Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Simple Suggestion #153... Be something of a 'best before' date skeptic

'Best before' dates are in the news here lately. I guess a lady in Leduc picked up some lobster paté at a Walmart and didn't look at the date on the can. She took it home, spread it on some crackers, and ate it, not realizing that it had been in its tin since long before July, 2011. Yikes!

I'm guessing all the local grocery stores are checking their inventory this week and tossing out stuff that's really old. But being a bit of a 'best before' date skeptic who hates to see anything wasted, I just hope they aren't taking those little dates TOO SERIOUSLY.

Even before the story about the lobster paté broke earlier in the week, I was thinking a lot about product expiry dating, and how much wastage it can cause. Back in January, Joel Salatin, organic farmer extraordinaire came to town, and he got me thinking. Michael at Earth's General Store asked Joel to speak to interested friends of EGS about his efforts to grow good organic food of all types at Polyface Farm, and provide some food security in his region of Virginia. He said many interesting things, but this really struck me:
The world, for all of our technology and refrigeration and plastic bags and vacuum-sealing and transportation and all of that, has never thrown away more human edible food than we do right now, today. Planet wide, we are losing roughly 50% of all the human edible food in all the world.... We have, in the developed world, incredible snootiness about what is edible...
He went on to comment about our refusal to eat fruit that has slight bruises, our anxiety and paranoia that our food might harbour dangerous bacteria, and the fact that if we weren't such picky human eaters who equate "safe" with "sterile" we could feed the world's population twice over. (We have more bacteria on and in our bodies than there is in most foods!)

So this week, I'm thinking about those 'best before' dates, and I've done a little research that has made it clear that when a 'best before' date has passed, most food isn't 'bad' yet -- it's just not at its optimum freshness -- which makes me sorry for the times I threw out salad dressings in particular, thinking they had expired, when really, they just weren't at their 'best.' So now, while I definitely wouldn't eat a can of lobster paté from 2011, I don't worry so much about foods that might be a week or two beyond their 'best before' -- like yogurt, milk, or cottage cheese (unless it smells sour). And can a bottled vinaigrette really go bad with all that vinegar in it? Vinegar is a preservative, isn't it?

So the next time you notice a 'best before' date that's passed you by, think about the possibilities. Is it a food that's not likely to harbour dangerous microorganisms? Can it be salvaged in some way? If not, can it be composted?

Just a little food for thought.

And if you've never heard of Joel Salatin and his Polyface Farms, here's a little teaser...

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Last week I ran into a friend at the library "Books to Go -- One Week Loan" shelf. We were both looking for a good read, and each of us found a book that we knew and recommended to the other, but I think Barb made the better recommendation. I took home Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Random House 2012, ISBN 987-0-385-67769-1) and dove into an amazing, believable piece of fiction.

Harold Fry is a retired brewery employee with a failing marriage and few friends. When he receives an unexpected letter from a friend, hewrites a hasty reply, and heads for the mailbox. And so begins a most unlikely pilgrimage, one that is full of poignant moments that reveal the difficult beauty of life and the ordinary extraordinariness of strangers as friends yet to be met.

Harold leaves home in his regular garb and yachting shoes (which create painful blisters in short order), but when he reaches his usual mailbox, the beauty of the day leads him to decide to walk a little further to the next one. As he walks, he thinks about his friend, whom he hasn't seen in 20 years, and somehow comes to the decision that he needs to walk all the way to the hospice where she's living her final days because somehow that will save her. That wouldn't be a big deal except the hospice is some 500 km to the north.

Harold's magical thinking, his reflections on his past, and his encounters with strangers (not to mention the media) make for an entertaining and thought-provoking read. Rachel Joyce's narrative pulls the reader along the highways and byways of England, where, with Harold, we meet a group of cycling mothers, a Slovakian doctor, a very famous actor, a journalist, a man in a gorilla suit, and so many others who come and go from Harold's life and leave him with very human and often very moving or unnerving stories that have him "trying to find a place within himself in which to keep [them]" (p.171). The pilgrimage transforms Harold and his wife Maureen in unexpected ways, and the reader is left with the sense that life is miraculous, that love is essential, and that even when prospects look dim, hope is somehow always there to carry us forward.

