Dealing with reader mail seems to be one of a lexicographer’s most time-consuming duties. Stamper has quite a few letters to share with us and I found them valuable in explaining the difference between the WORD and the MEANING OF THE WORD. For example, when the word is ‘marriage’, with one of its senses being ‘same-sex marriage’, people wrote in dismay that having this meaning in the dictionary would promote the LGBTQetc agenda to the detriment of American society and HOW COULD THEY! But the fact is, the word, ‘same-sex marriage’ is a word that is in usage, both orally and in print and therefore it needs to be included in the dictionary and whether one is for or against the issue is BESIDE THE POINT. The opinion of the reader, whatever it is, is not part of the equation.

The chapter on pronunciation is also interesting. You know those ridiculously complicated keys in dictionaries to help pronounce a word? Did you know that if you are actually able to navigate the keyed symbols for the word, it will come up being pronounced in your own accent, whether it be Cajun, Scottish or Newfie. If dictionaries were to use the phonetic spelling as opposed to the key (phonemic), pronunciations would then not reflect the way a person would actually say the word, but would be in someone else’s accent.

Stamper gives quite a few pages to a mis-pronunciation that bothers me quite often and which I found most interesting: “nuclear” vs “nucular” (aaaargh…it’s painful just typing it!) Now I’d like to hear the arguments around “envelope” (n-velope vs on-velope) and “experiment” (ex-pair-iment vs ex-spear-iment: this one is in almost every episode of Big Bang Theory, thanks to Sheldon Cooper/Jim Parsons) and what about Hallo-ween vs Hollo-ween!

I guess by now you can tell how much I liked this book. I recommend it to anybody who loves the English language and the hunt for the right word.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Watermelon Farming

Here's another interesting farming video. I'm starting to look at food differently on my trips to grocery stores and the farmers' markets. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Trueman maze

Many investors and small business owners have found that one of the keys to success is to diversify and farmers are no exception.

Farmers everywhere seem to just pretty much scrape by economically. At the mercy of weather, pests and consumer ups and downs, and competing against multinationals, farmers are always looking for ways to increase revenue or to fortify themselves against a bad crop and one of the ways is to diversify. 

Tom Trueman is the eighth generation of his family to farm this land. 'I don’t think any generation ever did whatever the previous ones did,' he says.

Tom Trueman, a New Brunswick blueberry and raspberry farmer, and the 8th generation of his family to farm their land, runs a pick-your-own operation as well as a roadside stand. This year he came up with the idea of planting and maintaining a sunflower maze and inviting the public to meander through it. It is conveniently located just off the main highway that runs through New Brunswick on the way to Nova Scotia and PEI.

Trueman maze

The CBC interviewed Mr. Trueman and put a video on their website which you can find here. When I went to YouTube to see if the interview would be there so that I could include it here (sadly, it wasn't) I found lots of other sunflower maze videos and it seems that sunflower mazes are popular across the US. Trueman believes his is the only one in NB. 

Trueman's farm also has honeybees, so the sunflowers provide a plentiful supply of pollen for them, but it begs the question about whether he keeps a bee sting kit or two handy throughout the season.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Clouds can Inspire

I discovered there are a lot of Twitter posts about clouds and lots of YouTube videos as well. (none of these photos and videos is mine)

First, recent (Aug.1) mammatus clouds in Ontario


Then, spectacular clouds in Cumbria, the north of England:

Falling clouds:

Finally, an iridescent cloud over Ethiopia:


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Mows Doors

Tiny mouse doors are being spotted in out-of-the-way places by observant residents and visitors in Minneapolis. Most of them have a tiny window beside the door and a welcome mat in front. All have a charming curb appeal. 

The person responsible is 55-year old @mows510, (pronounced Mouse) an anonymous street artist who creates these colourful little vignettes and posts them on his Instagram account where you can see them even if you don't have an Instagram account. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Crop Farming in Alberta

This video reassures me that Canadian farmers are following good agricultural practices. We are in good hands.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Gobbins

As I'm putting this post together at the beginning of May, I haven't even left yet on my English/Icelandic adventure, coming up in mere days. On this day (today!) this post appears on the blog I will be home and photos of that adventure will already have been shared in this space.

Meanwhile, I'm already looking forward to future adventures and maybe they will include this guided walk along the Gobbins in Northern Ireland on the Causeway Coast, not far from the beautiful city of Belfast. 

The Gobbins, a spectacular part of the rugged Irish coast has fascinated people since the 19th century when a path was first proposed. Completed in 1902, the trail was free for those who arrived by train (after a ticket inspection). All others had to pay a fee to take the walk. Alas, the upkeep of the Path was difficult over the years and eventually, it closed. Now it has been newly refurbished and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board is excited about the possibilities of a boost in tourism. 

Besides having a ton of interesting botanical specimens - ferns, grasses and tiny plants specific to this seaside habitat, this rugged coast is preferred nesting area for Puffins, Kittiwakes, Cormorants, Guillemots, Razorbills, and Shags. A noisy place during breeding season! The Walk is not open during this sensitive time, but once the nestlings are on their way, in early summer, you can book a day and a time online and enjoy a guided tour.


If you visit the Gobbins website you can see many historical photos and then page down on their homepage and take an interactive virtual tour of various parts of the Walk. How amazing is that! 

There are some restrictions, though, so check it out ahead of time if you want to go. Click here for restrictions. Regular adult admission is Ł10 with reductions for kids, seniors and families. Be aware that there's a steep climb back up to your transport. Totally worth it though! 

