Archive for November, 2012

A Year of Magical Eating

CSA Food Share

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Food Share, late August 2012. Photo by C. Toplis

Now, I’ve always been what I call a healthful eater, having been brought up by a mother with a degree in “Food Sciences” (well, that’s what they called it in the ’50’s) who drummed  Canada’s Food Guide into us at an early age.  We were always aware what a balanced meal was: protein, starch, vegetable.  No time was this more clear than when it came to objecting to my young sister’s and my more questionable meal requests.  For a time, my mother taught a dubiously titled “Foods for Health” night school cooking class with a friend,  for which our family was the guinea-pig recipe tester.  I believe that’s where I got my first taste for millet, if in fact that’s possible.   In university, my housemates knew me as the one who always made sure we ate our vegetables.  And my husband will attest that I’ve certain broadened his vegetative horizons over the years we’ve been married. Continue reading


Under-size me!

Obesity Epidemic

News of the western world’s obesity epidemic appears everywhere, so unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you’re likely aware that we’re all putting on a lot of weight.  Coincident with this news are many theories as to why it is happening; I’ve listed below in no particular order, a few of the ones that make the most sense to me as key contributors to our amassing bulk.
size comparisons between US and UK

  1. Clothing size escalation – I’ve not seen a lot reported about this, but the reality is that clothing sizes in America are dramatically bigger than they used to be.  Take my particular case:  I graduated from high school some thirty-plus years ago at a 125 lbs, and wore a size 10 or Large for most clothing.  I’m fortunate enough to weigh within 3 lbs of that  weight currently, and now consistently wear a Small — size 6 or even a size 4 in some cases. From this it is obvious that clothing manufacturers have used vanity sizing to hide expanding waistlines from customers.  I would wager that to wear the same size today as the 70’s high school me, I’d need to put on more than 75 pounds.  Put another way, North Americans who haven’t changed clothing size in a while have been lulled into thinking their body size hasn’t changed, or not that much, any way.  Nowhere is this most apparent but in the US; this size chart shows the UK apparently hasn’t succumbed to this trend at all.   Continue reading

Dumbing down the newspaper

PaywallWith much flourish and a quite beautiful marketing campaign, my newspaper recently introduced a paid on-line option, following over the pay wall such esteemed titles such as The Wall Street Journal and The Times. As an iPad owner, I was keen to experience the paper’s digital version with new “subscriber-only” content, and explore both the web- and tablet-based experiences. But after a few days, I returned to my paper version. There’s something unfortunate that happens in the transition from paper to digital, and it isn’t good news for newspapers; the very rendering of content in today’s digital formats serves to dumb it down. Or so it appears to me.

There are three reasons I can see for this. Firstly, in appearing on-line, paper copy gets tarred by the Internet’s brush. Our writing quality expectations are lower for the Internet; everyone’s a journalist on-line, no one has an editor to remind them their piece is nonsensical, belligerent, boring, or imagine that, spelt imperfectly. And while this isn’t to say there is no good quality writing on the web, it is just so overwhelmed by the volumes of bad stuff.  We’re used to the poor quality on-line and expect nothing more; I assert in fact that we judge in advance based on medium. Continue reading

There’s a catch to having a pet

Hannibal and his favorite item

Hannibal and his favorite item. Image by

Hannibal loves balls. Tennis balls, rubber balls, and even kongs, those indestructible rubber objects made to exercise your dog’s jaws, even though they aren’t even round.  Hannibal, somewhat cryptically nick-named Bull for short, lives to fetch a ball.

His day starts at the first ray of dawn, which even in the fall is much earlier than humans want to be awake.  With only a little patience, and less quietly as the moments tick by, Bull gets psyched to play ball. Since he must coerce a human to take him out, the first order of business is waking them up.  He’s learned that the direct method – prance over to nearest sleeping human and prod them repeatedly with wet nose – is not advisable as it leads to shouting if not flailing arms, so his efforts must be more subtle.  First he tries noisily re-positioning himself on the doggie pillow, changing from a furry ball curled to the left to a furry ball curled to the right.  And back again. With some heavy sighs. Then there is some tentative stretching, accompanied by some theatrical grunts and groans thrown in for good measure.  When this fails to rouse the humans, Bull tries scratching his collar, a sure-fire noise generator, his dog tags jangling piercingly with every scratch.  If the slumbering continues (although by now in truth the humans are only feigning sleep and trying to suppress their laughter), it is sometimes helpful to try sniffing the nearest human with his tickling whiskers, making a quick departure to avoid those aforementioned flailing limbs. Continue reading