So, next time you run into me at the One Week Loan shelf, I know exactly what I'll put into your hands. Or if you aren't likely to run into me, you might like to sign out a copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry for yourself.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A beauty of a weekend

Every so often, Lee and I like to get away, just the two of us, no other distractions. So we left home on Friday afternoon, checked into a hotel, and spent the weekend together.

A dusky view from our dining table on Friday evening, looking toward home...

We ate good food at nice restaurants, saw a play at the Citadel, slept late, did a bit of shopping, bought a picnic lunch, went for a hike around Neon Lake, he did a crossword while I finished reading my latest favourite book (a review is in the works), had a late supper, and watched Lincoln. This morning we grabbed breakfast at Tim's, went to church, and came home to our girls.

Henri Nouwen, one of my favourite spiritual writers says,
Intimacy between people requires closeness as well as distance. It is like dancing. Sometimes we are very close, touching each other or holding each other; sometimes we move away from each other and let the space between us become an area where we can freely move.

To keep the right balance between closeness and distance requires hard work, especially since the needs of the partners may be quite different at a given moment. One might desire closeness while the other wants distance. One might want to be held while the other looks for independence. A perfect balance seldom occurs, but the honest and open search for that balance can give birth to a beautiful dance, worthy to behold.
-- Bread for the Journey, February 22

In my books, this weekend was a beautiful dance. It's good to get away from the usual and just focus on each other once in a while, to remember exactly why we're together for life. I felt God smiling on me all weekend!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Simple Suggestion #152... Use honey, Honey!

I've moodled on this at length before, but that was before I started my Simple Suggestions, and besides that, this is one idea that is worth repeating. Honey is a natural product that has more benefits for health and wellness than I have time to list here. Different things I've read suggest that it's high in anti-oxidants, it's antibacterial, it's an immune system booster, it heals burns and cuts and fights cancer somehow... really, the list is so incredible that I'm not sure how many of the claims I can actually believe.

But there's really something wonderful about the idea of bees converting flower nectar into food for themselves, and food for us, too. We've all heard enough about the evils of highly refined foods, so lately, I'm getting into baking with honey more and more -- my favourite bread recipe these days is a honey whole wheat loaf. Smells fantastic as it bakes!

And, though my family all laugh and roll their eyes at me for this one, honey is a great hair product! I first moodled about how to have healthy spiky hair this back in April of 2011, and it's actually one of my top five moodlings. Read it here, if you like. All those pomades and hair spiking goops on the shelves of our beauty salons and hair care aisles have nothing on honey -- put a little in your hair to spike it up, and you don't have to worry about parabens or other families of chemicals giving you cancer or other strange ailments. And when I rinse the honey out, my hair is so soft!

Being one who appreciates natural, organic solutions, I can't help but ask, with all the things honey has going for it, Honey, why not add a little to your life?

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A tribute to a faraway friend...

For Micke, and Alfred

When emotions are strong, what can a writer do but write? Today I am paying tribute to my dear, faraway friend, Karin.

Karin and I met in 1987 on a bus in Tucson, Arizona. It was our year to travel and perform with Up With People, and we caught the same bus to go home to our host families after staging days. I had never met anyone from Sweden before I started a conversation with the tall, quiet, blonde girl across from me. We somehow got to chatting about tongue twisters that day, and she decided that I should learn one in Swedish. I think she picked the hardest one! Sju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes av sjutton sköna sjuksköterskor. Something about seasick seamen being cared for by beautiful nurses. I could barely pronounce it, let alone say it five times fast! By contrast, she didn't have any trouble with Peter Piper and his peck of pickled peppers.

The tall Swedish girl and I ended up travelling together for a year in Cast C, and we became fast friends over that silly tongue twister -- even though she was always correcting my pronunciation. I couldn't help but like her -- she was a feisty character who stood up for what she believed and let people know in no uncertain terms what she thought. Her abruptness could rub people the wrong way at times, and I often found myself jumping into conversations to try to soften things she said because I had learned that behind her sometimes prickly-seeming exterior was a beautiful person with a heart of gold. Not only that -- she usually had darn good reason for being prickly! For a while, she was our Lady of the Lost and Found for Cast C, and gathered and kept all the personal items people left behind at different events or show nights. She really got impatient with certain people who couldn't keep track of their own articles of clothing, and honestly, who could blame her? Everyone in the group was over 18, and she just wasn't ready to play nagging mother to 130 people, give or take a few.