Aerial view:

Since you're already in County Antrim and you've already visited the Giant's Causeway and The Gobbins, why not also stop in at the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge an exciting crossing of a chasm over the sea and particular fun on a windy day. More info here.

Image result for carrick a rede


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Knights and Snails

What? Knight and snails? What an odd combo, although we have to admit they both carry armour. 

It's a curious fact that in illuminated books (meaning books illustrated and handwritten, usually by monks assigned as scribes) dating around the turn of the 14th century (1290 - 1310 - did I get that right?) there are many instances of knights facing snails in armed conflict, particularly in the marginata. Of course, it's possible the books could date from an even earlier period, with later additions of marginata

Here's a short video illuminating the idea for us.

Quirky marginata seem to have been the street art of the Middle Ages, a bit subversive but always thought-provoking. It's something to look for if you are lucky enough to view the pages of one of these medieval tomes in the future.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Straws Suck

Confession: just recently I used a plastic straw to drink a smoothie. Then I discovered that there is a campaign on to eliminate or at least reduce the use of single-use straws except maybe in hospitals where they might be useful for patients.

Straws, being so lightweight, blow around easily. From the outdoor table, from the trash container, from the landfill before it gets covered over....straws blow around and often end up in fields, roadsides, streams, ponds, beaches and ocean. The health of animals, birds, reptiles and fish all put at risk because of straws and other plastics that we unthinkingly use and toss.

If we really need a straw, we could use a re-usable one. Glass straws of different shapes and sizes can be ordered from Strawesome. Made in clear or coloured, different lengths and bores and with or without a bend or decoration, they are a bit pricey, but if a straw breaks they will replace it (though not if you are using it as a drumstick, they say)

Colored Barely Bent Glass Straw Set

But if we can drink coffee and tea without a straw, why do we need one for our iced coffee/tea? If we enjoy a beer or a glass of wine without a straw, why do we need one for our cola? 

We've cut down on our use of plastic bags so why not cut out our use of plastic straws. I remember when straws used to be paper and would eventually get so wet, they'd start to unroll in your drink. Why not just drink without a straw?

This is so hard to watch. I cried.

What do you think now about the use of plastic straws? I think in the future I'll use a spoon instead of a straw in my smoothie.

The Last Plastic Straw

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Bit More of England

Don and I spent our first week in the UK together before splitting up for our separate vacations - him to golf in Scotland with his buddies and me to walk across England along Hadrian's Wall with Wendy.

On arrival in Glasgow on May 11, we picked up our rental car and headed south. Our first hotel booked for that night turned out to be dark and deserted but we were directed by the friendly group playing whist in the next-door community centre to head down the M74 just a bit further to Moffat, a good-sized town with a couple of options for hotels and managed to score a "cottage", actually an annex to the main hotel that was a self-contained apartment with 2 bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen and large bathroom. Perfect! And quiet! 

The next day we headed down to the Lake District, spent the night in Staveley and then headed over to Yorkshire, visiting the Yorkshire Downs, Skipton, Harrogate and York. 

We didn't take many photos. These are a few.

from Bolton Abbey, founded in 1154 by the Augustinians near Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales: It was pouring rain when we arrived, so photos are dark.

The priory. The west end is still in use as a parish church. The east end is in ruins from 1540 when the monasteries were no longer allowed to remain during the reign of King Henry VIII.

The Bolton Abbey grounds are extensive and on a better day, we would have looked around a lot more. This day, we retreated from the rain into this lovely tea room.

Then ventured outside again to admire the size of this tree

and some typically awesome English gardens

We drove through the Yorkshire Dales, but on dark and dreary days the photos were not inspiring. Our visit to Harrogate was interesting but also marred by rain. We managed to score a table at the world-famous Betty's for an afternoon coffee and watched the rain from inside. Breads, cakes, scones and chocolates, hot beverages and light lunches have been served here since 1919.

With 2 nights in Skipton, we walked up to see the castle, remarkably well-preserved and went on a canal boat for a short distance which was pretty interesting too. 

The rain was spottier in York and we took a Hop-on-Hop-off Bus for a city tour and did quite a bit of walking around. 

The narrow streets and unavailability of parking meant we had to leave our car outside the walls of the old city and trundle our bags about a kilometer across cobblestones into our accommodations.

Our hotel, Galtres Lodge, was just around the corner from York Minster Cathedral and just behind our window was the Cathedral School. We attended Evensong at the Minster to hear the choir. Wonderful!!

In the same courtyard as the Cathedral is the much smaller St. Michael-Le-Belfrey, with beautiful windows, though different from Yorkminster.

Constantine the Great hangs out just behind, keeping watch. He was the Roman emperor who converted to Christianity.

To Constantine's right, you can see part of York Minster where there are ongoing repairs.

 From York, we headed to Newcastle for one last night before parting ways. As you might expect, Newcastle has a castle. We were there after closing time but snapped a few photos anyway.

We walked about a bit before dinner but did not venture down the hill to the Tyneside since it meant having to climb back up and of course, I knew I'd have a close view of the waterfront in just over a week's time on the last day of our walk.

There was a pedestrian way with some sculptures. I liked this one.

 And that's about it for our trip. We had a great time exploring some of the Lake District and Yorkshire. Also enjoyed the North York Moor on the way from York to Newcastle. There's always so much to see and do in the UK. I hope to go back soon!