One of my favourite memories of Karin is of her holding the tiller on our Trois Rivieres host dad's sailboat as we flew down the fleuve St. Laurent on a perfect autumn day. The wind whipped her hair back, and she smiled the entire time we sailed. She had a great smile, and was the queen of the engaging "show face" -- after performing the same show, more or less, for an entire year, unlike some of us, she never looked bored --  she knew how to turn it on to please a crowd. We were together on microphone groups (backup vocalists, in other words) quite often, singing N'Kosi Sikelel'iAfrika harmonies and making "show faces" at each other. I'll never forget her smile as she stood on a parade float in her international costume on a chilly Sudbury day, waving to the people who lined the street.

At Christmas that year, Karin couldn't afford to fly all the way back to Sweden, so she came home with me, and was very disappointed by the fact that Edmonton was having a brown Christmas. We took her to Banff National Park, and there wasn't a lot of snow there either, so we headed up to the top of Sulfur Mountain on the gondola. "Finally, SNOW!" she said, beaming. She met a lot of strange Canadians during her break (we counted how many on the plane trip back to New York -- seems to me that with my Saskatchewan relatives, it was over 250 people), but she didn't complain about any of it -- rather, she enjoyed introducing herself with, "Hello, I'm Karin, Maria's Swedish sister," and seeing the surprised looks on the faces of my friends and family. She'd smile mischievously and say, "Didn't you know?" Her sense of humour caught a lot of people by surprise! My parents took to calling her their Swedish daughter, too.

Karin and I had a few adventures together in Europe that spring. We walked a beach in a peaceful part of Yugoslavia (now Slovenia) and sang Easter songs, she in Swedish to my English, different lyrics but the same melodies. She helped me as a member of Bjorn and the Bagels, also known as the Food Crew, and one evening in Trieste, we and several other volunteers held our own pizza parade, laughing and carrying stacks of pizzas through the streets past puzzled Italians, to the theatre where we would perform that evening. Together on a free day, Karin and I walked all over Lugano, Switzerland, until our feet were sore. And sometimes when we had spare time, she would ask, "Do you remember the tongue twister?" and I would laugh, and she would have to teach me all over again.

When our year in Up With People ended, we went our separate ways, and wrote letters now and then to keep in touch. Karin's mother died, and her relationship with her father and brothers had always been strained, but she held her own. She worked as a lab tech for many years, travelled, had many adventures, and learned German and Esperanto. I was guaranteed a tiny Christmas card every year, and we settled into a routine as faraway friends. I invited her to my wedding, but 7700 km was just a little too far for her to come... until the Spring of 1994, when she decided she wanted to attend a Swedish Reunion in Minnesota, and called to see if she could come to Edmonton for a visit, too!

I was quite excited to have a cast mate come -- being so far north, Edmonton isn't exactly a hub city that's part of peoples' lay-overs, so she's the only cast mate who has actually managed a visit. Lee and I were in the process of renovating our bedroom that June, and wanted to have it done before Karin arrived, but she showed up earlier than we expected, much to our chagrin. Fortunately, the chaos in our home didn't bother Karin. Once we settled her into our guest room, she immediately borrowed my oldest clothing and ball cap, and she and Lee painted while I looked after our six-month-old. Karin stayed for two weeks, and we took her along to Jasper National Park on our own mini-vacation, and to Elk Island National Park to see the bison there. In those two weeks, Karin and I did a lot of hiking, walking around my neighbourhood, and chatting about life.

"I want to bake some bread," she announced one morning. "Do you have any jast?"

It took me a while to determine that jast was yeast, and no, I didn't have any on hand. So we walked to the grocery store, and I took Karin into the baking aisle and showed her the jars of dry, fast-rising yeast.

"No, no, no! That's not it," she said, her face stormy, like a five-year-old wanting her way. "Don't you have any real yeast? Living yeast?"

I didn't know what to do, so I suggested that we talk to the fellow behind the counter in the bakery department.

"I would like some live yeast, please," she said to him.

He looked very confused. "Yeast is in aisle 5," he told her.

"No, no, no! Not dead yeast, live yeast. Don't you use live yeast to bake your bread?" she asked, frowning.

"I've never been asked for live yeast before," he said, flustered.

"Well, I just asked," she said, determined.

The fellow went into the back room and came out with a chunk of baker's yeast, wrapped it in some wax paper and slipped it into a paper bag.

"And how much will it cost?" she inquired.

"I don't know," he said, frowning, but he took out a pen and marked "25 cents" on the bag.

Karin beamed. "Thank you," she said. Her smile was contagious, and suddenly he was smiling too, in spite of his unusual customer. When we got home, Karin got to work on the tastiest, heaviest bread I have ever eaten. Lee and I still talk about it to this day.

My Swedish friend stayed in touch with me over the years, though it was often only by Christmas card and the rare email. Then, one August morning in 2009, I was sitting at my computer and a little Skype window popped up, "Maria, is that you?" Within minutes we were chatting over the internet, and she was teaching me my Swedish tongue twister all over again.

Through Skype, I learned that her boyfriend, Micke, had left flowers outside her door on her birthday, that she was taking Latin Dance classes, and learning Danish over the internet... and eventually, that she and Micke were finally expecting a baby after a very long wait. After Alfred was born last March, we visited each other's homes by Skype, and had conversations about the best lullabyes, sending each other YouTube videos of different songs like Byssan Lull and Oh Mother How Pretty, while her little one sat on her lap, perhaps wondering what on earth his mother was doing talking to a computer picture and why it was talking back.

And it was on Skype that I received a cryptic message nearly four months ago, "Maria? Are you there? There has happened a thing." Unfortunately, my Skype was on, but I was elsewhere in the house, and by the time I returned to the computer, Karin wasn't online any more. It was another two days before I learned that she had been suffering severe stomach pains and was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors weren't sure where it was at first, but she was having difficulty eating, and her lungs were filling up with fluid. Not good... She was going back to the hospital for more tests.

I posted her birthday on Facebook on November 9th, and asked her Up With People friends to think of and pray for her because she was going through a rough spot. They sent many good wishes that I turned into a poster and mailed to her. It was almost a whole worried month before I heard from her again, a few typed words of thanks to everyone for the poster. Then Micke skyped with me next day, and told me she was very weak, but hoping to start chemo soon. He skyped again two days later to say that he and Karin had married on the weekend in the hospital, and that Alfred had also been baptized, and he sent some pictures of a very thin but very happy Karin.

The last time I actually spoke with Karin was January 12th. Her chemo had been delayed for a time, but was going ahead in three days. I don't remember what else we spoke about, but we chatted for a half hour, she in her hospital bed, and me in my kitchen. I do recall that Micke, the man who had made her so happy for the last few years, was there with her, silent in the background, putting up with the two of us and our reminiscences. I wish I had asked her to recite that silly Swedish tongue twister one more time...

The last few weeks, it has been Micke who has been in touch, telling me that Karin was weaker, that the chemo had to be discontinued, and that she didn't have long to live. Our skype messages made it clear that he really loved her. When I commented, "she could be so serious, and then get a twinkle in her eye, and laugh, and the world would be fine," he knew exactly what I meant... and more, I'm sure. Last week, I asked him if I could let Karin's Cast C friends know about her situation on Facebook -- and the outpouring of love and prayers from all over North America and Europe has touched Micke deeply. We spoke for 45 minutes on Skype yesterday, and I think he is probably the best part of Karin's life... he, and Alfred.

My dear, faraway friend, Karin, died on February 16, 2013, holding Micke's hand and surrounded by his love. She was 48. Her adorable little boy, Alfred, is not yet a year old. Life just isn't fair sometimes. But I truly believe that love does not end at death, and I suspect Karin believed that, too, and is still holding her little family in love.

Who knew that a Swedish tongue twister was to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship that has lasted only 25 years on this earth? I fully expect Karin will be there to meet me when I reach heaven... and we will both pronounce that impossible (for me) tongue twister without an ounce of difficulty, throw our arms around each other, and laugh. And maybe we'll sing N'Kosi Sikelel'iAfrika and a few Easter songs, in harmony, just for good measure.

Rest in peace, Karin, my Swedish sister. I'll miss you.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A thought provoking Sunday video...

This Sunday video comes to you courtesy of my friend, Mark. He's the fellow who led me into Voluntary Simplicity, a deep thinker and wise man all around. The video is based on a story by Andy Weir -- but this video version is slightly different than the story. Both are well done. I'd like to meet Andy Weir and have a long conversation about The Egg. If you want to read the original, it can be found by clicking here, which will take you to a website where it's available in 31 other languages besides English. I like the video for more reasons than I can name, but mainly because of the people playing the roles, and the part where the protagonist realizes that he's everyone who ever lived, including Abraham Lincoln... and John Wilkes Booth. It's short, and worth 7 minutes and 22 seconds in my books. Happy Sunday!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Simple Suggestion #151... Give a little love

Someone special once gave me a card with this picture. Just a wee reminder on this St. Valentine's Day: love isn't love unless it's given away -- every day of the year!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pretty cool...

Here's a post especially for those who don't live in Canada... because if you do live in Canada, you've probably heard all about this by now. At the moment, Commander Chris Hadfield is floating around somewhere between 330 and 410 km from the earth's surface on the International Space Station. He's a pretty cool guy -- smarter than a whip and darn nice to boot, and he's making space interesting to a lot of young Canadians these days with his twitter posts and pictures of the earth from out there. If you haven't seen any of his pics, you can find them by clicking here. One thing's certain -- not many people get earth-views like these! There's a really great shot of Calgary among them -- Uncle Fred and Auntie Cam, I can almost see where you live!

Last week, Chris teamed up with the Barenaked Ladies and a choir from Wexford Collegiate School of the Arts in Scarborough, Ontario, to produce possibly the first earth/space music video of a song he wrote with the BNLs' Ed Robertson. It fills me with awe. Enjoy!

Monday, February 11, 2013

A new pope? Does it really matter?

For those of you who have been following my infrequent (or all-too-frequent) ramblings about church and faith and spirituality in this space, I thought I would post my thoughts and feelings about Pope Benedict's decision to retire. I have a few thoughts, but I'm not really feeling anything. I'm just deeply weary.

Today there are many Catholics who are singing the praises of the man who has led the church for these past almost eight years. I wish I was one of them. I'm sure Pope Benedict brought about some good things during his papacy, but the past eight years have probably been the toughest I've ever known as a Catholic, simply because it has become pretty much impossible for me to convincingly convey to my family the beauty and strength and value of life lived in Catholic Christian community.

Why? Because it's feeling like the Catholic Church has closed its windows in so many ways, regressing rather than progressing when it comes to reaching out to humankind as a whole. I don't know about you, but when I find myself in a stale environment, I step outside for fresh air -- and I really can't blame the many good people I know who have left the Church. Lately, everything I read on the subject of where the Church is heading seems to indicate that it is in a fearful self-preservation mode rather than living any sort of broad, compassionate generosity that captures the hearts and minds of us in the pews and calls us to reach out to the world with Jesus' love. But perhaps I'm not seeing the whole picture.

What has really taken the wind out of my sails is that getting my teen-aged daughters to come to church has become a real struggle. This week, one of them announced her decision to take a sabbatical from Sunday mass because for her, it is meaningless. I'm tired of arguing with my girls because I know that my own point of view, forged through lifelong relationship with the Holy Trinity and the Real Presence in community Eucharist, is somehow beyond their understanding. Faith is caught, not taught... and they just don't get what going to church has to do with any of it. It's like I'm speaking a foreign language rather than their mother tongue.

I feel as though I've failed my girls somehow... but I also know that I've done everything I could to try to show them the rich beauty in being a follower of Jesus. Together, we've participated in Children's Liturgy, taken sacramental classes, and been part of Children's Choir and family music ministry. We've had our favourite priests to supper, volunteered in the inner city, and worked on spiritual literacy by reading inspirational books. I've shared stories of God from my life and the lives of others, I've been honest about my own faith struggles, and I've lived my conviction that it's important to stay rooted in Christian community in spite of those struggles.

My girls are intelligent -- they see through hypocrisy, they think for themselves, and they know their own minds. In spite of everything, the Church isn't making much sense to them. They see a community, mostly devoid of people their age, that doesn't reach out to them in any way that they can understand -- or maybe it's more that they don't care to try to understand because they're feeling completely ignored at liturgies that are dogmatically and liturgically correct but somehow don't touch their hearts or fire their imaginations. And I've run out of steam for coaxing and cajoling. Forcing them to come along -- or guilting them into it -- would be cruel and counterproductive, especially if I want to be like Jesus, who didn't force anything on anyone. And I probably carry enough Catholic guilt for our whole family.

First world problem? Of course. But it leaves me too weary to feel much of anything, and I don't know what to do next. I should feel hope -- but I have a feeling that the next pope will be more of the same, determined to concentrate power in the Vatican rather than empowering the people of God. I guess you could say that right now I'm in a space where I need less pope and more Jesus. The only way a change of pope will matter to me is if the man who takes St. Peter's chair after Benedict can find a way to leave dogma out of it and reconnect -- with our youth, with the poor and the marginalized, with women, with people who think for themselves, with the world -- by reintroducing Catholics of all ages not to scholarly writings, rules, and regulations, but to the real Jesus, the reason we do what we do. The new pope needs to light our hearts on fire with the kind of love Jesus showed us when he said,
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11. 28-30, NRSV)
Or, in the words of a more contemporary translation of scripture known as The Message:
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me -- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
Jesus, my hope is in you. Come, Holy Spirit, and bring the people of God a pope who will make a difference. God, bless Benedict in his retirement, and bless us all...


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Some new Taizé music for a Sunday

Tonight our Taste of Taizé Prayer will be held at 7 p.m. at Assumption Catholic Church, 9040 95 Avenue, and I hope you can join us if you live in the area. But if you're far away, not to worry. Here's a video with some images from Taizé itself, and some new music that I hadn't heard before, Ȏ toi l'au-delà de tout. The lyrics are wonderful... what I love is that they don't talk about God, but directly to God, as a real prayer should. Enjoy!

Ô toi l'au-delà de tout,
Quel esprit peut te saisir
Tous les être te célèbrent
le désir de tous aspire vers toi.

You who are beyond all things,
what mind can grasp you?
All that lives celebrates you;
the desire of all reaches out towards you.

For more information about Taizé, visit

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Simple Suggestion #150... Turn down the heat by 2 degrees

Did you know that tomorrow, February 7th, is National Sweater Day? I just learned about it this morning, thanks to my Master Composter/Recycler newsletter. What is National Sweater Day? Well, the suggestion is that we all turn our thermostats down by two degrees and wear our granny-given sweaters in an effort to mitigate the effects of global climate change caused by all the fossil fuels we use to heat our homes. And if we can lower the heat on a regular basis, even better!

POSTERsweater_dayOf all the negative things going on in the world today, global climate change is by far the most terrifying. I'm not saying that the crises in the Middle East aren't frightening, or that the lives being lost and the amount of money being spent on conflict in places like Mali and Afghanistan isn't scary. What makes climate change the worst is that it is broader than these terrible conflicts -- it touches every person no matter where they are on the planet because superstorms threaten us all. It's too easy for us to ignore the obvious signs of climate change, like melting glaciers and disappearing global ice caps, because, like the conflicts I've mentioned, they are far away... but global climate change is becoming more and more obvious everywhere. Talk about climate change with people in Australia, who seem to be alternating between forest fires and floods. Or ask the people on the Solomon Islands, who experienced a 1 metre tsunami yesterday that killed 5 people because sea level has been rising at alarming rates for sea level communities. And then there are the folks in the Sahara Desert who experienced a snowstorm this week. Have you noticed an increase in the severity of storms where you live?

All good reasons to turn that thermostat down and listen to our grannies... though the grannies put forth by the World Wildlife Fund are more like grandmas when I was growing up than like any cool, zumba-grandmas I've met in our present day. Even so, WWF has come up with an interesting campaign to encourage us to reduce our consumption of heating fuels. If you have a few minutes, check out the website at I love how it's all done up in old-fashioned "granny-ness," doilies and all. And I'm really tempted to set up a granny phonecall for a few people I know, and for myself. It would be lovely to talk to any one of these ladies, I'm sure. "Now stop being so ornery and just wear the sweater!" -- and reduce climate change by a little bit. All those little bits can add up to something big. And check out these grannies for yourself!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A little piece of heaven for a Sunday

On Friday night, my lovely daughter took me to the Opera for my Christmas present -- to see and hear Les Contes D'Hoffman by Offenbach. I've always loved opera, but this duet, "Barcarolle," has to be one of my favourites. Here it is sung by Elina Garanca, a mezzo-soprano from Latvia, with Anna Netrebko, a Russian soprano, and an opera chorus with whom I would love to sing any day. It's just a tiny smidge of what heaven will sound like, I'm convinced. Enjoy!